I knew we were only a couple of hours drive from home but it we felt like we were a world away. From white water rafting down the Nymboida to a secluded vineyard cottage in the hinterland, the Coffs Coast proved to a be fun filled, romantic weekend escape.
Swimming with the dolphins
Whether you’re a family or travelling with your 'plus one', like me, a visit to Dolphin Marine Magic is a must.
Just a couple of minutes drive from Coffs jetty, the Dolphin Marine Magic (also known as Pet Porpoise Pool) is similar to Sea World but is much more intimate, and with just as many fun things to do.
Just a few seconds into my tour I was greeted by a somewhat sociable, and big bellied seal who decided to give my leg a quick nuzzle as I passed by. Something you definitely don’t see every day!
Having only planned an afternoon at the park (you need a full day, believe me), I was lucky enough to experience the up close and personal Dolphin swim.
The Dolphin Marine Magic Ultimate Dolphin Swim is the only experience in Australia where small groups are actually able to swim and interact with a dolphin. Standing in the pool, we were introduced to beautiful Bella, a pretty faced, Bottle-nose Dolphin.
One by one, the charismatic Bella took us on an exhilarating foot push across the pool, a ride on her belly, (you giggle the whole way), and to end it all, a magical Dolphin hug.
The daily shows are held in the park stadium and main pool, where dolphins and seals perform their dazzling acrobatics and antics. (Tip: make sure you get there a bit early for the free pre-show dolphin kisses and seal ‘belly tickle!’).
Wander around and you will also find the adorable Fairy Penguins (you get to feed them), an aquarium with colourful, endemic marine life, and even a reptile park where you can meet the fresh water croc ‘Snap’ and the resident Python, ‘Buddy’.
If you're feeling peckish: The Creekside Cafe, situated in Dolphin Marine Magic, is great place to put your feet up and enjoy a meal or a coffee. The cafe overlooks Coffs Creek and is open from breakfast to afternoon tea.
Dolphin Marine Magic - 1300 547 737
White Water Rafting the Nymboida River
Day two in beautiful Coffs, Plus One and I joined the team from Liquid Assets, plus some fellow dare devils, for a day of white water rafting on the Nymboida River. Man and nature were about to collide - 'Bear' style!"
We journeyed through the beautiful Eastern Dorrigo forest, as Bob and his team presented some comically executed ‘river education’, and before I knew it, we were oared up and ready to go.
The Nymboida rapids can be quite powerful (apparently up to grade 4-5), and are well-known among white water enthusiasts. This day, however, the water was a tad low, so sadly, it seemed, we were not going to be quite the Iron Man commercial we had all imagined. But we were still in for some serious fun and exertion.
We were coupled off into two man rafts, as opposed to the larger rafts used for bigger rapids. This was fine with me, though I can’t say the same for Plus One who at one point actually asked me to ‘stop rowing’ altogether; I was clearly not much help but we pushed on, our relationship still relatively intact.
The trip entailed tackling processions of technically challenging courses. The aptly named Lucifer's Leap, Devils One and Two, and the Decapitator Seven had all of us heaving and yelling as we attempted to guide our raft through tight paths of rocks, and down cliffs faces and waterfalls.
With the natural flow of the river nudging us all the way we made it through, some times sidewards, sometimes even upside down, but we made it all the same. It was great fun!
After catching some good rides, (and some comically bad ones!), and plenty of laughs, we pulled our rafts onto the banks at our final destination to be greeted by Bob cooking up a well-earned BBQ feast.
If You Go: Rafting on the Nymboida runs for about 4 hours and covers nine kilometres including travel time, (2 hours each way), this is a full day tour (7.30am – 5pm). Morning tea, snacks at lunch on the river, and a meal at the end are all provided.
The Liquid Assets Adventure Company also offers tours in sea kayaking, surf rafting and surf lessons.
Liquid Assets - 02 6658 0850
Lunch by the sea at Latitude 30
You cannot go to Coffs without visiting the harbour and jetty, and you cannot leave without enjoying a meal or, at the very least, a cold beer or glass of wine on the deck of Latitude 30.
Latitude 30 is a two-storey restaurant and bar situated on the water. Lined with umbrellas, the restaurant deck opens onto the jetty, with stunning 180 degree ocean views.
Greeted by warm, welcoming staff, Plus One and I and decided that a beer was the most appropriate drink of choice considering the idyllic summer’s day setting. We wasted no time, headed straight for an entree of oysters kilpatrick which we devour in seconds. Delicious!
The menu was mouth watering with a varied selection including Moreton Bay bugs, local king prawns, tapas, and traditional paella, to wet the appetite. The award winning wine list was equally impressive.
I selected a glass of Pinot Gris to accompany my whole grilled baby Snapper with a lemon and parsley butter, and a side of chips and salad. Simple, delicious, and incredibly filling!
My lovely Plus One ordered an amazing dish full of flavour and colour that I absolutely had to try to for myself. A perfectly grilled Snapper with salsa verde sauce atop a combination of nutty Kipfler potatoes, olives, artichokes, chorizo and goats cheese salad.
Now, if your mouth isn’t watering by now, then there is something wrong with your taste buds!
After one more wine and with our bellies utterly content we had to farewell Latitude 30 though we could have easily sat there enjoying the view all day.
If you go: Latitude 30 presents live jazz on the deck, every Sunday afternoon from 3-6pm.
Latitude 30 Restaurant and Bar - 02 6651 6888
Eating out in Coffs Harbour
Each Sunday the Coffs Harbour jetty markets offer funky stalls, live music and food stalls with everything from sushi and fresh juices, to ice cream and hot dogs. Coffs Harbour is also home plenty of fine dining, casual restaurants, local pubs and cruisy cafes.
Secluded vineyard cottage at Friday Creek Retreat
A twenty minute drive out of Coffs Harbour, tucked away in the Coffs Hinterland, is a place where it truly does feel as though time is standing still.
Friday Creek Retreat is an idyllic property offering nine secluded cottages, with views over vineyards, across the valley and all the way to the rolling mountains in the distance.
Greeted at the office by the friendly and hospitable Bill, (Friday Creek is owned by Bill and his wife, Rossi), I immediately felt like I was meeting a long lost relative, rather than checking-in to accommodation, and that ‘homely’ feeling carried through to all other aspects of our stay.
Predicting it would prove difficult to leave this peaceful place the following morning, I requested a late check out which was, of course, totally fine.
Bill briefly showed us around the property, pointing out the luxurious split level swimming pool,the entertaining area with an authentic wood-fired pizza oven, a full size tennis court and panoramic views that you could lose yourself in.
Our cottage was perfect. From the moment we walked in we were echoing “aww’s” and “hey, look at this!” from the bedroom to the bathroom.
The entire place was lovingly decorated in a subtle Aztec style decor, and oozed understated luxury from the spa bathroom to the classic ‘old style’ brass key we used for the front door.
With a big, old fireplace in the lounge room, and glass doors that opened onto the timber verandah, this was the quintessential ‘quaint cottage’.
We set ourselves up on the verandah, with some crunchy Italian bread, camembert cheese, and newly cracked bottle of red. Now we were talking.
The following morning, knowing we had a late check out, we drank coffee, chilled on the verandah, and took our ‘sweet time’ preparing a beautiful breakfast - fresh baker’s bread, eggs, bacon, croissants, jam, yogurt, and fresh grapes, nectarines and kiwi fruit, all from our provided breakfast basket.
We considered a swim in the pool before we headed off but both agreed we were way to content right where we were so we opted to spend our last few blissful hours with our feet up and let time stand still just a little bit longer.
Tip: Bill and Rossi recommend guests shop for provisions in Coffs Harbour. The wonderful breakfast basket we enjoyed can be delivered to your cottage on request and there is always the wood fired pizza oven and pizza dough (perfect size for 2 adults) also available on request for $20.
Friday Creek Retreat - Upper Orara - 1800 686 817
How to get to the Coff's Coast
Road: Coffs Harbour is approximately a six hour from Sydney and four hours from Brisbane via the Pacific Highway.
Air: Domestic flights arrive daily at Coffs Harbour airport from Sydney, Newcastle and Brisbane. Hire car and taxi services are available at the airport.
Rail: Trains from Sydney and Brisbane arrive daily.