Odometer: 7217 km
Waterfall Way is the spectacular 185 km drive that links Armidale to the coast, winding its way through five national parks. It goes along the edge of the Northern NSW tablelands, providing breathtaking views over many small and larger waterfalls.
After a night of thunder and hail, our day started with sunshine and blue skies. We enjoyed our coffee at SeeSaw, and saw the first clouds appear.
We headed out east, and as the clouds started to come in, we took a short detour to visit the Wollomombi Falls. As the wind picked up, and the skies turned a slate colour of grey, we walked to the Wollomombi Falls lookout, only a couple of meters from the carpark. The view was spectacular, we were looking straight into a large amphitheatre. The falls are 220 metre high with a 100 m single drop. They are the highest waterfalls in NSW and one of the highest in Australia.
Alas, the bad weather was really coming in and we headed back to the car. There are some nice walks in this area for better weather days! This is an amazing place, well worth the stop.
As we headed out the rain slowed down and then turned into hail. Hailstones the size of golfballs! We slowed down for a roadworks sign, and came to stop in front of a lady with a stop sign, standing bravely in the still pelting hail. That shows dedication to the job, being hit by golfball sized hailstones and not budging an inch!
Our next stop was Cathedral Rock NP. We decided to pick the highlights of this drive, so are not stopping at all of the gorges, waterfalls, national parks, etc. We turned off onto an unsealed road and an 8 km drive through the forest and wetlands took us as far as we could go.
Cathedral Rock NP was severely affected by the 2020 bushfires and some of the paths are still closed. But the drive up to the Barokee campsite is now open. The park is famous for its magnificent granite tors, formed about 230 million years ago. There are also some lovely wetlands here, attracting a large range of birds. Alas, we couldn’t see the main mountains, they were already hidden by the clouds.
The storm that we went through earlier was catching up with us. We had a little bit of blue skies when we got here, but very dark clouds were building up and we headed back to the main road.
We next drove to the Ebor falls, just a couple of kilometres down the road from Cathedral Rock NP. These are lovely, a cascade of rapid flowing water heading down a small gorge.
The lookout platform here was destroyed in the bushfires, but again, the park is open and the path is cleared. There is a nice picnic area next to the falls!
We stopped in Dorrigo for lunch. Neither Yelp not Tripadvisor were much use to pick a good spot here, so instead I opted for option two; looking around to see if I could spot a bearded hipster sitting somewhere and try out that place. And that is how we ended up at a whole foods deli & cafe. It turned out that “Sunshine on Hickory” is an really good lunch spot. Mike rates their pies very highly, and my quiche & salad and hot chocolate were excellent!
We drove on, and again that storm caught up with us.
We drove through Bellingen which looks like a really nice town, however, in the downpour with (this time smaller sized) hail we decided not to stop.
We went back through sunshine, fog (really, just low hanging clouds), back to sunshine, and then torrential rain and more hail as we descended the mountain range. In all we went through the same storm at least three times!
There were some amazing waterfalls along, like right next to, the road, as it descended down from the high country towards the coast just south of Coffs Harbour.
This is a beautiful drive, the weather may have limited our walks and view point stops, but it did provide an interesting edge!
We are staying in a cottage on a small retreat in the hinterland of Coffs Harbour, between the Boambee State Forest and the Orara West State Forest. Our view is of trees and gently rolling green pastures, very, very pretty! The best view I have had on our trip doing my morning yoga session!
We fall asleep to the sound of crickets and frogs, and the sights of an amazing lightning show with three different systems moving around us. Spring storms!
- Best Coffee: “Supply Cafe” on Orlando Road in Coffs Harbour
- Accomodation: Friday Creek Retreat, a private secluded luxury resort with 9 individually themed self contained cabins. We are in the Retro – one bed cabin. There are also 2 and 3 bedroom cottages and pets can come too! It is just 25 mins out of Coffs Harbour in Upper Orara. (www.fridaycreek.com)
- Tip: Be flexible, adjust your plans according to the weather, don’t let FOMO take over!
Note: The Queensland border will be open for NSW residents, except those in Greater Sydney, from November 3rd. If logic prevails, we will only have one more stop in NSW before heading to Brisbane. Fingers crossed!