Esk River paddle route

Bundjalung National Park

Overview

Esk River is the perfect place for canoeing, offering birdwatching and a back to nature wilderness experience on the north coast of NSW.

Where
Bundjalung National Park
Distance
15km one-way
Time suggested
4hrs
Grade
Medium
Price
Free
Entry fees
Park entry fees apply
Please note
  • Toilets and picnic facilities are available at Woody Head campground
  • It’s a good idea to take insect repellent with you

The sheltered inland waterways are a perfect way to explore the southern section of Bundjalung National Park. Paddling up Esk River, the longest unspoilt natural coastal river system on the north coast, you’ll feel like you’ve entered a wildlife wonderland.

When you push off from Bill Weiley Bridge and head upstream, you’ll glide past mangroves, heathland and old growth dry sclerophyll forest; keep your eye out for the unique rock formations. This is prime birdwatching territory so get your binoculars ready. Downstream, closer to the Clarence River entrance, pied oystercatchers and eastern whipbirds are common.

If you’re lucky you might see a koala snoozing or snacking on gum leaves in the branches of the tallowwood and swamp mahogany.

For directions, safety and practical information, see visitor info

Current alerts in this area

There are no current alerts in this area.

Local alerts

For the latest updates on fires, closures and other alerts in this area, see https://www.nationalparks.nsw.gov.au/things-to-do/canoeing-paddling-experiences/esk-river-paddle-route/local-alerts

Park info

See more visitor info

Visitor info

All the practical information you need to know about Esk River paddle route.

Getting there and parking

Get driving directions

Get directions

    Esk River paddle route is in the Iluka precinct of Bundjalung National Park. To get there, follow the Iluka Road for approximately 8km to the Bill Weiley Bridge from the Pacific Highway.

    Park entry points

    Parking

    Parking is available near Bill Weiley Bridge.

    Best times to visit

    There are lots of great things waiting for you in Bundjalung National Park. Here are some of the highlights.

    Spring

    Head to Iluka Bluff for a spectacular coastal view of the park, beaches and the mouth of the river – keep your eyes peeled for whales on their return migration.

    Winter

    Escape to the wintersun for a family camping holiday, it should still be warm enough for a swim so remember to bring your cozzie.

    Weather, temperature and rainfall

    Summer temperature

    Average

    20°C and 26°C

    Highest recorded

    42.5°C

    Winter temperature

    Average

    12°C and 21°C

    Lowest recorded

    2.7°C

    Rainfall

    Wettest month

    Between January and March

    Driest month

    Between August and October

    Maps and downloads

    Safety messages

    Mobile safety

    Dial Triple Zero (000) in an emergency. Download the Emergency + app before you visit, it helps emergency services locate you using your smartphone's GPS. Please note there is limited mobile phone reception in this park and you’ll need mobile reception to call Triple Zero (000).

    Paddling safety

    To make your paddling or kayaking adventure safer and more enjoyable, check out these paddling safety tips.

    River and lake safety

    The aquatic environment around rivers, lakes and lagoons can be unpredictable. If you're visiting these areas, take note of these river and lake safety tips.

    Permitted

    Fishing

    A current NSW recreational fishing licence is required when fishing in all waters.

    Prohibited

    Pets

    Pets and domestic animals (other than certified assistance animals) are not permitted. Find out which regional parks allow dog walking and see the pets in parks policy for more information.

    Smoking

    NSW national parks are no smoking areas.

    Nearby towns

    Iluka (12 km)

    Iluka is a peaceful and scenic town with superb fishing and beaches. A coastal village, it's set on the north side of the Clarence River mouth.

    www.visitnsw.com

    Lismore (48 km)

    Lismore is a major North Coast commercial, cultural and administrative centre. It's set in undulating country on the north arm of the Richmond River.

    www.visitnsw.com

    Yamba (16 km)

    Yamba is a bustling holiday resort with a large fishing fleet. It's built around a headland at the mouth of the Clarence River.

    www.visitnsw.com

    Learn more

    Esk River paddle route is in Bundjalung National Park. Here are just some of the reasons why this park is special:

    An ancient landscape

    Gummigurrah walking track, Bundjalung National Park. Photo: Rob Cleary/Seen Australia

    At Bundjalung National Park you can visit Gummigurrah, an area that was used as a winter camping ground by the Bandjalung People. This park is one of a group where the Bandjalang People's native title rights have been recognised and is only the third determination of native title rights in New South Wales. Native title rights come from the Bandjalang People's traditional laws and customs and legally recognise the Bandjalang People's connection to Country. This means that these lands will continue to be places of ceremony, learning and inspiration for generations to come.

    • Gummigurrah walking track Situated near Evans Head in Bundjalung National Park, Gummigurrah walking track winds through rainforest and heathlands, offering birdwatching and scenic river views.

    Meet the locals

    Silver banksia (Banksia marginata), Bundjalung National Park. Photo: Rob Cleary/Seen Australia

    The varied habitat of Bundjalung National Park is home to over 140 species of fauna. Wake to the morning melodies of eastern whip-birds, bower birds and the rare barred cuckoo-shrike. At dawn and dusk, you might find eastern grey kangaroos, red-necked wallabies and swamp wallabies congregating around your campsites. Scour the tops of nearby trees and you might also catch a glimpse of a sleeping koala or two.

    • Iluka Bluff lookout Stay as long as you like to enjoy the views at Iluka Bluff lookout, near Yamba. Not only is it an excellent whale watching spot, it’s also a great place to picnic.
    • Jerusalem Creek walk Keep your eyes peeled for birds nesting along the creek along the Jerusalem Creek walk. Enjoy the hike as a day walk or shorter walk and finish up with a picnic lunch.

    Water world

    Black Rocks campground, Bundjalung National Park. Photo: Rob Cleary/Seen Australia

    Bundjalung protects a variety of environments that feature water, including beaches, rivers, wetlands and lagoons. You'll find different types of plants, animals and birds in each one; look for coast banksia, coast she-oak and coastal wattle on the dunes that back onto the beach. Immerse yourself in this world by canoeing the waterways, rambling in the rock pools and swimming in the ocean.

    Plants and animals you may see

    Animals

    • White-bellied sea eagle. Photo: John Turbill

      White-bellied sea eagle (Haliaeetus leucogaster)

      White-bellied sea eagles can be easily identified by their white tail and dark grey wings. These raptors are often spotted cruising the coastal breezes throughout Australia, and make for some scenic bird watching. Powerful Australian birds of prey, they are known to mate for life, and return each year to the same nest to breed.

    • Peron's tree frog. Photo: Rosie Nicolai

      Peron's tree frog (Litoria peroni)

      Peron’s tree frog is found right across NSW. These tree-climbing and ground-dwelling Australian animals can quickly change colour, ranging from pale green-grey by day, to a reddish brown with emerald green flecks at night. The male frog has a drill-like call, which has been described as a 'maniacal cackle’.

    • Emu, Paroo Darling National Park. Photo: John Spencer

      Emu (Dromaius novaehollandiae)

      The largest of Australian birds, the emu stands up to 2m high and is the second largest bird in the world, after the ostrich. Emus live in pairs or family groups. The male emu incubates and rears the young, which will stay with the adult emus for up to 2 years.

    • Koala. Photo: Lucy Morrell

      Koala (Phascolarctos cinereus)

      One of the most renowned Australian animals, the tree-dwelling marsupial koala can be found in gum tree forests and woodlands across eastern NSW, Victoria and Queensland, as well as in isolated regions in South Australia. With a vice-like grip, this perhaps most iconic but endangered Australian animal lives in tall eucalypts within a home range of several hectares.

    • Lace monitor, Daleys Point walking track, Bouddi National Park. Photo: John Yurasek

      Lace monitor (Varanus varius)

      One of Australia’s largest lizards, the carnivorous tree-dwelling lace monitor, or tree goanna, can grow to 2m in length and is found in forests and coastal tablelands across eastern Australia. These Australian animals are typically dark blue in colour with whitish spots or blotches.

    Environments in this park

    Education resources (1)

    Reflections in the creek. Photo: Rob Cleary