Remote natural wonders in NSW national parks
Trek dramatic volcanic landscapes, breathe in the beauty of ancient Gondwana rainforest and enrich your mind as you marvel at Aboriginal sculptures – and more – in these underrated parts of regional NSW.
Travelling to the more wild and remote parts of the state offers rich rewards: natural wonders far from city lights with abundant wildlife as your only company. Set your GPS for an adventure you won’t forget: from bucket-list hikes across rocky outcrops to the best views of the night sky in Australia and sacred Aboriginal land where you can learn about connection to Country.
Circle the most incredible volcanic landscape
Long, long ago, wild volcanic activity in what is now Warrumbungle National Park, near Coonabarabran, forced a cavalcade of magma to burst upwards through a massive crack in the bedrock. The resulting formation is today known as the Bread Knife: a 600-metre-long sliver of rock that towers 100 metres high and sits in the company of dozens of other striking spires, dykes and lava domes. It is within this magnificently bizarre landscape you’ll find the 14.5km Breadknife and Grand High Tops Walk, with arresting vistas that will make your heart race and transport you to another world. Twitchers will delight in the soundtrack of birdsong – among them the creaking and wailing of the peregrine falcon, the world’s fastest animal. Come spring, the circuit is bursting with wildflowers: feast your senses on carpets of purple hoveas, white daisy bushes, yellow wattles and orange pea flowers.
Camp under the stars at Australia’s only Dark Sky Park
Leave the city lights far behind you and experience the wonders of Australia’s only Dark Sky Park and the first of its kind in the whole Southern Hemisphere. Recognised by the International Dark-Sky Association for its exceptionally starry nights, Warrumbungle National Park is a place where you can gaze up at more constellations than you knew existed. Tucked away within the park is Camp Blackman, and as the sun sets, prepare to contemplate your place in the universe in this dazzling nocturnal environment. As well as magnificent nightscapes, you’ll find mobs of resident kangaroos, wedge-tailed eagles, endangered brush-tailed rock wallabies and koalas – all of which you can spy in the daylight hours on one of the camp’s nearby hikes, such as the Belougery Split Rock Circuit, Burbie Canyon Walking Track and Mount Exmouth Walking Track.
Feel reborn at one of NSW’s most underrated national parks
If you’re seeking wildflowers and wildlife, set your GPS for the rich and varied landscapes of Gibraltar Range National Park in north-eastern NSW near Glen Innes. Covered in World Heritage-listed Gondwana Rainforest – which has been growing for hundreds of millions of years – you’ll get an astounding glimpse into an ancient world that couldn’t feel further from the trappings of modern life. The Dandahra Crags walking track is a unique track to try: feel like a speck against the expansive granite outcrops; spot wildflowers in spring; and wander the montane swamps, keeping an ear out for the guttural call of giant barred frogs.
The diverse environment of this national park also supports an abundance of birdlife – 140 species, in fact! The rare rufous scrub-bird and wonga pigeon can be found in the rainforest, whereas it’s in the drier parts of the park that you’re likely to spy the golden whistler and the spotted quail thrush. Just a few days in this Garden of Eden – with its very limited phone reception – will leave you feeling like a whole new person.
Hike the oasis of Mutawintji Gorge and gain an appreciation of its cultural significance
There’s something about walking through a gorge that makes your feel like you’ve entered another world, and this is certainly true of the gloriously scenic Mutawintji Gorge. Popping out of semi-arid lands like an oasis in the Mutawintji National Park, northeast of Broken Hill, the phenomenal 6km hike mostly follows the river gum-lined creek and creek bed. Carrying you past soaring red cliffs and refreshing rock pools where shingleback lizards bask in the radiant sun, at the end you’ll be rewarded with a peaceful pool where you can have a dip or gaze on the still water while you enjoy a picnic. Stop by the rocky overhang of Thaaklatjika (Wright's Cave) to observe remarkable Aboriginal paintings, stencils and engravings. Home to the Malyankapa and Pandjikali people for aeons, the Mutawintji lands are jointly managed by Aboriginal Owners and the NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service.
Admire an Aboriginal sculpture gallery in the middle of the bush
Wander through Timmallallie National Park in northwest NSW, and you’ll not only find a vast and ancient forest, but you’ll also discover artistic symbols of Aboriginal culture. Your first stop should be the award-winning Pilliga Forest Discovery Centre for expert advice, interactive displays and art by the local community. Then it’s onto the award-winning Sculptures in the Scrub trail, situated in the heart of the Pilliga Forest – the largest native forest west of the Great Dividing Range and an iconic landscape that Gamilaroi people and environmental activists have fought hard to conserve.
Discover snaking serpents, soaring comets and magnificent mosaics, all of which complement the surrounding landscape beautifully. Over four years in the making, these profound pieces are the result of a collaboration between artists, local young people and Elders, who worked together to showcase their stories through creativity. Spend time reading up on each artist’s backstory, and you’ll gain a swelling sense of the magnitude of history that came before you. Once you’ve finished with the sculptures, head down to the nearby picnic area and camping ground, throw something delicious on a barbecue and ponder the knowledge you’ve gained.