Coffs Harbour is located mid-way between Sydney and Brisbane, making it an ideal stopover destination when road tripping between the two capitals.
But be warned: you may be tempted to stay longer than you planned! Coffs Harbour is the complete holiday package, and offers everything from great beaches and family attractions, to cosmopolitan cafes and fine dining. Here are some of the top things to do in Coffs Harbour during your stay.
1. Step back in time
The Coffs Coast is home to the Gumbaynggirr First People. Learn about their heritage at the Yarrawarra Aboriginal Cultural Centre, located 30 minutes’ drive north of Coffs Harbour. In the 1840s European timber cutters settled in the area, and timber harvesting remained a key industry right through until the early 1900s. A visit to the Coffs Harbour Regional Museum in the Old Courthouse will give you more information about the city’s early years.
2. Visit The Big Banana
Herman Reick introduced Fijian bananas to the region in 1881, and 80 years later a legend was born. The Big Banana was masterminded by local grower John Landi to attract visitors to his road-side banana stall. Since then, the business has evolved into a major tourist attraction. Lift your energy levels on arrival with a frozen choc-dipped banana, before ice-skating, tobogganing, paying laser tag and mini golf, or splashing down in the water park.
3. Drop by the Dolphin Marine Conservation Park
A visit to the Dolphin Marine Conservation Park offers a ‘hands-on’ opportunity to engage with dolphins and seals. These small group experiences take place in the water and include around twenty minutes of actual contact time with the animals. Spend the rest of your visit to the park checking out the various display habitats, including Seal Shores, Penguin Beach, Dolphin Lagoon and Reptile Retreat.
4. Hit the beach
Coffs Harbour’s gorgeous beaches are one of the main reasons to visit this destination. The most popular beaches close to the CBD are Park Beach (popular with surfers) and Jetty Beach (perfect for families). Boambee Beach, just south of Coffs Harbour, is an open beach with varying conditions. Further south, Sawtell Beach is a lovely spot to relax on the sand before enjoying lunch in the relaxed village atmosphere.
5. Hike in Dorrigo National Park
Dorrigo National Park is located a short hours drive from Coffs Harbour, and features pristine Heritage-listed Gondwana Rainforest. The Crystal Shower Falls Walk is a must-do, taking walkers through lush rainforest to a spectacular waterfall.
6. Walk to Muttonbird Island
Speaking of lovely walks, leave time to do the walk to the top of Muttonbird Island, which is home to thousands of migratory wedge-tailed shearwaters. The island is connected to the mainland by the northern break wall of the Coffs Harbour International Marina.
7. Get to a festival
The Coffs region is well known for its calendar of festivals and events. The Sawtell Chilli Festival spices things up each year in July, while the colourful and entertaining Woolgoolga Curryfest is held in the beachside town of Woolgoolga every September. It’s a celebration of food, culture and community diversity. Later that month, Coffs Harbour hosts the International Buskers and Comedy Festival. The five-day programme is packed with events, many of which are free to attend.
8. Make for the markets
If your visit to Coffs coincides with a Sunday, head down to the Jetty foreshore to mix and mingle with local growers and artisans at the Harbourside Markets. Enjoy a delicious breakfast from one of the food vendors, then shop for a unique souvenir of your visit to this laid-back locale.
Need a place to stay?
Quality Hotel City Centre is located just a stone’s throw from the bustling Coffs Harbour CBD, with it shopping precincts, pubs, clubs and cafes. You’re also close to sand and surf, with the Jetty foreshore precinct and the surrounding beaches just a short drive away. The nearby Comfort Inn Premier offers a variety of contemporary accommodation options, including twin, queen and family rooms, and spacious executive suites.
Cover image: Dolphin Marine Conservation Park, Coffs Harbour. Image: Destination NSW