1. Blowering Reservoir
In northern Kosciuszko National Park, springtime snowmelt reveals a new high altitude playground where hikers can hit the trails, and four-wheel drivers and mountain bikers reach historic cattlemen’s huts and distant waterholes.
Brumbies returning to the High Country excite photographers stalking the Treeless Plains, Yarrangobilly Caves entice adventurers underground, and trout tempts travellers to nearby Blowering Reservoir.
This excellent free-camping destination is found on the western edge of the national park, 17km south of Tumut. Head here to park your rig on a foreshore campsite and shake out the fishing rods. Stocked with Murray cod and golden perch, and famous for its catches of redfin and rainbow and brown trout, barely a camper comes to Blowering Reservoir without a tinnie in tow.
That’s not to say there aren’t other, equally enjoyable ways to explore this substantial waterway that, when full, engulfs an area 18km long and 4km wide. There are trails to walk and wildlife to watch, and the calm waters accommodate an incongruous mix of kayakers, sailors, water-skiers and swimmers. Eastern grey kangaroos groom the reservoir’s grassy shores and the woodlands harbour noisy flocks of gang-gang cockatoos and crimson rosellas.
Five free campgrounds, unrestricted stays and facilities that include toilets, picnic tables and fireplaces (no pets), make Blowering a top place to relax.
Closest to Tumut, the first camp at Log Bridge Creek is a shady choice for travellers with small rigs and bushwalkers keen to explore the excellent Blowering Cliffs Walk to Blowering Falls (5km return) and the longer, tougher Warogong Sugarloaf Trail (11km return).
Water-skiers favour The Pines campground for its boat ramp and shady free-range sites, while camps at Hume’s Crossing and Yachting Point cater to big rigs, and Yolde campground’s cosy bush sites suit compact campers seeking solitude.
Location: Follow the Snowy Mountains Highway 17km south of Tumut.
Camping: Open year-round and accessible to conventional vehicles and caravans.
Fishing: Grab a NSW recreational fishing licence at www.licence.nsw.gov.au (from $7 for three days, kids fish for free).
More information: www.snowymountains.com.au.
2. Coolah Tops
Coveting a vast, high altitude wilderness of silvertop stringybark forests and crystal cascades, Coolah Tops National Park entices travellers west of Newcastle with great camping and top trails. From the tiny town of Coolah you must climb the Warung Plateau, which, despite its steep appearance, is entirely suitable for conventional vehicles and rigs.
When you reach the top, The Barracks is a good place to base yourself, providing a shady circle of spacious, caravan-friendly campsites beneath a canopy of tall eucalypts with sulphur-crested cockatoos and crimson rosellas for company.
There are no time limits or fees imposed here, and facilities include fireplaces, picnic tables, a wheelchair-accessible toilet and you can get drinking water from the rainwater tank or boil up water from the small stream flowing past camp. The Barracks’ grassy, free-range camp is home to great mobs of red-necked wallabies and eastern grey kangaroos that welcome walkers returning to camp at day’s end. After dark, greater gliders can frequently be heard calling to each other.
Close to camp, a vast stand of hundred-year-old giant grass trees tower 4m high. Ride or drive to the edge of the escarpment at nearby Bundella Lookout for spectacular panoramas of the Liverpool Plains and the Warrumbungles’ distant volcanic peaks.
From here, the easy Mullian Track leads walkers on a 20-minute (return) stroll to The Pinnacle Lookout (900m) to stand on a knife-edge of volcanic rock and watch wedge-tailed eagles riding the thermals. Steep cliffs along the escarpment are pockmarked with deep caves up to 60m long.
Further afield, the Snow Gum Walk – a trail beneath the largest known species of snowgum – is worth your energy, as is the short interpretive trail that leads to viewing platforms above Norfolk Falls’ 35m drop (1.1km/25mins return). Four-wheel drives can reach Bald Hill Creek and Boulder Falls, and historical Brackens Hut, a 1937 cattleman’s hut that is available for rent.
Spring and autumn are said to be the best times to visit Coolah Tops. Arrive from August to October to catch the park’s silver wattles in glorious golden bloom.
Location: From Newcastle, head 275km along the Golden Highway to Coolah and follow Coolah Creek Road for 30km to the east. Sections of this road are steep and unsealed but navigable by conventional vehicles and small to medium-sized rigs driven with care.
Camping: Free (no pets or generators).
More information: www.nationalparks.nsw.gov.au.
3. Morton National Park
Rising dramatically alongside New South Wales’ popular south coast, Morton National Park’s mind-blowing sandstone wilderness woos travellers with grand vistas and short walks through 200,000 hectares of colourful heathlands.
In Moreton’s accessible south-east corner, three favourite bushwalking trails lead beneath towering turpentine trees and through rainforested gullies to the edge of arching escarpments etched with waterfalls that drop breathlessly away.
Travellers based at one of the coastal holiday parks in nearby Ulladulla can take a very scenic drive that loops alongside the Clyde River to lofty lookouts over the flattop peaks of the remote Budawang Wilderness. En route, you can wrangle bass on the Clyde River and explore the ghost town of Old Brooman, a weathered collection of old mill worker’s cottages.
If a leg-stretch is in order, easy-to-reach Granite Falls demands little effort, accessed via an interpretive trail that meanders through summertime blooms of fragrant boronia and banksia. Spot the historical tin mining shafts and enormous stumps of turpentine trees en route. At trail’s end, Wandandian Creek appears suddenly, lurching 63m over the edge of a vast stone amphitheatre.
Further along Twelve Mile Road, George Boyd Lookout captures a vast vista from Lake Conjola to the coast. From here, the Rainforest Trail drops beneath the escarpment’s flaking face, skirting beneath arcing rock overhangs into a fairy garden of glossy ferns and chiselled, lichen-covered cliffs (30-40 minutes return).
The trek to Mount Bushwalker is a more challenging affair (7km return) that rewards with dramatic views of Shrouded Gods Mountain, the Castle and Pigeon House Mountain. This collection of prominent peaks got their distinguished names courtesy of Captain James Cook on April 22 1770, and they have been impressing visitors ever since.
Location: Morton National Park stretches west of the Princes Highway between Ulladulla and Nowra.
Camping: The private campground at Shallow Crossing on the lower reaches of the Clyde River charges modest fees and there’s a good choice of holiday parks on the coast between Ulladulla and Nowra.