Bundjalung National Park
Bundjalung National Park protects a superb 38-kilometre stretch of the state’s far north coastline, including secluded beaches, rolling sand dunes and low rocky headlands. The landscape is a mosaic of heathlands, coastal cypress, freshwater lakes, mangrove mudﬂats and wetlands, with remnants of subtropical coastal rainforest. In the south, the beautiful Esk River ﬂows through undisturbed countryside – a marvellous area for self-reliant bushwalkers.
From Grafton via Paciﬁc Hwy then Iluka Rd or further north at Gap Rd; from Ballina via Paciﬁc Hwy then Woodburn – Evans Head Rd
703 km north of Sydney; 50 km south of Ballina; 60 km north of Grafton
- NSWNPWS 1300 361 967
- NPWS Alstonville (02) 6627 0200
- NPWS Grafton (02) 6641 1150
20 358 ha
Evans Head/Iluka/Yamba (02) 6645 4121
Featured Activities in the National Park
Take your binoculars and a ﬁeld guide to birds
Follow the Iluka Rainforest walking track
See Aboriginal shell middens at Gumma Garra
- Bundjalung National Park, Recreational Wildlife-watching, Recreational Wildlife-watching
A look at the past
European settlement did not affect this area to the same extent as elsewhere in New South Wales. In the 20th century, apart from some mineral sands mining and defence agency activity, this stretch of coast has seen only limited occupation. A miner, Henry Hammond, built a cottage for his family in 1923 near Woody Head, and the dwelling has been preserved and stands at the base of the headland. Areas of the park have been used by the military since 1940 for target practice – a section in the north is still operational – and concrete bunkers from World War II remain at Black Rocks camping area. The town of Evans Head, at the northern entrance to the park, was the ﬁrst prawning port in Australia and is still very much a ﬁshing village, as is the small hamlet of Iluka in the south. The national park was gazetted in 1980.
The Bundjalung people are the traditional owners of this coastal region and believe their ancestors came from the sea. Trees were used to mark out their territory and initiations were carried out in bora ceremonial grounds. The sea and river estuaries provided the people with plentiful supplies of ﬁsh and shellﬁsh, and the pockets of rainforest provided ﬂying-foxes, possums, wallabies and smaller animals. Settlements were comparatively permanent because of the abundant resources but the people did travel north for the bunya nut feasts.
Substantial shell middens attest to the Bundjalung people’s long occupation of this region – large middens, indicative of permanent settlement, around the Clarence River estuary have been dated from around 4000 years ago; smaller shell middens, evidence of more transitory campsites, along the coast suggest occupation within the last 1000 years. Visitors to the area are asked to respect the signiﬁcance of these sites and not to disturb them in any way. Today the Bundjalung have a signiﬁcant culture and have been able to preserve their language through language courses and cultural centres.
The national park extends from Evans Head and the Evans River in the north to the Clarence River in the south. Along the coast the long crescent of Ten Mile Beach stretches between the two river estuaries. The park protects a large sand dune system, heathlands that are part of a discontinuous coastal chain along which animals migrate, coastal wetlands and foreshores, ancient rainforest, and the unspoiled Esk River, which is the largest untouched coastal river system on the north coast. Rocky headlands are a feature of the Iluka peninsula, while in the north some dunes rise to around 70 metres above sea level.
Native plants and wildlife
Plant life in the park is varied. Paperbark and banksia species are among those dominating the wet and dry heathlands, samphire grows on the salt marshes, sedges and rushes dominate the swamps, while scribbly gum, blackbutt and red bloodwood are a feature of the dry sclerophyll woodlands. Wattle, banksia and she-oak species are dotted amid the dunes. In the remnants of subtropical rainforest around Woody Head camping area, broad-leaved lilly pilly is common, while Livistona and bangalow palms dominate around Gumma Garra.
The coast and wetlands are especially important for birdlife, providing important feeding and nesting sites for migratory and other birds. More than 200 species have been recorded – in particular, large numbers of raptors such as the wedge-tailed eagle and white-bellied sea-eagle, brahminy and whistling kites and osprey. Along the shoreline plovers strut along on their dark red legs, and near wetlands long-legged egrets, bitterns and herons feed. Honeyeaters dart through the ﬂowering heathlands. The hinterland is home to swamp wallabies, brushtail possums, long-nosed bandicoots and many smaller marsupials, and at night you may hear some of the park’s more than two-dozen frog species.
The beaches are terriﬁc for beachcombing, swimming, snorkelling and surﬁng (take care as they are not patrolled). There is safe swimming at Iluka Bluff Beach and Goanna Headland is a favourite spot for serious surfers. Anglers will ﬁnd good beach and estuary ﬁshing, and boats can be launched from Woody Head. From nearby Yamba, on the southern bank of the Clarence estuary, deep-sea ﬁshing charters depart from Boatharbour Marina. Canoeing is popular in the sheltered waterways. There are several short walking tracks and bushwalkers and cyclists can use management tracks. There is a cluster of lovely picnic spots with good facilities along the southern coast. Rangers run regular Discovery activities including whale-watching, rock rambling and torchlight tours to see nocturnal wildlife. Razorback Lookout offers inspiring views up and down the coast. On a clear day you can see as far as Cape Byron Lighthouse, far to the north.
There are a number of walking tracks in the park. From Gummigurrah picnic area strike out on Gummigurrah Track (5 km, 2 hours, easy) and take in a range of natural features – heath, islands, creeks and rainforest – before arriving at a lookout over Evans River. Follow Jerusalem Creek Track (8 km loop, 3 hours, medium difficulty) from Black Rocks camping area as it wends its way to the sea. Be on the lookout for shorebirds in the shallows and nesting in the tea-trees that line the creek's banks.
Spend an hour, an afternoon or a week investigating the waterways that flow through the park. Dip your paddle into Evans River, which teems with birdlife and is flanked by mangroves; glide along the glassy surface of pristine Esk River; or launch into the tea-tree-coloured water of Jerusalem Creek from Black Rocks camping area.
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