3 day nature getaway in Coffs Harbour & Bellingen
Escape into the natural beauty of Coffs Harbour and Bellingen, from its idyllic beaches to lush mountain rainforests and riverside villages. Here’s a relaxing 72-hour itinerary to explore the best of this holiday destination on the Mid North Coast.
If nature’s calling, the Coffs Coast is the perfect sea change for a short break away from it all. It may be famous for its Big Banana, but Coffs Harbour has plenty more star power to take your breath away.
Let the refreshing ocean waves wash over you with a swim, surf or even a stroll along the spectacular beaches, and explore quaint seaside towns that are humming with colourful markets, local art and fine food. This coastal haven is bordered by lush hinterland. Meander along the Waterfall Way touring route to the town of Bellingen, just outside Dorrigo National Park, where you’ll drive past flowing falls and World Heritage-listed rainforest. Memorable views bookend this three-day adventure, where sprawling forests stretch toward the ocean.
Start your journey from above, and take in this incredible region up high at the Forest Sky Pier at Niigi Niigi. Just a 15min drive from Coffs Harbour up through banana plantations, the impressive structure edges right out above the Orara East State Forest and looks out to magnificent coastal views of the city and mountains.
Next it’s time to visit a local legend. With its subtropical climate, Coffs Harbour is famous for its bananas, with banana farms planted throughout the region since the 1800s. But there’s one banana that’s more famous than the rest, the Big Banana. Grab your selfie in front of the 13m-long oversized fruit, then stop off at the fun park’s Going Bananas café to indulge your sweet tooth; a banana split or one of the cafes famous frozen choc bananas are must-orders.
Spend the rest of the afternoon strolling through the Harbourside Market, an outdoor market held every Sunday on the Jetty Foreshore. Here you can hang out with the locals and uncover the region’s best locally made food, coffee, clothing, jewellery and homewares. Throw a picnic rug on the grass, pick up some local produce to snack on and sit back and watch live music and performers take to the stage.
Rise and shine early this morning and explore the quaint little village of Sawtell, just a 15min drive from Coffs Harbour. The beachside town is lined with cute cafes, restaurants and boutique shops; make your way to The French Basket for breakfast, pastries and a perfectly brewed coffee. After you’ve fueled up for the day, walk over to the pristine Sawtell Beach. Go for a dip, stroll along the sands or grab a seat and watch the surfers take on the rolling waves.
For natural views of every kind, continue down the Coffs Coast to Urunga, a serene seaside town where the Bellinger and Kalang rivers meet the ocean. The 1km Urunga Boardwalk offers up an incredible view of these waterways, as well as the beaches and mountains that surround the town. Starting in town, the boardwalk stretches all the way to the ocean; keep your eyes peeled for bird life, sea life and wildlife as you go.
After your coastal adventure, it’s time to head to the mountains. Drive along the beautiful Waterfall Way road tripping route to Bellingen, an eclectic town nestled on the banks of the Bellingen River. Pick out some designer souvenirs at Sourced Salvage Studio, a former petrol station converted into unique space for local artists, fashion designers and creatives to sell their wares. Pop-up pizza makers Diaboletyo Pizza, park their woodfire oven at the studio during the week, grab a slice of their traditional Italian slow-fermented pizzas for lunch.
Spend the rest of the afternoon wandering the village, and browsing through the many alternative clothing, jewellery and homewares stores. Your shopping trip will take a step back in time at Emporium Bellingen, a clothing store located in a 120-year-old department store building.
Dinner tonight is inspired by Japan. Qudo Cafe and Sake serves a creative blend of authentic Japanese and modern Australian dishes, in a beautiful century-old building by the river. Try miso-glazed lamb cooked on a traditional Japanese grill, a fresh selection of sashimi, plus a great selection of wine and sake to top off your night.
Today we’re heading for the trees and going on an adventure. Hop in your car and continue into the mountains on the Waterfall Way route. You’ll see exactly how this scenic route got its name as you enter Dorrigo National Park and drive right past the Sherrard and Newell Falls. Our first stop of the day is the Skywalk Lookout, which gives an impressive view of the lush surroundings. This 70m boardwalk is perched right on top of Dorrigo National Park, protruding 21m above the rainforest to give stunning views of the rosewood rainforest basin, Bellinger Valley and all the way to the ocean.
After you’ve checked out the views from up top, wander down to the rainforest floor. There are several walking tracks to explore in Dorrigo that get you up close to the breathtaking World Heritage-listed Gondwana rainforest. On the 6.6km Wonga Walk track, you’ll walk past 600-year-old trees, colourful fungi, tangles of vines and hear an amazing array of rainforest birdlife that will soundtrack the whole experience for you. There are several waterfalls along the track, including the spectacular Crystal Shower Falls.
Our final stop of this amazing three-day adventure is Dangar Falls. Just a five-minute drive from the Dorrigo village, these spectacular falls plunge 30m into a deep green lagoon below. Hear the thundering roar of the falls from the viewing platform right – conveniently located right next to the car park – or get up close to the bottom of the falls via the short and easy walking track. Feel the water spray on your face, or, better yet, dive right in!