A couple of years back friends of ours moved onto an organic cattle property 30 odd kilometres west of Armidale, on the famed Waterfall Way that carves a meandering path from Armidale to the Pacific Highway near Bellingen. Their property, and the whole area, has spectacular vistas across the mountains and gorges of the New South Wales northern highlands, and of course many tumbling water falls after which the road takes its name.
We planned a week long trip through the area, firstly staying with our friends before venturing down the Kempsey Road to George’s Junction campground, and then across to enjoy some coastal salt spray at Trial Bay before returning home.
We took an easy route down the New England Highway after first climbing Cunningham’s Gap and rolling across the Darling Downs to Stanthorpe where we stopped for coffee on the historic main street. Once recaffeinated we kept the rig pointed south and were soon across the border into NSW with the distinctive granite boulders and outcrops that mark this part of the country. Next stop Tenterfield, not to see the saddler but to load our lunch of buffalo wings into the Road Chef oven – and an hour later they were enjoyed, at a lunch stop to wander around the Glen Innes Standing Stones monument.
The Standing Stones is Australia’s national monument to our celtic heritage which is particularly strong in this area, and which held even more significance given we were in Scotland exactly a year earlier, just before the COVID tsunami gained full force.
Only an hour further and Armidale provided a chance to stretch our legs and pick up some last minute supplies, including some brews and a red to thank our hosts for hosting us over the next couple of nights. Then to their homestead for a warm welcome and settle in to catch up on news and events since we last saw each other.
The next day opened with heavy weather, low hanging clouds threatened to bring rain which was not welcome in a part of the world that you visit for breathtaking panoramas from mountain lookouts…
We had some recommendations from our hosts and our plan was to follow The Waterfall Way across the New England plateau to Dorigo on the coastal watershed, dropping into each attraction along the way. Our planned route can be found at this link.
First of our visits was Cathedral Rock National Park and its Barokee Campground, which was quite wet and a closed gate turned us back before we got to the main carpark from which the walking trails leave. We turned back through pretty forests with scarpering wallabies, but a little disheartened that our first site was closed.
Once we reached the main road Ebor Falls was a little further along way, and the roaring announced its presence long before we saw the falls themselves.
Guy Fawkes River pours over the 115m high Ebor Falls and continues down a gorge toward the National Park sharing its name, before eventually joining the Boyd, then Nymboida and Clarence Rivers. This prompted thoughts of our trip to Nymboida only a few months earlier, further north in the same river catchment.
We continued our tour eastward to Dorrigo, a pretty town on edge of the plateau and at top of the coastal escarpment. We mainly came in search of Dangar Falls but got distracted by the thought of coffee and finding something for lunch later in the day, a problem solved when we found some locally made quiches and savoury flans to warm in the car’s oven.
Unfortunately the Dangar Falls access was closed, our second dead end of the day! But as we sulked our way back through town we accidentally found a train spotter’s wet dream – acres and acres of old steam trains and carriages and railway buildings…
There were no signs promoting the train parking lot as a museum but that’s what it appeared to be, or perhaps a graveyard for old rolling stock at the town’s former marshalling yards? Some research when we got home confirmed it as a museum with a rather stuffy appearing website that listed the machines but offered no history or back stories. Either way, it kept the inner boy in me engaged for a half hour checking it all out.
Our plans included a visit to Wright’s Lookout and the Beech Lookout but we were holding out in case the weather improved. It was time to head back toward our accommodation so to break the trip we looped back on a different road via Tyringham, rejoined Waterfall Way then followed the gravel road into the world heritage listed Cunnawarra National Park in which the two lookouts rose, then started the trek up to the lookouts through fog shrouded forest giants.
Gondwana is the name given to the massive super continent that eventually broke and drifted apart to form the continents of the world as we now know them. Gondwana was covered by lush rainforest and the highland rainforests of northern NSW and south eastern Queensland are amongst the only remaining links to that era, definitely making this area a natural wonder worth protecting.
The misty rain and cloud shrouded hill tops through which we wandered this afternoon made it possible to be transported back to that time – although it didn’t do much for the view! If the weather improved we resolved to come back tomorrow before heading down into the Macleay River Valley.