Starting in Coffs Harbour this trail takes in arts and cultural sites and attractions in the city centre, Jetty and neighbouring Sawtell. Much of the trail can be walked, although you’ll need to drive, cycle or take a bus or taxi between Coffs Harbour and Sawtell. Highlights of this route are several art galleries, public art, the beautiful scenery along Coffs Creek, at the Botanic Garden and on Muttonbird Island, and the historic main street of Sawtell.
- Start at Coffs Harbour Regional Museum on Harbour Drive, where you’ll be able to learn all about the history of Coffs Harbour and European settlement in the area. Toward town, pass the Cavenbah Hall with some local art works at the front before reaching Pioneer Park where you can see the creative work of graphity artist Ash Johnston on the walls lining the park. Walk along Duke St and past some mud brick huts on your right. At the end of the street, Coffs Harbour Regional Gallery is on your left. The gallery presents a diverse range of historical and contemporary exhibitions.
- Next, cross the road (Coff St) to Fitzroy Oval, find the information panel and read the story of the Gumbaynggirr nation, the original custodians of the Coffs Harbour area. Fitzroy Oval was home to many local Aboriginal families in the 1940s and 50s. Walk past the War Memorial Olympic Pool (1969) and note the two intricately designed murals (2003) by local artist Guy Crosley.
- Just past the swimming pool on Coff St is Rotary Park, where you’ll find a large piece of public art by Evi Koller and information boards about Coffs Harbour and the Coffs Creek Walk. One block away is the city centre and here you will find Art Central, a space recognising over 15 artists with every exhibition.
- From here you can walk the scenic 8km route from here along Coffs Creek, out to Muttonbird Island and back up Harbour Dr, and then walk or take bus 365 back to town. Alternatively, walk back to your car and drive east along Harbour Drive to the Historic Cemetery and the Botanic Garden at the end of Hardacre St, next to the TAFE campus. For walkers, this is the start of the Coffs Creek Walk. Follow the signs around the back of the pool and Fitzroy Oval, staying to this side of the creek. Be aware this is a shared path and you may encounter bike riders along the way. The Carrall’s Creek boardwalk, which goes through mangroves, takes you to the entrance of the Coffs Harbour Historic Cemetery (dedicated in 1892).
- Next to the cemetery is the North Coast Regional Botanic Garden, which makes a lovely half-day outing in itself with its 5km of walking tracks. Stop by the information kiosk to find out about any arts and cultural exhibitions and musical performances held at the venue. Those driving should now head back to Harbour Dr, turn left and after about 400m turn left into Saltwater Park, just before the Promenade. Those on foot continue their walk along Coffs Creek. About 250m past the Hogbin Drive underpass, you’ll see the first of the Land Art Trail sculptures on your right. The second sculpture is at Saltwater Park near a small jetty and the third one on the other side of the park, just before The Promenade.
- The Promenade is a collection of boutique and homeware shops including the Green Room Gallery and two restaurants overlooking Coffs Creek. Stop for coffee or browse the shops, or hire a canoe from downstairs and go for a paddle in the creek. On the other side of the Promenade is James Smith Memorial Park. Look down to the edge of the creek from the path to see the remains of the old Coffs Creek baths.
The Jetty and Marina
- Walkers keep following the Coffs Creek Walk signs, going up Mildura St and turning left into Hood St. The Mangrove Boardwalk starts at the end of Hood St. From the boardwalk, keep an eye out for fish and crabs between the mangroves, as well as the fourth and final piece of public art on the Land Art Trail, called “Long Boat Skeleton”, poking out of the sand. If you are driving, continue east along Harbour Dr, take the third left into Hood St and drive to the end, where the Mangrove Boardwalk starts. Or skip this bit and drive on to the harbour for the next highlight of the trail: Muttonbird Island. From Harbour Dr, turn right into Marina Dr, cross the railroad and park the car near the international marina.
- Walkers continuing the Coffs Creek Walk will soon see Dolphin Marine Magic on their right. This award-winning tourist attraction (opened 1969) offers an interactive experience with dolphins and seals, while also caring for and exhibiting fairy penguins, turtles, kangaroos and emus. Pass Dolphin Marine Magic, cross Orlando St and continue along the path, going under the railway line but staying on this side of the creek. Walk along Park Beach South or via the concrete path behind the sand dunes to the northern breakwall.
- Walk along the breakwall, past the yachts and fishing boats in the marina, to Muttonbird Island, home to a colony of wedge-tailed shearwaters (muttonbirds). The climb up to the top of the island, which is a Nature Reserve, is a steep one but well worth the effort. Information panels give an insight into the lives of the birds as well as humpback whales that you can see passing the island between May and November. There’s a viewing platform at the other side of the island and you’ll have unsurpassed views back over the harbour on your walk back. From Muttonbird Island, you’ll have seen the historic jetty, which was built in 1892. You may like to make a short detour across the foreshores to see the jetty more closely.
- Walk or drive back up Marina Dr across the railway line to the shops and restaurants on Harbour Dr. Park your car here if you’re driving. This area is locally known as the Jetty Strip, marked by the sculpture of a Whale’s Tail. Along with many cafés and restaurants, you’ll find a number of public art pieces and wooden sculptures by local artists along this stretch.
- At the top of the Jetty Strip is the Pier Hotel. The current building replaced the original Pier Hotel after it was destroyed by fire in a huge blaze in 1914, along with the Jetty Post Office across the road. Another 150m up Harbour Drive is Coffs Harbour’s historic Jetty Memorial Theatre, which has Australian actor and Woolgoolga resident Jack Thompson as its patron. Have a look to see what’s on and to view the artworks displayed in the foyer. From here, you can walk, drive or catch the bus back to town (2km).
South of Town
- Next on the trail are the Bunker Cartoon Gallery on City Hill (1km from the CBD) and the seaside town of Sawtell, about 10km south of Coffs Harbour. They are best reached by car. At the Harbour Dr/Hogbin Dr roundabout, follow the signs to the airport and Sawtell. At the next roundabout, take the third turnoff into City Hill Dr and park at the Bunker Cartoon Gallery. The gallery is housed in an old bunker that was used in World War II. It was dedicated as a War Memorial in 1996. The Cartoon Gallery features the largest collection of contemporary cartoons in the southern hemisphere and presents changing art exhibitions. When you’ve explored the gallery, head to Sawtell via Hogbin Dr. After about six and a half kilometres, turn left at the roundabout into Sawtell Rd and follow the signs to the town centre.
- As you drive into the village of Sawtell, you’ll see the huge Ficus Hillii, or native fig trees, towering over First Ave, the main street. They were originally planted in 1946 to try to stop the sand from the beach blowing across the street.
Park your car somewhere in the area and go for a wander along First Ave, taking your time to explore the many specialty shops, cafés and heritage buildings along this charming street. Visit the Sawtell Art group with their gallery and also worth a visit is the Cooinda Aboriginal Art Gallery. and the contemporary 1st Avenue Gallery specialising in local artists of all genres.
- From the end of First Ave, a 1km walk or drive up Boronia St on the left will take you to Bonville Headland, also known as Sawtell Headland. The Sawtell Memorial Rock Pool, built in 1962 as a memorial to servicemen and women, is situated on the southern end of the headland. It offers protection from the strong permanent rip that runs past the pool from the mouth of Bonville Creek. A marine mural is painted on the side of the amenities block on the hill just above the pool.
Bellingen and Dorrigo
- Just 15 minutes south is Urunga where you can visit the Sharkey Fibre Art and Island Art Shop and Studio before winding up Waterfall Way toward Bellingen. At the Old Butter Factory enjoy beautiful works at the Nexas Community Art Gallery with monthly exhibitions, Cargo Lane with intricate artifacts and Mac Art Jewellery. In town, visit the Bellingen Gallery and Framing Studio, Big Sky Gallery and ceramics at Reanne Brewin Designs. Maam-Gaduying Park is located in the centre of town that displays a sculpture of resident and world renowned musician David Helfgott’s piano.
- 30 minutes drive further up the escarpment and you will reach Dorrigo. Here, make sure you take a look at exhibitions at the Dorrigo Rainforest Centre before heading into town to the Pinnata Gallery, Macnaughton Studio and Gallery and Misty Threads.