Front Beach

Arakoon National Park

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Overview

Front Beach offers family friendly options including swimming, paddling, liloing and picnicking in Arakoon National Park on the mid North Coast of NSW.

Accessibility
Medium
What to
bring
Drinking water, hat, sunscreen

Set against a backdrop of the historic gaol ruins, Front Beach is a popular swimming spot, perfect for families wanting a relaxing day outdoors. Situated in Arakoon National Park on the mid North Coast, it’s a perfect destination for a coastal holiday with camping options at Trial Bay Gaol campground.

The calm waters are ideal for the little ones and make for perfect paddling and liloing. While the kids are having fun, you may even be tempted to try your luck at fishing. Gazing across the scenic bay, keep your eyes peeled for sea-eagles and osprey, they’re known to fish the same waters.

When it’s time for something to eat, spark up the barbecue at the picnic area, beside Trial Bay Gaol campground, or if you’re feeling too relaxed, head to Trial Bay Restaurant. After lunch, gather and explore Trial Bay Gaol or try the medium Monument Hill walking track.

For directions, safety and practical information, see visitor info

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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/swimming-spots/front-beach/local-alerts

General enquiries

Park info

See more visitor info

Visitor info

All the practical information you need to know about Front Beach.

Getting there and parking

Get driving directions

Get directions

    Front Beach is in the Trial Bay Gaol precinct of Arakoon National Park.

    From South West Rocks:

    • Follow Phillip Drive
    • Turn left onto Cardwell Street

    After turning left onto Cardwell Street, you can continue along Trial Bay Gaol Access Road until you reach Trial Bay Gaol.

    Or you can:

    • Turn left at the beach access road, and then drive past the NPWS depot and Arakoon Nursery
    • Continue until you reach the gravel beach carpark
    • From here, there's a short walk up a sand track to the beach

    Road quality

    • Sealed roads

    Vehicle access

    • 2WD vehicles

    Weather restrictions

    • All weather

    Parking

    Parking is available near the beach in a bitumen carpark at the Main Camp kitchen facility at Trial Bay Gaol. 

    There's also parking in an asphalt carpark at Trial Bay Gaol kiosk, including 4 accessible parking spots. The walk to the beach from this carpark is around 100m and includes around 20 steps.

    Best times to visit

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

    Spring

    The wildflowers will be out so it’s a great time to hike the park’s walking tracks. Keep an eye out for the glossy black cockatoos that feed on the seeds of ripe she-oak fruit during spring.

    Summer

    School's out and it's a great time for a family camping holiday – spend your days swimming, snorkelling, fishing and exploring the park's attractions.

    Winter

    Catch the whales on their journey north along the coast.

    Weather, temperature and rainfall

    Summer temperature

    Average

    20°C and 26°C

    Highest recorded

    41.7°C

    Winter temperature

    Average

    12°C and 20°C

    Lowest recorded

    4°C

    Rainfall

    Wettest month

    March

    Driest month

    September

    The area’s highest recorded rainfall in one day

    343.7mm

    Facilities

    This is a popular spot, so it's a good idea to bring your own gas barbecue.

    Toilets

    There are accessible toilets in the Bayview area of Trial Bay Gaol campground, at the northern end of Front Beach.

    • Flush toilets

    Picnic tables

    There are picnic tables and barbecue shelters at the northern end of Front Beach, just south of Trial Bay Gaol campground.

    Barbecue facilities

    1 electric barbecue

    • Gas/electric barbecues (free)

    Carpark

    Step-free access

    Front Beach is flat and step-free, but there are no pathways. You'll need to cross over the asphalt access road, flat grass and soft sand to reach the facilities and the beach.

    There's a concrete ramp to access the beach at the southern end of Trial Bay Gaol campground (at the northern end of Front Beach) however the ramp is quite steep.

    Maps and downloads

    Safety messages

    Beach safety

    Beaches in this park are not patrolled, and can sometimes have strong rips and currents. These beach safety tips will help you and your family stay safe in the water.

    Fishing safety

    Fishing from a boat, the beach or by the river is a popular activity for many national park visitors. If you’re planning a day out fishing, check out these fishing safety tips.

    Mobile safety

    Dial Triple Zero (000) in an emergency. Download the Emergency Plus 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.

    Accessibility

    Disability access level - medium

    Front Beach is flat and step-free, but there are no pathways. You'll need to cross over the asphalt access road, flat grass and soft sand to reach the facilities and the beach.

    • There are 4 accessible parking spots at the Trial Bay Gaol kiosk carpark around 100m from the beach, but the walk to the beach from there has roughly 20 steps.
    • There are accessible flush toilets at the northern end of Front Beach in Trial Bay Gaol campground.

    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.

    Learn more

    Front Beach is in Arakoon National Park. Here are just some of the reasons why this park is special:

    Abundant bird life

    Little Bay, Arakoon National Park. Photo: Michael Van Ewijk

    Birds are abundant in Arakoon National Park. In wetland areas, you might see black swans, egrets, herons and spoonbills. On the heath, there are fantails, wrens, honeyeaters and quails. Hawks, falcons, ospreys and eagles soar above the cliffs and forage along the beaches. During the spring, when the she-oaks produce fruit, glossy black cockatoos come in to feed on the ripe seeds. Despite its small size, Arakoon harbours several threatened species, including the osprey and glossy black cockatoo. You're also likely to spot wallabies and echidnas, and the nocturnal brush-tailed phascogales and sugar gliders. During September and October, you can often see humpback whales just offshore, on their return journey to Antarctica.

    Fascinating heritage

     Trial Bay Gaol, Arakoon National Park. Photo: David Finnegan

    Dating from 1886, Trial Bay Gaol is a unique example of a public works prison. It was also used as an internment camp in World War I and today the ruins continue to intrigue visitors. It'll take you about an hour to wander through the gaol and the museum. The region has high cultural and spiritual significance to the local Dunghutti people.

    • Bridle trail Bridle Trail walking track is an easy short walk offering a glimpse of the historic heritage of Trial Bay Gaol in Arakoon National Park near Kempsey.
    • Friends of Trial Bay Gaol The historic ruins of Trial Bay Gaol, in Arakoon National Park on the NSW Mid North Coast, are a significant heritage area. Friends of Trial Bay Gaol invite you to volunteer to help in the protection and promotion of this amazing piece of local history, especially during the annual Sculpture in the Gaol.
    • Heritage detectives Help unlock mysteries of the past while exploring historic Trial Bay Gaol from top to bottom. Who were the prisoners and where did they came from? What crimes did they commit to deserve their punishment and what work they carry out in captivity?
    • History mysteries Explore the old granite gaol at Trial Bay and help to unlock mysteries of the past on the History Mysteries school excursion. This is a Stage 2 (Years 3-4) excursion to Arakoon National Park, focusing on History.
    • Monument Hill walking track Featuring stunning coastal views, the easy Monument Hill walk takes in the historic monument built for German gaol internees before finishing at Little Bay picnic area.
    • Powder Magazine walking track Powder Magazine walking track is a short walk near Trial Bay, in Arakoon National Park, offering scenic views and historic heritage.
    • Trial Bay Gaol For a glimpse into Australian history, head to South West Rocks to explore the historic ruins of Trial Bay Gaol in Arakoon National Park. Make sure you see the view from the sentry’s lookout.
    • Trial Bay Gaol twilight tour Explore Trial Bay Gaol by twilight with an NPWS guide by your side. Discover what life was like for prisoners as you watch the sun set in beautiful Arakoon National Park, South West Rocks.
    • Trial Bay Gaol: Life behind bars kids tour Come along and find out what life behind bars was really like for the prisoners at Trial Bay Gaol, in Arakoon National Park near South West Rocks. Explore the gaol on this action-packed family tour.
    • Walk on the dark side: Sunset tour for adults Wander through the old Trial Bay Gaol at sunset, in Arakoon National Park, near South West Rocks. Visit the darker side of history and hear stories of prisoners' crimes and experiences here.
    Show more

    Ideal family getaway

    Trial Bay Gaol Discovery tour, Arakoon National Park. Photo: Rob Cleary/Seen Australia

    Arakoon National Park is in a magnificent natural setting with a spectacular coastline. There are coastal walks with wonderful views and places to picnic and excellent beachside camping and cottage accommodation. If you’re looking for a place to swim and snorkel, head to sheltered Trial Bay and the kiosk is nearby if you’re looking for a relaxed lunch or dinner. The picnic area at Little Bay is popular with young families, offering barbecues and a large grassed area for games.

    • Front Beach Front Beach offers family friendly options including swimming, paddling, liloing and picnicking in Arakoon National Park on the mid North Coast of NSW.
    • Little Bay picnic area Little Bay, a popular beach picnic spot near South West Rocks on the north coast where you’ll find shaded tables and a kangaroo or two.

    Scenic headlands

    Monument Hill walking track, Arakoon National Park. Photo: David Finnegan

    The Smoky Cape Adamellite which forms Little Smoky and the Arakoon peninsula is significant as the only coastal outcropping of granite between Bundaberg in Queensland and Moruya Heads in southern NSW. It was used to construct the prison. The naturally vegetated hillslopes of Arakoon form a scenic backdrop to Trial Bay and the popular holiday town of South West Rocks.

    • 2-day Port Macquarie motorcycle adventure Enjoy superb scenery as you ride through Arakoon National Park and beyond on this guided adventure with Endeavour Motorcycle Tours, near Port Macquarie.
    • Bridle trail Bridle Trail walking track is an easy short walk offering a glimpse of the historic heritage of Trial Bay Gaol in Arakoon National Park near Kempsey.
    • Heritage detectives Help unlock mysteries of the past while exploring historic Trial Bay Gaol from top to bottom. Who were the prisoners and where did they came from? What crimes did they commit to deserve their punishment and what work they carry out in captivity?
    • Mermaid Pools Mermaid Pools is closed to visitors because it's extremely unsafe for swimming. Many people have been seriously injured here. The pools are located near South West Rocks and Trial Bay in Arakoon National Park.
    • Monument Hill walking track Featuring stunning coastal views, the easy Monument Hill walk takes in the historic monument built for German gaol internees before finishing at Little Bay picnic area.

    Traditional lands of Dunghutti people

    Monument Hill walking track, Arakoon National Park. Photo: Barbara Webster

    The region surrounding Arakoon National Park has high cultural and spiritual significance to the local Dunghutti people. There are numerous Aboriginal sites within the park of great spiritual and cultural significance, with dreaming stories and cultural learning part of them, still passed on today. These include middens, stone arrangements and spiritual sites. We work with local Aboriginal communities to protect this rich culture.

    Plants and animals protected in this park

    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.

    • Humpback whale breaching. Photo: Dan Burns

      Humpback whale (Megaptera novaeangliae)

      The humpback whale has the longest migratory path of any mammal, travelling over 5000km from its summer feeding grounds in Antarctica to its breeding grounds in the subtropics. Its playful antics, such as body-rolling, breaching and pectoral slapping, are a spectacular sight for whale watchers in NSW national parks.

    • Swamp wallaby in Murramarang National Park. Photo: David Finnegan

      Swamp wallaby (Wallabia bicolor)

      The swamp wallaby, also known as the black wallaby or black pademelon, lives in the dense understorey of rainforests, woodlands and dry sclerophyll forest along eastern Australia. This unique Australian macropod has a dark black-grey coat with a distinctive light-coloured cheek stripe.

    • Echidna. Photo: Ken Stepnell

      Short-beaked echidna (Tachyglossus aculeatus)

      One of only 2 egg-laying mammals in the world, the short-beaked echidna is one of the most widespread of Australian native animals. Covered in spines, or quills, they’re equipped with a keen sense of smell and a tube-like snout which they use to break apart termite mounds in search of ants.

    Environments in this park

    Education resources (1)

    School excursions (2)