Weekends always reignite the debate between my friends on whether we should head out to the mountains or hit the coast. Whilst being a fan of the mountains myself, the group succumbed to the majority who believes holidays should be enjoyed, rather than spent exercising and testing our limits (unfortunately). We were therefore tasked with finding a destination that offers the best of both worlds – a place that would allow us to relish adrenaline from physical activities as well as provide tranquility that is much deserved after a week of office work.
Coffs Coast was the perfect destination, where World Heritage listed rainforests meet stunning Pacific beaches. From Sydney, our group of 6 (with 3 drivers) started our drive on Friday night towards the North Coast, camping overnight at the Australian Motor Homes Tourist Park and Fish Farm on Pacific Highway near Ports Stephens. The stop was essential to allow for a reasonable Saturday drive (4 hours rather than 6!) and we were glad to find the site well equipped with clean toilets and shower facilities.
We headed off for an early start on Saturday morning, swapping drivers every 2 hours to prevent fatigue and sang along (without shame) to hits on the radio. Our first intermediate stop was the picturesque Port Macquarie. Located approximately 4 hours away from Sydney, this charming seaside destination offered a refreshing break to the drive. We had brunch at the Pancake Place by the entrance of Hastings River and took a stroll along the riverside, watching teenagers backflipping off the jetty and standup paddle boarding. After a casual chat with a traveling photographer, we continued on our destination towards the Coffs Coast.
On our way, we made sure not to miss the World Heritage Gondwana Rainforests of Australia, just half an hour east of the Pacific Highway. The detour onto Waterfall Way took us on an amazing country road drive through the heritage towns of Bellingen and Thora towards Dorrigo National Park. The road narrows and winds as we ascend amongst forest giants and waterfalls that have been millions of years in the making. The Skywalk and Wonga walk offered a taste of the World Heritage Site where we were greeted with panorama views over the canopy of the rainforest. We also visited Danger Falls in the historic town of Dorrigo before heading back towards the coast. With my friend's rather aggressive driving style, the descent from Dorrigo National Park back to Coffs Harbour through the hairpin bends also provided an unforgettably exhilarating experience (one which I am still debating whether I would want to experience again).
The reason for the hurry was because we did not want to miss our major activity planned – sunset kayaking. We joined a tour provided by C-Change Adventures and had a great time kayaking along Boambee Creek, learning about the local fauna and flora and stopping only to catch yabbies. We startled a stingray in the shallows, tasted salt off fresh mangroves (again, still deciding about that experience) and had an amazing time out on the water.
The adventure was not over yet. The tour finished after we saw one of the best sunsets and we headed towards the final destination of the day, Emerald Beach Holiday Park. We had a great barbeque for dinner and 'glamped' – camped with glamour – pitching our tents next to a powered toilet and shower facility. With kangaroos by our door(tent) step, a swimming pool and giant bouncing balloon, I could not recommend the holiday park any more for a complete Coffs adventure.
The final day was spent exploring Coffs Harbour, and no trip to the Coffs Harbour would be complete without a visit to its iconic Big Banana. We did the banana plantation tour (I reserve my thoughts about the tour and recommend all to experience the tour first hand) as well as various activities (gift shop and tobogganing), before finishing our trip with a picnic beneath the jetty at the beach, looking out to Muttonbird Island and the great Pacific Ocean.
All in all, our weekend was packed and arguably, it was a stretch to jam all the activities we did in a weekend (this trip could be done more leisurely over a long weekend). Nevertheless, it created great memories and was a great introduction to the mesmerising north coast of New South Wales. I will definitely be back for longer stays in the rainforest and maybe even try standup paddle boarding – in the meantime, I will keep an eye out for other great destinations which will be the inspiration for our next trip.
Arguably one of Australia's most well known 'big thing' - the Big Banana
Spent years holidaying at Emerald Beach Caravan park. Amenities fantastic and very safe. Short stroll to the beach but kids spent lots of hours playing with new friends and never wanted to come back home.