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There’s always parts of Australia that we say as frequent travellers that we will come back to one day. Backtrack to 2012 when my husband and I were on a caravan trip down the Mid North Coast of New South Wales and staying a few days at Urunga on the Coffs Coast. We heard good things about the two country towns of Bellingen and Dorrigo, inland of the Coffs Coast and both agreed we must come back here to explore more.
So this is what brought us to spending a few days caravanning on the Bellinger River at Repton, around 15 kilometres outside of the town of Bellingen. With absolutely perfect Spring weather and a lust to explore this interesting region we set off on our adventure.
Bellingen is located on the scenic Waterfall Way alongside the Bellinger River and is geographically located 19 kilometres due west from the coastal town of Mylestom on the Coffs Coast. Dorrigo is a further 30 kilometres inland across Dorrigo Mountain and through Dorrigo National Park to the town situated at the top of the plateau.
Waterfall Way is surrounded by lush green rolling hills, views over the beautiful Bellinger River or a backdrop of tree-clad mountain escarpments as you plunge into the mountainous terrain.
Affectionately nicknamed “Bello” by the locals, Bellingen lives up to its reputation as being “Mello Bello”! It’s a charming country town with a bohemian feel about it.
Beautifully restored buildings line the main street with multiple quirky cafes, pre-loved fashion, trendy boutiques, gift shops, art galleries and stimulating bookshops.
The facade of the original Hammond and Wheatley Emporium dominates the main street as does the corner red brick building of the Bellingen Green Grocers.
This once rural town surrounded by dairy farms and lush green rolling hills sits on the pretty Bellinger River. Bello is flush with organic produce, artisan bakeries, a gelato shop, its own brewery, a grand old pub and the creative community is alive and well.
Grab some fresh treats and head down to the parklands that adjoin the Bellinger River or dine at one of the cafes or restaurants that are rife in town. We enjoyed a tasty toastie for lunch in the leafy laneway of Church Street at a restaurant called the Fennel Seed.
The following day we lunched with friends at the Old Butter Factory Cafe and I was blown away by their Arancini Balls with a Rocket Salad. The Cedar Bar & Kitchen situated in an old church in Bellingen is also one that came highly recommend, but unfortunately it was closed on Mondays and Tuesdays.
There is a diverse range of accommodation available in the Bellingen area that caters to all tastes and budgets, from pubs, motels, bed & breakfasts, cabins, farmstays and camp grounds. We stayed right on the river nearby at the Bellinger River Tourist Park at Repton. Although it was an ideal location on the river and we could literally throw a line in the river from our caravan site, it does get a little noisy with traffic on the highway and a railway bridge nearby.
Once we left the enchanting town of Bellingen, we wound our way up through Dorrigo Mountain on Waterfall Way towards the town of Dorrigo and the outstanding Dorrigo National Park. This mountain is part of the Great Dividing Range and is 762 metres at its highest point.
The drive is scenic through dense Gondwana rainforest with views of the river valley and several waterfalls cascading over rockfaces on the roadside. There is a place to stop to view one of the waterfalls at Newell Falls, where the water trickles down a steep rockface and goes under the road and continues on the other side down the mountain.
Just before the township of Dorrigo take a right into the Dorrigo National Park Information Centre. The Park offers plenty of challenging hiking trails, more incredible waterfalls, an informative Visitor Information Centre, a gift shop and the environmentally conscious Canopy Café. Skywalk lookout is just metres from the visitor centre, offering panoramic views from a viewing platform back over the Coffs Coast and further north across mountainous terrain from above, and below you the rainforest canopy.
Dorrigo Mountain plateaus where the town is situated and driving into it feels like a big step back in time. At the main intersection of the town there stands an Anzac statue in the middle of the street, with the quintessential verandah’ed Aussie pub located on one corner and one of the best antique stores located on the opposite corner.
The Information Centre located in the centre of town was friendly and welcoming with an extremely knowledgable host giving me a run through of all the things to do and see in the town and surrounding area. We decided we would check out nearby Dangar Falls and weren’t disappointed.
Only 2 kilometres drive out of town Dangar Falls and Picnic Area is a must see. The falls are one of the most picturesque along the Waterfall Way. These beautiful 30-metre waterfalls are set amidst lush green agricultural and dairy farmland.
There’s a car park, a viewing platform, picnic tables, toilets and a walking trail and boardwalk that leads you down to the river at the bottom of the waterfall. The viewing platform offers a great vantage point and excellent photo opportunity of the falls. There is also the curious Dangar Falls Labyrinth made from different coloured pavers that is worth a look see.
For a bird’s eye view of the Great Dividing Range to the west and the coastline near Kempsey to the south, take a drive up Griffiths Mountain Top Lookout that is 8 kilometres from Dorrigo.
There is a wide variety of accommodation in Dorrigo including a hotel, bed & breakfasts, motels and a caravan park. There is camping available behind Dangar Falls Lodge, Dorrigo Mountain Resort & Caravan Park, Platypus Flat campground in Nymboi-Binderay National Park near Dorrigo and in the Dorrigo Showgrounds.
If time had permitted I would have liked nothing more than continuing our journey further west along Waterfall Way to Armidale in the New England Tablelands. This spectacular 185 kilometre drives through five national parks and offers stunning waterfall views along the way. World Heritage Listed Dorrigo National Park, New England National Park, Cathedral Rocks National Park, Guy Fawkes River National Park and Oxley Wild Rivers National Park.
Beginning at Dorrigo Mountain you can chase waterfalls such as Newell Falls and Sherrard Falls right on Waterfall Way; Tristiana, Casuarina, Callicoma, Coachwood, Red Cedar and Crystal Showers Falls within Dorrigo National Park; Dangar Falls near the town of Dorrigo; Ebor Falls in Ebor; Wollomombi and Chandler Falls in Wollomombi Gorge; Bakers Creek Falls at Metz Gorge; Dangars Falls in Oxley Wild Rivers National Park near Armidale.
It never ceases to amaze me as to how much beauty surrounds us in this country of ours. There is so much wilderness and virtually untouched and untrodden terrain, that you could keep exploring for an eternity. Our five days in this magnificent part of New South Wales was barely enough to see all we wanted to see, but I’m sure we will be back for more!
Kathy was a 50 something year old when she started up this blog 6 years ago, but has since turned over another decade and is now in her early 60s. She is married with two adult children and lives on the Tweed Coast of New South Wales, Australia. Kathy enjoys living life to the fullest and loves to keep fit and active by maintaining a healthy diet and exercising regularly. Some of her interests include reading, photography, travelling, cooking and blogging! Kathy works part-time as a freelance writer but her real passion is travelling and photographing brilliant destinations both within Australia and overseas and writing about it.