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Yamba was officially proclaimed a town in 1864 and during the first fifty years of European settlement the river was the main means of access. The small population fluctuated with the periodic allocation of government funds for the harbor improvement works. Yamba was regarded as a sleepy little fishing village apart from when upstream holidaymakers came by riverboats to enjoy the beaches and the fishing.

After the railway from Sydney reached Grafton in 1923 and the sealing of Yamba Road began in the 1930s, Yamba really began to develop as a tourist destination. A bus service to Grafton had been established in the early 1900s and by the 1940s road transport had displaced river boats. Visitors were able to use bridges rather than punts and ferries to reach Yamba, and Yamba Road was fully sealed in 1958. Guest houses were replaced by motels and holiday apartments. Camping was always popular and the 1960s saw the establishment of caravan parks. The progressive filling of the bays along the Clarence foreshore made this an ideal site for camping and recreation.

Fishing and oyster beds had been important industries since the 1880s and prawn trawling was pioneered in the 1940s. Sugar cane farming had replaced grain as a major crop in the late 19th century and by 1978 the cane cutting process was fully mechanised.

The subdivision of the CBD was a gradual, ongoing process from as early as the 1880s. By the 1970s when the harbour works were coming to an end, the water supply was in place, the town had electricity and sewerage and streets were fully constructed. By the 1960s Wooloweyah was opened up for sale and during the 1980s there were several estates developed further west off Yamba Road. Yamba Public School was established by the end of the 19th century, but a hundred years later was relocated to a larger, more modern campus on Angourie Road. St James Catholic Primary school was opened in 2000.

Yamba has come a long way from its first telegraph station in 1870 to a mobile phone tower next to Yamba Fair shopping centre in 2013; from a sleepy fishing village in the 19th century to a popular retirement and holiday resort in the 21st century. Today Yamba has a population of some six and a half thousand, which can double during peak holiday periods, yet it remains a friendly community for residents and visitors alike!

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