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NSW Northern Tablelands weekend ride | Rides | Tested

Just south of the Queensland/NSW border you’ll find a riding wonderland to stir the spirit and soothe the soul

This is one of those rides that left us wondering whether it was the riding or the scenery that was most spectacular. Either way it rates right up there as a very worthwhile destination to head for on your bike. The Waterfall Way links the rolling hills of the Northern Tablelands to the picturesque mid North Coast region, just south of Coffs Harbour.

Coming from the west, the Waterfall Way (tourist road B78) starts on the New England Highway opposite Armidale airport. There is a good Caltex roadhouse here where you can fuel up and refresh before following the tourist signs east from the roundabout and skirting across the bottom edge of town. As you ride further up the edge of the Great Dividing Range you pass the turn-off on the right to the Wollomombi Falls camping area, where you can pitch a tent, picnic, or just check out the view. Cathedral Rock National Park lies to your left as you keep riding northeast and has some incredible rock formations and landscapes if you take the time to explore the minor access roads into the area, although many of them are unsealed.

The only town along this stretch is Ebor, and 9km further up the road you’ll find an intersection where you turn right towards Dorrigo. This section of the route has a great road surface and some nice open corners but is prone to heavy mist and damp patches, so take care. There have been many accidents and fatalities involving bikes along this route over the years, as well as a strong Highway Patrol presence which tends to target motorcycles. On this run we were mainly dodging bunny rabbits and coping with a hectic side wind, which is common along the exposed ridgelines before you get to Dorrigo.

As you enter the town of Dorrigo there is fuel and food available before you tackle the best part of this ride – the spectacular mountain pass that takes you down through the rainforest of Dorrigo National Park. The series of tight corners run between a rock wall on one side with several small waterfalls right beside the road, and an awesome view across the mountains on the other side. This section is more speed restricted and has several single lane hazards, but is still a fantastic ride as you work your way down to flatter pastures and the alternative town of Bellingen, and eventually on to the Pacific Highway on the east coast. From here you can head north to Coffs Harbour or south to Nambucca on the motorway.

Dorrigo Mountain is a beautiful part of the world and the roads through here are very popular with local riders who head into the area on the weekends to make the most of the great riding and awesome scenery. Just take care as the weather conditions can be unpredictable, as can the tourist traffic.

Things to do

There are plenty of natural attractions throughout this area that are worthy of a quick stop. Ebor Falls is just a few hundred metres off the road and is well worth a visit, especially after rain. Dorrigo has a rainforest centre that you can visit for more information on the region as well as a closer look at the unique rainforest foliage that defines the landscape around Dorrigo Mountain.

There are many waterfalls along the route and the most spectacular is Ebor Falls

Detour

At Dorrigo you can turn onto the Tyringham Road, an excellent ride with plenty of slow to mid-speed corners that will test your nerve. This road goes all the way across to the Armidale/Grafton Road and is a great way to make a loop ride if you have time to explore the area a little more. The Armidale Road is a top stretch of bitumen itself, which runs north to Grafton and has some brilliant stretches of switchback corners between Dundurrabin and Nymboida that are perfectly suited to riders of sportsbikes, or any bike for that matter.

Essentials

Ebor has a good hotel/motel, café, and 24-hour petrol bowser. Dorrigo has all the services you need and the pub is very popular with riders on the weekend. Be on the lookout for law enforcers as we heard anecdotal evidence from locals of unmarked patrol cars staking out the area on weekends, one even boasting of making 47 bookings on one day.

Fix It

There is little in the way of mechanical assistance along this route so make sure you carry a tyre repair kit and some basic tools. There are bike shops at Armidale, Grafton, and Coffs Harbour though if you get into a bind and need to get your bike transported.

Eat

Fusspots Café in Ebor is open seven days and offers good food and great coffee.

Tallowood Tuckerbox Café in Dorrigo is opposite the hotel and also does a surprisingly good coffee, as well as hot food.

Fusspots Café in Ebor looks humble but offers appealing food and surprisingly great coffee

Fuel Up

United Servo – 3 Cudgery St, Dorrigo (02) 6657 2208

Caltex Armidale Airport – New England Hwy, Armidale (02) 6772 9997

Sleep

The Heritage Hotel/Motel in Dorrigo is very motorcycle friendly with secure off-street parking. They do good pub meals and include a continental breakfast with the rooms that range from motel units at $125 per night and $135 for an ensuite hotel room, to shared rooms at $145 which can be split between four people – bargain. Phone (02) 6657 2016 for more details and reservations.

The magnificent Heritage Hotel/Motel in Dorrigo is the perfect place to stay and eat

STORY & PHOTOGRAPHY TIM MUNRO