Esk River paddle route
Bundjalung National Park
Esk River is the perfect place for canoeing, offering birdwatching and a back to nature wilderness experience on the north coast of NSW.
- 15km one-way
- Time suggested
- 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 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
- in Bundjalung National Park in the North Coast region
Bundjalung National Park is always open but may have to close at times due to poor weather or fire danger.
Park entry fees:
$8 per vehicle per day.Buy annual pass.
All the practical information you need to know about Esk River paddle route.
Getting there and parking
Get driving 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.
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.
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.
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
20°C and 26°C
12°C and 21°C
Between January and March
Between August and October
Maps and downloads
A current NSW recreational fishing licence is required when fishing in all waters.
Esk River paddle route is in Bundjalung National Park. Here are just some of the reasons why this park is special:
An ancient landscape
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.
Meet the locals
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.
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 protected in this park
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 (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 (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 (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 (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.
Grey-headed flying-fox (Pteropus poliocephalus)
The grey-headed flying fox is Australia's largest native bat, with a wingspan up to 1m. This threatened species travels up and down south-eastern Australia and plays a vital role in pollinating plants and spreading seeds in our native forests.
Australian pelican (Pelecanus conspicillatus)
The curious pelican is Australia’s largest flying bird and has the longest bill of any bird in the world. These Australian birds are found throughout Australian waterways and the pelican uses its throat pouch to trawl for fish. Pelicans breed all year round, congregating in large colonies on secluded beaches and islands.