Category Archives: Coffs Harbour

— Coffs Harbour —

Coffs’ secret beaches: Emerald Beach and Woolgoolga

WRITTEN BY EDITOR • DECEMBER 18, 2014

  • Around 20 minutes past Coffs Harbour and a well-known Aussie construction (think big, yellow and banana-shaped), you’ll come across the delightful coastal towns of Emerald Beach and Woolgoolga with secret beaches to rival Byron’s best.

    Make your way to the headland of Emerald Beach with picnic basket and rug to soak up some sunshine while taking in the panoramic views of surrounding shores. When it’s ‘busy’, you might spot a few people strolling along the sand keeping an eye out for a playful pod of dolphins.

    If lunch isn’t prepared, Saltwater Café (the only café in town) will fix you up while you enjoy, you guessed it, more stunning ocean views.

    Alternatively, just around the bend is arguably the best fish and chip shop on the east coast, maybe even Australia (the reviews on urbanspoon.com can vouch for such claims). Woolgoolga restaurant White Salt has called the main street home since September 2011 and owner Max Hutchinson will be on hand to prepare a feast of daily-caught fresh fish. The grilled black snapper with chips or salad and wasabi tartar sauce is a must, and Max’s incredibly lovable pooch Riley will keep you company as you lick the bowl clean.

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    — Coffs Harbour —

    New Bars, Cool Cafes, Parties Galore: What’s hot in Coffs Harbour this Christmas

    WRITTEN BY EDITOR • DECEMBER 17, 2013

    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 a mojito and you’ll also get smashed guacamole made at your table, accompanied with tasty plantain chips. Or try the pulled pork tacos with cabbage slaw and pineapple salsa.

    Element, opening in December, is aiming for New York chic and an “urban styled concept lounge with multi-level entertainment space.” Something old and something new.

    Out to graze

    Small ‘hole in the wall’ Zen offers Japanese vegetarian and vegan food until around 11pm for dinner. Take your shoes off and perch yourself on a floor cushion and you’ll be greeted with a loud “hajimemashita” from the kitchen. The simple dishes are priced around $1 – $3 per dish. Keep an ear out for the spontaneous quizzes by the owner where you win a Japanese soft drink.

    Attitude Burgers offers more than just your pedestrian choice of burgers: Blue Cheese and beef, freshly caught snapper or the ‘Tree Hugger’ with confit field mushrooms, grilled haloumi cheese and spicy relish. Now two locations, Coffs Central or overlooking the marina.

    Day trippin’

    About 60km west of Coffs, is the Red Dirt Distillery at Dorrigo,  a family-run vodka distillery. There are free tastings at this potato-based drink producer – with plenty of information about the spirit and also the soils of the region that inspired the business’s name.

    For small-goods lovers its worth the drive to Pig in a Pickle at Nana Glen, 25km north-west, for a class in how to prepare and preserve meats. Take a masterclass in pickling, curing and preserving – and bring home the bacon!

    Water & wind powered celebrations

    The Pittwater to Coffs Regatta Yacht Race and Festival of Sail takes over the Coffs Harbour International Marina from January 2 to 6, in a mini Sydney to Hobart style celebration. The festival highlight will be ‘Tastes of Coffs Coast’ (on 7-9 January) showcasing the region’s food and wine.

    On Friday nights (from 5pm to 9pm) the Summer Twilight Food Market turns Park Beach Reserve into a food and entertainment hub.

    Join Coffs Harbour society at the Indoor Garden Party, staged at The Jetty Memorial Theatre (from 10-13 January) with singers, entertainers and comedy. Hosted by none other than Russell Crowe.

     

    For more information, see Coffs Coast.

    See other summer holiday destinations: Same old Christmas beach holiday? Not any more…

     

    — Coffs Harbour —

    Santa Fe B&B Coffs Harbour – Hotel Review

    WRITTEN BY EDITOR • DECEMBER 19, 2012

    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 for several years now, and curiosity finally prompted me to seek answers. Eventually, a friend of a friend suggested Santa Fe which, he says, has built a name for itself as something of a hidden gem since opening back in 1993. Though the website tells a different story (my advice: just don’t even look at it) I’m intrigued enough to make a booking.

    When I finally do arrive, it’s dark, late, and I’ve called host Sharon three times for directions. Eventually, she suggests switching off the car’s GPS; such modern reliances have caused the misrouting of many a guest, I’m assured. Whether this is true or not I’ll never know, because Sharon turns out to be a master of tact and diplomacy.

    She’s also impressively serene. I stumble down the stairs into the main building, struggling with my mammoth pink suitcase before loudly slamming it on the ground; out of breath, wondering if I locked the car, and fielding two separate phone calls whilst trying to shake her hand. You couldn’t script a cheesier scene emphasising the contrast between us – there’s even some kind of harmonious music playing softly in the background. Sharon accepts my sweaty palm and smiles at me with genuine warmth. Would I like a glass of wine?

    This is my kind of place.

    The pool area is gently illuminated by garden lights, and the two charming ‘suites’ I can see are actually sweet cottages. There are three rooms at Santa Fe; these two and a third, the Navajo Suite, which is located inside the main complex. Would I like an upgrade to the Navajo Suite?

    Well… I’m relieved I don’t have to make my way down the hill with my luggage that night – where’s a bellboy when you need one? – but I do feel a pang of disappointment at missing out on the cottages; all kinds of superlatives have been used to rave about them in online reviews. (“Romantic!” “Adorable!”) But my disappointment is not long for this world. The Navajo Suite houses a lavish king bed with all the usual suspects (TV, DVD player, air-con and so on) and my favourite part – an outdoor deck overlooking the banana plantation, with the aforementioned spa to boot. The common living area is full of an eclectic jumble of knick knacks, collected from Sharon and partner Ben’s travels through South America. When Sharon first designed the eccentric interior scheme (with the help of her brother Alan) she was inspired by Mexico’s Santa Fe, but today the room is more reminiscent of South America in general. Quirky statues, long and dangly lights, multi-coloured throw rugs, cushions – they’re all strewn around ever so casually in the vividly-coloured room.

    Setting out for a jog the next morning, I explore the six acres of lawns and gardens, which are tended to by Alan, a horticulturist and landscape designer. He’s worked around the globe before applying his talents here, and his efforts have been duly rewarded – the gardens have won numerous local awards. They’re also just too pretty to run through. After a half-hearted attempt at a jog, I give up, making my way through the gardens the way you’re meant to – at a stroll.

    Still, the fresh air works up an appetite and when I return, Sharon magically appears with a freshly-squeezed raspberry and pineapple juice, then a raspberry brulee, served with fresh, juicy strawberries and passionfruit yoghurt. I finish the meal off with parsley scrambled eggs on a muffin, topped with crispy pancetta and semi-dried tomatoes. The advertised ‘three-course’ breakfast is closer to two, but I’m not complaining. And certainly no longer hungry.

    I leave Santa Fe wanting just that little bit more. It’s the kind of place where you want to linger just a little bit longer – to wander through the gardens one more time, go for a dip in the lagoon, cook a BBQ (there’s a nifty set-up at the pool and the rule is you’re not allowed to clean up afterwards) – or if you’re me, just hang out in the private spa.

    The Details
    The Verdict
    Peaceful and serene, this is the place to stay if you want to get away from the hustle and bustle of city life.
    The Score
    15/20: great
    We Rated
    Breakfast – especially the fresh raspberries.
    We Hated
    Nothing, but the interior design in the main complex could do with a modernised revamp.
    Where
    235 The Mountain Way (off Gaudrons Road) Sapphire Beach, Coffs Harbour NSW
    Notes
    AT paid $230 for one night in the Navajo Suite (usually $250). Rates vary from $195-$250 per night and include a three-course breakfast.
    Contact
    02 6653 7700,  santafe.net.au

    The Australian Traveller magazine scoring system
    Our review scores are based on a series of points, awarded across a number of categories including service, amenities, design, location, value, food and beverage offerings and that elusive wow factor.
    19-20 exceptional; 17-18 excellent; 15-16 great; 13-14 good; 11-12 satisfactory.

    bias-free: All AT reviews are conducted anonymously, and our writers pay their own way – so we experience exactly what you would.

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    — Coffs Harbour —

    100 Best Views In Australia #69 Coffs Harbour Skydive, NSW

    WRITTEN BY ADMIN • APRIL 1, 2012

    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
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    — Coffs Harbour —

    The View – Saffire Seas Beachouse, Coffs Harbour

    WRITTEN BY ADMIN • JANUARY 17, 2012

    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, you might not like spending lazy days frolicking in the surf or cooking barbecues and drinking cocktails with your mates in the outdoor Balinese-inspired gazebo, pool and spa area. Not everyone’s cut out for that kind of lifestyle. Best to find that out up front.

    In addition to waterfront views like the one above, Sapphire Seas has four bedrooms, four bathrooms and two living areas, comfortably accommodating up to eight guests. There’s also a private spa bath on a wide timber balcony overlooking the beach in the main bedroom, reserved for the couple who pulls into the driveway and races up the stairs first.

    Beyond the glass pool fence, Sapphire Seas overlooks the Solitary Islands Marine Park. You can hop on one of many local tours to explore the protected waters and catch a glimpse of the resident wildlife, including turtles and dolphins. You might even spot a migrating humpback whale as pods pass through between June and October.

    But if you’re more of a landlubber, Dorrigo National Park is a short drive out of town and features a 40-foot waterfall, skywalk and many bushwalking tracks. Or for something closer to home, the iconic Coffs Harbour’s Big Banana is just two kilometres from the beach house. It wouldn’t be a proper Aussie holiday if you didn’t stop to have your photo taken in front of a Big Thing.

    The Details
    Where Sapphire Beach, 10 minutes north of Coffs Harbour, on the NSW north coast. Approximately six hours’ drive from Sydney, four-and-a-half  from Brisbane.
    Notes Sapphire Seas Beachhouse costs from $695 per night. You can download a copy of the North Coast Holiday Planner from www.visitnsw.com to help tailor your perfect itinerary.
    Contact 0418 652 927; sapphireseasbeachhouse.com.au
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    — Coffs Harbour —

    South Solitary Island

    WRITTEN BY ADMIN • NOVEMBER 2, 2011

    Reader Phil Murray was so intrigued by a photo of South Solitary Island in AT’s “Where on Earth” competition, that he decided to check it out for himself Continue reading

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    — Coffs Harbour —

    Villa Vivante Holiday House – Coffs Harbour

    WRITTEN BY ADMIN • SEPTEMBER 9, 2009

    Australian Traveller Magazine’s 100 Great Australian Holiday Homes Continue reading

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    — Coffs Harbour —

    Liapari & Sapphire Seas

    WRITTEN BY ADMIN • SEPTEMBER 8, 2009

    Australian Traveller Magazine’s 100 Great Australian Holiday Homes

    Continue reading

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    — Coffs Harbour —

    1000 Best Australian Towns #075 Dorrigo, NSW

    WRITTEN BY ADMIN • MARCH 20, 2009

    Often likened to the English countryside with its rolling, lush green hills, the Dorrigo Plateau’s natural beauty makes it a top contender on our list. Continue reading

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    — Coffs Harbour —

    The Waterfall Way

    WRITTEN BY ADMIN • MAY 23, 2008

    The Waterfall Way, No.3 of the Great Drives of Australia Continue reading

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    — Coffs Harbour —

    067 Swim with the largest group of clowns

    WRITTEN BY ADMIN • MARCH 19, 2008

    The crystal clear waters surrounding North Solitary Island are thought to be home to the highest concentration of anemones in the world. Continue reading

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    — Coffs Harbour —

    One for the Birds

    WRITTEN BY ADMIN • FEBRUARY 3, 2008

    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 one of the headlands that gives Coffs a beautiful natural harbour. If you want to see just how beautiful, take a ten minute drive up to the rainforests in the hills behind town and look out to sea; it’s one of the most gorgeous views in Australia.

    With the sky clouding over, and the exposure to the elements becoming all too apparent, it’s Mother Nature’s way of saying: “Yes, there are some great things here, but you’re going to have to work hard for your free entry.” I’m lucky, and get my viewing in just before the skies lash out in anger and everyone combines in an undignified huddle underneath the roof of the disabled toilet for 45 minutes.

    The island is a designated nature reserve, primarily for the wedge-tailed shearwaters that migrate to and from here every year. The name “muttonbird” came from the taste, although they look far too much like pigeons to even contemplate throwing mint sauce over them. They return from their annual Asian jaunt in August every year, from which point onwards they don the aftershave, tell really bawdy jokes and desperately try and pick each other up.

    Walking down the track, you can see their burrows. Not content to live in trees like the rest of their birdy pals, the muttonbirds make like badgers and head into the earth. It’s for this reason that everyone’s told to keep to the path.

    And that path, with the wind up and the hill a lot steeper than you initially thought, is tough going. It’s worth getting to the end, though, because that’s where you get to see what’s properly special about Coffs: it’s a convergence point between the colder southern waters and the East Australian Current before it branches off to Lord Howe Island. This means that the diversity of the wildlife is incredible, and it’s well known as a great spot for diving.

    However, for those not clad in wetsuits, sat on the edge of the island and looking out to sea, there’s one thing to bear in mind; little creatures attract big ones that want to eat them.

    And after a bit of patient waiting, out they come, dolphins playfully cutting through the swells, three in a little pod, followed by a breaching whale. Now if that’s not worth braving the elements for, then I’d like to know what is.

    *For more info on Muttonbird Island and the surrounding Coffs Coast, check out www.coffscoast.com.au

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    Coffs Coast016: Butterfly House

    WRITTEN BY ADMIN • JULY 18, 2007

    Australian Traveller pays a visit to the highly “zen” Butterfly House in Coffs Harbour. Continue reading

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    — Coffs Harbour —

    Coffs Coast016: The Coast Is Clear

    WRITTEN BY ADMIN • JULY 18, 2007

    An Australian Traveller major regional feature story on the NSW Coffs Coast and surrounds. Continue reading

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    — Coffs Harbour —

    Pet Porpoise Pool

    WRITTEN BY ADMIN • JUNE 29, 2007

    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 the afternon show. And it’s a labour of love for all involved.

    The Pet Porpoise Pool is a throwback from the ’50s when dolphins were still considered porpoises and catching wild dolphins and sticking them in a small pool was acceptable. Today it’s a very diferent story.

    All the animals at the Pool have either been rescued or raised in captivity. Pearl, an endangered NZ fur seal, was found running on a beach being chased by dogs with a fishhook through her eye. Rescued and rehabilitated, Pearl is not fit to return to the wild as she’s blind in one eye and is now a performer in the show. Bucky, the 36-year-old performing dolphin, was found about to die on an Oyster lease in the Tweed River. Authorities had saved Bucky from that particular lease several times before and decided that, as he was such a creature of habit, he was best off in a lease-free pool.

    The Pet Porpoise Pool actually tries to return all rescued animals to the wild and returns probably one or two mammals a year.

    The size of the pools is rather small and they’d dearly love to expand the grounds – council permitting. The animals do have the run of the place. Every morning the keepers open the entire enclosure for the animals to wander where they like for two hours before the crowds arrive. This means you have the seals and the dolphins all frolicking together. The animal trainers also take great care to make sure their aimals are stimulated and everything’s a game for them. The trainers are sooo involved in their animals – they’re known to turn up and check in on their charges even on their days off.

    But back to Kimberley and the show. It has all the requisite gags. Solomon the huge seal sneezes on an unsuspecting member of the audience. The dolphins play football and dive through hoops. Bucky is said to be the first dolphin to balance a ball on his nose in the world.

    Upon reflection it’s the enthusiasm that the dolphins themselves show that makes me feel that the animal lover in me can actually recommend this place to people as one of Australia’s best up close and personal sea animal experiences. The animals seem genuinely happy and there seems to be a great deal of care for all involved.

    The AT Verdict
    The place is old and definitely needs work done – it could be made retro cool very, very quickly. However, the enthusiasm of all the staff and animals makes it a surprisingly fantastic couple of hours.
    CHECK OUT // www.petporpoisepool.com or call (02) 6652 2164

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    — Coffs Harbour —

    Sawtell NSW

    WRITTEN BY ADMIN • JUNE 5, 2007

    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 vigilance of some local ladies who, in the early ’80s when rampant development wasn’t met with enough protestors in many seaside towns, chained themselves to the trees to keep them from being turned into car parking spaces — cue Joni Mitchell. Their campaign was successful and today all Sawtellians owe them a debt of gratitude.

    I actually come for lunch and lobbed into a chilled cafe/bistro where I was met by a highly chilled-out surfie dude.

    “Mate have a seat. Every week our specials come from a different country. This week it’s Laos and Cambodia.” Barrels Global Surf Bistro (Ph: +61 2 6658 8255, 234 First Ave, Sawtell) goes to very great lengths to make sure it is in fact global.

    The menu arrives with a glass of water and I peruse a varied selection. In the back of my mind I can’t help remember Anthony Bourdain’s invaluable advice in his legendary book Kitchen Confidential –– the more varied and lengthy the menu, the harder it is to keep produce and food fresh. So, in short, the longer the menu, the worse the food.

    After perusing the five excellent sounding specials (from Laos and Cambodia) the Global Tapas plate gets the nod – just because it really is global. And it knocks my socks off.

    Who would’ve thought of wrapping fetta in radicchio and grilling it? Then there’s the heart-stopping brie wrapped in pancetta and grilled. The big tapas plate was a meal for two, let alone one.

    Taking a photo of the plate that arrives is a bit of a giveaway and the nice guy who greeted me strolls on over to find out more. As I munch through the plate,  from Moroccan meatballs to the fetta and radicchio, Matt Oxley tells me his story.

    After eight years of travelling the world and spending a lot of time in Cape Town, South Africa, he returned to Australia looking to replicate the life he loves. The criteria was pretty straightforward:

    “A chilled small town on the coast with good surf and a good space where there are a couple of places to eat.”

    So Matt started Barrels and it continues to be the pre-eminent place to have a chilled lunch in Sawtell and the wider Coffs Coast. But Matt has plans:

    “We’re getting our liquor license and putting in a bar to make it more loungey. We get bands coming through as well, which should make it a pretty cool place to have a beer and listen to a band.”

    The place is covered in surfing images and photos taken by his wife which, as you would expect, feature their global travels and two kids. On the way out I step over some hibiscus flowers scattered over the footpath.

    “It’s just a nice welcome for people,” says Matt.

    The details:

    Sawtell Beach Caravan Park

    The caravan park at the end of the main street is lovely and has camp grounds, caravan sites and cabins.

    Sawtell Beach is between two points. The walk around the northern headland of Sawtell Point (right) is a great way to walk off lunch.

    Split Cafe almost opposite Barells has an excellent reputation.

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    100 Things To Do You’ve Never Heard Of #042 Twitter with Twitchers at Coffs Coast

    WRITTEN BY ADMIN • MARCH 24, 2007

    Skywalking and bird watching on Muttonbird Island and in Dorrigo National Park Continue reading

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    Coffs Coast Beaches – A readers favourites

    WRITTEN BY ADMIN • MAY 19, 2006

    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 for maximising fun at the Jetty are limited only by your sense of adventure.

    In the summer holiday season, March’s Amusement Park provides night-time colour, but even in winter the Coffs Coast temperate climate encourages full use of Jetty Beach.

    Amenities: There’s a park with children’s playground, BBQs, picnic tables and toilet/shower block directly behind the beach.

    Proximity: The famous “Jetty Strip” of eateries is a short walk to the west. Fresh and cooked seafood can be found at the Fisherman’s Co-op, five minutes away in the Marina.

    Parking: Off-road available near the Jetty.

    Safety: The beach is protected by the Marina’s breakwater, ideal for small children or those who want to swim without big surf.

     

    Sawtell Main Beach
    Only a wet thong’s throw from the heart of the Sawtell shopping area, Sawtell Main Beach has it all. Site of many a wonderful childhood holiday, the beach draws old and young not only because of its location, but also the availability of quality restaurants and lodgings.

    Amenities: There’s a toilet block and outdoor shower in the Surf Life Saving Club.

    Proximity: For those who don’t want to leave the sand, the Sawtell SLSC runs a great cafe right on the beach. There are trendy restaurants, pubs, cafes and Howie’s Fisho a short stroll away under huge fig trees in the main drag. There’s a boat ramp and Sawtell’s Ocean Pool is only five minutes to the south. Sawtell has its own cinema showing recent movies and the occasional film festival.

    Parking: Free parking is available in nearby streets and car parks.

    Safety: Sawtell Main Beach is patrolled during some months of the year. Groups of locals enjoy regular surf swims out beyond the breakers.

     

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    Like Clogwork

    WRITTEN BY ADMIN • MARCH 23, 2006

    A Detours and Diversions piece about the Clog Barn in Coffs Harbour, NSW Continue reading

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    The Big Banana

    WRITTEN BY ADMIN • NOVEMBER 17, 2005

    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 large pineapple he had seen on top of the Dole Cannery in Hawaii, Landi figured a similarly bewitching banana would help promote sales at his roadside fruit stall. The local chapter of the Banana Growers Federation thought it was such a good idea they agreed
    to meet half the construction costs.

    Builder Alan Harvey began work on the 13m long, 5m high, 2.4m wide banana in September 1964 and had it finished in just three months, allowing the impressive-looking timber-framed, lurid yellow ferroconcrete structure to open just in time for Christmas.

    In 1968 Landi sold his share of the business to his partner John Enevoldson, who kept it until 1988, when it was purchased by local entrepreneur Bob Johnson. Johnson acquired adjoining properties and undertook a $30 million redevelopment of the complex, turning it into a showcase for horticultural education. However, it all went pear-shaped, and current owner Kevin Rubie and his wife Marie bought the complex from administrators  in 1993.

    No mere monstrous foodstuff, today the Big Banana is an educational resource and home to a myriad of banana-based recreational and cuisine delights. You can buy a bewildering bevy of banana products including fresh bananas, dried bananas, chipped bananas, banana jams, banana chutneys and banana pickles, choc-coated frozen bananas, banana splits, banana cake, banana muffins and banana smoothies. Or you can go on a real banana bender in the souvenir shop, which boasts hundreds of balmy banana products, from the practical to the bizarre to the tasteless. Our favourites are the four different varieties of fridge magnets and the Big Banana water pistol.

    Many people think the Big Banana has shrunk, secretly replaced by a smaller version a few years ago. “We did move the banana a few metres forward and a metre or so higher in 1995 to give it better visibility from the Pacific Highway, but it definitely hasn’t shrunk,” says Rubie. “It’s just that people who come back to visit have grown up.”

    Rubie is determined that the Big Banana will maintain its status as one of Australia’s best-loved icons. Earlier this year an application for heritage listing for the original structure was sought and consultants were hired to “give the complex a new vision to take it into the future as an exciting and dynamic
    21st Century attraction.”

     

    DETAILS: The Big Banana
    Where:
    Pacific Highway, 3 kms north of Coffs Harbour, NSW
    Contact: Phone: (02) 6652 4355
    Website: www.bigbanana.com

     

    * Big Things: Australia’s Amazing Roadside Attractions by David Clark is published by Penguin Books, rrp $24.95.

    For our final visit to Big Things, we’re going back to where this rash of roadside sculpture all started over 40 years ago: the Big Banana at Coffs Harbour, on the NSW North Coast.

    By David Clark*

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