With its hippie vibe and natural-treat-filled cafés, nestled neatly in some of Australia’s most incredible countryside, Bellingen is a means of transporting yourself back to Byron Bay circa 1970.
A 30-minute drive south-west from Coffs Harbour, this creative hub is a place where organic is a way of life: a walk through the fortnightly farmers’ markets (held on the second and fourth Saturday of each month at the showgrounds) will show you that.
Outskirts of town are decorated with crystal-clear waterways fed by the Never Never River hidden within the valleys of mountains; a short drive will have you wandering around such tranquil escapes where nature turns on its charm as you sit by streams, listening to a soundtrack suited to a day spa.
Calling the heart of said mountains and waterways home is Cottonwood Cottage which, like Byron, has found the perfect balance between beach and country. For around $300 per night (minimum two-night stay) you can nestle in and lap up the luxury of your environs including private swimming hole on the Never Never, outdoor bath and shower (indoor ones as well), white French doors opening to a vista of rolling mountains (viewable from under the covers of your king-sized bed), and the all-important love chair, perched atop the hill for sunset gazing.
Alternatively, rest your head at North Farm, with its lovely soft beds and gardens filled with organic and biodynamic goodies. Resident greenkeeper John Hodgkinson is more than happy to converse about the vivacious veggie patch or any other topic. The studio will set you back around $200 per night for two.
Hungry? There’s a sophisticated menu of eateries on offer here: Black Bear Café will get you started with a great cup of rocket fuel and breaky selection. The pancakes with grilled banana, vanilla ice-cream and lemon myrtle maple syrup deserve a shout out. There’s also no green waste, with owner Byron Vinecombe supplying his father with whatever greenery he discards to be used for compost in the garden that in turn supplies the café with veggies. Groovy.
Next stop is the Old Butter Factory just on the outskirts where you can enjoy some tasty eats while indulging in a little shopping: Cargo Lane offers a range of imported homewares from Morocco worthy of maxing plastic, while AWL Leather has been making leather goods since 1991 – poke your head into one of the art galleries filled with displays from local artists too.
Finally, No 5 Church will satisfy your dinner cravings with a biodynamic/organic/local produce-inspired menu of vegetarian and carnivorous dishes including a mean curry made according to the seasons and a beef burger made with probably the most mouth-watering bacon to have graced our tastebuds. The venue is a great supporter of live music, too, with local and national acts gracing the stage to entertain as you eat and drink.