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!
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
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, 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
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.
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.
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!