"Coffs Harbour - halfway town" Top 5 Page for this destination Coffs Harbour by iandsmith
Coffs Harbour Travel Guide: 239 reviews and 522 photos
The Pacific Highway is Australia's second busiest highway but, it is Australia's busiest tourist highway.
Let's be honest here, tourists love to come and see beaches and Coffs is conveniently located halfway between Sydney and Brisbane, an area with some of the world's finest sandy places.
Fortunately, tourists don't get to see the really good ones so they don't get crowded (part of the attraction) but there are still plenty of nice ones that will more than satisfy the traveller from overseas.
So it is that many trippers end up in Port Macquarie, Coffs and Byron Bay before reaching the fabled Gold Coast, commercialism's showcase.
Coffs is set in a natural amphitheatre of banana plantations, although they're in decline, and it's said that you can tell when it's going to rain by looking at the hills out the back. If the clouds are above the hills it's not going to rain, if they're touching the hills it's time to get out the umbrella. Coffs is renowned for afternoon storms in summer.
For years, Coffs was known for the "Big Banana" a tourist attraction that featured just that and a few shops but it was a prerequisite, especially if you were travelling with kids, that you stop and take a photograph there. Nothing much has changed today except that Coffs has grown big and ugly in my opinion due to poor development planning. Some of the reason for its attractiveness, the sub tropical rain forest by the beach, has been flattened by developers and no longer exists.
It is a vibrant place however and has over 60 motels along with pubs, backpacker accommodation, caravan parks and camping sites, a legacy of being a halfway point.
There are many small attractions in and around the town and also some significant ones nearby, making a stay of a few days here easy to justify.
Coffs Harbour was named Korff's Harbour' by John Korff, a naval architect and shipbuilder who sheltered in the bay during a gale in 1847. The name change happened in 1861 when the town site was reserved.
Although some agriculture developed, cedar getting was the main reason people came in the early years.
The harbour itself was so poor that it led to a boycott in 1865 when the ship "Carrywell" went down. The construction of a lighthouse in 1878 alleviated much of the problem, and, along with a southern breakwall and a marina, has made mooring a lot safer though a swell still gets through when the seas are big.
Around 1880 the area started to expand, having been opened up for selection from 1863, but the high prices asked for the lush river flats slowed development although the land along the flats had all been taken up by the early 1890s.
A town was proclaimed and laid out in 1886, given the official name of Brelsford, one destined not to last. Forays into fruit, dairying, goldmining and sugarcane had been made by that time. Sugar mills developed in the area but assorted difficulties had virtually killed the industry by the end of the century and you now have to travel further north to see the cane.
Transportation also held the timber industry back until 1892 when a jetty was completed and that, coupled with an access road, saw the timber industry expand. At its peak, 4.5 million metres of timber a year were shipped from Coffs Harbour, an unsustainable yield that led to a shortage of resources and its decline in the 1920s.
Gold mining took place between 1881 and 1898 but much of the gold was only on the surface and the hardness of the sandstone created additional difficulties. Though some ventures were prosperous, all were short-lived. However, they did draw prospectors, some of whom settled in the area as farmers. Today, you can still relive some of the experience at George's Gold Mine that is open for tourists.
Dairy farming came into its own in the area. A butter factory opened in 1910 but the degradation of pasturage and the coming of bananas saw the industry shrink after 1950 and get further hit 50 years later with dairy deregulation.
The railway arrived in 1915 and was linked to Sydney in 1923, having a negative effect on the amount of shipping but an increase in tourism that hasn't stopped since.
A side effect of the railway's construction was the expansion of the banana industry. The first bananas were introduced into the area from Fiji in 1881, but it was the hungry mouths of 1500 workers and their families which provided a boost to the industry.
Coffs Harbour became the country's major centre of production following a disease outbreak that wiped out the banana plantations further north in the late 1920s.
The harbour became the base of
an active fishing fleet in the 1970s. In recent years the coastal fringes for thirty kilometres north have been developed at an alarming rate leading to major problems with infrastructure, such as insufficient water reserves, a fact that surfaced during a recent drought.
A day trip through Bellingen and up to Dorrigo is a popular excursion.
There are a few loops roads around Dorrigo and they take you past some picturesque rural scenery to say the least. Rolling fertile hills with cows grazing contentedly make for pleasant viewing at the worst of times and here is no exception.
Here is a shot I took on a short loop road, only about 8kms or so.
- Pros:Plenty of shopping, a couple of good beaches, relaxed atmosphere, plenty of accommodation
- Cons:Badly planned development
- In a nutshell:Pretty, friendly but urbanized.
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