Iconic destinations such as Frasier Island, Uluru and the Cape can leave a remarkable taste for other adventures in anyones mind where the journey is just as great as the destination. But sometimes there are other choices that are so close, yet we pass them by to search for longer and bigger trips. Coffs Harbour is one of those hidden destinations that is slowly becoming a 4wd and camping mecca. The Coffs Coast is a regional tourism destination taking in the Coffs Harbour and Bellingen areas on the North Coast of NSW.This is where the Great Dividing Range meets the Pacific Ocean, leaving a small pocket of paradise lodged between the mountains and the sea.
Coffs Coast has one of Australia's most liveable environments - a sub tropical climate that averages maximum 27 degrees and minimum 11 degrees and with Sea temperature ranging from a Summer average of 23°C, through to a Winter average of 18° its no wonder that Coffs is a tourist mecca. Coffs is one of those great places where the Great dividing range meets the sea, allowing for a host of National Parks and Reserves: 11 National Parks, 14 Nature Reserves, 84,000 hectares of World Heritage Areas, 2 Aboriginal Areas and 1 Regional Park, 37 State Forests along with an estimated 90 kilometres of Beaches, throw in 71,100 hectares of Solitary Islands Marine Park and you could nearly say there is something for every one on the Coffs coast.
Coffs Harbour is located midway between Sydney and Brisbane on the pacific highway allowing easy access by either road, rail or air. An easy days drive from either Sydney or Brisbane will see you arrive relaxed after a campsite setup from a host of different camping locations. The City of Coffs Harbour has several major shopping centres, fuel stops and mechanical workshops.
There is a host of accommodation options for those who head towards Coffs. From bush camps with river views to beach frontage sites where you can lose your self for days, and for those who like to be spoilt with pools, shopping centres and local attractions there are some fantastic caravan parks that rate highly in the state. Nymbodia which lies some 60km west of Coffs has some of the best river frontage camping spots that you can find. Several camp locations have pit toilets, grassed areas with picturesque views beside the mighty Nymboida River, where several rafting companies start some amazing trips down stream to tackle grade 4-5 rapids. To camp out here you need to be self sufficient as there is no phone reception or shops to duck back to. It is true gorge country where you may only be some 2 hours from the coast yet you may not see any one for days. Keep an eye on weather conditions here as storms in other gorge areas may cause the river to rise.
For those who love the ocean it is possible to camp so close to the ocean you will have salt air in your lungs as you sleep. Located just 40 minutes north of Coffs in the Yuraygir Natioal Park- Pebbly Beach has been earmarked as one of the top campsite locations on the eastern seaboard of NSW. Timing needs to be paramount here as you do cross a tidal creek to access the pristine campgrounds after a magical drive north along the coastline. Pebbly Beach camp grounds hold a special meaning for those who venture there, from stunning sunrises, coastal walks to those special one on one moments with the kids or your partner. Facilities here are the basic pit toilets, so again being self sufficient is a must for those long stays.
Camping on the Coff's coast is suitable all year round, yet be prepared for cool nights in winter and warm summer days. Saying this taking advantage of the conditions is as easy as mustard. Cool nights means great fires that are possible at all locations, yet the hot summer days means swimming and relaxing beside crystal clear waterways in pristine locations or riding the waves along the coastline. For those who need extra camping gear or just plain forgot something there are several large camping stores in the Coff's area to cater for all needs, so don't despair if you need extra gear. A little preparation goes a long way though, as with any camping trip. The great thing with these iconic camping locations is that they are available for those with tents, swags or the larger camper trailer family- it is just that good and that easy. National Parks look after several camping location here, and with your minimal fee that needs to be paid, there are benefits with simple pit toilets, good clean sites and even free firewood- not bad. .
Some 80 million years ago an eruption from the Ebor ( near Dorrigo ) volcano create a huge upheaval of the earths crust that created the surrounding hills that lay behind Coffs. This creates some of the best 4wding that this country has to offer as it is the closest place on the east coast where the mountains meet the sea. The terrain here changes constantly from easy plateau sections to extreme 4wding where it can push both man and 4wd to its limits. Definitely care needs to be taken in the wetter months or even when storms are about as track conditions can turn nasty real fast when tackling those harder sections. Having a vast array of mountainous hinterland areas allows for a selection of different climates around and over the terrain that lies here. From pristine rainforest pockets, lantana infested areas to heavily timbered old growth sections that lay to claim some of the oldest and hardest timber in NSW. Track conditions can change at the earshot of a storm where several inches of rain can fall in the matter of hours, thus allowing for rain runoff to carve new ruts and create further havoc for us 4wders. There are several great ridge trails that highlight just how special the Coffs Coast can be, with ocean views below you, you pick your way through huge gums criss crossing the ridges yet you are so close to the city centre. There is no need to have a fully specced out comp truck to enjoy the Coffs hinterland, as there are enough tracks from easy to mild for those who chose to explore the region in off the shelf 4wds or touring trucks. With any trip or adventure, preparation and maintenance needs to be a priority and Coffs is no different. There are many 4wd workshops and accessories stores located on the Coffs coast, but getting stuck in the hinterland can be no joy, as phone reception can be sketchy as with UHF radio signals. It is best to head to the hills with a plan. Get some local knowledge at a designated 4wd shop where they know the area, grab a handful of maps, or even book into a 4wd tour, where you can get a great overview of the area. Like with any trip you need to carry the basic recovery items, a UHF radio is handy and correct clothing to cater for conditions.
Depending on your scenic of adventure or how your 4wd setup, it will determine just where you head to tackle the mighty Coffs Hinterland. Several tracks are worth mentioning but you do need to seek local advice as conditions do change constantly. Rover Trail hugs the coast from Coffs north for several kilometres that will give you stunning coastal views towards the Solitary Islands, Morbid Track is a great one to tackle that heads upwards towards Mount Coramba- the highest point on the Coffs Coast, giving you 360' views across the rugged terrain all around you as well as ocean views, or what about heading to Friday Creek where you can spend hours relaxing in crystal clear water that has filtered down from the hinterland where even in summer the water can be very refreshing to say the least. Wilder tracks on the Coffs Coast demand a certain respect, these tracks can break the hardest and meanest 4wds. Located some 6km away from the heart of Coffs lays Mount Coramba. This mountain rises some 700 metres above sea level from nowhere, and with track names like Rocky, Commando, Dump and Spur you can only guess what secrets they have install for you. Be prepared for some of the toughest tracks you can imagine if you are need a hard core fix, these tracks have no mercy.
The Coffs Coast has a huge range of activities where you can leave the bush behind for a while to explore the other wonders of the Coffs Coast if the weather turns ugly or the missus wants to shop. Wether it be letting the kids wild- skating, jetty jumping or cycling around town, or even eating out at one of the many first class restaurants there are other options. To slow down it is possible to visit Dorrigo, where there are several walks through World Heritage National Parks that contain stunning scenery and culture, or even spend time fishing in one of the many local rivers for a variety of species of fish. The hub of the Coffs Coast revolves around the historic Coffs Harbour jetty. The jetty juts out some several hundred metres past several beaches and the Coffs marina, where an afternoon or evening stroll should defiantly be on the list when visiting. For those history buffs, there is a host of places to visit around the Coffs Coast, from the old WW11 gun bunkers, the old Glenreagh to Dorrigo railway line with a handful of Sidings still standing with a few old carriages thrown in, there was an estimated 200 registered gold mines that still can be found today, several old gold mining villages, and don't forgot the old loggers stumps that still litter the bush where you can see the old plank cut outs in the stumps where the old timers stood up to 15 feet above the ground swinging axes and saws, a visit to the old mill at Cascade in the hinterland is a hit with the kids too- all this and your still only a stones throw from the hustle and bustle of the resorts and for those who don't scare too easy the Coffs Harbour city cemetery is heritage listed.
For the more adventurous the options range from camel rides on the beach, sky diving from 10 000 feet, white water rafting on the mighty Nymboida River, chasing marlin off the coast, mountain bike riding in the local forests,scuba diving around the solitary islands, whale watching, even taking a Harley trip around the coast.
The Coffs Coast is a great alternative for those on a limited budget who cant yet afford a longer or bigger trip, but having so much on offer it is a great destination for the whole family yet you still need to prepare your 4wd, camping structure and travel plans. ..
My top 5 tips when visiting the Coffs Coast is
1…Make sure your 4wd is up to scratch if tackling any of the serious terrain that is on offer.
2…Research as much information as you can.
3…Respect the conditions and drive the tracks to suit.
4…If camping out, leave nothing but footprints