Every year we try to book a family holiday away. We like to travel local because it’s cheaper and much easier with little kids. This year we decided to venture away from our standard Gold Coast or Sunshine Coast destinations, and headed further south to Coffs Harbour. I didn’t realise how much there was to do at Coffs Harbour. Of course, you can do as much or as little as you want, depending on the holiday you like. We like a mix of touristy attractions, with a relaxing swim at the beach or pool. And our week away to Coffs Harbour included that and more.
If you’re looking for a place that offers amazing family experiences, you should look into staying at Coffs Harbour.
Top 13 things to do in Coffs Harbour with Kids
1. Get Kissed by a Seal and Dolphin at Dolphin Marine Magic
If you want to get up close and personal with a seal or dolphin, you can certainly do that and more at Dolphin Marine Magic. We got to the park right on opening and this gave us time to be interactive with the dolphins. It was an incredible experience. The staff are passionate about their animals and their personalized service to us, made this place a must visit. Because we were one of the first families into the park, we got to interact with dolphins before the main show. It was a thrill to have our hand in the water and wait for the dolphins to swim to us.
They are such beautiful and playful creatures. After our encounter, we were able to get a kiss from a seal and dolphin which made for a lovely memory for us all.
Both Esther and Maggie were picked from the crowd to be part of the main show. The girls learned about the importance of putting rubbish in the bin and reducing plastic waste, which harms the marine life in the ocean. The girls then got to feed a seal which meant they got fishy hands.
Tips for your visit: Take swimwear if you’d like to swim with a dolphin. The cost is an extra $50 on your ticket entry. If you don’t want to swim with a dolphin, take extra clothes or wear fast drying clothes as you can get wet from the water overflowing from the pools when standing next to them, while encountering the dolphins. Keep wipes on you to wash fishy hands after the kids have fed the dolphins and seals.
2. Walk Along the Coffs Harbour Jetty
After visiting Dolphin Marine Magic, we headed to the jetty and walked up along it. It was quite breezy on the day we visited, so do take a cardi. It’s a great place for some fresh air and views of the harbour.
3. Have Lunch at Hoey Moey
The Hoey Moey is a pub attached to what looks to be backpacker accommodation. Every day there is a $7.50 meal of the day. The kids also get to eat for under $10 and their meals include a drink and ice-cream. We had lunch here and it cost us around $40, drinks included. Our meal of the day was baked fish and it was delicious. Definitely a must visit as it is known to be the best food in Coffs Harbour (possibly the cheapest as well).
4. Visit the Clog Barn
The Clog Barn is a free attraction located on the Pacific Highway. It’s well worth a visit. The kids loved walking through the model display which offer railways and windmills. The miniature Dutch village is also home to many lizards, which the kids loved spotting as they walked through the display.
Each day there are clog making demonstrations in the quaint shop.
5. Visit the Forest Sky Pier
Close your eyes as you drive your way up the mountain to visit the Forest Sky Pier, which gives you amazing views of Coffs Harbour. The pier does sway, a bit similar to the Mt Tambourine Sky Walk. I didn’t stay on there for very long. Make sure you choose a sunny day for clear views of the Harbour.
6. Do a Carobana Factory Tour and Taste Test Carob Products
If you love lollies and chocolate, you will love this mini tour of the Carobana factory. It’s a free attraction and we got to see carob bullets move on the cooling belt, and rocky road being made. Make sure you arrive after 10am as that is when you will see the factory come to life.
I had always thought carob was bitter tasting, but the products here are delicious. The shop doesn’t skimp on taste testing either. I enjoyed learning how carob is made and it was a thrill to see first hand how the products are produced in the factory. Because we were the only family there, we got invited into parts of the factory the general public aren’t allowed in. We even got to lick the bowl after the rocky road was made. The staff here are so friendly. It really is a great place to visit with kids. The products are very reasonably priced too. We bought heaps of carob products here. My favourites were the Carob peppermint bites. YUM.
7. Visit the Butterfly House
The Butterfly House was magical to visit. This was one of our most favourite attractions.
The Butterfly House is a greenhouse, tropical environment that houses a huge number of butterflies. The best time to visit is between 10am and 2pm when the butterflies are most active. It’s the closest thing I’ve felt to being like Snow White. It really is enchanting and relaxing to watch so many butterflies fly past.
After our visit in the greenhouse, there is a maze with questions about butterflies which you need to make your way around to find the answers. The kids get a lollypop when they complete the maze and their information sheet. I learned a few things about butterflies I didn’t know before.
8. Walk behind a waterfall at Dorrigo National Park
Dorrigo National Park is an hour’s drive southwest of Coffs Harbour. Despite Siri directing us to the outskirts of Dorrigo National Park, ensure you enter Dorrigo Rain Forest Centre to get directions to the rainforest walk.
This circuit is around 6km and will take around 2 hours to walk. We got to walk behind Crystal Shower Falls and see the stunning Tristania Falls. The kids did complain about the walk, so there was a tag team of piggy back rides and carrying the younger two when their legs got tired. When we reached the end of the walk, we had lunch at the Rainforest Café, starting with an ice-block to cool ourselves down. This walk was another highlight of our trip.
9. Touch a sea cucumber, sea urchin and starfish at Solitary Islands Aquarium
The Solitary Islands Aquarium is only open on weekends and school holidays. It’s only a small aquarium, but the interactive parts are really educational for kids. We got to see the staff feed the fish – we even got to witness the gloomy octopus unplug the top off it’s test tube to eat the food inside the tube.
The great thing about the Solitary Islands area is the mix in water from the tropics and Tasman Sea allow for a mix of both cold and warm water marine life to live in the area.
At the interactive touch water station, we got to hold a starfish, sea urchin and sea cucumber. It’s definitely worth a visit and a great rainy day activity.
10. Explore the Rock Pools
The kids LOVED exploring the beach at Charlesworth Bay, behind our hotel. There were amazing rock pools that the girls loved looking in for marine life.
11. Have a Coffee (and lunch) at Artisti
Artisti was listed as a top place to visit on Trip Advisor. It definitely has a modern vibe and we must have missed the breakfast rush when we arrived. The girls enjoyed babycinos and brownies, while Jacob and I ordered an early lunch. My Sticky Pork Belly Salad was delicious!
12. Visit the Big Banana Fun Park and Ride The Attractions
The girls thought the Big Banana was the best part of the trip. There is so much to do here. Allow a good part of your day to do all the attractions. We did a tour of the Big Banana, then raced each other on the big slide (OMG it goes so fast! I screamed the whole way down) and then we spent time at the water park.
The water park is only open in sessions. When we went, there was only one session from 11:45am to 1:15pm. There are two sections of the park. One section for younger kids, and another for the kids and adults over 130 cm. I spent most of my time with the younger two, who were entertained by the bouncy slides.
After our water session finished, we had lunch, headed to the cheese shop and candy shop for much needed supplies. We then headed on the toboggan which was a lot of fun.
There is ice skating, laser force and mini golf available at the park. We didn’t do those, but it’s good to know they’re there for something extra to do.
13. Book North Coast Babysitting Service for the Kids for a Date Night
Thankfully the Novotel had a kids club which is run by Mid North Coast Babysitting Service. It cost us the same amount to babysit as it was for them to go to the club (which is run by the same company). We chose the club as we knew the kids would enjoy a change of scenery and play time. The girls got to do craft and had an absolute ball. Jacob and I had dinner at the Novotel. We were in the presence of Mark Taylor, Ian Healy and some of the Australian Women’s Cricket team, who were playing in Coffs Harbour.
Our week away was fantastic. We spent afternoons swimming in the pool or exploring the beach.
Coffs Harbour is just under a 5 hour drive from Brisbane. We stayed in a 2 bedroom apartment at the Novotel Pacific Bay. We bought groceries so we could eat breakfast and a lunch or dinner at our hotel. The resort is lovely, and our room had been refurbished. The location was perfect for visiting the attractions. There are rumours the hotel will close to either be sold or refurbed as the resort is a little dated. I do hope it gets refurbed because the location is fantastic. A typical day involved visiting and attraction or two in the morning, lunch at the resort and then a swim in the afternoon and a walk on the beach. The beach is not patrolled. We didn’t swim there, but an amazing amount of shells and ocean life can be viewed at the rock pools.
Breaking the trip up
The 5 hour drive was broken up by a stay in Ballina on the way down, and a stop at Byron Bay on the way back home.
We stayed one night in Ballina to visit family. We stayed at the Ballina Travellers Lodge and it was all we needed for a night’s stay. The rooms there have been refurbished. We stayed in a family room (sleeps 5) for one night for under $200. The room included a kitchen if we wanted to dine in. McDonalds was our dinner and breakfast choices because I didn’t want to cook and it was just easier. I can definitely recommend this hotel. Our previous accommodation wasn’t available for the night we needed.
On the way back home, we stopped at The Farm at Byron Bay. We weren’t there long because the place was packed and we were told there was a 45 minute wait for a table. The kids were hungry and it was hot, so we left and drove to the nearest McDonalds for a lunch stop.
Overall, the week was a fantastic break for us all. I took Esther and Maggie out of school and Kindy for the week. They learned so much on our trip away, and we made memories.
Next time you’re looking for a place to holiday at, do consider Coffs Harbour. We can’t wait to go back again.