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Australia's best place to visit
Tourism spotlight hits a sleepy town called Yamba
The locals don’t go around shouting "g’day" to visitors, there are no fine dining restaurants and the houses are mostly brick and weatherboard.
So why is Yamba -- a former fishing village set at the mouth of the Clarence River some 200 kilometers south of the Queensland border -- considered one of Australia’s top tourist destinations?
Until two years ago, Yamba’s only claim to fame was the right-hand surf break at nearby Angourie –- home to 1966 world surfing champion Nat Young and the set of the cult 1970s surf film, "Morning of the Earth".
Things would’ve remained that way but for a 2009 survey of tourism and travel experts by Australian Traveler Magazine that named Yamba as Australia’s best place to visit.
And with Yamba soon to be showcased around the world in a Tourism Australia advertising campaign, this sleepy little town of 7,000 is slated to become much busier.
“This is the secret location of Australia’s east coast,” says Shane Henwood, co-owner of the Yamba YHA.
“We have 10 beaches to choose from, swimming holes, the largest river on the eastern seaboard, some of the best fishing anywhere in the world, amazing coastland walks, a cruisy surfing culture and a chilled vibe.
"It gets a little hectic at Christmas but for the rest of year you can get an entire beach to yourself.”
Henwood’s cousin, 1998 Australian Surfing Champion Jeremy Walters who owns the Yamba-Angourie Surf School, shares his unbridled love for his hometown.
“When I was in high school I couldn’t wait to get out of here," Walters says. "But after traveling the world as a professional surfer I got a proper appreciation of how good this place is.
“We’re surrounded by national park -- there’s 38 kilometers of coastal reserve here that can never be built on.”
“The seafood costs nest to nothing and is sensational; you can buy it from fisherman straight off their boats. Prawns, crabs, lobster -- you name it."
“And have you seen our golf course? It’s covered in kangaroos. Playing there’s hilarious.”
Going out for an early-morning surf lesson with Walters is a near-religious experience. As the sun rises over the Pacific Ocean, sets of perfectly shaped waves lap against a coastline lined with pine trees.
“Travelers come here for two days and end up staying two months,” Henwood says, “There’s nothing like Yamba anywhere in the world.”
Then a pod of dolphins explodes from the water and the hype about Yamba suddenly appears understated.