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Top Things to do in Coffs Harbour

Coffs Harbour is an underrated coastal destination on the north coast of NSW with a mixture of lush greenery, national parks and secluded beaches. The regional town is a holiday spot where you can recharge the batteries and leave rejuvenated after a short break in natural surroundings. Though it’s most famous nationally for its “Big Banana” icon, there are plenty of other things to do in Coffs Harbour to keep visitors occupied. Think scuba diving tours, skydiving, whale watching cruises, nature walks and picturesque scenic drives. Browse our range of Coffs Harbour experiences below and discover a piece of serenity on the NSW coast.

The Top 10 Things to do in Coffs Harbour, NSW

by Experience Oz staff
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Long popular as a fairly central “stopover point” for those making the drive between Brisbane (or the Gold Coast) and Sydney, Coffs Harbour is a quality coastal destination in its own right, with excellent overall weather and a number of family-friendly attractions that make for a balanced and enjoyable visit.

The city is continually growing due to these factors – it’s become something of a hotspot for Aussie retirees, in particular – and offers an environment with a mixture of lush hinterland, picturesque scenic drives and a signature gorgeous coastline to boot.

Add to it a certain, country-wide famous icon, and you’ve got a NSW city with enough individuality and character to more than warrant a visit.

For those planning to drop by “Coffs”, we highlight 10 of the top things to do in Coffs Harbour (and surrounds) in detail here.

1. The Big Banana

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Location: Pacific Highway, Coffs Harbour, NSW

Easily the most well-known of Australia’s unusual series of “big” inanimate landmarks (avocado, guitar, prawn, et al), the Big Banana has become synonymous with everything “Coffs Harbour” since its construction back in 1964.

The combination of the sheer size and conspicuousness of the landmark, as well as its location right on the highway, has led to many an impulsive roadside travel-selfie for the unaware international traveller – and is something that has become a rite of passage for Aussies making the east-coast-capitals road trip as well.

Originally built in order to draw roadside traffic to a local banana stall, the Big Banana complex has since expanded significantly to include a surrounding plantation, shop, cafe, and even a hybrid amusement/water park in the modern day.

Originally built in order to draw roadside traffic to a local banana stall, the Big Banana complex has since expanded significantly to include a surrounding plantation, shop, cafe, and even a hybrid amusement/water park in the modern day.

This mixture of sub-attractions in the one hub makes it an ideal hub to visit for those with families, as much of it is suited specifically for children; kids can take part in the likes of tobogganing, ice skating, mini golf, laser tag and more.

There’s enough variety for children of ages from toddlers up to teenagers, and its water activity offerings in particular make it an easy-to-recommend attraction during the steamy summer months.

Paying for activities at the Big Banana can be combined in a number of different packages to ensure you only pay for what you plan on using, with the ability to scale your amount of time and money dedicated to a stop here accordingly.

As one might expect, the bananas here aren’t simply for looking at, either; its on-site cafe specialises in serving all kinds of banana-y goodness ranging from banana smoothies, to banana splits, to its signature chocolate-coated bananas that have been a mainstay for decades.

However, despite all its diversity, without a doubt the most bucket-list-worthy drawcard for the majority of visitors is simply grabbing a snapshot in front of the 12-metre-long fruity icon.

Locals may roll their eyes, however for the traveller if you haven’t “done” the Big Banana, you haven’t truly “done” Coffs Harbour.

2. Muttonbird Island Nature Reserve

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Location: Marina Drive, Coffs Harbour, NSW

Enjoyable both as a focal point to visit and explore itself, as well as a lookout location to take in another excellent Coffs Harbour panorama, this island that lies just offshore is one of the region’s most significant natural features.

Muttonbird Island Nature Reserve is a rookery of importance for bird life, which can be accessed via an interconnected jetty from the main wharf – no boat required – and is an essential visit in Coffs Harbour providing a gorgeous return for minimal effort, with views out to the Solitary Islands and beyond.

Some outstanding birdwatching is made all the more impressive by the wonderful surrounds that border each side of the wildlife-rich island which serves as home to a cavalcade of bird life – particularly the species from which it derives its name – as well as a number of wedge-tailed shearwaters.

Some outstanding birdwatching is made all the more impressive by the wonderful surrounds that border each side of the wildlife-rich Island.

It’s one of the Coffs Coast region’s most accessible walks, and although ascending to the top of the island requires walking up a fairly steep slope, the resulting lookout encompasses views of its signature colony of muttonbirds and their nesting spots.

Whales can also often be spotted plying their trade in the waters surrounding Muttonbird Island during their annual migratory period between June and October, with the occasional pod of frolicking dolphins thrown in for good measure.

Add to this the panorama of the town of Coffs Harbour, its pristine beachfront, and the fringing mountain ranges in the distance, and it’s another excellent angle from which to admire the region’s beauty.

Visitors need to ensure they stick to the island’s assigned paths when heading to the summit in order to avoid the accidental trampling of any of the many muttonbird nests, and while it isn’t a long walk it is certainly a steep one.

Seats await at the top for those who’ve put in the effort to relax and catch their breath while admiring the view, with a true 360 degree aspect that stretches a long way down the coastline on clear days.

As with most other viewing points, Muttonbird Island particularly shines at sunrise, so early risers or aspiring photographers will want to head out at dawn to see the view at its best.

3. Forest Sky Pier

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Location: Bruxner Park Road, Coffs Harbour, NSW

Nearly every city – both capital and regional – has a single outstanding lookout point, and Coffs Harbour’s answer to this is the excellent (and entirely free) Forest Sky Pier that extends out from Sealy Lookout.

If you’re looking for the ultimate “been there, done that” photo of Coffs Harbour, the view from Forest Sky Pier ranks up there as a must-do for first-time visitors to the Coffs region.

Part of the Orara East State Forest, the lookout point is just a short drive from central Coffs Harbour and offers an outstanding aspect overlooking the city of Coffs Harbour and extending outwards to the open ocean.

If you’re looking for the ultimate “been there, done that” photo of Coffs Harbour, the view from Forest Sky Pier ranks up there as a must-do.

The platform stands at an elevation of 310m above sea level and as such requires a fairly steep and winding drive to reach, however the mixture of rainforest-meets-sea scenery makes the effort of driving here well worth the effort.

The “pier” itself extends out from Sealy Lookout to a tune of 21m, providing a vantage point uninhibited by the surrounding trees and clear, 180° views. It’s not just merely a look-and-leave prospect at Sealy Lookout, either; the nearby area offers multiple walking tracks that cut their way through the rainforest and allow for the chance to glimpse some of the local flora and fauna up close.

Picnic tables and toilet amenities are also available here, so it’s a good idea to bring along a packed lunch and enjoy a bite to eat in the wonderful surrounds before taking a walk or heading back into town.

Reaching the lookout is easily done via a short 15 minute drive from the centre of the city, however due to the windy nature of the trip, taking your time and admiring the surrounding plantations along the way comes recommended.

Plenty of parking is provided, too, however it’s gated off when the views are arguably at their most spectacular – during sunrise and sunset – and thus a short walk is required after parking outside beforehand.

There’s no better way with your two feet still on the ground to get an overall view of the beautiful physical location of Coffs Harbour, its rainforest and coastline all in the one panorama – and it makes for one of New South Wales’ most picturesque lookout points.

4. Dolphin Marine Magic

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Location: Orlando Street, Coffs Harbour, NSW

A long-running attraction in the Coffs Harbour region that has drawn countless visitors from all over the country, Dolphin Marine Magic is a zoological park with a focus on interactivity with all-things-aquatic, offering the chance to get up close with a variety of some of nature’s cutest marine dwellers.

Originally established in the 1970’s, the park offers safe haven for marine animals that have been injured or otherwise made incapable of returning to the wild, and now houses dozens of aquatic mammals and other varieties including Little Penguins, sea lions, green sea turtles, and most famously, its handful of Bottlenose Dolphins which serve as the star attraction.

The park is currently home to five of these dolphins which can be encountered by visitors attending in a variety of ways.

Two discovery presentation shows are held at 10:00am and 1:00pm, respectively, in which guests sit and observe an interactive marine show put on that introduces both the dolphins and seals, and highlights facts about their life cycles and habits – as well as showing off some remarkable feats of agility.

It offers the chance to get up close with a variety of some of nature’s cutest marine dwellers.

Perhaps the park’s most iconic experience, however, occurs just beforehand – guests are able to line up to receive a “kiss” from one of the animals, with the obligation-free option of purchasing a photo afterwards.

It’s an ever-popular hit with the kids, and the photos are professionally taken and reasonably priced given their uniqueness.

Those with deeper wallets can also opt for a range of personal encounters in which to engage with the dolphins and seals further, including entering the water alongside them and playing, patting and otherwise revelling in the company of these intelligent creatures.

A focus is also put on education and understanding of the dolphins and marine conservation in general, which when combined with the interactive elements (including fish and penguin feeding as well as other activities and demonstrations) makes for a comprehensive cross-section of the aquatic realm.

Dolphin Marine Magic is also compact and thus easy to navigate with children in tow, while offering plenty of shade and shelter for both protection from the sun, or additional cover on rainy days.

If you’ve ever wanted to come face to face with some of nature’s most engaging creatures without the excess crowds of some larger attractions, or are travelling to Coffs Harbour with kids in general, this is one attraction that makes for an essential stop on your itinerary.

5. Beach Camel Rides

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Location:Jordan Esplanade, Coffs Harbour, NSW

One doesn’t need to travel to such far-flung reaches of Australia such as Broome or the Northern Territory’s outback in order to take a sandy trek on the humps of a quirky camel – this “bucket list” level experience can also be done right on the straight, long shores of Coffs Harbour’s Boambee Beach.

Camels may typically be associated with negotiating deserts, however the ability to enjoy such a ride without the associated sweltering heat and potentially dangerous sandstorms – and instead take in some great ocean views – makes for a far more enjoyable location in which to partake.

Local operator Coffs Coast Camels offer visitors the chance to hop on the back of one of these typically docile creatures for their choice of either a 30 minute ride (conducted hourly between 10am and 3pm), or pony up a little more for a magical 1 hour sunset ride in which to soak in a beautiful evening sky right on the water.

One doesn’t need to travel to such far-flung reaches of Australia such as Broome or the Northern Territory’s outback in order to take a sandy trek on the humps of a quirky camel.

Camels are ridden in two-person-per-camel denominations (making things ideal for those bringing skittish kids along for the ride), while the camels themselves are calm, docile and easy to mount so that first-time riders need not be concerned with safety.

The “cameleers” (the official term for those who guide a camel) themselves serve as knowledgeable and friendly guides who are able to offer plenty of information on the Coffs region in general as well as the habits of the camels, making for a “tour with a difference” for getting acquainted with the region.

Despite the relatively short time of the journey, you’ll no doubt form a bond with the camel you are assigned to as their generally laid-back natures makes them highly approachable creatures.

Given that the beach is often largely empty, the camelback journey is accompanied by a surprising feeling of seclusion as well, which helps round out the overall escapist atmosphere of the experience.

Riders are given time to take photos with their camels and the surrounding scenery as well, which makes for a great keepsake during your time spent in the region.

6. The Butterfly House

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Location: Strouds Road, Coffs Harbour, NSW

Set within a (fairly humid) subtropical rainforest setting, The Butterfly House’s main highlight is a large walk-through enclosure which is teeming with the bright, fluttery creatures of all shapes and sizes – many of which will nonchalantly land themselves right on your head.

The variety of colours and patterns on the butterflies is impressive, with no two of the creatures seemingly quite alike, and visitors here are able to witness all stages of the insects’ life cycles.

Enthusiastic staff help provide a context on the butterfly’s habits and lifespan, making for an experience that’s not only visually impressive but enjoyably educational as well.

The sheer quantity of the butterflies and their willingness to approach combine to make for some excellent opportunities for photography.

The sheer quantity of the butterflies and their willingness to approach combine to make for some excellent opportunities for photography, and those with a decent quality camera can come away with some National Geographic-worthy snaps while here.

The butterflies themselves are augmented by a great on-site cafe serving home-made-style food (featuring some top-notch scones and cream, amongst other offerings), while there’s also an outdoor maze for visitors to solve with butterfly-themed tips sprinkled throughout along the way.

On the way out, be sure to peruse the reasonably-priced gift store which is packed with a range of appropriately insect-y trinkets.

An attraction that’s fun for both adults and kids, the Butterfly House is a great spot at which to both unwind and be entertained, and is ideally visited around the middle of the day when the butterflies are typically at their most active.

7. Skydiving

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Location: Aviation Drive, Coffs Harbour, NSW

A trip to Coffs Harbour doesn’t have to be all seaside relaxation; in terms of scenic destinations in which to instead embrace one of life’s ultimate plunges, the east coast of Australia is hard to top, and Coffs is as viable a location as any to face your fears and jump out of a perfectly good airplane.

Offering unmatched views of both greenery and golden beaches (assuming you can keep your eyes open), Coffs Harbour’s coastline forms a wonderful backdrop as the Pacific Ocean lingers in full-view of adrenaline-seekers trying their hand here.

Local operator Coffs Skydivers have been taking adventure junkies on free-falls over the Coffs Coast region for over 20 years, and thus have plenty of experience and reassurance to go along with it.

They’ve also got a knack for making first-time skydivers feel safe (an understandable concern for newbies) while going the extra mile to add a sense of personalisation to the experience that many other skydives lack.

They’ve got a knack for making first-time skydivers feel safe (an understandable concern for newbies) while going the extra mile to add a sense of personalisation to the experience that many other skydives lack.

Skydiving groups here are limited to far smaller group numbers than the average skydive, for example, and this higher instructor-to-customer ratio provides more personal attention in which skydivers can actually get to know their tandem buddies along the way.

It’s a process that’s far less rushed than that of many other skydiving establishments, conducted at an easier pace rather than merely trying to maximise customer volume, and it shows.

Of course, the skydive itself is still the obvious highlight, and aspiring participants have the option to embark on jumps ranging anywhere from a brisk 6,000 feet all the way up to 15,000 feet (the maximum allowable height in Australia), which allows an extended 70 seconds worth of free-fall in return for a larger monetary investment.

Coffs Skydivers are located at Aviation Drive alongside Coffs Harbour Airport, less than a 10 minute drive outside the city centre, so if you’ve ever considered ticking an item off your bucket list you won’t have to travel far to do so.

8. Scuba Diving with Jetty Dive

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Location: Harbour Drive, Coffs Harbour, NSW

Perhaps the runner-up as Coffs Harbour’s most recognisable man-made feature, the city’s jetty has served as a beachside focal point for over a century, and to this day remains an ever-popular launching point for jumpers looking to make a literal splash on their marine adventures.

It’s an exceptionally well-conserved local landmark that juts out prominently from the mainland and is popular for photography fishing and simply strolling along, however it’s what lies below its waterline further off shore that will be of most interest to the aquatic-oriented visitor to Coffs Harbour.

Jetty Dive – named after this iconic piece of architecture – offer a number of scuba trips and courses within the waters of the expansive Solitary Islands Marine Park; a 90-some kilometre long stretch that is home to some ideal environments for marine life.

Its idyllic water conditions and array of sheltered underwater spots combine to offer over 20 quality dive spots.

Its idyllic water conditions and array of sheltered underwater spots combine to offer over 20 quality dive spots, and as a result opens up the potential for a number of different dive charters, lessons and courses available to undertake.

Single-day courses to cover the basics for beginning divers that cover both theory-based segments and practical diving as well as multi-day options oriented around obtaining official PADI certification are both on the table here, while the choice of sections of the Marine Park can also produce entirely different marine environments as well.

The Southern Solitary Islands in particular make for some adrenaline-pumping encounters with marine life, as divers here can expect to encounter everything from rays, to hammerhead and grey nurse sharks.

Snorkelling trips are also provided as an alternative to the more laid-back traveller, and on both types of tours participants are whisked to their destination aboard fast-moving, custom built boats ideal for navigating these waters.

It’s not unusual to encounter dolphins and whales on these journeys as well (whales during their annual migratory period; Jetty Dive also offer dedicated whale watching trips during peak season, too), making for a surprisingly diverse range of potential sightings.

Throw in well-maintained gear and some professional and engaging staff, and you’ve got a top option for embracing the NSW coastal waters from below here.

9. Horse Riding with Valery Trails

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Location: Valery Road, Valery, NSW

Those looking to get more intimately acquainted with the lushness of the hinterland that surrounds Coffs Harbour can take the chance while in the region to explore it via that most ancient of transportation methods – the humble horse.

Set on a spacious, 400-acre farm fringed by national park which lies around 18km to the south of central Coffs Harbour, Valery Trails offer aspiring riders the choice of both 1 and 2 hour guided horse riding experiences.

Conducted through a pleasant mixture of woodland and open meadows on a journey that crosses through the cover of Pine Creek Forest and the greenery of Bongil Bongil National Park, rides are tailored based on ability level to ensure newcomers and novices feel welcome.

It makes for an excellent way for families visiting Coffs Harbour to ride through some lovely stretches of bushland characteristic of the region.

Riders’ individual levels of experience and confidence are matched to one of around 60 of the magnificent animals that call the property home, and are escorted on horseback by confident and experienced guides who offer a fair degree of freedom to riders with prior experience.

These horse riding tours are conducted twice daily, and make for an excellent way for families visiting Coffs Harbour to ride through some lovely stretches of bushland characteristic of the region, while chatting with some knowledgeable locals along the way.

The littlest ones aren’t left out of the proceedings either, with young children able to instead hop on the back of a pony and be led around the property for half an hour; a treat that’s ever-popular amongst young girls in particular.

Given the duration of the ride, it’s another Coffs Harbour experience that’s exceedingly well-priced compared to other similar tours of its ilk, and afterwards serves as a great venue to kick back and enjoy a tea or coffee, or cook up a barbecue at the provided facilities as well.

Prices start at $60 for adults and $50 for kids for 1 hour rides, however an extra $5 each is all it takes to double the ride’s duration and thus comes highly recommended.

10. The Clog Barn

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Location: Pacific Highway, Coffs Harbour, NSW

This unexpected little slice of Europe in Coffs Harbour serves as an interesting, multi-purpose attraction that’s well worth a stop.

The Clog Barn is part accommodation, part souvenir store, part cafe and part wonderful tourist attraction, however its main highlight is its exquisitely-crafted miniature replica of an authentic Dutch village, complete with windmills, saw mills and even trains that all demonstrate moving parts.

It’s a definite labour of love created with pure passion and a knack for attention to detail, all wrapped up in surroundings of a wonderfully-made and manicured lawn and gardens.

Young children in particular will find the village enchanting, while adults can appreciate the sheer level of craftsmanship on display. It’s entirely free entry is impressive, too, given that attractions of such a level of equivalent quality typically carry an admission fee.

The level of detail and care put into the creation of this miniature village is incredible and easy to appreciate.

Visitors to the Clog Barn can also witness the process of those iconic Dutch shoes – the humble clog – being made firsthand, in its main souvenir shop section that also sells a range of other miscellaneous souvenirs.

Those feeling peckish can grab a bite from the great little on-site cafe that serves a range of quality food, of which pancakes are a particular standout that come with a combination of lovely taste and reasonable price.

The blend of pancakes-maple syrup-bacon trio is one of life’s guilty pleasures, and they’re prepared with care to keep them from becoming too floury.

Lastly, the Clog Barn also doubles as a viable option for accommodation, serving as a holiday park with caravan and campsites as well as self-contained units available for booking.

The Dutch theme runs strong throughout the Clog Barn despite its location on the NSW coast, and its combination of quirkiness, eye for detail and the friendly and outgoing attitudes of its owners make for a pleasurable attraction that one might never have expected on their Coffs Harbour itinerary.

It helps that all of this comes for a very reasonable price, too.