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Waterfall Way : Bellingen to Armidale

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The Waterfall Way is a 165km road that runs from the Pacific Highway along the coast, through Bellingen, to Armidale in the New England Tablelands.  It’s a wonderfully scenic drive with plenty to see, including rainforest, waterfalls and green valleys dotted with fat cows.  We drove through in autumn and the blaze of red and yellow leaves splashed colour on the countryside.

 

Bellingen

The arts and crafts capital of the Coffs Coast hinterland, Bellingen is a beautiful little town that overlooks the Bellinger River.  There’s a peaceful, artistic and alternative feel to the place, with many inhabitants and visitors being spiritual and environmentally conscious.

 

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We preferred Bellingen over Niimbin and Byron Bay, as there were no major supermarkets, brand names or blatant drug dealing.  We ended up staying the night at the Bellingen YHA – our new favourite YHA.  It was small and cosy, just like a share house, with trust and respect between the guests.  It was more like a home than a hostel, and it had a beautiful deck, tranquil courtyard and a cute kitty wandering around.

 

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Newell Falls

On our way to Dorrigo, we encountered our first waterfall – Newell Falls.  As the road wound around Dorrigo Mountain, the water from an unnamed creek flowed through a tunnel under the road.  To get a better look, you‘ll need to stop at the nearby rest area, but remember that because the water is so close to the road, heavy rainfall and flooding can restrict access and visibility.

 

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Dorrigo

Located on the Dorrigo Plateau on the Great Dividing Range, it’s a bit of a climb to get into the little town.  Dorrigo Mountain has an elevation of around 750m, and while there are a few mosaic murals around town, there isn’t much to see.  It’s more like a waiting room for heaven than a tourist attraction.

 

The best thing to check out is the Red Dirt Distillery, the only distillery in Australia to do potato vodka.  They also do a ripper gin and a delicious Nocino liqueur made with green walnut.

 

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Dangar Falls

A few kilometres north of town is Dangar Falls.  It has volcanic origins and is a worthy deviation from the Waterfall Way.

 

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Ebor Falls

Holy moly, it was cold!  We stopped here for lunch and could barely move our fingers as we made sandwiches.  Even with four layers of clothes, gloves and a beanie, Juz’s lips had turned blue.

 

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Ebor Falls is located within Guy Fawkes National Park and the upper lookout offers awesome views of the Guy Fawkes River cascading over the rocks.  There’s also a lower lookout and valley view, which was so lovely that it made up for the cloudy day at the Best of All Lookout.

 

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Wollomombi Falls

These falls are the second tallest falls in Australia after the Wallaman Falls near Ingham, plunging over 100 metres into the gorge from an elevation of 907 metres.  The lookout provides great views into the gorge, and there are nearby picnic facilities if you want to stop for a bite to eat.

 

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From here, Armidale is only 30 minutes away, signifying the end of the Waterfall Way.

 

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Bellingen YHA

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Bellingen YHA is one of our favourite hostels in Australia.  It’s so laidback and homely, occupied by friendly guests, and set amongst the beautiful lush country of the Waterfall Way.  The nearby village is just as carefree, featuring a few cafes, eateries and pubs.  The atmosphere is alternative, artistic and environmentally passionate, and it’s also home to a few music festivals, like the Bello Winter Music Festival, Jazz Festival, and Folk and Bluegrass Festival.

 

Facilities

With the capacity to accommodate up to 32 guests, the Bellingen YHA is one of the smaller hostels in the country.  There are twin, double and multi-share rooms available, and if you have a big group, you can even book out the entire hostel.

 

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The common areas include unisex toilets, a cosy kitchen with gas cooking, and a balcony overlooking the Bellinger River.  There are plenty of places to relax and enjoy the beautiful serenity of the surrounding landscape.  There’s even a lurking kitty that loves to laze around on the balcony.

 

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To book a tour of the Dorrigo National Park or organise some canoeing along the river, just see the friendly tour desk at reception.  Also, Bellingen village is just a stone’s throw away.

 

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Things Nearby

Within 1km

  • The Federal Hotel is barely 80 metres from the entrance to the hostel. Grab a beer or cheap meal with one of their weekly food specials.
  • 5 Church Street – 140 metres around the corner, next to a wholefoods store is a funky little eatery that hosts live music gigs and pours the local beer made by the Bellingen Brewing Company.
  • The Supermarket – there is no main supermarket in town, which adds to the charming appeal of the little village. The local IGA is located on the main street, a few doors down from the Federal Hotel.

Surrounding Attractions

  • The Honey Place – only 18 minutes away in Urunga, the Honey Place stocks honey of varying flavours, has a great display of honey bees and native bees, and you can watch a riveting documentary about bees in the back room. Definitely worth the visit, even just to see the Big Bee Hive.
  • Dorrigo – a 28 minute drive to Dorrigo is worth the trip. There’s the nearby Dangar Falls, which are a beautiful sight, and in town is the Red Dirt Distillery – apparently the only distillery in Australia to make potato vodka.  Tastings are available, so make sure you try their Nocino liqueur.
  • Coffs Harbour – just over 30 minutes up the coast is Coffs Harbour, featuring the Big Banana, the Clog Barn and Sealy Lookout.

 

The Essentials

Bellingen YHA is located behind the Federal Hotel at 2 Short Street.  There is plenty of parking available in the adjacent car park.  The reception desk is open from 8am to 7pm, check in is after 2pm and check out is at 10am.  For more information, contact 02 6655 1116, email bellingen@yha.com.au or visit the website.

 

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