Farmers may have been among the first to go bananas in Coffs Harbour, but now it is not only a sub-tropical growers’ paradise but one of the most popular destinations on Australia’s east coast.
Roughly halfway between Brisbane and Sydney and perched between the Pacific Ocean in front and the Great Dividing Range behind, Coffs is the perfect base for exploring both the coast and its gorgeous beaches, and a verdant hinterland with its plantations, rainforests, gorges and waterfalls.
And if staying put is all you want to do, Coffs has attractions to cater for your every need.
It is hard to go past the Big Banana – literally. This huge monument to the local banana industry on the main highway is unmissable. Yes, it is tourism kitsch, but it is also genuinely historic. The Big Banana was the trailblazer for all things “big” in Australia to mark tourism destinations: think Big Pineapple, Big Prawn, even Big Worm. At worst get a photograph, but note this is also a mini-theme park with rides, other attractions and, yes, bananas in all guises.
In town, it’s all about the ocean: the fantastic beaches, fishing from the jetty, playing with the dolphins at Dolphin Marine Magic, exploring the headland and nature reserve – above all, chill-axing. Inland, you will find forest parks, white water rafting, and hiking.
Eat and Drink
The sub-tropical climate and fertile soils of the hinterland lend themselves to superb tropical fruit and vegetables such as bananas and avocados as a complement to locally grown beef and poultry. Turn to the sea for a harvest including freshly caught fish (there is a co-op at the jetty), oysters, prawns and bugs. The local restaurants are proud to showcase the region’s best.
The jetty area reached from Harbour Drive has lots of dining options and if you tire of Australian, you will find international cuisine to suit. Other top spots are linked to the several premier beachside resorts north of the town. At the end of the day, it’s hard to beat traditional fish and chips at a picnic table with an ocean backdrop.
Where to Stay
Coffs caters to a range of travellers. There are plenty of reasonably priced motels on the Pacific Highway for those visitors using Coffs as a convenient stop between Brisbane and Sydney or as a brief stopover for exploration of the coast and hinterland.
Hotels in town cater for those wishing to linger who need the convenience of access to local Coffs beaches and local shopping. The same goes for a big range of self-catering accommodation, many apartments close to the beach with ocean views.
For a splurge, there are several high-quality, multi-facility beach resorts north of Coffs, but still within easy striking distance of the town centre.
The shopping is more high street than truly high end, but then this is more of a family holiday destination for beach lovers and hinterland explorers than it is for label seekers. That said, you will have all your shopping needs met with a combination of the classy Promenade overlooking Coffs Creek, and Park Beach Plaza off the main highway – a key one-stop shopping destination with 120 stores.
In the city heart, the Palms shopping centre has the goods with supermarkets and specialty stores. Meantime, the local farmers markets are the best way to sample the best of the region’s produce. In particular look out for the Growers’ Market each Thursday: City Square, Harbour Drive.
Coffs Harbour Like a Local
For a peaceful nature excursion with a difference, the shady Coffs Creek walk is a nine-kilometre shared walk and bikeway beloved by locals and linking major Coffs tourist highlights such as Park Beach, Jetty Beach, Porpoise Pool and the Botanic Gardens.
Boardwalks will take you across the mangrove and wetland areas. You can take a detour to the marina for a meal or the jetty foreshore playgrounds so the kids can let off steam.