New South Wales isn’t blessed with as much beach camping as Queensland is, but what it does have is sublime bush camping, and a place such as The Gorge at Clarence River is no exception.
Less than two hours west of Grafton, The Gorge needs to be seen to be believed.
Via Copmanhurst, the road to the property is just the start of what you’ll see when you arrive. With a view of the Clarence River in the distance, you’ll follow winding dirt through a picturesque landscape to 3365 hectares of serenity.
The Gorge has been in the Winters family for more than 100 years and is still a working cattle farm, but in more recent years it has become a tourist destination for those seeking a serious getaway. When you arrive at the house, Neil and Sue will come out to say g’day and then Neil will give you a tour of the property.
The campsites are clean and well-cleared, most are grassy and level, and all offer a spectacular view of the river with the mountains as a backdrop. You’ll be supplied firewood and you can gather your own driftwood if needed. Neil will also collect your rubbish each day from the bins supplied – it is little luxuries like this that make camping with the family a bit easier. If you don’t want to camp, there is an alternative. ‘The Shack’ is made of solid brick and stone and sits up near the house. It sleeps up to 12 people.
If camping is your thing, the campsite is one of those places where, once you’re set up, you can just sit down and chill for the entire trip, with no need to get in the truck to drive anywhere. You can put the electronics and social media away, fold out your camp chair, crack a cold one and just take it all in, gazing at the unbelievable scenery and abundance of surrounding birdlife. It’s heaven!
Fishing? Well, it’s hard to camp beside a river and not be a keen fisherman! If you don’t have your own boat or kayaks, don’t worry. You can hire a canoe for $20 a day, throw your fishing gear inside and glide up to the gorge to wet a line. The water is home to some good-sized bass and any fish caught must be released.
Paddling up the gorge is very peaceful, and the bonus of sitting low in the water is the ability to get to the smaller areas, close to the bank, where bigger boats can’t go. This allows you to take in the surrounding sheer rock faces that show their true colours as the sun moves over them.
If scenery doesn’t take your fancy, there are rapids, which you’ll get to after passing some smaller waterfalls. You can attempt the rapids if you’re an experienced paddler, but it’s not recommended if you’re not, as it’s easy to flip a kayak. It’s better to tie up on the right-hand side where there’s a small patch of sand.
You can then walk up the gorge towards the waterfall to the best fishing spots. If you have a boat with a motor, it’s possible to get through the rapids to one of the better fishing spots. Tie up among the rocks where the water is calm and you should be able to get out onto the rocks to cast your line.
If you choose to walk to the waterfall, there is no track to follow and it’s very rocky with a lot of big steps, so be mindful of your footing. Just follow the river and eventually it will open up to a spot where you will notice other people fishing.
Standing at the top of the gorge is breathtaking as you have a bird’s-eye view of the river below. Clambering down the rocks towards the water’s edge can be daunting if you don’t like heights, but you might only be here once, so summon the courage, as this will be your best chance to catch some fish!
The bass sit around the bottom of the rocks where the water swirls and pools. It’s calmer there and the fish can see their food more clearly. Please note that no bait fishing is allowed, so lure fishing is a must. Set up your rig in the early morning or late afternoon – there’s not much better than fishing at sunset!
Once your day of fishing is done, climb up the vertical rocks of one of the waterfalls. Just across the river from where the kayaks are tied is a smaller waterfall where there are a few flatter rocks to stand on. Tie up at the base of the waterfall and find your way to the top.
You’ll notice a bushwalking trail once you get up there. It’s best to go just on sunset, when the rocks and the mountains in the distance burst with colour. It’s definitely worth taking a camera to snap the landscape!
You know what tops this place off? The fact that you can take your four-legged friends as well. Campsites that allow dogs are becoming few and far between these days. You don’t have to fish every day, either. There will be days when you just want to do nothing.
So take some floaty toys, blow them up and relax in the water all afternoon. Or you can float with the current from up the river. If you have a mate with a boat, get them to drop you off farther up so you can float downstream. It gives you yet another amazing view of the property.
This place is one of those spots where it’s possible to do nothing all day and, really, if serenity is what you’re after – plus a place that’s affordable, caters for every family and offers many things to do – then this is for you. Make sure you get to this piece of paradise at least once. You’ll love it.
GOOD AT THE GORGE
• Dogs allowed
• Country hospitality
• Bush walking
• Catch-and-release fishing
• Supplied firewood
• Daily rubbish removal
The Gorge, on the Clarence River, is about one hour and
20 minutes’ drive north-west of Grafton, via Copmanhurst, in northern NSW.
$20 per car load, per night.
There are a lot of different campsites, some accessible by most vehicles and some by 4x4 only.
Neil, the owner of the property, takes you to your campsite on arrival.
There are toilets and showers at the main house, but it is just as easy to take your own.
The road to the property is graded once off the blacktop, so it is easy for any vehicle to get in.
There are no 4x4 tracks open to the public on the property.
Telephone: 02 6647 2173
Address: The Gorge, Via Copmanhurst, NSW, 2460
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