If you’re planning a visit to Coffs Harbour, you’re probably heading there to visit the beaches and grab a selfie with the Big Banana monument.
But there are plenty more things to do in Coffs Harbour than just this. The town is ideally located near to some amazing snorkelling and diving spots, bird watching locations, and the rainforest of Ulidarra National Park.
The truth is, the town just doesn’t do that much for me. But what I do really like is the region surrounding Coffs Harbour. There are some great nearby beaches, towns, and National Parks, you just need to drive a little further to get to them.
So if you’re planning a trip to Coffs Harbour but you’re not sure what to do besides beaches, then keep reading to see some of our favourite attractions there!
Planning your trip to Coffs Harbour last-minute?
Don’t forget to plan ahead when visiting Coffs Harbour! Here are some of the top tours, hotels, and useful items you may need before your trip!
Top Experiences and Tours in Coffs Harbour
- Sunset Kayak Tour with Marine Biologist (great educational experience!)
- Coffs Harbour Whale Watching Cruise (between June and November)
Top Accommodation and Hotels in Coffs Harbour
- Sawtell Beach Holiday Park (where we stayed, 10 minutes from Coffs Harbour)
- Pacific Marina Apartments (close to the Marina, excellent for families)
- Where Is Coffs Harbour?
- Is Coffs Harbour Worth Visiting?
- Best Things to Do in Coffs Harbour NSW
- 1. Visit Muttonbird Island Nature Reserve
- 2. Visit Coffs Harbour Marina and Jetty
- 3. Relax on Diggers Beach
- 4. Take the Diggers Beach to Park Beach Headland Walk
- 5. Visit Sawtell
- 6. Check Out Bellingen
- 7. See The Waterfalls of Dorrigo National Park
- 8. Visit the Coffs Harbour Butterfly House
- 9. Relax on Red Rock Beach
- 10. Grab a Selfie with The Big Banana
- 11. Check Out The Views from Sealy Lookout and Forest Sky Pier
- 12. Go Diving in the Solitary Islands Marine Park
- 13. Relax at Jetty Beach
- 14. Visit the North Coast Regional Botanic Garden
- 15. See the Miniature Dutch Village at Clog Barn
- Final Thoughts on Things to Do in Coffs Harbour
- More North Coast NSW Travel Tips
Where Is Coffs Harbour?
Coffs Harbour is a 6-hour drive north from Sydney or 4.5 hours drive south of Brisbane. If you’re coming from Armidale down the Waterfall Way it’s about a 2.5 hours drive.
The nearest airport is Coffs Harbour Airport, which is right by Boambee Beach. It’s about 10 minute drive from the airport to the town centre.
However, when we visited we didn’t actually stay in Coffs Harbour, but we stayed nearby at the Sawtell Beach Holiday Park which is a 10 minute drive from Coffs Harbour.
This region is quite rural, so you will need a car to get around. You can rent a car from the airport, if you are not driving to Coffs Harbour on a wider road trip.
Is Coffs Harbour Worth Visiting?
When I think of Coffs Harbour, I think of it as a base for exploring the surrounding area, and this is what gets us as a family going back for more.
Even the drive into Coffs is pretty whether you’re coming from Sydney or from Armidale down the Waterfall Way.
On our visit during our road trip through NSW, we didn’t even stay in Coffs Harbour, but down the road in nearby Sawtell which we much prefer (more on that later).
But Coffs Harbour is worth visiting for its location alone. If you have a car and are capable of driving outside the town center to explore more of the region, you’ll find there is a plethora of amazing attractions in Coffs Harbour.
Not only that, but it’s ideally situated half-way between Sydney and Brisbane, making Coffs a popular stop off point for people doing the Sydney to Brisbane road trip.
However, for those looking to spend a week or two the region is big enough and has something for everyone.
Best Things to Do in Coffs Harbour NSW
Below I have shared some of my personal tips for the area besides the typical Big Banana and Park Beach attractions. Here are all the unmissable and fun things to do in Coffs Harbour.
1. Visit Muttonbird Island Nature Reserve
One of my favourite things to do in Coffs Harbour is take the short walk up Muttonbird Island.
We didn’t even know about this place until a few years ago when we went for a walk along the breakwall at the Coffs Harbour Marina and there it was.
On approach, I actually envisioned myself being back in Ireland as it was so green and had the rugged cliff face look about it.
The walk to the top gives you incredible views up and down the coast and over the mountains. It’s the perfect spot to sit and watch the sunset over the Marina.
Muttonbird Island Nature Reserve is also great for bird lovers, being one of the only easily-accessible places in NSW where the migratory wedge-tailed shearwater nests.
2. Visit Coffs Harbour Marina and Jetty
If you like boats and towns with a marina and jetty, Coffs has a really nice one. It’s located in the heart of Coffs Harbour and cannot be missed.
At the entrance to the historic jetty precinct on Harbour Drive there’s a collection of cafes and restaurants and on Sunday’s is the harbourside markets.
The Marina Village also has cafes, restaurants a fish co-op and an ice creamery.
Latitude 30 and the Coffs Harbour Yacht Club are good spots to have a wine and beer and watch the surfers and the sun go down.
The Marina is also where the whale watching boats depart from in season (June to November).
3. Relax on Diggers Beach
One of our friends who lives in Coffs Harbour recommended we check out Diggers Beach (located across from the Big Banana) and we’re glad they did.
It’s a great family-friendly beach being sheltered and wide making it a nice place for our kids to swim and play on the sand.
It’s also a popular surfing spot for the locals or for a wind-free beach walk.
4. Take the Diggers Beach to Park Beach Headland Walk
Whilst in the Diggers Beach area, we did the Macauleys Headland walk which runs between Diggers and Park Beach.
You can start at either end and the views of the Pacific Ocean and of both beaches are spectacular.
The spot overlooking Park Beach in the photo above is a great place to sit and watch the surfers.
5. Visit Sawtell
Sawtell is a lovely little town 15 minutes drive south of Coffs Harbour and where we chose to base ourselves.
The main street is picturesque and divided by big fig trees with plenty of cafes and shops lining both sides of the street.
Seasalt is popular for takeaway fish & chips, and the cafe at the Surf Club on the beach is great for a meal, a coffee and classic beach views.
Sawtell Beach is family friendly, especially toward the southern end which has a nice tidal rock pool area and Sailors Bay, an area sheltered by a small island which can be reached at low tide.
We stayed at the Big4 Sawtell Beach Caravan Park.
6. Check Out Bellingen
Bellingen is a super laid-back town in the valley just a 30-minute drive from Coffs Harbour on the Waterfall Way.
It has a lovely tree lined street and river running through town, and has an artistic feel and lively cafe scene (we recommend Black Bear Cafe).
But on our visit to Bellingen the thing we liked most was visiting the Bellingen Markets which are one of the biggest and best regional markets in Australia.
You can find fresh produce, artisan sweet treats, live music, crafts and handmade gifts. It’s the perfect place to pick up souvenirs on your trip.
The markets are only on every third Saturday of the month so you have to time your visit, but if you can they’re definitely worth it.
7. See The Waterfalls of Dorrigo National Park
For a great day trip from Coffs Harbour, Dorrigo is only 65km (1 hour by car).
Continue on past Bellingen and up the Waterfall Way and you’ll get to the town of Dorrigo. Drop in for a coffee and then visit nearby Dangar Falls.
This town is also the gateway to Dorrigo National Park, located in the heritage-listed Gondwana Rainforest where you can enjoy waterfalls and rainforest walks – including an elevated Tree Top walk starting at the Dorrigo Rainforest Centre.
We also recommend the walk to Crystal Shower Falls (you can walk behind the falls) and the Glade Picnic area is a nice spot for lunch.
8. Visit the Coffs Harbour Butterfly House
Our kids really enjoyed The Butterfly House in Bonville. Kalyra is mad on butterflies, and so is Caz.
Get amongst 400 butterflies in an indoor subtropical rainforest setting as they fly around and even land on you making it one of the easiest places I’ve ever photographed a butterfly.
There’s also a maze to explore in the side garden. We were given a piece of paper with a paragraph about butterflies that had missing words in it. We had to search for the missing words on the wooden walls of the maze
9. Relax on Red Rock Beach
Another great tip from our friend living in Coffs was to visit Red Rock Beach.
Red Rock is a tiny but beautiful village an easy half an hour drive (40km) north of Coffs Harbour, and the beach is absolutely stunning. Climb up the cliff on the northern end for a top view looking down the beach.
Kalyra and Savannah loved playing in the gentle waves and collecting shells on the beach.
There’s a Caravan Park at Red Rock if you’d like to stay over a few days and explore the many beaches, lagoons, and swamps in the area.
10. Grab a Selfie with The Big Banana
I can’t decide whether the Big Banana is a must visit or a totally over-hyped tourist trap. I’m leaning towards the latter.
It’s one of those famous Big Things we have going on here in Australia and you can’t miss it from the road as you head north out of town.
I’d visited many times as a youngster and it now looks incredibly small compared to when I was ten.
We didn’t stop in on this occasion, but our kids enjoyed it a few years back which is all that matters, and for me (and possibly our kids) the best thing about the Big Banana is the banana split sundae from the cafe.
The Big Banana is part of the Big Banana Fun Park, which is a big amusement park and water park that has an ice skating rink, tobogganing, mini-golf, laser tag, and other fun games and rides.
11. Check Out The Views from Sealy Lookout and Forest Sky Pier
The Forest Sky Pier is a 15 meter high pier that overlooks Coffs Harbour from Ulidarra National Park.
There is a car park right next to the look out, so no need to hike up to see the incredible vistas it offers.
You can also pack a picnic and enjoy it from the picnic area nearby, or grab a coffee from the Little Cafe.
There are a series of walking tracks nearby that take you to other lookouts. The Sealy Lookout is a 500 meter loop walk from the car park and also has incredible views and a picnic area.
12. Go Diving in the Solitary Islands Marine Park
From Coffs Harbour Marina, you can take a diving trip to the Solitary Islands, which are located 75km off the Coffs Coast.
Diving enthusiasts will find a protected reef that is home to more than 550 reef fish including pelagic fish and turtles, making it the highest reef fish diversity in Australia. In fact, it has the densest coverage of anemone fish in the world.
If you don’t enjoy diving, you can visit the Solitary Islands Aquarium where you can learn about the diversity of the park with guided tours and interactive exhibits.
It’s a small aquarium though so you need to make a reservation if you want to visit as visitor numbers are restricted to 50 people per day.
13. Relax at Jetty Beach
Located next to the Marina on the jetty foreshore is Jetty Beach, a lovely beach that is protected by the bay, making it a great place to see stingrays and turtles swimming in the waters.
The waves are also gentle so little swimmers can splash in the waters without worrying about the big waves.
The jetty markets are located just behind the beach, so you can wander over to the grassy area and take in the atmosphere. There’s also plenty of restaurants, cafes and parking nearby.
14. Visit the North Coast Regional Botanic Garden
The botanic garden in Coffs Harbour is a great place to explore the diversity of NSW’s plants and fauna. It has themed garden areas that make for the perfect place to relax in.
If you’re interested in biodiversity, the gardens offers tours that teach you about their conservation efforts and the work they are doing.
As well as taking care of rare plants, the gardens have a natural forest which makes up half of the grounds.
There are many nature trails around the garden which you can do by yourself or with a knowledgeable guide.
15. See the Miniature Dutch Village at Clog Barn
A weird but wonderful tourist attraction in Coffs Harbour is the Clog Barn, which is located on a caravan site.
Visitors can see a miniature version of The Netherlands with little windmills, towns with canals running through them, and even little people.
You can even see clogging demonstrations and then visit a dutch-themed cafe for some dutch food.
Final Thoughts on Things to Do in Coffs Harbour
Coffs Harbour is a small and quiet town with a lot of beautiful nature surrounding it. Many of the top attractions in Coffs Habour involve getting out of the town and into the natural landscapes.
Whether you’re looking to see thriving marine life or simply want to laze on a beach, or walk through the rainforests or enjoy the bustling markets, you’ll find plenty of things to do here.
I hope this guide helped you plan your trip to Coffs Harbour and gave you some inspiration on what to do.
For more information on things to see and do in Coffs Harbour, check out the the Destination NSW website.
More North Coast NSW Travel Tips
Are you planning to visit other parts of New South Wales? Then you may find the below resources useful…
- 22 Things to Do in Port Macquarie
- 11 of the Best NSW Beaches to visit
- 12 Favourite Places to Visit in NSW
- North Coast NSW Road Trip – Lennox Head to Gold Coast
- Things to do on the Central Coast of NSW
- Yamba NSW: Is this Australia’s best kept secret?
- South West Rocks NSW and the Big 4 Caravan Park
- Sydney to Brisbane Road Trip Highlights
- Weekend Getaway in a Historic Lighthouse Cottage – Seal Rocks, NSW
Do you have any tips on things to do in Coffs Harbour? Share in the comments.