The Hinterlands of the Orara Valley is tranquil, beautiful and only a short drive from Coffs Harbour. The recent bushfires that have ravaged through the Orara Valley have destroyed and damaged properties, businesses have been disrupted and incomes reduced or lost. For...
I know kids (and adults) love Narnia, Neverland, the Shire and the Hundred Acre Woods, so when we heard about Never Never Creek and the Promised Lands near Bellingen, we had to go!
Having checked Google Maps, my husband assured me he knew the way and it would only take about 40 mins to get to Never Never Creek from Sawtell. We packed a picnic morning tea, swimmers and towels, a bucket and a change of clothes (for hubby and Miss 2, since I wasn’t planning on getting wet), and then picked up some takeaway coffees for the road. Bring on the short, scenic drive.
About five minutes in, we had to open Google Maps on my husband’s phone. I tried not to give him ‘the look’ so early in the trip, but I failed. Once he worked out which turn to take, I made the executive decision to keep the GPS directions on. This proved helpful as we got further and further into the trip…
The whole way, I wasn’t sure whether to be more terrified that no one else had been there in weeks and we were going to come across a fallen tree on the road, or that other motorists would speed around the tiny mountain bends and straight into us without warning. It was an unsealed dirt road most of the way, with more potholes than not. My husband the adventure-lover admitted he knew this beforehand and had decided not to mention it.
Like any good adventure into some magical place, it was a strange route to get there, and this only added to the enjoyment of the trip.
We knew we’d arrived when we started to see hints of creeks next to the road and people swimming and jumping off ropes. We pulled up right after crossing the Never Never Creek bridge, where there was a small carpark on the right. There were a few tables in a grassy area, but it was too hot to stay there, so we went straight down to find the water.
We were greeted by thousands upon thousands of smooth rocks, crystal clear ankle-deep water, the sound of trickling waterfalls and playful birds, and plenty of cool shade to sit in. We spread out a towel with our gear and the two kids (hubby and Miss 2) went straight for the water. It was shallow enough for us not to have to worry about her falling over, and in fact, we could walk a long way up the creek without even getting water up to our waists. There are other spots along the creek where you can find deeper swimming holes, but for little kids, this was perfect. We saw a few other families having fun on big floating toys, but for most of the morning, we had the spot to ourselves. It started to get busier after lunch time.
We threw rocks into the water and watched the ripples and wandered around looking for guppy fish. The water was freezing (in March) and according to locals it is always freezing, though you might prefer to say ‘refreshing’ in summer. That didn’t stop Miss 2 and hubby from eventually swimming in a small deep spot they found near a big log. They both walked along and jumped off the log into the water. I enjoyed watching from my spot in the shade.
After we’d been there long enough to get through the food and be sure that Miss 2 had had enough fun to forget how long she’d already spent in the car, we realised it was getting late and we should start heading back.
For fun and to continue our exploring, we drove the whole loop road around the Promised Lands. A few houses we passed had little tables set up out the front, selling fruit or homemade goods. We pulled over and bought some homemade relish, which we may have to go back for! Then the trip continued. The area is stunning, with lush forests, mountain views and green hills. And of course, the crystal waters of Never Never River intertwine with the (sealed) road many times. There are plenty of different spots to park and have a swim and play, so if you find one area is busy, keep driving five minutes and you’ll find another.
None of the swimming spots had public toilets.
It was a huge morning and the perfect place to celebrate my daughter’s second birthday with a little family picnic. After the big adventure and play, our toddler slept the whole way home, which was an extra win for us! Needless to say, we took the longer, sealed route home.
Address: Never Never Creek on Promised Land Road.
Directions: For the scenic route, take the Gleniffer Rd route through Bonville and beyond. For the safer and easier route, take the Pacific Hwy towards Bellingen and then follow the route through Bellingen. The length of the journey will be about the same (2 minutes difference according to Google Maps), as the scenic road requires a much slower pace.
I recommend not taking the ‘quick’ option unless you have a four-wheel-drive and a stomach for adventurous roads. If your kids can enjoy the constant potholes, bumps and turns without getting sick or spilling food everywhere, that’s a bonus too. My husband had the best time ever and declared it his favourite drive (before we got home and he had to clean the car). It was very scenic, but definitely better to know ahead of time what you’re getting yourself into.