It’s a six-hour drive from Sydney along the coast road on the way to Byron Bay and just about halfway to Brisbane. Known for its banana plantations, backdrops of rolling, humid green hills, rainforest walks and friendly beaches, Coffs Harbour has been a family holiday spot for generations. But it’s not just boogie boards and iconic giant bananas. Sure, while the Big Banana is still worth a look and a photograph, these days there’s more to Coffs than just fruit. We think that the best way to get there is to make the long drive. The road trip might just bring back memories of childhood holidays – and you’ll also have car to explore the area on days when the beach isn’t looking like the place to be. [fold]

STAY:

There are plenty of beachfront resort-style accommodations in Coffs, like Opal Cove, not to mention hotels, motels and privately leased houses. But we reckon some of the best accommodation can be found 20 minutes out of town at Woolgoolga Beach Caravan Park. Its absolute beachfront location makes it a lazy stroll from your powered site or villa balcony to the long white sands, surf life saving club and those just-big-enough waves. There arere plenty of food and drink options in the little town of Woolgoolga itself and the established Sikh community opens some its beautiful temples to tourists on weekends. But a word of warning: book well in advance for peak season – visitors make a practice of booking for the following year as they check out.
55 Beach Street, Woolgoolga
coffscoastholidayparks.com.au/woolgoolga-beach-caravan-park

CAFE/COFFEE:

Old John’s
Down on the Jetty Strip in Coffs, Old John’s opened its doors in the final days of 2012. The retro and reclaimed decor is a nod to Sydney bar and cafe trends, but done with relaxed Coffs coast style. Coffee is from Five Senses, the menu is tight and covers breakfast, lunch and dinner. Thrift store granny couches fill the front window and there’s a definite sense of welcome in the comfortable space. There’s a local focus with bread from Hearthfire bakery in Bellingen and dishes might include Bangalow smoked ham. But better yet, as you hit beer-o-clock, Old John’s hands out its drinks list and you can kick back with an expertly mixed cocktail.
360 Harbour Drive, Coffs Harbour
facebook.com/pages/Old-Johns

Pansabella Food & Flowers
Back up the road a little to the plaza shopping area and Pansabella Food & Flowers is bringing a touch of the gourmet to town. Market fresh flowers line the pavement, while white French provincial country decor and a long deli cabinet of local and imported produce gives this breezy cafe a providore’s air. Think Salamanca salami or Jamon Iberico. It’s a recent upgrade for the fine food specialist Kristi Knowles, who established Pansabella in a smaller local space a few years back. The in-house florist is an added bonus, making brunch here extra pretty, while there are affable queues for a spot at the communal table or for take away Di Gabriel coffee with some goodies for your picnic basket.
18b Park Avenue, Coffs Harbour
facebook.com/pages/Pansabella-food-and-flowers

DINE:

White Salt
Sticking to the casual holiday feel and again just out of Coffs proper, back at Woolgoolga, White Salt fish and chips is turning out some of the best battered seafood on the coast. Hand cut chips, family boxes and fish from the local co-op mean that you won’t find any of those dodgy dim sims here – this is fish and chips made with care.
70b Beach Street, Woolgoolga

You’ll also find excellent Indian at Oberoi’s, a family-run restaurant that has been serving its locally famous butter chicken for over 25 years.
376 Harbour Drive, Jetty Strip, Coffs Harbour
oberoisrestaurant.com

There’s also is quality Thai on offer at The Crying Tiger with the spicy tom yum goong a favourite.
384 Harbour Drive, Jetty Strip, Coffs Harbour
(02) 9950 0195

SEE/DO:

The Big Banana
Okay, so the actual banana doesn’t look quite so big once you’re all grown up, but they’ve added a candy shop, toboggan, an assortment of other rides and an indoor ice-skating rink add to the banana education. Worth a look, even if you just want to see how it has changed.
351 Pacific Highway, Coffs Harbour
bigbanana.com

Harbourside Markets
Every Sunday, the Jetty hosts markets in the park, with stalls selling local produce, homemade preserves, handmade clothes, delicate crafts, market food and live music.
Every Sunday, 8am–2pm at the Jetty on Marina Drive, Coffs Harbour
harboursidemarkets.com.au

Coffs Coast Growers Market
Every Thursday the old Mall Square comes alive with local growers’ produce stalls. Apples, spinach, seedless watermelon, handmade soaps and even locally grown coffee.
Every Thursday, 8am–3.30am, Harbour Drive, in the old Mall Square, Coffs Harbour
Facebook.com/coffscoastgrowersmarket

Southern Cross Pottery
well known for its beautiful ceramic water purifiers, which are available from outlets all over Australia, it’s a nice change to head into this artistic little hideaway where the pottery is fired, decorated and displayed. It’s hard not to want one for your home. Pick your size, finish and final detailing.
14 Caba Close, Boambee
Mon to Fri 9am–5pm, Sat 10am–4pm
southerncrosspottery.com.au

Pewter Gallery & Australian Wild Flower Jewellery
Tucked away from it all is the tranquil Pewter Gallery where Wolfgang Schulze hand finishes his artisan pewter jewellery and cutlery. His salad servers, earrings, necklaces and teaspoons are all embellished with painstakingly wrought native flowers.
221 Bennetts Road, Coffs Harbour
Mon to Sat 10am–5pm
pewter-gallery.com

SWIM:

It’s not a trip up the coast to Coffs Harbour without making the most of that beautiful coastal beach setting. Woolgoolga Beach is a curving line of white sands, fronted by a surf lifesaving club and flags at the town end. Great for relaxed walks, learning to surf and catching some sun on those long coastal holiday afternoons. Diggers Beach is known for its surf, making it a great chance to crack out the board and brush up those skills. And finally Jetty Beach is protected from the roughest ocean activity by the marina break-wall – and with the iconic jetty stretching out over the water at the north end, it’s a great place to soak up Coffs Harbour.