WATERFALL WAY


Experience delectable trout, crazy teapots, tumbling water and WWII tank traps in this quirky village of Ebor

WORDS AND PHOTOGRAPHY BY TRINA MORRIS. ADDITIONAL PHOTOGRAPHY BY RAY MORRIS

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There’s nothing visibly remarkable about Ebor from the highway, but behind the highway frontage facade lies a surprising little hub of interesting attractions, waiting to be explored. Ebor is one of those hamlets RVers tend to drive straight through. At best, travellers might stop for a quick cuppa, but most roar through without batting an eyelid. When an unexpected delay recently plonked us in Ebor on nightfall, we reluctantly resigned ourselves to setting up camp behind the local pub, disappointed not to have reached Armidale, our intended destination.

“Not to worry”, Ray said. “We can slip away again at dawn.”

How wrong we were! After chatting with locals over beer and a wine – or two – beside the roaring pub fire, we realised there was something special about Ebor and decided to stay on. We ultimately had a very enjoyable threeday stopover.

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Ebor is roughly half way between Armidale and the coast, on the New England plateau in northern NSW. This location is Ebor’s tourist downfall – were it more isolated, more of us would stop, but since it’s an easy day drive between Armidale and Coffs Harbour or Grafton, RVers treat Ebor like a Formula One pit stop – jetting in and out or whizzing straight by!

Access to Ebor was previously known as the B78, but it is now aptly named the Waterfall Way. This fabulous Aussie drive, which traverses the escarpment between Coffs Harbour and Armidale, is renowned for its rugged national parks, lookouts with stunning views, awesome waterfalls, trout-filled rivers, quaint country towns and major service centres, with plenty to offer in attractions and accommodation.

Ebor seems to disappear into the back stalls when reading about the wonders of the Waterfall Way, but we reckon this is unfair, not only for the little village itself, but for the abundance of brilliant freedom camping options nearby. It’s chilly! At an altitude of exactly 1300 metres, you’ll need to pull out some winter woollies between dusk and dawn.

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Despite its minimalist status, Ebor has some unique offerings in activities and campsites. Our unplanned late arrival landed us at the Ebor Falls Hotel Motel – A cosy fire burned in the corner and the walls displayed interesting historic photographs. Peter and Julie Cooke welcomed us to their little countrystyle hotel with a laid back, reserved demeanour, and kindly offered to extend ‘happy hour’ while we settled the rig onto our site in the last vestiges of light.

There are only a few powered sites but they are very reasonably priced, with access to basic amenities if required. Pets are welcome and there’s lush green grass underfoot. The setting is beautiful with native forest trees to the rear, the Guy Fawkes River to one side and a hobby farm complete with clucking chooks and bleating goats on the other.

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With long-time local characters behind the bar, regional history and stories abound, so visitors to the Ebor Falls Hotel Motel are guaranteed to receive tips on the secret locations of Ebor’s best attractions. The most well-known of these is obviously Ebor Falls, named Martiam by the traditional Gumbaynggirr owners, who have revered the falls as a sacred site for hundreds of generations.

A path leads from the village and runs parallel with the gentle upper reaches of the Guy Fawkes River, providing an easy 700m walk to the falls. It is perfect for a brisk morning exercise challenge. While not as vertically spectacular as other cascades on the Waterfall Way, Ebor Falls showcase the Guy Fawkes River gorge beautifully.

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The first viewing platform is built close to the upper falls that tumble prettily over two levels of columned basalt rock, falling 115 metres. The lower Ebor falls, a further 600 metres downstream, disappear into a steep forested gorge. The two viewing platforms are connected by an excellent walking trail that follows the dramatic gorge escarpment, yet is suitable for young and old.

The pretty parklands and grassy woods around the lookout platforms provide an ideal picnic location, with BBQs, picnic tables, information boards and toilet facilities. Local wildlife will keep you company: we spotted crimson rosellas and kangaroos during our visit, and with over 80,000 visitors annually, you are sure to meet other nomads.

Should you be driving rather than walking, access to Ebor Falls is excellent, even for big rigs. The Ebor cemetery, located close to the falls, is situated in a beautiful forest setting and provides an interesting step back in time, with grave headstones dating from the 1890s.

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The Wollomombi Falls lookout in the Oxley Wild Rivers National Park is breathtaking. The collision of two major waterways – the Wollomombi and Chandler Rivers – has gouged the earth away over a squillion millennia, and the resulting erosion has created a massive bowl-like canyon. The falls themselves are a complete contradiction to Ebor Falls – a single long thin ribbon of water tips over the rim of the canyon and plummets uninterrupted, over a total of 260 metres to the splash pool below. When in flood, the falls form a flourishing horsetail formation – impressive stuff!

Chandler Falls appear to cascade comparatively humbly close to their senior partner, yet, at 220 metres they still rank in the top ten tallest Australian waterfalls. If anything, this less prominent shower of high country water actually exemplifies the magnificence of Wollomombi Falls.

Just as impressive, but in a completely different vein, is Point Lookout, which is nothing short of spectacular! At 1563m above sea level, and being the highest point around for miles, the vistas over the rugged New England old growth forests from this lookout are intoxicating.

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There are several enchanting short walks from Point Lookout, ranging from easy to moderately difficult. The must-do walk provides access to two viewing platforms along a 500-metre wheelchair-accessible bitumen track. The exceptional 180-degree views from the edge of the Great Escarpment, over World Heritagelisted forests, are inspiring and on a clear day the Pacific Ocean can be seen seventy kilometres away.

A must-visit Ebor attraction is the fascinating Dutton Trout Hatchery on the Point Lookout road. The Serpentine River flows through the grounds to create a lovely setting, and the self-guided tour is an inexpensive way to fill half a day. Established in 1950, it’s one of the largest hatcheries in the state, where visitors can observe various stages of trout development, prior to their release into mountain streams. We saw each step of the process, from a circular swirl of thousands of tiny fingerlings in a hatching bath, to substantial and magnificently coloured fully-grown specimens, and every rainbow trout was happy and healthy, just waiting to be caught and consumed! Kids – young and old – will enjoy the frenzy of leaping, sleek-bodied trout at feed time.

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Cathedral Rock National Park is another great place to explore and stay, for a low daily fee, close to Ebor. It has two good primitive campgrounds; Native Dog and Barokee (the latter is recommended for short vehicles only). The Park features several walks, the best of which is a fabulous threehour circuit track to a huge outcrop of granite boulders – known as Cathedral Rock. The circuit track is graded easy but the offshoot, which encompasses a scramble up to the summit of the boulder tor, is graded medium to very challenging – depending on whom you talk to. Nevertheless, everyone we spoke to agreed it’s definitely worth the climb.

On our second morning, we stopped by Fusspots Café in the village centre for morning tea. Much to my delight, Shirley has lined the walls of her tearooms with an eclectic collection of teapots, ranging from zany creations to the very traditional English style of vessel. Aside from teapots, Fusspots Cafe is a wealth of knowledge on the secrets of Ebor, it was chatting to Shirley that we learned of Ebor’s continued struggle to save the last remaining tank barrier from WWII. Shirley’s husband, Harold, explained to us that hundreds of these installations were constructed along Australia’s eastern seaboard in 1942, soon after the Japanese entered the pacific war theatre.

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We could hear the frustration in his voice as he shared the trials and tribulations of seeking to bring this piece of Ebor – indeed, Australian – war history to the public eye. He was obviously very pleased that, as visitors to Ebor, we showed such an interest in his passion, and we sincerely hope that his good work will come to something one day.

Armed with Harold’s cryptic mud map and a vague description of the tank trap location, we set off along the Waterfall Way towards Armidale, looking for it. By some miracle and after a couple of backtracks, we parked and set off through the bush. Quite by accident, we stumbled across an old road, part of the realigned B78. After a few more minutes of searching, Ray spotted the caved-in entrance to the tunnel that the war office constructed under the old road. It had once been loaded with dynamite, and a guard was posted with orders to detonate the explosives on the first sign of any Japanese invaders.

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The tank barrier stretched down the hillside for over 100 metres, and our imaginations worked overtime as we wandered amongst dozens of large stumps buried deep in the ground. They led towards a small glade beside a boggy marsh, and, set in the glade was an astonishing collection of massive concrete tetrahedrons. It was like something out of Doctor Who!

Sadly, many of the large timber stumps had been burned away by bushfires, while others were rotting with antiquity. Even so, it was easy to see how effectively they created an impenetrable barrier for Japanese tanks. It is even easier to see why such unique war relics must be preserved!

After a really interesting few days exploring the unique variety of Ebor’s attractions, we definitely recommend travellers pull up and relax in Ebor. Take a little time to discover this chameleon like village. You will be surprised!

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