RICH AND COLOURFUL COFFS COAST
A giant concrete banana tells just one story of this diverse regions fascinating history.
Located along the Mid North Coast of New South Wales, the Coffs Coast has a surprisingly rich and colourful history. It is anchored by Coffs Harbour, located 560 kilometres north of Sydney and 430 kilometres south of Brisbane. The Pacific Highway provides a good road link, while air services are operated by Virgin Blue, Qantas and Sunshine Express.
The first European to sight this stretch of the coastline was Captain James Cook in May 1770. Early inhabitants were cedar cutters who established a number of small settlements along the Bellingen and Nambucca river systems. There were small gold strikes and dairy farming became a viable industry. The greatest claim to fame, however, was the banana industry, which reached its peak in the 1960s.
A tribute to this is the Big Banana, a popular roadside stop for generations of Australians on the Pacific Highway just north of Coffs Harbour. The giant concrete banana was opened as a tourist attraction in 1964, its design inspired by the prize-winning banana from that years Coffs Harbour Agricultural Show.
Today, the Big Banana is internationally renowned, with a range of family-friendly activities available including a toboggan ride, Hillclimb Railway, ice-skating rink and even an indoor ski slope. Shops and cafes, an environment centre, tours of the working banana plantation and, of course, the frozen chocolate-coated bananas, will keep kids of all ages occupied for hours.
Coffs Harbour was originally called Korffs Harbour after John Korff, a mariner who took shelter in the bay during a violent storm in 1847. When the town site was formally declared in 1861, the name inexplicably changed to Coffs. As road travel between Queensland and the southern states developed in the 1960s, Coffs Harbour developed into an overnight stopover point, with many motels lining the highway.
These days, Coffs Harbour is a tourist destination in its own right, with numerous upmarket resorts lining the coastal strip. Guesthouses, B&Bs, farm stays, self-contained cottages and idyllic country retreats are dotted throughout the region. Coffs Harbour itself is a sophisticated resort city with a relaxed, subtropical appeal and the largest shopping centre in regional New South Wales. The immediate Coffs Harbour region has more than 30 beaches spread along 40 kilometres of coastline. Some are renowned by surfers; other more protected areas are suited for swimming and family activities.
Family-friendly activities abound including bork (SIMP), which stretches from Muttonbird Island in the south to Plover Island in the north. Recreational fishing is permitted in many areas of the park. From June to November, whale-watching cruises are available.
What is now known as the Coffs Coast extends from Scotts Head in the south to Red Rock in the north. The towns of Bellingen and Dorrigo are great places to begin an exploration of
ating, swimming, sailing and surfing. Scuba diving is especially popular around the 71,000 hectare Solitary Islands Marine Pathe Coffs Coast hinterland.
Bellingen, in the midst of the rich dairy farming region, Bellinger Valley, was first settled in the 1840s. Its main street retains its century-old charm and style. From Bellingen, continue along the Rainforest Way to Dorrigo, which is at the heart of a spectacularly beautiful wilderness experience.
At 730 metres above sea level, Dorrigo perches on the edge of the New England Escarpment. There is a steam railway museum west of town, while the 11,700 hectare Dorrigo National Park is home to the World Heritage Rainforest Centre.
The towns of Sawtell and Nambucca Heads lie south of Coffs Harbour. The beaches in this area provide some excellent conditions for families, while journeys into the hinterland are sure to uncover many and varied hidden delights.
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