Go for the surf and beaches. Stay for everything else from Indigenous art to swimming with whales.
There are waves being made on NSW’s Coffs Coast as the city almost smack-bang between Sydney and Brisbane fuels renewed interest from visitors, poised as it is to become the next capital of Mid North Coast cool. Here are the top 10 things to do in Coffs Harbour.
Surf culture has long been part of Coffs Harbour’s DNA, but that scene is being increasingly energised as surfers looking to escape the crowds explore this part of the coastline searching for the perfect break. Solitary Islands Surf School will find a wave to suit everyone at Boambee, Jetty, Murrays, North Wall and Sawtell beaches while swimmers can dip between the flags at Woolgoolga Beach. Experienced surfers will froth on Gallows near the quarry and Trapdoors in Sawtell.
Walk to the top of Muttonbird Island
Start your heroic stride to the top of Muttonbird Island from the Coffs Harbour Marina and along the northern part of the breakwall until you reach the base of Muttonbird Island Nature Reserve, where interpretative signages tells the Dreamtime story of the moon-man who protected the land. The 1.3 kilometre-return walk will steer you to the eastern lookout, which offers stunning views over Solitary Island, a you-beaut spot for whale watching (from May to November).
Enjoy an Indigenous-led SUP tour
Who better to guide you on a SUP tour of Red Rock Creek than a Gumbaynggirr guide from Wajaana Yaam Adventure Tours whose ancestors have been cutting canoes from trees and paddling around these waterways for thousands and thousands of years. Indeed, the most stirring stories about Gumbaynggirr country are written in the landscape and told by members of the local Aboriginal clan who invest a proportion of their profits to support young people in the community.
Swim with the whales
Visit the Coffs Coast in August or September and you will get the chance to swim with humpback whales as they migrate south to the waters off Antarctica. It’s worth noting that whale-swimming tours with Jetty Dive are weather dependant, as they are conducted in the deep ocean, and only on offer to children over the age of 12 and those who can confidently swim 200 metres. Those reluctant to slide off the boat and into the sea can enjoy a whale watching tour instead.
Get on your bike
Coffs Creek Walkway is a shared path and cycleway that pretzels around the CBD, North Coast Regional Botanic Garden, Dolphin Marine Conservation Park, Jetty Beach and Park Beach. While the walk and ride can be broken down into shorter sections, you can also cover more ground by taking a tour with Montem Bike Tours. Explore the Jetty foreshore by bike, enjoy a guided bike ride from Coffs Harbour to Sawtell or ask MBT to design a custom adventure just for you.
Soar through the TreeTops
Swing through the towering gum trees like Tarzan at the TreeTops Adventure Park Tree Ropes Course in Orara State Forest, which is graded according to difficulty. Budding ninja warriors will enjoy the challenge of climbing through the adventure park configured with 100 elevated obstacles, rope ladders, tunnels, cargo nets, wobbly bridges and ziplines. Stick with the treetops theme and potter along the Forest Sky Pier at Sealy Lookout, which is only a short drive away.
Learn about the life cycle of butterflies as they flit and fly all around you at Butterfly House, an institution for insects in Coffs Harbour. Not only are there displays with live insects, there are also exhibits of extinct dinosaurs that move and roar in a purpose-built forest and more winged creatures in the form of fairies that figure-eight around the trees. Children will love learning about different species such as the distinctive Ulysses butterfly, which is velvety black and metallic blue.
Go horse-riding along Boambee Beach
Boambee Beach is much-loved by locals and you can see why as you plod along the beach to admire this pristine swathe of coastline on horseback with HWH Stables’ Photographic Horse Riding Tours The popular 3.5-hour tour heads south along Boambee Beach and then curves around to Boambee Bay Lagoon, where the horses are led into the water for a swim while guide and photographer Chris Fenech zooms in on the action to savour the day.
You don’t need to consult your Little Book of Dad Jokes to pre-empt the fact old mate will likely say, ‘Keep your eyes peeled for the Big Banana’ when road-tripping toward this iconic tourist attraction. While the giant yellow 13-metre piece of fruit is certainly an impressive landmark when it lurches into view, it’s the adjacent water park, toboggan ride and ice skating rink that are the park’s main draws. It’s compulsory to buy some choc-coated bananas, which are, thankfully, more to scale.
See the creative side of Coffs
The Wadjar Regional Indigenous Gallery at the Yarrawarra Aboriginal Cultural Centre in Corindi Beach exhibits traditional and contemporary art from First Nations people from the northern lowlands of Gumbaynggirr country and across regional Australia. ‘Yarrawarra’ means ‘happy meeting place’ and the centre, 20 minutes from Coffs Harbour, hosts a range of activities from bush tucker tours to art workshops. The National Cartoon Gallery and Coffs Harbour Regional Gallery are also worth a look.
For more great travel tips and itineraries read our Ultimate guide to Coffs Harbour holidays.