Service town surrounded by national parks and waterfalls on the edge of the Dorrigo Plateau.
Dorrigo is situated on the Dorrigo Plateau near the edge of the New England escarpment above the Bellinger Valley. It is a quiet rural service town surrounded by rich agricultural lands which are predominantly used for sheep and cattle. The area is noted for its large number of waterfalls and bushwalks. Its location on the edge of the escarpment results in a number of impressively panoramic views across the Bellinger Valley. In keeping with the district's long tradition of timber cutting most of the streets in the town are named after timbers - thus Cypress, Mahogany, Ash, Tallowood, Rosewood, Hickory, Myrtle, Kurrajong and so on.
Dorrigo is located 549 km north of Sydney via the Pacific Highway and Waterfall Way. It is 730 m above sea level.^ TOP
Origin of Name
Over the years there has been some truly wonderful controversy about the naming of Dorrigo. For decades the official version was "At this time Major Edward Parke explored the Dorrigo Plateau planning to settle there. Major Parke had fought in the Peninsula Wars under a Spanish General named Don Dorrigo. He decided to honour this Spanish General by naming the eastern section of the plateau 'Dorrigo'." Some sources disagreed with this explanation suggesting that the name 'Dorrigo' was an abbreviation of 'Dondorrigo' which was said to have been a local Aboriginal word for the stringy bark gum tree.
Then, in 2002, a group known as the Dorrigo Plateau Walking Together Group issued a firm press release insisting "We note on your Web Page that you make reference to a Spanish General by the name of Don Dorrigo as the antecedent for the naming of present day Dorrigo.
"For the sake of accuracy and consistency this information needs to be corrected. The NSW Geographical Names Register records that the name has its antecedence in the Gumbaingiir language, the name of the indigenous people upon whose land Dorrigo stands, and it means 'Stringy Bark' (Dundurriga). Extensive research has also been conducted with the Spanish Military Archives in Madrid re 'General Don Dorrigo' and they have confirmed that no such person ever existed.
"As a gesture of reconciliation and sign of respect to the local Gumbaingiir People you are invited to delete any reference to 'General Don Dorrigo' and source your information regarding the origins of the name Dorrigo from The Geographical Names Register."
Things to See and Do
Dorrigo Steam Railway and Museum
The hugely impressive collection of engines and rolling stock that is the Dorrigo Steam Railway and Museum is located in Tallowood Street to the west of Dorrigo township. The website proudly declares: "Dorrigo Steam Railway and Museum Limited is home to the largest collection of preserved railway vehicles and memorabilia from the various Government and private railways of New South Wales. It is one of the most comprehensive railway collections in the world, with exhibits ranging from 1855 to the present day." Certainly it is hugely impressive. On the website they have a list of all the engines and rolling stock they are currently holding. It includes 44 steam locomotives, 26 diesel engines, four electric locomotives, 18 railmotors, two rail pay buses, and over 280 carriages and wagons. It is not open to the public but if you drive down Tallowood Street you get a good idea of the vast amount of equipment which has been accumulated by this unusual museum. There is also a plan to reopen 70 km of branch line so that some of the rolling stock can be used to provide round trips and day trips for visitors. The museum is not open (but will eventually be opened) check http://www.dsrm.org.au for updates and information.
Located 2 km north of the town centre on Coramba Road, the Dangar Falls are an ideal place for a picnic with excellent picnic and barbecue facilities. The small and pretty cascade falls drop into a pool where people, against the instruction of signs, jump and swim. It is possible to get down and walk along the river below the falls. The World of Waterfalls website has a useful and detailed account of the falls. Check it out at http://www.world-of-waterfalls.com/australia-dangar-falls.html.
Dorrigo National Park
Located only 4 km south of Dorrigo (Dome Road leads off Waterfall Way) the Dorrigo National Park is a wonderland of waterfalls and interesting bushwalks on the edge of the Dorrigo escarpment. The logical starting point is the Dorrigo Rainforest Centre which can provide maps, guidance for bushwalks and detailed information on the park which includes rainforest, subtropical rainforest, warm and cool temperate rainforests and dry rainforest. There are impressive stands of sassafras, red cedar, coachwood and yellow carabeen (some of the trees are over 600 years old) as well as over 60 species of bird including the satin bower-bird, the rufus scrub bird, the brush turkey and the lyrebird. It is now part of the World Heritage Site Gondwana Rainforests of Australia.
Dorrigo Rainforest Centre
The Rainforest Centre provides information about the National Park. It also has an interactive display, The Rainforest Revealed, which explains the genesis of the rainforest and offers insights into the local fauna and flora. It is an ideal starting point. It also has a cafe - the Canopy Cafe. For more information tel: (02) 6657 2309. It is open from 9.00 am - 4.30 pm daily.
Walks in the Dorrigo National Park
Lyrebird Link Track
The easiest of the walks in the National Park, the Lyrebird Link Track, is only 800 metres and will take around 20 minutes. It is designated "easy". The National Park website explains: "The lush rainforest contains giant stinging trees, birds nest ferns and lawyer cane palms that use their tiny hooks to climb high into the rainforest canopy in search of sunlight. There are information panels along the way to help you find out more about the rainforest plants and animals." It connects with the Wonga Walk. For more information check out http://www.nationalparks.nsw.gov.au/things-to-do/Walking-tracks/Lyrebird-Link-track.
A pleasant, medium level, and popular, 6.2 km loop which takes around 2 hours 30 minutes, the Wonga Walk is cool and shaded. It starts at the Dorrigo Rainforest Centre and passes the Crystal Shower Falls while traversing sections of ancient rainforest. For more information check out http://www.nationalparks.nsw.gov.au/things-to-do/Walking-tracks/Wonga-walk.
The National Parks website (http://www.nationalparks.nsw.gov.au/things-to-do/Lookouts/Skywalk-lookout) points out that the Skywalk is "Directly connected to Dorrigo Rainforest Centre ... and offers a bird’s-eye view of the surrounding landscape. Perched right on the edge of the escarpment, the views take in Bellinger Valley to the coast with deep valleys and gorges, blanketed in a rich rainforest. If birdwatching is of interest, look for regent bowerbirds, topknot pigeons and grey goshawks. Skywalk lookout is a 70 m boardwalk that soars over the edge of the escarpment some 21 m above the rainforest." It is free but access to the park incurs a fee.
Other Attractions in the Area
Located on the edge of the escarpment 4 km along the road to Bellingen, Griffiths Lookout provides dramatic and panoramic views of the Bellinger Valley. It can be accessed by turning into Maynard Plains Road near the Lookout Motor Inn. The lookout is 4 km along the road. It is considered one of the best views on the whole of the east coast of Australia. On a clear day it is possible to see the Pacific Ocean and Kempsey which is 100 km away. The Dorrigo website (http://www.dorrigo.com/chamber-meetings/12.html) notes that the farmers in the area have won numerous Landcare awards because of their commitment to reafforestation of the valleys.
Located 48 km west of Dorrigo on the road to Armidale, the Ebor Falls occur where the Guy Fawkes River drops 115 m over columned basalt rock. There are three viewing platforms (one close to the car park, one another 600 metres along the escarpment, and the third another 20 metres along) all of which offer views of the falls and the Macleay Valley.
New England National Park
There is an excellent, downloadable brochure - New England National Park - which can be accessed at http://www.environment.nsw.gov.au/resources/parks/brochures/07151NewEnglandNP.pdf. It includes maps and detailed information about the park and the walks in the park. The park, which is located between Armidale and Dorrigo (it is 85 km from Armidale and 75 km from Dorrigo to Point Lookout Road which runs off Waterfall Way), is a 72,241 ha, world heritage listed wilderness area of varying habitats reflecting dramatic differences of altitude. The park's ecosystems, over 52,000 ha of which are intentionally preserved as wilderness, range from snow gum woodland and Antarctic beech rainforest to subtropical rainforest, including wet and dry eucalypt forest, subalpine heath and wetlands. There are over 1,000 plant species, large numbers of mammals and reptiles and over 100 species of bird. Clearly marked bushwalks lead through mossy beech forests and fern gullies. From the entrance at Point Lookout Road it is 11 km along a dirt road to the Thungatti Camping Area where there are picnic, barbecue and toilet facilities.
Point Lookout and the Walks
Point Lookout stands 1564 m above sea-level and affords spectacular views down the almost vertical escarpment into the Bellinger River Valley and beyond to the ocean which is 70 km away. A short 100 m wheelchair-friendly track leads from the car park to the two viewing platforms. There is a picnic shelter at Point Lookout with an open fireplace and there are picnic areas at Berarngutta and Banksia Point.
Eagles Nest Track
At Eagle's Nest Lookout a 2.5 km circular walking track (it takes around 1 hour 45 minutes) leads along a high country trail, dipping into cool Antarctic Beech forest and passing Weeping Rock.
The 7 km circular Lyrebird Nature Walk commences at Banksia Point, 800 m south of Point Lookout. It leads deep into rainforest past Weeping Rock, a large sheer moss-covered cliff face that towers overhead. It can be steep and slippery in places.
The Cascades Walk enters an Antarctic Beech forest near Wrights Lookout. It is a medium difficult walk which covers 6 km and takes three hours return. There are beech orchids in the spring.
Tea Tree Falls Walk
On the eastern edge of the Thungutti camping area is a small pocket of rainforest with a shallow creek. The Tea Tree Falls Walk, a one hour stroll, starts there and follows a creek through forest and woodland to Tom's Cabin.
Cathedral Rock National Park
The NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service have produced a Cathedral Rock National Park downloadable brochure (http://www.environment.nsw.gov.au/resources/parks/brochures/CathedralRock08.pdf) which provides a good map and details of camping and walking within the park. Located long Waterfall Way between Armidale (70 km east) and Dorrigo (60 km west) is a left turn into Round Mountain Road which goes to Barokee Rest Area, Round Mountain and Cathedral Rock. The National Park is characterised by large granite outcrops. The landforms, vegetation and temperatures are quite different to those experienced in New England National Park. There are easily accessible wetlands, gully rainforest, wet and dry eucalypt and wet heath. Wallabies and kangaroos tend to congregate around the marshlands at dusk. There are also wildflowers in summer and bird watchers will find the park rewarding with rose robins, flycatchers and pardalotes common.
Located 7 km from Waterfall Way along Round Mountain Road is Barokee Rest Area (it has secluded camping sites) and further along the road arrives at Round Mountain (1584 m), the highest point of the New England Tablelands. From the Barokee Rest Area there is an easy, 5.8 km loop track (it takes around 2.5 hours) to Cathedral Rock. There is an additional 400 m spur track which leads to the top of the rock where the views are outstanding, though the rocks can be slippery and the track dangerous.
On the appropriately named Waterfall Way, which joins Dorrigo and Armidale, along a clearly signposted side road are the Wollomombi Falls, Australia's longest single drop falls. This is where the Wollomombi River falls 220 m over the cliff to the gorge below. The plateau at this point is 1160 metres above sea-level. There is an easy 2 km gorge rim walk (the Wollomombi Walking Track) which passes two lookouts. It is 2 km, graded as easy, and takes around 90 minutes. There are also views across Chandlers Waterfall. Check out http://www.nationalparks.nsw.gov.au/things-to-do/Walking-tracks/Wollomombi-walking-track for more details.
* Before European occupation the Dorrigo area was inhabited by people from the Gumbainggir (sometimes written 'Gumbaynggir' and 'Kumbangerie') Aboriginal language group.
* The first European onto the Dorrigo Plateau was an escaped convict named Richard Craig who lived with the local Aborigines and, embracing the hunter-gatherer lifestyle, wandered between the coast and the plateau.
* The first "official" European was Land Commissioner Oakes who reached the mouth of the Bellinger River on the 3 August, 1840.
* By 1841 timber cutters had entered the Bellinger River searching for red cedar.
* It was not until the 1860s that permanent settlement occurred on the plateau.
* In the 1860s the cost of settlement was ten shillings a year for 40 acres (16 ha) and this attracted people eager to raise animals for wool and beef and to cut down the rich stands of rosewood, silky oak, cedar, marble wood and Arctic beech in the district.
* By 1865 a track had been constructed from Dorrigo down the mountain to the Bellinger valley. This ensured access to the coast. Prior to the track it had taken Dorrigo settlers up to six months to make the return trip to the coast.
* By the early years of the 20th century the district had been subdivided and farmers were availing themselves of the rich soil.
* In the 1920s farms were made available to soldier settlers who became successful dairy farmers.
* By 1906 Dorrigo had its own butter factory.
* By 1922 it had a bacon factory.
* In 1924 the railway reached Dorrigo from Glenreagh.
* In the 1930s potato growing on the rich local soils became popular.
* The railway closed in 1972.^ TOP
Dorrigo Visitor Information Centre, 36 Hickory Street, tel: (02) 6657 2486. Open from 10.00 am - 4.00 pm.^ TOP
The town's Chamber of Commerce website - http://www.dorrigo.com - includes information about accommodation and things to do. There is also an excellent website with huge amounts of local information. Check out https://www.destinationdorrigo.com.^ TOP