Get a swag of dedicated campers around a campfire and they will all have their own opinions on where the best campsite is. But few will argue just how great Pebbly Beach is. Located metres from the pristine shores of the Tasman Sea yet snuggled inside a protective bay this campsite seems to tick all the boxes. Where else can you camp between 2 regional centres, drive through a state forest, pass through plantation pine forest's, tackle a dune track, traverse a beach run, then if you get all that right, you have a tidal creek to cross to access the camp area.
But what do we expect from our National Parks when exploring or looking for a new camping destination?. Some may look for isolation and the lack of facilities, while others may look for a destination where there maybe a host of natural attractions where you can explore an areas beauty that is rich in both flora and fauna. Yuraygir National Park is a narrow coastal National Park that runs from Red Rock in the south to Wooli in the north. Entrance to the park is midway between Coffs Harbour and Grafton along Barcoongere Way. This 17km long dirt road is maintained on a irregular basis, so care must be taken at all times due to pot holes, several small creek crossings and the deep drop-offs that run beside the road. Passing through Newfoundland and Barcoongere State Forest's you will soon enter a huge Plantation Pine Forest that is logged every year or so.
Tracks in here criss cross north to south like a huge grid but the main road is well sign posted. Exploring there areas is possible if there is no logging in the area, warning signs are generally in place if there is any activity- but the roads to Pebbly Beach are never blocked off.
Something for the kids to look out for are the wild brumbies that often wander near the road looking for a feed or decide to bolt across the road just as you round a corner. It is also possible to spot coastal emus, sea eagles and wallabies' as you enjoy the drive in.
Entering into Yuraygir National Park is as easy as jumping the fence ( well driving across the grid actually ), with a well sign posted entry that leads you several more kilometres to what the locals call “The Bins”. Here at “The Bins”, there are several very information boards explaining the history, culture and a general overview of the park. Fire wood can be collected here as National Parks provide offcuts for use in the designated fire pits at the camping ground. Another service that National Parks provide are several large rubbish bins here where you can dispose of your rubbish in the appropriate skips. Recycling at its best.
From here on the track is 4wd only as it leads you further to the oceans edge. The track along here is rarely maintained so keep a lookout for any damage caused by weathering and vehicle use. The first 4 km’s will see you pass through Heathland, stands of Banksia trees, wildflower and Tea tree pockets.
At the end of this sealed track the whole game changes as you drive through sand dunes, coastal scrub and grasses. To protect the dune and vegetation ecosystem National parks have installed a 4wd boardwalk, where slatted timber has been laid down to prevent damage to this area. The sand track is narrow in sections as it twists and winds its way along towards the coastline. 4wd is recommended along as the boardwalk, as it can be rough in sections, and in case you are confronted by another 4wd it also keeps the speed down.
The last several hundred metres of the track can be very unpredictable at times as the dunes and tides have control here. It is possible though to pull over and walk this section to check for wash-aways onto the beach and if you need to lower your tyre pressures further. Jumping onto the beach here can give you an amazing rush as this pristine part of the coast is totally unspoilt with views as far as you can see along the coastline. As part of the unspoilt ecology that is being developed here, it is not possible to drive south along the beach, yet you are quite welcome to park your 4wd to fish and let the sand get between your toes.
Pebbly Beach camping area is located several kilometres north along the beach. General road rules apply here with pedestrians having right of way, we generally wind the windows down and let the ocean breeze and smell take hold. The main controlling factor in accessing this beach run and camping at Pebbly Beach are the tides. You need to check for when low tide occurs here, and with a window of around 2-3 hours planning is essential. National parks have introduced several fenced areas where the endangered Little Terns nest, and you need to adhere to any warning signs that are in place. These birds have made this area their home and it’s great to see them returning year after year. By following the designated track along you will be greeted by a coastal creek. Hopefully if you have judged the tides right this creek will be narrow and only contain brackish water.
As 4wders we know we should check and even walk creeks like these, often after heavy holiday use-the exit track on the far side can be a little tricky, so best to pick a line before you start to cross. Generally a good walking speed is all that is needed to cross here, but if you haven't got a snorkel, just be wary of your air intake, if in doubt throw a small tarp on the front.
As you pop up the other side you are welcomed to Pebbly Beach camping ground. From day trippers to tent campers and even camper trailers, there is just heaps of room for all types here. Having some 60 sites set aside at the best of times you can nearly always be assured of a top spot. There is no booking system in place as it is first in first served basis. Summertime and school holidays Pebbly Beach can be very busy, so if you are not a big fan of crowd’s best times to visit are winter and autumn. All the sites are grassed with a fire pit or two in place and you generally have a choice of a hand full of location sites. Facilities here include a flash composting pit toilet block that has some of the best views overlooking the campground and towards the ocean. One of the best things about camping here at Pebbly is that you can be totally isolated if the creek rises or the ocean has major tides for a day or two, so make sure that you are well prepared with water food and other necessities that may be needed. Just remember when low tides are as the creek can get pretty deep if you need to leave ASAP.
Setting up camp to the sounds of the ocean just metres away is surely one of our pleasures as 4wders. Getting “stuck” here doesn’t mean stress or anxiety, it means explore and relax !. From fishing in the bay or off the rocks it can be very productive, especially at night. For the walkers there are several short and long walks available from here ranging from an hour to even a 5 hour hike, just be prepared with fresh water, good walking shoes and inform others of your plan. During the months of April to October this is one of the best spots on the coast for whale watching as these ocean creatures often pass close by. The kids will love swimming and exploring the rock pools close by too. Remember though, the beaches here are not patrolled so keep a close and watchful eye out for them at all times as help can take some time to reach here.
Yuraygir National Park is a special place for those who visit for a day or even for a week. Surrounded by the Solitary Island Marine Park, the pristine beauty of this area is here to stay and for all to enjoy- hopefully for years to come. National Parks are going to great length’s to keep it this way by revegetating selected areas, allowing access for 4wders and by giving us facilities- they may be basic but they are in place for us to enjoy.