For families with young children Coffs Harbour seems like an ideal destination.  There is much to do and to choose from.  The only limitation is how much time you can afford to stay there.  We only had a day so we had done our research and decided to visit Dolphin Marine Magic.  Was it a good choice?  Keep reading to find out.

Seeing a dolphin show was my daughters dream for a long time.  Being able to do it in Australia literally ticked all the boxes for her.  We also liked the idea as at the end of the day who doesn’t like dolphins?

To begin with, buy your tickets from the Big Banana ticket office.  That way you get a 10% discount comparing to what you would have to pay at the attraction itself.

Also, make sure you arrive at least 30 minutes before the show begins, to allow time for ‘free’ seal hugs and dolphin kisses.  The show runs 3 x a day at 10:00, 13:00 and 16:00.

At the venue you have an option to purchase a ‘swimming with dolphins’ experience that cannot be purchased in advance at the Big Banana.

The leaflet we were given also lists feeding little blue penguins and Steve McEwens reptile world show which we didn’t end up seeing.

Dolphin kisses and seal hugs

So how did our day at Dolphin Marine Magic  progress and what did we get out of it?

We chose to go to the midday show as that allowed us to pay a quick visit to the Big Banana where we were able to purchase the discounted entry tickets to Dolphin Marine Magic.  We had about 45-50 minutes before the show which was a good thing as we managed to secure great seat to enjoy the dolphin presentation/show.

Soon after, they announced that dolphin kisses will soon begin.  Of course most visitors were eager to kiss the dolphin so a long que quickly formed.

There are two dolphins that ‘kiss’ visitors.  You go to the designated part of the swimming enclosure and as you are there you lean forward towards the dolphins.  The dolphins poked their heads towards you and touch/kiss your cheek.  A quick snap shot is taken for you to buy it if you desire to.  The whole thing is super quick and then you have to speedily go so the next person is the queue can have their turn.

The same story is with the seal hugs.  You sit and put your arm around the seal, they take a quick photo and you are asked to move quickly away so the next person can ‘hug’ the seal.  There is not much personal interaction with the animals, you are literally there to have a photo taken and that’s it.  Having said that we all enjoyed feeling the dolphin kiss on our cheeks.

Let The Show Begin

Then the show began and it was lovely.  The star of the first part was a seal and later the long awaited dolphins took the stage.  The animals were lovely and did tricks that were funny and heart-warming at the same time.  If you are lucky you may be picked from the audience to feed the dolphins or take part in the performance.  My not so shy boy was screaming his lungs out shouting ‘pick m! pick me!’ but sadly he was ignored.

What I liked most about the show was the final message the organisers try to get across.  The message is simple: look after the nature and don’t leave litter behind as it can be deadly for the marine life.

They have done it very cleverly teaching the animals to put rubbish/litter into a bin.  Showing at the same time that if animals can learn this simple trick then why do us humans struggle with it?

After the show the dolphin interaction started.  It was nice and casual with the animals swimming along the pool edge and everybody could touch their back and belly.  They ask you not to touch their faces though.  The staff explained that if the dolphins don’t feel like doing this then they don’t have to be involved and that depending on their mood they sometimes do or don’t join in.

Swimming With The Dolphin

As I have mentioned there was an option to purchase a ‘swimming’ with the dolphins experience.  It cost $60 and lasted at most 5 minutes and included a photo with the dolphin.  Both of our kids wanted to do it.  However, after considering the pros and cons we only got one ticket for our daughter Lily.

They don’t offer discounted tickets for under 5 and all under 5 must be accompanied by a full fee paying adult.  We decided that 5 minutes of ‘swimming with the dolphins’ was not worth $180 and we certainly don’t regret our decision.  

The experience itself was ok from a parents perspective and great from a child's perspective.  It started with a short talk on what will happen then a group of 6 people got into the pool, lined up in the water and waited for the dolphin to swim alongside them.  As the dolphin swam they could touch it briefly.  Then again everyone lined up for a quick photo and finally once again they had a chance to touch the dolphin.  That’s it.  Personally, I think it was overpriced for what it was but what don’t we do to make our children happy?

Friendly Stuff but an Akward End to The Day

We had a little chat with one of the girls working there.  I said to her she had the most amazing job in the world.  She keenly agreed and told me a bit about how young people can get involved and how their typical working day looked like.  It was interesting to hear about their dolphin rescue missions, rehabilitation process and releasing back into nature.  That is what is happening ‘behind closed doors’ and that is what Dolphin Marine Magic’s mission is.

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Eventually it was time to collect our photos.  We went there and purchased all of them and it was only there that I felt ripped off.  Little things spoiled the experience a bit.  Having purchased all the photos I expected to receive complimentary digital files of the images.  Having lived in London where giving downloadable files to share on social media free of charge is now standard I was more than surprised that charged an additional $10 per photo to have them emailed to me.  On top of that I had to pay an extra 50c per photo for a paper sleeve to keep the photo in.  Something that frankly I considered pathetic.  This could easily be remedied without almost any financial burden on the organisations part.  Definitely a bit of a let-down spoiling an otherwise great day

Quick review and hot tips:

* Purchase your discounted tickets from the Big Banana

* Arrive early (at least 30 minutes before the show starts)

* Loads of parking available outside the attraction

* Star rating 4.5/5