A popular waypoint south of Byron Bay and north of Port Macquarie, Coffs Harbour is a university town with loads to see and do. So, it is no surprise to me that online travel site Wotif has given Coffs the number one spot in its Top 10 Australian Towns of 2020. The destination came out on top for its affordability, range of accommodation options and trending interest from travellers.

Its attractions are many, from its golden sand and pristine surf breaks (especially those at nearby Sapphire, Emerald and Sawtell beaches) to the fishing and boating playground around Coffs Harbour Jetty. A short walk along the breakwater from the jetty is the seabird rookery of Muttonbird Island, a stunning location for spotting rare wedge-tailed shearwaters (or muttonbirds).

To the west of Coffs sits the Great Dividing Range, with bushwalks, viewing platforms, picnic areas and swimming holes in the lush rainforest. To the south sits Bellingen, about half an hour’s drive. The small town is packed over summer periods with tourists and locals flocking to its trendy artisan gift shops and local swimming holes such as the Never Never River in the valley known as The Promised Land.

The cafe and dining scene around Coffs Harbour has been booming in recent years with local restaurant owners favouring seasonal local produce. The Spare Room in nearby Sawtell and has an enviable cocktail list and a menu that highlights Bellingen Pasta and local fish specials, garnished with herbs from their herb garden out back. There’s live jazz on Sunday evenings.

A trip to Coffs wouldn’t be complete without a visit to The Big Banana, an icon for the town for more than 30 years. It now has a water splash park and giant slides, cart racing, mini-golf, laser tag, ice-skating and even a 3D cinema – a winner for families.

Accommodation in and around Coffs Harbour is also in high demand with travellers seeking out the caravan parks by the sea, private beach houses and hotels with all the facilities for a romantic getaway or a group trip. Aanuka Beach Resort is a consistent crowdpleaser with those seeking a hotel with a luxurious tropical feel and Diggers Beach is at the doorstep.

Coffs Harbour has a spirit for fun. There are festivals year-round within the Coffs region. In July, the Chilli Festival in Sawtell is always a hot event. The Bellingen Jazz Festival in August each year is a must-do. In September, there’s Curryfest in Woolgoolga (a hard name to say but a great place to stay!), just north of Coffs, and the festival always draws an eclectic crowd.

But the best thing about Coffs Harbour, from my local perspective, are the locals themselves. After surviving the challenges of the fires over the summer, the people of Coffs are eager to welcome visitors with open arms. Even celebrity resident Russell Crowe (or “Rusty” as we locals all call him) is proud to call Coffs home and has been lending a hand to help the firefighters as they band together in the true spirit of the north coast.

Also, appearing in Wotif’s 2020 Aussie Town of the Year winners are Batemans Bay and Katoomba in NSW and Port Fairy in Victoria.

Take me there

Fly: Flights to Coffs Harbour operate from every Australian capital city. Qantas, Virgin and Tigerair operate daily services and flight time from Sydney is just over an hour. One-way fares with Tigerair cost as little as $78 one way (ex-Syd). Visit tigerair.com.au

Stay: Aanuka Beach Resort is a few minutes’ drive north of Coffs Harbour, on Diggers Beach. A two-bedroom spa villa sleeps up to five guests and costs $236 per night. Visit aanukabeachresort.com.au

Visit: The Big Banana is the best place to play on a Coffs holiday. Grab a family selfie in front of the big icon and then run wild at the attractions. A combo package costs $28.50 for kids and $35.20 for adults. Visit bigbanana.com

Explore more: coffscoast.com.au

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