Where can you find easy, accessible walking trails that will occupy you for just 60 minutes or less? These pristine wilderness trails have huge WOW factor but you’ll barely work up a sweat!
Float at Barramundi Falls
In Kakadu National Park’s less-visited southern half, a corrugated track leads 12km off Kakadu Highway, bound for secluded Maguk Gorge found deep within Buladjang or Sickness Country. Beyond Maguk’s basic bush campground, a gentle foot trail pushes upstream through shady monsoon forest, following the sandy creek that drains from a deep plunge pool beneath magnificent Barramundi Falls.
You could float here for hours, warming up on hot rock slabs in between chilly dips, but for stellar views and a blissful spa experience, gain some altitude by tackling the 10-minute climb to the top of the falls. Here you can soak in a cluster of body-sized rock spas, filled in succession by a clear cascade before it tumbles over the waterfall’s edge. Paddle across these pools to explore deeper into the gorge, swimming through a narrow rock chasm to more private pools upstream.
The easy walk to Barramundi Falls takes around 30 minutes at a leisurely pace (2km return), but this special spot is difficult to leave so pack a picnic and plenty of cold drinks. For those who linger, Maguk’s bush camp provides toilets, picnic tables and fire pits (BYO drinking water), and charges fees of $6 adults, $3 kids (5-15 years) and $15 per family payable via an honesty box on site.
Climb a Monadnock
A windy granite island rising above coastal heathlands blooming with wildflowers, Mount Chudalup’s ancient monadnock elevates walkers to an expansive viewpoint with very little effort required. Reaching the rock’s modest 187 metre-high summit takes only about 20 minutes (1km), thanks to a gentle, sealed path that curls beneath towering karri and marri timbers, past peppermint and grass trees, and above snotty gobbles and banksias for summit views of Windy Harbour, Point D’Entrecasteaux and the distant Yeagarup Dunes.
Estimated to be around 1177 million years old, Mount Chudalup’s rounded granite dome supports a surprisingly diverse microhabitat of tiny, determined plant species – mosses, lichens and liverworts – that thrive in the cracks and crevices of the windswept rock. At its base, a day-use area provides picnic shelters, gas barbecues and wheelchair-accessible toilets, and you’ll find it 16km south of Northcliffe on Windy Harbour Road en route to the sea.
At the end of the road where clifftop walking tracks teeter along the edge of Point D’Entrecasteaux, you’ll find power and showers at Windy Harbour Campground, and close by, a sandy 4WD track pushes east over the dunes to a top free camp at Gardner River.
Celebrate Sunset at the Devils Marbles
It is every rock-hopper’s dream destination: a boulder field of gigantic granite orbs scattered in heaps across a wide, spinifex-covered valley. Frozen into precarious balancing acts, some split mid-roll as they tumble into the distance, the Devils Marbles lure walkers who quickly lose themselves in a red rock playground.
Just one self-guided trail (15 minutes return) loops in and around the marbles, known to the Warumungu Aborigines as Karlu Karlu. It’s a lovely, easy stroll and elsewhere, a maze of informal paths beckons you into the open spinifex grasslands and around, up and onto the marbles themselves.
Squeezing between rocks and edging up narrow pathways, walkers climb to high viewpoints to sit and watch the sun slip away across a vast vista. As darkness falls, dingoes howl and campfires crackle, making Devils Marbles Conservation Reserve (100km south of Tennant Creek) one of the loveliest places in the Red Centre to spend a night.
Spot Eungella’s Platypus
At the head of the Pioneer Valley, 80km inland from Mackay, Eungella’s misty, high-altitude haven protects pristine rainforest and a stretch of wild river known as the best place in the state to see platypus. On the Broken River at dusk, these tiny, shy monotremes surface in streams of bubbles, ducking and diving in deep, murky pools with a flap of their beaver-like tails as they begin their all-night feeding sessions.
With platypus viewing platforms, a visitor information centre, kiosk, two campgrounds and over 20km of walking trails, Eungella National Park is extremely well set up and very popular. The best short trail for spotting platypus is the Rainforest Discovery Trail that follows a short stretch of Broken River before looping back through dense forest draped with vines and studded with epiphytes (Class 3, 780m, 20-30 minutes). Tackle this lovely trail at dusk or dawn when the park is quiet and platypus are more active.
Close to the trailhead, Broken River Bush Camp caters for caravans, motorhomes and tents and charges fees of $6.15 per person (book in advance, generators permitted). Across the river, the park’s central amenities hub provides toilets, gas barbecues and picnic tables.
Discover NSW’s Declared Wilderness
On the eastern edge of the New England Escarpment, Guy Fawkes River carves a crooked path through some of northern NSW’s most remote wilderness. Surrounded by great swathes of old growth forests and untouchable ranges, this rugged gorge is largely ‘declared wilderness’, unaltered by human intervention and all the more precious for it.
Fortunately for walkers, the remarkable Chaelundi Falls is within easy reach, a mere 500m stroll from Chaelundi’s lovely bush campground ($6 adults, $3.50 kids). Follow the creek over flat terrain to where it suddenly plunges over the edge of the escarpment, spotting wildlife en route (an enormous python curled up trackside waylaid us for some time on our visit).
Once you reach Chaelundi Falls, either retrace your steps back to camp or continue on for another 2km to Lucifer’s Thumb, a fantastic natural lookout above Guy Fawkes River on Chaelundi Bluff where brush-tailed rock wallabies dwell. Guy Fawkes River National Park is located 60kms northwest of Dorrigo, off the Grafton to Armidale road. While in the park, don’t miss a trip to 90 metre-high Ebor Falls, known to Gumbayriggirr people as the Great Falls.