09:00 Fri 28 April - till - 17:00 Fri 12 May.
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Before selfies, we had experiences. We connected with people and places, authentically. The locals welcomed you, and we created lasting memories, not fleeting moments. Seeking an instantaneous city escape, I found myself recalling fond memories of childhood vacays to the sea-side hamlet of Coffs Harbour.
Mum, Dad, me, and my ten-year-old brother piled in the family sedan, windows down taking in the salty air, vying for bragging rights as to who would see the sea first, or more importantly, Australia’s original biggest thing, the Big Banana. A quick search of ‘must do’s when visiting the Coffs Coast reveals the town I first experienced as a kid has seriously grown up; transforming into a sophisticated yet unassuming ecotourism destination, where you can connect deeply while experiencing this place of plenty.
We discovered you can pack in as much as you want to your family getaway, from eco-adventures, family-friendly attractions, local food and drink offerings and action-packed escapades, all within a stone’s throw of Brisbane, Sydney, and coasts. Coffs Harbour is geographically unique - the only place in NSW where the Great Dividing Range meets the Pacific Ocean. Home to significant Indigenous cultural sites, National Parks, State Forests and Reserves, eco-accredited Botanic Garden, surf beaches and marine parks, it's a thriving ecotourism destination recognised for its commitment to sustainability and high-quality nature-based tourism.
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Here are our top family eco-experiences, doable over a four-day stay.
WELCOME TO COUNTRY
Arriving in Gumbaynggirr Country, we do a quick gear drop at BIG4 Park Beach Holiday Park before heading to the impressive Sealy Lookout Forest Sky Pier for picture-postcard panoramic views of the Coffs Coast. We fly through the trees at Treetop Adventures, with more than 100 challenges to see the bush from different perspectives.
We walk the Gumgali Track amongst towering Eucalypts and learn the Black Goanna dreaming story through interpretive art sculptures and installations, before immersing ourselves in ancient culture, stories, songs, and language with the Giingan Gumbaynggirr Cultural Experience.
Day one ends with us gliding serenely along Coffs Creek on SUPs lead by direct descendants of the world’s first stand-up paddlers, from Wajaana Yaam Gumbaynggirr Adventure Tours.
Our first night serendipitously coincides with the popular Twilight Food Market; we find a picnic spot before filling our glasses and bellies with local and exotic food offerings including loaded spuds and organic doughnuts. Satisfactorily sated, we relax to live music while the kids and doggos paddle in the shallows near-by with their newfound friends, and ponder tomorrow’s adventures.
Lunchtime, and it's difficult to choose! The Coffs Harbour Fisherman's Co-op is where we head, a fantastic place to find delicious seafood. We find ourselves overlooking the historic Coffs Harbour Jetty and marina, eating fresh prawns and fish (almost) straight from the trawlers.
Before strolling back to the Holiday Park, we head along the northern breakwall to Muttonbird Island. This is an important site for the Gumbayggnirr people and the informative signs tell the story Giidany Miirlarl (moon rising). After a quick, steep climb, the commanding coastal views of the city, coastline, hinterland, and mountains leave us in awe and wanting more. We continue our walk to the Eastern Side Lookout – the best vantage point for whale spotting from May to November. Many photos later, it's time to head back to the villa to wind down and contemplate a possible afternoon surf.
HITTING THE WAVES
An early morning swim and surf at popular Macauleys Beach begins day two, and has us hanging ten in no time. After filling up on custard crumble pancakes at the Surf Club Restaurant and Bar, we stroll along the Coastal Creek walk, receiving friendly hellos and bell dings from beachgoers heading to the foreshore. Soon, the famous historical timber Jetty stretches out in front of us towards Muttonbird Island, a sanctuary for nesting seabirds. The kids delight in searching for whales making their annual pilgrimage along the 'humpback highway' and jetty-spotting turtles, rays and dolphins. We head to uber-cool Supply Cafe for brunch of truffle eggs before jumping onboard with eco-accredited Jetty Dive for a fast boat ride around Solitary Islands Marine Park. Our salt-spray-in-the-face experience is made even more exciting by the promise of curious whales checking out our vessel.
Meandering through the marina, we grab a haul of fresh prawns and shucked oysters from the Coffs Harbour Fishermen's Co-op to enjoy back at the park.
Day three sees us saddle-up for a sunrise horseback ride amongst the turquoise waters of Boambee Lagoon with HWH Stables, a highlight for our pony-mad daughter. We caffeinate at the gloriously gothic Dark Arts Cafe in the heart of the city (which easily competes with Melbourne coffee) and decide to cruise the bike paths linking the CBD, creek and foreshore. Pedalling-up a serious appetite, we tuck into smokey beef short ribs, washed down with a mango pineapple sour (adults only!), at the Jetty Beach House. Taking in the view with sticky faces and chill vibes is pure bliss.
SAVOUR LOCAL FLAVOURS
Day four is a culinary adventure exploring breweries (a cold frothy at King Tide Brewing goes down a treat), and restaurants showcasing the best local produce and connecting with producers with Bite Food Tours.
Kids satisfied with fish n’ chips, the adults soak up sunset views from Latitude 30 over their famous seafood platter featuring eastern crayfish, before winding down at Element with its impressive selection of luxe cocktails (apple and pomegranate mojito, anyone?).
Taking home a bounty of enduring memories of the Coffs Coast, this place of plenty has us hungry for more. We’ll be back to continue our journey…
A curated holiday itinerary for Eco-Tourism families looking to visit the Coffs Harbour of NSW.
A curated holiday itinerary for a family interested in fun Nature-based activities and wants to create lasting holiday memories in Coffs Harbour of NSW. The family are looking for a destination offering stress-free activities that resonate with parents who wish to share their fond childhood memories of holidays in the region. The family will research the best location to stay so they minimise car trips during their stay and choose adventures that are outdoor nature-inspired physical activities.
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