Unspoiled beaches, national parks and the banks of the Evans River wrap around this friendly old fishing town in the Northern Rivers region of New South Wales.
A warm welcome
From the moment you step inside the office at Reflections caravan park in Evans Head, you’re made to feel like one of the family. Owners, Scott and Katie, and their team of 16 staff seem to treat the park like home, and after spending time within the grounds it’s easy to see why they all take such pride in their work.
It’s a beautiful park situated right on the riverbank at Evans Head, within walking distance of the town centre, cafes and other attractions around the area. I say right on the riverbank as some of the campsites are only 65 steps (yep I counted them twice) to the water’s edge, which is so convenient if you fish, kayak or just love the feel of salt water through your toes.
Evans Head is situated just 40 minutes south of Ballina on the north coast of NSW. Being off the major highway, however, it’s a peaceful place where you can find your soul and totally relax. With an estimated 3000 people living within the town, blowing out to nearly 12000 in peak times, there’s enough services around to stay put for a week or so.
Evans was discovered around 1870 by Captain Thomas Paddon. Failing to sail out of Ballina, he decided to “walk and explore” the south, where he discovered the Evans River and named it after his first lieutenant. During Paddon’s exploration along the coast, he found small amounts of alluvial gold on the beach, and it wasn’t long before an influx of Chinese were attracted to the area to mine the fine gold in the black sand.
Paddon took advantage of this and built a hotel at the entrance to the river from cedar logs that had washed up on local beaches. From then on, and towards the 1950s, the town grew to what it is today. Captain Thomas Paddon is buried nearby, yet generations of family members still reside in the area working on the river.
Walk, fish and explore
Even though Evans Head is regarded as a quiet and quaint fishing village, there is enough nature-based activities to keep even the fussiest campers busy. One of the best spots to get an overall view of the town is from Razorback Lookout, across the river from Reflections caravan park. The lookout has 180 degree views up and down the coast and then back across the town centre.
Just nearby is an old anchor that was pulled up off the coast, and is believed to be off one of the 89 ships that have sunk trying to cross the sandbars in the area. The lookout is also a good starting point to the six walking tracks in the Dirawong Reserve that lead you along and around the headlands, ridgelines and further south onto stunning beaches.
Surrounded by pristine national parks and nearly 6km of surf beaches, the natural environments around Evans Head won’t disappoint—you might see dozens of different birds and an array of plant life. For a truly stunning and pristine beach, head a few kilometres south to Chinamans beach, so named for the nearly 300 Chinese who once mined for gold here.
These days you can walk for miles without seeing another footstep in the sand. The beach is lined with perfect pandanas trees, while sea eagles circle the dunes and ocean swell looking for a feed.
Along the way you’ll see remnants of an old steel fence which was once a tick gate fence line, erected to slow the movement of ticks from the north to the south. Down here on the beach there was concern for the local kangaroos and wild horses that lived in the area, but these days all that is left are a dozen or so steel upright posts firmly planted in the ground.
Fishing is good down here too, where open beach gutters allow migratory fish like tailor and mullet to pass through. The Evans Head Fishing Classic is a week long event held each July, attracting families from near and far with kayaks and boats to fish the river, beaches and offshore. The town swells to plague proportions and welcomes all who come. Funnily enough Evans Head is claimed to have pioneered the prawn industry in Australia, and the proof is definitely in the tasting—head to the local co-op for the freshest of seafood caught daily.
Other national parks in the area include Bundjalong and Broadwater, where walking trails allow you to explore huge sand hills, bora rings and wetland areas, or you can go kayaking on Jerusalem Creek to get back to nature.
These parks are home to over 200 species of birds, a host of mammals and nearly 40 different types of reptiles—you’re almost guaranteed to see some the the region’s unique wildlife. Heading north from town there is 4WD access onto the beaches where you can test your 4WD skills and enjoy fishing and sunbaking in seclusion.
Back at camp
If relaxing at the campground is more your scene, head back to Reflections where you can enjoy mouth-watering pizzas and the perfect coffee from the park’s onsite coffee shop and takeaway bar overlooking the river.
The great thing about the park’s facilities is how mum and dad can grab a cuppa while the kids ride and skate at the skate park nearby, or along the riverside pathway. And if you’ve still got time to spare, there’s a living museum and very informative information centre nearby, as well several other museums in town to explore.
Evans can be as busy or as relaxed as you want to make it, but either way, do yourself a favour and head off the highway to Evans Head—it won’t disappoint.
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