Coffs Harbour was originally the home of the Gumbaynggirr tribe. The name was changed by Captain John Korff who was seeking safety from the storm that prevented him from entering the river at Urunga in 1847 and called the place "Korffs Harbour". A spelling mistake in later years was made and it was gazetted as the name Coffs Harbour thus being recorded. Laying in the hills behind Coffs it is possible to explore some local history and camp in several riverside locations. We decided to explore our forgotten past recently with a trip out into the Nymboi Binderay NAtional Park where it is possible to walk amongst old mill equipment, a walk around an old loggers camp and walk through a Tallowood Forest where the trees are an estimated 800 years old.
Heading west from the tourist mecca of Coffs we passed through the town of Coramba just 14km away, settled in the 1880's this town was a base for local loggers and several gold mines, it is interesting to note that the river here at Coramba actually flows west to Grafton before it can flow out to sea. This is due to the lay of the land from volcanic activity some 30 million years ago. Just out of Coramba we jumped on the Eastern Dorrigo Way and headed up the mountain listening to the sounds of whip birds as we passed through pockets of rainforest . Several quaint towns , Lowanna and Ulong, sit quietly up here on the mountain and are towns from the past. These towns were settled in the days when timber industry was thriving after the discovery of Red Cedar and Tallowood Forests during the 1870s. Not much is left here now, just an abandon railway and several buildings.
Just out of Ulong we jumped onto the unsealed Bobo Road where it passes old farms that sit quietly on the Bobo River. Our first stop would be the old town of Cascade, some 14 km away. Crossing the Bobo River on a narrow one lane bridge you soon enter several state forest pine plantations. These plantations are regally harvested and care should be taken if logging practices are in place. The town of Cascade, once a busy timber town, soon appeared out of no where and it was here that we could walk around the Old Case Mill. Back in the early 1900's several mills operated here with steam driven machinery as forest tramways bought huge logs here to the mill, before it was transported on steam ships to Sydney and Newcastle. Another interesting fact that we noted was that during World War II ammunition cases were made here from rainforest timbers.
It is possible to walk the Heritage Trail here at Cascade that volunteers maintain amongst old relics and marvel just how life was back some 100 years ago. A new and larger mill was built here in 1946 for the local timbers but was burnt down some 20 years later for the film Winds of Jarrah. Leaving Cascade we wandered along on Moses Rock Road through moist rain forest sections where tall coachwood trees and gums lined the road, and it was evident that this hadn't been logged for some time, which defiantly was a good thing. At this stage we noted that we were just an hour away from the coast, yet we had seen no other traffic and there was no phone reception. Slowing down with the windows down we soon heard whip birds and even had several Lyre Birds dart across the road in front of us.
Jumping onto Cedar Road that is well sign posted toward Platypus Flats camping area we soon entered the Nymboi Binderay National Park. This is a large, remote, undeveloped wilderness park. It contains a range of dramatic landscapes, and is famous for the challenging white water rafting on the Nymboida River. The roads here are maintained on a regular basis so most AWD's should be fine, but like we found there is always the chance of a soft section or even a fallen tree. Another great stop that we found was the Tramway Walk some 5km along. Here it is possible to explore an old loggers camp that is decaying in in the rainforest. The walk takes you around the old camp along the narrow gauge tramway line that was used to haul logs from the bush. A main feature of the walk is a 90 foot pole in the centre of the camp that had to be greased daily with a worker climbing the pole with a bucket - no OH and S back then. Along the walk there are several massive Blackbutt Trees that still stand, it is hard to comprehend just how the old timers hand cut these trees before hauling them out. Platypus Flats Camping area is located another 5km down the road where you can camp along the Nymboida River or just visit for a day out. With grassy sites, free gas bbq's, pit toilets, this is top spot. On our visit we saw several Platypus looking for food in the pools beside the camping areas, several wallabies in the camp grounds and goannas cruising the river banks.
Leaving Platypus Flats we decided to head towards Dorrigo along Mills Trail that leaves the Nymbodia River, but wanted to check out a stand of Tallowood Trees. The turn to the Norm Jolley Memorial Grove is along Mills Road some 8km along, and with a 5km detour through thick rain forest pockets that seems impossible to penetrate we soon arrived at our destination.The first thing you’ll notice at Norman Jolly picnic area are the gigantic old-growth trees, the largest of which stand up to 55 metres tall and a couple of metres wide. They are thought to be up to 800 years old and make this a scenic and peaceful place to picnic and relax for the afternoon. If you have time, walk the easy Coachwood loop track which starts from the picnic area. Dedicated to 19th century forester Norman Jolly who made an important contribution to the teaching and practice of forestry in Australia, you’ll notice a couple of historic logging arches that are relics of a time when this land was logged beside the picnic tables.
Leaving here we backtracked the 5km to the turn before heading further towards Dorrigo. Its only a short drive throughout the National Park before we hit more State Forest Plantations. Some people frown at logging in these locations, but under a controlled environment and strict conditions it can be a great renewable source to harvest. It isn't long before the odd farm starts to appear as you climb towards the 800 metres above sea level mark and it is here that you cross the very upper reaches of the Nymboida River as it trickles down to the valleys to become the mighty Nymboida River.
We soon hit the tar road, near another abandon mill town of Bostobrick. We decided that after a long session in the Nymboi Binderay National Park we would turn left and head into the village of Dorrigo, but we would check out the magnificent Dangar Falls on our way. Its a short drive from the falls into Dorrigo, where you can acquire basic food and fuel items, and to decided which way to head on your next adventure wether it be a coastal run or to head further onto the tablelands. Our decision was to wander back down to the coast for a afternoon stroll along one of the pristine beaches that the Coffs Coast has to offer.