COFFS HARBOUR: THE AUSTRALIAN TRAVELLER GUIDE
Coffs Harbour is an excellent family destination. Home to that big famous yellow Banana, pristine beaches and diverse nature walks, there are countless activities all ages can enjoy.
Where to stay
Park Beach Holiday Park sits close to the jetty, with regional shopping centre, restaurants and Birch Carroll and Coyle cinema on Bray street just moments away. Modern villas start from $63 a night, or roll your caravan into one of the many powered sites for $31 a night. The park also has Kids Club activities throughout school holidays, embarking on daily excursions to the Pet Porpoise Pool where you can swim with dolphins or steal a kiss from the seals.
If cocktails by the pool and full body massages are more your style try The Novotel Pacific Bay Resort. Only 3kms north of the city, the Novotel boasts a beach front location, nine hole golf course, day spa retreat and waterfront restaurant. The resort’s elite training centre is also famously used by sporting teams such as the Wallabies, Sydney Swans and Socceroos, so you never know who you might bump into.
What to do
No trip to Coffs is complete without a visit to the Big Banana. Established in 1964 by banana farmer John Landy who wanted to stop traffic at his roadside stall, the giant yellow attraction is a kids paradise with toboggan track, water park, ice skating rink and candy kitchen where you can watch sweets being handmade.
Nearby hippy haven Bellingen is a town bursting with cafes, galleries and quirky shops. Monthly markets with live music always attract a crowd with antique shopping and trinket collecting popular. It’s hard not to get swept up in the alternative lifestyle and buzz of this creative town.
For the adrenalin junky there are tandem sky dives over the coastline or whitewater raft expeditions down the Nymboida River. The 9km adventure covers rapids up to grades 4-5.
When to travel
It is said that Coffs Coast has one of Australia’s most livable environments, a subtropical climate that averages maximum 24 degrees celcius with a minimum 13, so any time of year is ok to explore the area.
Getting to Coffs is simple and can be accessed by road, rail and air. The Pacific Highway runs right through the city, a 6 hour drive from Sydney, five from Brisbane. Qantas, VirginBlue and Brindabella have daily flights from Sydney, Brisbane and Melbourne and CountryLink run two rail services from Sydney to Brisbane per day. You can find price and timetable information on their site. See Countrylink.info
Coffs Harbour has long outgrown its Big-Banana-only reputation, with a burgeoning foodie movement and a city that's ready and willing to let its hair down over the summer holidays. Here's what's in and on, on New South Wales' mid north coast. Cocktail café culture Cocktails and tapas are willing bedfellow on Old Johns cafe's menu, which is now a year old. Dine on eggs with feta in the morning and sip on vodka and freshly juiced cloudy apple and chilled wines in the evening. Lime and Mexican continues the tapas and cocktail theme in a distinctly authentic, 'south of the border 'way. Order...
Somewhere amongst the banana leaves of Coffs Harbour is a garden oasis… or so say the rumours. Tatyana Leonov goes in search of the truth. I’m stretched out in an outdoor spa overlooking a hillside of sturdy banana trees. It’s silent, save for the occasional rustle of leaves and the sound of bubbles as they rise and pop against my skin. This is, I’m fairly certain, what mere mortals refer to as bliss. Those in the know, however, would call this Santa Fe luxury bed and breakfast. Whispers about an eclectic B&B located just outside Coffs Harbour had dogged me...
Where is it? 535km north of Sydney, 64 Aviation Drive, Coffs Harbour How to see it for yourself? Book a skydive with Coffs City Skydivers to see the central coast from above, while free-falling back towards earth. Mid-jump, enjoy views like this one, taking in views of over 200km of coastline and the Great Dividing Range. Why I love it “Breathtaking coastal views from above the Solitary Islands Marine park with the Great Dividing Range as a backdrop! I feel it shows the beauty of this area from our perspective, flying through the air with your friends!” – Lawrence Hill, Coffs City Skydives Image by Wayne McLachlan...
Sapphire Seas Beachhouse is a scenic stay, just north of Coffs Harbour on the NSW north coast. It's just the kind of knock-out summer holiday home every Aussie hopes to one day afford to own for themselves. Nuzzling up to the white sands of Sapphire Beach and tucked below a dramatic headland covered in sub-tropical rainforest, the property was built in 2003 by Jason Zuvela. It is now one of three luxury holiday rentals situated on his family-owned beachfront estate, and offers the perfect opportunity to “try before you buy”. Not that the property’s for sale, but you never know,...
Three Free Dolphin Encounters at Pet Porpoise Pool The Pet Porpoise Pool offers children and adults the opportunity to interact in the water with a Dolphin, as well as private Family Dolphin Encounter sessions that is a memory your family will have forever. Seal Encounters are also available, allowing guests to splash about with three very cheeky Seals, playing piggy in the middle, and receiving tickly smooches! These in-the-water Dolphin and Seal Encounters are offered all year round. For bookings, please call 02 6659 1900 – ADVANCED bookings essential. Gift vouchers are also available. Be touched by magic at...
Australian Traveller Magazine's 100 Great Australian Holiday Homes Five ensuite bedrooms, a three-tiered private theatre, gymnasium, flood-lit tennis court, butler station, 22m pool, eight-person spa, on-demand helicopter and a TV in every room; this ridiculously swanky Côte d’Azur-style villa would put Brad and Angelina’s French chateau to shame. The immense and absurdly luxurious property is in fact more like a top-end resort than a holiday home, languishing on its own private acreage in the hills above Coffs Harbour, 750m above the Pacific Ocean and with outstanding views from every outlook. Wear good sturdy shoes and take a packed lunch and...
Australian Traveller Magazine's 100 Great Australian Holiday Homes As a testament to the merits of a healthy sibling rivalry, we’re including both Liapari and Sapphire Seas in our list of 100 Great Australian Holiday Homes for the following reasons: they’re both beautifully executed and maintained luxury homes right on the shores of Sapphire Beach just north of Coffs Harbour; they’re literally right next-door to each other on the beachfront; and the owners, Jason and Lisa, are brother and sister – and fierce competitors to boot! So of course it was impossible to choose between them. Both have exquisite 14m wet-edge...
The crystal clear waters surrounding North Solitary Island are thought to be home to the highest concentration of anemones in the world. In particular Anemone Bay and its surrounding area is renowned in scuba circles as a fantastic diving spot. Here the density of anemones can be up to 60 per square metre, creating a shimmering and colourful carpet covering the reef. And that’s not all; the anemones attract thousands of symbiotic anemone fish (think Nemo’s clownfish), which means nowhere else in the world will you be able to swim with such a vast number of these cute darlings of...
With more wind in his sails than he bargained for, David Whitley leans into the stiff breeze on Muttonbird Island to see if it’s worth braving the elements for. The terrifying, howling gusts of the Sahara or the Antarctic surely can’t be this bad. It’s a job and a half to stay upright, let alone stride along purposefully, savouring a mini wildlife wonderland. So forget Chicago, forget Wellington and forget industrial strength aircraft testing tunnels, Muttonbird Island at Coffs Harbour is surely the windiest place in the world. Attached to the NSW coastal city by a stone walkway, this is...
An Australian Traveller major regional feature story on the NSW Coffs Coast and surrounds. The Coast is Clear From intimate beaches to untamed rainforests, the NSW Coffs Coast combines a treasury of attractions without the crowds. After travelling the world, Christina Baker-You reveals why this stunning region is still her favourite pocket of paradise. In Down Under, Bill Bryson describes a hellishly dull evening passed in Macksville, about 500km northeast of Sydney. If only the American author had ventured a mere 10km further north, he’d have encountered a coastal river beauty spot from which he would have...
Coffs Harbour's Pet Porpoise Pool is an institution on Coffs Coast that has seen off the bad times. Australian Traveller magazine rates the sea animal attractions. The first thing you do when you enter Coffs Harbour's Pet Porpoise Pool is get a photo with a seal and a dolphin. It's free and part of your admission. They do try and sting you to buy a photo, but at the end of the day you're more than happy to. "It’s all about LOVE here at the Pet Porposie Pool," screams Kimberley, who, after my very fishy seal and dolphin kiss, kicks off...
Sawtell is so overlooked even Lonely Planet doesn't give it more than ten words. Just ten minutes south of Coffs Harbour on the Mid North Coast of NSW, Australian Traveller magazine checked in to see what the lack of fuss was all about. While Sawtell's housing architecture is a little on the worse side of the '70s, the main street is a very very enticing surprise. Divided by a row of lovely old fig trees with awning-covered footpaths, the total effect is a very welcoming village centre. The fig trees are in fact heritage-listed and the town owes this charm to the...
Skywalking and bird watching on Muttonbird Island and in Dorrigo National Park The Coffs Coast in northern NSW is typical of Aussie seaside living – booming holiday destination through the warmer months, with a Big Thing to help for the low season. The not-so-well-known part of the area combines the sea and the forest in a bird watching and bushwalking extravaganza. Start at Mutton Bird Island where the wedge-tailed shearwater (or mutton bird) hangs out from September to April before flying off to the warmer Philippines. Then take the short trip out to Dorrigo National Park (described by Lonely Planet...
My Favourite . . .Coffs Coast Beaches Australian Traveller magazine reader, freelance writer and Coffs Harbour resident Susan Stephenson is spoilt for choice when it comes to beaches. Jetty Beach On the NSW north coast halfway between Sydney and Brisbane, the Pacific Ocean is tamed and accessible to all at Coffs Harbour’s Jetty Beach. Punctuated by the Marina in the North and a boat ramp in the south, the beach lures tourists and local families. From sculpting works of genius in the sand to paddling on its shoreline, or from throwing in a fishing line to trying out a Hobie Cat, opportunities...
The final instalment of our Big Things column goes back to the original -- the Big Banana in Coffs Harbour, NSW In 1995, the big Banana was voted the most bizarre and grotesque tourist attraction in the world by 200 globetrotting young Australians, edging out the Big Pineapple at Nambour and the Giant Penis seat in Amsterdam’s Sex Museum. American entomologist John Landi loved Australia so much while on a six-month research trip in 1962 that he and his wife, Betty, decided to emigrate and purchased a five-hectare banana plantation at Macauley’s Headland, just north of Coffs Harbour. Inspired by a...
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