At risk of contributing to the ever-growing numbers of people visiting this picture perfect and pristine little valley on the mid-north coast of NSW, I'm going to describe a half day loop drive from Bellingen around the Promised Land Loop Road through the beautiful Gleniffer Valley, known locally as 'The Promised Land'.
The Gleniffer Valley is around 12 kms north west of Bellingen on the mid north coast of NSW and was originally settled in 1863.
Within the Gleniffer valley are the locales of Gleniffer, Promised Land, Tallowood Point and Gordonville. The Never Never River has its headwaters in the Dorrigo National Park and cascades hundreds of metres down the escarpment to flow through the valley to the Bellinger River.
Beginning in Bellingen, follow the signs to Gleniffer and cross Lavenders Bridge if it isn't underwater. The Bellinger River floods frequently. It's okay though because most of the time it's an idyllic local waterhole with clear, cool and clean water set against a sunny green backdrop.
Veer off to the left and head up a couple of local streets, following the signs to Gleniffer. Before you know it you'll turn a sharp corner through a stand of trees and you'll be heading down a perfectly tree-lined country lane. Try not to be too overawed and miss the right turn to continue on Gleniffer Road. Head up the narrow and windy road through the forest, over the hill, and down towards Gleniffer.
The Gleniffer School of Arts Hall was built in 1908 on land donated by Nicholas Keough from one of the early settler families. The hall has been maintained over the years by local volunteers and is available for hire. Nearby to Gleniffer is a beautiful little parking area and park (Arthur Keough Park) where you can get out of the car and soak up the atmosphere. Lots of people will turn around here and say that they've seen the Never Never but don't hang around too long. Press on because there's more to see!
Just a little way up the hill from Gleniffer you should turn right again and head down the narrow pot-holed road towards Tallowwood Point and some of the truly special parts of the Never Never. Reassuringly, you can't get lost because the road loops back to the same intersection at Gleniffer.
Swimming and picnicking
After rambling through forested lanes and vibrant green countryside, you'll find yourself at the first of the old wooden trestle bridges and Angel Gabriel Caparoro Reserve. It's a small park and parking area named after a well-known resident of the area in the early 20th century. There's no facilities here but you can park the car, grab the towels and picnic rug, and go laze around on a sunny rock by the crystal clear water. You'll soon see why this place is rated as having some of the most breathtaking scenery in Australia.
Continue along the gravel road and wind through the forest to the next trestle bridge at Tallowwood Point, named for the giant Tallowwood trees once logged in this heavily forested area. Tallowwood trees occasionally grew to heights of 70 metres! From here, it's an easy meander back around the rest of the loop road back to Gleniffer.
From here you can head back the way you came to Bellingen, or head up Gordonville Road. This route crosses the Never Never River and follows the northern bank of the Bellinger River over the Rosewood River bridge to Thora. If it's safe, stop at the tiny parking area next to the Rosewood River bridge and check out the healthy and vibrant colours of all the Staghorn ferns high in the trees above the river.
There's an excellent RV and camping area at Thora with a well-stocked general store and amenities on the Bellinger River. From here, it's just a quick drive along the Waterfall Way back to Bellingen.
Places to stay
It's easy to find accommodation in Bellingen nearby but a stay in The Promised Land feels a million miles away from anywhere. There's nothing to break the silence sometimes but the burbling of the river as it swishes on by as it has for thousands of years.
A couple of places to consider are Aniseed Luxury Villas and Promised Land Retreat.
Things to remember
It rains a lot in The Promised Land; locals often say that it 'always rains first in the promised land.' The valley has a long history and property is tightly held. It's not hard to see why. Respect the area and the friendly people who live there. Leave no trace of your visit and take only photos with you.
Part of the route is unpaved and the bridges are single lane trestle bridges but it's all 2WD accessible. The loop road will take about an hour to circle around back to Bello (without stops), but this is one road trip worth taking the time to slow down and just enjoy the ride.