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If you head to Armidale from Coffs Harbour or vice versa, you will pass through the town of Dorrigo. It sits atop the Great Dividing Range at an altitude of 762 metres. It was once considered as a site for the national capital before Canberra won the day in 1908. On the surface it is as though Tom Thumbleton had thrown his magic boomerang then making time stand still in Dorrigo. However, the exterior belies a town rich in diversity, with plenty to see and do and more importantly lots to eat.

The feeling that Dorrigo is a working museum is hard to ignore but therein lies charm number one. The Don Dorrigo and Guy Fawkes Museum is the actual museum in town, located in Myrtle Street just off the main road. It is not open every day but is well worth the three dollars entry fee if you do catch it open. It is well laid out, carefully annotated and brimming with all manner of life items from the local past. It is compact and will not leave even the most easily bored time to wonder “ how much longer?”.

Dorrigo is bisected by Hickory Street running across the main road of Waterfall Way. On the corner is Dorrigo Antiques. Forget your quaint little curio shop idea as Dorrigo antiques is a sprawling antique metropolis, bigger inside than the museum. It is filled with thousands of items from the near to old past with the beauty that if you like something you can take it home, for a fee.

Just along from the corner is the Smallest Motorcycle Museum in the World also called Café Del Fuego. I presume the fire comes from the passion of the owner, Juan Godoy who mixes a brand of welcoming hospitality and good food with the motorcycle theme. Waterfall Way up to Dorrigo from Coffs Harbour and the surrounding area is a renowned motorcycle ride with Café Del Fuego a popular drop in spot.

An Evans 119cc two stroke powered cycle from the early 1920's

The bakery will provide another slice of history as well as it’s fine pastries, bread, pies and pasties. It boasts wood fired ovens not that these are a display item within the shop.

The local newspaper if you can find a copy looks antique even though it will be the current issue. Published once a week the Dorrigo Gazette is the only hot metal press produced paper in the country.

Further along Waterfall Way towards North Dorrigo, just over the Bielsdown River is the Dorrigo Railway and Steam Museum. The collection of rolling stock and engines is the largest such conglomeration in the Southern Hemisphere. The sad thing is you can only look from the fence line as the museum is a still in progress venture. For all train enthusiasts it is hoped it will open one day.

There are plenty of other remnants of the past in Dorrigo including a reminder of the rich forestry heritage and charm number two; the wakeup call to perhaps how over complicated life has become. The fallen log sitting in Tallow Park holds enough timber to build the average sized cottage of the time. When you see it presented like that and view the relatively simple pleasantness of Dorrigo, you have to wonder whether we have actually progressed far.

But don’t take that as a indication of “ freedom’s just another word for nothing left to do” as there is plenty to do in and around Dorrigo. Close to Dorrigo are many natural wonders, National Parks, the rainforest centre and walking tracks as well as Dangar Falls.

Charm number three. There are the usual amenities in Dorrigo as well as some specialist shops. The Dorrigo Lolly Shop has been covered previously. There are  clothes shops, a haberdashery shop, excellent nick nacks places with items out of the ordinary, so have a good hunt.

Then there is the feeling of creativity, charm number four. The mural outside the Tourist Information Centre is a treasure. It depicts Dorrigo and the surrounds in a wonderful abstraction. It is fantastic with depth, texture and colour. The town has several outlets for various forms of artistic endeavour. All are welcoming, diverse in their offerings and not over powering in any way if you feel challenged by another’s vision.

If you have had a chance to get around Dorrigo you will need to fill your own tank at some stage. Charm number five. There is good and varied food to suit most requirements.

33 on Hickory is a new incarnation of a delightful restaurant. It is only open nights Thursday to Sunday and from the news about town it will not fail to impress with gourmet pizza and pasta offerings. The smells were enticing and the friendly owners will ensure Dorrigo retains this special place to provide a great place to dine out.

And don’t forget Café Del Fuego, more traditional Aussie food but excellently made, offering good value and the interesting atmosphere.

Lick of the Spoon is a café adjacent to the Red Dirt boutique distillery. Now we’re talking! There are others too, sometimes within a shop as well as good pub grub and the RSL is not going to turn you away.

If you decide you do not want to leave for a while visit the Tourist Information Centre as there are many places to stay in and around Dorrigo but they are not all evident by what you see. This is not Las Vegas, there is an absence of flashy neon beckoning you in.

Do yourself a favour if you live on the Mid North Coast or are one of the many visitors to the area; make an effort to go to Dorrigo. You will be uplifted and broadened by the experience.

Published: Feb 27, 2010 4:38pm by shaun.

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