I spent quite a long time in Coff’s Harbour. Like, over a month. After planning to be there a few days.
I kinda loved it.
When I first arrived, the free shuttle bus from Aussitel, the hostel I stayed at, took me to a nearby lookout point. With the harbour in view on one side and the distant mountains on the other, it’s an amazing spot.
From then I was hooked. It’s got beautiful views, nearby national parks, hiking trails and waterfalls; it’s got the creek leading to the sea; it’s got local markets and even a fairly good shopping district.
If you’re staying long term to work or just passing through, it’s well worth a visit.
As I’ve got a fairly good idea now of what to do and where to go around Coff’s Harbour, I thought I’d share my ideal one-week itinerary!
If you’ve just arrived, it’s a good idea to spend a bit of time orientating yourself. There’s a great walk around the creek, of around 8 kilometres, which will take 2 hours or so. Reward yourself after your exertions with a coffee at Mangrove Jacks, the creek-side cafe on Harbour Drive.
Then, if you’ve still not had enough creek-based entertainment, you can hire canoes, kayaks, or stand-up paddle boards from Mangrove Jacks. As a bonus, you can currently get 10% off hire if you show your meal receipt when hiring!
Better still, if you end up staying at Aussitel (across the road from Mangrove Jacks), you can hire all of the above for free!
To celebrate the end of your first day, check out the restaurant strip towards the beach on Harbour Drive. Element Bar have deals on a Monday (and Tuesday); Fiasco Italian currently do $10 pizza to celebrate their 10th anniversary, and Touch of North India is just unbelievably good (albeit pricey).
Spend the day at the beach! If you fancy a surf, head down to Park Beach where the waves are best. Just swimming? Head over to the Jetty. Body boarding is goodeither on Park Beach or the stretch between Jetty Beach and the creek. Be warned, though: the rips in this area can be strong, particularly where the creek meets the sea. Park Beach is patrolled by life guards, so stick around there if you’re not a confident swimmer. Most hostels in Coff’s Harbour have free surf and bodyboard hire (did I mention that you should stay at Aussitel?).
From one beach to another: why not take an evening trip to nearby Emerald Beach, just north of Coff’s? The beach is home to around 50 kangaroos, so spend the last daylight hours kangaroo-spotting, before watching the sunset.
Another day, another beach. Head to neighbouring town Sawtell, to check out the enclosed rockpool there. Perfect for a morning swim. The only ocean pool in the area, it’s well worth a visit if you have time. Spend a lazy day paddling, swimming, and sunbathing on the nearby grassy area.
Wednesday evening sees everyone’s favourite event of the week: Coff’s Hotel karaoke.
It has to be said that the nightlife in Coff’s Harbour isn’t the most exciting, but this one event is well worth a trip. The hotel run a courtesy bus to pick up and drop off karaoke-goers, and the drinks are reasonably priced. Even if you don’t fancy singing yourself, it’s entertaining enough to just stand back and watch the very enthusiastic locals take part (you can bet they do the same songs every week). And hey, if you really enjoy it, there’s also karaoke on Thursdays and Saturdays too!
After those cheap, cheap drinks at Coff’s Hotel, you’ll need to go grab fish and chips from Sea Salt to cure that hangover! Then, why not wander down to the jetty to eat while you watch the fishermen (and possibly the crazy kids jumping off the jetty).
Spend the rest of the day browsing the shops in the CBD. Coff’s central is a two-storey shopping centre, located at the end of Harbour Drive. There are often a few local market stalls in the square opposite, with produce like honey, baked goods, and vegetables. There’s also the Park Beach Plaza, with even more shops and cafes to check out, which is along the Pacific Highway towards the Big Banana. (Supermarket fans: there’s also an Aldi – which we all know is the king of supermarkets).
Take the morning off activities today – it’s been a busy week! Lounge by the sea or go for a coffee somewhere down by the jetty – there are plenty of places to choose from.
The Friday night markets down by Park beach are one of the week’s highlights in Coff’s Harbour. Grab some delicious food from around the world, chill out with a picnic blanket and listen to some live music. You can easily get yourself a three course meal here. An African samosa to start, a Turkish gozleme for main course, and some dutch pancakes or churros for dessert!
Venture out a bit further and drive along Waterfall Way to Dorrigo National Park. Just over an hour from Coff’s, there are loads of incredible hikes to walk and sights to see in Dorrigo. The drive itself is worth the trip – winding roads with the canopy above and views of the mountains on one side. If you have the time, drive on a little further and check out Dangar falls, where you can swim over to sit behind the waterfall. If you’re feeling brave (read: stupid), people have been known to jump from the top into the lake below…
On the way back, why not stop off in the picturesque Bellingen and head to one of its cafes for a coffee.
The last day of the week already! Try something a bit different: go and jump off the jetty (if you dare), and then head over to the nearby Sunday market. It’s a bit like a British car boot sale: lots of tat, but still great fun. Often people sell second hand clothes for a steal, and you can also get some good cheap veg (avocadoes for $1!).
If you still want to squeeze in some entertainment before you leave, you can always head to the famous Big Banana, along the Pacific Highway. It’s mainly just a photo opportunity, but you can also buy every banana-based product imaginable from the cafe, or sample some weird and wonderful jams and chutneys.
Coff’s Harbour is a place often missed by backpackers along the east coast, but perhaps it shouldn’t be. I know that I for one will definitely be back!
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