There are both hippy and artisan stores alongside cafes, boutiques and quality dining options, which is hardly surprising given the area, surrounded by rich pasture, is a veritable food bowl.
Our home for the weekend is the award-winning Lilypad Luxury Cabins, just 4kms from town.
We cross a bridge and drive past farms and rolling hills before we come to a steep driveway. We drive past the owner’s house to two self-contained cabins perched on a hill overlooking the lake. A note with my name on it informs us which of the two cabins is ours for the weekend.
Lilypad is owned by the friendly Yvonne and Frank Wynen, who built the two eco-cabins on their 12-acre property with the sole purpose of sharing their slice of paradise with visitors from all over the world.
Our self-contained abode is comfortable and private, with a king-sized bed and kitchenette where our hosts have left some fruit and chocolates in a basket.
There’s a bathroom with a tub designed for two positioned by the window so you can look at the lake and gardens during a relaxing soak.
We have a glass of bubbles on the balcony enjoying the crisp county air and last moments of the sunset.
Wanting to make the most of a childfree weekend, we call a cab and make our way into Cedar Bar & Kitchen, a 110-year-old converted church on Church Street in the heart of the town, for dinner.
The fully-licensed restaurant, boasting high ceilings and the original stained glass windows, is buzzing when we arrive and a bunch of writers - we spy respected journalist Kerry O’Brien - are gathered in a function space out the back.
Our host, owner Victoria Harper, is warm and attentive and we allow her to select some of her favourite dishes for us, which we pair with a bottle of French rose.
We enjoy the house-made hummus with smoky paprika, pine nuts, parsley and flatbread and the house cured salmon pastrami with pickled baby beetroot, black quinoa, snow peas and goats curd.
For mains, we try the fish special and a side of crispy house-made polenta chips with truffle aioli and shaved Parmigiano, which are both delicious.
Content, we hop in a taxi and retreat to the cabin and soon fall into a deep sleep.
The following morning, the mercury has dropped considerably so we rug up and drive to The Old Butter Factory Café for breakfast.
Located in the original 1926 butter factory building – the first reinforced concrete structure in New South Wales – the 25-year-old café is a local landmark.
The fireplace is crackling and we take up a seat inside and admire the high ceilings and ornate chandeliers above.
Owner Pia Etteldorf hails from Trier, a southwestern German city in the Moselle wine region, near Luxembourg.
She moved to Sydney to work with Four Seasons back in 1991 and made Bellingen her home in 2003 after passing through en route to Coffs Harbour and falling in love with it.
“It reminded me of Europe, well Germany, with all of the green and hilly mountains,” she tells me. “It was pure gut instinct to move here but I fell in love with it.
“Not only is it beautiful on the eye, there is really, really good community support; it’s magic.”
Etteldorf is just as passionate about her menu and the fresh, seasonal produce is sourced locally where possible for the house-made, preservative free dishes.
I relish every bite of my Clean & Green breakfast [$18.90] with sautéed spinach, asparagus, broccoli, spiced chickpeas, pesto, grilled haloumi, cherry tomatoes and a poached egg with Dukkah and a strong flat white.
Refueled, we are ready to explore the natural wonders of the area.
We take a 35-minute drive along a scenic, winding road to the Dorrigo National Park, part of the Gondwana Rainforests of Australia World Heritage Area.
We walk along an elevated boardwalk through the tress at the visitor’s centre, and then, keen to walk off breakfast, do the 3.5km return walk to Crystal Shower Falls. Surrounded by verdant towering rainforest, we listen to the sounds of native birds and walk over a suspension bridge from which we admire the cascading falls.
Later, we explore the river and some much-loved secret freshwater swimming holes, which the locals prefer to keep to themselves in the fear they will become loved-to-death by snap happy tourists.
Two friendly dreadlocked locals show us to their favourite swimming spot and, despite the cold weather, we can’t resist a dip in this tranquil space.
There is no one else around and there’s spirituality inherent in the landscape; it’s truly magical.
After an active day, we are ravenous and take a seat by the fire at the eclectic and laidback No.5 Church Street in town.
There are guitars on the wall, and the atmosphere is lively and we enjoy some margaritas and Mexican fare.
After dinner, we stroll down an alleyway to The Bellingen Brewery & Co. a converted old factory where locals and tourists alike are dancing to the tunes provided by a band playing on a rickety mezzanine level above the main bar.
The energy of the crowd is infectious and I find myself grinning as I sip on a craft beer and observe the carefree scene thinking how refreshing it is to be in a place where no one is on an iPhone and people of all ages are dancing with abandon.
On our last morning, we head into town and swing by the hip HYDE Bellingen for a coffee and to browse a slick edit of clothes, accessories and homewares.
As I drive away, I think about Etteldorf’s comments that Bellingen has a unique energy that draws people in.
With its beautiful scenery, free-spirited, eclectic mix of people and burgeoning food scene, it reminds me very much of the Byron Bay I knew as a child.
I just hope it stays that way.