Looking for some olde world Australian charm. Don't hesitate to take the turn to Bellingen when your heading up old highway one. Bellingen is one of the nicest little towns you'll find when driving from Sydney up the Pacific Highway towards Queensland. It's about a half an hours drive from the highway (just before you reach Coffs Harbour) through beautiful dairy farms and lush bush. Bellingen has retained the olde worlde charm of an Aussie country town and is set right on the pebbly, pristine Kalang River.
There's some great old heritage buildings, fabulous coffeeshops and cafes and a timeless feeling if you go for a wander down the main street. Around the centre of town you'll discover the Federal Hotel, the locals watering hole.
The pub has been given the total gentrification on the ground floor level and, while they have retained the essential Aussie Pub feel, it's been brought way upmarket.
A nice verandah to one side is where the locals hang out, was packed when we arrived. They have a central bar at the front with a stage where they put on live acoustic, jazz and blues music on weekends. A pub with live music always wins me over. All the usual gaming rooms etc and very posh toilets, and out the back they have a humming restaurant which serves excellent meals, a cut above your average pub fare by a long shot, but not cheap. Obviously very popular - it was packed, and you line uo for your order and take a buzzer. I enjoyed great fish of the day and my friends found the steak cooked to perfection. The rooms upstairs are pretty ordinary however, not up to the standard of the downstairs renovations, ...still the old style, but quite acceptable nevertheless and cheap at $80 a night if you don't mind wandering down the hall to the bathroom.
Bellingen is well worth a visit for it's beautiful scenery, the charm of the old town and if you head on up the valley you can take an awesome rainforest drive over the hill to Dorrigo, which is some of the most beautiful rural scenery in Australia.
If you happen to be in Bellingen on the Sunday of the month when they hold the Bellingen Markets make sure you check it out - it's fantastic with all that a country market should have, awesome choice of food, old wares, plants, clothing, a really nice vibe, plus great music.