Tourism in Coffs Harbour is a relatively recent development. According to legend, the first settlers there were escaped convicts. In the 1840s, the densely forested area started to be exploited for its timber. The harbor, too, was a bustling hive of activity until the 1865 Carywell ship wreck. For many years after that, it was considered too dangerous, until finally a lighthouse was erected in 1878.
Compared with fishing and forestry, banana growing was a relative latecomer to Coffs Harbour, but not long after banana plantations were established, the region became known as the 'banana belt' and the 'banana coast.' The fact that the banana plantations extended almost to the edge of the busy Pacific Highway had something to do with this, but the construction of the 'Big Banana' at the northern end of Coffs Harbour had more to do with it. For over forty years, the Big Banana has been a major Coffs Harbour attraction.
The first bananas were grown in Coffs Harbour towards the end of the 19th century, but the industry didn't become big there until the 1920s, when a disease devastated banana crops north of the area. When the railway line was completed in 1923, Coffs Harbour finally became easily accessible from Sydney and the local tourism industry began.
Today, tourism is booming in Coffs Harbour. Thanks to its abundance of natural and man made attractions, it is a favorite destination for families. Of course, many of the major activities are either in the ocean or along its shores. These include surfing, whale watching, fishing and scuba diving, along with just enjoying a day at the beach.
Of course, as tourism grew, so did the opportunities for tourist oriented businesses. Today, Coffs Harbour and surrounding areas are a shopper's cornucopia. Bellingen, just west of Coffs Harbour and other nearby communities are renowned for their abundance of arts and crafts. In Bellingen, establishments like the Old Butter Factory and the Yellow Shed offer hand crafted gifts, souvenirs, furniture and homewares that can be found nowhere else in Australia.
Not far from Coffs Harbour is the town of Woolgoolga. You can't miss it because of the large domed structure that resembles a mini Taj Mahal. Woolgoolga has one of the largest concentrations of Indian residents in Australia and is famous for its delicious Indian restaurants.
It should be obvious by now that Coffs Harbour is not a place you can see in just a day or even two. Find a Coffs Harbour accommodation and give yourself at least a few days in and around the city center. Then give yourself plenty of time to explore the towns and townships north, south and west of the city. See for yourself why they call it the Holiday Coast.
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