It might be a small town but there’s something pretty special about Bellingen. If passing through, you might not understand that there are so many things to do in Bellingen that you’ll want to come back time and time again.
Known as Australia’s hippest small town, you’ll love it if hanging around super friendly people combined with eating awesome food and having loads of incredible hikes, lookout points, wild swimming and waterfalls on tap is your thing.
When you’ve heard it’s the town Byron Bay used to be like, the standards are high. We think it’s even better than Byron because there’s nowhere else in Australia that we can think of that has mind blowing National Parks and beautiful beaches on its doorstep.
Welcome to Bellingen.
We’ve combined the two friendly rival towns of Bellingen & Dorrigo as well as the incredibly awesome Waterfall Way road which takes you right to Armidale in NSW in this post. And it’s not called Waterfall Way for nothing. We’re about to introduce you to some cracking waterfalls and National Parks that need to be on your radar.
Where is Bellingen & Dorrigo?
Bellingen and Dorrigo are located half an hour drive between each other and just a 30 minute drive from Coffs Harbour. Bellingen is also just a 15 minute drive from the beach town of Urunga which offers a stunning beach for those balmy days.
Unfortunately it’s a six hour road trip from Sydney which makes for a brilliant long weekend getaway.
Here’s our 27 things to do in Bellingen you need to know about.
There are some beautiful options when looking for Bellingen accommodation. We recommend staying in Bellingen over Dorrigo as there’s more going on there and quite frankly it’s got a better vibe and is very beautiful.
1. Bellingen YHA
Think YHA is all about young backpackers? Think again. The Bellingen YHA is one of the most beautiful places we’ve ever stayed in.
Located right in the middle of the town, you’d wonder how noisy it would be staying there. Turns out, all we could hear were the cows in the field opposite. That was it.
Bellingen YHA will always be our go to budget Bellingen accommodation when we visit.
Here’s how much to expect to pay for a room at Bellingen YHA.
⇒ From $30 for a dorm bed
⇒ From $80 double room
⇒ From $100 for a family room (for 6 people)
2. Looking for luxury Bellingen Accommodation?
The beautiful Lombok on Waterfall is a stunning getaway from Sydney.
There are many luxury Bellingen accommodation options that you should definitely check out. We’ve had our eye on the following cottages and chalets which all have excellent views.
⇒ Promised Land Retreat $340 a night – situated a 15 minute drive out of Bellingen in the beautiful Promised Land.
⇒ After Glow Cottages $250 a night – situated a 7 minute drive South of Bellingen.
⇒ Lombok on Waterfall $260 a night – situated a 13 minute drive in between Dorrigo and Bellingen.
Where to eat in Bellingen
3. Qudo Japanese restaurant
The location will probably make you wonder if you’ve found the right place as it looks like you’re gatecrashing someone’s home from the outside which is over 100 years old. Once you walk in, you’ll be greeted by a hip, rustic restaurant.
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w h e n | the adorable folk at #domacafe in Federal told me they had opened a sister cafe in Bellingen, I had no idea it would look like this ✨✨✨. Ensconced by huge jacarandas, overlooking the river, this beautiful old weatherboard home pumps out the same Japanese amazingness as the Byron outpost, with a few extras as well. Coffee by Byron's @marvellstreet. It's so, so beautiful here. #ozroadtrip #itsbeautifulhere
To be honest, Qudo offers up some of the best Japanese food we’ve ever had, even more so than when we went to Japan recently.
We were gobsmacked that an awesome restaurant like this exists in a little country town.
This trend continued on throughout our stay with the more places we ate at being top quality.
No.5 is a well loved cafe that when we visited we had such a great conversation with the waitress who moved her family up here after visiting from Sydney. Bellingen has this effect on a lot of Sydneysiders we met who’ve since relocated to this part of the world.
The menu is a mixture of Mexican & Indian food. We ordered the curry which was absolutely beautiful.
5. Eat pizza and watch some awesome bands at The Bellingen Brewery
The Bellingen Brewery is located right behind the main street and it’s such a cool find, if you go on the weekend you’ll be treated to live music.
Pizza is the food of choice here and there’s loads of board games to keep you entertained. It’s the kind of place that’s really hip but without any kind of pretentiousness. You’ll find everyone here from the local hipsters, families and your grandparents.
Make sure you check out the local pub called The Federal Hotel which is next door to The Bellingen Brewery. On Wednesdays they do three mains for just $10 each.
More Bellingen restaurants
Other places to consider include Cedar Bar & Kitchen which is located in an old church, People of Coffee which is a cool cafe located in an old petrol station, The Old Butter Factory and the retro vibes of Bellingen Gelato.
Things to do in Bellingen and Dorrigo
6. Go to a festival
Bellingen is such a creative town that there’s so many festivals happening throughout the year. The most popular Bellingen festivals include the following:
⇒ Bellingen Winter Music Festival: 11-14 July 2019
⇒ Bellingen Fine Music Festival: 27-29 September 2019
⇒ Dorrigo Folk & Bluegrass Festival: 25-27 October 2019
⇒ Camp Creative: 13-17 January 2020
⇒ Bellingen Readers & Writers Festival: 5-7 June 2020
7. Swim in the Bellingen River and bring a picnic
Bellingen is so beautiful, we recommend walking over to the Lavender Bridge to spend a lazy afternoon swimming in the river which is crystal clear. Bring a picnic with you and chill out on the grass.
8. Check out Hammond & Wheatley Emporium
Wander down Hyde Street, the main street in Bellingen and pop into the legendary Hammond & Wheatley Emporium store. Built in 1900 it still has the original brass shop front framings in tact and was restored in 1989.
9. Bellingen Community Markets
People come from far to the Bellingen Community Markets. Expect to see a loads of awesome stalls including home grown fresh produce, food stands and live music. Held on the third Saturday of every month from 10am-2pm.
10. Bellingen Growers Markets
The Bellingen Growers Markets are held every 2nd and 4th Saturday of the month from 8am-1pm to promote the local organic and chemical free produce to the community.
11. Drive into The Promised Land
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The Promised Lands 🍃 Exploring #bellingen has been amazing, this place is like a secret Oasis where people welcome you with open arms. We’ve been so lucky to catch up with some of Pats mates and it’s so cool to be part of the lives of people our age with young beautiful families!!! In a freaky way it gets you excited for what the future holds, that’s for sure! A local gifted us this loaf of sourdough olive bread, so here I am munching it down on the edge of the Never Never river 💚
If you’re wondering, The Promised Land is an actual place. We drove out there just to see what it’s like and it’s absolutely stunning! Make the effort to drive out just to see how beautiful this part of Bellingen really is.
Bring your swimmers because you’ll find crystal clear swimming holes in the Never Never River to swim in.
12. Canoe the Bellinger River
Image via Bellingen Canoe Adventures.
Want to make the most of the rivers in Bellingen? For just $15 for an hour (or $35 for 4 hours), you can rent a canoe from Bellingen Canoe Adventures and go exploring down the Bellinger River. They also do full moon & champagne canoe tours too!
13. Horse riding at Valery Trails
To really make the most out of your time away from it all, we recommend you driving just 20 minutes drive north of Bellingen which will bring you to Valery Trails. Here for just $80 pp, you can go on a horse riding tour to enjoy the beautiful country views across 400 acres.
14. Spend the day at Urunga Beach
Did you know Urunga beach is just a 15 minute drive from Bellingen? It’s an absolutely beautiful beach to discover and if you’re looking for things to do in Urunga, we recommend going for a walk down the 1km Urunga Boardwalk.
Further up the coast towards Coffs Harbour we also recommend visiting Mylestom and Sawtell beaches.
15. Go on a road trip from Bellingen to Armidale along Waterfall Way
Waterfall Way map of places to visit.
Again, if it wasn’t for our host at Bellingen YHA to tell us about some of the things you can do in Bellingen, we would have not known about the awesome road trip you can do down to Armidale which takes 2 hours. There’s so many places to stop along the way that it’s so exciting to come across the beautiful spots which await you.
We’re going to share with you the places we stopped by at and some of the ones we would have done so if we had more time.
16. Cool off in Dorrigo
The first thing to know is when you get to Dorrigo, the temperature drops as it’s 746m above sea level. This is a great thing to know because Bellingen in Summer can be hot so you can come to Dorrigo to cool down. Make sure you bring clothes for all seasons when visiting Bellingen and Dorrigo.
17. Old Gazette theatre in Dorrigo
If you’re looking for something to do in the evening during your stay in Bellingen, we recommend popping over to Dorrigo to the Old Gazette Theatre. We love a community cinema and this one is just a bargain price of $5 to join which will then give you free access to the films shown throughout the year. How great is that?
18. White water rafting on Nymboida River
Did you know you can go white water rafting on the Nymboida River which is just 1h20m north of Dorrigo? Known as one of the best white water rafting spots in Australia, expect to raft through some spectacular gorges and grade 3-4 rapids.
It costs $195 for a whole day trip white water rafting with Break Loose.
19. Skywalk at Dorrigo National Park
One of the most amazing lookout points we’ve been to in Australia has to be at the Skywalk at the Dorrigo Rainforest Centre. Perched over the top of the 1 million year old Gondwana Rainforest, we’d be surprised if you went here and didn’t enjoy the view.
This spectacular place will just prepare you for more wow moments when you hike in the rainforest as mentioned in the point below.
20. Crystal Shower Falls Walk
The most popular hike in the Dorrigo National Park is to Crystal Shower Falls. Whatever you do, do not miss out on this walk in Dorrigo National Park. We’ve hiked all over the world and this one totally blew us away that we wrote all about it below.
There’s two variations to this hike so if you really are stuck for time, you can take the shorter hike. But, we definitely recommend hiking the whole circuit which takes 2h30m at a slow pace.
21. Dangar Falls
Just a few minutes down the road from the Dorrigo Rainforest Centre lies Dangar Falls, the first of our must see waterfalls on the Waterfall Way road. It’s a spectacular waterfall and wild swimming spot in Dorrigo. Definitely must make the effort to visit.
Find out how easy it is to get down to the bottom of Dangar Falls, you can bring you kids too!
22. Ebor Falls
Lower Ebor Falls.
A 40 minute drive on from Dangar Falls along Waterfall Way and you’ll come to Ebor Falls. We spotted this one on Instagram a long time ago and couldn’t wait to check it out.
There’s no hiking involved to get to this waterfall as you can park up right next to it. There’s two lookout out points, one for the lower falls and one for the top falls.
Upper Ebor Falls.
It doesn’t look too hard to get to the bottom of the top falls. To get to the bottom of the lower falls looks like a mission and a lot of bush bashing involved.
If you try to get to the bottom of either of them, please always take care and do your research before attempting it.
We visited on a cold Autumn day so swimming was out of the question for us. It’s definitely somewhere we’d come back to in the warmer months.
23. Point Lookout
Image via NSW National Parks.
We actually missed out on seeing Point Lookout due to timing but we were told the drive over is not only amazing in itself but the lookout is supposed to be incredible especially when visited at sunset.
We unfortunately missed out on going to Point Lookout as it’s a major highlight on the Waterfall Way road. We planned to visit at sunset but we were too late. The drive itself is supposed to be spectacular and the views at the lookout are a must visit according to the guys at the Dorrigo Rainforest Centre.
24. Wollomombi Gorge
When we saw the above photo, we actually couldn’t believe a sight like this exists in Australia. What we thought we were looking at was a picture from somewhere in the Amazon, turns out that just a 30minute drive on from Ebor Falls and you’ll come to this magical spot called Wollomombi Gorge.
When we visited there was no water in sight even though it had been raining. Turns out it has to rain A LOT to see this. But the beauty of this incredible canyon is the pure silence. We hadn’t been anywhere in Australia that has a silence like this place does.
You can walk around the top of the canyon to many different vantage points to take this incredible Australian canyon in. Trust us, you’ll want to!
Just a 30 minute drive from Wollomombi Gorge is the beautiful town of Armidale. It’s a lot bigger than we were expecting as it’s also a university town where the University of New England is located.
We were lucky to visit in Autumn which really made the town come alive with every street filled with colour. You could spend a good couple of days here as a base for exploring the area and the sights along Waterfall Way.
26. Gostwyck Church in Uralla
Another 30 minute drive south of Armidale will bring you to the beautiful Gostwyck Church in Uralla. This stunning church is a popular must visit especially in Autumn when it really comes alive. Put this on your list for things to do in Armidale because we’ve never seen a more prettier church!
27. Dangars Falls
Not mixing up Dangar Falls with Dangars Falls, this one is located another 30 minutes from Gostwyck Church. Again you must visit when it’s been raining A LOT to see the falls in action but the car park is located right next to it so you don’t need to do any hiking.
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27 best things to do in Bellingen and Dorrigo
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