Running between Coffs Harbour on the New South Wales coast and the inland city of Armidale, The Waterfall Way is a 200 kilometre drive along one of the most scenic routes in NSW. Passing through the picturesque New England Tablelands, the drive is a perfect deviation to make on a road trip between Sydney and Brisbane, allowing half the journey to be made on the coast road and half on the New England highway inland.
The Waterfall Way is an awe inspiring journey from the high tablelands of New England through the rainforests and down to the Coffs Coast. It is home to many rare and endangered plants and animals that live in an incredible variety of habitats, not to mention some of the most spectacular waterfalls in the country, which give the route its name.
Starting from a junction with the Pacific Highway at Raleigh, midway between Urunga and Coffs Harbour, it follows the south bank of the Bellinger River, passing through Bellingen. After crossing the Bellinger River the road swings north and climbs the escarpment of the Great Dividing Range, skirting the southern edge of the Dorrigo world heritage rainforest and crossing the Newell and Sherrard waterfalls for which the route is named. Single lane traffic restrictions do not permit stopping at these falls, but the Newell Falls may be viewed at a rest area below the fall. At the top of the escarpment (elevation 750 m) a short detour south leads to Griffith's Lookout with views over the Bellinger River National Park and valley.
A short way further on is the turnoff to the visitor centre at the World Heritage Area, Dorrigo National Park, known for its skywalk and walking tracks. The pretty and readily accessible Dangar Falls are located 2.4 km north of the centre of Dorrigo on the Bielsdown River. Proceeding through the town of Dorrigo, the road continues through the pastoral upland of the Dorrigo Plateau before crossing the headwaters of the Nymboida River. The Bicentennial National Trail shares the route prior to reaching Ebor. About nine kilometres after turning left onto the Armidale Grafton road Ebor is passed. This village is close to the Guy Fawkes River National Park and Ebor Falls.
Between Ebor and Wollomombi the route passes through the 8,839 ha Cathedral Rock National Park. The National Heritage Listed Yooroonah Tank Barrier (to stop approaching Japanese tanks in World War II) is approximately 12 kilometres southwest of Ebor and near the route. After leaving Ebor the road passes an intersection, from where the Dutton Trout Hatchery, and Point Lookout are accessed about 10 km east of Waterfall Way in the New England National Park.
Further on, the Wollomombi Falls are about 1 km south of the Waterfall Way. The 145,000 ha World Heritage listed Oxley Wild Rivers National Park is readily accessible from the Wollomombi Falls. From here the road passes 5 km north of the historical mining village of Hillgrove and the viewing platforms at Bakers Creek Falls and the Metz Gorge. There are also other more remote, interesting sites to visit on this Way to Armidale. The Gara Gorge is 18 kilometres south-east of Armidale along the Castledoyle Road leading off the Waterfall Way just east of Armidale.
The road is sealed but relatively narrow and has a steep 14 km winding section. In recent years storms and associated flash flooding have washed away sections of the roadway where it rises to the ranges, leading to traffic being limited to one lane at the waterfalls on the Dorrigo Range.
Aboriginal people tell the story of how the Rainbow Serpent created the gorge at Apsley Falls in the Dreamtime. Take a walk to one of the viewing platforms and you may see a rainbow in the mist of the falling water. The Rainbow Serpent is said to travel underground from the base of the falls to reappear at the mill hole near Walcha on the Apsley River, 20km upstream. The site is marked at Walcha by a mosaic by Gordon Hookey made with the ideas and help of the local Aboriginal community. Apsley Falls are in the Oxley Wild Rivers National Park, just off the Oxley Highway, 20km south of Walcha. The Rainbow Serpent mosaic in Walcha is opposite the end of Legge Street on Derby Street.