Like many Australian coastal towns, Evans Head is a sleepy place. The people are friendly, the beaches superb and time seems to stand still. Scratch a tad deeper, however, and you’ll discover a town with quirks and a quiet enthusiasm. For here the wallabies swim up river, park benches tell its residents to ‘seize the day’, there’s cafe support for local youth and artists and a beach with an old shipwreck, even one with a “laser hazard & live bombs.”
While there’s enough to occupy the avid adventurer, Evans Head is particularly suited to families, having reputedly one of NSW’s biggest caravan parks. The park is located by Evan’s River, where kids can safely swim and frolic, while further north towards two break walls, people often fish and pelicans float serenely along the river. If you’re looking to relax seaside, have a surf, do some bushwalking and take some time out, this is the spot.
The town is also very affordable, having managed to avoid (at least until this point) being targeted by moneyed seachangers – folk relocating from the city. At Evans Head, you can enjoy a weekend away for very little, and there’s plenty to do, particularly if you’re a nature lover.
Things to do
The Evans River, the town’s iconic centrepiece, is a great place to have a swim, a flop and do nothing in particular. Many folk just sit with a fishing rod and a beer, while I had a saunter along the riverside path, did some photography and watched the birds and kangaroos.
Directly above the estuary, at the top of the hill, lies Razorback Lookout, which allegedly offers views all the way to Byron Bay lighthouse (on a clear day) – a distance of 66 kilometres by road. Further behind Razorback Lookout you’ll find Chinaman’s Beach, my favourite part of Evan’s Head. This beach is expansive, which gives it a wild and wonderful feel.
Walking south along the beach, you’ll eventually come to a pleasant, grassy headland fortified with pink layered rocks, aptly named Salmon Rocks. You could imagine these rock walls brimming with salmon, while palms line the edge and the sea spits at cliffs in the background.
On the other side of Salmon Rocks lies a beach with the candid warning, “RAAF bombing range, beach access prohibited, laser hazard & live bombs.” Curious, I peered past the sign onto the beach to see a couple of 4WDers had been churning up circles, evidently searching for a bit of laser hazard fun.
Back in town, I spotted a park bench sporting the phrase “carpe diem” (seize the day in Latin) before seeing a wallaby launch into the river. Wondering whether the two were connected, I ran over, took some photos and watched this little fella tackle the river (competently). I later discovered the wallaby was escaping from a dog. Perhaps it was the dog that had read the phrase. In any case, I’ve grown up with kangaroos/wallabys and this was the first time I’d ever seen one swim.
Heading over the river, I turned right down a dirt road towards Bundjalung National Park, home to the Bundjalung people. Passing a few snug spots on the river, I arrived at a bridge and the start of several bushwalks. I took one five kilometre walk along the Dirrawong Track, which does a full-loop, passing bushland, flatlands and the Evans River. The journey gave my spirit a most wonderful massage.
Places to eat
For good, cheap food in a place that supports local youth and artists, head to Chill Cafe on Woodburn Street. Here the calamari rings are gargantuan, the $5 chip bowl will feed a small football team and the salads are cheap and colourful. There’s WiFi, local artwork adorns the walls and the café proudly displays that it functions as a social enterprise to promote employment, training and youth service awareness.
The more commercially orientated Cafe Spirit, located in the town’s main drag, provides Toby’s Estate coffee (one of my favourite) and does a decent toasted sandwich. Across the road, Muzza’s Milk Bar is a great spot for ice-cream lovers (my three-year-old dragged me there), having stevia sweetened and dairy-free ice-cream in their collection. Owner Petria Powell is a friendly lady who will gladly offer tips on what to see and do around Evans Head.
The town often gets overlooked in favour of its more illustrious neighbour, Yamba, yet you could have a wonderful short break in Evans Head – one of Australia’s coastal towns that time forgot – that’s almost as cheap as chips.