Last December I celebrated the holidays with family in Bellingen, an idyllic village in New South Whales at the east coast of Australia. Located halfway between Brisbane and Sydney, Bellingen is surrounded by a beautiful scenery. While most travellers head straight to the famous big national parks, I got to experience the overwhelming beauty of some smaller nature reserves in this special piece of Australia.
As it is said that the town attracted many hippies during the flower power generation, Bellingen is known for its bohemian vibe. The town itself is small but very charming due to the rich architectural heritage and the colourful residential houses. Bellingen is at the banks of the Bellinger River, a river that flows into the sea and is a popular waterway for water sports. The town is a perfect base for exploring the river and to visit the nearby natural attractions.
Bellingen is famous for its high quality organic products which are mainly produced and harvested in the surrounded area. The shops offer wide ranges of high quality organic fruit, vegetables, meat, fish, eggs and vegan products, which is a great benefit for the restaurants as well. Some restaurants that are worth mentioning: Old Butter Factory Cafe and the Purple Carrot for breakfast and lunch. We had an outstanding Japanese diner at Qudo Cafe & Sake with a wide view over the valley.
The rainforest of Dorrigo National Park
Dorrigo National Park is a 46 sq miles rainforest with a stunning scenery. It is a little different than the rainforests in Asia but it totally impressed me. Dorrigo offers different walking trails with an abundance of lush greenery, waterfalls and birds. The Skywalk boardwalk is 1-minute walk from the entrance and offers amazing views over the rainforest canopy.
Follow the 2,5-hour Wonga Walk trail to hike to the Chrystal Shower Falls. On the way you get to admire giant trees and wildlife including many species of birds, reptiles like frogs and several mammals like the rare spotted tail quoll. It is recommended to go early in the morning or at the end of the day in order to spot most wildlife.
Head to the Dorrigo village for a delicious organic lunch at Dorrigo Wholefoods. Plenty of vegan and vegetarian options are available as well as a wide range of whole foods.
Another beautiful place that is worth seeing is the Kalang River. You can easily spend an afternoon here just admiring the beauty of the river and the birds that it attracts. Park your car at Atherton DR road, put down a chair, sit back and relax.
We chose to explore the river by kayak. When kayaking from the Kalang river to the Back Creek, you will find a small exit at your right hand. Here you get to experience some amazing and peaceful mangrove wetlands where pelicans take a rest while floating around.
You are not allowed to camp at the Atherton DR road, but the Urunga Campgrounds Accommodation is just a couple of minutes away.
The Urunga boardwalks offers spectacular panoramic views from the entire length of it. The boardwalks starts at the Urunga town and leads all the way along the banks of the Kalang River to the junction with the Bellinger River and out to the ocean. Both the water views and the inland views are stunning. If you go early in the morning, chances are you will spot a kangaroo.
The boardwalk leads to a tranquil beach, perfect for a walk or for sportive events. Here you can take a little dip in the sea, but keep in mind that the current is strong so stay close to the shore.
National Parks NSW and species conservation
The NSW region has it’s own innovative conservation program, which aims to halt and reverse the growing numbers of Australian and plants facing extinction. Over 150 national parks support this program. You can learn more about it at the website or at the information centres located in national parks, including the Dorrigo Visitor Information Centre.
With this many parks, it is almost hard to decide which one to go to. Here are some additional national parks I wasn’t able to visit, but that are on the wishlist for the next time:
- Bongil Bongil National Park, a remote beach offering scenic coastal views.
- Guy Fawkes River National Park, a national park comprising 100,590 hectares and a wilderness paradise for bushwalking and birdwatching.
- Cascade national park, a smaller rainforest near to Dorrigo.
- Park you camper at the Urunga Caravan Parks & Campgrounds Accommodation.
- The Federal Hotel is in heart of Bellingen, an affordable option starting at 80 AUD per night.
- Another central option is Hil’s Place Bed & Breakfast, starting at 170 AUD per night.
- Fall a sleep and wake up with the sounds of the river at the Bellinger River Cabins, starting at 170 AUD per night.
- If you are looking for a luxurious stay: Cottonwood Cottage luxury self-catering bed and breakfast starts at 400 AUD per night.
Bellingen is a 6-hour ride from Sydney. You can also opt to catch a plane, several flights are departing daily from Sydney to the airport in the neighbouring town Coffs Harbour.