Inside the fortress walls

There is no port more distinctive than Coffs Harbour along the East Coast of Australia: this is not your average rocky wall protecting its entrance, but a fortress looking breakwater both to the South and now to the North of the harbour. We stayed inside for a few days with the northerlies blowing.

You might recall this photo taken on our last visit, as we arrived at sunset. The breakwater really looked like a parapet, especially in that light!


Fortress looking breakwall at Coffs Harbour

Last year the Northern wall and the marina got seriously damaged by a violent storm, but a year later the Northern breakwater is rebuilt, using the same cement blocks with the same profile as the Southern wall, and providing a lot more protection to the fishing harbour and marina.

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Southern breakwater at Coffs Harbour

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Panoramic of the marina with its new Northern breakwall.

We did not stay in the marina, choosing instead to anchor Take It Easy on the left of the long jetty.  In northerly conditions Coffs is very pleasant, with a gentle subtropical climate – still chilly at night, but shorts weather during the day – at least for those that have come from cold climes!  The locals don’t seem to partake in this crazy behaviour in winter.

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Sunrise outside Coffs Harbour

But we are on a mission to get north and even though this is a nice place, we needed to move on. So bright and early on Monday morning we headed off with a strong SW change, bound for Yamba-Iluka. Brilliant sunrise, but with only 2 degrees temperature the morning was very cold, even biting, demanding the full Musto catastrophe to be worn, complete with beanie and gloves to keep warm!

With the SW forecast to strengthen during the day, we sailed quite close to the coast to stay in flat water. We wove our way through the Solitary Islands.

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Split Solitary

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Groper Island with South Solitary in the distance

We made good time to the Clarence River mouth, arriving at 2.30pm after an 8 hour sail. There is a large moon shaped sandbank outside which can generate breaking waves, but the bar was calm so we aimed for the southern corner of the sandbank and snuck inside the breakwater. Once inside you can go either to the southern side of the river where the town of Yamba is, or to the northern side where the quieter village of Iluka is.

Mid North Coast-6788We chose to shelter behind another breakwater wall at Iluka. Although not as striking as the one in Coffs, this other little fortress is normally a rookery for crested terns but being winter, we haven’t seen any birdies! So much for bird photography!

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Narrow entrance into Iluka

We are staying put here and waiting for the worst of the southerly to pass before we get on our way again to Byron Bay and beyond. The wind is picking up and gale warnings are forecast for the next two days, together with big swell, which is likely to make the bar impassable. Only a short time ago a yacht tried to cross the bar at Yamba in serious swell, got pooped (wave over the back) and sustained some damage with the dinghy filling up with water and getting torn off the davits. They had to call for Marine Rescue’s help. We really don’t need that kind of stress!

Here is a chart of where we are at… nearly out of New South Wales!

To Iluka


17 thoughts on “Inside the fortress walls

  1. COLD and wet here today, Brrrr. Had to get up early to get to Drs. Enjoy Iluka the bush behind the village is great for a walk and birding.

    • Hi Sue – last time we were here it was in December and the breakwater was covered with nests, teaming with life. Not a bird there today… Let’s hope we see a few during our walk!

  2. Jealous…15 degrees forecast as top here today..windy..cold… We have a possible window tomorrow to keep heading east. There is a cormorant in the water behind us and I am surprised it is not frozen but even the forty or so swallows that were taking shelter on our boat are now somewhere warmer… No shorts for us!

    • No shorts for us in a southerly either… it was just a little aberration with the warm northerly in Coffs… promise! Sailing to Iluka was frigid, you’d have felt right at home. we were rugged up like Michelin men!

  3. Nice going! You are moving further North, slowly but steadily. I imagine that keeping that direction will eventually turn to warmer weather, no? 🙂

  4. Byron is an excellent anchorage in a southerly. We traveled up from Wooli just last week. In 25-30 knots SE, Byron was flat and calm. Enjoy

  5. Great places, Coffs and Iluka/Yamba. Congrats on your progress, & of course the photos !
    We are heading north in our ‘camper’ early tomorrow, but won’t catch you two !

      • We reached Dalmeny today; wanting daily max temps better than 12, 13degrees. It’s predicted 17, 18 here for three days. Weve set aside 10 days, so we may make Huskisson/Sussex Inlet before returning to the home air conditioner ! Regards to yourselves and Bengi; travel well.

      • Ah! Jervis Bay is nice… hope you make it there and have fun. We are here at Iluka/Yamba for a while longer: weather plus I have a computer problem… can’t run any app! This is getting fixed by a tech guy in Yamba! We have to wait till it’s done.

    • Hi Mick – no we haven’t – anchored at Iluka… forgot about that! Will be here for a day or two then hoping to sail out, so probably won’t see Medina unless we catch the ferry to Yamba. Will be sure to let you know if we do.

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