Fun fact. There are over 225 national parks in NSW. You might only know a handful, including Blue Mountains National Park, Royal National Park, Bouddi National Park, Mungo National Park, and a few others. They’re all beautiful in their own right, but if you’re looking to get lost, and explore uncharted grounds, then venture to one of the state’s underrated national parks.
Ditch the crowds, ditch the city lights, and ditch the wifi. Here, it’s just you and mother nature.
Just a 1.5-hour drive north of Coffs Harbour is Bundjalung National Park, an often overlooked slice of land ideal for water adventures. Bundjalung’s mix of rivers, beaches, and freshwater lagoons, makes it the ideal place to kayak, paddle, or snorkel the shallow reefs. There are also mountain bike and hiking trails that curb the water and take you into the rainforest. Stay for the night in one of the camping facilities or beachside cottages. Make sure you stop by Black Rocks Beach, a remarkable collection of rocks you can explore on the beach.
This park is a significant place for the Dharawal people with many sacred sites scattered throughout. Although, those who respect the land, will be rewarded with deep bushland, encompassing tall eucalypts, swamps, waterfalls, and a serene swimming hole. Although, the pristine waterhole is considered sacred, therefore only women and children can swim there. Men are asked not to swim. An alternative swimming spot is O’Hares Creek, which you will find if you walk the short, yet challenging Jingga track. There’s also a lookout offering sweeping gorge views and don’t skip a visit to Maddens Falls, a multi-tier waterfall.
Located in southern NSW, just outside Canberra is Bungonia National Park. Here, there are five main walking tracks, that go beyond a smooth hike. Instead, this particular park is an outdoor adventure lover’s playground. You can hike, go caving, canyoning, and abseiling. There’s a deep gorge you can wade into. There are also some impressive views to be had from atop boulders, especially if you can get out of your comfort zone. Although, if you prefer an easier walk, the lookout is an easy grade, the rewarding views at the end on the viewing platform are amazing. It looks right down into the valley and stretches the surrounding mountains.
Pilliga National Park encompasses over half a million hectares, with 2,000km of public trails. As you can imagine, there is a lot to do and see here. Spend the weekend exploring sandstone formations and salt caves. At the campground, which is free, you can venture out on a 3km track to see the cool Sculptures in the Scrub and sit down for a barbecue lunch after. During the right season, this park is full of wildflowers. They blanket the ground in colour.
You probably wouldn’t know it, but one of the country’s best hikes is hidden in this park. It’s called the grand high tops walk, and it’s a circuit of the ancient volcano remains. The walk is gentle with well-maintained tracks, so it’s quite accessible, although, toward the end, it gets more challenging. There is some climbing involved. Once you reach the end though, the views over the mountains and jagged peaks are phenomenal. Look out for the Breadknife, a lava rock wall that quite literally looks like a bread knife. You can continue to Bluff Mountain for even more sweeping views. This park is also incredible for stargazing. It’s the unofficial Dark Sky Park in NSW.
Not all national parks are hours outside of city limits. Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park is right on Sydney’s doorstep and it offers city dwellers some much-needed fresh air and open space. The walking tracks range from easy to challenging. Hike to West Head lookout for sweeping views over Pittwater and Barrenjoey Head, or hike down to find your own private beach. Resolute Beach is a great place to start. There are plenty of great fishing spots. Stop by Bobbin Head for a picnic by the water or explore the lighthouse and enjoy the epic views from above.
If you’re looking for a magical rainforest adventure, punch in Dorrigo National Park in your GPS. There is nothing quite like meandering through lush greenery only to come to a clearing with a sparkling waterfall. It’s called Crystal Shower Falls for a reason. Take in the sight from the suspension bridge, before following the track that leads to a rocky cavern behind the waterfall. Get up high on the skywalk which overlooks the entire rainforest and beyond. There is so much to do and see here, you can spend all day and still not cover everything. Don’t forget to check out Waterfall Way, a scenic drive linking Coffs Harbour and Armidale. The waterfalls are gushing on the side of the road.
You will also find Ebor Falls along Waterfall Way. Seems fitting right? The multi-tiered falls are a spectacular sight, and you can get up and close to them. The walk is around 700 metres and makes for a great stop to stretch your legs on a drive to Armidale or surrounding areas. There are multiple viewing platforms to stand on, for views above, and just below the falls. There is no swimming here, so don’t even try it. The park is also known as a birdwatching hot spot so keep your eyes peeled.
Just a short drive from Nowra is Morton National Park, a popular day trip for those seeking some outdoor time. One of the highlights of this park is the Fairy Bower Falls. The walk is an hour’s loop, which is fairly easy. There are some steep parts along the way, including some small streams that lead to the top of the waterfall. Once reached, enjoy views of the falls or take the ladder down to the base. A highlight of this walk is Tooths Lookout and if you have time, opt in for the four-hour hike from the lookout to discover several natural sites, including creeks, and waterfalls.
If you’re near Gosford, consider wandering into this park. You can walk along beaches and up to lookouts, with iconic views of the coast. Add Warrah Lookout and Staples Lookout to your to-do list. It’s one of the most popular rest stops on the iconic coastline—Somersby Fall picnic area. There’s a spectacular waterfall called Somersby Falls, a short 20-minute walk away. The walking track winds down to the bottom of the falls, along a 100-metre path with lookout spots along the way.
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