Published in The Upsider
If you’re itching to get out of the city and head for the hills, The Waterfall Way may be just what you’re looking for. This 185km scenic meander runs from Coffs Harbour to genteel Armidale and is considered one of NSW’s most scenic drives.
The route takes in waterfalls, World Heritage rainforest, picturesque towns and rolling countryside plus a gin distillery to finish. If you’re convinced and ready to go, here is the lowdown for your Waterfall Way weekender.
9am: Breakfast at Cafe Treeo
Start your weekender as you should with coffee and a big brekky. There’s a plethora of places to choose from but our pick is Cafe Treeo in Sawtell, south of Coffs Harbour. The café is whimsically decorated inside with pot plants or you can drink in Sawtell’s village vibe with a seat outside by the gracious fig trees.
All the usual brekky staples are here, but if you’re in the mood for something different, try Summer Toast – macadamia fruit toast with cinnamon ricotta, pear, lemon curd and lavender-infused honey.
10:30am: Rainforest ramble at Dorrigo Rainforest Centre
Wend your way through verdant farmland and rainforest to Dorrigo. Everything is greener here. Arrive at the excellent Dorrigo Rainforest Centre and walk the 50m Skywalk to a viewpoint of the mountains meets the sea.
From the Rainforest Centre, you can dust off the walking legs with a short tourist circuit through World Heritage rainforest or take a slightly longer walk on the Wonga Trail, which takes you to the lovely Crystal Shower Falls.
12:30pm: Lunch at Components Cafe
Located in a side street in Dorrigo in a cute-as-pie wooden cottage, Components Cafe is the kind of cafe everyone dreams of as their local. With its charming decor and rambling outdoor garden, food is simple but flavoursome – think chicken, cherry and fetta salad, toasties and house-made pies.
2pm: Drive to a waterfall lookout
Take a 2km drive out of town to Dangar Falls, a striking 30m cascade. You don’t have to wander far to get wonderful views – there’s a lookout by the carpark – or amble down the boardwalk to admire the falls from below.
3pm: Boho browsing at Bellingen
Put your car through its paces on the short but winding road to Bellingen. Boho and hip with a whiff of alternative lifestyle, Bello, as the locals call it, is made for browsing. Stroll the heritage shopfronts looking at bespoke home and giftware or boutique clothing.
Emporium is a good place to start and The Old Butter Factory showcases hand-crafted art and wood products.
5pm: Sunset tipple at Lilypad Luxury Cabins
Check into Lilypad Luxury Cabins, award-winning upscale accommodation a few kilometres out of town and set in 12 acres of gardens. Kick the serenity up a notch with sunset drinks on the balcony with views of the mountains and lake dotted with lilypads.
7pm: Dine at Cedar Bar & Kitchen
Set in a charming 110-year-old wooden church, Cedar Bar & Kitchen is beautifully illuminated at night. Inside the mellow atmosphere is helped along with original stained-glass windows and seven-metre high ceilings. Food is regionally sourced and friendly staff dish up slow-cooked Bangalow pork or crispy skin barramundi with local vegetables followed by delectable desserts.
9am: Breakfast at The Corner Store
Perched on a corner block, and housed in an attractive heritage building, The Corner Store is a café/deli/juice bar.
Here the food ethos is sustainable and passionately local. The “Big Boy Brekkie” is sure to hit the spot as will their buttermilk pancakes topped with passionfruit curd. Afterwards, stop at the deli for some picnic treats.
10am: Drive to a tiered waterfall
As you drive to Ebor Falls, the landscape changes dramatically from rainforest to semi-alpine high country, complete with snow gums. Ebor Falls are tiered cascades, the upper and lower falls connected by a flat scenic path with lookouts offering gorgeous vistas. The cute little village of Ebor is a handy place to re-caffeinate and tuck into warm scones and jam.
12pm: Picnic at Saumarez Homestead and gardens
Ogle at the jaw-dropping cliffs of Wollomombi Gorge before your 30-minute drive downhill to the cultural university town of Armidale. Head to heritage Saumarez Homestead, an elegant 30-room Edwardian mansion with extensive gardens and café.
Explore the fully furnished house then stretch out in the glorious gardens for a picnic. If time permits, drop by vine-covered Gostwyck Chapel which, surrounded by 200 elms, feels like stepping back into Little England.
3pm: Taste gin at Dobson’s Distillery
Just south of Armidale, the blink-and-you-miss-it hamlet of Kentucky seems an unlikely foodie hub. It’s the site of Eastview Estate, a bar/restaurant/brewery and home to multi-award-winning Dobson’s Distillery.
Here ex-cinematographer, Stephen Dobson, and his wife Lyn, produce individually crafted gins, whiskey, bitters, vodka, and liqueurs. Try their latest creation, Sweet Pea Gin, made of 27 organic botanicals. The interior alone is worth the trip with its Belle Epoque styling, speakeasy and tiny cinema streaming funky movies.
While you’re there, grab a bottle to take home, a delicious souvenir of your Waterfall Way weekender.