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I was admittedly a bit older than a child when I first arrived in Australia, but I bet I was just as wide-eyed.
Experiencing the North Coast for the first time was surely the same as how kids see it for the first time – all blue and shiny, and filled with sunshine. The North Coast was like one long school holiday to me, seemingly endless and indolent. There's something about beach holidays that just make me happy.
Want to create family memories worth remembering? I simply say: head for the sand.
Children of any age are going to love the NSW North Coast. It goes on forever, all the way from Newcastle to Tweed Heads, in a convolution of headlands, waterways, lagoons and bays. The beaches are endless. The little ones can splash and paddle and poke around in rock pools. The older ones can surf, rock climb, scuba dive, horse ride. The whole family can bushwalk and fish.
Explore the coast
There are many hidden places to discover in Port Macquarie. Photo: Getty.
There are lots of lovely hidden places to discover, like sleepy Seal Rocks near Forster and Sea Acres near Port Macquarie. The latter is a tiny national park that preserves rare coastal rainforest, which you can walk around on a boardwalk. This region has kilometres of cycle ways if you have an active family.
Visit Coffs Harbour – named Wotif's Aussie Town of The Year Award in 2020 – and everyone will be happy. Who doesn't want to see the Big Banana!
There are plenty of holiday attractions and activities here, but what I'll remember most is pedalling along the coast by bike, and experiencing my first skydive. If you really want a lasting family memory, its surely leaping from an airplane before your parachute blooms above you, and the glorious blue scenery unfurls below. But let it be known, the sky high adventure is for kids aged 12 and over.
More than just the sea
Explore Dorrigo National Park. Photo: Getty.
The NSW North Coast isn't just about water. It has a magnificent hinterland too. Don't miss heading inland near Coffs Harbour to arty Bellingen and onwards to Dorrigo National Park, which has the sort of rainforest that might hide a dinosaur. The kids will love the Skywalk through the forest canopy.
Further north, Yamba and its confusion of water channels and lagoons is the sort of place families return to year after year. You can golf, ride and kitesurf and, with eleven beaches to choose from, you can flop on a different one every day of the week. I still remember eating fish and chips under the giant Norfolk Pines here, proof that great recollections can arise from very simple things.
Byron Bay is another memorable place. The whole family will be happy here thanks to its mix of sporty coast, sleepy hinterland, mainstream tourist attractions and quirky alternative lifestyles. My top picks for lasting memories? Surf lessons for those who've never tried surfing before. And kayaking with dolphins. Even the grumpiest teenagers have to smile when they see dolphins frolicking in the early morning waves.
You can also spot migrating whales between May to September, grinning away with their gaping pink mouths.
The best of the best
NSW's North Coast is begging to be explored. Photo: Getty.
If I had to pick a favourite place of all, I'd say South West Rocks, which is about halfway along the NSW North Coast. I've lots of fond memories and this delightful spot, with its family-friendly caravan parks and lovely beaches. There are lots of sand dunes and spectacular headlands to explore, and great fishing, and a lighthouse.
Your teenagers will enjoy jumping off the jetty into the Macleay River in a boom of spray. South West Rocks is a bit old-fashioned, in a good way. It seems like a place from a slower, simpler time before the arrival of the concrete and digital eras.
But maybe that's just nostalgia kicking in. To me, the whole of the NSW North Coast is a bit like that. Not that it doesn't have its sophistication, its chic boutique hotels and its trendy restaurants, because it does. But the whole length of coast just makes you want to be a kid again, agog at a crab in a rock pool, feeding the pelicans, digging a sandcastle on the beach against the incoming tide.
And I bet it will always be like that, when it's your children, or grandchildren, or great-grandchildren wanting to return, and thinking back on happy times.
Before booking, travellers should consult the latest government restrictions for the area in which they wish to travel. Travellers should be mindful that government restrictions are in constant review and travel guidelines may change between booking and travel.
Important note regarding COVID-19 and travel: Before booking, travellers should consult the latest government restrictions for the area in which they wish to travel. Travellers should be mindful that government restrictions are in constant review and travel guidelines may change between booking and travel.
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