I had no idea what to expect from Coffs Harbour. It sounded like a nice place and I imagined nice beaches and sunshine. My daydreams were spot on as this is what we found. However, what I didn’t imagine is just what a lovely place Coffs Harbour is. It’s low key (and low cost) while still having all the essentials of an absolutely fantastic holiday. We loved it here!
It’s not a pretentious holiday destination. We didn’t notice truck loads of tourists. The shops, hotels and attractions are not 5 star. What they are, however, are loads of fun and incredibly great in their own way.
I’m doing a terrible job of describing it but what we loved is that while things are kept simple, they are very well done. Dolphin Marine Magic may not be Seaworld, Solitary Islands Aquarium not Melbourne Aquarium, but they don’t pretend to be and instead offer a friendly, personal service that results in attractions that are some of our favourites in Australia.
So think twice about visiting the Gold Coast, Cairns or one of Australia’s glitzier destinations and instead consider Coffs Harbour. We are glad we did!
Below you will find our guide to Coffs Harbour including what to do in Coffs Harbour, our experience visiting Coffs Harbour with kids, where to stay in Coffs Harbour and other practical information to ensure you have a great visit as well!
We began our exploration of Coffs Harbour things to do at the point where I think all adventures should start in this area – at the Sealy Lookout and Forest Sky Pier.
Within a flora reserve in the Orara East State Forest, you can find this overhanging “pier” with amazing views over the whole Coffs Harbour area. It’s a quick drive from Coffs Harbour and its well worth the visit. The pier does move a bit which can be disconcerting and S wasn’t quite sure if she liked it or not. Baby J and I are big fans though!
If there is one must visit attraction in Coffs Harbour then this is it – the Big Banana! This was the one Coffs Harbour attraction that I knew for many years before visiting. It is definitely worth a visit, if only to have your photo taken with the banana and to have a chocolate coated, frozen banana – soooooo good!
If you are expecting to just find a big banana and to take a photo and move on then think again! There is a whole complex of attractions here!
You can go ice skating (I wish we had been here on a Saturday morning for the free class), get wet at the water park, go tobogganing, play mini golf or laser tag or visit the theatre and take a tour to learn more about banana production.
If this isn’t enough, there’s also a cheesemaking workshop, opal centre, candy kitchen and a great cafe – where you can find the highly recommended chocolate coated banana as well as many other banana desserts and food options. It’s definitely one of the best things to do in Coffs Harbour.
It’s a fun destination and S liked it so much that we visited twice!
Read more about all the attractions here.
If you love dolphins, seals or penguins then the top of your list of things to do at Coffs Harbour must be Dolphin Marine Magic! It offers the best chance I have experienced to get up close to these animals in a way that is as animal friendly as it can be with small crowds and without paying a fortune.
Dolphin Marine Magic is a rescue and rehabilitation centre in Coffs Harbour. They permanently house and care for animals that have been brought into care because of an injury that cannot be returned to the wild. They display some of these animals to the public and do their best to “engage visitors with our animals in an extremely ‘up close and personal’ manner.”
This is what impressed us. The activites all felt very intimate and there was no extra charge to get so close to these great animals. There is dolphin and seal “kissing”, the chance to feed a seal, a live show, the chance to touch the dolphins and penguin feeding. During the NSW school holidays (we did not visit then), there are some extra activities as well.
Everything is very well done and felt respectful to the animals and we just loved it. Miss 6 loved her animal kisses and the chance to experiences these animals up close and so did I. Even the show felt up close compared to ones I have been to at places like Sea World as the numbers are kept low.
This is definitely another of the places to visit in Coffs Harbour that should be on your list.
Read more about Dolphin Marine Magic on their website.
This aquarium actually turned out to be S’s top pick of what to do in Coffs Harbour and I was a big fan too – actually so was 3 month old baby J who smiled and giggled the whole time we were there!
It’s perhaps the smallest aquarium I have been to but it was one of the most enchanting, perhaps because it was small, staffed by people who loved it and was quite interactive.
On arrival, S was given an A4 page with 10 photos of different sea creatures and was told that if she found them all, she would get a stamp and a sticker at the end. It was such a simple thing but so powerful – S has never been so interested in checking out every single exhibit and it was fun.
On top of this activity, there were quite a few activities in the centre. S went “fishing” with a magentic rod and magnetic fish, enjoyed touching everything in the touch tank, pretended to head out to sea in a boat, studied some sea specimens under a microscope and found Nemo a few times over. All up, it was lots of fun and we highly recommend these Coffs Harbour kids activities.
Current ticket prices are $10 for adults and $6 for kids. Unfortunately, it is only open weekends and NSW school holidays. More information here.
Coffs Harbour Marina is a nice place to walk on your way to Muttonbird Island. There are places to sit and views of the neighbouring beaches and some of the town. My favourite thing at the marina, however, is the Coff’s Harbour Fishermans Cooperative. Make sure you time your visit for lunch time and pop in for some fish and chips!
We were excited to visit Muttonbird Island after seeing it mentioned many times online as the thing to do in Coffs Harbour. However, our excitement turned in to disappointment as the path to the island was shut when we visited. Hopefully, it is open when you visit!
The island is a sacred site to the local aboriginal people. It is home to wedge tailed shearwaters and is a short walk from Coffs Harbour Marina. You can explore by youself or do a tour with a local Gumbaynggirr rangers. There are supposed to be great views.
Entry is free. More information here.
This 20 hectare botanical gardens is in a central spot in Coffs Harbour and is well presented and great for a look around especially if you are looking for things to do in Coffs Harbour for free. It’s quite extensive with many different gardens and walking trails. S surprised herself by loving these gardens (after she initally refused to go). She especially loved the different trails going in different directions and getting to pick which one to take.
We enjoyed the mangrove boardwalk. It took me back to when we were in North Carolina in the USA.
It is definitely worth the effort of visiting when you are in Coffs Harbour.
Entry is free. More information here.
If you are coming to Coffs Harbour then no doubt you want to visit one of its beautiful beaches especially if you are looking for fun things to do in Coffs for kids. There are a few choices. We visted Park Beach which was very close to our accommodation in Coffs Harbour. It’s a lovely wide beach that is lots of fun to splash around.
If you are looking for things to do with kids in Coffs Harbour, Brelsford Park has the biggest playground. It gets the tick of approval from Miss 6.
It’s a large playground with some impressive areas especially for the preschooler set. For (much) bigger kids, theres also skateboard and bike ramps on the same site.
This charming stop on the Pacific Highway is home to a couple of Dutch style buildings which include a miniature model Dutch village out the back complete with miniature windmills and railways. It’s a free attraction and if you can time it right, there are also regular clog making demonstrations.
Find more information here including the latest timetable for the free clog making demonstrations.
The Coffs Harbour Butterfly House is an interesting stop particularly if you are looking for Coffs Harbour things to do with kids. There is a butterfly house in a subtropical rainforest setting, some live bugs and an outdoor maze. The interior of the maze has a puzzle to solve which I enjoyed working out. S particularly loved the worksheet she had to do during the maze which lead to a lollipop reward.
If you are looking for lazy and yummy places to see in Coffs Harbour then this is a winning combination. By Park Beach is the Hoey Moey, a bargain eating establishment in Coffs Harbour. According to our hosts at our accommodation, it’s also the best food in Coffs Harbour.
We had a couple of great meals here. There’s a $7.50 special meal every day and there are also kids meals for $10 which are big and include a drink and ice cream. As a bonus, there’s a kids play area next to the main dining area.
If you aren’t visiting Coffs Harbour with kids then there’s also a beer garden area next to the main bistro which was full of people and backpackers when we visited.
As an added bonus, there is a playground right next door.
More information including the latest specials here.
There are also some other things to see in Coffs Harbour that we would have done with more time that might appeal to you…
Thanks to Nikki who suggested all these ideas of things to do around Coffs Harbour on my Facebook page.
I visited Coffs Harbour with kids and it was a huge hit! I had 6 year old S with me and 3 month old baby J and we found it a great family destination.
There are plenty of things to do in Coffs Harbour for kids (as you can see above) and everyone is warm and friendly. We felt welcome everywhere. Everything was relatively pram friendly and I was able to take it everywhere (although the paths to the beach were hard work with our travel stroller).
S was engaged by all the attractions we visited and they made an effort to appeal to kids. Along with the beach and the many options of family accommodation in Coffs Harbour, I would highly recommend this as a destination for families.
There are many motel and apartment options in Coffs Harbour (and a few hotels too). It can be hard to pick as there is so much choice! The following is the great accommodation we found.
I booked the Coffs Harbour family accommodation I thought would be the best value before arrival and it was! Our apartment at Coffs Harbour Holiday Apartments was clean, spacious, quiet and in a great spot a block from the beach and near the main Coffs Harbour attractions.
We stayed in a one bedroom apartment which had a bedroom, bathroom complete with a washing machine, a spacious lounge area with a single bed, dining area, kitchen and balcony. It was quiet, came with 2GB of wifi a day and best of all (according to S) there is a pool!
We enjoyed staying here very much and for the $125 a night we paid, I think it may be one of Australia’s best accommodation bargains!
One of the reasons why we ended up in Coffs Harbour is that Tiger now flies between here and Melbourne – and often for crazy cheap prices starting at $22. This makes Coffs Harbour a very attraction option! There are also flights from Sydney, Brisbane and Newcastle.
Coffs Harbour is also a great destination as part of a Northern NSW road trip and is only just over 3 hours drive from the Gold Coast. We drove to Coffs Harbour from Byron Bay and it’s an easy drive (although frustrating at times thanks to so many “road works” which brings speeds down – I put that in inverted commas as often there was no sign of these road works).
From Melbourne, we visited Byron Bay, Ballina and Coffs Harbour in the one trip. We flew in to Ballina (a direct flight on Jetstar), drove to Byron Bay and then down to Coffs Harbour where we flew out.
As you should have gathered by now, we love Coffs Harbour. It’s a great mix of enough to do to be able to get out and about and not be bored, but not so much that we felt guilty taking it easy. It’s a beautiful town with a beautiful coast line, lovely weather and we look forward to visiting again in future.
Have you been to Coffs Harbour? What did you think?
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