Mini Road Trip: Exploring the Gondwana Rainforests of Australia and Waterfall Way

How often have you driven a route and not taken the time to explore?  We are guilty of this, as while we are very familiar with the Pacific Highway route between Sydney and Brisbane we have not often taken the time to better explore the area between the two capital cities.  For our upcoming trip we have decided that on our return that we will take some extra time and travel a different route.

We plan to explore the rainforests of northern New South Wales and the amazing Waterfall Way between Coffs Harbour and Armidale.  Below is the route we plan to take and some of the sites we plan to visit along the way.

Gold Coast to Dorrigo

Natural Bridge in Springbrook National Park

Our first step is to drive from the Gold Coast to Springbrook National Park (39km, 24 mi, 0:38 hrs) where we can visit Natural Bridge.  As you can see from the photo below it looks amazing!  There is a short walking circuit that we can do in one hour. Unfortunately we won’t be there at the right time of day to see the glow worms along the walking route, but maybe next time.

Natural Bridge in Springbrook National Park

Natural Bridge in Springbrook National Park

Wollumbin (Mt Warning) National Park

Our next stop is Wollumbin National Park (previously Mt Warning National Park) (67km, 42 mi, 1:13 hrs).  Mt Warning is the dominant mountain on the northern New South Wales landscape, and every time I have driven through this area I have always wanted to get a bit closer.  Mt Warning is the remains of an ancient volcano, and towers to 1,157m above sea level.

We plan to take the short Lyrebird walking track to explore this amazing national park, which is part of the heritage listed Gondwana Rainforest of Australia.

View of Mt Warning in northern New South Wales Australia

View of Mt Warning in northern New South Wales Australia

Visiting Nimbin

The stop on our route is the small town of Nimbin (45km, 29 mi, 0:52 hrs), which is well known as a quirky alternative town.  We plan to have a wander around the centre of town and perhaps have some lunch or afternoon tea.

Travelling from Nimbin to Dorrigo

From Nimbin we plan to travel south to Dorrigo via the town of Casino.  The route I have planned is via Summerland Way to Grafton, and to then travel via Armidale Road and Tyringham Rd to Dorrigo.  In total this route is 265km, 165 mi, 3:29 hrs, so we may stay in Casino or Grafton but we may also decide to push through to Dorrigo on the same day.

Waterfall Way from Dorrigo to Armidale

We then plan to take a day to explore Waterfall Way between Dorrigo and Armidale, which is the 211km, 131 mi, 2:52 hr road which connects Coffs Harbour to Armidale and Uralla.  Along the route there are many places to stop and see a series of lovely waterfalls and National Parks, with most places of interest only a short distance off the main road.

To the south of Dorrigo is Dorrigo National Park where we plan to visit the Skywalk which provides amazing views over the forest to the ocean.  There are also waterfalls and more forest to explore along the Lyrebird Link track.

Dorrigo National Park Skywalk

Dorrigo National Park Skywalk

To the north of Dorrigo is Dangar Falls which also looks like a great place to visit and perhaps have a swim.

We then plan to drive to Ebor Falls, which is a 51km, 32 mi, 0:34 hr drive along Waterfall Way.  There is a short walk to see the three main vantage points of this two tier waterfall.

Ebor Falls on Waterfall Way in Australia

Ebor Falls on Waterfall Way in Australia

The next stop (13km, 8 mi, 0:42 hrs) is Cathedral Rock National Park, which has the short Warrigal Walking track which is of interest.

And shortly afterwards we plan to take the turnoff to Point Lookout Road, where you can stop and see the view from Point Lookout over New England National Park, which is 1562m above sea level and on fine days has view to the ocean!

The next stop is the amazing Wollomombi Falls which are in Oxley Wild Rivers National Park, which are approximately 5km south of the township of Wollomombi (34km, 21 mi, 0:38 hrs).  Wollomombi Falls are one of the tallest in Australia, with a height of more than 200m.

From there we will continue the drive to Armidale where we plan to stay the night.

Road Trip from Armidale to Sydney

From Armidale we could choose to travel on the New England Highway, except that the last time we went through this area almost two years ago the roads were very congested by road works and it was a very slow trip.

An alternative route that a colleague suggested is that we could drive from Armidale via Gloucester, which is the gateway to Barrington Tops National Park.  The trip is 474km, 295 mi, 5:45 hrs in comparison to the 474km, 295 mi, 4:49hr route along the New England Highway, so even if we do not have enough time to visit Barrington Tops National Park on this trip at least it will enable us to drive another road that we have not yet visited.  Gloucester is about halfway along the route so would be a good place to stop for a break and explore for a short period of time.

Taking the Road Less Travelled

As you can see I am not sure how we will see everything in the three days we have allowed!  But I am excited to plan this trip as we will all be seeing a part of Australia which we have not previously visited.

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Have you visited or are thinking about visiting either the northern New South Wales rainforest area or Waterfall Way?  Please share your thoughts below.

18 Comments

  • Helen Wallace says:

    I love this blog. As I said when I posted it on Facebook, you have done a beautiful job of describing my favourite ways to travel north and south from Dorrigo where I live.

    I would just love to be able to include this on my website if I could. As you would see it hasn’t gone very far, as first my husband and now I have suffered health issues.

    But I plan to pick up again after January and this is written so much better than I would have done the same. I hope you’ll blog about your trip, especially Dorrigo which is a wonderful town.

  • This looks beautiful. I didn’t know that there was this stunning scenery between Sydney and Brisbane.
    Sally@Toddlers on Tour recently posted…Packing for Kids: The Essentials this Holiday SeasonMy Profile

    • Sally, thanks for your comment. As a veteran of the Pacific Highway route I also did not really realise that there were some amazing other options until I started researching further. After we return I plan to write some articles about our experiences!

  • Toni says:

    I’ve done a couple of the Dorrigo walks coming in from the Coffs Harbour end but this is a great idea for a shortish road trip from Brisbane.
    Toni recently posted…10 things to see and do in ArashiyamaMy Profile

  • How lucky that this is a MINI ROADTRIP away. I would do anything to see Australia!

    • Sarah, thanks for your comment. For us this is a ‘mini trip’ as we are only on the road for a few days. We have previously done a road trip to western New South Wales where we were away for 10 days which was a bit bigger, and we only went less than 1/3rd of the way across Australia. Is it really important to understand that Australia is of a similar size to the USA!

  • Karyn Jane says:

    This is a really good itinerary! And with Natural Bridge in Springbrook, it’s actually really worth going at night in order to see the glow worms too. The cave roof is like the night sky full of stars. 🙂

  • I’m guilty of having passed through this region several times – we always seem to be going to/from somewhere else! We had 3 nights at Uralla several years ago and vowed to return, but haven’t! Maybe this year 🙂
    Red Nomad OZ recently posted…12 Cool Aussie Things …My Profile

    • Red, thank you for your comment. I agree that we often miss some great options because we are often passing through – but I am happy that this time we did take some extra time to enjoy the trip.

  • Erica Brooks says:

    Australia has so much to offer, one will not be able to see it in a lifetime, so don’t feel guilty, so many places are still to be explored. I have never been to Australia, seen it in pictures only, but now I have planned my first trip to Sydney with the help of a nice tool I discovered here http://www.triphobo.com/sydney-trip-plan-54b4a42a0c1d0a2409001fe0. I am not as lucky as you to explore all that natural beauty, but I have made note of all these things for my next visit. The Springbrook National Park image is inviting me for planning my next trip. waiting for your trip updates..

    • Erica, thank you for your comment. It is great that you are planning your first trip to Australia, it is a great place!

      I have had a look at your trip plan and as a person who is living in Sydney I would like to comment that the sights you are planning are not all that far apart – you have have a lovely day trip on Day 1 by just walking between those places, no car required. In your Day 2 plan you should visit the Chinese Gardens before or after Darling Harbour, as they are only a short walk apart, whereas the Fish Market is best first thing in the morning and it is easier to get there by bus or car. On Day 3 I would need to spend a bit more time looking at the map to work out the best sequence.

      • Erica Brooks says:

        Hey Anne, thanks for the reply, On the second day I wanted to hit the beach first thing in the morning, So chosen the places that way. As you said I will place Chinese garden after the Darling harbour, will have to think on the fish market timing. thanks again 🙂

  • RP says:

    Splendid shot of Ebor Falls.

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