The Best Family Experiences in NSW’s Northern Rivers and Coastal Regions
If you’ve got a couple of days up your sleeve while visiting the Northern Rivers, I highly recommend grabbing the kids and hitting The Legendary Pacific Coast drive. You’ll find yourself surrounded by some of Australia’s most beautiful beaches, striking farming areas and incredibly lush green hills. With a huge selection of activities, cafes, accommodation and family fun, you won’t be short of family-friendly excitement and adventure.
Unforgettable Wilderness Experiences
If getting your feet just a little bit dirty sounds like you and your tribe, head to Wollumbin National Park. The Heritage-listed national park is located between Byron Bay and Tweed Heads and is fabulous for bushwalking – and you never know how many local critters you’ll see along the way!
I also highly recommend venturing along the Rainforest Way. Take the family to visit rare and endangered animals at various wilderness retreats along the drive where you can go bird watching or bushwalking. For those families who prefer water-based activities, spend the day trapping live crabs, fishing on the Tweed River and hand-feeding the wild (but very friendly) pelicans.
Family-Friendly Cultural Sights
Getting the kids to enjoy some cultural activities in the Northern Rivers is actually quite easy! If you’re around on a Sunday, visit the Casino Miniature Railway. This adorable train takes you on a four-kilometre trip through the incredible Jabiru Geneebeinga Wetlands, around the Casino Golf Course and back up to the old Casino Station. Once you disembark, spend some time learning about Casino’s railroading history, before grabbing yourself a spot in the sun for a family picnic.
The Ballina Naval and Maritime Museum, located on the Richmond River, was established in 1983 and pledges to “collect, preserve and present the rich maritime heritage of Ballina.” Kids are more than welcome to explore this historic museum, so grab the little ones and wander through the extensive displays.
Worked up an appetite yet? There’s nowhere better to take the kids for something to eat than Summerland House Farm. Not only is it a working macadamia and avocado farm (I mean YUM!), but it also has a water park, fully-fenced playground, mini-golf course, macadamia de-husker, nursery, gift shop, museum and hydroponic tomato facility. Plus, Summerland House is a “House with No Steps” business and proudly employs over 90 staff members with disabilities.
Adventure around the Northern Rivers
Experience the truly magical Brunswick River by canoe for an unforgettable family adventure. Whether you want a short paddle, a 20-kilometre round trip or something in between, you’ll find the perfect option on the Brunswick River.
The Richmond River is full of marine life, including bream, whiting, flathead, jewfish and mud crab. If fishing is one of your hobbies, spend a morning casting a line into the river. For anyone looking for something a little more adventurous, the offshore fishing trips regularly return with stories of seeing turtles, dolphins and even whales.
Even if you aren’t a surfer, make sure you book a surfing lesson at Lennox Head. If I can do it anyone can! There is nothing quite as relaxing and invigorating than being out in the water watching the waves roll by, even if you spend more time getting thrown around by the waves than actually riding them!
Spot Friendly Native Animals
If bird watching interests you, head to the Walk on Water walking track, a short walk from the Minjungbal Aboriginal Cultural Centre in South Tweed Heads. The bird watching opportunities are unparalleled in this area, while the entire region provides immersive Aboriginal cultural heritage, incredible scenery and various sacred Aboriginal sites.
Visit the Koala Care Centre in East Lismore, where you and the family can learn about koalas and how we as individuals can do our bit to help protect them. You’ll also get a sneak peek at any koalas they have in the rehabilitation facility while you’re there.
Who can say no to whale watching? If you’re travelling between May and November, you might spot one of the thousands of whales that migrate past Main Beach in Byron. It’s truly a sight to behold. If you’d like to get up close and personal with them, there are plenty of whale tours that can take you to the most popular whale-watching locations.
Popular Family Hotels in the Northern Rivers
Brunswick River Inn is everything a family needs when travelling! This boutique hotel has recently undergone a refurbishment, with modern rooms that feature plenty of space for everyone to relax. Just a short walk from Brunswick Heads beach, the hotel overlooks the Brunswick River and the neighbouring park.
If you are stopping in Lismore for the night, grab a room at Melville House. This gorgeous bed and breakfast attracts visitors from all over the world, all eager to experience this family-owned business and a piece of true Lismore history.
In Ballina, you can’t go past Ramada Ballina Byron. There really is something for everyone, from Hotel Spa Rooms to Executive Suites. Located on the Richmond River, Ramada Ballina Byron brings a new level of extravagance to Ballina accommodation with its waterfront restaurants, outdoor swimming pool and water views.
About the Author
Lynette is an Australian TV and radio presenter with a passion for travel, health and wellness. She is a television presenter on Sydney Weekender and a co-host on the national House of Wellness radio show. A qualified yoga instructor and meditation facilitator, Lynette is also the founder of the online community Love LCB that helps modern parents navigate family life.