"Beyond the Big Banana there is much more to the Coffs Coast than what’s stored in my memory of childhood holidays."

Coffs Harbour stirs childhood memories of the great family road-trip. Deborah Dickson-Smith revisits the Big Banana.

When I was a kid, Coffs’ most exciting feature was the Big Banana – but these days there’s a whole lot more to the Coffs Coast region.

The drive from Sydney to Coffs is certainly shorter these days – at least two hours shorter – and made infinitely more bearable by the spacious Ford Territory we’re driving and its DVD player.

As The Banana hoves into view, the kids cheer and we turn into our chosen accommodation a few hundred metres on the right: The Novotel Pacific Bay.

Because we’ve just driven solidly for six hours we ignore the kitchen and head for Charlie’s Restaurant which provides a great kids’ menu and activity packs for the hordes and a lovely house red for me.

Our first activity the following morning is a Segway tour with the Novotel’s Timeout Experiences. The kids have an absolute ball whizzing around the resort on them.

Next activity is also at The Novotel at the Zip Circus Flying Trapeze School where we all have a go at throwing ourselves of a high perch and swinging into the arms of an awaiting instructor.

Next on the agenda is possibly the most memorable experience the kids have ever had (seriously). The Dolphin Family Swim at The Pet Porpoise Pool is an incredible experience.

We hop in the pool with our charming, knowledgeable trainer and Calamity the dolphin. We get to stroke her, throw balls for her, cuddle her and even ‘dance’ with her. She’s beautiful.

You could not swipe the smiles of the kids’ faces with a sledgehammer – even the sarcastic, super-cool teenagers.

And then of course, the heavens opened which effectively rules out our planned visit to nearby Park Beach. Instead we head back to the Novotel, arm the kids with tokens for the games room and book in for a couples’ massage.

Tranquility Day Spa’s signature treatment is the Pohaku Hot Stone Therapy. Imagine a warm room, dimly lit with candles and soothing music. While we lie there being massaged with heated, oiled stones. Bliss.

Having delayed our visit to the Big Banana two full days, the kids really can’t wait any longer and so follows a morning of toboggan rides, waterslides and ice-skating before indulging in a frozen chocolate-dipped banana (just like I remember them).

Beyond the Big Banana there is much more to the Coffs Coast than what’s stored in my memory of childhood holidays.

It’s a beautiful sub-tropical destination with abundant opportunities for wildlife encounters – whether it’s at the Pet Porpoise Pool or walking through the many national parks. It’s well worth revisiting.


Pet Porpoise Pool and Deborah Dickson-Smith

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Coffs Harbour NSW, Australia