Waterfall Way follows the rushing rivers of the New England High Country from Armidale to the Coffs Coast, and its main attractions are well known. But what if you’ve got time on your side to explore deeper along the 210km route?

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.

 

Armidale sits a surprising 980 metres above sea level, nearly the same height as Katoomba in the Blue Mountains, and has the honour of being Australia’s highest city. This height leads to cooler weather for most of the year and gorgeous, lush surrounding countryside.

It also means that wild terrain is never far away. Rushing water has carved its way to the ocean through ancient rainforest and around resilient granite over millenia, leading to some of Australia’s most thrilling gorges, waterfalls, and hiking trails. The driving route that follows along is known as Waterfall Way.

Technically, you can drive Waterfall Way in a day, but to really experience it you’ll want longer. It’s the tracks that don’t make the ‘top 10’ lists, or take half a day to walk, often form the strongest memories. Start your journey from Armidale and you can go with the flow, following the falls as they swell.

These are our favourite underrated and lesser-known adventures to visit on Waterfall Way, starting from the top.

1. Dangars Gorge and Waterfall

Oxley Wild Rivers National Park

Ok, you’re at the start of Waterfall Way in the centre of Armidale and you’re ready to hit the road. Awesome. Take a hard right, we’re heading to Dangars Gorge!

 

dangars falls oxley wild rivers national park, jono tan, nsw, waterfall way

 

Not to be confused with the epic Dangar Falls in Dorrigo (no S on the end), Dangars Gorge is a spectacularly steep valley in Oxley Wild Rivers National Park with a waterfall that thunders 120m down to the valley floor.

If you’re just dropping in, then the Dangars Falls walking track packs in six lookouts in 600 metres! Keener hikers can check out McDirty’s walking track (6km, 2-3 hours) or the beasty Salsibury Waters walking track (16km / 6-8 hours) which includes a steep descent to a secluded and pristine pool where you can take a dip.

If that all sounds like a pretty big (and desirable) day, make sure you book a spot at Dangars Gorge campground to spend the night resting on your laurels.

2. Gara Gorge and the Blue Hole Swimming Spot

Oxley Wild Rivers National Park

Gara Gorge is a beauty, and at 20 minutes from Armidale you can safely enjoy a sleep in (we’re on holiday, right?). Don’t forget to pack your swimmers as you swim through that morning fog though, because Gara Gorge is home to the Blue Hole – a tranquil swimming spot loved by the locals.

 

 

Walk off your picnic lunch on the 5.5km Threlfall walking track that traces an old hydro-electric scheme – the trail features a gorge lookout and historic granite cuttings. Importantly, three families of platypus and endangered rock wallabies can also be seen in the gorge, if you can keep quiet enough!

Read More: How An Adventure Could Help Protect the Platypus

 

3. Piney Mountain Bike Park

Armidale State Forest

Didn’t expect this did ya? Any excuse to chuck the bikes on the car will do and the single track in The Piney is a pretty damn good one. With fun, technical rock gardens, faster flow sections and even little bridges between the (you guessed it) pine trees, there’s something for everyone.

It’s a 4.9km easy ride from Armidale if you’re after a warmup, or parking is available close the to trails. Just make sure you bring an extra layer and your own water, there are limited facilities and it can get chilly up on the escarpment! New England Mountain Bikers have all the info you’ll need to guarantee a great day out.

 

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

4. Metz Gorge and Bakers Creek Falls

Metz and Hillgrove

Let’s get even more off the beaten track. Metz Gorge is only a 25 minute drive down Waterfall Way from Armidale, but many locals haven’t even heard of it! At one point over 100 years ago the towns of Metz and Hillgrove were thriving, thanks to a gold rush, but things have settled down.

 

 

Now you can visit Metz Gorge lookout (via Metz Road) and peer down into the valley, tracing the gnarly mining roads that snake down from Hillgrove, a town on the other side of the valley. Heading back to the main road along Chinamans Gully Rd, stop in to Bakers Creek Falls for a view of the cascades.

5. Chandler Walking Track – Wollomombi Gorge

Oxley Wild Rivers National Park

Wollomombi Gorge and its falls are a well-known highlight of Waterfall Way. In fact, you’ll find them on our list of highlights. But this list is about lesser known and more committing adventures and the 3km return walk to Checks Lookout is more than deserving. It’s also easy to miss, I know, because I did when I visited Wollomombi Falls.

 

 

The walk offers the only opportunity to descend into the valley and really get a sense for how steep the sides of Wollomombi Gorge really are. Get immersed in the Blackbutts and Stringybarks as you peer through to the waterfalls and down to the raging waters below.

Wollomombi Gorge has a heap of walks and lookouts, to explore so plan to spend a good few hours here. Incredibly, it’s only 35 minutes from Armidale, so you can scoot back to town, or post up at Wollomombi campground for a night under the stars.

 

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

6. Moonpar Forest Drive and Camping at Platypus Flat

Dorrigo, Moonpar, Nymboid and Cascade

Some days you just wanna cruise in the car – we don’t blame you! Our tip? Extend your Waterfall Way adventure on the Moonpar Forest drive. Driving from Armidale, hook a left at Dorrigo and you’ll begin a 75km scenic route that winds through Nymboi-Binderay and Cascade national parks before looping back to where it started.

There are countless picnic spots, short hikes and swims along the way, so if you need a bit of extra time book yourself a spot at Platypus Flat campground and kick back on the riverbank.

7. Slingsbys Trail and the Syndicate Ridge Track

Dorrigo National Park

Crystal Shower and Dangar Falls are nice and all but they’re bound to be busy. Slingsbys Trail on the other hand? You might not see a soul.

 

 

Head east from Dorrigo to being the 6.5km walk to Lanes lookout, which meanders along the plateau passing features like Killungoondie Plain, a clearing which the local Gunbaynggirr People used for hunting.

Hot tip: You can ride your mountain bike on this trail if you brought it for Piney MTB park.

From then on it’s a walk to Stoney Creek lookout, which gives sweeping views of Bellingen, Glennifer, and even the ocean on a good day! Keen hikers can descend nearly a kilometre vertically to the valley floor along the gnarly Syndicate Trail, which traces an old logging route. Just make sure you have a lift sorted at the bottom, it’s a long way back up!

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