Things to Do in Coffs Harbour, New South Wales

The town of Coffs Harbour offers a range of things to do, including a trip to Muttonbird Island
The town of Coffs Harbour offers a range of things to do, including a trip to Muttonbird Island | © Richard Pike / Alamy Stock Photo
Photo of Susanna Smith
20 October 2020

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.

Visit Australia’s original 'Big Thing' at the Big Banana

Amusement Park
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The Big Banana in Coffs Harbour, New South Wales, Australia
© Ian Dagnall / Alamy Stock Photo
The Big Banana is Australia’s first and most famous Big Thing, and no trip to Coffs Harbour is complete without at least a photo stop. Like Australia’s other Big Things, the Big Banana’s appeal is nostalgic kitsch, which means it’s a great place to unleash your inner child. You can play a round of minigolf, go ice skating, cool off in the water park or play a few games of laser tag. If you’re more into the culinary side of things, indulge your sweet tooth at the Coffs Candy Kitchen, where you can watch traditional sweets being hand-made, or opt for a banana-themed treat in the Cafe and Ice Creamery.

Explore underwater worlds at Solitary Islands Marine Park

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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.

Experience local indigenous culture on the Gumgali Track

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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.

Experience satire at its best at the Bunker Cartoon Gallery

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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.

Experience nature and culture at Muttonbird Island Nature Reserve

Park, Natural Feature
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Path over hill on Muttonbird Island Nature Reserve, Coffs Harbour
© Olga Kashubin / Alamy Stock Photo
Muttonbird Island Nature Reserve, aka Giidany Miilarl, is a seabird rookery with amazing views over the Solitary Islands and the Coffs Harbour coastline. It is a great place to get up close with seabirds including the migratory wedge-tailed shearwater, which comes to the island to nest. It is also a place of significance to the local Gumbaynggirr people – filled with stories of the Dreaming and a wealth of traditional resources. The award-winning Discovery Tour, which is conducted by local Gumbaynggirr rangers, is the best way to experience local indigenous culture and history.

Paddle the Moonee Creek Canoe Route

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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.

Soak up some sun on Coffs Harbour’s beaches

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Coffs Harbour’s beaches are the best on the New South Wales coast, so it is worth setting aside a day or two to explore them. Jetty Beach is family-friendly and centrally located near the Coffs Harbour cafe strip for that all-important caffeine fix. If you like to catch a wave, Diggers Beach is a prime surfing spot, and the walk from Diggers to Charlesworth Bay is perfect for an afternoon sunset stroll. For a more chilled vibe, try Moonee Beach, where you can chill out with a book or a picnic lunch. Emerald Beach is the place to go if you want unobstructed views and the chance to meet friendly kangaroos on the nearby headland, or look out for pods of dolphins frolicking in the surf.
These recommendations were updated on October 20, 2020 to keep your travel plans fresh.

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