11 Fun Things to do in Coffs Harbour

Planning a short getaway and looking for things to do in Coffs Harbour? We recently made our third visit to the Coffs Coast, and while we only stopped for a few days this time, we did get to revisit quite a lot of the areas top sites. So today we have shared the ones we think you should include when you are in next the area.

As one of the popular stopover spots on the NSW Pacific Coast Road, Coffs has a lot to offer visitors, and it makes a great base for exploring the hinterland and very special Waterfall Way. There is also an airport, so it’s perfect for quick getaways from Sydney.

Where is Coffs Harbour

Located 540km from Sydney and 390km from Brisbane, Coffs Harbour makes a good halfway stop along the drive between Sydney and Brisbane. It also holds its own as a stand-alone getaway location.

A one hour flight from Sydney, a five-hour drive and about nine hours one the country link bus/train combo.

Locations and addresseswe have given Google map references for each location. Simply click on the link and the full map will open in your device. From here you can enter your current location and click directions for details.

Things to do in Coffs Harbour

Drop by the Big Banana

Australia’s first “big” attraction

In 1964 the Big Banana, Australia’s very first “Big Thing”, was built here as a way to encourage travellers making the long trip between Sydney and Brisbane to stop in the area. It was an immediate hit and started the “big thing” craze. Today the site offers a lot more than just a photo stop, and some banana themed souvenirs.

The Big Banana Fun Park has plenty to keep you busy with mini-golf, laser tag, ice skating and water slides. When you build up an appetite, there is a cheese deli, that also offers classes and a cafe that serves awesome banana pancakes.

Tip: order yourself a chocolate coated frozen banana or a banana smoothie and embrace the big yellow fruit

Where: 351 Pacific Hwy, Coffs Harbour
When: Open every day of the year from 9am-4.30pm (5pm in summer)
Google map reference

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Walk the Coffs Harbour Jetty

Historic Coffs Harbour Jetty

This is “the” spot to photograph the Coffs Harbour sunrise. We missed the sunrise, oops, but we did make it there by 9am on a beautiful sunny late August day that was warm enough to see some visitors swimming at Jetty Beach.

The old wooden jetty is lovely for a stroll and a great place to eat some fresh seafood from the nearby Fishermen’s Co-op. Harbourside Markets are held here from 8am to 2pm on Sundays.

Where: 351 Pacific Hwy, Coffs Harbour
When: Open every day of the year from 9am-4.30pm (5pm in summer)
Google map reference

Hike to the top of Muttonbird Island – Giidany Miirlarl

Just past the Jetty, you will find Muttonbird Island Nature Reserve. The island is a breeding ground for wedge-tailed Shearwaters, also known as muttonbirds. They inhabit the island between August and April before migrating to South East Asia for the colder months.

Muttonbird Island offers fabulous views over the coast

Popular with locals on their morning run, the climb to the top of Muttonbird Island is a great way to get the heart pumping. It’s a paved path, but it’s steep, take your time, and you will be fine.

The Island is a sacred site for the local Gumbaynggirr Aboriginal people; its name, Giidany Miirlarl, means sacred moon place.

Along with possibly spotting a muttonbird, or more likely hearing one as we did, the other drawcard of a visit to the island is the fantastic view back to the mainland and down the coast to Sawtell Beach.

Where: 32 Marina Dr, Coffs Harbour NSW 2450
When: open 24 hours
Google map reference

Check out the view at Forest Sky Pier

Sealy Lookout, where you will find the Sky Pier, has been attracting visitors for years. The view of the one spot on the coast meets the Great Dividing Range.

The latest addition here, the Forest Sky Pier has upped the game. This 15m high extends out of the edge of the cliff for 21m giving uninterrupted views of the coastline and great views back over the mountains.

Sealy Lookout Forest Sky Pier
Sealy Lookout Forest Sky Pier

The lookout is open from 8am and is lovely first thing in the morning if you can manage an early start to the day. There are a coffee shop and some undercover seating. Once you are fuelled up and have taken in the view, there are a few walks that will allow you to explore further.

Garraan.gurr is a short loop walk that allows you to explore the Orana Forest. If you want a bit more adventure, you could visit nearby Treetops Adventure Park.

If you are lucky enough to be in Coffs Harbour on the second Saturday of the month you may be able to join in an activity session with the Gumbaynggirr people.

Where: Orara East State Forest about 9km from the centre of Coffs.
When: Daily 8am until dusk
Google map reference

Go Deep Sea Fishing

We are not into fishing, but the marina was jam-packed with fishing charter options and friends who enjoy the pastime tell us this is a great location for it. It is also a popular place to go out whale watching.

Take a swim at one of Coffs Beaches

Beaches are at the top of the agenda for almost all Coffs Harbour holidays. Jetty Beach and Park Beach are the two closest to town and both lovely. Jetty Beach is a great beach for small kids and very popular with families. Park beach on the other side of the harbour is much quieter and have some decent waves.

Early morning at Diggers Beach, Coffs Harbour. Credit: Destination NSW

Five Beaches you should check out while you are in Coffs Harbour:

  • Jetty Beach – Family-friendly beach next to the Jetty obviously.
  • Diggers Beach – Sheltered beach with a great playground and good surf
  • Emerald Beach – 15 minutes north of Coffs with great surf and the “Look at me know Headland’ walk.
  • Woolgoolga Beach – Great for families – check out what remains of the shipwreck “BUSTER.”
  • Sawtell Beach – a classic Australian beach just perfect for long walks

Snorkel in the Solitary Islands Marine Park

This protected marine park along the Coffs Coast from the harbour to Sandon River includes almost 75 km of coastline.

Highlights include Anemone Bay, which is said to have the “densest coverage of anemone and anemonefish worldwide”. At the northern island, you will likely spot manta rays, and the southern islands bring giant cuttlefish and grey nurse sharks which are protected here. You can book dives with local operators here

Scuba Diving in Coffs
Solitary Island Marine Park Credit: Destination NSW

If it’s too cold for snorkelling or you are more of a land lover you can visit the Solitary Islands Aquarium at Southern Cross University’s National Marine Science Centre and features local species.

Where: 2 Bay Dr, Coffs Harbour NSW 2450
Google map reference

Head to the Dorrigo Rainforest and take a walk

We think Dorrigo National Park is the jewel of the Coffs Region. Part of the Gondwana Rainforests of Australia World Heritage Area this park is about an hour from the coast and well worth the drive.

Waterfall Way NSW Itinerary
Crystal Shower Falls view from behind the waterfall

We recommend you do the full Wonga Walk that includes both Crystal Showers and Tristania Falls. This 6.6km loop through subtropical rainforest is one of the most popular hikes in Australia. It’s well signposted, relatively easy, with plenty of up and down but nothing challenging and rewards with ancient trees and wonderful birdlife, along with the two previously mentioned waterfalls.

If you don’t have a car or would prefer someone show you the way this tour from Coffs Harbour is a great choice. It includes a stop at Dangar Falls, time hiking in Dorrigo and a winery visit on the way home.

Where: Lyrebird Link, Dorrigo Mountain
When: Park, 7am-7pm – Visitors Centre, 9am-4.30pm
Google map reference

Related: Where to find the best waterfalls in NSW

Swim at Dangar Falls

Just 1.5km from Dorrigo main street Dangar Falls tumble 30-metre to a swimming area below. Fed by the Bielsdown River the falls usually have some water in them and are particularly impressive after rain.

You can view the falls from the top with minimal effort or make the 15-minute walk to the bottom. The base of the falls is deep enough for a swim, although it can be quite cold most of the year. The walk down is not too challenging with just the final part of the path a little rough.

Related: Check out our guide to all our favourite stops on the Waterfall Way

There are good picnic facilities here, and the popular Dorrigo Hotel is just a short drive away if you fancy a pub lunch.

Where: Coramba Rd, Dorrigo NSW
View map

Have a stroll in bohemian Bellingen

Only a 30 minute drive a half-day in Bellingen is a fantastic change from the beach vibes of the Coffs Coast. The main street has retained many original buildings and offers lots of cafes and small shops to browse in. Once best known as a haven for hippies, the alternative vibe here is still strong and there an excellent range of enviro and vegan-friendly goods.

We popped into the local IGA to stock up our motorhome and were thrilled with the range of local produce and the good prices. You could easily pull together an impressive picnic basket here.

The historic Hammond and Wheatley Building home of Emporium Bellingen

Check out one of the scenic drives to places early settlers named the Promise Land and Never Never Creek. Take a swim in the Bellinger River or settle in for some people watching with a coffee or a beer.

If you like Bellingen as much as we did, you may want to consider staying a while. We have marked these gorgeous Airbnb properties for our next trip.

The local tourism site has lots more ideas of things to do while you are in Bellingen.

Where: 38km from Coffs Harbour jetty
View map

Take in the view and pay your respects at Red Rock Headland

Red Rock Headland is well known for its scenic beauty. Still, in a period where the less positive parts of our history see the light of day, the memorial at Red Rock Headland reminds us of it was from this spot that a group of the Gumbaynngir indigenous peoples were driven off the cliff in the 1800s in the Blood Rock Massacre. Take some time to find the memorial and learn a little more.

The Coffs Coast is the traditional homelands of the Gumbaynggirr and Yaegl Nations.

If you have time visit the Yarrawarra Aboriginal Cultural Centre at Corindi Beach and learn more about the culture of the Gumbaynngir. The centre offers a Bush Tucker Cafe and a regional Aboriginal Art Gallery.

Where: near Lawson St, Red Rock NSW 2456
View map

Where to stay on the Coffs Coast

Coffs Harbour offers all levels of accommodation from caravan parks to resorts, some with kids clubs. We suggest you choose your location based on the type of break you want.

  • Coffs Harbour Central – on a short visit or if you want to be close to restaurants and nighttime fun.
  • Sawtell – 10km south, Sawtell is probably more what you have in mind when you think classic beach holiday.
  • Woolgoolga – a pretty little beach town with good cafes and a great relaxed vibe.
  • Bellingen – a hinterland paradise only 30 mins from the waterfront.

If you are planning to visit in the summer expect big crowds and book early.

This is our third visit to Coffs Harbour and we have tried three completly different styles of accommodation.

Resorts in Coffs Harbour

BreakFree Aanuka Beach Resort

One of the larger resorts in the area, Breakfree Akuna has ocean frontage and reminds me very much of some resorts we have stayed at in Asia and Fiji.

There are four swimming pools, small and large villas, up to 4 bedrooms, and great onsite dining. The gardens are gorgeous, and it’s the perfect place to relax and enjoy the location but close enough to the sites and attractions of Coffs Harbour.

Caravan Parks and Campsites

On our most recent visit, we were travelling by motorhome, so we booked into BIG4 Park Beach Holiday Park, which is right opposite Park Beach, the main beach in Coffs Harbour itself.

It was an excellent park, spacious sites, spotless facilities and a great range of kids and dining spaces on site. We would recommend it for a family stay but you can also ready other guests reviews to see what they thought.

Big four Coffs Harbour
A cabin at Big Four Coffs Harbour

Apartments and Airbnbs

We stayed at The Observatory Holiday Apartments on our first visit. I don’t have any photos of that time, but you can read reviews and check photos on Tripadvisor. The location was perfect for beach sunsets and local dining.

We have also curated a list of Airbnb properties including this amazing family home with its own epic waterslide

How to get to Coffs Harbour

Three northbound and three southbound XPT trains stop at Coffs Harbour station each day.

Check out more Coffs Harbour tours if you are travelling without a car.

We have also written a guide to driving the East Coast of Australia if you are visiting as part of a longer trip.

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1 thought on “11 Fun Things to do in Coffs Harbour”

  1. This looks like a wonderful place to relax and rejuvenate. There’s something about being on the coast and the waterfall is gorgeous. Thanks for sharing all your tips.

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