While everyone fights with traffic at the beach in summer between Coffs Harbour and Grafton, there’s a lot less people enjoying clear mountain streams, rock pools and shady campsites along the Nymboida River. Sometimes heading west in summer makes sense. Only an hour or two from the busy east coast, there is a whole new paradise to enjoy.
Although only a relatively short river at 165km in length, the Nymboida descends a massive 1,250m giving rise to many rapids and cascades of white water interspersed with large pools of slow-moving water. You don’t need to be an Olympic kayaker to enjoy these highlights. An air mattress or inflatable pool toys combined with a sense of fun can have adults and kids alike laughing out loud.
Not too far from Dorrigo is the delightful campground of Platypus Flat. There are designated camper trailer spots and walk-in campsites beside the river. It is important to book one of the 18 sites online prior to getting there, as Platypus Flat is a pretty popular spot. Once you have set up camp, the long deep pool that runs the length of the campground beckons you to get wet and cool down. There are cascades at each end to bookend the pool.
We stayed at Platypus Flat recently, and as dark descended in camp we were unknowingly being surrounded by small green wide-eyed monsters. When a light was shone down on the ground, it lit up with almost iridescent green frogs everywhere. The frogs were certainly restless that evening.
The river downstream from Platypus Flat is very popular with white water kayakers and rafters. Don’t try it on your tyre tube as it has dangerous rapids through very remote country. If you are keen for some excitement it may be worth checking out one of the commercial river trips that leave from Platypus Flat. You could join a white water rafting trip as it launches, and be dropped back to camp around five hours later. I will definitely be doing that next time I’m there!
This is the next access to the Nymboida, downstream from Platypus Flat, and it’s where the rafting trip would end if you were on a day trip. There are a few campsites at Cod Hole but it is not as nice as Platypus Flat for family camping. It’s a great spot though for seeing another section of the river with some terrific cascades near the campsite.
Again, if you are keen to explore further downstream, this would best be done with a commercial group. Although it’s only 16km to the next river access, it may take from eight hours to two days… with some pretty serious rapids in between. Road access is via Forestry roads and generally quite good; although it gets very slippery (quickly) in rain.
As its name suggests, this is the junction between the Nymboida and Little Nymboida Rivers. It’s a popular spot for the rafters and kayakers but only has walk-in campsites for small tents. It’s a great spot for a day trip if you are in the area, and you could try fishing for the endangered Eastern Freshwater Cod. If you catch one, you are obliged to release it – as they are found in diminishing numbers. The last few kilometres of the track down to The Junction are very steep and require a 4WD.
The majority of the Nymboida River to this point has been flowing through the spectacularly steep forests of the Nymboi-Binderay National Park. Downstream from The Junction, the Nymboida flows through grazing land.
Nymboida (the village)
There is not much at Nymboida so don’t get too excited if you think you will be visiting the Museum of Interesting Things. It closed down in 2014 and it was still closed as we drove past disappointed. It was owned for a time by Russell Crowe. It was a great watering hole and it had a collection of movie memorabilia in its day. It was originally the Nymboida Coaching Station and was a stop on the Armidale mail run over 100 years ago.
By all accounts there is a good camping area a few kilometres out on the Grafton Road called Nymboida Camping and Canoeing. It is reportedly pet friendly, with cabins as well as camping.
At Buccarumbi on the old Grafton to Glen Innes road, the normal state of the Nymboida River is wide and slow. In 1874, the Buccarumbi Bridge was opened and managed to stay above floods for over 70 years until the mother of all floods (at over 50 feet) took the bridge out. This was quite a feat, as the bridge was built about 40 feet above the normal water level.
Remains of the old pylons can be seen laying where they fell all those years ago. After numerous attempts at new bridges (which were swept away by more floods), the current bridge built in 1995 is still standing. Even the cows use it to cross the river. Cows were never much into swimming.
The camping at Buccarumbi is on a wide, rocky flood plain upstream from the bridge. There is not much shade but the camping is good and it’s easy to launch kayaks into the wide river. There are some toilets at the campground but they were locked when we were there. Not sure why? I assume they were also locked when someone broke away some of the back wall of the toilet block to get in. Maybe don’t expect too much from the toilets if you plan to camp there…
Nymboida River campground
If you are using the Hema NE NSW map, the Nymboida River NP campground is actually on the eastern side of the river (not as marked on the map) and it can be easily accessed via Ramornie State Forest as long as you have a 4WD. The last couple of kilometres down to the river is steep and will become very slippery in wet conditions.
There is a very nice shady, grassy campground with a working set of toilets that will accommodate camper trailers. Dotted around are heavy wooden tables and bench seats next to BBQs.
One dark winter’s night, Elodie and I were the only ones camped there and we were scared witless by huge, loud unexplained noises emanating from the darkness only 20 metres away. We jumped into the FJ, and turned the light bar on to see a huge, black bull with full horns and red eyes staring back at us. He was charging the tables and throwing them over before pushing them around the grounds. The bull has since been moved on. No human (or animal) was hurt in the writing of this story.
Most people seem to camp down by the river on the wide grassy flats. Just be aware of any potential floods that may be on the way though. Of all the campsites on the Nymboida, this one and Platypus Flat are the pick for spending a few days of family camping. Whether you plan to travel the length of the Nymboida or just choose to stay in one place, this river has something for everyone. The camping is great all year round along the Nymboida, although you may choose not to go swimming in winter.