30 Best Things To Do In Bellingen & Dorrigo NSW 2024 Guide
Looking for things to do in Bellingen near Coffs Harbour, New South Wales? As one of the best places to visit in NSW (in our opinion!), we’re here to show you all of the amazing things to do in Bellingen and neighbouring town of Dorrigo.
It might be a small town but there’s something pretty special about Bellingen NSW. When we first visited, we stopped by for a quick visit while we were on our way up the coast. We didn’t understand what the hype was about. But when we came back and stayed a few days, we left a piece of our hearts here.
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 in a world heritage rainforest with beautiful beaches on its doorstep, combined with fantastic restaurants and a hippie vibe in a gorgeous little bohemian town.
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 guide. And it’s not called Waterfall Way for nothing. We’re about to introduce you to some cracking waterfalls and National Parks which need to be on your radar when visiting the Mid North Coast.
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. It is also just a 15 minute drive from the beach town of Urunga which offers a stunning beach for those balmy days.
Here’s the main things to do in Bellingen you need to know about which surrounds a whopping five national parks.
Things to do in Bellingen & Dorrigo
1. Evermoore Retreat & Castle
Although Evermoore Retreat & Castle is technically accommodation, I must say this is one of the most incredible places you must put on your list to see in Bellingen. We booked a stay here in the house, but had no idea what was waiting for us. It’s more like an experience with an exceptional private swimming hole in the famous Bellinger River, and there’s even a castle here too.
If you’ve got a group of 10 friends or family members, book the castle and it will be the most memorable stay, you’ll wonder whether you’re staying in a medieval castle in Scotland! Located in the Promised Land area of Gleniffer (aka the most beautiful part of Bellingen), it’s one of those places that you’ll be coming back to time and time again.
2. 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.
3. Check out Hammond & Wheatley Emporium
Wander down Hyde Street, the main street in the town of 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. Pop upstairs and browse the amazing Indian antique furniture here, which is one of our favourite things to do in town!
4. Cargo Lane
We also recommend heading over to the Old Butter Factory to our favourite shop called Cargo Lane. We absolutely love this shop which is full of Antique Asian furniture. Every time we come to Bellingen, we have to visit both Cargo Lane and Hammond & Wheatley Emporium for sure.
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. Drive into The Promised Land
If you’re wondering, The Promised Land is an actual place in the area of Glennifer. 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. Just be respectful as it’s a scared area for the community and always leave no trace.
6. Bellingen 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.
The Bellingen Growers Markets are also held every 2nd and 4th Saturday of the month from 8am-1pm to promote the local organic and chemical free produce to the community.
7. Canoe the Bellinger River
Want to make the most of the river in town? You can rent a canoe from Bellingen Canoe Adventures and go exploring down the Bellingen River. They also do full moon & champagne canoe tours too!
8. 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. Enjoy the beautiful country views across 400 acres in this beautiful activity.
9. Experience one of the legendary Bellingen festivals
Bellingen is such a creative town full of hidden gems, that there’s so many festivals happening throughout the year. The most popular Bellingen festivals include the following:
10. Go on a road trip from Bellingen to Armidale along Waterfall Way
If it wasn’t for our host at The Belfry Guesthouse to tell us about some of the things you can do in Bellingen, we wouldn’t have 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. Be prepared, you’ll want a full day to spend taking in the swimming holes, and national parks here.
11. 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.
12. 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. It’s easily one of the most popular things to do in Bellingen for sure!
This spectacular place will just prepare you for more wow moments when you hike in the rainforest as mentioned below.
13. 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 walking track in Dorrigo National Park. We’ve hiked all over the world and this one totally blew us away! You can read about it in our 10 Things to know before hiking the Crystal Showers Falls walk.
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. It’s honestly one of the top attractions in Dorrigo National Park.
14. 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.
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.
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.
16. Point Lookout
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.
17. Wollomombi Gorge
When we saw the above photo, we actually couldn’t believe a sight like this exists in Australia. Turns out that just a 30 minute 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 is as quiet like here. You could hear a pin drop.
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 come here!
18. Visit Armidale especially in Autumn or Spring
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.
19. 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!
20. 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.
21. Climb the giant boulders at Cathedral rock national park
If you’re looking for more walks nearby, check out the Cathedral Rock National Park too and hike up to the Cathedral Rock. The walking track isn’t easy and takes 2 hours to walk nearly 6km loop while climbing the giant boulders. For more amazing national parks with incredible boulders, check out our guide for the best walks in Girraween National Park on the NSW & QLD border.
22. 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. This is an iconic boardwalk you really have to see for yourself.
23. Or Sawtell Beach
Further up the coast towards Coffs Harbour we also recommend visiting Mylestom and Sawtell Beaches. We love Sawtell Beach, it’s got a fab main street with a fantastic pub and some great little restaurants too which makes a great day trip from Bellingen if you’re on your way to Coffs Harbour.
It amazes me that a small town in the middle of nowhere can be home to exceptional food. I think Bellingen wins the award for the best restaurants for a small town in Australia.
24. Charlie’s At Church
Make sure you put Charlie’s At Church on your list to eat at. Oh my god… the burrata and focaccia is to die for, so is the pizza, which they honestly get so right. Even the pasta is delicious. We had just come from Byron Bay when we ate here and we thought the food was better here than at a fancy overpriced restaurant in Byron – says it all!
25. 5 Church Street
5 Church Street 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.
26. Eat pizza 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 usually hold specials.
27. Black Bear
Don’t forget to eat at the Black Bear which is our go to for breakfast in Bellingen! The food is super fresh and they’ve got a fantastic menu!
I love Hyde in Bellingen! This is a really cool cafe and the perfect spot for remote workers, which mainly serves up coffee and cakes. The homewares shop in this cafe is also excellent, selling a lot of Australian designers.
Cedar Bar & Kitchen is one of the longer standing restaurants in town which is located in an old church. It’s also a wedding venue as well, so make sure you book ahead.
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.
Luxury – Evermoore Castle: Unbelievable castle with exceptional private swimming hole and incredible hosts. Check out the cheaper option and stay in the house like we did.