Where the mountains meet the sea: Dorrigo National Park

Although the Coffs Coast might be known for its surf and sand, mother nature has plenty of other local gems in her crown.

Coffs Harbour is where the mountains meet the sea - the only spot in NSW where the Great Dividing Range is within easy reach of the coastline. This means we’re the perfect starting off point for a little light mountain climbing (or rather bushwalking) on Dorrigo Plateau.

Dorrigo National Park, part of the Gondwana Rainforests of Australia World Heritage Area, is only one hour from Coffs Harbour by car, but offers a totally different visitor experience compared with the coastal beach vibes below.

Millions of years in the making, Dorrigo National Park is home to an abundance of native flora and fauna. Eagle-eyed visitors might spot red-necked pademelons and brushtail or ringtail possums, as well as lyrebirds, satin bowerbirds or the uniquely colourful wompoo fruit-dove.

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A multi-layered canopy, the rainforest is blooming with plant life including grand Sydney bluegums, blackbutts and tallowoods. Some of these towering hardwood giants are thought to be over 1000 years old.

However, it’s not all about sticking to the ground floor. Up on the Walk with the Birds boardwalk there is a greater chance of spotting the more than 150 bird species who call Dorrigo National Park home. It’s also an ideal option for anyone needing a more accessible visit.

The forest is on track to soon become even more accessible after the $56.4 million announcement in 2022 of the Dorrigo Escarpment Great Walk project which will feature a new visitor centre, an upgraded all-weather walkway and a 46km multi-day walk with low impact hiker huts and camping platforms.

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Currently, Dorrigo’s existing tracks include the Wonga Walk which follows a 6.6kms loop for approximately two to three hours. The shorter 4.4km Crystal Shower Falls Walk takes you behind a magical waterfall into an ancient rocky cavern and across a spectacular suspension bridge that carries you across the lush green valley.

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Before or after bushwalking, the on-site visitor centre is an inviting place where people of all ages can learn more about the park, do a little souvenir shopping and immerse themselves in the vibrant culture of Dorrigo’s traditional custodians, the Gumbaynggirr people.

During school holidays, Gumbaynggirr rangers welcome visitors with educational tours where they share their language. “Giinagay, yilaami yaanyji gaaln garr billiyami” – “Hello, come and walk through the rainforest”. It’s a chance to view the Dorrigo rainforest with fresh eyes and appreciate its rich resources, which have been cared for and used by Gumbaynggirr people for millennia.

And finally, because bushwalking works up an appetite, it’s advised you pack a lunch to enjoy in one of the designated picnic areas, or pop into the Canopy Cafe for a well-earned cold drink, warm beverage or something to snack on.

Alternatively, on your trip back down to the coast stop in Dorrigo itself and grab a bite to eat at Hotel Dorrigo, The Cheeky Sparrow or Components Cafe.

Distance from Coffs Harbour CBD: 67kms
Distance from the airport: 64kms