While many people associate Coffs Harbour, in New South Wales, Australia, with its famous Big Banana amusement park, the town offers an abundance of natural and cultural experiences, as well as the best beaches on the east coast. Here’s Culture Trip’s pick of things to do.
The Solitary Islands Marine Park is a protected area, home to a diverse range of marine life, including tropical, temperate and sub-tropical species of fish, coral and algae. It is an incredible place to go snorkelling and diving, and several operators offer short-term and multiday snorkelling and diving trips to suit your interests and level of ability. If you prefer to stay dry, the Solitary Islands Aquarium, which belongs to Southern Cross University’s Marine Science Centre, offers guided up-close encounters with a range of local marine life.
The Gumgali Track is an Aboriginal cultural experience that tells the local Gumbaynggirr creation story of Gumgali – the black goanna located in Orara East State Forest. As you follow the track, you encounter a contemporary retelling of the story through sculpture and art. Look out for goanna sculptures hidden in trees before checking out the stirring mural created by local artists. The Gumgali Track concludes at the Korora Lookout sound bar, where a spoken version of the story is told in English and Gumbaynggirr. It is also worth taking in the views from Sealy Lookout and the Forest Sky Pier while you are in the area.
The Bunker Cartoon Gallery displays a rotating selection of 23,500 cartoons by leading Australian and international cartoonists. It is the largest collection of cartoons in the southern hemisphere and includes a number of rare works and private donations. The gallery is housed in a former bunker, which was built as a station for radio communications equipment to protect Australia from Japanese attack during World War II. The gallery hosts a range of exhibitions throughout the year as well as workshops for up and coming artists.
The Moonee Creek Canoe Route takes paddlers along a tranquil tree-lined creek, which offers the best way to explore the southern part of the Solitary Islands Marine Park. Paddle through Moonee Beach Nature Reserve’s magnificent rainforest, coastal she-oak forest and banksia woodlands while keeping a lookout for sleeping koalas in the trees. Allow some time for birdwatching among the abundant wildlife, fishing for bream and flathead, swimming at spectacular Moonee Beach or enjoying a leisurely picnic lunch in a fabulous location.