Coffs Harbour on Australia’s northeast coast of New South Wales is famous for its Big Banana (something like the Giant Pineapple in Hawaii), which is a magnet for snap happy tourists, just north of the town on the Pacific Highway.
My recent long weekend in the sub-tropical region has peeled back some layers to reveal it’s so much more than just a giant yellow icon.
The flight from Sydney is a short 55mins and Tiger Airways flies there from as little as $A100 return – my last pair of shoes cost more than that! We were picked up at the airport in a beach buggy for a tour of the banana-growing region. Our driver points out various landmarks as we cruise along and gives us the cliff notes version on the history of Coffs. At one point we stopped at a roundabout and some traffic – which by Coffs standards is half a dozen cars ahead of us. We can tell it’s already going to be very relaxing few days.
After a short whip around town we were dropped off at the Novotel Pacific Bay Resort, located only 3km from Coffs Harbour CBD approximately 10km from the airport. The resort is set among 40 hectares of subtropical gardens with a 9-hole golf course, two pools, gym, circus school, kids club, Thalgo Day Spa, restaurant & bar and an activities centre.
You can do as little or as much as you like in Coffs Harbour. There are plenty of active activities on offer including surf rafting, kayaking, surf lessons, Stand Up Paddle Boarding, golfing and canoeing. If an active holiday isn’t your cup of tea then try making your own cheese at the Cheese Making Workshop, where Lyndall teaches students how to make feta, camembert, ricotta, quark, mascarpone and Greek style yoghurt. Her mascarpone mixed with icing sugar and vanilla bean paste that you dip grapes in is detrimental to your waistline but your taste buds will be having a party!
After a morning in the surf and scrambling up the beach back to the car park we discovered the local Harbourside Markets buzzing with Sunday revelers seeking bargains on fresh local produce to handmade jewellery and clothing. For those wanting something a little different, market rides on camels are on offer from $10 per person.
Coffs Harbour Butterfly House is only one of four butterfly houses in Australia. We were fascinated to learn that butterflies taste through their feet, only drink and don’t eat – seems a liquid diet is possible after all!
There are ample dining choices peppered throughout the town featuring fresh local produce from Pacific caught seafood, cattle raised in rich Tableland pastures and bananas, mangoes and avocadoes grown in the subtropical climate.
We dined in Charlie’s at the Novotel Pacific Bay Resort and were suitably impressed that on a hectic Saturday night with a wedding reception on the terrace and a dining room bursting with hungry patrons, the kitchen churned out our meals in a timely manner. The menu meant we were spoilt for choice. I chose the marinated Milly hill lamb rack (pictured below) served on potato mash with wilted spinach and bok choy with a mint and rosemary jus, and had to resist temptation to pick up the bones to and eat cave-man style.
By the time our desserts were served meal envy set in, spoons and forks were soon stealing mouthfuls from the plates of those sitting next to and across from us. The raspberry crème brulee with almond biscotti and ice cream and lemon scented meringue with passion strawberry compote and lemon sorbet proved to be the winners.
My next adventure will take me to Cape Town where I’ll live and work as volunteer with Projects Abroad in its Human Rights office to raise awareness of human rights to at-risk groups. I’ll be posting from there, so stay tuned!
- Tiger Airways, Qantas, Virgin and Brindabella provide regular flights to and from Coffs Harbour.
- Beach to Bush Buggy Tours start from $15pp for 15mins up to six passengers. For further information visit www.beachtobushbuggytours.com.au
- Novotel Pacific Bay Resort has three room types including resort, 1 bedroom spa suites, 2 bedroom spa suites and a penthouse. Room rates start from $159 per night including breakfast for two adults. www.pacificbayresort.com.au
- Classes at the Cheese Making Workshop run are from $160 per person which includes all recipes, cheese tasting, morning tea, cheese inspired lunch with local wines and a take home gift bag. Classes run from 10am-4pm. www.thecheesemakingworkshop.com.au
- The Butterfly House is open daily from 9am to 4pm. Prices are $18 for adults, $15 concession, children (4-16yrs) $9 and family $50. www.butterflyhouse.com.au
* Taste for Travel contributor Teresa Lane was a guest of Accor Hotels