Coffs Attraction, Nation’s Best

COFFS Harbour’s walk of discovery, highlighting the harbour’s Aboriginal heritage has won acclaim at the Qantas Australian Tourism Awards.

The Muttonbird Island attraction, known as Giidayn Miirral, overnight added the national award for indigenous tourism to its state and regional accolades.

The $320,000 harbour-side structure, featuring the artwork of local Aboriginal artist Shane Phillips, stands in tribute to Coffs Harbour’s Gumbaynggirr heritage.

Local elder Aunty Gloria Phillips said the attraction is an important achievement for both the Gumbaynggirr and wider Coffs Harbour communities.

“This is a sacred site and by highlighting its history, it is sharing our stories with the many people who come here,” Aunty Phillips said.

National Parks and Wildlife Service discovery ranger Mark Flanders, has shared Gumbaynggirr culture with thousands of visitors on tours of Muttonbird Island over nine years.

“It’s great to have all the work put in by the local and Aboriginal communities recognised at such a high level,” Mr Flanders said.

NSW outshone the other states at the Qantas Australian Tourism Awards, scoring 11 wins out of 27 categories.

The 27th annual event acknowledges the best travel companies around the nation including tour operators, adventure trips and accommodation.

Winners for NSW included Jenolan Caves with two awards for best tourist attraction and heritage and cultural tourism, Tri State Safaris for tour/transport operators and Newcastle Airport for specialised tourism services.

Queensland won just a single award for Fantasea Adventure Cruising as the top major tour operator.

This was in stark contrast to last year’s wins in seven categories in a what was lauded as a sign of the state’s resilience after the floods and Cyclone Yasi.

Tasmania dominated in the luxury stakes, with the Saffire-Freycinet winning best luxury accommodation and the Old Woolstore Apartment Hotel for deluxe accommodation.

Other winners include the Melbourne Museum as best major tourist attraction and Maria Island Walk for the adventure tourism category.

The award for excellence in sustainable tourism went to Lane Cove River Tourist Park (NSW) – its second consecutive win.

National Tourism Alliance Chairman Col Hughes congratulated all finalists and winners.

“We recognise and applaud the many businesses who continue to demonstrate excellence in servicing the needs and exceeding the expectations of both domestic and international visitors – you are living examples of the finest of quality tourism experiences in Australia,” he said.

Sunshine Coast Daily |  Matt Deans | 4th March 2012

Photo: Trevor Veale