From the autumnal-hued streetscapes of Australia’s highest town and rugged outcrops of the New England Tablelands to the summits of ancient volcanic ridges and the swimming holes of the aptly named Promised Land – these are our must-see stops along New South Wales’ Waterfall Way.

Waterfall Way is located on Aboriginal land and sovereignty was never ceded. The region is the traditional Country of the Gumbaynggirr, Dhanggati and Anēwan people and we acknowledge their ancestors, past, present and emerging.

Whether you’re traversing Waterfall Way over a day, a weekend, or a week, the region is bursting with waterfalls, lookouts, swimming holes, and a diversity of landscapes that’ll renew your sense of wonder, and wanderlust.

Starting in the heart of New England High Country is Armidale. The town is surrounded by a landscape of deep gorges and romantic waterfalls, of dry eucalypt forest and rocky granite outcrops that slowly morph into the rich Gondawana rainforest-scapes of Dorrigo, and finally winds its way down into the verdant foothills and swimming holes of Bellingen.

Having called the region home for the first 18 years of my life, I’ve chosen a handful of the Waterfall Way’s top waterfalls, lookouts, and short hikes that you won’t regret detouring for.

1. Wollomombi Gorge

Distance of walk: Less than 1km
Difficulty: Easy

When planning a trip along the Waterfall Way, it’s expected you’ll have a plethora of waterfalls on your list to visit. While each and every one has its own unique selling points, Wollomombi Falls is truly a not-to-be-missed destination. As the highest waterfall in NSW  (and one of the highest in Australia), the dramatic falls cascade a huge 220m over the rugged cliff face into Woolomombi Gorge below. Keep your eyes peeled for Peregrine falcons, which are known to nest on the cliff ledges.

 

 

The spectacular falls are located in the Oxley Wild Rivers National Park, approx 3 minutes off Waterfall Way. The main viewing platform for the falls is accessible from the picnic area, but for those feeling a little more intrepid, there are several walking tracks to stretch the legs on. 

The mid-grade Wollomombi track is 4km long and visits the platypus-friendly Wollomombi River and 200m high Chandler Waterfall. If you’re on the hunt for more adventurous options, we’ve collated a whole list of nearby tracks that’ll get the heart pumping.

2. New England National Park

Distance: 2-33km
Difficulty: Various

New England National Park is home to an array of walks for both day trippers, and those wanting overnight or multi-day hikes through remote Gondwana wilderness. The ancient World Heritage rainforests of New England National Park make up part of the most extensive strip of diverse rainforests anywhere on earth.

 

 

The national park spans from Armidale down into the Bellinger Valley, with Waterfall Way winding its way along the escarpment encircling the park. Most New England National Park walks kick off from Point Lookout. For a short and relatively easy hike, we suggest the 2.2km Eagles Nest, or the 2km Weeping Rock track visiting a breathtaking basalt cliff, which, as the name suggests, drips from a natural spring above turning into icy stalactites on chilly days.

For those really up for a challenge, the 33km New England Wilderness Walk is a 2-3 day, one-way hike packed full of picturesque swimming and camping options, ending at the head of the Bellinger River.

 

Read more: Underrated Gorges, Epic Hikes, & Wild Swims Along the Waterfall Way

3. Point Lookout

Distance of walk: Accessible from the carpark, or via a 2.2km loop
Difficulty: Easy

Here at We Are Explorers, we love a little detour off the beaten path and this one is worth the trip down the dirt track. Roughly 20 minutes off Waterfall Way, Point Lookout is located on the other side of the Styx River, but don’t let that put you off, we promise the views on the other side are heavenly.

 

 

If you’re needing a little rest after your Cathedral Rock hike, you’ll be happy to know the lookout is accessible directly from the car park. However, we recommend the 2.2km walk via the Eagles Nest walking track. Taking you on a leisurely walk under the towering canopies of World Heritage-listed Gondwana rainforest, you’ll roam through orchid-covered Antarctic Beech trees and between trickling streams before a short upward hike takes you to the pinnacle of Point Lookout, and the spanning views across the undulating valleys below.

The New England National Park straddles the traditional boundaries of the Dunghutti, Anaiwan and Gumbaynggirr People, and covers an area of great spiritual and cultural significance to local Aboriginals. Point Lookout, Berarngutta in the local language, is considered a men’s area and Aboriginal women avoid the area. You may wish to respect this tradition yourself, although it isn’t currently requested by the local people.

 

Read more: Waterfall Way Dreaming: Important Ways To Engage With Gumbaynggirr, Dhanggati and Anēwan Culture on Your Journey

 

4. Cathedral Rock

Distance of walk: 6km loop
Difficulty: Hard

There’s nothing quite like an early-morning boulder hop to start your road trip, and Cathedral Rock (located roughly an hour and a half from Armidale) is our first recommendation on your Waterfall Way journey.

Atop its rugged summit, you’ll enjoy expansive views of the New England Tablelands and, on a good day, an epic sunrise well worth waking up for. If you’re planning on doing the hike to soak in those sunrise or sunset views, make sure you pack a head torch (and coffee) and keep your eyes peeled for reptiles who may also be soaking up those first and last rays of sun.

While the first stretch of the hike is relatively easy, the final scramble to the top is recommended for those more limber folks, unfazed by a little rock and crevice-hopping. Expect the 6km route to take around 1.5 to 2 hours from Barokee campground – the perfect leg-warmer to start your day.

 

5. Ebor Falls

Distance of walk: Accessible from the car park
Difficulty: Easy/medium

You’ve worked up a ravaging hunger and are craving your morning brew, so luckily for you we’re just 20 minutes outside of the quaint, blink-and-you’ll-miss-it town of Ebor. Home to the spectacular Ebor Falls, named Martiam by the traditional Gumbaynggirr people meaning ‘the great falls’. We recommend grabbing your breakfast and taking a pew at the newly refurbished Ebor Falls lookout and picnic area. From any of the three platforms encircling the gorge – upper falls, lower falls and valley view — you’ll have the best seat in the house to soak up views of the Guy Fawkes River cascading into two 100m falls.

 

Must-See Stops When Driving Waterfall Way, Anna Wall, ebor falls, waterfall, rainforest, drone view

 

Once satiated, the track linking the upper falls and lower falls lookouts snakes around the escarpment giving spanning views of the falls and the surrounding basalt gorge which was formed by the eruption of a long-dormant volcano. The walk is approx 1.5km return, and is easy enough for the little or the elderly.

6. Dangar Falls

Distance of walk: 1.1km (out and back)
Difficulty: Easy

Dangar Falls (not to be confused with the equally impressive Dangars Falls in Armidale) is arguably Dorrigo’s most well-known waterfall and if you visit after a few days of rainfall, it’s easy to see why. Located around 1.5km out of the main Dorrigo township it makes for a quick and easy stop and a great short walk to stretch the legs at your mid-way point of the Waterfall Way trip.

The 1km walk to the bottom is a relatively easy 15min walk, however, it’s good to keep in mind that the track is only partially paved with some steps, so it can be slippery and muddy if there’s been recent rain.

Dangar is also a favourite swimming hole for the locals, so if you’re visiting the falls during summer make sure to pack the togs. Cooling off at the bottom of the falls is what most tourists opt for as it offers the most impressive upward views of the falls and a deeper, larger swimming hole.

Locals recommend taking a dip at the top (staying well away from the edge) which offers smaller rock pools, plenty of sun-drenched rocks for soaking up some rays, and is often far quieter during peak tourist periods.

7. Dorrigo Skywalk

Distance: 70m
Difficulty: Easy

Just off the Waterfall Way, en route to Bellingen, offering a delicious onsite cafe and arguably the best views Dorrigo has on offer, the Skywalk is a perfect little detour to grab some lunch, a much-needed caffeine hit, and the fresh air of Dorrigo National Park.

 

 

The Skywalk sits on the edge of the escarpment overlooking Dorrigo National Park, the double peaks of McGraths Hump (known as Old Man Dreaming), the Bellinger Valley, and on a clear day, the views stretch as far as the ocean on the horizon. While the walk itself is an easy 70m stroll, it’s not for the faint-hearted, sitting above the rainforest canopy about 7 storeys off the ground.

The park is also home to the spectacular Crystal Shower Falls, accessible via an easy 4.4km loop. The walk winds beneath the lush canopies before reaching a suspension bridge which spans across the valley in front of the falls, and leads into a rocky cavern behind the crystal veil of falling water.

 

Read more: Breweries and Beds: The Ultimate Waterfall Way Food, Drink & Accommodation Guide

8. Promised Land Swimming Hole

Distance: Approx. 10min drive from Bellingen

Nestled in the foothills of the Gondwana-covered mountains you’ve just explored, the Promised Land is a region of lush forests and farmlands winding along the banks of the Never Never River. With crystal clear rock pools dotted with large sunbaked boulders and rope swings, surrounded by pebbled shorelines and forests – the swimming hole is the perfect untouched and refreshing end to your trip.

 

 

Located around a 10 minute drive from Bellingen, the pools sit in the shadow of the mountain fondly named, Old Man Dreaming, the silhouette of a sleeping Aboriginal elder who is said to be watching over the land. To properly experience the region, we recommend packing a picnic (with some delicious local produce), turning your phone off, and taking your sweet time to explore and take in what truly is God’s country. The drive itself is dotted with swimming holes, so take your pick!

Keep in mind the Waterfall Way is known for its high rainfall and is prone to flooding, so stay safe on the roads, trails and near waterfalls. The region is full of friendly and welcoming locals, who are proud of the natural and untouched beauty of the region, so as always, leave only footprints and take only photos.

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