New South Wales

Dog-Friendly Getaway to Coffs Harbour

Dog-friendly Coffs Harbour

The popular holiday destination of Coffs Harbour on the NSW North Coast is a great place to head with your pup. One of the most dog-friendly destinations on the North Coast, there’s plenty of dog-friendly things to do. To plan your dog-friendly getaway to Coffs Harbour, check out these tips… 

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Dog-Friendly Accommodation in Coffs Harbour

The majority of the caravan parks around the Coffs Harbour area are dog-friendly, with many even allowing dogs year round. Just double check the pet rules first before booking, and you will generally need to book directly. 

We stayed at Discovery Parks – Emerald Beach, about 20 minutes drive north of Coffs Harbour itself. It was great being located next to the off-leash northern end of Emerald Beach, plus the park has plenty of amenities for all the family, including a heated swimming pool and water park.  

The entrance to the pet-friendly Discovery Parks – Emerald Beach

Dogs are allowed on sites only (look for the pet-friendly sites when booking online), outside of the peak summer season from mid-December to mid-January. Also note that dogs are not permitted at Look at Me Headland on the southern side of the town, popular for its kangaroos. 

Trees surrounding sites at Discovery Parks – Emerald Beach

Another caravan park that I’ve heard lots of praise for is the Reflections Holiday Parks Moonee Beach. Dogs are allowed year round at the park, both on sites and in selected cabins. Call directly to book. This park is also near the on-leash Moonee Beach.  

If you’re not planning on camping, a stunning looking dog-friendly option is Friday Creek Retreat. Located about 20 minutes inland from Coffs Harbour, pets are allowed in the nine cottages, as long as they are pre-approved by management prior to arrival.  

Each of the cottages offer up beautiful views of the coastline, including from a private verandah, plus a fully equipped kitchens and open fireplace, perfect for winter months. Pets are allowed inside, but not on furniture, and you’ll need to bring your own bedding and bowls. Pets are welcome to roam the property, but need to be kept on a leash due to the abundant native wildlife. 

Dogs are welcome at Friday Creek Retreat © Friday Creek Retreat
Including inside next to the open fire on chilly winter nights! © Friday Creek Retreat

Two bed and breakfasts in the region that are pet-friendly are Alarks Nest and Bonville Lodge. Both permit pets inside, but not on furniture or beds. 

Alarks Nest B&B is located 10 minutes south of Coffs Harbour. The  separate cottage with a pretty garden outlook sleeps up to 4 and offers home-style comfort.  

Bonville Lodge Pet-Friendly B&B is a further 5 minutes south, with the option of both the 2-bedroom Lodge that sleeps 4 and the Bridge Cottage that sleeps 2. 

Alternatively, consider a pet-friendly Airbnb around Coffs Harbour, with plenty of options available. For instance, consider Moonee Beach House, just north of Coffs Harbour. This beautiful beach house that sleeps up to four guests welcomes pets. Make sure you advise the host at the time of booking, and note there is an additional charge of $5 per night, with up to two dogs permitted.

Dog-Friendly Dining in Coffs Harbour

With beautiful weather year round, there’s plenty of cafes and restaurants around the Coffs Harbour area with outdoor dining areas where dogs are welcome. 

One of the most dog-friendly spots around is Maggie’s Dog Cafe, just north of Coffs Harbour at Moonee Beach. Recently voted the most pet-friendly cafe in Australia, it offers a menu for dogs, with treats including peanut butter and jelly pancakes and pies, as well as human food and drinks. Dogs are allowed inside, including in the off-leash play area, with dog birthday parties a speciality. 

Dog-friendly cafe in Coffs Harbour
You have to stop by Maggies Dog Cafe!
Schnitzel wasn’t quite sure what to make of the ball pit in the play area

Unfortunately, when we visited, the cafe was still closed due to coronavirus restrictions. However, the cafe has just reopened, so make sure to pop in. (If restrictions do again ramp up, the cafe will likely re-close, so that the onsite dog salon, day care and shop can continue running.) 

Another dog-friendly option nearby is Beachstone Cafe at Sapphire Beach. This licensed cafe is open daily for breakfast and lunch, plus seasonally for dinner on Friday nights. There’s plenty of outdoor seating, much of it under shelter. Plus it’s next to the on-leash Sapphire Beach, perfect for a walk with your dog afterwards. 

Beachstone Cafe at Sapphire Beach

Back in the heart of Coffs Harbour, a cute small cafe to head to after visiting the off-leash North Wall Beach is Salute Jetty, next to the marina. It’s more of a kiosk, with only outdoor seating, but is a terrific spot to laze on a sunny day. As well as coffee, there’s also smoothies and acai bowls on the menu. 

Salute Jetty near the off-leash North Wall Beach

If you’re heading to Bellingen, a beautiful village located inland from Urunga, stop by the Old Butter Factory complex. There’s multiple shops in the complex, currently under renovations, including a woodcraft gallery, plus the Old Butter Factory Cafe.  

The only cow remaining at the Old Butter Factory in Bellingen

We enjoyed an excellent breakfast at the cafe, a favourite spot of dog-owning locals and visitors. Open for breakfast and lunch daily, there’s a large sheltered outdoor area, plus additional tables sprinkled around visited by the local birds. I highly recommend the Corn Fritter Stack, on both the breakfast and lunch menus. The gelato shop in the complex is also pet-friendly. 

The delicious Corn Fritter Stack at the Old Butter Factory Cafe

Dog-Friendly Beaches in Coffs Harbour

You can’t head to Coffs Harbour and not visit some of the beautiful beaches in the area. Even during the winter months, the water stays warm enough for swimming, if you’re brave.  

The Coffs Harbour City Council has grouped the beaches in the region into ones where dogs are allowed off-leash, on-leash and where dogs are prohibited. Check out the list on their website. And even when dogs are allowed off-leash, they still need to be under direct supervision and control. 

I recommend the following off-leash beaches for dogs: 

North Wall Beach: Just north of the marina in Coffs Harbour, look for the beach marked “Park Beach South Dog Beach” on Google. There’s plenty of parking, plus it’s great to combine with a visit to the jetty and perhaps coffee from Salute Jetty. Note that dogs are prohibited on Park Beach (north of Coffs Creek) and Jetty Beach. 

Dog-friendly Coffs Harbour
North Wall Beach is the most central off-leash beach in Coffs Harbour

Northern end of Emerald Beach: Dogs are permitted off-leash at the northern end of Emerald Beach, north of Fiddamans Creek. This section of beach is easiest accessed from the pet-friendly caravan park, where we stayed, or else walk through the reserve to the creek. Dogs are prohibited at the southern end of the beach plus the nearby Look at Me Headland. 

A beautiful morning at the off-leash section of Emerald Beach
Schnitzel enjoying an off-leash sunset walk on Emerald Beach

Further north, dogs are also permitted off-leash at Hearns Lake Beach (except during the Little Tern breeding season), Woolgoolga Back Beach, Darkum Beach (except during the Little Tern breeding season) and Corindi/Pipeclay Beach (south of Ocean Street). Dogs are also permitted off-leash on Boambee Beach, on the southern side of Coffs Harbour.  

Further south, the beaches are looked after by Bellingen Shire Council. Dogs are permitted off-leash on Urunga Beach, in between the river mouth and the four wheel drive access point, the “Sand Mines”. Without a 4WD, it’s easiest to access the beach from the Urunga Boardwalk (see below).  

Urunga Beach allows dogs off-leash near the end of the boardwalk

There’s also a long list of beaches around Coffs Harbour where dogs are permitted on-leash, including Murray’s Beach at Sawtell, Korora Beach, Hills Beach, Campbells Beach, Sapphire Beach and Moonee Beach.  

Off-Leash Dog Parks in Coffs Harbour

If you’re looking for an off-leash area in Coffs Harbour away from the beaches head to Thompsons Road Reserve, just behind the car dealerships on the southern side of Coffs Harbour. 

Thompsons Road Reserve is a large fully enclosed park, with plenty of shade and benches to sit on, even a creek where your dog can enjoy a freshwater swim. 

The fully-fenced Thompsons Dog Park

If you’re visiting Bellingen, dogs are allowed off-leash at Jarrett Park, west of Lavenders Bridge. The off-leash section starts behind the skate park and is adjacent to the river, perfect for swims during summer.  

The off-leash dog park in Bellingen

Dog-Friendly Sightseeing around Coffs Harbour

What I loved about visiting Coffs Harbour with my dog, was the number of fun sightseeing options that also welcomed dogs. During your visit, add some or all of these onto your itinerary. 

1. Visit the Big Banana

Coffs Harbour is synonymous with the Big Banana. Built in 1964 at the side of the Pacific Highway next to a banana plantation, it was one of Australia’s first big things. 

These days the Big Banana is surrounded by an amusement park. Dogs are allowed onto the grounds, although naturally they aren’t allowed inside most attractions and certain areas, including the plantation tour. 

Instead, I recommend inside getting a selfie at the Big Banana. (I made use of the camera stand for Schnitzel, as he’s quite small.) The adjacent cafe also has a pet-friendly section of outdoor seating, with chocolate-coated frozen bananas being a popular option. 

Dog-friendly Coffs Harbour
Don’t visit Coffs Harbour without getting a selfie at the Big Banana

2. Stroll Along the Urunga Boardwalk

About 25 minutes south of Coffs Harbour is the sleepy coastal town of Urunga. Make sure you stop off for a stroll along the Urunga Boardwalk, an impressively long 1.2km boardwalk that starts behind the caravan park and follows the mouth of the Bellinger River to the sea. There’s also a side branch that heads off into the mangroves. 

Uranga Boardwalk stretching into the distance
Schnitzel on the Uranga Boardwalk

Dogs on a leash are permitted along the entire length of the boardwalk. At the far ocean end, the beach has been designated off-leash, if your dog still has the energy for a run. Make sure you take along poo bags, as there are limited bins and bags along the boardwalk. /

The off-leash beach in Urunga is located at the end of the boardwalk

3. Or the Coffs Harbour Jetty

Dogs are also allowed on the historic Coffs Harbour Jetty, as long as they are kept on a leash. The jetty is located near the marina and the off-leash North Wall Beach, and a walk along the jetty is a great addition when exploring the area.

Schnitzel on the Coffs Harbour Jetty

Take in the views towards Muttonbird Island (where dogs are not surprisingly not permitted) or check out the catch of the locals fishing from the wharf and pontoon.

4. Head to the Forests and Sealy Lookout

The area surrounding Coffs Harbour contains some beautiful rainforest, although much of it is off-limits to pets as it is within national parks. However, for a pet-friendly rainforest outing head to the Orara East State Forest and Sealy Lookout. 

Take the signposted turn-off not far north of the Big Banana and climb up the hills through banana plantations. At the top you’ll arrive at the Orara East State Forest, with Sealy Lookout located at the end of the road. The highlight is the Forest Sky Pier, extending out over the forest, with brave dogs that aren’t scared of heights permitted on the lookout.  

Beautiful views of the Coffs Coast from the Forest Sky Pier

There’s also multiple walks available in the area, including the Scenic Rim Track and the walk to Korora Lookout, a short distance back down the road. Dogs just need to be kept on a leash.  

The short walk to Korora Lookout

During banana season, don’t miss out on stopping at one of the many roadside stalls that line the road up to the lookout, with cheap bananas often available for sale.  

5. Visit the Clog Barn

A Dutch-themed barn dedicated to clogs isn’t something I was expecting to discover in Coffs Harbour, but that’s what you’ll find. The Clog Barn is located next to the pet-friendly caravan park of the same name, and features a beautiful miniature Dutch village, along with clog making demonstrations and a coffee house. 

There’s free admission to the model Dutch village, accessible through the shop, and your dog is welcome to join you. 

The Miniature Dutch Village at the Clog Barn

6. Check out the Buster Shipwreck

Back in 1893, the sailing ship “Buster” broke away from its moorings and was wrecked on the beach just south of the Woolgoolga Lake entrance. Fortunately, there were no lives lost, and parts of the shipwreck are generally still visible along the beach, depending on the sand and tides. 

Schnitzel checking out the Buster Shipwreck

To spot the wreck, park near the pet-friendly Woolgoolga Lakeside Holiday Park and walk along the beach to the spot about 200m south of the lake’s entrance, ideally at low tide. (Unfortunately, there’s no marker on Google Maps.) The southern end of Woolgoolga Beach doesn’t allow dogs, but dogs are allowed on-leash along this section.  

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