Bellinger River


  • Bellingen
  • Grade 1 - 3
  • Duration
    Yellow Rock - 1 Hour
    Urunga to Newry Island - 3.5 Hours
    Thora to Bellingen - 1 Day
    Seventh Bridge to Bellingen - 2 Days
    Ninth Bridge to Bellingen - 3 Days
  • View Route Map
  • Attempting rapids is not recommended for novice paddlers unless accompanied by a local guide who can instruct you in the correct techniques.

The Bellinger River and its tributaries flow from the Dorrigo plateau through Thora and Bellingen before entering the ocean at Urunga.

The river has a range of options for exploration by canoe or kayak including exciting rapids at Upper Thora and estuarine paddling near Urunga. All sections are amazing and car pooling is necessary.

Highlights include beautiful views of the Bellinger Valley, lush farm land and the escarpment. Get your adrenaline surging on thrilling rapids or hang in the superb swimming holes. You can hire canoes at Fernmount and paddle to Bellingen or take a guided trip with C-Change Adventures on the white water.

Upstream from Bellingen there are several options for beginners and advanced paddlers. For the more experienced, a paddle one way from the Seventh Bridge to Bellingen, makes an excellent overnight trip, camping at Thora Campground which is free.

A popular day trip, when the water level is high enough, has you leaving from the bridge at Thora and ending at Bellingen.  If you prefer to take it easy you can split the paddle in to two 4 hour trips and Gordonville Crossing provides the perfect location to start or finish your adventure.

The best white water experiences are accessed around Upper Thora. It is possible to travel by vehicle up to the ninth bridge crossing the Bellinger River. It’s a two day trip from the 9th bridge to Thora so it is recommended to travel with a guide who knows where it is permissible to camp on private property.

The best stretch of rapids is from the fourth to the second bridge, a superb short 2-3 hour paddle. Check with a local operator about identifying the bridges and some experience in paddling on small rapids is recommended.

Many hours downstream from Bellingen the Bellinger meets the Kalang at Urunga. Below the Bellinger Bridge, the river becomes broader and more influenced by the tide. In fact, in days past, logging boats used to navigate all the way up to the bridge.

For those wishing to paddle near Urunga, be aware of the possibility of strong currents around the river mouth. If you pick the right tide there are fantastic opportunities for a range of paddling experiences that start at Urunga.

The Urunga Lagoon, on the southern side of Urunga boardwalk, is a safe place to take the kids for a paddle and to explore the mangroves. If you feel like stretching your legs there are a couple of enchanting ‘everglade’ trails that the kids will love.

Newry Island can be circumnavigated from Urunga boat ramp, located near the rail bridge. The trip takes around 3.5 hours, working with the tides.  Paddling around Yellow Rock Island is a shorter option, taking about 1 hour on the right tide.

For a more relaxed experience, paddle up the Bellinger River on the incoming tide and stop at Mylestom for a coffee, before continuing on to explore the several inlets around the island.

The endangered Bellinger Turtle is a rare sighting on the Bellinger River. Sadly the population has been decimated due to a virus. It is imperative that water craft are washed after use to reduce the risk of transferring disease to other rivers.

The freshwater part of the Bellinger is a popular bass fishing area and many canoeists take their tackle to target this species for catch and release.

Levels /grade

Confident and experienced paddlers will love the upper Bellinger which generally provides up to grade 2 experiences (or higher when water levels are higher). Below Bellingen Bridge is relatively tranquil all the way to Urunga.

If the rivers are in flood there is a danger from ‘strainers’ (trees that have fallen across the river but are impassable by watercraft).

Wildlife Spotting and other nature links to add

  • Flying Foxes at Bellingen Island with the best vantage point from the picnic area by the river near Lavenders bridge
  • Sea birds and birds of prey along the Urunga estuary boardwalk
  • Schools of juvenile fish, crabs and other mangrove and saltmarsh inhabitants may be viewed from the Urunga estuary boardwalk.
  • Urunga Headland Video

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