pectacular scenery, great four-wheel-drive opportunities, camping options to suit everyone and the ideal getaway close to Sydney – This is the Barrington Tops National Park!
Barrington Tops is located about three to four hours north of Sydney in NSW, Australia. The area is rich in natural beauty and boasts some of the most extensive areas of sub-tropical rainforests in the World. There is both a National Park and extensive State Forests within the Barrington Tops mountains with the rain forests forming part of the Gondwana Rainforest network that extends north towards Queensland. The geography and forests are so precious within this area have ensured the National Park is World Heritage listed.
There are a lot of options for four wheel driving and camping within both the National Park and the Government owned and operated State Forests. But regardless of your choice of camping destination, for most of the camping areas within Barrington, you are going to need a four-wheel drive vehicle to access them.
We chose to camp at the Little Murray camping area which is located within the National Park and is accessible down a fairly rough 4WD only road and about 5km south of the main road over the tops. Little Murray has about 6 different camping options in a clearing located next to a small creek. There is plenty of room to setup big and small tents alike, and camper trailers are also catered for, with soft grass, picnic tables and fireplaces provided by the Parks service.
For some, hanging out and relaxing at the camping area is all that is necessary to have a great camping trip, but we like to get out and explore. So given that the Barrington Tops area is so large, it’s pretty easy to find some great places to visit. Our first visit is to a spot called Junction Pools which is about 8km from where we were camped. A few of our group elected to walk down to the pools and walking in the area is a very popular activity. Another popular activity is mountain biking, and with the extensive road network within the National Park and also in the adjacent state forests, you can find terrain to suit all levels of experience.
Of course, the most popular way to get around is in a car and whilst there are many roads that are smooth and fast, the one down to junction pools is not one of them. Down at Junction Pools, we discovered the water to be extremely cold, despite the warm temperature of the day. It’s easy to forget that Barrington Tops has an elevation of over 1500 metres in places and therefore can get very cold, especially in the winter when snow covers much of the higher sections. Junction Pools gets its name from the many pools of water, but also from the junction of the Barrington River with one of the smaller creeks that flow into the river. The Pools are easily accessible from the road, and there is also a small camping area that overlooks the river.
In the western section of Barrington is the Firs Picnic area, a spooky other world sort of place and is a must visit. Located just off the main road, it’s the remaining few acres of a former pine plantation. Very little light penetrates the dense fir growth and it’s quite eerie but provides a cool place to escape a hot day.
Barrington Tops has a variety of four wheel driving options and there is a huge number of roads throughout the area. In the National Park are many roads in various conditions that are often closed due to wet weather and snow. But when open, there are tracks for beginners through to the hard core adventurer. The State Forests in the Barrington Tops also have a lot to offer in terms of roads, tracks and trails. In some areas the roads are smooth and flowing with a 60 km/h limit whilst in other places you can find low range difficult tracks that will require some thought and inspection before venturing forward. Many of the tracks enable you to do scenic routes starting on the main road and looping back to the same road at a point further along with many great sightseeing opportunities along the way.
There are many rivers that have their source within Barrington Tops. The beginning of the Manning River is only just off the main road through the park and is one of the main rivers in the area. The Manning flows all the way to the ocean from a height of 1500 metres. There are a few interesting things about the Manning, it is one of few rivers to get snow melts in the spring and that has not been dammed at some point along its 261km journey to the east coast.
There’s nothing better than relaxing around a roaring fire when camping. And if the opportunity arises, cooking over the coals is the only way to experience an authentic Aussie bacon and egg breakfast.
Looking on the map, we’ve seen a number of creeks, waterfalls and lookouts and we’re off to check out what we can find. The roads that we are travelling on today are all very well maintained and typical of what you find in most State run Forestry areas. These roads make it easy for all types of sightsee-ers, including those in soft roaders and all-wheel drive sedans. Even most 2WDs would find the going easy in some parts of the State Forest.
Our first stop is Dilgry River and we are looking for Dilgry Falls that is shown on our map. But the bush in this area is extremely thick and there are no obvious walking trails leading in the direction of the falls. But we are still making the most of our visit and exploring the creek and surrounding rock pools.
Finding these waterfalls was proving to be a bit difficult and our next stop would be at a crossing of the Manning River and we could hear what sounded like a waterfall. With a bit of a walk upstream we finally found something that looked more like a what we were after.
But we were convinced there were a few more waterfalls to be found, so heading over to the western side of the Barrington Tops Range, we soon found another waterfall just below Horse Swamp camp-ground. Unlike the previous rivers that flow east, the river here was flowing west into nearby Glenbawn Dam.
Now that we’ve found a few of the water features, it’s time to check out the lookouts within the park and that means back in the car and back to the main road. There are actually a number of places that give you a great view of the vast unexplored valleys, and most of them are only a short walk off the main Barrington Tops road. So it was out of the car and on foot in search of the best lookouts in the park. It wasn’t long before we had found the view we had hoped for.
Our time in Barrington Tops quickly came to an end and after packing up and hitting the road for the journey home, we had one last opportunity to take in the views over the grazing land on the western side of the park.