We rolled into Coffs Harbour at dusk, after watching the sky change colour from Sealy Lookout. We did a quick tour of town, bought some supplies from the supermarket and settled into the Coffs Harbour YHA with a big dinner and an early night. Our roommates came in at around midnight but didn’t stay long because Dave’s snoring was keeping them awake. Juz woke up not because of Dave but because our roomies were coughing and fake snoring to try and wake Dave up. Instead of putting them out of their misery, Juz waited until they’d had enough and left the room before waking Dave up. We had a very peaceful night after that.
In the morning, we rose just before sunrise and headed to Muttonbird Island. It was a great morning walk, seeing the sun rear it’s golden head on the horizon and watching the fairy wrens play in the scrub. Standing on the whale watching platform on the eastern side of the island was awesome, but we didn’t see any whales. With a big day ahead of us, we headed back to the hostel, got organised and checked out before visiting the local attractions.
- The city’s name comes from John Korff, a shipbuilder who took shelter there during a storm in 1847. The spelling was accidentally changed by the crown surveyor when land was reserved in 1861.
- The economy used to rely solely on bananas, but now blueberries, fishing and tourism have come into the picture.
- According to the CSIRO, Coffs Harbour has the most liveable climate in Australia.
Things to See & Do
The Big Banana
One of Australia’s first big things, this legendary icon was built in 1964 and represents the area’s valued banana industry. While it had humble beginnings, it has grown into an amusement park and recently celebrated its 50th anniversary.
The Clog Barn
A little piece of Holland, right in the middle of Coffs Harbour – the Clog Barn offers clog making demonstrations, a souvenir shop and even free entry into a miniature model of a Dutch village.
Next door is Big Ooma’s Coffee House, which dishes out ‘Dutchstralian’ style coffee, cakes, and pancakes. Make sure you get a photo standing in the big clogs that are fixed outside before you move on.
Muttonbird Island Nature Reserve
Connected to the mainland by a breakwater, Muttonbird Island is a protected reserve that’s home to a variety of bird species, including the migratory wedge-tailed shearwater, aka muttonbird. If you miss out on seeing the shearwaters, don’t despair because there are plenty of cute and puffy fairy wrens to spot.
The single paved walkway leads you up to a great lookout over the city before weaving though the low growing vegetation to a whale watching platform.
Coffs Harbour Marina & Jetty
Coffs Harbour’s fishing industry and whale watching tours depart from the marina, but there’s also a café and Fisherman’s Co-op nearby, in case you want some super fresh fish and chips or seafood.
The historic timber jetty at Jetty Beach is a great place for fishing or photography, and was recently restored. The Foreshore Park features BBQs, picnic benches and toilets.
Coffs Harbour Regional Botanic Gardens
This is one of the major botanical gardens north of Sydney and covers 20 hectares of Crown Land. There are a variety of landscapes within the gardens, including a rainforest, mangrove estuary, Japanese Garden and endangered species section. We enjoyed the sensory garden, as well as the Greenhouse, which houses a variety of bromeliads, orchids, and succulents.
The Forest Sky Pier at Sealy Lookout
To get to Sealy Lookout, you’ll have to travel 5km north along the highway, past the Big Banana. Once you turn off the highway, there’s 6km of winding road leading up to the top. The drive is slow but scenic, and the final destination offers fantastic vistas over Coffs Harbour and the coast. The Forest Sky Pier reaches 21 metres from the mountain side and is 15 metres up.
The Honey Place
For all things sweet and sticky, visit the Honey Place in Urunga. The entrance is a big bee hive, they have a huge variety of honey to taste, and there’s even a display of honey bees and native Australian bees. It was fun watching the bees come and go from the hive, some returning with big yellow pollen pants.
If you have time, take a seat and watch the documentary about bees. Despite being filmed in the early 80s, it’s still relevant and really interesting.
A 40 minute cruise down the coast will bring you to Nambucca Heads, a holiday town with plenty to see. There are two fantastic lookouts – Captain Cooks Lookout offers great views of the beaches on either side of the headland while the Rotary Lookout gives you a postcard picture of the mouth of the Nambucca River.
Down by the harbour is the Vee Wall Walk, a very colourful outdoor gallery with hundreds of breakwater rocks painted and tagged with a variety of messages and graffiti.
In town along Bowra Street is a wonderful three dimensional mosaic featuring whales and dolphins, an octopus and ocean waves. The piece is called ‘The River’, is 30 metres long, and consists of old pottery, cast off tiles and knic knacs fabulously placed to make an incredible piece of street art.
Information & Accommodation
The Visitor Information Centre is located at the Big Banana on the Pacific Highway just north of the city. For accommodation, we recommend the Coffs Harbour YHA. It’s located close to town and the local attractions, and is a short walk from Muttonbird Island and Jetty Beach. For more information, visit their website at https://www.yha.com.au/hostels/nsw/mid-north-coast/coffs-harbour/