Bellingen

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Bellingen for grey nomads
The streets of Bellingen boast many interesting shops and cafes Photo: Tourism NSW

The scenic riverside commu­nity of Bellingen on the New South Wales mid north coast has much to recommend it to grey nomads.

The town’s main street is lined with magnificent historic buildings, including the tim­ber, stone and iron lace Ham­mond & Wheatley Empo­rium. As well as an impressive looking pub, there are cafes, craft shops and an eclectic mix of other ‘interesting’ stores. For such a traditional-looking rural Australian town, Bellingen has a surprisingly relaxed and bohemian ‘vibe’.

Situated in the Bellinger Val­ley between the coast and the Dorrigo Plateau, the town has attracted a large number of creative people searching for a laid-back lifestyle in a beautiful part of the world. Visitors can get a real sense of what this community is all about at the famous Bellingen Community Markets, which are held on the third Saturday of every month. Here visitors can find a fantastic range of handmade arts and crafts, fresh produce, alternative therapies, live entertainment, and local food.

Another must-visit destina­tion is the century-old Old Butter Factory which is packed with arts and crafts, and unusual items of furniture.

Although it has a popula­tion of a little over 2,000, that number swells greatly when the town hosts annual festi­vals such as the Bellingen Jazz & Blues Festival, the Bellingen Music Festival, and the Bell­ingen River Festival.

At the heart of the commu­nity is the beautiful Bellinger River, and there are many places on its banks to enjoy a picnic, a quick drink, or to sample one of the pies from nearby bakeries. The bridge which links the two halves of the town (and which regularly floods) may be familiar to movie-loving nomads from the 2003 comedy, Danny Deckchair, which was largely filmed here.

Around Bellingen are a num­ber of beautiful waterways and creeks, and a short trip out to the lush and luxuriant Prom­ised Land is recommended.

Unfortunately, the local cara­van park was abandoned sev­eral years ago after a colony of flying foxes moved in … but there is camping avail­able at the showground. Many nomads also choose to leave their vans at coastal locations such as Coffs Harbour, Rep­ton, and Urunga and make a day trip of it. This is an easy and a beautiful drive.

Heading further west is the mountaintop town of Dorrigo with its famous rainforest cen­tre, and the iconic Waterfall Way Drive. The road between Bellingen and Dorrigo does get steep and twisty however, and is narrow in parts.

Despite its unique ambi­ence and cosmopolitan feel, Bellingen can still fly under a surprisingly high number of grey nomad radars. Make sure it doesn’t fly under yours!

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