On the Mid North Coast of New South Wales, Bellingen is halfway between Sydney and Brisbane, just half an hour’s drive from Coffs Harbor. The area is a nature lover’s dream. Bellingen sits along the stunning Waterfall Way, which traverses five national parks, so there’s an abundance of waterfalls, bushwalking tracks, and animal spotting opportunities. The town is small but friendly with a rich heritage and a robust cafe scene. There are marvelous places to eat, as well as shop and stay. Plus, there are day trip opportunities galore to the national parks and surrounding towns, both inland, and back towards the coast.
1. Bushwalk at Dorrigo National Park
Explore exciting bushwalking tracks, incredible waterfalls, beautiful picnic spots, and excellent birdwatching in Dorrigo National Park. The park forms part of the Gondwana Rainforests of Australia World Heritage Area, and its beauty has been millions of years in the making. There are plenty of bushwalking tracks, which vary in length and difficulty. Check out the Crystal Shower Falls, Lyrebird Link Track, Blackbutt Track, Casuarina Falls Circuit, Red Cedar Falls Track, Rosewood Creek, Satinbird Stroll, or Wonga Walk. You can do them all or choose shorter sections that make up part of the larger walks. Stop at the Dorrigo Rainforest Centre to learn more about the park, and stroll along the Skywalk. There’s also plenty of beautiful picnic spots around for rest and refreshment. The Food Angel Cafe in Dorrigo is an excellent place to stop for lunch after an energetic morning walk.
2. Skywalk at Dorrigo National Park
Wander among the treetops as you head out along the Skywalk to enjoy breathtaking views over the Dorrigo National Park and all the way out to the coast. The Skywalk is attached to the Dorrigo Rainforest Centre and is a 70-meter, fully wheelchair-accessible boardwalk. The beginning of the walk starts among the treetops, however as you get further out, the end of the path soars an incredible 21-meters over the canopy. From here, you can take in views of the deep gorges and lush trees of the Rosewood rainforest basin and Bellinger Valley. You can also admire the impressive peaks of McGraths Hump, also known as Old Man Dreaming. If you’re an avid birdwatcher, make sure to take your binoculars. Be on the lookout for regent bowerbirds, topknot pigeons, and grey goshawks.
3. Take a Swim at Dangar Falls
After visiting Dorrigo National Park, make sure to stop in at Dangar Falls, just a few kilometers north of the town of Dorrigo. These beautiful 30-meter falls have a car park, picnic tables, playground, toilets, and a viewing platform. It’s the perfect place to stop and stretch your legs and admire the view. There’s also a walk to the base of the falls, which is not too strenuous. The waterhole at the bottom is perfect for a swim, though it can be a bit chilly.
4. Stay the Night at Promise Land Retreat
Escape the daily grind and stay a night or two at the Promised Land Retreat. Once you’re there, you’ll realize exactly why it’s called Promised Land. With incredible views over the Great Dividing Range and private chalets tucked away in 100 acres of bushland, you’ll feel a million miles from everywhere. The property has only three cottages — one which is perfect for couples, and two which fit up to four people, making it great for families. The simple but elegant villas are fully self-contained and enjoy 180-degree views. The retreat’s facilities are also excellent. Borrow a mountain bike and go for a cycle along the Promised Land loop, taking in the stunning nature and swimming holes along the way. You can also hit a few sets on the tennis court, or wander down to the Angel Gabriel Capararo Reserve for a relaxing swim in Never Never River.
5. Swim in Bellingen’s Never Never River
The Never Never River, with its clear, cool waters, is perfect for a refreshing swim. There are several great swimming spots along the river; however, one of the best locations is the Angel Gabriel Capararo Reserve. Pack your swimmers and a picnic rug, and while away the hours lazing in the sunshine and swimming in the crystal clear waters. Another lovely spot is near the old Tallowwood Bridge, further along Promised Land Road.
6. Waterfall Way Scenic Drive
Pack the car up and go on a full-day trip along the Waterfall Way Scenic Drive. This 185-kilometer journey links Coffs Harbour on the coast, with Armidale, taking you via five stunning national parks. You can drive the route straight in about two and a half hours, however, allow a full day, so you don’t miss any of the scenic stops. Marvel at Ebor Falls, or see the granite tors in Cathedral Rock National Park. Stretch your legs and get the blood flowing with one of the many scenic bushwalks in the Dorrigo National Park. Alternatively, stop for a picnic and see the mighty Wollomombi Falls in the New England National Park. Also in that same park is Point Lookout, another must-see with panoramic views over the World Heritage rainforest. This drive is a delightful day out and is perfect for nature lovers and families.
7. Drive to Ebor Falls
Watch as the waters of the Guy Fawkes River cascade 100 meters over two tiers of rocks at Ebor Falls. The falls are located in the Guy Fawkes River National Park, just over an hour’s drive from Bellingen. There are three viewing platforms for the falls and surrounding gorge country — the upper, lower, and valley view lookouts. All of them are a short walk from the car park, and there’s an easy track that links the upper and lower platforms. Take a picnic and relax in the grassy woodlands next to the falls, as you listen to the sounds of the powerful water flow. During the warmer months, keep an eye out for blooms of golden everlasting daisies and rare ground orchids.
8. Eat at Bellingen’s Most Popular Cafe — Hyde
Set in a grand old building on the main street, Hyde is one of Bellingen’s most popular cafes. Owned by mother and daughter Jenni and Elyse, the cafe is a welcoming and relaxed meeting place, where you can enjoy excellent coffee and a sweet treat. You can sit inside at one of the large communal tables, or dine alfresco, and watch the world go by. In addition to incredible coffee, the store also showcases a beautifully curated collection of homewares, clothing, shoes, jewelry, accessories, furniture, baby, and skincare products. You’ll easily be able to pick-up a new outfit, stylish gifts, or even some beautiful bed linen.
9. Walk the Iconic Boardwalk and Beaches in Urunga
Head out to the coast at Urunga for some refreshing sea air and walk along the Urunga Lagoon boardwalk. It runs for one kilometer and is fully wheelchair accessible the entire way. You’ll get to take in stunning views inland to the Great Diving Range, as well as along the coast from Mylestorm Spot to Nambucca Heads. Along the way, there are rest spots as well as interpretive signage so you can learn more about the environment. The end of the walk takes you to Hungry Head Beach, which is perfect for continuing your stroll, or even casting a line off the rocks if you’re into fishing. Once you’ve worked up a good appetite, head back into Urunga to enjoy a fantastic smoothie, coffee, or jaffles at the Liberty Providores Cafe.
10. Indulge in Bellingen Award Winning Gelato
Satisfy your sweet tooth with a trip to Bellingen Gelato. Their award-winning and innovative gelato are made onsite from the highest quality ingredients. The business has been in the Sebes family since 2006 when they first opened the store in Bellingen. Since then, it’s become a staple in the community, fulfilling sweet cravings of both locals and visitors alike. Indulge in milk-based creations such as burnt caramel, black sesame, lemon mascarpone, or fig and port. If creamy treats aren’t your preference, opt for fat-free and diary-free fruit sorbets like stewed plum with cinnamon & cloves, strawberry and balsamic, and blood orange.