Exploring the Coffs Coast waterways

The Coffs Coast is celebrated for its diversity of outdoor experiences with nature reserves, uncrowded beaches, pristine creeks and inviting estuaries. From Bellingen to Boambee and up to Red Rock, one local photographer heads to the waterways to showcase the beauty of this region from a whole new perspective…

Boambee Creek with C-Change Adventures

Boambee Creek in Sawtell must be one of the best kept secrets on the coast. The contrast of the azure and turquoise water against the golden sand is stunning and in such inviting conditions, I was excited to be venturing out with C-Change Adventures.

C-Change Adventures is a local, family-owned business that offers water-based experiences such as white-water and sea kayaking at different locations on the Coffs Coast. Being so protected makes Boambee Creek a favourite, especially with families.  Owner Matt Sparrius has a degree in Marine and Environmental Science and loves to impart his knowledge of estuarine and mangrove eco-systems with the groups he takes out. In holiday time, Matt’s two kids, Mosey and Isabel, are often along for the ride too.

Watercraft lined up on the banks of Boambee Creek, Coffs Coast
Equipment lined up on the banks of Boambee Creek, all set for adventurers 

I arrived a bit early and took the opportunity to walk along the footbridge that crosses the creek. I captured a lovely panorama encompassing the headland and creek wrapping around to the river mouth at the ocean. When I returned to the shoreline, Matt was setting up. Families had arrived and kids were slipping on their life jackets and eyeing off the assortment of kayaks and stand up paddleboards available.

After safety instructions, I placed my camera gear into a drybag and boarded the kayak. We glided along the creek towards the ocean and as we approached the footbridge, I could see silver flashes of fish below the surface that scattered as we came close. The water appeared deep and green under the bridge and different shades of aqua towards the sea.

From the creek to the sea

The ocean was surprisingly calm, and the kayaks remained stable as we headed a little further out into the break than the SUPs. C-Change often use sea kayaks on tours which are ideally suited to the often-choppier ocean conditions. After a bit of ocean time, we turned around and paddled upstream. Matt arranged games for the kids along the way and the little ones especially loved trying to collect coloured balls before they drifted slowly away.

Time spent together at Boambee Creek makes for a great family day out
Time spent together at Boambee Creek makes for a great family day out

Continuing upstream, we made our way to a spot Matt calls The Mangrove Maze. There were tricky obstacles and fascinating twisted branches to manoeuvre around. We could see where yabbies had made holes in the sand and Matt suggested heading to the sandbar with yabby pumps to try to find some. Drifting over, we beached our kayaks and SUPs before the older kids searched for yabbies (with success) and the younger ones played in the shallows.

The morning had flown by and before tummies began to grumble, we set off on the return leg where morning tea awaited us. Kayaking at Boambee Creek was wonderful, with Matt’s environmental knowledge and paddling expertise an added benefit to the whole experience. I very much look forward to another tour on our gorgeous local waterways soon.

For further info phone Matt on 0468 406 222 or visit cchangeadventures.com.au

A Full Moon Canoe Experience on the Bellinger River

My past canoeing experience involved glorious sunshine, a gentle breeze on my face, cool water splashing up from the paddle and more often than not, sunburn. A canoe tour beneath a full moon on the Bellinger River had never crossed my mind and certainly piqued my curiosity.

Situated on the outskirts of the picturesque town of Bellingen, along the Waterfall Way, is Bellingen Canoe Adventures. I was excited about my paddle up the river and looking forward to meeting owners, Daniel and Jody who have been running the business for 20 years.

Exploring the Coffs Coast waterways
Paddling under a full moon is a wonderful new way to enjoy the Bellinger River 

Heightened senses

We arrive after sunset with eager tour members being welcomed by Daniel, who provides us with glowsticks and life jackets. I catch glimpses of the moon through the clouds as we follow the path to the riverbank where our canoes await. Here, we receive instructions on safety and navigation.

Heading upstream, I am surprised at how quickly my eyes adjust to the dark of night. My ears are adjusting too, and I hear the adorable tune of the willie wagtail singing its night song. I soon notice a campfire in the distance where people are enjoying a beautiful evening by the river. Picking up the pace, I notice that the clouds have disappeared, and the sky and river open up before me.

Magical moments

A rich, earthy smell fills the air and we see old farmland all around us before making a turn up Hydes Creek. Overarching trees line the banks and, seemingly, stretch out to touch the trees on the opposite side of the creek. For a moment, I’m reminded of a scene from a Tolkien book; it feels magical and surreal.

Exploring the Coffs Coast waterways
A magical and surreal experience on the river at night   

As we glide along, Daniel tells us that fireflies visit for just a few weeks a year in September, so it’s worth timing a canoe experience to see them light up the night sky. We arrive at the best viewing spot and take in the gorgeous full moon that highlights the surrounding landscape. We sit for a while absorbing the beauty and tranquillity.

As we paddle back to meet the Bellinger River again, Daniel tells us tales, looks for shooting stars and points out different constellations and planets. We then canoe along the final stretch of water and return to our starting point. After disembarking from our canoes and handing back the lifejackets, Jody greets us with a glass of champagne.

It’s the perfect way to end our evening with the stars!

For details on the full moon experience visit canoeadventures.com.au

Red Rock with Wajaana Yaam Adventure Tours

Tucked away just north of Woolgoolga lies Red Rock, a small coastal town abounding in natural beauty. Red Rock holds much history for the Gumbaynggirr people, and I was keen to find out more about the area.

I had arranged to meet my guides, Clark Webb and Shane Singleton from Wajaana Yaam Adventure Tours on the banks of the Corindi River. In the Gumbaynggirr language, Wajaana Yaam translates to from this country. They operate tours in picturesque and culturally significant settings.

Paddle board or canoe? S’up to you

As I arrived, Clark was demonstrating how to ride a stand-up to some local kids paddle boarding for the first time. Camera gear in hand, I figured a canoe would be a safer bet for me and with Shane at the helm, I hopped into the canoe before we slowly ventured out into the river.

Within moments the kids were alongside us, having quickly mastered their paddle boarding technique. Clark moved to the front of the group, guiding us along the estuary. The current was fast-moving, and the water glistened blue green with flecks of gold from the sun. We cruised by a flock of spoonbills who took flight from the shoreline alongside the canoe.

Exploring the Coffs Coast waterways
Wajaana Yaam tours connect participants to the land and sea through stories and language 

As we neared the ocean, we pulled into a cove on our right where many jagged rocks were positioned by the shore. I noticed the rocks and cliff face were covered in different shades of ochre. Clark and the kids headed over to the cliff wall which was lined with a silky white ochre that was smooth and soft to touch. Clark and the group then painted the ochre on one another. It was a beautiful moment to observe.

Next, we followed Clark around the corner where the main headland loomed large before us. The ancient rock formation stands at a height of about 20 metres and is made of jasper, a form of red quartz. Clark pointed out areas of particular significance to the Gumbaynggirr people. With dusk approaching, we followed the path to the end of the headland where we stood, captivated by the vast ocean views.

Sharing language and culture

Due to the tide, our return journey was quicker. As Shane paddled and I took photos, I heard the children asking Clark the names of different fish species in the Gumbaynggirr language which they would then repeat back to him in the hope of retaining the words. 

As we arrived back at our starting point, part of me wanted to head back out to explore more of the environment but I was grateful to have experienced such a beautiful and genuine water-based adventure one enhanced by Clark and Shane’s local insight into Red Rock and the surrounding region.

This is an activity not to be missed.

Exploring the Coffs Coast waterways
No fitness level or prior SUP/kayak experience is necessary to take part in the tour

Wajaana Yaam also do tours at Coffs Creek & Moonee. Visit wajaanayaam.com.au

Looking for other great family friendly activities on the coast? Check out the best camping and fishing spots on the north coast and tips on taking the trail from Little Bay to Smoky Cape Lighthouse.