I love a weekend camping trip. A relatively easy way to get some time in nature for some solitude and quiet, and time to reset and recharge the batteries from the humdrum of everyday life.
So a few weeks ago (before lockdown!) when that humdrum was wearing down on me, I knew it was time to grab the sleeping bags, hitch up the t-van and get out of town for a few days. When selecting a venue to travel too on these sorts of trips I like to find locations where we can get a fix of nature and remoteness, the kids can have some space to get around on their bikes but also learn something new and also somewhere with basic amenities like drop toilets. I’m working on ridding reliance on the latter, but being the only bloke in a family of females means certain things are necessary!
For this trip I chose to go back to Barrington Tops National Park – a spot I had visited late last year filming with Pat and his team from Pat Callinan’s 4X4 Adventures. 4 hours from where I am located in Sydney meant a relatively short drive through some beautiful country and it hit all the marks I noted earlier. This National Park is part of the Gondwana Rainforests of Australia World Heritage Area –my kids called it Jurassic Park, in a lot of ways they’re absolutely right!
Last time I was there we stayed at Polblue campground – a large and open campground with well-maintained drop toilets, fire pits and plenty of sprawl space where you never feel too close to any other campers. This time around I did investigate other sites when booking on the National Parks website, looking for some more remoteness, but ultimately decided to stick with what I knew. There was no phone service at Polblu anyway, so that’s remote enough for me! In chatting with the local Ranger when I was up there, I will go back and try Horse Swap Campground next time – it was similar but smaller and apparently gets less visitors. Special mention to that Ranger who came past for a chat and gave us a tent tag. The kids loved the stickers – me, not so much as I was peeling them off all sorts of different places later that week! Rangers come through each day and service the toilets and keep an eye on things – so pay the small camping fee folks, it keeps these places open and maintained for all of us to enjoy!
Leaving Sydney at about lunchtime on the Friday, we came in to the park through Scone, partly because that’s the quickest way, but on this trip the Gloucester entry point was closed due to the road being unsafe to traverse. Checking conditions on the website before you leaving home is critical for this Park. Turning onto Barrington Tops Forest Rd at Moonan starts to give you a taste of what’s to come, with a fairly steep but well graded dirt road inclining from sea level to about 1400 meters when you get to the gates. Airing down isn’t necessary but it makes for a much smoother ride up to that point but also in the park. Of note the main thoroughfares can be accessed by any sort of vehicle, pending general weather conditions. This elevation means low temperatures and interestingly at the time of writing the Park is under a banket of snow. The park under snow is a favourite activity for Sydneysiders to head up and check it out when possible – but note when conditions get too bad there is a chance of closures and obviously risks associated – so check the website before you head up.
For us this trip was time to relax, so we kept the day trips and exploring to a minimum. Notably we arrived on the day that winter seasonal road closures kicked in, so many of the more challenging roads that we traversed with Pat and his team were closed. I can say that the terrain around the park can be very steep and slippery depending on the level of moisture around – so be mindful and carry some recovery gear including a set of quality recovery tracks. There are sections of long bog holes, so either walk them, watch someone do it first, or at least gauge depth before you go through. Many we did had pretty solid bases but nothing is guaranteed and you risk a walk to reception, a potential recovery fee, or damage to your vehicle if you simply send it.
The area has lots of great walking tracks from easy to quite challenging. We were lucky to be camped near the Polbue Swamp walking track – an easy 1-1.5hr return that prove a little slippery for one of my crew, but was really interesting and well-marked. There was even an activity that had the girls looking out for endangered shrubs around the area. Another must do is The Firs – a 100+ year old pine plantation that could make a great set for many a horror movie just off the main road. Devils Waterhole lookout feels like your literally on top of the world with wide sweeping vistas that truly take the breath away. One thing I learnt when out with Pat and his team is the rare Orchids that grow up here seasonally – many being just a centimetre in size that will have you on your hands and knees to inspect them. What they lack in size they absolutely make up for in beauty so look out for and protect them!
Leaving was such sadness, but we relaxed, we ate and drank and got plenty of fresh air. You should check it out!
What to take:
- Drinking Water
- Firewood – we woke up to Zero degree temperatures and collecting firewood is not allowed
- Warm clothing
- Fuel up before entering depending on how much exploring you intend to do behind the wheel
- Sat phone – strictly for emergency as reception is minimal in the park
- Recovery Gear – recovery tracks are a minimum if travelling alone