Nestled in the picturesque hinterland of the mid-North Coast, Bellingen has a thriving arts and culture scene, many natural wonders and an array of eateries that will delight foodies. This bohemian town serves as an ideal gateway to explore the many natural attractions along the scenic Waterfall Way, including stunning rivers, waterfalls and World Heritage-listed rainforest.
WHAT TO EAT
There’s an overwhelming amount of stellar food to eat in Bellingen, but make sure you go out of your way to hit these five spots. At number one, we have Three Blue Ducks, which is located at The Lodge in Bellingen and set on 16 acres of lush manicured gardens, with uninterrupted Dorrigo National Park mountain views. This backdrop offers a beautiful setting to enjoy their ethical, authentic and delicious experimental menu. Number two is Peaches Patisserie, which is a short ride up the mountain in Dorrigo and serves up delectable pastries made in-house using seasonal and local ingredients. From Dorrigo Plateau potatoes to locally smoked ham and organic NSW flour, owner and head chef Beth O’Louglin believes everything tastes better when it’s made from scratch.
Bellingen Brewery comes in at number three. The brewery is a local institution that serves up its very own beers and ferments. Make sure to check out this artisan brewery and boutique bar not just for its delightful brews and food but for the lush, nature-shrouded feel of the place. The brewery was built with sustainability and resourcefulness in mind by using local timbers and salvaged materials.
Coming in fourth is Osteria Fiume, an Italian spot in the heart of Bellingen with a big verandah ideal for kicking back with a glass of Lambrusco as you enjoy their short menu of Italian favourites. Last but not least, we have Bruno’s Mediterranean, set in a charming converted townhouse. Be sure to try their fire-grilled prawn skewers and lamb ribs for a shared main.
WHERE TO STAY
Look no further than The Lodge Bellingen – an exquisitely renovated 30-room boutique haven where history meets modern luxury, and every stay is an immersion into the soul of this special town. Sprawled across 16 acres of manicured gardens, The Lodge is home to friendly alpacas and Three Blue Ducks restaurant, which opened in July of this year. The venue superbly caters to couples, families, weddings and events seeking a picturesque retreat. The accommodation was originally built in 1973 and was previously known as The Bellingen Motor Inn and then The Bellingen Valley Lodge before co-owner Monique Parmenter purchased the run-down motel in 2017.
From there, a complete metamorphosis of the property commenced with a renovation that kicked off in 2019, transforming rooms, the restaurant, and the pool area and expanding to include a two-bedroom mountain retreat, glamping spaces and an amphitheatre for weddings and events. Fast forward to 2023, and The Lodge has just added the finishing touches to the restaurant, courtesy of the culinary heavyweights Three Blue Ducks. The Lodge is the perfect gateway to the waterfalls, hiking trails, local markets and vibrant festivals of Bellingen.
WHAT TO DO
Explore Dorrigo National Park, a jewel within the Gondwana Rainforests of the Australian World Heritage Area. The National Park boasts a breathtaking landscape shaped over millions of years. The park is a haven for a vast array of wildlife, including the elusive red-necked pademelons, the vibrant wompoo fruit-dove and the magnificent bowerbird. Be sure to check out the rainforest lookout and the Dangar Falls walk. This may be an obvious choice, but the beaches in Bellingen are beautiful year-round. Hungry Head, Valla Beach and Scoots Head are all fantastic choices with rolling waves and plenty of protection to enjoy one of life’s simple pleasures – a day at the beach.
Be sure to go to the crystal clear swimming holes of Promised Land, which is the perfect place for a refreshing dip in the summer months. Take advantage of the farmer’s markets, which are every Wednesday afternoon and Saturday morning and are a great spot to try some of Bellingen’s plentiful local produce. Finally, be sure to head to Nexus Art Gallery and Bellingen Gallery and Framing Studio for your cultural fix.