Coffs HarbourMid-North Coast of New South Wales, approximately two thirds of the way from Sydney to Brisbane.
Coffs is one of the original family holiday destinations on the Australian east coast. Today the city attracts parents and grandparents bringing their children to the same destination they visited as a child, as well as many travellers between Sydney and Brisbane, including backpackers staying for a week or so. Less trendy than Byron Bay or Noosa, the town still has great beaches, a huge variety of accommodation, and a well developed tourist industry that has been one of the mainstays of the community since the 1950s.
Coffs Harbour is a 530 km drive north of Sydney and 350 km south of Brisbane on the Pacific Highway. As always on the Pacific Highway, take care. The road quality varies dramatically, and there are normally traffic build-ups during peak holiday periods.
By trainAfter years of financial neglect, line closures and discount airfares, Coffs Harbour (probably along with Dubbo) remains one of the few places in country New South Wales where the train still offers a reasonable service and a competitive price.
It is a nine-hour train ride on NSW Trainlink (132232) from Sydney, but it is a nice view out of the window as the train travels out of Sydney and up via the Central Coast, Newcastle and Kempsey. There is a choice of trains daily, and the trains even arrive and depart at relatively sociable hours during the day. The train station is in the south of the town near the jetty area and is walking distance to the beach and to some accommodation. There are taxis available to get to resorts or the other accommodation around town. Buses also run close by at the jetty village shopping centre.
Some of the trains continue on to Brisbane, which is 6 hours away by rail.
There is also a railway station in Sawtell that is in the Coffs Harbour vicinity.
By busAll the coaches travelling the route between Sydney and Brisbane make a stop in Coffs.
There is an off-road cycleway that runs outside the airport into town and the riding into town is quite practical.
By busBusways run regular services around the city to make up a local transit network. Buses also run to Nambucca Bellingen and surrounding areas.
By taxiCoffs Harbour has a local taxi network that will run you up and down the Coffs Coast.
phone: +61 2 6652 4355address: 351 Pacific HwyYes, it is kitsch. Yes, it is pure tourism. Yes, it has overpriced food and tacky souvenirs. But this is Australia's original "Big Thing", over 40 years old, and you have to get your photo taken in front of it, as generations of Australians have done before you. While you are there, you can eat banana bread, banana cake, and choc-dipped bananas, while sipping on your banana smoothie. Browse what may be Australia's largest range of banana-themed merchandise, including the banana water pistols. If you choose not to indulge yourself in all things banana, the area around has undergone big developments. There is a now a fun park where you can ice skate, play mini-golf and laser tag.
- The Big Banana Complex adjacent to the fruit, there are fun rides, ice skating, and a real snow slope (indoor). Take a tour of the real bananas as well.
Dolphin Marine Magic - Pet Porpoise Pooladdress: Orlando Street (near the jetty end)The pet porpoise pool is another Coffs institution, operating on the site for 40 years. The setup here is more informal (and smaller) that the Seaworld type operation further north. You can get close to dolphins and seals. There are a couple of shows a day, so check session times before you go. You can do the dolphin encounter thing if you pay extra.
phone: +61-2-6653-4766address: 5 Strouds Road, BonvilleAn indoor rainforest with lots of butterflies. It is one of those places where you walk amongst them and they land on you if they feel like it. Good spot to take photos. There is a maze and a cafe here as well. The maze is geared to a family-friendly skill level; a person of normal ability and kids can successfully complete it.
- There is a Creek-side Boardwalk through mangroves near the jetty area and a quite extensive Botanical Garden nearby.
- Shearwater nesting on Muttonbird Island. Muttonbird Island is a peninsula extending out from the marina area. It is completely treeless, but is a nesting site for the migratory birds call wedge-tailed shearwaters, or muttonbirds. Birds complete their courtship in November and the eggs hatch towards the end of summer. On the eastern side of Muttonbird Island, there is a great view out to sea and whales can also be seen at some parts of the year. Walking over Muttonbird Island is a short walk (10-20 minutes), but it's also steep and there is no shade. Wear a hat, cover your shoulders, and take a bottle of water with you.
- Swim at Coffs' beaches.
- Park Beach is the main beach in Coffs, and is just to the north of the mouth of Coffs Creek. It is a surf beach and the swimming can be a little rough.
- Just inside the mouth of Coffs Creek is a small sheltered beach. Families with small children swim here and there are lots of fishermen.
- There is another calm beach between the jetty and the wharf area that is popular with families.
address: 398 High StreetA day trip to the islands with two dives is $99, gear hire is $30. Full openwater courses start at $195. In non-peak season Jetty Dive conducts some $55 single dive trips, mainly for night dives.
phone: +61 407 661 990address: Marina DrThe Jetty Markets are a craft and produce market held under the Jetty Village Shopping Centre every Sunday.
Harbourside Markets are a craft and produce market featuring handmade and local products only, there is also live music. The markets offer a beautiful setting under shaded trees a 5-min walk to the beautiful beaches located at the popular Jetty Foreshores area every Sunday.
- Park Beach Plaza, intersection of Pacific Highway and Park Beach Road. The Park Beach Plaza is a giant shopping centre with the usual assortment of useful shops including a Woolworths supermarket, JB Hi-Fi, Target, Big W, IGA and many other specialty stores.
Jetty Village Shopping Centreaddress: 361 Harbour DriveThe Jetty Village Shopping Centre is a small shopping centre with a bakery and a small IGA supermarket.
- Coffs Central, in the CBD of Coffs Harbour with more than 60 stores including Big W, fashion and specialty stores. It is undergoing extensive renovation to add new dining facilities and stores.
- Centro Toormina. A shopping centre in the suburb of Toormina that has had extensive renovations and includes a Kmart in the list of new stores.
- Promenade. Combines fine dining with fine shopping boutiques.
There is a group of eateries in the Jetty area, mostly on Harbour Drive. This area is known as having the best eating in Coffs.
Cafe Aqua57 Ocean Parade. Cafe Aqua is a small breakfast and brunch cafe behind Park Beach, locally famed for its coffee.
Foreshoresaddress: 394 Harbour DriveForeshores is a hugely popular breakfast and brunch cafe (it closes at 3pm), with a menu ranging from toast with Vegemite through to a big breakfast with sausages, egg and bacon.
Jetty Village Cafe & Juice BarShop 7, Jetty Village Shopping Centre, 361 Harbour Drive. The Jetty Village Cafe is a counter service sandwich shop with a small amount of hot food. Its main advantage is that it is open in the late afternoons when most of the other eateries in the Jetty area are closed.
- Park Beach Bowling Club Park Beach Road. For great wholesome food home cooked food at cheap prices. Get there early though as it does get quite busy.
- Split Cafe and Espresso Bar - located at First Avenue in Sawtell (south of the Coffs Harbour township), Split Cafe and Espresso Bar offers fresh juices, brilliant coffee and a lunch and breakfast menu that caters to all tastes. Split is open early (about 7:30AM) 7 days a week and is also open Friday and Saturday nights, with reservations being recommended as tables are very popular. Split offers a great small community feel that is complemented by the quiet and relaxed village atmosphere of Sawtell.
- Outback Jacks, Bar and Grill. Largest selection of steaks in the world, Ribs, shanks. Service is fabulous, a wonderful country atmosphere. winner of tourism award for Coffs Harbour. It can be somewhat expensive.
Scoffs Restaurantaddress: 386 Harbour DriveScoffs has good grilled seafood and steaks (beef and kangaroo), but is somewhat drastically understaffed, at least in peak times. Mains $20-30. The quality of the food at this restaurant is also questionable, especially in regard to freshness. Instead it would be suggested that you go to another restaurant on the Jetty Strip or visit Sawtell.
phone: +61 2 6652 8222address: 353 Pacific HighwayThis family-friendly restaurant offers a variety of fresh seafood as well as other wonderful à la carte dishes made from the freshest produce, all prepared with the greatest care.
Hogs Breath cafe
phone: +61 2 6652 5517address: The Promenade, 321 Harbour DriveNestled on Coffs Creek near the Jetty Theatre with delightful views out over the water, Mangrove Jacks is a popular cafe choice in the busy Jetty precinct of Coffs Harbour. Relax on the verandah with a bowl of fresh ocean prawns and an ice-cold Coopers 'on tap' as your hosts Phil and Julie Studley and their team prepare you a truly memorable meal.
address: 80 Grafton StreetKnown affectionately by locals as "The Planto". Regularly hosts touring acts. Includes a night club featuring local and touring DJs which is open til late every Friday and Saturday night. The Plantation Hotel also has Backpackers' Accommodation upstairs, with 30 dorm-style rooms.
The high season in Coffs Harbour is the summer school holidays, from late December until the end of January each year. Some accommodation on the spot is likely to be available even at those times.
In addition to the usual hostel/motel/hotel accommodation, Coffs has a large number of motel-like facilities that call themselves 'holiday apartments'. These are typically large motel-like flats with 2 or 3 bedrooms and some cooking facilities. They are designed to be booked on a week-to-week basis but are often available for shorter bookings.
address: 80 Grafton StreetIn the centre of Coffs Harbour, close to shopping, cafes, facilities and public transport. Free Wi-Fi and parking.
phone: +61 2 6652 6462address: 51 Collingwood StreetThe YHA is very close to the Jetty area. Facilities include a swimming pool. Beds from $25 per night in a dorm room, double rooms from $70 per night.
address: 312 Harbour DriveClose to the jetty area and Coffs Creek. It offers free canoes, free bodyboards, free fishing rods. Nice friendly atmosphere with daily activities organised by staff. Beds from $20 per night in a dorm room, double rooms from $50 per night.
Arosa MotelFully air-conditioned motel rooms, all equipped with bathroom, kitchen and a carport. Facilities and services are Outdoor in-ground pool, Laundry facilities and Games room with a pool table.
phone: +61 2 6652 2977address: 106 Grafton StreetIn the CBD opposite the Coffs C.ex Club, Close to everything. Has some good deals available.
phone: +61 2 6650 5111address: 250 Pacific HighwaySanctuary Resort has lots to offer, nestled amongst 7 acres of bushland, 2 km from the City, and close to the airport. Play tennis, squash, or relax in the sauna or have a great time in the pool with the slippery slide. Various motel rooms and apartments with fully equipped kitchens. Excellent rates, licensed "Treehouse" Restaurant (open to the public) some great discounts are available for multiple night stays.
phone: +61 2 6652 3166address: Corner of Pacific Highway and Albany StAt the top of the basic motels good for a nights stay. Friendly owners.
phone: +61 2 6652 9550address: 16 Prince StreetDolphin Sands has seven freestanding cabins one block back from Park Beach. The cabins are 2 bedroom and sleep up to five people. The cabins share a pool, spa and barbecue area. The standard rate is $150 per night per cabin, some discounts might be available if booking in advance.
address: 353 Pacific Highway3.5-star hotel with large hotel rooms and apartments.
SplurgeCoffs also has some of the best beachside resorts in New South Wales. Pacific Bay, Opal Cove and Nautilus are all resort style accommodation near the beach in the Coffs area.
Some Coffs hotels and resorts advertise and are proud of their beachfront settings. However, not all Coffs beaches are patrolled, and paying for accommodation near to the beach, and then finding it may not be one that is safe to swim at can be frustrating if that was your plan.
Continue north up the coast to Byron Bay, or inland follow the spectacular Waterfall way through Bellingen to Armidale, or south down to the Forster, and Port Macquarie.
The scenic village towns of Coramba and Nana Glen are a scenic 30 minute drive North-East of the main center of Coffs Harbour. Check out Mountain Ash pottery and gallery in Coramba and the local bakery for the valley's best pies and desserts. Visit the local winery in Nana Glen as well as the Kookaburra Cafe for lunch with its unique tram carriage dining area. Along your drive, be sure to purchase some local produce sold at roadside stalls!