This year we decided to spend Christmas in New South Wales, like two years ago. As we haven't had too much time recently, we went on our weekly trip without any planning, without reserving accommodation and without carefully planned route… So far there was no problem finding a room for the night, but, we'll see how it works out
The first day was mostly spent in the car, driving along a highway that runs inland, called New England Highway. Along the way we passed one of our favorite places: Stanthorpe and Girraween National Park, but didn't stay there this time. Instead, we stopped in a small town called Allora, known mainly because of the 'Mary Poppins house' - which really is a house, where the author of the novel lived (on which the well-known musical is based). What really attracted us to Allora was the 'Sunflowers route', running to Warwick among sunflower fields, which we thought, would bloom at this time of year. Unfortunately, in December you can't see a single sunflower…. I guess we'll have to get back there another time.
Our first longer stop was in Armidale, which is located halfway between Brisbane and Sydney and is the highest town in Australia. We immediately noticed, rows of maple trees stretched along the streets, but also a lot of poplar, a rather unusual sight in Australia. And since the city is quite high, the climate is cooler and the trees change colors here, and these colors of autumn; red and yellow leaves attract crowds every year in May. Cooler weather also favors the growing of roses and right now in December we could enjoy beautifully blooming flowers.
The city also has plenty of churches, and on one of the streets you can find two cathedrals: directly opposite each other, an Anglican and Catholic cathedral!
Every morning you can explore the city on a free trip organized by volunteers, We also took advantage of this option and we departed on a short trip into the old times. We mostly visited old schools, dormitories and the University of New England. Most of these buildings dating from the early twentieth century, are beautifully preserved and worth visiting. We learned, that even seventy years ago, teachers could not marry - they have to choose between either career or family. They also had to adhere to very strict rules regarding dress code, vivid colors were banned, in particular, the red colour, which was associated with prostitutes…
We were also taken to the old train station, which still runs a service to Sydney: train from the capital of New South Wales arrives here once a day. An old wagon for spreading the tracks poisoned carrots attracted our attention - apparently a very effective way to fight the rabbits, which in Australia are considered pests.
From Armidale we moved towards the coast, following the so-called Waterfall Way (due to many waterfalls along it), stopping for the night in the town of Dorrigo. We slept in a historic hotel (pub), built in 1925 year by a Greek immigrant. He ran the place with his family, working 7 days a week 16 hours, until his death in 1969. The place was at the time the poshest pub between Brisbane and Newcasttle, with rooms having both hot and cold water, with a 5-course dinner served on clean white tablecloths with silver cutlery. Dorrigo lay on the old timber transportation route, so customers were plenty. Everything changed with the development of maritime transport: Coffs Harbour, which is situated on the coast, has become the center of the region.
Some interesting national parks are located in this area : New England NP, Cathedral Rock NP, or Dorrigo NP, the routes running along the mountains tops, or among tropical rainforest. There are a lot of lookouts with views over the valleys and waterfalls - hence the name of the road running through the region, Waterfall Way. Of the waterfalls, we especially recommended the two-level Ebor Falls, and located on the outskirts of Dorrigo, Dangar Falls, where you can swim in a large pool under a waterfall.
Right next to the town is also Dorrigo National Park, which is one of the most visited parks in Australia. This is certainly due to the fact, that it lies close to the coast and has some easy walks, as well as a huge viewing platform extending over the treetops and easy 6,6 km trail Wonga Walk, which is asphalted. This park is part of the oldest forest in Australia dating back to the supercontinent of Gondwana (same forest type as in Queensland's Springbrook NP). Wonga trail leads through two waterfalls, one of which you can walk under without soaking your clothes wet, which gives a unique perspective to observe the world from behind the cascade of water flowing. There was a morning fog in the forest, so the trees covered with moss looked a bit like from a horror movie ...
Waterfall Way goes on to the town of Bellingen, where we stopped for lunch. It is a very lively cultural center, with a lot of musical events throughout the year. The town is picturesquely situated on the river and we will certainly come back there sometime for the river festival (heald each year in November).