New South Wales is full of surprises. It’s no secret to me, or a lot of the world (Best Job in the World, anyone?) that Queensland has some of the most spectacular scenery on earth. Australia is a big place, bursting with natural beauty, but I never thought much about what lay beyond the border in northern New South Wales – it doesn’t get a lot of airtime, but it really deserves it!
I took a four-day weekend this week and went on a roadtrip from Brisbane to Dorrigo, with lots of stops at country and coastal towns along the way. I still can’t believe how beautiful it was – or that it’s such a secret.
The landscape and the towns are immediately different. Driving through the New England region of Country NSW was like driving through – well, you guessed it – England. The rolling hills of England, but with better weather. Everything is so much greener in this part of NSW than in Southern Queensland Country, which was much drier at the time. I loved the pink, white and yellow blossom trees everywhere too – I couldn’t get enough!
Waterfall Way: The most beautiful drive in NSW
Waterfall Way is a 200km drive in New South Wales, from the Pacific Highway near Coffs Harbour to the country town of Armidale. It’s regarded as the most beautiful drive in NSW and the third-most beautiful drive in Australia. The best waterfalls are between Armidale and Dorrigo, which is roughly halfway to Coffs. So why hadn’t I heard of it?
The road winds around mountains blanketed in ancient, lush rainforest. Apart from the road, the only thing interrupting the rainforest is the occasional waterfall, trickling down the side of the mountain.
Gondwana Rainforests of Australia
Waterfall Way includes seven national parks, three of which are UNESCO World Heritage Listed in their own right and make up part of the UNESCO World Heritage Listed Gondwana Rainforests of Australia – with more than 900,000 acres of rainforest, it is the most extensive area of subtropical rainforest in the world.
Does Gondwana ring a bell?
Gondwana was the name for one of the two supercontinents that existed 510-180 million years ago. It included most of the continents in today’s Southern Hemisphere, including Antartica, South America, Africa, Madagascar, Australia and a few ring ins which are now in the Northern Hemisphere – the Arabian Peninsula and the Indian Subcontinent.
They’re called the Gondwana Rainforests because fossil records indicate that when Gondwana existed, it was covered by the same kind of rainforest species living in these rainforests today.
I saw two waterfalls along the road, one of which had a little parking bay after it, so we could pull off and take some photos. I saw four amazing larger waterfalls, including the tallest waterfall in Australia.
At a staggering 290 metres high, Wollomombi Falls is the highest waterfall in Australia.
Does that give this photo below some context? It doesn’t look very big here, but that is because the gorge it is in so ENORMOUS. It is really hard to capture its size.
These falls are said to vary between a trickle and a huge fall. We were there on a “trickle” day, but if you zoom in you can see that really, it’s hardly a trickle! Again, it just looks quite small because of the sheer enormoity of its surroundings.
Wollomobi Falls is around 1km south of Waterfall Way and is part of Oxley Wild Rivers National Park. This waterfall is an easy 100 metres (or so) walk from the carpark.
This was the widest waterfall that I saw on this trip and I loved how the rocks cleaved the water into several smaller shoots.
Not only are the falls gorgeous, but the surrounding national park is absolutely pristine – half the time I was taking photos of the rest of the view.
This waterfall is part of Guy Fawkes River National Park. This waterfall is about 20 metres from the carpark, so it’s another great one for people with limited mobility.
This was probably my favourite waterfall, despite the tiny, tiny viewing platform which was being taken up by a couple flying a remote control drone. I love the beautiful pool at the bottom of the falls and the second set of smaller falls in the background. I try not to over-use gushy travel phrases, but looking at this fall, the first word that springs to mind is “idyllic.”
These falls are part of World Heritage Listed Dorrigo National Park.
Again, this one is right beside the car park so it’s easy for everyone to access, however, the railing is quite high on the lookout, so you would probably need to be standing to enjoy the view.
Crystal Showers Falls
A suspension bridge hangs in front of Crystal Showers Falls, which is awesome because you can get way closer to the falls and it’s also pretty special just floating in the middle of a rainforest.
But there’s more! At the other end of the bridge, there is a little track which takes you down behind the waterfall!
I wish I’d just sat here for a few minutes and enjoyed it, but I remember the track being quite slippery so there probably wasn’t a place to sit down anyway. It’s so important to put the camera down for a few minutes when experiencing nature like this and to just enjoy the moment.
This track is 2.5 km return. It’s easy going downhill to the falls, but the way back up and everyone huffing and puffing! Nothing too strenuous though, as it’s not that far or steep. It’s not ideal for those with limited mobility, but in that case you should check out the Dorrigo Skywalk, which is at the same park and is fully accessible.
The Dorrigo Skywalk is a 300 metre boardwalk overlooking the magnificent Dorrigo National Park. It’s at the same spot as Crystal Showers Falls, but we went to the Skywalk on our final day of the road trip, which was a nice start to a long day of driving. Obsessed with these views!