For some reason, Coffs Harbour is one of those places that has an exceptional number of family-focused activities.
Any of you who have at some stage travelled as adults without kids would know that it can be better to avoid being around a ton of pram-wielding parents. The kid-friendly aspects of a destination are entirely unappealing when you don’t have any children in tow.
My impression was that Coffs Harbour, known locally as just Coffs or even jokingly ‘Bananatown’ due to the numerous banana plantations in the area, would be full of families wanting a cheap vacay at an outdated seaside resort with a large swimming pool. Which would be fine for people with kids, but it’s not the kind of destination that I would normally consider an ideal getaway.
However, I was surprisingly impressed after spending a day in Coffs Harbour on our Sydney to Byron Bay road trip. Rob even said that it had changed a lot since he had last been there as a kid on a family holiday. We both discovered that, as adults, we could have an excellent time in the area by sticking to age-appropriate attractions.
So, my friends–if you’re looking for things to do in Coffs Harbour and aren’t planning on doing the generic kiddie activities, here’s some suggestions on how to spend one day in Coffs Harbour and the surrounding area!
Head straight to the foreshore in the morning. If you haven’t had breakfast yet, hit up the Mini Pancakes At The Jetty food truck (Thursdays-Sundays) and the nearby Salute Jetty coffee shop.
Next, walk out to Muttonbird Island Nature Reserve which is accessed from the Marina Walkway. This island has a few vista points a walking path that leads to the far side where you can watch the huge ocean waves crashing against the rocks. It’s unlikely that you’ll see many families out here are it’s a bit of a long walk and kids might find it boring, but as an adult, I think we can appreciate the simplicity and beauty of nature. I was certainly impressed by Muttonbird Island.
Afterwards, wander out to the end of the scenic Coffs Harbour Jetty for views of the harbour. If you’re visiting on a Sunday, you can also take a relaxing stroll through the Harbourside Markets at the foreshore from 8AM-2PM.
Something to note here is that the foreshore area is quite spread out. It took us around 2 hours to do the activities above, and we didn’t have time to see more of Jetty Beach or the southern breakwall. One way that you may be able to see it all in a short timeframe is by taking a jetty by bike tour as the area is easy to cycle around (except for Muttonbird Island which you’ll have to walk up).
It really wouldn’t be a visit to Coffs without stopping in at The Big Banana! A fave for many Australians young and old and one of Australia’s iconic ‘Big Things’, The Big Banana is exactly what you think it is, except that it also has a modern fun park with rides, waterslides, laser tag, mini golf, and other attractions.
As Rob and I were trying to avoid spots with tons of children, we stuck to the epic banana sculpture itself and the attached gift shop and cafe, which offers a world-class banana split. As an adult, you can revel in the fact that you’re allowed to eat this decadent dessert for lunch, pigging out as much as you want. It’s probably wise to share it with someone else and you may still get a stomach ache afterwards, but believe me–it’s worth it.
After lunch head up to Sealy Lookout, located just behind Coffs Harbour in the Orara East State Forest. The drive to this spot follows a narrow road that winds through plantations of banana trees. On top of the hill is the impressive Forest Sky Pier which has views over the city and coast. This structure juts out 21 metres over forest floor and is 100% free for visitors!
Once you’re up there, you can stay for a while and enjoy the forest. There’s a coffee stand at the lookout and a picnic area beside the car park that would be a great spot for a mid-afternoon snack (if you’re not too full of banana split already!). There’s also a treetops adventure and some walking trails through the woods that start from here, however, my next suggestion includes even more walking so you may want to conserve some energy.
If you’d prefer to do this on a guided tour, you can see the Forest Sky Pier on this coastal adventure from Coffs to Urunga (which is coincidentally the next stop on this itinerary!). This might be a good way to visit some of the best attractions outside of the downtown area without having to navigate your own way between locations.
Late afternoon + evening:
For our last stop of the day, head 25 minutes drive south of Coffs Harbour to the Urunga Wetlands Boardwalk (also on the coastal adventure tour). I discovered this spot purely by looking at Google Maps for interesting destinations, and I can’t believe more people don’t know about it. It’s really quite awesome!
The raised wooden boardwalk starts at the holiday park in the centre of town, then travels through an area which was once a shipping port but has now been reclaimed as wetlands with mangrove trees. It stretches out to the sand dunes and ocean at the far end, and a little ways into the river in the middle.
As you can see in the photo above, it began to rain pretty heavily while we were visiting the boardwalk but luckily we’d packed our raincoats so we continued to explore it anyway. Afterwards we dried off in the local pub, the Ocean View Hotel, ordering a well-deserved veggie nachos for dinner. As far as pub grub goes, this venue had some great options.