Home to the beloved Big Banana, Coffs Harbour has long been a family-friendly stop on the quintessential Aussie road trip; many summer holidays have been defined by a pilgrimage to the oversized tropical fruit. Plenty of people keep driving after a quick photo stop but Coffs (as the locals know it) is more than just a spot to stretch your legs on the way to somewhere else. Here’s everything you need to know about visiting this laid-back coastal haven.
How to get there
It’s the halfway point between Sydney and Brisbane but Coffs has a number of entry points other than the long drive between the east coast capitals. Coffs Harbour Airport can be reached from Sydney, Brisbane and Melbourne and there are regional airports nearby, such as Port Macquarie (1.5 hours south by car) and Ballina (two hours north by car). If you do choose to tackle the road more travelled, Coffs Harbour is about 5.5 hours north of Sydney and four hours south of Brisbane.
Best things to do
Just a couple of kilometres from Coffs Harbour proper, The Big Banana is a delightfully curved, sunshine-hued symbol that embodies all the simple pleasures of Aussie summer holidays. The banana is just the beginning, though – there’s also a fun park attached to the site, with waterslides, laser tag and tobogganing.
Big things aside, it’s the natural beauty of the Coffs Coast that’s the real draw. While the area is unsurprisingly flush with beaches – you can’t miss the central Jetty Beach and Diggers Beach further afield is well worth a visit – there’s also a lush hinterland scattered with waterfalls and freshwater swimming holes.
Waterfall Way in the nearby Dorrigo National Park is considered to be one of the most beautiful tracks in the country. An hour from Coffs, Dangar Falls is another stunner that practically begs you to dip a toe on a sweltering day.
Where to eat and drink
Micro-roastery and cafe Supply Co. may be regional but it rivals any city cafe for excellent coffee. There’s a great lunch menu, too – try a glass of Tumbarumba sparkling and the chargrilled chilli-braised octopus with chorizo, fennel and paprika mayo.
Stumble on Old John’s and you’d swear you were on a backstreet in Bondi. Beyond the stylish rattan and sage-green interiors, this little joint serves some seriously good grub; pop in for a three mushroom sanga.
A newbie to the area, Bar Que Sera in nearby Sawtell is the brainchild of Melburnians who headed for the coast post-COVID. What did they bring with them? A mod-Oz menu and lo-fi wines, for starters.
Best places to stay
Don’t waste your trip sleeping anywhere that isn’t a few steps from the sea. Sapphire Seas Beachhouse embodies the spirit of a coastal getaway with palm-tree-lined courtyards, driftwood-hued interiors and ocean views from the sleek outdoor pool.
Live out your ultimate holiday home fantasy at Barellen Beach House, where rooms are as breezy as an afternoon southerly. Backing onto the sands of Safety Beach, this spacious home sleeps 11 guests and has an array of charming spaces to settle into; there’s a generous balcony for family meals, nautical-themed bunk beds for the kids and a bath for two on a private balcony.