Coffs Harbour Hinterland Bellingen, Dorrigo and Upper Orara
Coffs Harbour is a popular holiday town on the North Coast of NSW with its pristine beaches and attractions. There is much more to discover other than the beaches in the Coffs Harbour region; the Hinterland.
In this part of our NSW North Coast Travel Guide, I will take you to Upper Orara, Bellingen and Dorrigo.
FOREST SKY PIER, SEALY LOOKOUT
Forest Sky Pier, Sealy Lookout is in the proximity of the Big Banana, that famous icon of the region. The drive up to the lookout is pleasant passing many banana plantations which lead on to a winding uphill road through rainforest. Before reaching the lookout, a fun place to stop is Tree Tops Coffs Harbour.
On arrival at the carpark at Sealy Lookout you will discover a spectacular view of Coffs Harbour and other North Coast NSW Beaches. The skywalk is the perfect opportunity to grab that Instagram photo! To make the most of your trip up to Sealy Lookout, take the rainforest trek that goes in a loop and enjoy the birds and flora. It's not a difficult trek (not suitable for wheelchairs).
Amenities: Picnic tables and toilets
There's not a lot to do in Upper Orara, NSW however a drive around this beautiful part of the world is definitely worth it. You could almost believe you were in the countryside somewhere in the UK. I discovered a fabulous Airbnb in Orara that took me to a place where I felt in touch with nature.
The next morning I took a drive on the Eastern Dorrigo Way (well believing I would get to Dorrigo this way) but as it turns out the last part of the road is 35 km of gravel! I was only in an inadequate Suzuki Alto which is not the perfect match for gravel winding roads, so I had to go back to where I started (all up two hours). I have no regrets because I discovered an astonishing State Forest and a quaint village, Ulong, on my drive.
There are plenty of great places to stay in Bellingen and I opted for an Airbnb; Bellingen Treehouse. This was perfect as I only wanted a bed and a place to do some work in the evening. I enjoyed being surrounded by trees, possums and birds with only a short walk to town.
Bellingen has a lot to offer, with excellent shopping, places to eat and coffee! The village is charming with various shops.
For art and craft lovers visit The Old Butter Factory.
The Bellinger and Never Never River are popular spots for clean river water and nature reserves. Another popular swim hole is Promised Lands offering crystal clear waters for swimming with rope swings along the river.
The Old Butter Factory Bellingen
The Old Butter Factory is a shopping arcade that offers dining, art galleries, leather goods, woodcraft, jewellery and outstanding gift/furniture store.
Scattered around the property are statues of farm animals, some old trucks, and a great playground for the kids.
The road leading in and out of Dorrigo is an adventure in itself. With a long winding uphill climb getting there it can be a tedious process especially if there is significant traffic. On the descending road take note you have to give way to vehicles ascending in various marked parts of the road.
The scenery on the way up is spectacular. On the way into the village the Dorrigo National Park is on the right. This was the highlight of my Coffs Hinterland adventure.
Connected to the Dorrigo Rainforest Centre, Skywalk lookout offers a spectacular view of the surrounding landscape including the Bellinger Valley to the coast with deep valleys and gorges, cloaked in luscious rainforest. Skywalk is a 70 m boardwalk 21 m above the rainforest. It is accessible to everyone.
Take a virtual tour of Skywalk lookout captured with Google Street View Trekker.
There are a variety tracks in the National Park for different fitness levels, so if hiking in North Coast NSW is on your agenda then put this park on your list! You will not be disappointed.
I was not afraid doing this hike alone because there are plenty of others discovering the wonders of this sanctuary. I opted to take the long trek which took around 2 hours after stopping for photos and chatting to other nature lovers.
I missed stepping on a Red Belly Black snake that was on the footpath by seconds, so please keep an eye out, especially in the warmer months.
As you meander through the rainforest you will come across many birds. You will definitely notice Brush Turkeys (I even spotted some chicks) and of course as mentioned before, maybe a snake! This is an extraordinary path with waterfalls and exciting bridges to cross.
The Crystal Waters Falls offers an opportunity for you to stand behind the water and experience the magic of nature.
After my fun time at the National Park I took a drive into the Village. It is bewildering how this village is on top of the mountain! There are a few cafes around and the village has many shops. I found it to be a tranquil town, people were chilled, merely living their lives in a simple way. No stress!
I took myself down to Dangar Falls and was disappointed to learn they were shut for repairs to the boardwalk. I met a couple of people from the Rainforest Walk earlier, who did observe the falls, they waded through the river, but I decided I wasn't going to do that. They told me it was worth it as the falls are spectacular
Thora General Store
It had been a long day. I should probably make a confession here. The morning when I took off up the Eastern Dorrigo Way, in my diminutive Pink Suzuki (please don't laugh), and when I started on the gravel road, I came across three men working on the road from the local council.
Now you have to visualise this, in the middle of nowhere, on a gravel winding road where local semi trailers are hauling logs from the wood at excessive speeds, this is no place for a mature woman, on her own, trying to convince herself that her car is as good as any four wheel drive.
As I approached the three men, I could see the gape of bewilderment, so I wound down my passenger window and blurted out; "Do you think I will get to Dorrigo in this thing?". The expression on their faces is priceless. To sum it up they said no, and directed me down the road a bit where I could make the u-turn for the long road back. I did that, and as I approached them again, I wound down the window and asked "Where can I get a good coffee around here?". It took a few seconds before they realised I was having a laugh at myself.
This brings me to Thora General Store and Petrol Station.
I had noticed this petrol station on the way up and noted I would need to fill up on the way back to Belligen where I was staying. I pulled in and was amused at the sign "move your car from the bowser before paying" now, we all know that this is a rare request in service stations! I did as I was instructed, and proceeded to go inside to pay. This is where my jaw dropped; this quirky place is home of a fantastic wine selection, local produce and grocery items. Not only that, the staff were super cool and the customers were too.
I have since learnt a customer's vehicle collided with the diesel pump not long after I left! It is fixed now and I can't help but smile at this astounding secret of Dorrigo. I think of Dorrigo at the start of the day with my crazy Pink Panther (my car's nickname) striving to be a "big boy" on the Dorrigo Eastern Way, and the end of the day at Thora. I love Dorrigo!
Boaz, the owner of Thora, tells me there are some exciting things happening at Thora General Store, Dorrigo. Stay tuned.
I only allowed myself two days to explore this region of NSW. I regret that, so I am planning another trip in early Spring.
Bookmark these resources for your Coffs Hinterland Adventure