Last updated: March 17, 2021
The Waterfall Way is a 185km scenic drive between Coffs harbour and Armidale, passing through New England and Dorrigo national parks, with numerous impressive waterfalls as the key attraction.
With so many impressive sights to visit, the Waterfall Way is a popular weekend destination in northern New South Wales.
If you want to see everything and also do some of the walking tracks, you will need two full days. Further below you will find a customised itinerary in case you only have one day to spare in this beautiful part of the world.
Waterfall Way in Two Days
The below itinerary can be completed in two days, starting in the morning at 9am and finishing off well before sunset. It follows the Waterfall Way from east to west, starting at the visitor centre in Bellingen.
If you only have one day to spend on the Waterfall Way, check out the recommended itinerary at the end of this article.
Waterfall Way highlights (from east to west):
- Waterfall Way Visitor Centre
- Dorrigo Rainforest Centre and Skywalk Lookout
- Wonga Walk, Crystal Shower Falls and Tristana Falls
- Dangar Falls
- Ebor Falls
- Cathedral Rock Track
- Point Lookout
- Wollomombi Falls and Chandler Falls
Let’s look at these highlights in a bit more detail.
1. Waterfall Way Visitor Centre
The small Visitor Centre is conveniently located in Bellingen, right at the start of the Waterfall Way.
Pick up a couple of maps and flyers and ask the friendly volunteers any questions you may have. If you haven’t had breakfast yet, Bellingen is a great little town with lots of cafes and shops to fuel up.
The official address of the Waterfall Way Visitor Centre is 29-31 Hyde Street, Bellingen NSW 2454 (see map).
2. Dorrigo Rainforest Centre and Skywalk Lookout
A half hour drive from the Visitor Centre, the Dorrigo Rainforest Centre is the first official stop along the Waterfall Way.
While the Rainforest Centre can give you some very useful information about Dorrigo National Park and its walking tracks, most visitors come here to experience the Skywalk Lookout.
This spectacular 70m boardwalk is built on the edge of the escarpment, more than 20m above the actual rainforest. The panoramic bird’s-eye views of the national park can reach as far as Coffs Harbour on a clear day.
The rainforest centre is opened 7 days a week from 9AM til 4:30PM and features a nice cafe, and also a shop where you can choose from a wide range of books, gifts and lots of souvenirs.
3. Wonga Walk, Crystal Shower Falls and Tristana Falls
Now it’s time to go visit the first waterfall!
But to get to the scenic Crystal Shower Falls you will first need to conquer the Wonga Walk, a paved 6km rainforest loop trail that starts and ends at the Rainforest Centre.
A suspension bridge brings you very close to the top of the waterfall, while a short side track takes you down to the bottom where you can walk right behind the water. This is actually a really cool experience, but be prepared to get your clothes wet!
You can now choose to return to the Rainforest Centre via the same way, or you can go a bit further and complete the loop. This will take you to the even more impressive Tristana Falls, a cascade waterfall that all too often gets overlooked.
If you have enough time to do the whole loop, we do recommend it, as the second part of the Wonga loop track is actually more enjoyable than the first section.
The Wonga Walk is quite challenging in the sense that it is a reasonably long track with some very steep parts. If you have young children with you, or if you have a long day ahead, this 6km hike may just be a bit much.
In that case, you might want to consider a shortcut. Instead of driving to the Dorrigo Rainforest Centre where the Wonga Walk starts, stop over at the Glade Picnic Area which is about 1km south of the Rainforest Centre. A hiking trail named the Satinbird Stroll starts at this picnic area (see map) which soon joins the Wonga Walk. From there it’s only a short walk to the Crystal Shower Falls.
4. Dangar Falls
Located only a short drive away from the Dorrigo Rainforest Centre, Dangar Falls is an impressive 30m high waterfall set in an unlikely agricultural landscape.
You may need to line up in front of the small viewing platform but once it’s your turn to take a photo you will be instantly amazed by the sheer beauty of this cascade waterfall.
A short walking trail takes you all the way to the bottom of Dangar Falls, with even better views and excellent photo opportunities.
Be sure to bring your swimmers along on a warm day, because the huge lagoon beneath the falls is a popular swimming spot in summer.
5. Ebor Falls
One of the most popular sights along the Waterfall Way is Ebor Falls, a cascade waterfall on the Guy Fawkes River.
Make your way to the huge viewing platform from the main car park, and watch how Ebor Falls makes a 100m vertical drop right in front of you.
A walking trail from the main lookout takes you around the edge of the gorge towards two more viewing platforms from where you can see the lower Ebor Falls.
If you’re running short on time, you can also just drive to the other side where you will find another car park.
6. Cathedral Rock Track
The Cathedral Rock walking trail is a scenic 6km loop track, not too far away from Ebor Falls.
It’s a challenging (grade 5) walking track in the Cathedral Rock National Park, characterised by a rugged landscape with large boulders and unique rock formations.
Follow the track clockwise from the Barokee rest area and venture out to see the throne shaped Cathedral Rock and Round Mountain, the highest point in the New England Tablelands.
As it takes around 2.5 hours to complete, only do this track if you’re well prepared and you have sufficient time to visit the other sights along the Waterfall Way.
7. Point Lookout
The breathtaking views of the peaks and valleys of New England National Park from Point Lookout will leave you absolutely stunned.
For the best experience, go there before dawn to witness an amazing sunrise.
Follow the unsealed road (your car will get very dirty!) from Waterfall Way for about half an hour until you get to the car park.
An easy 10 minutes wheelchair-friendly walk from the car park brings you to the lookout, with the option to return via a loop track.
8. Wollomombi Falls and Chandler Falls
With an enormous height of well over 200 metres, the Wollomombi Falls were once considered the highest waterfall in Australia.
Next door neighbour Chandler Falls is a bit smaller but just as impressive, especially after a period of rainfall, when huge amounts of water are thundering down into the gorge.
Several lookout points give visitors spectacular views of the two waterfalls and the massive Wollomombi gorge they drop into.
There are also two exciting walking tracks that take you around the gorge and closer to the top of the waterfalls. The main lookout is wheelchair-friendly and only a short stroll from the car park.
To get to Wollomombi Falls, turn into Wollomombi Falls Road about 40km east of Armidale and follow until you get to a fork where you turn left.
The facilities are great with a large parking area, BBQ’s and picnic tables and toilets.
Optional: Red Cedar Falls
The Red Cedar Falls is the largest waterfall in the Dorrigo National Park. The only reason we’ve marked it as optional is that you will need to conquer a (grade 5) 8km return hike, which is probably too time consuming for most.
The waterfall is gorgeous and the walking track is just as amazing, but it is a day trip in itself. Perhaps if you have more than two days to spend in the area, Red Cedar Falls would be something to consider.
Waterfall Way in One Day
If you have only one day to spend, not to worry, as you will still have lots of time to check out the best highlights.
This is our recommended one day itinerary:
- Waterfall Way Visitor Centre:
Grab a map from the Visitor Centre before starting your adventure.
- Crystal Shower Falls:
From the Visitor Centre, drive to the Glade Picnic Area and follow the short walking trail to the Crystal Shower Falls.
- Dorrigo Rainforest Centre and Skywalk Lookout:
Wander around at the Dorrigo Rainforest Centre and enjoy the amazing views from the Skywalk Lookout.
- Dangar Falls:
From the Rainforest Centre it’s a short drive to Dangar Falls. Park your car at the top and follow the short walking trail to the bottom of the waterfall.
- Ebor Falls:
Drive to Ebor Falls and enjoy the great views of this amazing waterfall from the viewing platform. Be sure to follow the walking trail towards the west to see the lower falls.
- Wollomombi Falls:
Perhaps the most impressive waterfall is Wollomombi Falls. Several lookouts offer panoramic views across the immense Wollomombi Gorge. The two waterfalls, Wollomombi and Chandler, are at their best after a period of rainfall.
Choosing where to stay when exploring the Waterfall Way requires a bit of planning and research.
With 200km, the Waterfall Way is a rather long scenic drive, and accommodation options are very limited between the two endpoints, which are Bellingen in the east and Armidale in the west.
Coffs Harbour has lots of accommodation options, but staying there means an extra 35km away from the start of the Waterfall Way in Bellingen. That is certainly do-able, it’s just something to keep in mind.
To help you with your research, we are sharing the following accommodation options in 6 different areas, from east to west, starting in Coffs Harbour.
1. Coffs Harbour
As mentioned, Coffs Harbour has lots of hotel options and has lots of things to see and do, but you will need to drive an extra stretch to get to the start of the Waterfall Way. It is also home to a popular international golf course.
Bonville is a small town just south of Coffs Harbour and a bit closer to Bellingen.
Home to the Waterfall Way Visitor Centre, Bellingen is a charming town that marks the start of the scenic drive. The town has a nice and friendly atmosphere, with various cafes and restaurants in the area to try out.
Dorrigo is home to the Dorrigo Rainforest Centre, and is the first major stop along the Waterfall Way. While there aren’t many places to stay, Dorrigo is the gateway to the Dorrigo National Park.
Located halfway along the Waterfall Way, Ebor is a small village with very few places to stay overnight. It is, however, home to Ebor Falls, one of the prettiest attractions along the Waterfall Way.
Armidale is a picturesque town in the Northern Tablelands, at the junction of the Waterfall Way and the New England Highway.
Final Thoughts and Tips
The Waterfall Way is a perfect weekend getaway destination as there is so much to see and do. What’s great is that even during long weekends the area doesn’t get as crowded as other tourist areas in and around Sydney.
Hopefully you can use this article as a guide for your next visit to the beautiful New England region in northern New South Wales.
Here are some more tips for when you visit the Waterfall Way:
- It’s best to leave the Waterfall Way before sunset kicks in, because it can be quite nerve wrecking driving as fast as 110km per hour on these dark two-way country roads.
- Get your car serviced before you go and make sure the brakes and tyres are all in good shape. The Waterfall Way is well-looked after but there are some unsealed roads too. Unless you have a 4WD, it’s best to avoid these unsealed roads when it’s raining.
- Pack enough snacks and drinks as there aren’t many shops or cafes along the way where you can go for coffee and lunch. Coffs Harbour, Bellingen, Dorrigo and Armidale are the best towns to stock up on food.
- Bring a first-aid kit and perhaps some insect-repellent. Also bring protective sunscreen and hats, especially when doing the walking tracks.