There are so many Australian towns we've come to love over the years and Bellingen recently shot to the top of that list. Just inland from Coffs Harbour, the Bellinger Valley is ludicrously beautiful and lush, benefiting from more rainfall than anywhere else in New South Wales. The town itself is both incredibly laid back and bursting with community pride... as well it should. Bellingen is an artsy, health and environmentally-conscious, soulful, foodie haven. Sure it's a little but hippy... kind of like Nimbin you might say... but... really nice, safe, and well tended. If you get a chance to go (and it would be a beautiful spot to take a romantic weekend away... hint hint for anyone without Valentine's plans!) here are 5 things to do in Bellingen that you won't want to miss.
1. Window shopping on Hyde Street & Waterfall Way
Stroll down the main drag and check out the store fronts (I love all the hipster treasures at Funky Junk) and grab a cafe seat where you can admire the street-side planters filled with edible herbs (anyone's welcome to a snip) and guerilla crochet instillations (think tree-trunks and fence posts adorned with granny squares).
2. Get Crafty
Bellingen is a creative, crafty kind of town and if you're anything like me you're going to want to get amongst it. Weave holds monthly craft-ins and regular classes for adults and kids - sign up for a one off if you're planning on stopping by or enroll in a whole series to seriously boost your make-do-and-mend credentials.
3. Treat Yourself to a Double Cone
The Bellingen Gellato Bar on Hyde Street won first prize in the ice-cream/gellato/sorbet category of the Royal Queensland Food and Wine show 2012. Enough said.
4. Head to The Promised Land
The Promised Land is a deep, crystal clear, almost-secret swimming hole at the aptly named Never Never River... and it's got to be in the running for Best Picnic Spot in Australia. Head along Glennider Road for about 10km to the North of Bellingen and you'll find the spot surrounded by rolling green fields, distant mountains, and not much else. On a hot summer's day, passing some time floating in the gentle current, leaping off the rope swing and picnicking on the pebbly banks is worth the drive to Bellingen all by itself.
5. Dinner and a Show at 5 Church St
This restaurant/good-time venue is a community hot spot where the food is bright and wholesome and the menus is sourced from local bio-organic produce. Rolicking live music nights and film screenings often accompany the night's fare and if you go you might want to book ahead - the whole town turns out to join in the party. This was the most delicious burger I've ever had in Australia.