“I’m surprised how simple it has become – people are now wearing clothes”: a visitor’s guide to Bellingen | Trip


Bellingen is a lively little town straddling the beautiful Waterfall Way, which connects the serene beaches of the north-north coast of New South Wales to the escarpments of the Great Dividing Range. Bello to the locals, he has had many lives, from the town of the sawmill and the dairy center to the hippie hiding place, to environmental advertising and to hipster lair.Forest trucks are still driving through town past the hemp store, the butter factory turned into a craft center, the embellished Victorian and Art Deco storefronts, and an avant-garde Japanese restaurant in a ramshackle wooden house. Locals sing in a gumbaynggirr language choir at the community center. Hearthfire Bakery makes breads from local flour and, across the road, second generation butchers, Thorns Gourmet Meats and Smokehouse, sell some of the best pork, beef and small goods in the country. Local children play in the famous Bellingen Youth Orchestra when they are not resting in the bush. And, as the sun sets over the lime-green alluvial valley, everyone is invited to join the progressives of Bello on Friday evenings at the Cedar Bar (at least in pre-Covid-19 times).

Bellingen Victorian street landscape. Photography: Susan Gough Henly

Former native and gumbaynggirr language teacher Micklo Jarrett explains how “our Dreamtime stories describe the ocean 120 km east of where it is now, proving that our people have lived in this area for more 10,000 years ”. Today, the Gumbaynggirr people have been active in stopping logging for wood chips in the nearby Nambucca State Forest. “All we want is to preserve the earth for everyone,” he says.

Meanwhile, the New South Wales National Parks Association is pressuring the government to establish the nearby Grand Koala National Park to link protected forests so that the declining koala population can again prosper.

Journalist Peter Geddes arrived with his family in the 1970s. He is working on a documentary on the hippie era of Bellingen, when alternative lifestyles rented houses for two dollars a week and went to town on horseback. “We did something out of thin air and eventually the old timers ended up accepting that Bellingen had behaved quite well with a sustainable lifestyle,” he says. “I’m a little surprised at how simple it has become, however. People are wearing clothes now. ”

Yet Bello has kept his mind free and over the years has attracted creative types inspired by the beauty of the surroundings. Peter Carey lived in a cabin designed by Richard Leplastrier in the Promised Land, on the other side of the Bellinger River, when he designed his novel Oscar and Lucinda, winner of the Booker Prize, inspired by the little church of Gleniffer.

The Doye family outside Kombu Wholefoods in Bellingen

The Doye family outside Kombu Wholefoods in Bellingen. Photography: Kombu Wholefoods

Bellingen remains a bubble of progressive politics at the heart of the national party. Kevin and Lowanna Doye are part of the new wave. After pedaling from the UK to Sydney (it took over a year and a freighter was involved) to highlight the environmental impact of air travel, they moved into one of 27 intentional occupied communities multiple of Bello and opened Kombu Wholefoods in 2004, to sell local products. organic products at affordable prices. Bello Shire stretches from the subtropical coastal regions at an altitude of 1,500 meters on the escarpment so that they can stock everything, from mangoes, bananas, avocados, macadamia nuts and pineapples to all kinds of green vegetables, pumpkins, potatoes, carrots, citrus and stone fruits.

“I live in a beautiful place connected with my family by doing something I believe in. Our philosophy is to strengthen the local community. ”

At times like these, it all makes perfect sense.

Do not miss

Family shopping at the local markets of Bellingen on the north coast.

Family shopping at the local Bellingen markets. Photography: Kate Nutt / Destination NSW

Bellingen community markets are held every three Saturdays at Bellingen Park. Taste the orange Jaffa and caramelized fig and marsala gelato with Bellingen Gelato.
Browse Australian fashion brands, linens and beauty products at Art Deco HYDE Bellingen, as well as Emporium Bellingen in the 1900s Hammond and Wheatley building.

Culture correction

En temps normal, le calendrier du festival (Camp Creative, The Bellingen Fine Music festival, The Bellingen Readers and Writers festival, etc.) est brillant.

Where to eat and drink

Middle Eastern cuisine Za'atar

Middle Eastern cuisine Za’atar. Photography: Susan Gough Henly

Who would have thought that Middle Eastern street food and trendy Japanese fusion would be the places to visit in a country town in NSW – but it’s Bellingen, after all. Qudo prepares dazzling teriyaki and sushi rolls of barramundi infused with exquisite greens, while Za’atar Café offers falafels, hummus plates and lamb kofta in fluffy pita bread. The Black Bear Cafe is the ideal place for breakfast on the sunny terrace and for excellent pizzas, craft beer and a refined urban atmosphere at the Bellingen brewery.

Where to stay

Rent a chalet in the Promised Land via Airbnb and other agencies. The best campgrounds are Reflections Holiday Parks next to the Kalang River estuary in Urunga and a free campsite next to Thora’s general store, on the road that climbs the escarpment to Dorrigo.

Get out of town

Promised Land, near Bellingen Australia

Promised Land, near Bellingen. Photography: 270770 / Getty Images / iStockphoto

Canoe on the Bellinger River to spot sea eagles, azure kingfishers, flooded gums, and dairy cow river crossings, or walk the loop around the Promised Land and dip your toes in Never Never Creek .

Visit the Dorrigo Rainforest Center for views of the Gondwana Rainforest Escarpment, or take a hike in the World Heritage Rainforest on the two-hour Wonga Walk.
Take the Urunga promenade along the river estuary to the spectacular Hungry Head ocean beach.

Getting There

Almost halfway between Sydney (five and a half hours drive north) and Brisbane (five hours drive south); Bellingen is approximately a 30-minute drive southwest of Coffs Harbor Airport. Although there is public transport available in the area, it is highly recommended to have a car.


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