Banana Coast centre
130 km north of Port Macquarie on the Pacific Highway and the coast. Coff’s Harbour is an odd mixture of commercial port and beach resort, set amidst some spectacular coastal scenery. All around there are superb beaches, and behind town the hills rise to the mountains of the Great Dividing Range.
Coff’s Harbour is in the centre of the Banana Coast. To celebrate this fact, a giant concrete banana has been erected on the Pacific Highway a couple of kilometres north of town. Visit the Big Banana theme park in order to learn all about the banana industry. Features include early pioneer banana-men, caves where Aborigines dreamed of bananas, a video, a ride on an elevated railway through the plantations, and an explanation of what the banana plantations of the space age future will look like. (Alas, even then bananas still won’t have zips, apparently.) The kids love it, though the experience may well drive you bananas. If so, be sure to hang on to your sanity long enough to taste their absolutely superb banana milk shakes at the end. For these alone, it’s worth risking bananamania tremens.
Coff’s Harbour itself has the usual resort jollities, including a zoo, 12 km north of town, famed for its wombats, a pet porpoise pool down by the riverfront, a racecourse and a golf course. More fun than any of these are the white-water rafting trips on the Nymboida River – for more information, see Byron Bay. Another outlying attraction well worth a look is George’s Gold Mine, 40 km north-west in the mountains at Lowanna.
But the real reason for coming to Coff’s Harbour is the number of great beaches. Diggers Beach just north of town is my favourite; maybe because this is where I learned to surf properly (earlier disastrous efforts had been attempted in private on other continents). Here they’re experts in teaching the inept to surf – for around $55 for a 2.5-hour lesson (www.eastcoastsurfschool.com.au/Lessons/).
At the entrance to the harbour is Muttonbird Island, which can be reached by way of the northern harbour jetty. During the summer this is home to nesting Muttonbirds, who return each evening after their day’s fishing far out in the ocean. Each April they set out on their amazing migration north. Their route takes them around the entire western Pacific rim, past the Philippines, Japan, and Siberia, to the Aleutian Islands off Alaska. Then it’s time to head back once more for the Big Banana.