Start with a wander down the main street, poking into beautiful historic shopfronts, where you can buy antiques, or admire works at the Woodcraft Gallery. Be sure to stop by Emporium Bellingen in the historic Hammond and Wheatley Building, which first opened in 1900 as a department store. Then make a stop to the region’s best icecream at Bellingen Gelato, or perhaps a bite to eat at one of the many cafes that line the street.
For dinner, book a table at Popla Bellingen. Housed in the heritage-listed 2 Oak Street, the restaurant was created by the team behind the award-winning Sydney restaurant Bloodwood. Or try The Cedar Bar & Kitchen, run by a team of passionate foodies who showcase local Coffs Coast produce.
Want to try produce direct from the source? Time your visit for a Saturday when the Bellingen Growers Markets are on, they run twice a month. There’s also the monthly Bellingen Community Markets where you can stock up on handmade arts and crafts, fashions and gourmet tea and coffee.
Bellingen is renowned for the arts, and whatever your creative passion there’s a festival to celebrate it. Highlights include the Readers & Writers Festival in June, the Winter Music Festival in July and the Bellingen Music Festival in September.
Of course, a trip to Bellingen wouldn’t be complete without visiting the nearby World Heritage-listed Dorrigo rainforest. Take a stroll along the Skywalk suspended over the rainforest or tackle one of the many walking trails where you can peek behind spectacular waterfalls.
Fancy a seaside walk? Nearby are the beaches of Urunga to Woolgoolga, stretching to the waters of the Solitary Islands Marine Park just off Coffs Harbour.
Where? Bellingen is a 5-and-a-half-hour drive north of Sydney, just inland from Coff Harbour. It’s a 5-hour drive from Brisbane and a 30-minute drive from Coffs Harbour airport. There are accommodation options including retreats, elegant guesthouses, a youth hostel and riverside camping. Farmstays are available too on organic farms.