Untamed Australia: Into the wilds of New South Wales

Seen Sydney? Surfed Byron Bay? Raised a glass in the Hunter Valley? If so, now might be the time to explore New South Wales’ national parks. We ask one of Trailfinders’ experts, Henry Hopkinson, for his insider tips on how to tackle Australia’s outback

By Trailfinders and Destination New South Wales
Published 17 May 2019, 12:12 BST
Three Sisters, Katoomba.

Three Sisters, Katoomba.

Photograph by Destination New South Wales

New South Wales’ has more than 255 national parks. These vast expanses of protected wilderness in New South Wales are home to ancient Aboriginal rock art, swathes of rainforest, underground rivers, intricate cave systems and of course, golden stretches of sand.

Boasting UNESCO World Heritage Site status, Blue Mountains National Park is undoubtedly the most popular, with over 87 miles of walking trails winding along gorges and through dense forest.

For an iconic view, Echo Point in Katoomba looks out past the Three Sisters, imposing spire-like rocks that soar to a height of almost 3,000ft and change colour with the rise and fall of the sun. Representing three sisters who, according to Aboriginal legend, were turned to stone, the rock formations are floodlit until around 11pm each evening, and with no light pollution for miles around, they’re an incredible sight, illuminated against the inky black of the night sky.

Only an hour's drive from Coffs Harbour, Dorrigo National Park, meanwhile, has its own viewing point to shout about: the Skywalk. Suspended almost 70ft over the rainforest canopy, visitors can walk along a 70-metre boardwalk jutting out over the edge of an escarpment. Guided trails lead to swimming holes and waterfalls, where twitchers will revel in sightings of regent bowerbirds, red-necked pademelons and topknot pigeons.

Four hours south, meanwhile, Barrington Tops National Park, is famous for abseiling, fishing, and for its work conserving a now thriving population of Tasmanian devils.

Abundant birdlife, including lorikeets and sea eagles, can also be spotted in Murramarang National Park on the New South Wales south coast, although it's known predominantly for its kangaroos. They love to play in the surf, so a dip at Pebbly Beach is often accompanied by a roo or two.

Barrington Tops National Park

Photograph by Getty Images

Trailfinders expert, Henry Hopkinson gives us his suggestions:

Q: Which park should you head to for out of this world landscapes?
A: Kanangra-Boyd National Park, within the Greater Blue Mountains World Heritage Area, has some of the most breathtaking scenery I’ve ever witnessed. Using Boyd River campground as your base to explore the area, you not only get wildlife on your doorstep but also, just a short drive away, is the spectacular Kanangra Walls. The view of the sheer sandstone cliff face at sunset is something I’ll never forget.

Q: And what about for wildlife?
For me, the best wildlife experience I had in New South Wales was in the Blue Mountains. Walking out into the national park one misty morning, we saw hundreds of kangaroos, wallabies and wombats, as well as a platypus and — a personal highlight — the superb fairywren, a tiny bird with gleaming blue plumage. The experience was absolutely awesome.

Q: What makes the national parks in New South Wales so special?
The contrasts. During one trek you can walk through tropical forests, across open plains, and end up with your toes in the sea. Take the six-mile Pretty Beach to Durras Mountain trek, for example: beach, forest and mountain, all in one day. And if that’s not enough, the New South Wales skies are the clearest I’ve seen, speckled with a multitude of stars.

Q: If you had to choose, which is your favourite park and why?
Nightcap National Park. You can be staying in the bustling coastal town of Byron Bay, but within an hour be completely immersed in nature. This park is all thick, tropical jungle, concealing a vast array of wildlife. Follow the 10-mile Minyon Falls walking track, past fern-lined creeks and towering gorges to a backdrop of heard-but-not-seen birds.

Q: What’s a particularly memorable experience you’ve had in a New South Wales park?
A: One exceptional experience that comes to mind was during the Minyon Falls walk. Some friends and I stopped at the picnic area and used the free gas barbecues, then enjoyed our feast looking out at the falls themselves. To round it off, we all took a dip in the natural pool under the falls. It was pretty special.

To book your ideal trip to New South Wales, get in touch with a Trailfinders expert like Henry, here.

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