Iluka is home to one of the last remaining littorial rainforests in the Southern Hemisphere. It has a large number of native fauna from wallabies, kangaroos, wombats, and echidnas to the very rare coastal emu. Looking up, you can enjoy sea eagles, osprey and colourful parrots. Through the rainforest there is an easy meandering walking track, which is wheelchair accessible, taking you from Iluka township to beaches or Bluff Lookout. The lookout has a panoramic view of beaches, ocean and rainforest and is also an ideal whale watching spot.
There are picnic areas at the beach and bluff end of the walk (which can also be easily driven to) and on a balmy evening there is nothing more pleasant than taking a picnic and some drinks and looking out on the Pacific Ocean.
The rainforest has a turbulent history Since 1916 parts of Iluka have been dedicated as a public reserve, in the 1960s conservationists and sand miners clashed over demands that the rainforest area be mined. The conflict that was resolved in 1964 when the state government refused to grant mining leases. In 1976, after continued public pressure the area was dedicated as a nature reserve and in 1986, it was listed as a World Heritage area acknowledging the unique beauty and conservation value of the area.
River and Beaches
Iluka is 17km off the Pacific Highway and the drive is rather beautiful taking you through the Bundjalang National Park and past the entrances to some of the local beaches.
The beaches are unspoiled as they are protected by the beautiful Bundjalang National Park, named after the original aboriginal inhabitants. Each beach is different and has its own personality. The most popular swimming beach is Bluff Beach, near Iluka township, which is accessed by a turnoff opposite the golf club or via the rainforest walk. During the summer school holidays it is manned by lifeguards. At low tide you can access the fascinating rock pools and walk along the rocks under the Bluff.
Iluka beach has great surf near the North Wall and can be accessed from Iluka township. Dogs are permitted on Iluka Beach. The North wall is also a popular for fishing spot. Between here and the breakwater at the mouth of the Clarence River is another small beach which is often quite calm and can be fun for families. There is the added interest of being able to explore the caves and pools formed at low tide along the breakwater.
Frazer’s Reef and Back Beach are also incredibly beautiful and ideal for long walks, swimming and surfing. There are some amazing rock pools at Back Beach at low tide that are well worth exploring especially if there are children involved. Both of these are accessed from the road leading to Iluka. Woody Head is a camping area right on the beach and very popular in summer holidays. There are always plenty of families here with a range of watercraft ranging from blow up boats to sea kayaks, as the area is ideal for children. During the holidays, rangers organize a large number of activities for children including beach combing or wildlife spotting. There is a well-marked cycle path from Woody Head to Iluka. The small shop here sells essentials like bread, milk and of course coffee and ice creams.
One of the most beautiful beaches is Shark Bay, which can be accessed from two spots off the road leading into Iluka. There is a lovely grassed picnic area with a BBQ and from here you walk directly onto the beach. The surf here is gentle and perfect for children learning to boogie board or body surf. You often have the beach completely to yourself and it is perfect for long walks.
For young families, there is a playground at Charlie Ryan Park on the Clarence River with a safe netted area where young children can swim. Another small kids beach area can be found at the coastguard just before the mouth of the river. This spot is awesome for flying kites on windy days.
In Iluka itself, opposite the famous Sedges Reef (the local pub) you can enjoy a drink or meal while the kids jump off the pontoon and enjoy a swim in the river. This is also a great spot for a picnic with picnic tables, a sandy beach and plenty of shade.
Commercial and recreational fishing are synonymous with Iluka. It is relaxing to watch the prawn and whiting trawlers heading out to sea in the evening and delicious fun to head down to the Clarence River Fisherman’s Co Op to purchase fresh prawns or fish and chips to enjoy by the water. The co-op sells seafood locally, regionally, nationally and globally and is located on the river's edge at the marina and opposite the chandlery. There is nothing quite like locally caught fresh seafood and in Iluka there are two commercial outlets where you can enjoy the local harvest.
For fisherman there are a plethora of spots for dropping in a line. There is great fishing along the estuary, the headlands, from the beaches and in sea. For anyone without a boat wanting to fish in the river you can hire a tinnie from the boatshed and explore the extensive inlets and bays along the Clarence. While enjoying the river, you will encounter plenty of pelicans and likely see the resident family of dolphins.
Fishing tackle and bait is available in several places in Iluka township.
There is nothing as relaxing or fun as a day spent on the river. The boatshed hires out boats for a reasonable fee and you can arrange a full or half day to explore the river, swim at one of the many beaches and visit the islands in the river. The chances are you will have a beach or even an island to yourself. There are large numbers of dolphins particularly at the entrance to the breakwater and they love swimming and diving alongside boats.
One particularly enjoyable trip is to motor across to Yamba Shores Tavern, tie up the boat and enjoy a delicious lunch looking out onto the water. The children have a large fenced in park to play in while the parents relax.
Alternately, you can take the Iluka Yamba passenger ferry across to Yamba for a day in the “big smoke”. Yamba is busier and somewhat more developed than Iluka but can be great on a wet day for catching a movie or browsing the gift and bookshops. The trip is fun for kids and on Sundays you can enjoy Jazz on the river. Visit the Clarence River Ferries homepage for more details - Clarence River Ferries