Guide to the Waterfall Way (Highlights and Itineraries)

Last updated: May 23, 2024

The Waterfall Way is a 185 km long scenic drive between Coffs Harbour and Armidale, passing through New England and Dorrigo national parks, with numerous impressive waterfalls to discover.

With so many impressive sights to visit, it’s no surprise the Waterfall Way is a popular weekend destination in northern New South Wales.

In this guide, we’ll share how to make the most of the Waterfall Way when you have two days to spend there and a shorter one-day itinerary.

Two Day Itinerary

The itinerary below can be completed in two days, starting in the morning at 9 am and finishing 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 further below in this article.

Waterfall Way highlights (from east to west):

  1. Waterfall Way Visitor Centre
  2. Dorrigo Rainforest Centre and Skywalk Lookout
  3. Wonga Walk, Crystal Shower Falls and Tristania Falls
  4. Dangar Falls
  5. Ebor Falls
  6. Cathedral Rock Track
  7. Point Lookout
  8. Wollomombi Falls and Chandler Falls

1. Waterfall Way Visitor Centre

The small Visitor Centre is conveniently located in Bellingen, right at the start of the Waterfall Way.

Waterfall Way Visitor Centre
Waterfall Way Visitor Centre

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 location).

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 helpful information about Dorrigo National Park and its walking tracks, most visitors come here to experience the Skywalk Lookout.

Skywalk Lookout in Dorrigo National Park
Skywalk Lookout in Dorrigo National Park

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 open seven days a week from 9 am until 4:30 pm and features a lovely cafe and a shop where you can choose from a wide range of books, gifts and souvenirs.

3. Wonga Walk, Crystal Shower Falls and Tristania Falls

Now it’s time to visit the first waterfall!

But to get to the scenic Crystal Shower Falls, you will first need to conquer the Wonga Walk, a paved 6 km rainforest loop trail that starts and ends at the Rainforest Centre.

Crystal Shower Falls in Dorrigo National Park
Crystal Shower Falls

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.

You can then choose to return to the Rainforest Centre via the same way, or you can go a bit further and complete the loop. That full loop also includes the impressive Tristania Falls, a beautiful cascade waterfall.

Tristania Falls in Dorrigo National Park
Tristania Falls

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.

Shortcut via the Glade Picnic Area:
The Wonga Walk is quite challenging because it is a reasonably long track with steep parts. If you have young children with you, or if you have a long day ahead, this 6 km hike may 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 at the Glade Picnic Area, about 1 km south of the Rainforest Centre. A hiking trail named the Satinbird Stroll starts at this picnic area (see map location) 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.

Dangar Falls
Dangar Falls

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 large 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 large viewing platform from the main car park, and watch how Ebor Falls makes a 100m vertical drop right in front of you.

Ebor Falls
Ebor Falls

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 6 km 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.

Cathedral Rock Track
Cathedral Rock (credit: NSW National Parks)

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 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 stunned.

For the best experience, go there before dawn to witness a fantastic sunrise.

Point Lookout in New England National Park
Point Lookout in New England National Park

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-minute 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 was 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 large amounts of water are thundering down into the gorge.

Wollomombi Falls and Gorge
Wollomombi Falls and Gorge

Several lookout points give visitors spectacular views of the two waterfalls and the massive Wollomombi gorge they drop into.

Two exciting walking tracks 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.

Wollomombi Falls walking track
Wollomombi Falls walking track

To get to Wollomombi Falls, turn into Wollomombi Falls Road about 40 km east of Armidale and follow until you reach a fork where you turn left.

The facilities are excellent, with a large parking area, BBQs 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) 8 km 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 its own right. If you have more than two days to spend in the area, Red Cedar Falls would be something to consider.

One Day Itinerary

If you have only one day to spend, don’t worry; you will still have lots of time to check out the best highlights.

This is our recommended one-day itinerary:

  1. Waterfall Way Visitor Centre:
    Grab a map from the Visitor Centre before starting your adventure.
  2. Crystal Shower Falls:
    From the Visitor Centre, drive to the Glade Picnic Area and follow the short walking trail to the Crystal Shower Falls.
  3. Dorrigo Rainforest Centre and Skywalk Lookout:
    Wander around at the Dorrigo Rainforest Centre and enjoy the amazing views from the Skywalk Lookout.
  4. 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.
  5. Ebor Falls:
    Drive to Ebor Falls and enjoy the great views of this amazing waterfall from the viewing platform. Follow the walking trail towards the west to see the lower falls.
  6. 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.

Accommodation Options

Choosing where to stay when exploring the Waterfall Way requires a bit of planning and research.

With 200 km, the Waterfall Way is quite a 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 35 km away from the start of the Waterfall Way in Bellingen. That is certainly doable; 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 many hotel options and 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 famous international golf course.

2. Bonville

Bonville is a small town just south of Coffs Harbour and a bit closer to Bellingen.

3. 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.

4. Dorrigo

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.

5. Ebor

Located halfway along the Waterfall Way, Ebor is a small village with few places to stay overnight. It is, however, home to Ebor Falls, one of the prettiest attractions along the Waterfall Way.

6. Armidale

Armidale is a picturesque town in the Northern Tablelands, at the junction of the Waterfall Way and the New England Highway.

Practical 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-wracking driving as fast as 110 km 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 some insect-repellent. Also bring protective sunscreen and hats, especially when doing the walking tracks.

Enjoy the Waterfall Way!

 

Experience the Waterfall Way in Northern NSW

 

AJ Mens

AJ Mens is a digital publisher based in Sydney, Australia, and the editor-in-chief of Sydney Uncovered and Blue Mountains Uncovered.

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10 Comments
  1. Hi, I am Roshana, I am planning to visit Sydney at the end of December and visit those areas within one day before going to Sydney, and I am coming from Tweed Heads. What is the best place for accommodation for us?

    Reply
    • Hi Roshana, if you’re coming from Tweed Heads, staying overnight in a motel in Coffs Harbour is probably best. Then do the Waterfall Way the next day (early morning start), and continue to Sydney straight after.

      Reply
  2. Looking at doing the waterfall way after Easter. I have plenty of time to do this in a motorhome. Can we just camp along the way? Is there camp areas with amenities? Which is the best direction to head? We will be travelling from south coast so east west/west east is not problem as will tweak out trip itinerary after I hear recommendations. TIA.

    Reply
    • Hi Liz, I’m not sure of it’s okay to park a motorhome for an overnight stay, it’s best to ask NSW National Parks. There is a campground at Wollomombi which seems to cater for larger vehicles, so that might be perfect for you. Bookings are required though.

      Hope you’ll have a great time, the Waterfall Way is a great drive.

      Reply
    • Hi Kerrie,
      We haven’t stayed at Ebor Falls H/Motel, but looking at the map, that would certainly be a good spot to choose as a halfway point to stay overnight and rest up.
      However, if you’re heading to Armidale on the second day, you might also want to consider staying somewhere in the Dorrigo area (if there is anything suitable available) and leave the driving to Ebor and Wollomombi for the next day.

      Reply
  3. Hello, where would be a good 1 night stop if I wanted to do this trip over 2 days, starting from Bellingen and then moving to accommodation on the coast? Thanks, Anna.

    Reply
    • Hi Anna,
      It’s probably best to stay in the Bellingen area for those two days, return to your accommodation at the end of the first day, and drive out again the next day. It’s a bit more driving, but there isn’t much accommodation available along the Waterfall Way. Otherwise, you can also stay in Armidale for one night, and do the Waterfall Way in reverse the second day, stopping at the sights you missed on the first day, if that makes sense.

      Reply
  4. I have a small dog and was wondering if I was able to take him with me to visit the waterfall way walks and sight seeing?

    Regards, Tony Carlyon

    Reply
    • Hi Tony, I don’t think so.
      Most waterfalls and walking tracks on the Waterfall Way are within National Parks, and dogs aren’t allowed there unfortunately.

      Reply
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