Coffs Harbour – The Best Things To See And Do.

There is so much to do in and just outside Coffs Harbour – food, beaches, attractions, adventure activities, walks and so much exploration. The first part is focused on sites and delights within very close proximity to central Coffs. Be sure to keep reading until the end, as I think some of the real treasures are well worth a short drive!

Coffs Harbour Fishermans Co-Op

If you are seafood lover, you cannot go to Coffs Harbour and not get yourself a meal from the Fishermans Co-Op. It is situated in the heart of the Coffs Harbour International Marina, surrounded by other cafes and restaurants, boutique shops, ample car parking and is directly next to the walk way which takes you over to Mutton Bird Island. We shared the seafood basket for two and a serve of fish and chips, it was not only fresh and delicious, but an enormous amount of food. After lunch, we meandered towards the Island, enjoying the beautiful clear waters, spotted thousands of fish of a range of sizes and came across a spectacular spot to swim and snorkel.

Charlesworth Bay Beach

Just a short 10-minute drive north from the Coffs Harbour Marina, you will find Charlesworth Bay Beach, a quiet little beach with most divine coloured rocks and stones of all sizes in the water. Such a fabulous time can be had exploring the rocks and pools and splashing through the waves.

Dolphin Marine Conservation Park

We all had the best time at Coffs Harbour Dolphin Marine Conservation Centre! It is a small centre which offers an intimate, up close experience with some beautiful marine animals. We saw a range of fish, turtles, fed penguins and fish, received kisses on the cheek from a dolphin, were mesmerised by the grace and wow’d by the seal and dolphin display, all along with a strong message, to save and care for our marine life. For more information on the conservation, education and how they care for the beautiful animals, have a look at their website – it is excellent. Our family ticket was close to $100, however, once we were there, we got to experience all of the above mentioned ‘add-ons’ for no additional price, which is a real bonus – keep an eye out for a $10 off voucher in one of the tourist mags! Food was available to purchase at the well priced cafe, there was a sausage sizzle available, picnic tables and grass space for you to also bring a packed lunch. When the boys are older and more confident in the water, we would love to bring them back for a swim with the dolphin experience – there is so much to do and see at this beautiful little conservation park.

Sealy Lookout Bruxner Park, Sky Pier

Do yourself a favour and take the 6km drive off the Pacific Highway (north of Coffs Harbour) through the banana plantations and into the lush green Orara East State Forest. We had the most crazy weather the day we visited, tropical rains, sunshine, cloud and rainbows! Sealy Lookout is 310m above Coffs Harbour and the view is spectacular, giving you great perspective of the area, including the Solitary Islands Marine Park; on a clear day you can see 100km to the south. The Sky Pier itself is an impressive structure, it projects 21.6m from the original lookout. A novel idea for our boys, they were most excited by the size of it given there was “nothing holding it up at one end”. There are toilets, picnic tables and the day we were there, there was also a coffee van! For the adventurous individuals, the Tree Tops Adventure Park is close to the Lookout and does look like a lot of fun, our kids thought it looked a bit scary, maybe when they’re a bit bigger!

Big Banana

Big Banana, Coffs Harbour

You cannot miss the Big Banana in Coffs Harbour! It is located roadside heading north on the Pacific Highway, not only can you not miss it visually, but you have also got to go in and have a look around. To be honest, it was far more impressive than I was giving it credit for prior to going! There is so much to do there, so much flexibility in buying tickets for the different attractions, which is fantastic for families traveling on a budget! There is lots of parking behind the Banana and the entire complex has a very happy and friendly atmosphere. The choices of attractions are endless – a cafe, water park, cheese-making, ice skating, laser tag, toboggan rides, race slides and so many more! There really is something there for everyone, even if it is just a cheesy photo in front of the Coffs Harbour icon!

Harbour Side Markets

Harbourside Markets, Coffs Harbour
Lunch time at the Harbourside Markets

Every Sunday from 8am until 2pm, the Coffs Harbour comes alive for the Harbourside Markets. You will find the Jetty foreshore covered in marquees and bustling with people – rain, hail or shine; rain, as it was on the day we visited! I love a market and I had heard great things about this one so I wasn’t missing out – despite the soggy ground, enormous puddles in the roof of the marquee we chose for lunch and the need for an umbrella when we didn’t have one! The market was bursting with creative arts and crafts, local produce, live music and a variety of cuisines on offer for lunch. Their motto ensures a quality unique experience for everyone locally made, locally grown. We loved our Mexican and African for lunch, the boys had their usual market favourites!

Now grab yourself a car and enjoy the greatness that surrounds Coffs Harbour. There are beaches a plenty, so many to enjoy and explore; or head inland and discover some little Australian gems.

Bellingen

Bellingen

Bellingen, just 30 minutes south from Coffs Harbour you will find ‘Mello Bello’ and it is exactly that! A very cool, bohemian style country town; Bellingen is a must for any food lovers, the choices of eateries are endless!

The Old Butter Factory Shopping Village, located next to the golf course, is a fabulous stop on the way into town. The Café is in a beautiful old building with high ceilings as well as outdoor table settings; the choices for meals were extensive, family friendly, easy parking and lots of space for kids to wander if they are of curious mind. The boutique stores within the village consisted of leather, homewares, woodwork, gift ware and a lovely community gallery.

We were in serious food heaven in Bellingen and we found it so difficult to choose where to spend our afternoon. The very chic, 5 Church St, won out and served us the most amazing homemade cakes to share – the chocolate beetroot was rich and delicious, but the carrot cake with a hint of ginger was the winner for us – divine! The coffee was also spot on and the kids hot chocolates were served so beautifully, it made them feel very special.

We planned our visit to Bellingen on our way through to Dorrigo National Park (see below for more info!), although we could have spent more time at both places, it was a great way to see a couple of spots in close proximity in the same direction from Coffs Harbour.

Dangar Falls, Oxley Wild Rivers National Park & Dorrigo National Park

Dangar Falls
Dangar Falls, Dorrigo National Park

We love rainforests and waterfalls, so as an add-on for our visit to Bellingen, a trip to Dangar Falls was a no-brainer. You’ll find the Falls located just 1.2km north of Dorrigo, the car park is at the top of the falls and there is a small lookout from there, giving you a spectacular front-on view from above. There is a mostly-made walking track to the pool of the falls, it is not a difficult walk, however, there are some stairs and slippery un-made tracks at the bottom. We were fortunate to visit just after some heavy rainfall in the area, so there was plenty of cascading water to enjoy. Back at the car park there is a toilet block, playground, plenty of room to picnic and a little way along the walking track, you’ll find a labyrinth. If you’re there in Spring time, you will be lucky enough to see the cliff lines filled with wildflowers. A trip to Dangar Falls, through Dorrigo National Park is well worth it and will not disappoint.

Dorrigo National Park is located just an hour from Coffs Harbour, you will find the beautifully rich, World-Heritage listed Gondwana Rainforest, Dorrigo National Park. You could simply spend days exploring the natural wonders – walking tracks, waterfalls, wildlife, lookouts and picnic areas. The drive up the mountain through the rainforest was stunning; steep and maybe a little narrow in parts but lush, green and very fresh. 

Coramba Hotel

If you are looking for a great country pub to have a meal, look no further than the Coramba Pub, a 20-minute picturesque drive north west from Coffs Harbour. The food was fabulous, the kids serve of fettucine bolognaise was enormous and wholesome, the service was great, and the beer garden comes with spectacular countryside views and lots of room for kids to run around. They have lots of specials including a $12 lunch menu where there was certainly no compromise on quality! It was quiet and had a relaxed casual feel, a fantastic spot to take the family for a great affordable pub meal. The Coramba Pub advertise regularly on their Facebook page, look out for their specials and special events which often feature live music.

Woolgoolga

Twenty-five minutes north of Coffs Harbour, you will find the fun, upbeat, casual, family friendly, coastal town of Woolgoolga. We were welcomed to the town with a big “Welcome to Woopi” by a local as we walked onto the beach. We instantly fell in love with the laid-back feel to the place that is known by the locals as Woopi. Surfing, jet skiing, beach cricket, rock pools, body boarding, walking tracks, free barbecues, a beach side playground and caravan and a main street full of cool cafes and coffee spots – it is any wonder it is a popular place to visit. White Salt came highly recommended to us as a lunch stop, so White Salt it was; melt-in-your-mouth seafood, fat chips and amazing potato scallops.

From the patrolled beach, head south along the 1.7km stretch of Woolgoolga Beach and make your way to the Woolgoolga Lookout; the expansive views north and south of the Headland are simply stunning. We were fortunate enough to see sail boats out on the water and enjoyed the company of some lounging kangaroos alongside the walking tracks. During the whale season it is a prime vantage spot for seeing humpbacks cruising by. You can also access the Lookout by car and enjoy some shorter walking trails from the car park. Woopi also features the Woolgoolga Lake where you can practice your skills on a stand-up paddle board or kayak.

Heading south from Coffs Harbour?

Be sure to stop in at Port Macquarie, there are so many more fabulous places to visit, things to do and beaches to enjoy!

The best things to do in Port Macquarie

Bago Maze and Winery

Twenty-five minute drive from Port Macquarie

A visit to Bago was one of our most favourite outings from Port Macquarie. We love food, wine and a bit of fun adventure – this visit had something for everyone, in fact more than that, it was fantastic! We loved getting lost in the 2km well cared for hedge maze, enjoyed a picnic we’d packed on the massive grassed area under a shady tree, us adults sampled the cheese platter featuring local cheeses, followed by some tastings of the unique range of whites, reds and fortified wines; all of this while the boys ran around on the grass and in and out of the cubby house. They have live music once a month and Baba Lila Handmade Chocolates is also onsite! You cannot go wrong with a visit here!

While you’re on the road to or from Bago, take the short drive into the Burrawan State Forest, the home of the ‘Old Bottlebutt’. Enjoy the 600m rainforest loop to see the ancient Red Bloodwood tree, which is astonishingly the biggest recorded species of it in the world. Our boys were highly amused by the name, if you need to convince your kids to take the extra trip, tell them the name of the tree, it worked for us!

Dunbogan

Thirty-eight minute drive south of Port Macquarie

We instantly fell in love with this beautiful coastal town on the Camden Haven Inlet. The quiet town has stunning views of the river, loads of picnic spots, a well constructed walking path and the fabulous Dunbogan Boat Shed and Marina. We loved our coffee experience at the Boat Shed so much, we returned the following day to hire a boat to explore the river and enjoy a picnic lunch on the water. You can also hire kayaks or a SUP and they are fully stocked for all of your fishing needs. When you visit, make sure you have a look at the thousands of fish, if the light is shining nicely, you will see some beautiful coloured fish. They also have frequent visits from some dolphins, we missed out on seeing them but we were guaranteed they are around!

Hat Head

Fifty-nine minute drive north of Port Macquarie

If there was ever a beach town to visit for a complete unwind, low key, family, beach town getaway on the mid-north coast – this place would be it! About an hours north of Port Macquarie, through the Macleay Valley, you will find the most exquisite beach town, Hat Head. We fell in love with this place, whole-heartedly, in fact, I believe it may be our new favourite beach in Australia – a big call given how many amazing beaches we have here!

Hat Head Gap was simply stunning – rocks to scramble and climb, lookouts, crystal clear waters, walking paths and views to die for! We walked from the Gap to Connor’s Beach, we were the only ones on the track and beach the entire time we were there – we felt like we were on a deserted island! Our only regret, we didn’t carry our picnic lunch! Instead, hunger set in and we had to find the somewhere else to park ourselves – what a shame (*insert SERIOUS sarcasm*) – we found the main swimming beach!

Oh my! The beautiful gentle waves were beach-magic for our boys to play in, in fact it is the first time they have braved ‘the deep’. The water was clear, the temperature was perfect, you could surf, swim, SUP, float or play! The town itself consists of a holiday park, several holiday rentals, a general store, boat access and a fish cleaning area, the pristine Korogoro Creek and the native surrounds of Hat Head National Park.

Crowdy Head

Fifty-six minutes south of Port Macquarie

The coastline along the mid-north coast of Australia, is undoubtedly stunning. We would recommend a trip to these two beautiful spots about an hour south of Port Macquarie. The unexpected stops are quite often the best, aren’t they? We were headed into Harrington for a pub meal for lunch by the river, only to be stopped due to the desperate plea to go to the toilet by one of our boys. Arriving in Crowdy Head, conveniently there were public toilets and Sunsets Cafe, attached to the Crowdy Head Surf Life Saving Club. We had a sensational feed in a stunning location. It surprised us that there was even a cafe open, it was that quiet. Apart from a lonely stand-up paddle boarder out on the sea, we were the only ones at the beach – it was heavenly!

We visited the Crowdy Head Lighthouse and were completely ‘beach-struck’ to the south, where we could just see masses of sand and surf! The Lighthouse also boasts a great spot for sighting whales during the right season. Needless to say, we had to go check it out! Harrington Beach State Park is a great spot for 4WD and for having a quiet beach to yourselves! The boys loved running around, in and out of the massive waves, building sandcastles and running from the crashing waves! We loved the extensive sand, water and tranquillity!

North Brother Mountain

Thirty-three minute drive south of Port Macquarie

North Brother Mountain is located in the Dooragan National Park and offers some stunning views of the area in Camden Haven Inlet, Camden Haven River and down to Crowdy Head in the south. For a challenging walk, you can access the Laurieton Track at the base or you can drive to the car park at the top of the mountain where you will find toilets, picnic tables and some easier walking tracks for the whole family. The vast views from the top were stunning, even on an overcast day like we had. We enjoyed the trails of the rainforest loop which took us to several other look outs to enjoy views to the north west and west of the mountain. It is well worth the trip to gain some perspective of the area and the spectacular outlook.

Miss Nellie’s Cafe

Twenty-five minutes south of Port Macquarie

The home of homemade greatness, Miss Nellie’s Cafe boasts a beautiful setting, in the small country town of Kendall; if you’re a sweet tooth, it is a sure stop! It is only minutes off the Pacific Hwy, so if you’re driving past, do yourself a favour! We were very impressed with the great service, dedication and commitment to their business. We were introduced to ‘ruby chocolate’ for the first time and were given a thorough explanation upon service. The ruby chocolate cheesecake was divine – it has a sweet yet sour flavour. Miss Nellie’s is a country-style cafe, serving homemade cakes, delicious coffee, light meals, a kids menu and cosy comfortable table and chairs indoors and outdoors.

Koala Hospital

Central Port Macquarie

You will find the Koala Hospital in the Macquarie Nature Reserve, a beautiful green natural parkland. Established in 1973, the Hospital came together as a place to rescue, care for and treat injured or unwell koalas; staffed by a number of paid professionals as well as 200 volunteers. They have 14 intensive care units (8 outdoors) and 33 rehabilitation yards which include large gum trees where they learn to climb again as part of the rehabilitation programs.

Our boys were very concerned about the cuddly koalas and were very intrigued to hear some of the stories as to why they were each there. Some were due to being in car accidents, dog attacks, chlamydia, fires. Each enclosure had a story about why they were there, as well as explanations about the process of how they’re released into the wild. This little guy (pictured) is a repeat offender, he was back this time with a bacterial infection in his eye. If you’ve got young kids like we do, they will be entertained by the fun facts dotted around the hospital – do you know how many poos does a koala do every day?

Tacking Point Lighthouse

Eleven minutes south of Port Macquarie centre

Tacking Point Lighthouse, Little Bay and Lighthouse Beach. The Lighthouse, is Australia’s thirteenth oldest and is situated just 8km south of Port Macquarie. We drove to the stunning headland, however, you can actually walk the full distance along the coastal walk from Town Green Foreshore in Port Macquarie – this will definitely be on my to-do-list next time we visit the area. From Tacking Point Lighthouse you will enjoy panoramic views of the mid-north coast of Australia. To the south you can wander down to Lighthouse Beach (see below), to the north you can explore the rugged coastline and rocks of Little Bay. We had hours of fun at Little Bay climbing over the rocks, searching for starfish, crabs and fish and watching the crashing waves of the expansive Pacific Ocean.

Lighthouse Beach has an extensive 7km stretch of sand, a brilliant location for those of you, like me, who love to walk on a beach. Simply stunning coastline! We entered the beach near to the impressive Watonga Rocks, where there was more than enough exploration opportunities for the boys and so much for us adults to sit back and appreciate. The squeaky sand, shells and array of coloured rocks that wash in make a beach wander very enjoyable. What was even better was the rare sighting of any other person, we felt like we had the whole beach to ourselves.

Hasting River and Town Beach

Central Port Macquarie

We just love exploring a town on foot. After parking our hire car in the main hub of Port Macquarie, we wandered to find a nice spot to have a picnic lunch. We walked straight towards Hasting River and followed the very colourful and creative rock art along the path all the way to Town Beach Park. We were fortunate enough to spot two dolphins gracefully swimming along finding their feed, they’re such beautiful creatures!

River side, we found a fabulous cafe called Little Shack, they made a great coffee (with the choice of two different brands of soy milk) and offered a relaxed and trendy stop for food and drinks. The Park included a very popular skate park, playground, path suitable for bikes, blades and feet! Town Beach itself offered spectacular coastline, patrolled beach, rocks for the kids to scramble over and pools to splash in; as well as beach side parking, toilets and the very convenient, yummy and well priced Salty Crew Kiosk.

Shelly Beach

Seven minutes south of Port Macquarie

Yet another one of the several beautiful beaches along the Coastal Walk from Port Macquarie Town Beach to Tacking Point Lighthouse. If you are intrigued by a bit of wildlife, get yourself to Shelly Beach and keep an eye out for a goanna! We were lucky enough to have this beauty wandering around under our feet while we were eating lunch (note the kids were sitting on top of the table!). There are picnic tables, a toilet block and plenty of parking to go with this lovely little beach. We loved exploring all over the rocks, looking for sea life, splashing in and out of the rock pools and enjoying another part of natures playground.

Where to stay in Port Macquarie

We loved our stay at Ultiqa Village Resort. It is the home of 32 luxury three-bedroom bungalows. The Resort has an indoor swimming pool, sauna, clubhouse, gym, tennis courts, mini-golf, canoeing on the lake and fish feeding. There are BBQ facilities, outdoor lounges, free WiFi, games rooms and board games/puzzles/toys/DVDs all available from reception. Our bungalow offered us more than enough space for the four of us.

Amenities were at our finger tips reducing expenses while in Port Macquarie. This enabled us to cook and do laundry with ease, allowing us to enjoy outings and special treats. The lake area had a lovely feel, very relaxing in the mornings and full of life later in the day. Our evenings consisted of fish feeding for the kids and happy hour by the water on a picnic blanket. The Resort was very family friendly and the service was impeccable, staff attending to our needs very efficiently. We would definitely look to stay there again on a return visit!

Heading north from Port Macquarie?

Do yourself a favour and arrange some time in Coffs Harbour. There is so much on offer for the whole family on the coast and inland.