Say hello to 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 swimming 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 six Ecotourism Australia-certified champions, with more working towards their own certification.

  • WAJAANA YAAM GUMBAYNGGIRR ADVENTURE TOURS: Stand up paddleboard tours led by Gumbaynggirr guides or Aboriginal guides with strong ties to Gumbaynggirr Country, in three incredible locations.
  • TREETOPS ADVENTURE: A tree ropes and ziplining experience in sublime natural habitat and with an abundance of local wildlife – what more could you ask for?
  • BRUXNER FLORA RESERVE: Located in Orara East State Forest, this is the ultimate nature-based destination on the Coffs Coast. The centerpiece is Sealy Lookout with the majestic Forest Sky Pier. The Gumgali track is an indigenous interpretive walk down to Korora Lookout with unparalleled views of the Solitary Islands Marine Park. 
  • COFFS COAST MOUNTAIN RETREAT: Adult only, pet-friendly, accessibility accommodation offering private, tranquil spaces to unwind. Relax and enjoy the simple pleasures of the natural surroundings (along with a few luxuries of course).  
  • JETTY DIVE CENTRE: Swim with whales, dive with sharks and discover the majesty of the South Solitary Islands Marine Park. Local dive experts and genuine PADI diving courses. 
  • NORTH COAST REGIONAL BOTANIC GARDEN: Natural bushland, exotic species, rainforest and more! All linked together with wheelchair-accessible parks, boardwalks and a cafe.

As for our community? They’re pretty 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 whilst 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.