VISITORS to Barrington Tops National Park and neighbouring Chichester State Forest will be spoilt for choice with what is on offer here for the off-road tourer.
Fantastic camping (including some of Australia’s highest-altitude campgrounds), bushwalks, mountain biking, fishing, some of the country’s most spectacular rainforest (including Antarctic beech trees), and vistas from myriad lookouts all mean a long weekend will barely do it justice.
Around four hours’ drive north of Sydney, these destinations are best accessed from the south via the township of Dungog. Chichester State Forest’s eastern (Telegherry) section (it is split by a southern section of Barrington Tops NP) is only around 20km north from Dungog (via Chichester Dam Road, then Wangat Road) and offers four riverside campgrounds.
Be aware that there are numerous causeways in both the Telegherry and western Allyn River sections that can be impassable after heavy rain, so check track conditions before your visit. Each of the campgrounds in the Telegherry section offer direct access to the river of the same name, so bring your canoe and swimmers.
Frying Pan Creek and Coachwood campgrounds are close together and reasonably spacious, so they’re great for larger groups, and Coachwood is right next to the start of a short walk to the Problem Creek Falls. For those wishing to escape the crowds we’d recommend Currawong Camping Area, a remote, 4x4-only campground just north of Telegherry campground accessed via a river crossing that needs to be negotiated.
Once here, you’ll find brilliant swimming and canoeing in the Telegherry River. The state forest’s western Allyn River is a 40km drive north from the small village of Gresford, 28km west of Dungog, and you’ll need to follow the Allyn River Road to reach the state forest’s southern gateway.
Three largish campgrounds are located just inside the state forest – Dobbie Rim, Pademelon and Old Camp – all of which offer spacious sites that are ideal for off-road camper trailers and caravans. Just north of Old Camp is Ladies Well, a beautiful swimming hole on the Allyn River that’s perfect for families.
Continue farther north into the state forest to reach Allyn River Forest Rest Area, a day-use area with direct access to the Allyn River for swimming and canoeing. Farther north along Allyn River Forest Road you’ll find the northernmost campground of White Rock, which also offers direct river access.
It would be easy to spend a few days in Chichester State Forest, but we’d recommend venturing to the lofty mountains above it that comprise Barrington Tops National Park. The World Heritage-listed national park is best accessed via the town of Gloucester. There are campgrounds aplenty throughout the park, but the 4x4-only campgrounds are recommended to avoid the crowds.
The Barrington Trail is a seasonal 4x4 track (October-May) that runs south along the plateau from the Barrington Trail picnic area off Forest Road. This 15km route provides access to Little Murray and Junction Pools campgrounds, as well as Mt Barrington Picnic area and two of the park’s bushwalk tracks: Aeroplane Hill and Careys Peak.
Little Murray Campground is the launch point for the walk to access Careys Peak Lookout’s epic views, while Junction Pools offers great swimming and trout fishing in the nearby mountain streams. The campground also provides access to the 12km-return Aeroplane Hill Track which passes by Careys Peak Lookout, or you can just sit in camp and watch the local wildlife forage in the sub-alpine grasslands that define this beautiful part of the park.
More Capital City Escapes
The bushwalking in Barrington Tops NP is comprehensive and ranges from short walks to lookouts that take in the views of this World Heritage-listed area, through to day walks such as the excellent Gloucester Tops circuit.
This half-day walk takes in three separate sights – Gloucester Falls, the River Walking Track, and the Antarctic Beech Forest walking track – that combine to showcase the variety of landscape in the park. All of these walks can be done separately if you have little ones in tow, while overnight routes and multi-day epics that traverse the entire mountain range and then drop down to the lowlands are available for serious walkers.
BARRINGTON TOPS AND SURROUNDS
Best time of year: June 1 to September 30.
More info: The majority of the national park’s 4x4 tracks are closed from June 1 to October 1. The same applies for Chichester State Forest. For the latest track conditions and closures, as well as campground fees and park notices, see: www.nationalparks.nsw.gov.au/visit-a-park/parks/barrington-tops-national-park and www.forestrycorporation.com.au/visit/forests/chichester-telegherry