Our Legendary Journey: Dorrigo & Bellingen
While staying in Coffs Harbour on our Legendary Pacific Coast Road Trip, we took a day trip to Dorrigo National Park. The drive from Coffs Harbour is spectacular, you’ll pass through flat farmland, tiny towns and the forest lined road of the Waterfall Way. There is such a dramatic change of scenery going from the coast to dense rainforest in just 45 minutes.
On arrival at the Dorrigo Rainforest Centre, you are welcomed to a really well fit-out visitor centre and café. Information on the rainforest is readily available on sign boards and in booklets, or there are friendly rangers that are always willing to show you around.
Just outside of the visitor centre is the Skywalk Boardwalk, that enables you to walk above the canopy and look out over the surrounding Dorrigo Rainforest and Plateau. There are over 120 bird species found in the region, from brush turkeys to whipbirds and king parrots and you’ll hear plenty of their calls as you spend time in the rainforest. Mammals like possums and redneck pademelons have been known to share the picnic areas, and reptiles including monitors and snakes are also occasional spotted.
The vegetation is the true charm of the region. The multi-layered canopy is made up of luxuriant mosses, strangler figs, palms, buttressed trunks, ferns and epiphytes. Moist eucalypt forest is seen on the more exposed ridges that slope down into the Bellingen Valley. Species including Sydney bluegum, blackbutt and tallowwood are abundant in the region.
The team at Dorrigo Rainforest Centre run Discovery Tours for those who want a guided tour through the forest, or you can choose to go at your own pace and choose between one of the many different walks on offer in the park.
We went for a hike along the 6.6km Wonga Walk which took us through both subtropical rainforest and part of the Gondwana Rainforests of Australia. The track is sealed, and nicely shaded by the lush rainforest as it towers above. There is a great picnic area called The Glades, which has BBQ’s, toilets, tables and a spectacular boardwalk lookout over the surrounding hinterland.
As we continued our walk, we soon came to a suspension bridge that took us out into the sunshine again. To our right, we could see the idyllic Crystal Shower Falls and a small track that allows you to even walk behind and look through the veil of the falls. It was amazing spending some time just sitting down and enjoying the falls in the sunshine.
After a while, we made our way back into the rainforest for another stretch of the shaded walk. We were soon rewarded with a magnificent view of the Tristania Falls from the footbridge. The return journey is a bit of a steeper climb, although being surrounded by such beautiful scenery is a nice distraction.
One thing you don’t often find when you visit a remote national park is award-winning cuisine with origins from fresh locally grown produce. Well that’s exactly what we found when we arrived at the Canopy Café.
Photo: Canopy Cafe
Upon arrival we were warmly greeted by head chef and owner, Wolfgang Zichy, who took time out to explain the origins of the café, which was previously government run and give us a brief but helpful run through the menu.
As we were going to be heading out on the 2.5 hour loop around the national park we were set for a good breakfast, chef Wolfgang recommended some of his favourite dishes, and we definitely weren't disappointed. The coffee was top notch, as was the freshly squeezed fruit juice.
Photo: Canopy Cafe
Topping off the morning meal was the setting, with views looking out over a canopy of green, the Canopy Café sure was a magical breakfast experience.
On our way back through to Coffs Harbour, we stopped in to spend some time in Bellingen. First stop after our 2.5 hour hike was the Federal Hotel to refuel and enjoy some lunch. The Federal Hotel first opened for business back in 1901, so as you can imagine, there is quite a bit of vintage charm to this place.
We headed straight for the recently renovated outdoor dining area and bar to check out the menu we had heard only great things about. There was quite a variety on offer, which would cater for people of all tastes and preferences. We decided to go for the Softshell Crab and
Salt & Pepper Squid.
This country pub was a welcoming environment and great place to relax after an afternoon in the rainforest.