Explore the NSW Mid-North Coast

A woman on a surfboard in the ocean on the NSW North Coast.

NSW North Coast has endless beaches to swim, surf and enjoy. Photo: Destination NSW

Head north of Sydney and experience coastal town living at its best. There are endless beaches, creeks, rainforests, and mountain ranges which makes this the perfect holiday getaway. The mid-North Coast includes the coastal towns from Forster, Port Macquarie, Coffs Harbour to Yamba.

Things to do in Port Macquarie

A woman patting a camel on the beach at Port Macquarie

Take a camel safari on the beach at Port Macquarie. Photo: Destination NSW

Getting there: Port Macquarie is 4 hours drive north of Sydney. Catch a plane or a bus to Port Macquarie. Heads up, flights are expensive because it’s a regional airport. Bus tickets average $60 one way. 


A vet helping an injured Koala at the Port Macquarie Koala hospital

Visit the Koala hospital and see the amazing work done by the team. Photo: International fund for animal welfare, Pexels

  • Swim, surf and play on one of Port Macquarie's 17 beaches including the family-friendly Flynns Beach, Lake Cathie Beach which has calm waters. Town Beach is popular with experienced surfers. 

  • For something a little different, join a camel safari along Lighthouse beach, or take the 9 km coastal walk that leads to Tacking Point Lighthouse. 

  • Visit the Koala hospital where you can meet and help care for these beautiful but endangered animals. Koalas were among the many casualties during the 2019 Australian bushfires so the Koala Hospital is important in helping to nurse them back to health.

  • Take a river cruise and spot the local dolphins, or take a deep-sea fishing charter. The catch of the day includes snapper, kingfish, jewfish, flathead or whiting.

Things to do in Coffs Harbour

A dolphin Coffs playing in the water at the Harbour's dolphin marine conservation park

Visit Coffs Harbour's dolphin marine conservation park. Photo: Destination NSW

Getting there: Coffs Harbour is 5.5 hours drive from Sydney (or 1.5 hours from Port Macquarie). Book a flight, or catch a train or bus. If you’re on a budget, a bus is definitely your cheapest option.

This area is affectionately called ‘the Coffs Coast’. I’ve said that all coastal areas north of Sydney are spectacular, and the Coffs Coast is no exception.  

  • Coffs Harbour has 16 beautiful beaches including Diggers beach and Park beach which are popular surfing spots. Head to Moonee beach and Emerald beach for calm waves. 

  • Jetty Beach is popular with locals and visitors. This beach has foreshore park and paths where you’ll find many roller-bladers and cyclists, and a timber jetty that is perfect for fishing, bird watching, and getting those perfect Instagram pics. This also happens to be the spot for the Harbourside markets every Sunday morning. Get your delicious local fruit and vegetables, olive oil, macadamia nuts, fresh bread, and more.

  • Also in the same area is the Solitary Islands Marine Park where you’ll find dolphins, turtles and stingrays. This is also a great place to learn to surf. Just across the pedestrian walkway is Muttonbird Island which is the breeding place in summer for wedge-tailed shearwaters (muttonbirds).

  • Go kayaking, stand-up paddleboarding, canoeing or fishing. There’s lots of calm creeks and rivers to swim and float around in. A couple of suggestions are Boambee Creek in Sawtell, and Moonee Beach nature reserve. But really, any spot with water that takes your fancy is perfect on the Coffs Coast. 

  • For a stand-up paddleboard tour with a twist, I recommend booking Wajaana Yaam Adventure Tours. Your guide is from the local Gumbaynggirr tribal nation, and you’ll paddle through the heart of Coffs, followed by a bush food tucker feast and stories of the local lands.

a dad and his son playing in the water at Coffs Harbour jetty beach

There's plenty of ways to enjoy the beach at Coffs Harbour jetty. Photo: Destination NSW

  • If you love a good hike with views, waterfalls and birds singing, then add the world heritage-listed Dorrigo National Park to your itinerary. Dorrigo National Park is a 1-hour drive from Coffs Harbour, and has great lookouts and picnic spots, 12 different walks, 11 waterfalls and is the ideal place for birdwatching. While you’re in there:

    • Take the 1-minute Skywalk boardwalk for views over the rainforest canopy 

    • Walk to Crystal Shower Falls.  3.5km return (allow 1 - 2hours). This walk takes you through lush rainforest to the sounds of rainforest birds singing, across a suspension bridge that takes you behind the Crystal Shower waterfall.

    • Lyrebird link is 0.8km return and takes between 30min – 1 hour. This is a great track for birdwatching. If you’re lucky, you might see a rose-crowned fruit dove or a brightly coloured king parrot. Other cool sights are the giant stinging trees, birds nest ferns and lawyer cane palms. 

    • Blackbutt walking track: 6.4km one way and takes between 3-4 hours. This challenging hike takes you through the rainforest, along Endiandra Creek and escarpment for views over Dorrigo plateau.

a mum and her daughter visiting the Big Banana in Coffs Harbour.

Include a visit to the Big Banana in Coffs Harbour. Photo: Destination NSW

  • It’s totally cheesy but you must visit the iconic Big Banana fun park. The Big Banana pays homage to the local banana farming industry. Take a walk-through the Big Banana, or enjoy park activities including water slides, skating rink, toboggan ride, mini-golf, and laser tag. Hungry? Visit the cheesemaking workshop and deli where there’s over 200 different cheeses, or drop by the café for one of their famed chocolate-covered bananas. Entry to the Big Banana is free but you pay for activities.

  • Feel like a quick trip to Holland (Europe)…visit the Clog Barn that has canals, windmills and a hand-built model Dutch village. Go inside the barn and watch traditional Dutch clogs being cut and painted.

Things to do in Yamba

 A group of people enjoying an outdoor yoga class at Yamba's Yoga room in Wooli Park

Rise and shine with an outdoor yoga class at Yamba's Yoga room in Wooli Park. Photo: Destination NSW

Getting there: Yamba is a 7-hour drive from Sydney (or 1.5 hours from Coffs Harbour)

Yamba is a sedate fishing village Is 1.5 hours south of Byron Bay. It’s making a name for itself as the next Byron bay – but with less hustle and bustle. Yamba has five glorious beaches and rock pools for you to swim and surf. Main beach has a very popular ocean pool, while Whiting beach is calm and perfect for kids, kayakers and stand-up paddleboarders, and Covent beach is secluded and sheltered by the surrounding cliffs.

Visit the Tweed Coast & Byron Bay (Far North Coast)

a couple running in the water at Clarkes Beach in Byron Bay

Splash and play at Clarkes Beach in Byron Bay. Destination NSW

Getting there: Byron Bay and the Tweed Coast are 8-9 hour drive from Sydney (or 1.5 hours from Yamba).

Byron Bay originally made its name as a bohemian and alternative town. Today, it’s home to many international celebrities including crocodile Dundee - Paul Hogan, Chris Hemsworth (aka Thor), Matt Damon, international songstress Olivia Newton-John, super-couple Nicole Kidman and Keith Urban, and actor Simon Baker.

A little further north is the Tweed Coast (which is unofficially part of the Gold Coast). There’s a whole load of coastal towns between Byron and Tweed that are a combination of charming, alternative, funky and downright delicious. (Yes, this area is renowned for its great soil and sustainable farming, which means you get to enjoy the best food and drink.) 

When you come to this area, it’s all about enjoying life. There’s beaches, mountains, rainforests and farms to explore, so let’s get cracking on what you need to add to your itinerary.

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