Carobana: A Sweet Slice of History

BASED IN KORORA, JUST A FEW KILOMETRES NORTH OF COFFS HARBOUR, CAROBANA IS COFFS COAST’S REAL LIFE WILLY WONKA FACTORY… AND YOU’VE GOT THE GOLDEN TICKET.

Renowned as Coffs Coast’s leading confectionery supplier, Carobana has developed a wide range of popular carob confectionaries, such as carob-coated banana, rocky road, coconut rough, rum and raisin fudge, ginger, nut brittles and their famous honeycomb. But, there is so much more than irresistible sweets that make Carobana so unique.

The Early days

Carobana Owner

What started as a banana drying plantation in the late ’70s, Ian Hamey and his wife, Jean, quickly realised by coating their bananas in carob, they possessed a unique, healthy treat to offer the Coffs Coast, and thus, Carobana was born! Over the years, Ian’s brilliance have led to technique and machinery improvements, allowing Carobana to expand its range of confectionaries. Whilst being the brains behind the operation, Ian has a strong affinity for sharing his passion and the memories he has made over the years with all of those who visit.

Like Father, Like Daughter

Carobana

Whilst Ian and Jean are still very much involved in all that is Carobana, their daughter, Wendy, and her husband, Rob, now run the day-to-day. As a family-run business, you can get a sense of togetherness as soon as you enter the factory. You will be warmly greeted by Wendy, who will provide you with a free information handout and offer a detailed tour of the factory. On this tour, you will be shown the confectionery production lines, whilst Wendy flexes her wide knowledge of production techniques and ingredients used. Along the tour, you will stop by the honeycomb kitchen. This is where you will meet Rob. Rob is the head honeycomb chef, who can face large orders of up 288 kgs of honeycomb. This may seem like a huge task, but Rob makes it look easy, as he entertainingly explains the entire process in a light-hearted and engaging manner.

sO, WHAT ARE YOU WAITING FOR!?

Carobana

From the moment you drive down the natural driveway, through the lush greenery that holds a beautiful picnic area for the whole family, to the moment you walk through the factory doors and become mesmerized by the heavenly aromas of fresh carob and honeycomb, Carobana provides a delightful sensory overload you won’t soon forget. Ideally based just a jump, skip, and hop from the famous Big Banana, and the gorgeous waters of Diggers Beach, an entire day can be made around a trip out to Carobana.


Whether you’re visiting for the delicious confectionary, to watch the skilled confectioners at work, or for the enticing aromas, you will leave Carobana feeling like you have satisfied your childhood dreams of being Charlie in Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory. And the best part? No need for the golden ticket, entry is free for all!

About Ian Watson, local artist

Legendary Orara Valley local and accomplished artist, Ian Watson has been creating art with wood, metal and stone for more than 40 years.

Starting out

His passion for woodworking came from the most unlikely of places – through a job labouring at a Dairy Farm in Upper Orara. He was asked one day to get rid of a bunch of old pioneer stumps, and quickly found it difficult.

“I couldn’t do it! I couldn’t pile them up and burn them, so I started making furniture in my spare time,” Ian said.

That was the birth of an incredible journey that pioneered the woodworking community in the Valley and beyond. He spent his days journeying across the Mid North Coast with his flat-bed truck collecting rosewood in the Dorrigo and Tyringham areas that the ‘cockies’ were only too glad to be rid of.

“More often than not, I’d have a full load before I even got to my destination because there were always beautiful pieces on the side of the road.”

His love for making furniture soon moved a love for making art, and he committed to making it his full time career. Loading up his single wagon with his artwork, he travelled QLD, NSW and ACT developing a network of galleries that would show and sell his work.

“The year 2000 for me proved more than just a century change – it was a life change. My mother died, my marriage ended. I hung up my toolbelt and undertook a Diploma in Aboriginal studies.”

This break saw Ian venture into six years of work as a drug and alcohol worker with the Ted Noffs Foundation. By 2010, the tools were calling his name again and Ian came back to “my art and my sanity”.

ian’s Career

During Ian’s career, he has won many awards and had many pieces commissioned for local art trails and businesses. One of his more familiar works is the ‘Central Seating’ sculptural piece acquired by the Coffs City Council, previously located in the Council chambers. He is also a founding member of the Orara Valley Artists group and was a pioneer of the Mid North Coast woodworking movement.

Ian lost everything in the 2019 bushfires – his home, and all his belongings including 300 tonne of Rosewood he had stored to create art into retirement. There were, however, some unusual treasures left in the wake of the fires that Ian hopes to use in future exhibitions.

Creating Two Tails for the new ‘Insta Stops’ in the Orara Valley has been part of his own art therapy in dealing with the loss.

“Light creates shadow, the shadow follows form, and I seek the balance between,” Ian says.

“The making of Nana Two Tails is something I am very proud of and I hope the community is too.”

The Story of Nana Two Tails

the Orara valley Tourist Trail map aims to help visitors discover and explore the hinterland gems including ‘Insta spots’ aimed to encourage visitors to slow down, stop, and snap a selfie with especially-created art installations SUCH AS NANA TWO TAILS.

The newly-installed timber sculpture ‘Two Tails’ by local artist Ian Watson (pictured with Alison owner of Idle In Cafe) is located at the Idle In Cafe and depicts the rare and mysterious two-tailed lizard of Nana Glen.

Artist Ian Watson says art really is therapy, and creating Two Tails for the Orara Valley Tourist Trail has been part of his own recovery from losing everything in the 2019 bushfires.

The 7 month-long project was as rewarding as it was challenging, with Ian overcoming many obstacles to come to the polished, ‘Insta-ready’ sculpture you see sitting pride of place today.

As a direct victim of the bushfires, an accomplished artist and long-time local – Ian was the perfect choice to create the piece for the ‘Insta Stops’ trail designed to help promote the Orara Valley and aide in the local economic recovery.

 “The landscaping and surrounds are in harmony with the sculpture, I want to share the story, especially about Nana Glen. It represents the celebration of where we came from and what we are now. Nana has a special place in my heart.”

However – it wasn’t an easy ‘yes’ for Ian. With his entire 300-tonne stock of Rosewood obliterated by the fire, no workshop or covered workspace and no tools, it seemed an impossibility.

“My first thought was ‘How will I do this? I’ve lost all my timber stock, I have no workshop or workspace, and no tools.”

As fate would have it, Ian’s son was working at Sealands in Grafton, when a client heard the story of what was happening. He had pulled some pieces of Cedar out of the river and offered them to Ian for the sculpture.

“So we went and got it, and in that load was the skink! When I saw it, I knew I could make it work and do this. There was movement already in the piece – it had this form that was…alive.”

Working with the natural movement of the piece proved a challenge. Ian worked outside in the elements (still no workshop) with limited tools, and used nothing but his balance skills (no machinery or lift assistance) to help move the piece of wood as he worked on it.

“For 5 months the bloody thing wasn’t working – I thought, it’s too fat, it’s not right, the shape is wrong – I was living with it every day. But sculpting really teaches you patience.”

It wasn’t until an unwitting accident that a mental block was removed and Two Tails really took shape.

“I had these wings coming out of the tails; and I was rolling the piece one day and one of them snapped off. I didn’t know what else to do but chop the other one off, too – and once I did it was like a weight lifted off my shoulders and she just really started moving ahead.”

Finding the perfect rock for Two Tails to sit on was another project in itself. Ian visited Wants Sand in Glenreagh once, and found what he thought might be the one, to no avail. His second trip was successful, finding the perfect rock as soon as he walked into the yard.

“I had a friend help me get her onto the rock – and that was that!  It was beautiful to see it all come together so perfectly.”

Nana Glen is famous for the ‘Two Tailed Lizard’ but Ian has a message for everyone as they come to enjoy the beauty of the Valley and Two Tails. “People need to think before using the word lizard – it’s actually a skink!” he laughed.

This unique piece complements the other colourful mosaic artworks at The Golden Dog which both feature the heritage and environments of those areas. “People need to think before using the word lizard – it’s actually a skink!” he laughed.

“I know everyone says Two Tailed Lizard, and Two Tailed Skink doesn’t quite have the same ring to it – but it’s a skink. Hopefully, it becomes a talking point so the young ones can go and do some research on the difference between a lizard and a skink.”

Café owner Alison Johnson is delighted with the sculpture which encourages people to stop, take pictures and enjoy a coffee or lunch and support the Nana Glen town. Visitors will learn more about the sculpture via a QR code or read more about the artist here.

Funding for the ‘Insta Stops’ initiative was made possible by the Regional Tourism Bushfire Recovery Grants, part of the Australian Government’s $76m tourism recovery package to protect jobs, small businesses and local economies.

Visit www.oraravalleytouristtrail.com.au, and plan a day trip to discover the Orara Valley.

Jetty Dive – Meet Mike Davey

Co-Owner at Jetty Dive Centre, PADI Master Instructor, Tech Instructor, EFR Instructor, DAN Instructor, RTO Instructor, Certified Service Technician, Master IV Skipper

Meet the man, the myth, the legend roaming the wild seas off the Coffs Coast shores. A committed member of the Coffs Coast community, Mike has enjoyed introducing the “other 70% of the planet” to 1000’s of lucky divers as the owner of Jetty Dive. Mike is passionate about the endangered Grey Nurse Shark, his Tech diving and now trying his hand at Videography.

We caught up with Mike and put him on the spot with 30 questions to get a great idea of who Mike Davey really is!

  1. What made you want to become a diver? I always loved swimming underwater, and a SCUBA course was offered at high school in school time, so I jumped at it.
  2. How long have you been diving? Started in 1975, a divemaster/Instructor since 1991
  3. When did you know that you wanted to become instructor/owner? A change in career happened in 1992, and then a change in location to Coffs Harbour happened in 1996 when it became our life.
  4. If you weren’t a Dive Instructor/Owner, what would you be? Lost probably?
  1. What was your training & equipment like when you started diving? I learnt to dive on a single hose reg with only a backpack. BCDs were just coming in and the Instructors were the only ones with them. Occy regs did not exist, and neither did gauges, just a J valve tank to give you a reserve supply of air when it got hard to breathe! The training was tougher than today, but needed to be to match the equipment or lack of equipment.
  2. Walk me through a typical diving day? 5.30am wakeup and breakfast. Weather check by 6.00am. Open shop to set-up gear at 6.30am. Load boat by 8.00am. Drive the boats to the Islands and decide where to dive on two dives and return by 1.00pm. Boat and gear clean-up by 2.30pm. Bookwork, teaching, servicing equipment till 5.00pm. Plan for tomorrow and close-up by 6.00pm.
  3. What does diving mean to you personally? That has changed over the years, initially we went diving to catch Crayfish (in S.A.) and then I found I enjoyed teaching people and really enjoyed showing them the wonders of the Solitary Islands at Coffs Harbour. It also gave me a passion to seek out Dive destinations around the world with our travel.
  4. Where was the first place that you went diving? Port Norlunga Jetty in S.A. on the coldest recorded day in years in 1975.
  5. Is diving cool and why? It’s Challenging! It really depends on the dive as to why. Some dives it is to take on challenges of depth and amazing wrecks whist others challenge us to get that iconic shot of the marine-life.
  6. Dream diving job, what is it? My dream job would be in 30c water in the tropics, diving in the morning and napping in the afternoon whilst reading a good book!
  7. What’s the ONE photo/shot that you’re most proud of? A Grey Nurse Shark with a flotilla of trevally with it.
  8. Night/wrecks/caves/deep dives, what are your favourites? Wreck diving on the best wrecks in the world (Truk Lagoon) Night, caves and deep dives are not that cool to me.
  9. What are your diving fears that you have to overcome? Failing to provide a good dive for our customers. Personal fears went years ago!
  10. What do you want non-divers to know about diving? It’s not hard to do, and may/will surprise you how good it is.
  11. Scariest experience while on a dive? Struggling to get back to our un-manned boat in a current when we were young and stupid!
  12. Funniest Experience while on a dive? Watching a Blue Grouper eat a bead in a student’s dreadlock hair! Could not stop laughing and filling up my mask with water.
  1. Who is your go-to dive buddy? My Wife Debbie. Best buddy I have.
  2. What’s your favourite local dive site? Manta Arch at South Solitary
  3. Favourite marine animal to see while on a dive? Manta Ray, no Whale-sharks, no Schooling Hammerheads. The list could just go on, but I still love a close up Grey Nurse Shark!
  4. Favourite after dive snack / meal? Deb’s Potato Cake, once a daily morning tea, but now a delicacy!
  5. If you could dive with anyone who would it be and why? My wife so I can share the moment with her.
  6. Proudest diving related moment? Teaching our kids to dive and watch them love it.
  1. Favourite piece of dive gear? My latest dive computer or my SLR camera, both are not worth diving without them.
  2. Favourite dive related book? Any of Clive Cussler’s Dirk Pitt novels.
  3. What dive activities do you enjoy? All of them… silly question!
  4. What advice would you give yourself at the beginning of your diving career? Start being a Dive Professional at a younger age!
  5. What are your top 3 pieces of equipment recommendations for beginners? A mask, decent fins and a Dive Computer
  6. Best advice for beginners? Don’t stop at just your dive course, the fun is yet to begin!
  7. What skill are you trying to perfect currently? Photography. Always leaning and hopefully getting better!
  8. Do you have a role model in the sport? Not really, maybe Val Taylor and James Cameron

Leave a beautiful trace

We love our outdoors here on the Coffs Coast. The empty beaches, the lush green forests, the cool waters on a sunny day. IT’s sad WHEN THE PLACES WE LOVE THE MOST, ARE BEING LOVED TO DEATH SO PLEASE LEAVE A BEAUTIFUL TRACE.

Text by Elisabeth Nicolson, Sustainable Living Programs Officer, Coffs Harbour City Council

Leave nothing but footprints

There are so many ways to immerse yourself in nature on the Coffs Coast. That’s why is it’s so upsetting when you find straws, coffee cups, beer cans, dog poo, lolly wrappers, branches ripped down for a beach fire, trampled plants, loud music at your swimming hole and dogs in national parks. Here are the international principles for leaving no trace on your next adventure:

Plan ahead and prepare

Tell people where you are going and when you will be back. Ah, and know where you are going! Make sure your lack of preparation and knowledge doesn’t mean our rescue services have to risk their lives to find you.

Use designated camping areas

Travel and camp on durable surfaces

Don’t venture off-road or off designated paths. It can cause erosion and degrade an area. Can you imagine if 50 people do the same thing?

Take your rubbish with you

Dispose of waste properly

A no brainer! Take your rubbish with you – especially dog poop and make sure you check what your kids have accidentally left behind. Get the family into the “Emu Parade” and pick up what you see. If you need to poop in the woods, know how to do it the right way!

Touch but don’t take

Leave what you find

Yeah we find lots of pretty things out there but we should really leave them behind. Why? Well for two reasons- so that other people can see and enjoy them and because often nature needs them too. For example, the pretty shell you see may be the perfect next home for a growing hermit crab. Or rocks that could be an ancient indigenous artefact. Maybe take a photo or draw a picture instead!

Keep wildlife safe and wild

DISCOVER WILDLIFE FROM A DISTANCE

This means enjoy but don’t disturb. No feeding or petting otherwise you can create sick animals that harass humans. Don’t scare animals and please know where you can take dogs!

Follow the fishing size and bag limits and always carry a fishing permit

Be considerate of other visitors

Think about group size and the noise you create especially in special places. If you want to have a noisy gathering go for one of our designated picnic areas rather than a secluded spot.

Whether you are fishing, hiking or hanging these principles all apply. And hey, why not go the extra step and aim to leave a beautiful trace.

If you would like to know more, come along on one of our free guided nature experiences.

Leave the place cleaner than how you found it and perhaps think about donating your time or money to one of our many Landcare groups so they can continue to look after the places you love!

COFFS BY NATURE… GET NATURALLY CONNECTED!

Looking for a new way to connect with the unique environment of the Coffs Coast? The team at Coffs By Nature has you covered!

Text by Elisabeth Nicolson, Sustainable Living Programs Officer

Coffs By Nature is a fantastic program from the Stainable Living team at Coffs Harbour City Council. We offer engaging, inspiring and FREE guided journeys of some of our favourite places.

Our programs include sea turtles tours, rock-pool rambles, bird watching, nature journaling, and rainforest walks. There are also many opportunities for our Young Explorers to be guided in deepening their relationship with themselves and the natural world.

We are truly blessed to live along this stunning coastline that we share with so many other amazing animals, plants and waterways. Joining a Coffs By Nature tour or experience is a great way for people of all ages and from all walks of life to simply get outside and play! Our guides are local, passionate, knowledgeable and keen to show you all the great stuff that is naturally a part of our Coffs Coast.

The Coffs By Nature team is also pleased to offer tailor-made programs for your pre-school, school, mums group, retirees or social group. So get in touch to see if there is a tour that takes your fancy.

More information can be found at www.ourlivingcoast.com.au/coffsbynature and Facebook/Our Living Coast or simply call 02 6648 4645. Be sure to sign up to receive the Our Living Coast newsletter with updates about the program each season.

With tours for all ages, abilities and interests, there is something for every person who wants to get outside and immerse themselves in our region’s nature scapes, both big and small.

Discover how we became NSW’s first certified ECO Destination!

Pop the organic bubbly, the Coffs Coast is officially the first certified ECO Tourism Destination in New South Wales!

Yep, after 15 months of thorough assessment, we’ve got the green tick of approval from Ecotourism Australia. This means we’ve met 100 points of accreditation and proven our strong, well-managed commitment to sustainability and high-quality nature-based tourism.

We’ve joined the likes of more than 500 businesses Australia-wide, and (at the time of writing) only one other ECO Destination (that’s Port Douglas Daintree in Queensland) to prove our green thumb goes well beyond our back gardens.

What does this mean for our region?

So what does this tick really mean? Does it actually make a difference? And how can you get involved?

In a nutshell, this accreditation announces the Coffs Coast as a nature-based tourism destination with a strong commitment to ecotourism principles. But this little tick is about more than attracting tourists.

  • It’s about the way our whole community takes real, tangible actions to enhance and protect our natural environment.
  • It’s about the way we honour our cultural heritage, build responsible businesses that last, and look after each other and the land around us.
  • It’s our way of saying we protect our natural treasures — from our World Heritage-listed Gondwana Rainforests to the underwater oasis of the Solitary Islands Marine Park, the oldest marine park in NSW — and when you visit us, you can too.

So if you’re the kind of person who wants to do right by the planet (even when you’re on holiday) then we invite you to visit us on the Coffs Coast and see why we’ve been named as New South Wales’ first ECO Destination for Ecotourism.

What sort of ECO experiences are on offer on the Coffs Coast?

We don’t mean to brag but the Coffs Coast has some of the most spectacular natural scenery in the whole world. Like being the only place in NSW where the Great Dividing Range meets the Pacific Ocean. Where you’ll find 13 significant National Parks and extensive State Forests and Reserves. And too-many-to-list pristine beaches with cracking surf along the iconic Solitary Islands Coastal Walk. And that marine park we just mentioned? It’s home to one of the largest populations of endangered grey nurse sharks in Australia. You can even go diving with them!

ECO accreditation takes the hard work out of finding genuine nature and ecotourism operators. So that when it’s time for your Coffs Coast eco-adventure, you know you’re choosing the real deal. As well as being an Ecotourism Australia ECO Tourism destination, the Coffs Coast has seven Ecotourism Australia-certified champions, with more working towards their own certification.

As for our community? They’re keen to help the environment too! They run regular beach clean-ups, make great use of public water stations instead of single-use plastic bottles, and have loads of passionate environmental protection volunteer groups

If you’re reading this, it’s a fair bet to say that you’re keen on making a difference, even when you’re travelling. To help you do that, we’ve put together our list of the top ten ways to be an eco-friendly traveller here.

How does a destination become certified?

Well to start, one organisation needs to put their hand up to lead the charge and manage the lengthy accreditation process. In our case, this was Coffs Harbour City Council.

As well as creating a tonne of environment management strategies and projects that helped the Coffs Coast become accredited, Council also spent 15 months on the ECO Destination application process.

But while Council managed the process, our whole region and community was evaluated against six criteria:

  • Destination Management: That’s things like sustainable development, infrastructure, planning and monitoring.
  • Nature & Scenery: That’s how we look after wildlife, landscape and scenery.
  • Environment & Climate: That’s how we manage water, waste, pollution and renewable resources.
  • Culture & Tradition: That’s how we respect and protect living culture, traditions, and cultural sites.
  • Social & Well-being: That’s the way our community gets involved, looks after each other (and the land) and creates a strong, fair economy.
  • Business & Hospitality: That’s how the tourism sector takes responsibility for sustainability, promotes our regions respectfully and looks after our tourists.

And congratulations Coffs Coast, we passed with flying colours!
As a result, we’ve got a roadmap that will support the community, tourism sector, and environment now and into the future.

So we’ve got the tick, now what?

This little tick isn’t just a one-off marketing gimmick. Oh no, it sets us up with a business framework to make sure ecotourism thrives in our region for decades to come.

We’ll have regular visits from an industry expert who’ll help us keep improving our destination management practices, and we’ll learn from a global network of other like-minded destinations. That’s good news for budding nature-based businesses!

DOES AN ECOTOURISM DESTINATION SOUND EXACTLY LIKE THE KIND OF PLACE YOU BELONG? THEN WE LOOK FORWARD TO HAVING YOU VISIT US THIS SUMMER! you’re invited TO CONNECT DEEPLY, TREAD LIGHTLY, AND DISCOVER OUR PLACE OF PLENTY.

The White Bluff Project

As the world focuses on climate concerns, the creative result of a four-year collaboration between artists and scientists is presented in a new exhibition, centred on the small but globally significant environment of White Bluff on the Coffs Coast.

The White Bluff Project is now open to the world with a new 3D Virtual Tour of the exhibition, currently on show at Coffs Harbour Regional Gallery. Also giving a voice to the unique ecosystem is a soundscape event on November 26, highlighting the sounds and stories of White Bluff At Night.

From paintings and ceramics, to poetry and film, the exhibition showcases 15 local artists and their complex responses to White Bluff, including the impacts of climate and urbanisation.

During the project, the artists gained deep insights by working beside land and marine scientists, an historian, and traditional Gumbaynggirr knowledge holders. Explorations of the changing coastline provided fresh inspiration through field research and experimentation.

A key influence has been renowned ecologist, Mark Graham, who has brought the natural diversity of White Bluff to life, revealing ecosystems going back tens of millions of years.

White Bluff At Night will see Mark in the gallery narrating an evening soundscape, revealing fauna and flora with biologist Greg Elks, while the audience uncovers the artists’ impressions by torchlight. Mark hopes the public will see why local places like White Bluff are worth looking after.

The exhibition will run from October 30 2021 to January 15, 2022. Find out more at www.thewhitebluffproject.co

Through The Lens – The Solitary Islands Marine Park

The Solitary Islands Marine Park is NSW’s oldest marine park… and it’s just off the Coffs Coast coastline, waiting for you to explore.

Story and images by Tom Park, underwater film-maker for PADI TV

The five uninhabited islands in the Solitary Islands Marine Park act as a meeting point between the nutrient-rich temperate waters from the south and the warmer tropical waters flowing down the East Coast. This mixture allows tropical and temperate water species to coexist in the same area resulting in some of the most diverse marine life in the country.

On a single dive, divers may experience numerous turtles, a variety of Anemone Fish, groups of Blue Tang (popularly known as Dory), Manta Rays and their more temperate counterparts Bull Rays. Schools of Grey Nurse Sharks add to the experience while swimming over a range of hard and soft corals with areas up to 100% coral coverage. 

In the summer months, schooling Leopard and Hammerhead Sharks migrate to the island providing a backdrop unlike any other on the coast. One dive here and you could tick off a big chunk of your diving bucket list. If this isn’t enough, we also came across a few breaching whales and had dolphins bow-riding our boat on the way out to the islands.

The sheer range of marine life here is simply staggering, but the Solitary Island Marine Park it’s not just one dive site. Covering a whopping 152 square kilometers area, each of the five islands are spread out in such a way that each of the dive sites is remarkably different, each with its own pull.

For those seeking epic shark diving, South Solitary Island is a must dive with year-round Grey Nurse Shark action. During peak season, between June and late August, divers will struggle to find blue water amidst the sea of grey as hordes of Grey Nurse Sharks cover the water column as far as the eye can see. With over 100 3-4meter long sharks in vision it’s truly some of Australia’s most adrenaline-fuelled diving. While diving with these sharks is best over peak season, there is a year-round resident population of these animals that do not migrate between seasons. Divers visiting the Solitary Islands later in the year will still see schools of up to 30-35 Grey Nurse Sharks.

By all accounts, Grey Nurse Sharks tend to be non-aggressive towards humans, despite their forward-facing teeth, fierce appearance and size. Swimming with these sharks can actually be incredibly relaxing once you mentally get over the fact that you’re surrounded by a school of 4 meter long sharks. Grey Nurse Sharks are a perfect way to dip your toe into shark diving as they tend to be extremely docile with a lethargic behaviour.

While the number of Grey Nurse Sharks taper off in the warmer months, by no means is diving out of Coffs Harbour a winter-only activity. The warmer water brings in another spectacular species, Leopard Sharks. Leopard Sharks are typically a more tropical species and similar to the Grey Nurse Shark population, large schools of these majestic animals migrate to both South and North Solitary Islands over the February to April period.  Divers are provided with a rare opportunity to swim with masses of these vibrant leopard print sharks. Manta Rays also start appearing and are commonly seen at North Solitary Island with notably regular encounters at North West Solitary Island.

The Solitary Islands Marine Park is a must for anyone seeking variety, seclusion, wildlife encounters and marine life on your next dive.  Get your diving bucket list out and call your dive buddy and start ticking off the unforgettable experiences available under water in the Solitary Islands Marine Park.

In addition to Leopard Sharks and Manta Rays, North Solitary Island has an ace up its sleeve.  North Solitary Island holds the record for the largest density of Anemone Fish in the Southern Hemisphere, its most notable dive feature. Throughout November to December, schooling Hammerhead Sharks appear out of the depths and glide past the islands, something many people almost exclusively associated with the Galapagos. The prospect of seeing even a singular Hammerhead in NSW is enough to make me want to return!

The team at Jetty Dive Centre are the experts when it comes to diving or snorkelling on the Coffs Coast. You can also complete your PADI dive certification with them and kit yourself out with the latest gear from their extensive range.

About Tom Park

At age 13, I completed my first ever intro dive with my father. We saw Nemo and a bunch of fish, but best of all we felt the sense of total weightlessness and immediately. Naturally, I bought a GoPro and started my dive training.

At 18, I started my PADI Dive Master training allowing me to work in the industry. The goal here was to score a few free holidays volunteering onboard diving vessels in the coral sea. I saved enough money to purchase my first real UW camera. Hilariously, before it even arrived, I landed a job as a professional underwater photographer on a dive boat over my uni breaks.  This was the start of my photography career. I had some great photos, a community building and hours to hone my skills.

At 24 I left my job as a corporate lawyer to become a full-time underwater filmmaker. Now two years later I’m representing PADI TV – it’s an absolute honour!

Galleries & collections

Beyond the blissful beach visits and outdoor adventures the Coffs Coast is best-known for, you’ll find a thriving arts scene and culturally diverse community represented through galleries & collections.

Our region’s active creative sector is reflected in a vast range of offerings. Plenty of galleries, artistic collections, theatre, film festivals and exhibits to choose from. From the one-of-a-kind cartoon gallery, to a museum dedicated to Sikh heritage there’s a Coffs Coast arts destination to suit all ages and interests.

SIKH HERITAGE MUSEUM OF AUSTRALIA

Opposite the grand Guru Nanak Sikh Temple in Woolgoolga’s River Street, this museum was established in 2019 and is dedicated to Sikh heritage. It aims to encourage a better understanding of Sikh traditions, history, spirituality and identity.

Step inside for an insight into how the first Sikhs came to call Woolgoolga home in the 1890s and immerse yourself in this fascinating culture. The collection also details the vital role the Sikh people played in our ANZAC history, celebrates Victoria Cross recipients, and displays musical instruments and weaponry such as spears, shields and swords.

National Cartoon Gallery

A unique experience that is sure to make you smile, The National Cartoon Gallery is Australia’s first and only exhibition space dedicated to cartoons and cartooning. Formerly known as The Bunker Gallery, collections are housed in an authentic World War II bunker. This has been converted to a modern, larger exhibition space that also includes a theaterette and restaurant.

Housing the largest private collection of contemporary cartoons in the southern hemisphere, you can also enjoy curated and touring exhibitions. Or time your visit with a workshop, performance, film night or event regularly hosted here. The gallery is also well-known for its Annual Rotary Cartoon Awards, which features more than 24,000 cartoons from artists around Australia.

Coffs Harbour Regional Gallery

The Coffs Harbour Regional Gallery presents a changing program of inspiring exhibitions with local, regional and national significance, and a range of public programs to fuel your creativity.

Home to the biennial Still: National Still Life Award, the gallery has brought a contemporary perspective to this enduring genre by inviting Australian artists to enter works in all mediums. The gallery curators bring exciting touring exhibitions to the city while also showcasing the work of local artists.

Jetty Memorial Theatre

This ever-popular venue, dating from 1928, delivers an appealing blend of live performances and other great entertainment. From world-class artists to emerging talent and home-grown performers, the season calendar is packed with local and touring stage shows, dance, music, independent films and more. Original art-deco features, superb acoustics and an intimate atmosphere make for a special day or evening out. Wheelchair accessible, the theatre also has a loop system for the hearing impaired.

The Jetty Memorial Theatre is also home to Screenwave International Film Festive (SWIFF), Coffs Coast’s very own annual celebration of film. Now in its sixth year, SWIFF sees more than 120 feature film sessions screened, attracting film lovers from around the country.

Coffs Harbour Regional Museum

Stepping back in time can offer a wonderfully fresh perspective, making the Coffs Harbour Regional Museum the perfect place to discover more.

Hear Gumbaynggirr stories, read about pioneers of the area’s original industries, learn the significance of our maritime history and discover intriguing artefacts. With a mix of static and interactive displays, a visit here will inform and delight the whole family.

There’s so much more including the coffs harbour regional conservatorium as the region’s hub for classical music. As well as showcasing local students, the venue hosts many performances, including the popular Sunday Concert Series.