South of well-trodden Byron Bay in northern NSW is a little known trail along some of the region’s most dramatic coastline. The 4hr walk from Ballina to Lennox Head is suitable for people of all ages, although climbing headlands requires some fitness.
There are many access points but I chose to start with a coffee at the Ballina Ramada Hotel near the centre of town then along the broad Richmond River and peaceful sandy river beaches where you can easily spot flocks of pelicans and cormorants.
It’s a shared path over the Hill Street bridge to Shaws Bay and the historic Fenwick House built in 1886, then out on the breakwater and the pounding mouth of the Richmond River.
At the Lighthouse Beach Surf Club look for the 1866 lighthouse on the left, and there’s a lookout offering sweeping views over Shelly Beach and south to Evans Head.
The path follows the road to Angels Beach, or you can walk the beach around the Black Head rocks, which are more red than black and the home of whistling Brahminy Kites. From the path look for the bush track to the top of Black Head and great views out to sea, and the chance to spot whales and schools of dolphins fishing and playing in the rolling waves.
Angels Beach is a longer beach and offers the serenity of sand walking or through groves of large paper bark trees and littoral rainforest, but watch for cyclists.
At Sharpes Beach you leave the shared path behind and head uphill to Whites Head. Take care walking the volcanic red cliff tops but thrill at the drop into the churning surf below and sea eagles patrolling above. Highlights include Skennars Head, Boulder Beach and Iron Peg with spectacular views across the water to the steep green pastures and red cliffs of Lennox Head. Then along an isolated beach track, which is cut off after heavy rain by the swollen inland lagoon.
Up the steep grassed rise are more sheer cliffs and small patches of rainforest. This is the most isolated part of the walk and offers serenity, big blue skies, and the best whale viewing. The track climbs the southern side of Lennox Head and down the timber steps to the famous grassed viewing area where hang gliders and surfers try their skills. Lennox town and Seven Mile Beach unfolds before you.
Back to the formal shared path which leads all the way to the town of Lennox Head with its cafes, restaurants, boutiques and fish and chip shops. There’s also a very convenient bus stop, so it’s possible to make the return trip back to Ballina by bus and see the coast from the road that takes a turn inland through the hills that back onto the country you have just walked through. Or keep walking north from Lennox and see if you can make beautiful Broken Bay and beyond.