For an intoxicating sense of freedom, nothing beats a boundless beach where the only footprints are your own.
Tuckers Rocks is the sort of place where it doesn’t matter if you’ve forgotten your swimmers. Reached by a road tunnelled by tall flooded gums, this pristine expanse of sand and surf is just one of numerous blissfully secluded beaches stretched out along the southern section of the Coffs Coast.
Situated midway along the Sydney to Brisbane drive, the subtropical terrain surrounding Coffs Harbour is loaded with reasons to veer off the Pacific Highway and get caught up in the web of curling country roads which within short, scenically charged drives reveal an astonishing diversity of visuals.
There’s more than 90 kilometres of beaches, more than 20 national parks, shimmering inlets knotted along the coast like aquamarine ribbons, Gondwana rainforests, time frozen villages, bracing high country, and countless waterfalls and hyper-green valleys.
Culturally, the Coffs Coast is one of the most happening hotspots along the eastern seaboard.
As well as a wealth of arts, music and literary festivals and oodles of galleries, you can catch impressive live music acts in intimate venues such as Nu 5 Church Street in Bellingen and 63 First Avenue Sawtell.
We arrived at our home here – a secluded, 5.5-hectare hideaway called Hungry Head House – to find a mob of kangaroos lounging on the lawn and the background soundtrack of crashing waves and acapella birdsong turned up to high volume.
Urunga’s kilometre-long mangrove boardwalk and old style coastal pub are situated on the next beach north.
The nearby beaches at Hungry Head and Mylestom (reached by a picturesque rural drive) are delightfully unpeopled and just behind the dunes of Sawtell Beach, we swim with cormorants, rays and loads of fish in the deeper swimming holes which form at high tide.
Exploring inland, fluorescent lime paddocks and charming timber homesteads get me feeling like I’m driving into a cheese commercial.
With its historic streetscape, mountain back-dropped riverside setting, and bohemian vibe, it’s easy to see why Bellingen has become a magnet for creatives.
It even boasts an area that gets called ‘the promised land’ - with not the slightest irony – take the Gleniffer road and look out for swimming holes, urge the locals.
Searching for the Save The Brumbies sanctuary, we passed through vast paperbark forests and secret valleys that instinctively elicit loud sights.
Driving up towards Dorrigo, our car gets splashed by roadside waterfalls. The road linking the cheek-flushingly high plateau town and Armidale is aptly called The Waterfall Way.
There’s 10 falls along the way, including Dangar Falls and Crystal Shower Falls, just a few kilometres from Dorrigo’s heritage buildings and World Heritage listed rainforests.
Take the Catherine Britt tour. Catherine Britt Shares Her Favourite Aussie Holidays
There's big things happening in Coffs. Top 5 Big Attractions In Australia
So as to loop back towards the coast, we take Cascade Road. This narrow byway coils through farmland, national parks with rainforest walks and the evocative remnants of the timber and gold getting heyday in towns like Cascade, Ulong and Coramba.
Along the way, you can dip in waterfall pools along the Mobong walking track in Cascade National Park and Bangalore Falls in Bindarri National Park. The villages of Glenreigh and Lowanna - their erstwhile railway stations have trains still pulled up - are a treat for lovers of photogenic abandonment.
Fancy more dunking? Try Orara River at Coramba and Dingo Creek at Upper Orara.
Heading north, kangaroo–embellished Look at Me Now headland is a prime whale watching perch and flavoursome food awaits at Woolgoolga, a vibrant hub of Punjabi culture.
As is the way on the Coffs Coast, soothing natural escapes, such as the Sherwood Nature Reserve, lie nearby.
Continuing north, you’re spoilt for empty beaches and bird rich estuaries. There’s Red Rock, Corindi, Moonee Beach and Yuraygir National Park, the longest stretch of undeveloped coastline in NSW.
For times when "getting away" means escaping people and the clamour of urban crush, there’s no end of options on the Coffs Coast.