One of the simplest ways to reduce your carbon footprint while on the Coffs Coast is to support destinations and businesses that are sustainable.
The Coffs Coast in Gumbaynggirr Country has been declared NSW’s first ECO Destination, certified by Ecotourism Australia. ECO Destination Certification is a globally recognised standard that certifies sustainable destination management practices, champions giving back to the community and ensuring cultural authenticity.
All up, there are 13 significant national parks and extensive state forests that blanket the majestic ranges that run down to the Coffs coastline, which borders Solitary Islands Marine Park. In addition to ECO Destination Certification, the Coffs Coast boasts six ECO-certified operators and experiences: Bruxner Flora Reserve, Coffs Coast Mountain Retreat, Jetty Dive Centre, North Coast Regional Botanic Gardens, TreeTops Adventure Coffs Harbour and Wajaana Yaam Gumbaynggir Adventure Tours.
Following is our guide to supporting Coffs Coast operators who want visitors to venture to the Mid North Coast and leave a lighter footprint. Here are a few ways to make your trip to Coffs Harbour/Garlarmbirla (the ‘river oak country’) more sustainable.
Support local & give back to the Coffs community
The Giingan Gumbaynggirr Cultural Experience is a celebration of Gumbaynggirr culture, people and language and a great example of ecologically sustainable tourism that fosters an understanding and appreciation of Gumbaynggirr people who, as Indigenous Australians, are the ultimate pioneers in conservation.
Held monthly in the Orara East State Forest, the Giingan Experience includes language, a dance performance, damper-making, Dreaming stories about how the land was created and a nature walk from the Forest Sky Pier at Niigi Niigi/Sealy Lookout. All profits from the interactive two-hour tour are invested back into the local community to support founder Clark Webb’s vision for NSW’s first bilingual First Nations school.
Partake in a celebration of Gumbaynggirr culture.
Organise a customised tour on the back of a Boom Mustang Trike that takes you through beautiful Bongil Bongil National Park. Traverse over the sun-yellowed, highway-ed hills with the wind in your hair to see the region’s windswept beaches, coastal views and beautiful brown-green bushlands while on the back of a three-seater trike with Coffs Harbour Trike Tours’ Brent Watson, who runs the family-run business alongside wife Belinda.
Some of the most popular destinations include Bellingen township, Dorrigo Rainforest, Look At Me Now Headland, Ebor Falls, Nambucca Heads and Sawtell. The Pub with No Beer tour is also popular with fans of the late Slim Dusty.
Park on the back of a three-seater trike with Coffs Harbour Trike Tours.
Coffs Harbour’s Harbourside Markets down by The Jetty is also a local institution, where you can pick up everything from just-plucked produce to locally made clothing, jewellery and more. Fittingly, for NSW’s first ECO Destination, the market is driven by sustainability and the carefully curated list of stalls all share the same philosophy, that is to sell fair trade, locally made, ethically sourced or upcycled goods.
Factor in a few hours to fossick around the stalls selling art, jewellery, clothing, plants, vintage clothing and collectables before fuelling up at the food trucks. Meanwhile, in nearby Woopi, Natural Elements Store, Eco Threads and Feather and Nest all stock sustainably sourced, natural and hand-crafted products.
Soak up the scenery at the Harbourside Markets.
Celebrate the Coffs Coast provenance
There is a multitude of places and spaces on the Coffs Coast that are committed to supporting local artisans and growers that demonstrate commitment to lessening their food miles. Ground Earth in Woolgoolga is one of them. What the cafe can’t source from its plot at the nearby Woopi Gardens it sources from local growers. Enjoy poached ginger chicken with shaved wombok and cucumber and take comfort in the knowledge that any leftovers will be fed to the pigs at a nearby farm. The cafe also donates its Bassett espresso coffee grounds to the local gardens.
Ground Earth supports local artisans and growers.
THE MERMAID BEACH HOUSE
The Mermaid Beach House is expanding on the Coffs Coast offerings as a Green Destination by sustaining visiting foodies to its Park Beach premises with a menu that changes with the seasons. The charming eatery is run by owner and executive chef Rowan Tihema who has earned his stripes as chef and worked as a sommelier at Nobu Melbourne. Tihema has also managed hatted restaurants such as Pearl, Cutler & Co and Marion (under the legendary Andrew McConnell).
The beach-chic cottage is light and airy, the Italian-leaning set menu and natural wines an epicurean’s delight. If you’re looking to continue the fun, set off on a sophisticated bar crawl to Slo Vino, which is passionate about natural wines, Dark Arts where you will find a veg-forward menu and Element Bar, which supports live music.
Mermaid is run by owner and executive chef Rowan Tihema.
UNMISSABLE DINING EXPERIENCES
The Coffs Coast has also lured ex-Andrew McConnell alumni Byron Goh, who opened vego restaurant Cafe Ophelia in Coffs Harbour, and Melbourne couple Bianca Wendt and Ric Divola who gifted Sawtell with Bar Que Sera. Celebrate the Coffs Coast bounty by picking up provisions from The Happy Frog and enjoying a picnic at North Coast Regional Botanic Gardens. The heritage-listed garden is dedicated to subtropical plants from countries that share the latitude 30.
It’s that distance from the equator that also inspired Latitude 30, a bright, breezy harbourside seafood restaurant located at latitude 30, which is considered the perfect climate benchmark.
There are also unique dining experiences to be had at the annual Coffs Coast Food & Wine festival, which works closely with food rescue organisation OzHarvest.
Pastel dreaming at Cafe Ophelia.
Gain an appreciation of the arts & the environment
COFFS COAST ART GALLERIES
The environment is at the heart of The White Bluff Project exhibition, at the Coffs Harbour Regional Gallery, an artist-led collaboration designed to celebrate the overlooked headland of White Bluff.
The gallery is connected to the new Yarilla Arts & Museum at Yarilla Place in Coffs City Centre. The National Cartoon Gallery also invites audience engagement with its astonishing archive of Australia’s cartooning history. The heritage-listed underground Second World War bunker recently underwent a multimillion-dollar renovation.
Wander through the Cartoon Gallery.
ARTWORKS & WORKSHOPS
Visit the colourful HQ of graphic designer and illustrator Alyson Pearson at Alykat Creative Gallery & Studio to buy original artworks and learn about any upcoming workshops or classes.
The colourful studio, shop and gallery, tucked down a graffiti-clad laneway in the heart of Coffs Harbour, is also at the heart of pop-up Park Lane sessions, ticketed events that dish out tunes to draw crowds to Pearson’s latest exhibitions of local artists.
Walk to the end of the lane to get a bevvy from new brewpub, King Tide Brewing and enjoy some of Coffs Harbour’s most colourful street art along the way.
Alykat Creative is the creative alias of Australian graphic designer and illustrator, Alyson Pearson. Image: Carla Grossetti
MUTTONBIRD ISLAND & WALKS
To better appreciate the Coffs Coast region, you need to find a lookout with lofty views. One of the must-dos while on the Coffs Coast is a walk up and over Muttonbird Island, which is known as a site for nesting mutton birds who make the long trek from Siberia to mate. The northern headland is known as Giidany Miirlarl (Moon Special Place) and is held sacred by the local Gumbaynggir people.
The Look at Me Now headland walk has scenic views all the way out over Moonee Beach, both key spots on the Solitary Islands Coastal Walk and great places for whale watching in winter. The view from the Forest Sky Pier at Niigi Niigi/ Sealy Lookout over Bruxner Park Flora Reserve in Orara East State Forest is also spectacular and, on a sunny day, resembles a pretty blue jumper worn over a flowery skirt.
Soak up the wonderous beauty of the Look at Me Now headland.
Enjoy drinks with a difference
Critters Distillery is a boutique, small-batch Australian-owned distillery that provides full traceability from ‘paddock to glass’ and has a zero-waste policy. Ex-engineer Chris Fraser has gone from building roads to producing premium spirits and as head distiller he believes it’s his passion for producing the best products possible, using Australian ingredients and supporting local suppliers that led to his Original Vodka being awarded a silver medal for Australia in the World Vodka Awards.
Visit the distillery door to try the award-winning vodka and learn why Chris and his wife Nicola are so inspired by the Australian marine environment they use sea ‘critters’ such as the angler fish and weedy sea dragon in their branding.
The lineup at Critters Distillery.
WOOPI BREWING CO
Beach. Mountains. Beer. Those three words are what inspired Aaron Dobner to relocate his family from Wollongong to Woolgoolga and set up Woopi Brewing Co. The former paramedic is now head brewer at the craft brewery, which is located on the outskirts of Woolgoolga, known locally as Woopi.
Dobner and his wife Jacqui, together with a group of shareholders, transformed three commercial properties in the town’s industrial precinct into one cavernous beer hall in order to realise their vision. Kick back at the community craft brewery on a Friday arvo over a grazing plate and tasting paddle while listening to live music in the brewery, located between the mountains and the beach.
Woopi Brewing Co. to the locals and those in the know.
Enjoy life in the slow lane
MONTEM BIKE TOURS
Explore the town of Sawtell on two wheels with your guide from Montem Bike Tours, who will steer you in a southeast direction toward the heritage village of Sawtell. One of the highlights includes a stop off at Bonville Headland, where you can observe the migrating whales (in season) and dolphins, and sweeping views of the cobalt-blue ocean and surrounding headlands.
Park your 10-speed mountain bike near to the Sawtell Beach tidal rock pool for a swim or bounce between new and noteworthy cafes, restaurants and bars on the iconic strip lined with majestic fig trees. Go to the French Basket for coffee, The Athletic Club for Kalang River oysters, The Spare Room for pizza and 63 First Avenue for Reubens all round.
COFFS COAST HINTERLAND
While much of the Coffs Coast beauty is centred around its beautiful beaches, the hinterland also offers a taste of everyday life. Stop off for a coffee and gossip with locals at the Idle In Café before heading to HWH Stables where your guide Chris Fenech will find a horse that’s right for you.
There’s nothing like cantering around the Coffs Coast countryside to gain a better appreciation of the landscape. Follow a path that leads, like a messy part combed into sun-bleached hair, through native grasses studded with eucalyptus on the edge of town. It’s a choose-your-own-adventure, as Chris tailors everything from trail rides to tuition. While beginners can learn to ride with confidence and plod through emerald-green pastures, seasoned riders can gallop over and around hunched shoulders of the hinterland hills.
Ride a horse through the Hinterland.
C-CHANGE ADVENTURE KAYAKING
Sure you could drive past the rivers and creeks that spaghetti around the Coffs Coast. But what’s the rush? C-Change Adventure Kayaking can be as placid or as hectic as you like. If you’re a beginner, your knowledgeable guide Matt Sparrius might recommend an excursion up Boambee Creek.
Thrill-seekers might also take a white-water tour of the Orara River or a crash course in sea kayaking out on the ocean in the hope you might encounter whales (when in season), dolphins and turtles. Matt has a degree in marine and environmental science and knows a lot about the natural environment. It’s one of many reasons he has been awarded Instructor of the Year by Australian Canoeing. After a day out on the water, head straight for the Big Banana where you can treat the kids to a banana split. You’ve earned it.
The famous Big Banana.
Where to stay on the Coffs Coast
From beach houses to resorts and homey hotels, there is a range of great places to stay in Coffs Harbour, including:
To book a holiday on the Coffs Coast, visit www.coffscoast.com.au