Camping at Lake Arragan in the Yuraygir National Park

With thanks to one local who loves the outdoors, Coastbeat goes camping at Lake Arragan and Red Cliff campgrounds in the Yuraygir National Park.

This wonderful location about 50 minutes north-east of Grafton offers the best of both worlds, delivering the lakeside and beachside experience. It’s the ideal spot to indulge in activities such as swimming, fishing, surfing, hiking, kayaking and bird watching. Find out more….

Camping at Lake Arragan in the Yuraygir National Park
Paperbark Camp is positioned right on the lake. Image courtesy of National Park Odyssey

I know they say first impressions are everything but don’t let the rough and dusty road into the campgrounds in this part of the Yuraygir National Park turn you away. Once your bones have stopped rattling from the corrugations and you step out of the car; the serenity and beautiful flora and fauna will soon make you forget the bumpy drive in.

Whilst working on the Woolgoolga to Ballina upgrade early last year I chose to camp in my rooftop tent at various National Park campgrounds rather than commute back and forth to Coffs Harbour each day.

Lake Arragan and Red Cliffs Campground can be found about 18 kilometres from the highway on the road to Brooms Head and served as a great base camp whilst working in the area. I fell in love with the spot from the first time I camped there, and it has been great to return and enjoy some of the delights this area has to offer.

The peak periods will see all 65 campsites booked out but it’s a great little weekend getaway so choosing an off-peak time to sneak up there and relax for a night or two is always worthwhile.

An eastern grey observes a surfer. The main campground has several beach access points. Image by Paul van den Boom
An eastern grey observes a surfer. The main campground has several beach access points. Image by Paul van den Boom

Campsite options and nearby supplies

There are several options as far as spots to camp from the beautiful Red Cliff Campsites on the beachside to the lakeside campsites such as nestled between the paperbarks right on the water’s edge. All campsites are well-maintained, grassy sites with toilets, picnic tables and BBQ facilities close at hand and drinking water also available. Another option is the gorgeous Paperbark Camp itself, positioned right on the lake.

The nearby township of Brooms Head makes a welcome change for those planning on longer stays or if top-up supplies are required. The Bowls Club serves up ice cold beer and delicious Chinese meals should you be seeking a break from camp cooking. Supplies such as firewood, ice, bait and basic groceries are available from the Brooms Head General Store.

Brooms Head is a beachside hideaway families love for its camping, fishing, lagoon (located to the south of the boat ramp) and rockpools but for me, the natural beauty and serenity of Lake Arragan and Red Cliffs tops the list.

The surfing hotspot of Angourie is also easily accessible. For those wanting to explore the area on foot, this great coastal village is a 10-kilometre walk from Lake Arragan. This trail is part of the larger Yuraygir Coastal Walk (see below).

As you can see, it's perfect for both lake and beach recreation. Image by National Park Odyssey
As you can see, it’s perfect for both lake and beach recreation. Image by National Park Odyssey

Wonderful Wildlife

As you wander through the campgrounds of Lake Arragan you’re likely to be surrounded by kangaroos lazing in the sun. Be sure to look out for beautiful birdlife too such as yellow-tailed black cockatoos, sea eagles and superb fairy wrens.

You may be lucky enough to see a rare Coastal Emu. They inhabit the Yuraygir National Park (and Bundjalung National Park). Once commonplace, they are now endangered with fewer than 50 individuals remaining.

Dolphins make frequent visits to these pristine beaches and Red Cliff is the ideal viewing platform to take in panoramic coastal views and observe whales during migration season (April to October).

Yuraygir National Park is home to beautiful bird life. Superb fairy wren image by Norm Farmer
This destination is home to beautiful bird life. Superb fairy wren image by Norm Farmer

Lake and beach access

When full, Lake Arragan is approximately 60 hectares in size and is relatively shallow throughout. You will find the lake intermittently closed to the ocean making it the perfect playground for watercraft such as canoes, kayaks and stand up paddleboards.

Twisted paperbark trees line the bank and the decaying leaf matter is what gives the saline water its brown stain.

There are several beach access points from the campgrounds so a short stroll over the dunes will have you standing before nature’s playground where you can fish or surf the northern beach from Red Cliff Headland all the way north to Shelley Beach. Red Cliff Beach is the small beach on the southern side of the headland and a spectacular spot to enjoy a few waves and admire the cliffs from a perspective that only a surfer can get.

Whether you prefer sunrise or sunset, this place has got you covered. Waking up early to watch the sun’s rays light up the deep ochre of Red Cliffs is a sight to behold. The best part is that you can head back to the same spot on dusk to admire the red glowing sky as the sun drops behind Clarence Peak.

Camping at Lake Arragan in the Yuraygir National Park
See spectacular colours as the morning rays light up the ochre of Red Cliffs. Image by Paul van den Boom

Yuraygir Coastal Walk

For those with a real sense of adventure, consider the Yuraygir Coastal Walk from Angourie to Red Rock. This 65-kilometre trek can be broken up into a multi-day hike with overnight accommodation available.

Nature lovers will be able to immerse themselves in the beauty of the entire Yuraygir National Park as you follow the Coastal Emu markers across headlands, along secluded beaches and around the coastal lagoons that make up this incredible part of the coastline.

Nature lovers will be able to immerse themselves in the beauty of the entire Yuraygir National Park
Red Cliffs is part of the 65km coastal walk – an amazing way to explore this territory. Image courtesy of National Park Odyssey

Find out more about this camping getaway from National Parks

Local adventurer Paul van den Boom has been kind enough to share other wonderful insights with us such as the best camping and fishing spots of the NSW North Coast as well as The Top 10 Family Fishing Spots on the Coffs Coast.