Looking to hit the road this summer with the whole family? Drive no further than Wooli, a cruisey oceanfront town backing onto the Wooli Wooli River and offering more fun than meets the eye. New to the area? Inspired by a recent visit, I’ve selected the best of what to do, where to stay and dining hotspots – check out the best of Wooli below:
What to do
Explore the river
Known to be one of Australia’s cleanest waterways, the Wooli Wooli River and the surrounding banks are bursting with native animals, birds and marine life. Don’t have your own boat or even a boat license? No worries with Wooli River Boat Hire, who offer three equally fun options for touring the river with the family.
1. Rent a runabout – Load up the esky, fishing rods and grab your camera. Bruce Langham will come meet you at the jetty with a runabout boat, life jackets and detailed river map. He’ll launch your boat and start her up, give you a quick lesson in how to drive it (very easy) and off you go! Rates start at $60 for the first two hours, then $15 per hour after that (price includes fuel, $20 deposit required).
2. Wooli Explorer – Equipped with a table, seats, BBQ, simple kitchen and toilet, this self-drive, floating pontoon is your best bet for a trip up the river with friends and family. Fire up the BBQ, drop a line off the side, and anchor at some of the fabulous swimming spots upstream.
The Explorer holds a maximum of 14 people, and rates start at $200 for 4-hour hire, then $50 per hour after that (price includes fuel, $50 deposit required).
3. Guided river tour – Tap into local knowledge on a guided river tour onboard the Explorer, with Bruce as your host. Bruce will take you to a secret spot up river for a BBQ lunch (provided), sharing stories of the township’s history along the way. Prices start at $40 per person.
Tip: Stock up on fresh prawns and oysters from Wooli Oyster Supply located opposite the Explorer to snack on board, and buy a few extra for Bruce – you just might get to visit some more of his secret swimming and sightseeing points in return! Don’t forget your swimmers on the river, and a fishing line.
Deep Sea Fishing
I’m not much of a fishing buff, but the idea of a half-day tour offshore without the kids (babysitter!) was enough to have me climbing aboard Stan Young’s charter vessel to join my super-keen husband and a handful of larrikin visiting fishos for few stabs at nabbing a ‘big one’.
With 26 years of fishing and diving under his belt, Stan knows where to go and will fill you in on the area’s fishing history if you care to ask. Stan hooked a whopping snapper in the first hour, and gave me the honour of reeling the slippery pink fish in. Our crew were pumped to see the massive fish, and by the day’s end we had snagged a decent catch of snapper, tuna and a couple of kingfish.
Stan operates Wooli Deep Sea Tours for deep sea fishing, diving and whale watching. Bookings are essential. Find more information HERE
Learn to paddle board
Roger charges $50 per person for a two hour lesson including equipment. North Coast Surf Styles also offer surfing lessons for every age and ability out of Wooli and neighbouring Minnie Waters. Phone (02) 6649 7043 for bookings and lesson schedules, or find more information HERE
Take a walk
Wooli is surrounded by the beautiful Yuraygir Coastal Walk - a 65km signposted trail along the longest protected coastline in NSW. Load up the backpacks with water, sunscreen and some snacks, and set off on a leg of the trail with the kids for wildlife and bird watching, passing through heathland plains, crystal creeks and lagoons. Early morning is a great time to catch the abundant wildlife moving about.
Feed the family
There may only be minimal dining options at Wooli, but rest assured they are remarkably delicious. My top three picks are:
Waves at Wooli
Located on Riverside Drive next to the Wooli Kiosk, Waves at Wooli restaurant is just the place if you want riverfront dining on the cheap. Open for dinner on Friday and Saturday nights, the menu is capped with selected meals at $10 each – the green curry with fresh king prawns is a stand-out dish (but the menu ever changing!) Call ahead to book a table as this cute little BYO diner fills up fast: Phone (02) 6649 7606Harry's Chinese
You wouldn’t think this cosy coastal town is home to the best Chinese on the Clarence Coast. Well, I tell you, tried and tested Harry’s Chinese in the Wooli Bowling Club IS fantastic. It’s a bit of a strange set-up, but when you walk into the bowling club turn right and venture towards the smell of Chinese dumplings and sizzling seafood. Harry’s boasts a massive dining area with authentic Chinese ambience, an extensive menu and is kid-friendly with high-chairs and a special ‘Australian’ kids menu.
The 'real' Menu highlights include the radically sweet and filling honey chicken, tender braised steak in black bean sauce, sweet and sour king prawns, and the sweet corn crab meat soup. If you like your Chinese with a dash of spice, ask for the chef to whip you up a sliced chilli in soy sauce dressing – it’s not on the menu but a must for that fiery chilli kick! Harry’s is open for dine-in or takeaway every night except Mondays (cash only). Phone (02) 6649 7851.
Wooli Oyster Supply
If there’s one thing you absolutely must not miss on a trip to Wooli, it’s feasting on fresh oysters whilst perched on the beautiful riverside. Wooli Oyster Supply sells oysters opened to order, grown locally in the Wooli Wooli River. The only thing better than a couple dozen oysters, is teaming these slippery delights with fresh king prawns which can also be bought at the oyster shop. There is a tidy wooden table/bench set-up just down the road opposite the Wooli Explorer launch dock – park yourselves here for a perfect riverside picnic filled with fresh seafood delights.
Wooli’s unique location offers two great stay options – beachfront or riverside. My favourite accommodation picks are:
With its absolute beachfront location, this gorgeous three bedroom house offers two storeys with the ability to host up to seven guests and even your puppy dogs (welcome in the fenced backyard). We stayed in the tidy upstairs living area is a great merge of a classic beach shack layout with modern interiors, and large windows looking straight out to sea. There are board games and magazines to keep you entertained, or take your own DVDs and pop them into the flat screen TV - great for the kids.
The back deck is complete with a dining and bar-style bench setting with views reaching to the river, and is the best spot to fire up the supplied BBQ and cook up those deep sea snappers. Both the upstairs and downstairs living areas are equipped with cooking essentials, and the property boasts limited off-street parking, two bathrooms, and direct access to the beach.
Linen is not supplied but can be ordered through Yuraygir Holiday Hire. Click Here for linen hire
Wooli River Lodges
Fronting onto the river just out of town are these delightful lodges, complete with kitchenettes, swimming pool and free canoe rentals. The deluxe cabin is the pick of the crop, with spacious interiors, two bedrooms including a bunk set for the kids, two bathrooms and a covered deck area overlooking the river. Click Here for more information on Wooli River Lodges / booking inquiries
Shopping options are few in Wooli, and aside from the local servo just outside of town (which does sell some basic groceries including fresh fruit and veg and other basics) you’re best to do your shopping in one of the major towns before you head off the highway and down to Wooli. Unless you’re camping, most of the accommodations have decent kitchen facilities and refrigerators so there’s no reason for you not to cook up in-house during your stay (great for families choosing to dine-at-home especially at dinner time).
Wooli village in the Clarence Valley region of northern New South Wales sits on a narrow peninsula hugged by the Yuraygir National Park, with the Wooli Wooli River to the west and Pacific Ocean to the east. Forming the northern sector of the Solitary Islands Marine Park, Wooli is famed for deepsea diving and boasts the only dive shop in the valley.
The Wooli Wooli River can be negotiated for around 20km by canoe or boat, offering some of the best bird watching in Australia and spectacular fishing both in the river and out to sea (if you know what you’re doing).
There are kilometres of secluded beaches in and around Wooli, with a 4WD you have access to a real untouched section of the New South Wales coast and, when the swell is up, awesome and uncrowded surf.
Related LinksHarry's Chinese