Road trip: Coffs Coast, NSW

By AG STAFF 3 February 2016
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The NSW north coast city of Coffs Harbour and its surrounds would have to be one of Australia’s best outdoor road trip destinations.

THE NSW NORTH coast city of Coffs Harbour and its surrounds would have to be one of Australia’s best outdoor road trip destinations. You’ll find a dream list of activities here – hiking, paddling (whitewater rafting/kayaking and flatwater canoeing), mountain biking, cycle touring, fishing, diving, forest drives and surfing – as well as some of the state’s most sublime camping spots and caravan parks, along with a number of national parks and state forests to explore. All you need to do is figure out how much time to spend there.

The drive 

Australian Geographic Adventure’s recommended adventure road trip would be seven days long, and entail a loop starting from, and finishing at, Coffs itself, and which would include plenty of time exploring surrounding national parks/state forests, and their activities, as well as some adventure closer to towns. This length of time could easily be tweaked to just five without missing out on too much, making it ideal for adventurous families looking for a quick week away from the rat race.

Them thar hills

The ranges to the west of Coffs Harbour hide national parks that are packed with great campsites and plenty of adventures. The first stop on our clockwise road trip out of Coffs is to Dorrigo, high on the New England plateau. This area’s country roads are also a great cycle touring destination: hook up with the welcoming members of the Dorrigo Urunga Bellingen Bicycle User Group ( for a mid-week or weekend social ride. DUBBUG can also suggest rides further afield in some of the region’s state forests and national parks. (For a different – and unique – Dorrigo experience, tackle the famous Skywalk, which takes you over the tall rainforest canopy – it’s brilliant!)

Two wheels good 

From Dorrigo you continue north to Cascades National Park. Here, you’ll find another cycle-based adventure, this time on knobby tires: the Cascades Mountain Bike trail takes you through the southern section of the park. It’s a relatively easy ride, too, which makes it great for all rider skill levels. For hikers, the Box Ridge and Mobong walking tracks are nearby and, again, are a great way to explore this small national park.

More than a whitewater mecca

If you’re looking for something bigger – and wilder – then you will need to continue north, into Nymboi-Binderay National Park. This park is famous for its whitewater (and flatwater) paddling, so if you’re a keen boater then camping a few days at either Platypus Flat or The Junction (4WD-only when wet/raining) campgrounds, both of which are located right on the bank of the mighty Nymboida River. From these sites you can go for a swim, or put the canoe or kayak in and do some exploring along one of the flat sections of this famous whitewater river. For the more adventurous, of course, there’s always a day’s whitewater rafting to tackle, as well as some more challenging whitewater kayaking locations – the Nymboida will keep all paddler types well occupied. For cyclists, the park’s firetrails are a great way to explore the area at a more leisurely pace. Hikers are also well catered for with myriad walking tracks throughout the park.

The lure of The Big Blue

From Nymboi-Binderay NP, we’d jump onto the Armidale Road and start looping north, then east, back to the coast and Coffs’ many ocean-based activities. If you’re a surfer, there are numerous beach breaks to test your skills on. Sea kayakers can also explore up and down the coast but, if you’re a diver, then you really only want to experience one thing: Solitary Islands Marine Park, just off the coast from Coffs Harbour. This marine park is the largest reserve of its kind in NSW and you’ll bear witness to some amazing sights, such as large (and very friendly) blue grouper and wobbegong sharks among the claimed 550 species of fish in the reserve, plus amazing reef formations and even some sea turtles.

The Coffs Harbour area offers up an incredibly adventure-rich week. You’ll wish you’d allowed more time in this awesome area, but when you return to the grind of work, at least you’ll have a massive list of memories to sustain you until that next outdoor road trip.

More info

Time: Five to seven days 

When to go: All year 

Getting there: Coffs Harbour is six hours north of Sydney, via the Pacific Highway. Driving south from Brisbane it is roughly the same, again via the Pacific Highway. 

Accommodation: National park/state forest campgrounds, town-based caravan parks, hotel/motels and resorts. 

Vehicle: Any vehicle type is sufficient for most of the roads on this loop. Note: There are a couple of firetrails in Nymboi-Binderay NP that are 4WD-only when it is muddy/wet.

Map: Hema Maps North East NSW 

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