Ballina is a coastal town around 20 minutes drive south of Byron Bay, about 90 minutes south of the Gold Coast and just over a 2-hour drive from Brisbane.
South Ballina Beach stretches on the NSW north coast down from South Ballina – across the Richmond River from the main town of Ballina – becoming Patchs Beach and ending at Evans Head about 30kms away.
From Brisbane I headed via the Pacific Highway straight down to Ballina, then drove onto the ferry from Burns Point in West Ballina across the Richmond River to Seabreeze Caravan Park on the South Ballina peninsula.
Another option is to drive past Ballina to Wardell where you can drive over a bridge across the river, then enter at Patchs Beach. If you’re looping back north, you can catch the ferry back from South Ballina as it runs until half past midnight.
I caught up with the 4wd club at the caravan park and we all started to air down and line up to enter the beach at South Ballina.
Entry is directly either at South Ballina or down further at Wardell and Evans Head is via well formed, well maintained all-weather tracks that provide easy access for 4WDs – though the Patchs Beach entry track is better suited to high clearance vehicles, small 4WDs may find it a little tough.
Speed limits apply to the entire stretch of the beach. 30km/h limits apply to the beach, while you must dip down to at least 15km/h when you’re within 50m of any other beach user – although the conditions may require a lower speed than this, so just keep your eye out for any other beachgoers (or their pets!) when you’re cruising down the shore.
29 cars lined up on the beach for the group photos, the sun was out and it was just on high tide. After an hour of letting the kids have a little swim we headed to Evans Heads.
If you’re planning on setting up for lunch on the beach, you can set up a day camp back away from the surf, Patchs Beach is even dog friendly..
Swimming is recommended between the flags at South Ballina or Evans Head, as these beaches are patrolled during summer holidays. The waters in between are open beaches and tend to have strong rips, so it’s best not to venture in for a swim. Besides, it’s more suited to casting a line for whiting than doing the butterfly.
If you don’t have any luck fishing, you can go for a hike in nearby Broadwater National Park, and picnic on the beach, where, in spring and winter, you might be able to spot whales or dolphins frolicking off the shoreline.
And to see the shoreline from a different perspective than the driver’s seat, tour operators offer horseback riding along South Ballina Beach, as well as other beaches around Ballina.
Evans Heads, about 30 km to the south of South Ballina Beach, is a great spot for lunch or an extended stay. There is a patrolled beach and access to even more beach driving options on other beaches from here. Just be careful of the tides, as depending on the day, there can be coffee rock exposed on the beach, making the beach trip to Evans Head impossible.
Lennox Head, just north of Ballina, is a surfers dream, and you can also take your 4WD straight onto a section of Seven Mile Beach – although you do have to purchase a permit, unlike the beaches in South Ballina. (These permits are available from an electronic ticket kiosk opposite the Lennox Head Surf Club.)