As far as iconic Australian coastal holidays go, Coffs Harbour is right up there – it’s been a haven for families looking to escape the bustle of the city in the school holidays for decades. But sometimes, after long, lazy days of doing nothing much but swimming and building sand castles on the beach, the kids get restless and it’s up to you to keep them entertained (particularly if the weather isn’t on your side). If you’re looking for inspiration for a fun family day out in this Mid North NSW town, these are the best kids activities in Coffs Harbour.
Lookout from the Forest Sky Pier
Marvel at the vistas at Forest Sky Pier, a lookout in Orara East State Forest that has the best views of the town below, the distant mountain ranges and Solitary Marine Park out to sea. It juts 21.6 metres over the cliff’s edge so you have the very best vantage point. On the way there you can stop at TreeTop Adventure Park to let the kids unleash their inner monkey as they climb, glide and wander among the canopy.
Experience the new Big Banana
It’s not the only kids activity you should do in Coffs Harbour but it should definitely be on the list. After you've taken the requisite family snap in front of this classic Big Thing, there are plenty of ways to keep busy for a day at The Big Banana Fun Park. It’s now home to water slides, laser tag, ice skating, a toboggan ride, mini golf and a reptile park. Safe to say your little ones will be well and truly worn out on the drive home.
Walk to Muttonbird Island Nature Reserve
Located just off the coast and accessible by a walkway from the Marina, Muttonbird Island Nature Reserve has long been an important place to the Gumbaynggirr people. Teach your kids about its heritage on a guided tour with one of the park’s Aboriginal Discovery Rangers who will offer insights into traditional foods (including the eponymous avians) and medicines harvested from the site and the island’s cultural and ceremonial significance.
Get close to sea creatures at Solitary Islands Aquarium
See the marine life that makes the waters around this part of Australia so special at the Solitary Islands Aquarium, part of the National Marine Science Centre. There are several huge tanks brimming with bright and bizarre fish and – best of all for kids that just can’t help touching things – a “touch tank” with creatures such as sea cucumbers, sea urchins and sea stars.
SEE ALSO: 5 of the Best Things to Do in Byron Bay
Explore Dorrigo National Park
Image credit: Image credit: Bellingen Shire Council
Looking for a way to tempt young minds away from their screens? Dorrigo National Park might be your answer. About a one hour drive from Coffs, the park is all sparkling waterfalls and ethereal rainforest, with plenty of walking trails that range from easy half-hour strolls ideal for little kids to steep, full-day treks up the escarpment that are better suited to outdoorsy families with teens who like a challenge.
Try out horse riding
Sure, your children could learn to ride in a traditional farm setting but doesn’t a slow trot along a stunning beach sound so much better (and make for a more impressive family photo)? HWH Stables offers beginner and experienced Beach Rides along Boambee Beach and even through Boambee Lagoon if your group is confident (kids need to be at least seven years old).
Be captivated at the Butterfly House
The whole family will be enchanted by the Coffs Harbour Butterfly House, where thousands of beautiful, delicate species flutter among an indoor subtropical rainforest. To avoid any long faces, visit between 10am and 2pm: the butterflies are generally more active then.
Learn to surf
Getting a handle on the waves is practically a requirement if you’re a regular visitor to a coastal town and Coffs is no exception. There are several surf schools that cater for little ones (and adults who want to give it a crack) and, if you’re visiting for a few weeks during the school holidays, there are even programs to give your kids a taste of surfing as well as snorkelling, body boarding and stand-up paddleboarding.
Stroll along the Coffs Harbour Jetty
Sometimes it really is the simple things that make family holiday memories last a lifetime. Grab ice-creams (double scoop, of course) and amble along the timber jetty as you watch the boats come and go in the busy marina, or – if you time your visit between June and November – catch a distant glimpse of a migrating whale.
Images: Destination NSW