The largest coastal park in New South Wales
Yuraygir National Park and State Conservation Area (and Solitary Islands Marine Park and South West Solitary Island Nature Reserve) Australia
Yuraygir National Park and State Conservation Area (SCA) is the largest coastal park in New South Wales with over 60 kilometres of coastline featuring rocky headlands, sweeping beaches and diversity of natural environments which include forests, heaths, freshwater streams, swamps, estuaries, coastal lagoons and lakes.
Yuraygir National Park is within the traditional homelands of the Yaegl and Gumbaynggirr Nations, and local Aboriginal people have significant cultural connections to its land and waters. Aboriginal custodians continue to care for the land, working closely with government agencies to manage and interpret their traditional lands.
The management of national parks in New South Wales (NSW) occurs within the context of a legislative and policy framework, primarily the National Parks and Wildlife Act 1974, the Threatened Species Conservation Act 1995 and the policies of the National Parks and Wildlife Service. Other legislation, international agreements and charters may also apply to management of the area. In particular, Yuraygir National Park and SCA are part of the Upper North East Regional Forest Agreements (RFA). This 20-year agreement arose following a Comprehensive Regional Assessment of forest values and uses that was the basis for decisions for the conservation and sustainable management of native forests. A number of the reserves forming the Yuraygir National Park and SCA were previously State Forests which transferred into the national park estate as part of the RFA process.
Contemporary management of the reserve system includes strong community involvement in order to grow a park, protect biodiversity and enable opportunities for enjoyment and appreciation. The Regional Community Advisory Committee, reserve neighbours, the Rural Fire Service, volunteers and the Livestock, Health and Pest Authority help to ensure reserves are managed effectively by providing advice and assistance. The Aboriginal community also works closely with the National Parks and Wildlife Service to manage Yuraygir National Park and SCA.
Adding to the importance of this forested coastal protected area is the bordering Solitary Islands Marine Park, which has considerable significance because of the variety of habitats and the special circumstances in the in-shore coastal zone. The waters around the Solitary Islands are bathed by the warm southward flowing East Australian Current that begins its journey in the Coral Sea near the Equator. The coastline and inshore waters are subject to cooler currents from the south. The diverse habitats and the mixing currents give the park its uniqueness and an amazing array of marine plants and animals.
The Yuraygir National Park in conjunction with the Solitary Islands Marine Park is one of the few areas in Australia with a full combination of protected ecological systems. Forests, estuaries, beaches, headlands, islands and offshore waters as well as a significant proportion of the catchments of those estuaries are protected in the area.
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Context, location and size
Yuraygir National Park (approx 34,537 hectares) and SCA (approx 3,146 hectares) are located on the north coast of New South Wales, less than an hours drive from Grafton, Maclean and Coffs Harbour. The park embraces one of the most scenically magnificent tracts on the east Australian seaboard, extending over 60 kilometres of coastline from Lake Wooloweyah, a tidal lake at the mouth of the Clarence River, to the Corindi River in the South.
The Solitary Islands Marine Park is 72,200 hectares, the northern half of which adjoins Yuraygir National Park. One of the defining natural features is South West Solitary Island Nature Reserve, a four hectare island within the Solitary Islands Marine Park, six kilometres off-shore from Yuraygir National Park south of Red Rock.
Biodiversity and Cultural features
Yuraygir National Park and SCA hold special significance to the Gumbaynggirr and Yaegl people as a cultural landscape. The planning area contains sites, places, stories and resources that are essential in maintaining traditional and contemporary links to the land.
The planning area is located well within the Macleay-Macpherson overlap; an ecological transition zone between the temperate southern areas of eastern Australia and the tropical north. The zone of overlap has significance for the number and diversity of both plant and animal species.
There are nine major groupings of plant association within Yuragyir National Park which are predominantly influenced by topography, hydrology, soils and exposure to coastal influences. There are five groups of Forests including littoral rainforest, wet sclerophyll forest, dry sclerophyll forest, swamp sclerophyll forest and mangrove forest. The other groups are woodland, shrubland/scrub, heathland, sedgeland, grassland, fernland/sedgeland, saltmarsh complex and frontal dune complex. Six hundred and fifty-eight native plants have been recorded in the area and of these twenty-two are considered to have high conservation and/or special ecological significance.
Yuraygir’s large size, location and history all contribute to a diversity of topographic and vegetational features which provide a broad range of habitats for wildlife, particularly birds. Over one hundred and eighty bird species have been recorded in the park and it is a core habitat for the coastal emu (Dromaeius novaehollandiae) whose populations have declined as a result of habitat fragmentation.
IUCN Red List endangered species in Yuraygir National Park and SCA include the regent honeyeater (Xanthomyza phrygia), the Swift Parrot (Lathamus discolor), loggerhead turtle (Caretta caretta) and green turtle (Chelonia mydas). Vulnerable species include the great knot (Calidris tenuirostris), red goshawk (Erythrotrirchis radiatus), grey-headed flying fox (Pteropus poliocephalus), green and golden bell frog (Litoria aurea) and the wallum froglet (Crinia tinnula). There are also over 30 other species listed as ‘least concerned’ or ‘near threatened’.
Pest animal and weed management programs are identified and prioritised in Yuraygir National Park and SCA through regional pest management strategies and integrated into the NSW Threatened Species Priorities Action Statement, threat abatement plans, recovery plans and reserve management plans. Long-running cooperative programmes are in place with a variety of landholders, land management agencies and community groups for the management of weeds (such as groundsel bush, bitou bush, glory lily, slash pine and lantana), pest animals (such as foxes, wild dogs, feral horses, pigs and cane toads) and forest health (such as bell miner associated dieback). These programs are also integrated with other park management programs such as fire management. Fire is a natural and recurring factor that shapes the NSW environment. Fire management in Yuraygir National Park and SCA is a mix of prevention, mitigation, planned use and suppression to help minimise threats to human life, property and cultural heritage and tourism, while maintaining ecological processes that support the area’s rich biodiversity,. Fire is a relatively common factor in the forests and heathlands of the costal zone resulting in a mosaic of vegetation age classes across the parks.
Opportunities for enjoyment
The Yuraygir landscape has always been a popular area for people to call home and visit throughout time, including generations of the Yaegl and Gumbaynggirr Aboriginal people who camped, fished, held ceremonies and traversed the country.
Spending summer holidays camped by the seaside on the north coast has been a regular activity of family groups for many decades and continues to this day. Campers enjoy fishing, swimming, surfing, canoeing, sailing, walking and simply relaxing with family and friends in this beautiful environment. Opportunities to engage with the natural world attract hikers, snorkellers, divers, birdwatchers, wildflower enthusiasts and whale watchers at different times of the year.
The signposted 65 kilometre Yuraygir Coastal Walk traverses Yuraygir National Park from Angourie to Red Rock along the longest stretch of protected coastline in NSW. The walk is a series of tracks, trails, beaches and rock platforms that are linked by following the coastal emu footprint markers. The walk can be completed in a single 4-day trip, camping or staying in small coastal villages along the way, or enjoyed as several half or single day walks. Along the journey, you will encounter forests, vast heathland plains, long sandy beaches, crystal clear creeks and lagoons, rocky headlands and abundant wildflowers and birdlife.