Every time I mention Pebbly Beach to other four-wheel drivers, they light up with joy. When I say sheepishly that I’ve never been, I’ve been greeted with a look of utter disgrace. The sort of look my wife gives me when I say I’ve bought another project vehicle come to think of it…
I found myself with a week off recently, in between work commitments. Rather than get stuck into gardening, or spinning spanners on one of my many project vehicles, I decided to treat myself to five nights camping on Pebbly Beach in the Yuraygir National Park.
I tend to head north to Queensland or south to the Victorian High Country for my off-road adventures. I’ve driven past the turn-off sign to Station Creek (which we’ll touch on later) many times. Every single time that I do this, I’ll mutter to myself “One day.”
Well, I decided that it was time to see what all the fuss was about. Is Pebbly Beach actually as good as people say it is? What do you need while camping there? Here are five bits of info I gained from my time at Pebbly Beach.
Google Maps lies
The turn-off to Station Creek is clearly signposted, about 42km north of Coffs Harbour on the Pacific Highway. I know exactly where it is, however, decided I’ll chuck Pebbly Beach Campground into Google Maps and see if there was a shortcut. This is where my trip took a stressful turn for the worse.
I flew past the sign on the Pacific Highway and thought that’s odd. But the map knows best. It doesn’t. I ended up 100km away from where I needed to be. This was now a bad situation, as the saltwater tidal crossing to get into the campsite needed to be done at low tide, and for obvious reasons. I was now running very late to get to camp, with a higher tide than planned for the crossing.
This resulted in me driving through the National Park in the dark, not sure of where to go or if I’d be able to make the crossing. I was now really stressed.
Thankfully, I met some locals in a HiLux that were happy to show me the right line to drive through the crossing, in the dark. It was deeper than I would have liked, but I made it through and found my (numbered) campsite.
Select low-range and first gear, and just let your four-wheel drive crawl through. You don’t need momentum on this crossing, nor do you want salt water flicking up on your four-wheel drive.
The lesson here is don’t always trust Google Maps – just look for the Station Creek turnoff, and follow the signs to Pebbly Beach. Aim to get there before low tide, and wait till it’s as low as possible. Your vehicle will thank you for it.
Make sure you give your pride and joy a solid bath as soon as possible when back from your trip. There are carwashes in Coffs Harbour, I’d recommend visiting one.
Bring cash for firewood
Yes, you can have a fire on Pebbly Beach, which is great to see. There’s even a wood pile on the way into the campground where you can gather wood. It’s not the best-burning wood and is a bit green, but the price is right.
What I wish I did instead of lugging my own wood from home, was bring some money and buy wood on-site. Pop into the Ranger’s campsite during the day, and for $20 a bag, you’re sorted. Bring cash though. Combine this good quality wood, with the free stuff, and you now have a ripper campfire.
Fish don’t exist
Everyone told me how good the fishing is on Pebbly Beach. Basically point at the water, and a fish will jump into your hands. Yeah, I’m not so sure that fish even exist now. I spent $50 on lures while in Coffs Harbour, and in the whole week of fishing, I didn’t catch a single thing. Didn’t even get a bite.
This is absolutely a reflection of my own abilities. But I didn’t see anyone else catching fish either. So I’m convinced they don’t exist. I’m happy to be proven wrong though, send through your fishing tips and pictures of fish you’ve caught on Pebbly. Next time, I’ll spend that $50 on firewood and a pack of snags. It sure was fun trying, though.
Book your Pebbly Beach campsite
All campsites are allocated, and you’ll need to pre-book. You also need to pay for a National Parks pass. It’s not expensive at all for what you get.
Camps range from tent-only sites to spectacular vehicle-based camping areas directly overlooking the beach, big enough to park a caravan. I chose a larger site at the northern end of the campground and enjoyed it. Sure, it was a bit of a walk to the amenities and calmer waters. But, it did mean I had more space and was sheltered from the wind.
This is the website you’ll need to make bookings. It also has all the information you need to purchase your National Parks Pass. You can also select which campsite you’ll like to stay at, as well as see which areas are being booked, so you can avoid them if like me you prefer a quiet camp.
Watch the tide
The crossing into Pebbly Beach Campground itself is pretty straightforward. The base is hard, so you can go as slow as possible to avoid flicking up salt water. There are a few ways to approach it though.
Firstly, check when it is low tide. Once you know what time to arrive, walk the crossing to asses the situation – things change over time.
You’ll see a bunch of star pickets and some rope, and you can basically follow this line if you like. Just before you reach the other side, there is a deep dip, however, which will result in saltwater getting where it shouldn’t. Ask me how I know…
What I saw most people do, was hug the rope and star pickets, then steer off to the left, and wiggle onto the beach. It sounds wrong but looked to be the shallowest approach in the time I was there. If you aren’t sure, check out some videos on YouTube, which show the right and wrong way to enter Pebbly Beach.
I’d absolutely recommend walking the crossing or waiting to watch someone else go through it first. This is make-or-break stuff.
If you get this wrong and cross at high tide, there’s a fair chance you will drown your four-wheel drive. You wouldn’t be the first person to do so either. Get it right, and you’re now in paradise.
Pebbly Beach Verdict
So, is Pebbly Beach worthy of the title of the best beachside campsite in NSW? Is the hype real? Yep. Basically, it’s awesome. I actually can’t wait to head back. I think I even preferred it more than my recent trip to Fraser Island. Big call, I know.
This is absolutely my favourite beachside camp in New South Wales. So please, show it some respect when you visit for yourself. Take your rubbish out with you, there are large skip bins near the Station Creek/Pebbly Beach turn-off for you to dispose of it.
The campsites were large, the amenities were first-class, and the beach itself was just amazing. Sure it would have been nice to land a fish or two, but the fridge was full of supplies. I coped.
I love that you need a four-wheel drive to get there, as everybody I spoke to was like-minded and just there for a good time. It’s great for families, groups of mates, or even solo camping like I was.
Next time I head there, I’ll be bringing my wife. I’ll ignore Google Maps, and I’ll play it safer with the tides too. You live and learn by getting out there. Something I’ll be doing much more of once the weather warms up again.