Coffs Harbour, home of the legendary Big Banana and stunning beaches for as far as the eye can see.
It prides itself on natural wonders, clean coastal air, and It’s a Mecca for spotting clubs, but have you noticed that the Great Dividing Range follows and for parts comes right down to the coastline, 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 some 100km inland from Coffs.
This created ruggered valleys and mountain ridges, spectacular rivers and stunning areas of prehistoric like rainforest pockets.
But for 4wders it’s given us the perfect playground to explore in so many different areas depending on your preference. Do your research before hitting Coffs as the tracks are like a giant maize criss crossing through the forest areas. It can be as hard or as easy as you make it.
Camping options are amazing from free camping in State Forests, booking online in NPWS through to caravan parks in town or there’s plenty of luxury options.
1… HISTORY IN THE HINTERLAND
The discovery of Timber ( mainly Red Cedar ) along the north coast opened up many areas deep into the thick forests’s and with this the flow on effect carried on with the discovery of gold, towns were born, rail lines built and the population grew.
Up in the hills behind Coffs there’s an array of history just waiting to be explored. The most significant pieces of history waiting to be explored would be some of the 300 registered gold mines dating back to the mid 1880’s plus the failed Glenreagh to Dorrigo rail line that covers nearly 70km but only lasted a few years.
Along the way there are some abandoned and pretty accessible structures including several 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 and the hinterland is a pretty cool place to explore. The old rail line is marked on the top maps with plenty of access roads leading to it.
2… 4WDING TRACKS
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 200,000 hectares 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 clubs.
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.
3 … PEBBLY BEACH AREA
Pebbly Beach has to be one of the most sort after beach camps along the eastern seaboard of NSW year round. What makes this place so special is that its 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 several creek crossings passing through a mix of Pine plantations and dry gum forest, then a 2 km drive along a designated track through sand dunes before popping out onto a stunning beach, before 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 ( preferably at dead low tide 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 area there’s some pretty good 4wd tracks following the ridge lines, through the pine forests and incorporating the power line tracks.
For something quirky head out to the Key Man statue on Yellow Cutting Road. What’s the Keyman all about?
Well, 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, and he was known to work in the nude while working in the forest. From this, local 4wders have been placing old keys onto the statue for many years - hence - The Key Man.
4 … RAINFOREST DRIVES WITH WATERFALLS
With so much fertile soil, decent annual rainfall and warm sunshine there’s a never ending supply of rainforest area 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 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 in the Orara River just west of Coffs.
Now while you’d think it would of cut a path straight to the ocean the Orara flows 100 km north to join other rivers before it heads east to the ocean.
With a combination of 4wd tracks and often short walks to the falls its a perfect day out for anyone with a 4wd. But keep in mind that because the range tracks along the coast that there’s a number of falls where ever the terrain gets steep.
Grab a detailed map and create your own adventure by discovering the hinterland. As a local of nearly 40 years most water falls have designated roads to either the base or top of the falls, which makes finding and enjoying them heaps of fun.
5 … MOUNT CORAMBA WITH VIEWS AND CHALLENGING TRACKS
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 metres 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, Cyclone and more. If you want hardcore, 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.
Dont 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 cant 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 10 minute drive to the city centre which makes it perfect for a quick drive over or worse case scenario, recovery or parts.
Want to know more ? Head into ARB Coffs and grab a handful of maps or the Coffs Coast 4wd guide.