Updated: Sep 12, 2022
Coffs Harbour, home of the legendary Big Banana and stunning beaches for as far as the eye can see, prides itself on natural wonders, clean coastal air, and it’s now a mecca for sporting clubs, but did you know that the Great Dividing Range follows and for parts comes right down to the coastline, thus giving the Coffs coast some of the most diverse and unique areas to explore along the eastern seaboard.
Most of what we have was actually created over 30 million years ago when a series of volcanoes were active, especially the Ebor volcano just 100km inland from Coffs. This created ruggered valleys and mountain ridges, spectacular rivers and stunning areas of prehistoric like rain-forest valleys.
But for 4wders it’s given us the perfect playground to explore in with so many different areas depending on your preference and ability .The tracks around Coffs are like a giant maize criss crossing through the forest areas and it can be as hard or as easy as you make it.
Coffs is now regarded as the 4wd capital of NSW with its range of challenging tracks designed to test most skill levels. At nearly 700 meters high, Mount Coramba has to be the 4wders playground with never ending hill climbs, rocky and clay based tracks. The mountain demands respect even in the dry with track names like Rocky, Commando, Army, Morbid and Cyclone it can be hardcore, but this is the place to come to and its easy to spend a day on the mountain traversing tracks to the top then do another back to the bottom.
But be warned, when the weather turns as it often does here being in the sub tropics, the rain turns the tracks to pure slop and often the traction is little to none which will have you screaming for the winch. Don’t believe me on just how steep it is ? Well just grab a local top map and see how close the contour lines are.
So what’s so good about Mount Coramba ? Well when you get to the top there’s ruggered views to the west towards the plateau regions yet down below you the coastal ranges give you an indication just how close the mountains are to the sea. Ironically you can’t see Coffs Harbour from up here as the city was built in a bowl with the mountains as a close backdrop. Mount Coramba is only a 15 minute drive to the city centre which makes it perfect for a quick explore or worse case scenario, recovery and parts.
Getting lost in Coffs is always a fun way to spend the day on the array of tracks around the Coffs coast. Now not saying you will get lost, but with over 500,000 acres of State Forest and National parks to explore you really do need a decent GPS or series of maps.
Along the Great Dividing Range you’ll need to use 1 ;25,000 maps with every bit of detail you can find. Tracks around Coffs range from easy forest road with stunning views and opportunities to explore, to others that are for the hardcore fanatics. One of the great things is that no matter how much or how little experience you’ve got, Coffs is a great playground to get dirty with.
There’s enough tracks here to whet your appetite with coastal sea views, through old growth forests stopping at little villages along the way to loops where you can explore a mix of everything all in one day. Quite often you won’t see another 4wd all day because of the amount of tracks there are too explore. Camping options too are amazing from free camping in State Forests, booking online for NPWS sites through to caravan parks or the fancy resorts in town - there’s plenty of luxury options.
The discovery of Timber (mainly Red Cedar) along the north coast opened up many areas deep into the thick forests and with this the flow on effect carried on with the discovery of gold, towns were born, rail lines built and the population grew.
In the hills behind Coffs there’s an array of history just waiting to be explored. The most significant pieces of history would be the 300 registered gold mines dating back to the mid 1880’s plus the Glenreagh to Dorrigo rail line that covers nearly 70km but only lasted a few years.
Along the way there are abandoned structures including rail tunnels, old trussed and steel bridges, platforms and old machinery along the way. Throw in the old gold mines with tunnels, shafts and pits where finding the shiny stuff had different degrees of success, the hinterland is a pretty cool place to explore.
Pebbly Beach has to be one of the most sort after beach camps along the eastern seaboard of NSW all year round. What makes this place so special is that it’s only accessible during low tide and has limited camping.
Picture this; after leaving the Pacific Highway turn off to Pebbly (mid way between Coffs and Grafton), you’ll need to meander nearly 20km of dirt roads with creek crossings passing through a mix of Pine plantations and dry gum forest, then a 2 km drive along a designated track across sand dunes before popping out onto a stunning beach, heading north for a further 2km with the ocean on one side and dunes on the other.
It’s at the end of the beach run where you need to cross the tidal creek to access the stunning Pebbly beach camping area. Now you’ll need to book through NPWS website these days well in advance but its well worth it.
Wake up with beautiful sunrise views, salt air in your lungs and then a magical beach stroll, there’s no better spot to get away from the rat race. If by some chance your not keen to head up the beach, station creek camping area is another option where you can base yourself and explore the area on foot. Around the forest there’s some pretty good 4wd tracks following the ridge lines, through the pine plantations and incorporating power line tracks.
For something quirky head out to the Key Man statue on Yellow Cutting Road.
What’s the Keyman all about? - Jonaas Zilinskas was born in Lithuania in 1919, migrated to Australia where he was involved in the timber industry. He was a natural performer with a circus and performed many stunts on the high wire. Even today you can look in the trees and see cables still bound in the air. He built the statue in 1957 as respect to his maker, he was known to work in the nude while working in the forest.
Up in the Coffs hinterland the soil is fertile, and with decent annual rainfall plus warm sunshine there’s a never ending supply of rainforest areas with an array of stunning waterfalls showcasing the area. Most people head an hour away to explore the Dorrigo region with its world class heritage listed rainforest complete with suspended walkways and cafes.
But closer to Coffs in the hinterland there’s many more areas that can only be accessed by 4wd. All created when the Ebor volcano exploded, it created many waterfalls and natural creeks. Ironically most of the water flows into the Orara River just west of Coffs.
Now while you’d think it would of cut a path straight to the ocean, the Orara actually flows 100 km north to join other rivers before it heads east to the ocean. One of the most popular water falls is Bangalore Falls, up near Ulong.
With a combination of 4wd tracks and a short 5min walk to the falls its a perfect day out for anyone with a 4wd. Grab a detailed map and create your own adventure by discovering the hinterland. Most water falls have designated roads to either the base or top of the falls, which makes finding and enjoying them heaps of fun.
Top tips for explore the Coffs Coast
1. Make sure your gear is up to scratch if tackling any of the serious terrain that is on offer.
2. Research as much information as you can, ARB in Coffs has all the relevant information including recovery gear, maps and books.
3. Respect the conditions and drive the tracks to suit.
4. If camping out, leave it better that when you arrived
5. Look after the environment and look at the big picture not just the tracks you drive on.
6. All year round is great to visit the Coffs area, during summer you can cool off in the hinterland creeks or the nearby ocean, yet in winter its time for camp fires and marshmellows.
7. Accommodation - there are so many options depending on your situation, from free and low cost camping, there are Hip-Camps through the area or maybe you prefer a little luxury each night at one of the many high end resorts in the area, they will have you covered.
8. Be prepared for sudden weather changes especially in summer - sudden down pours can and will affect the tracks.
9. Explore the history in the hinterland from the old gold mines and heritage railway.
10. Most of all, soak up just what the whole Coffs region has to offer.
COFFS COAST 4WD DESTINATIONS
Available at ARB Coffs this guide is the only one you’ll need to explore some of the tracks and find those camping hot spots in and around the Coffs Coast. I’ve written this book as an introduction for exploring the Coffs coast hinterland as there is nearly 170,000 sq acres of State Forest, NP’s and crown land to discover. From mild to wild tracks there are so many to explore within the area. Camping highlights include remote riverside, stunning beach camp sites, beautiful gorge country and local gems. Only available at ARB Coffs it will get you started towards creating your own adventure somewhere on the Coffs Coast.
So no matter what your adventure is when you come to the Coffs region, I can assure you there’s something for everyone.