Ballina and its surrounding areas boast an abundance of natural assets that are a huge drawcard for visitors and locals alike. Nature walks, diverse wildlife, stunning beaches and pristine rivers, along with world class National Parks close by, this region is a paradise for nature enthusiasts.
Whether you are seeking the thrill of surfing, the serenity of rainforest hikes, or the joy of encountering wildlife, the Ballina Coast and Hinterland offers a myriad of opportunities to connect with nature.
Coastal Nature Walks
With 32km of pristine coastline, the Ballina region is spoilt for choice when it comes to coastal walks. Explore rainforest remnants, dramatic coastal cliff lines and panoramic coastal trails. From short accessible walks to full day adventures, there is truly something for everyone.
The North Wall walk is a local favourite. With Shaws Bay on one side and the Richmond River on the other, this easy walk will allow you to enjoy some of Ballina's most beautiful assets – keep an eye out for dolphins and turtles in the river and the big cod fish in the bay. No need to retrace your steps, do a loop around the bay!
The coastal recreation path between Sharpes Beach and Pat Morton Lookout is an absolute must offering some of the best views of the region and varying terrains – clifftops, estuaries and rocky beaches. If you are looking to make a day of it – take a return walk from Ballina CBD to Lennox Head (or vice versa), stopping at some of the great cafes along the way!
Hinterland Nature Walks
Beyond the coastline, the hinterland offers various options for the family or the more serious hiker. Victoria Park Nature Reserve is one of the last remnants of the Big Bush Scrub that once blanketed the area. It provides a short rainforest boardwalk loop and if quiet, you may spot the pademelons and array unique birds that inhabit the area. Rocky Creek Dam is another family friendly location with signposted walks ranging from easy 1.2km walks to a 6km walk of medium difficulty around the perimeter of the dam. It offers scenic views of the water, surrounding bushland, and possibly some wildlife. Rocky Creek Dam also allows dogs (on-leash), so you don’t need to leave anyone at home!
Venture into Nightcap National Park & Border Ranges National Park, where ancient rainforests offer stunning landscapes, diverse ecosystems, and a range of bushwalking opportunities. The NSW National Parks website (nationalparks.nsw.gov.au) is the best source for the latest information prior to heading off.
We are blessed to have stunning waterfalls within the Northern Rivers region making for a great day out when based in the Ballina Coast and Hinterland. Killen Falls is a picturesque natural wonder, renowned for its breathtaking beauty, with waters cascading over moss-covered rocks. The viewing platform provides a great opportunity for those that don’t want to venture further down but still experience the beauty of the landscape. For nature enthusiasts, photographers, and outdoor lovers, Killen Falls is a place of serenity and wonder.
Minyon Falls is a majestic waterfall that plunges over 100 meters down a sheer cliff face, surrounded by lush, pristine rainforest. The falls are nestled within the Nightcap National Park, and from the viewing platform offers visitors the opportunity to admire the falls and the valley beneath.
Heading inland towards The Channon you will discover Protesters Falls. The walking track to the base of the waterfall is simply stunning through World Heritage rainforest. The walk is an ideal short walk for families and nature-lovers as the creeks and scenery to get to the waterfall create a stunning adventure.
Ballina is blessed with a rich ecosystem that attracts both resident and migratory bird species. The coastline, featuring stunning beaches and rocky headlands offers fantastic opportunities to observe seabirds. Birds like the beautiful Ospreys, Brahminy Kites and the iconic, White-Bellied Sea Eagle can often be spotted soaring above the ocean, carrying fish or perching on rocky outcrops. The Sooty and Pied Oystercatcher, Whimbrel, Ruddy Turnstone and Crested Tern among many others also frequent the area and can be seen around the rocky coastal areas such as Flat Rock and Shelly Beach.
Often alongside the loud chatter of the Wattle Bird, if you listen carefully near the dunes in the Summer you will hear the high pitched 'Prrrr prrr prrr" of the Rainbow Bee Eater. These little beauties build their burrows in the sand dunes and if you sit quietly and patiently, you can spot them flying in and out of these nests as well as performing burrow maintenance.
One of the key bird-watching destinations in the Ballina region is Victoria Park Nature Reserve, home to rainforest bird species such as Satin and Regent Bowerbirds, Eastern Yellow Robins, Brown Cuckoo Doves, the gorgeous Wompoo Fruit Dove and if you're lucky you may hear the eerie wailing call of the Green Catbird.
The wetlands and mangrove areas around the Richmond River and estuaries create homes for the beautiful Spoonbills, Azure Kingfishers, Eastern Curlews and the beautiful White-Faced Heron, among many others.
You can often spot Cormorants nesting in the Melaleuca trees surrounding Lake Ainsworth in Lennox Head as well as friendly Pacific Black Ducks who often nibble on the reeds growing along the shallow edges and let’s not forget the beautiful local Pelicans that can be seen strutting along the beaches especially near the Boat Channel in Lennox Head.
Image: Peter Scholer