Australia’s Coffs Harbour: the beach goes on and on

My nose pressed against the plane’s oval window, the Coffs Harbour beach looked too good to be true, snaking like white ribbon along Australia’s New South Wales Coast. It wasn’t until I was earthbound and hiked from headland to headland that I realized the beach never ends; it simply repeats itself over and over like the chorus of a haunting song.

Every day was glorious, but to northern Canadian eyes, strangely faultless. For six days, the sun shone bright; the sky stayed blue. Max, my host manager at the Sandcastles Holiday Apartments, said these perfect days were the norm.

The Australian Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization (CSIRO) claims Coffs Harbour has one of the best climates in Australia, with more hours of sunshine than Sydney to the south, and less humidity than the coastal towns of Queensland, to the north.

Popular destination

Coffs Harbour is one of the most popular destinations on Australia’s Holiday Coast, a calmer, gentler, version of Queensland’s glitzy Gold Coast. This is not a casino or pub-night kind of town. Its inhabitants value bike paths and green spaces.

High-rise hotels (of the umpteenth stey sort) have not shouldered their way onto the beach. To get to the surf, you must walk through the tangle of greenery that protects the dunes. Here the cicadas don’t hum discreetly, but roar like a chorus of dentist drills.

Coffs Harbour’s main claim to fame is its Big Banana – a huge replica of the freckled fruit that greets visitors to a banana theme park. Don’t laugh. They take their bananas seriously here, and so they should. The area is the largest banana-producing district in New South Wales.

But there’s much more to Coffs Harbour than the Big Banana. With the rain forest at its back door and the Pacific Ocean at the front, Coffs Harbour has a unique combination of charms. Within a day’s drive is the Wollomombi Gorge, with the highest waterfalls in Australia. Just offshore is the Solitary Islands Marine Reserve. Here, clown fish dart through coral archways in a dazzling display that delights scuba divers and snorkellers.

Sitting on the beach, we spotted humpback whales on their way back to Antarctica. Their migration path takes them within miles of the Coffs Harbour shore.

Named for seaman

The community is named after Capt. John Korff, a seaman whose ship found shelter behind Muttonbird Island in the 1840s during a fierce storm. The pronunciation and spelling of Korff’s took a beating in the subsequent years, but the Captain’s legacy lived on as the harbour became a significant port of call.

To facilitate ship loading, they built a jetty that stretched about half a kilometre into the sea. Modern roads and rail systems made the jetty obsolete and it fell into disrepair. It was closed to the public but reopened as a heritage structure in 1997 after a complete restoration.

Today, the jetty is a focal point of the community — particularly on Sundays when the ice cream trucks jingle a merry tune and parents wheel baby strollers up and down the pier.

This is where you will find me again some day, watching the seagulls riding the wind and walking that long inviting stretch of sand.

Travel tips:

Coffs Harbour is about a seven-hour drive by car from Sydney or a short flight on the domestic airline carrier. It’s the favourite haunt of retirees from the cooler state of Victoria — and their grandkids. There are plenty of zoos, theme parks, a porpoise pool and more perfect picnic spots to explore than you’ll have time to find.


Self-catering apartments and motels abound, with rates in the low season from $150 to $350 Australian Dollars (AUD) ($130 to $300 CDN) a week (double occupancy). Daily rates are also available from $40 to $80 AUD ($35 to $70 CDN) a night (double). Over the Christmas holidays, rates can double in price.

We found our vacation package at Sandcastles Apartments through Australia’s Ansett Airways. You can reach Ansett Airlines in Canada by calling 1-800-366-1300 (during Australian business hours), or visit its website For more information on Australia’s Holiday Coast visit its website at For convenience and discount prices, however, shop your trip through CARPTravel, visit the website at or call toll-free 1-877-450-7587.