Welcome to Coffs Harbour, New South Wales; a quaint little city set between forested hills and long stretches of sandy beaches. It also happens to be the banana capital of Australia and a short one hour drive from the biggest blueberry farm in the southern hemisphere – making it a mecca for anyone looking to extend their working holiday visa, or even just make a couple of dollars while making their way up the coast. I found myself here through a series of events that were completely unexpected but worth every unsure phone call to area farmers, and the two weeks I waited to hear back that the season was finally starting.
Coffs has a few working hostels in the area, so you have some options for places to stay. There is the Hooey Mooey ($23/night), a motel like hostel with a huge pub and cheap feeds right at your fingertips. It also has instant beach access. The YHA ($30/night) has also accommodated some fruit pickers. Anyone who has ever stayed at a YHA knows that you get a quiet place, with clean facilities and usually a pretty good location as well. This one is situated close to two beaches, and is right beside a small grocer. Then there is Aussitel ($23). I wound up staying here because it was the closest hostel to a friend’s couch I was sleeping on, and have called it home for the past 2.5 months. The best part of my chosen hostel is all the free activities you can do. So for two weeks while I called farmers every morning and every evening (you need to be tenacious in the fruit picking business), I spent my afternoons sea kayaking,surfing, body boarding, paddle boarding, playing volleyball…for free! It was the best way to have a great time and not be tempted to spend money. The beach is only a short walk away and the hostel arranges daily activities so all you need to do is show up at the appointed hour and be ready to have a great time. Aussitel isn’t the biggest hostel and the kitchen seems to get busier and busier as the season progresses, but the owners (a young couple who live on site) make sure the hostel is clean. They also offer work for accommodation, so I was able to score the 6am kitchen clean. Now I am able to pocket almost all the money I make while fruit picking.
Coffs itself does not offer much in the way of a social scene, and it’s hard to maintain a good social life when you get up between 5:30 and 6 every morning for harvest work; however, there are some options. Coffs Hotel was the only dance hall/music venue until mid-October 2012 when Plantation opened up a new bar and live music venue. It’s located a few feet away from Coffs Hotel so you can easily go between the two, and with competition in town sometimes you can get free entry. There are loads of food joints in town, as well as near the Jetty. The Jetty has a good selection of ethnic cuisine, and some great coffee deals! The hostel is where you will probably spend most of your evening time socialising, but the bottle shops are easy to find and there is a good selection of places to purchase your chosen drink.
There are also great ways to have fun by getting up close and personal to some exciting wildlife. Whale watching is easy here; you can stand on the beaches and watch whales breaching, or take an inexpensive ($25) whale watching cruise. You can also take a short drive to Emerald Beach to see some kangaroos enjoying the sand, or go a little further to Dorrigo National Park. Here you can explore some scenic walks and finish with a quick dip under some beautiful waterfalls.
Follow Melodie’s story as she travels around Australia in search of harvest work while on her working holiday.