Sure, you may have road tripped, but have you road trip road tripped? We’re talking a proper start in coastal Coffs Harbour, then driving inland through to the New England region and finishing in Armidale. Visually, it’s a gradual fade out from coastal blue to rainforest green; smell-wise, it’s the smell of the sea transforming into the earthy, misty fragrance of lush national parks.
It’s called the Waterfall Way drive, and it’s not just a name—the route actually features dramatic water cascades to gaze upon, provided you’ve hunted out the best lookout. OK, it’s a 200 kilometre route that you could knock over in a few hours, but with all that lush scenery? And those charming small towns? You’d want to take your sweet-bottom time.
Not convinced huh? How about we throw in a winery or brewery? Thought so.
We've teamed up with locals—aka the people that have the answers to all of the best things to do off the hidden path—Destination NSW—to bring you this epic guide. In case you need even more inspo, you can find it right here.
But First, A Compulsory Photo Opp At The Big Banana
Sorry/not sorry, but when there’s a twee photo opp, we’re going to take it. Plus, the Big Banay-nay is our country’s original “big thing”. You laugh, but nothing makes you appreciate how small humans are, and how very very big and beautiful the world is, like standing at the base of a severely novelty-sized fruit.
Wine Stop #1 Raleigh Winery
Let’s keep the fruit theme going—have some grapes! Raleigh Winery is Australia’s most eastern winery, and it features a ‘fruit salad’ vineyard of mixed grape varietals. Mmmm, fruit salad vineyard. It sounds delicious and yields delicious wines too. At the cellar door, try their range of whites, reds and fortified wines, as well as their famous brandy crémes (it’s pretty much an artisanal high-brow Bailey’s). Pretend to buy it for your grandma, but really, stash it in your kitchen for late-night post-dinner quaffing. We won’t judge.
Wine Stop #2 Bellingen Brewing Co.
A marine zoologist, a graphic designer and a real estate agent walk into a bar….and then decide to start their own. Founders Rain Foran, Richard Jennings, and Jason Brown opened Bellingen Brewing Co in 2015, and the microbrewery quickly established itself as a local hub for good brews, food and music. It’s a cosy place, all salvaged timbers, retro pendant lights and a woodfired oven churning out excellent pizzas. On tap, they’ve got their own porters and pale ales, and they also sling cocktails and organic wines. If you’re going for a big one, why not stay in town overnight?
Waterfall #1 Crystal Shower Falls
Dorrigo National Park
Why walk to a waterfall when you can walk behind one? That’s the deal you score at this part of Dorrigo National Park. It’s a gentle walking track from the Glade Picnic area, where you fork onto the shorter bird walks (for the meanderers) or follow the signs directly to the waterfall (for the TAKE ME TO THE DAMN WATERFALL-ers).
You’ll hear Crystal Shower Falls before you see it—the soundscape of running water and bird calls echoing in that dreamy, mossy cavern is too perfect. Spread out your picnic mat for the most serene lunch of your road trip (make sure you take your rubbish with you), and when you’ve refuelled, venture onto the suspension bridge to access the rock walk behind the waterfall. Highly recommended.
Out Of This World Rainforest Views At The Skywalk Lookout
Dorrigo National Park
The Skywalk Lookout is a soaring 21 metres over the Dorrigo rainforest and looks out over the escarpment to sweeping views of the lush rainforest basin, deep valleys and rolling hills. You’ll see the Old Man Dreaming, a double-humped mountain named after the Aboriginal Gumbaynggirr legend of Ngali, a warrior who fell asleep while he was supposed to protect women who had travelled to the valley to give birth. As punishment, he was turned into stone for all eternity. The Skywalk Lookout is part of Dorrigo National Park—just find your way to the Rainforest Centre, then walk the 70 metre boardwalk to the lookout. You really can’t beat views like this.
Waterfall #2 Casuarina Falls
Dorrigo National Park
This is a more challenging route—it’s a Grade 4 walk, which we translate to “We hope you’ve aced that Stair Climber.” This 5 kilometre loop goes down down down, running almost parallel to Sassafras Creek. Before you know it, you’d have reached the top of the Casuarina Falls, with pretty spectacular views of the Dorrigo Rainforest.
Waterfall #3 Wollomombi Falls
Oxley Wild Rivers National Park
With a 220 metre drop, the Wollomombi Falls is one of the highest waterfalls in Australia. If it’s rained recently, all the better—a thin veil of mist haloes the waterfalls, making for ethereal waterfall watching. It really is a gorgeous gorge (hi five!). What’s more, Threlfall walking track is an awesome way to access the Gara Gorge lookout, and you’ll likely spot natives animals like brush-tailed rock wallabies, the subaquatic eastern water dragon, and the southern boobook owl. This is the great outdoors at its finest. Totes awesome.
Final Drinks At The Welder’s Dog
Congratulations! You’ve made it to Armidale! Before you go crazy exploring the rich history of this town, treat yo’self. There are up to eleven taps on offer at the Welder’s Dog craft brewery, a decent selection of wines and spirits, and a fireplace for your troubles. Oh yeh, and there’s a fridge of cheese and meats. You’re welcome.
So, what are you waiting for? Get in the car and drive. For more things to do this season, check out the Destination NSW website.