For those wanting to explore the hidden hinterland river gems near Coffs Harbour, the Orara Valley offers plenty of opportunities.
Take Coramba Rd out of town and in minutes you are immersed in a rural landscape that is home to rivers with freshwater swimming pools interspersed by gentle rapids. The Orara River (‘orara’ means perch) is the only western flowing river in the region and the area is renowned for its crystal clear freshwater.
There are numerous entry points in the valley depending on rainfall and water levels. A great introduction to the Orara River is the Hartley’s Bridge to Coramba Bridge paddle. With easy access and small races (Grade 1), it only takes 45 minutes and winds through pristine country and farmland. There are some fabulous picnic spots along the way.
A popular 3 hour trip starts at the third bridge on Dairyville Rd on the Urumbulum River and finishes at Watkin Rd on the Orara River. This trip should be done after some decent rain or you might find yourself dragging your kayak a fair bit.
There are easy rapids up to grade 2, suitable for those that can paddle straight and turn a kayak reasonably well. You might also encounter log jams so some skill is required. Be warned that after rainfall the rapids will be more challenging and it is recommended that you go with a guide or check with local operators before setting off.
The Urumbulum (meaning ‘many rivers’) has crystal clear water with abundant bass and perch. There are numerous picnic spots along the way and if you are patient the occasional platypus may be sighted. Turtles are also plentiful and waterdragons are a frequent sighting, plopping into the water.
It is possible to navigate from Watkins Rd to Hartley’s Rd bridge, but the trip takes at least 2.5 hours with numerous log jams (these change with each flood so care should be taken and the trip should not be attempted when river is in flood).
More difficult paddles include Coramba to Nana Glen (5-8 hours depending on water flow) or from Dairyville all the way to Nana Glen. This trip takes 2 days including some portages over fallen trees and logs. This trip is best undertaken with a local guide.
Accommodation is available at the Coramba Hotel for those wishing to stay in the valley.