Clogged in Coffs

There’s no sleeping in. Not when you share a room with a kid who can’t stay in bed.

The trendy shopping street is closed but for one cafe doing a roaring trade in coffee. Down a little further and across the road, in the rather dingy looking shopping centre, is the rather incongruous sounding K’Pane Artisan Bakery. The chunky Pork Penang Pie (Thai curry) is very good, but its the smooth and creamy custard tart that really hits the spot.

We eat our bakery breakfast in the park by the beach. Behind us is a car boot market for the local Lions Club.

The tide is in and dogs are sprinting across the sand chasing balls and frisbees. Coffs Creek is too deep to cross now, so we join the pets in playing catch and practice Ippon Kumite.

When we grow tired of that spot I am sent back to the motel to retrieve the sunshade tent while the other two cross to the beach near the jetty. The day is hotter now and I swear that the distance between the beach and the motel grows longer with each walk.

I return with the tent, passing by a large blue tongue lizard basking in the sun. The tent proves remarkably simple to setup, and lay inside while the other two go for a swim. They return with freezing skin and laughter.

We finally make our way back to the motel and it is getting late, especially if we want lunch. After the Big Banana, which we did last time, Coffs Harbour’s other big tourist attraction is actually about the small.

The Clog Barn houses a workshop where, in non COVID times, you can watch wooden clogs being made. There’s also a miniature version of the Netherlands, a caravan park and Big Oma’s Coffee Shop. The latter’s kitchen closes at 3pm, so we are in a bit of a hurry. Dutch cuisine isn’t actually common in Australia if you want something other than pofferjies from a showground trailer and I don’t feel like we really tried much on either of our two brief visits to that country.

We try a salmon crepe, bitterballen, croquettes, bami schrijven and frikandellen sausages. Some is great, some is strange and the mustard looks like grey-brown poop, but at least it’s different.

The Model Dutch Village features miniature replicas of famous buildings, windmills and canals from across the Netherlands. Two trains, looking more like they belong in the Island of Sodor, do loops. One derailed during its run. It appears that, like Westeros, the Netherlands has a problem with dragons, with the miniature villagers terrorised by kaiju sized water dragons.

There is one more place I want to visit in Coffs Harbour, though I only have an hour. The North Coast Regional Botanic Gardens is my favourite of all the sights in Coffs. Nestled in a bend in Coffs Creek, the gardens are a tranquil, beautiful place, one that deserves far more time than we can give it.

But Botanic Gardens are more than places to wander. Their purpose in conserving plant species is highlighted by the heartbreaking endangered species section, where so many tree species featured are threatened by land clearing, fire and climate change.

I follow the boardwalk over the mangrove roots and mud along the creek, its waters shimmering in the late afternoon light, before emerging into my ultimate reason for visiting the park, the Japanese Friendship Gardens. If I can’t go to Japan this year, maybe this is the closest I’ll get.

It is indeed a fine example, all things considering. A red bridge and almost traditional stage, carefully placed volcanic stones and Japanese native plants. Even lanterns and a stone garden hidden further back. 

I only wish I had longer to contemplate the park. Instead, we have ten minutes to rush 900 metres back to the entrance to the Botanic Gardens before it is locked. 

We powerwalk our way along another mangrove path, past the similarly gorgeous North American section, past the native bushland, before we reenter the pretty grounds before the gate, just in time.

From the gardens it is only a short drive back to the motel. After the last few days of vigorous activity my legs are very weary, but I still setup my phone on our motel room’s balcony and do the scheduled karate session over Zoom, forty minutes of kicking. The post lesson stretch session never felt so good!

All that remained was dinner. Apart from the pubs, only the Ethiopian and Indian restaurants is open on the local strip. None of us felt like spicy food for dinner and the only other option is the Hogs Breath across the road, which was where we end up.

We may not be able to actually travel overseas, but at least we had a flavour of other lands today.