Exploring Barrington Tops National Park, NSW
Barrington Tops National Park is known for its diverse flora and fauna, stunning waterfalls, ancient rainforests and beautiful views of the surrounding landscape – and the fact it’s in an extinct volcano just makes it more attractive. Covering 74,567 hectares, the park is located in the hinterland of the New South Wales Barrington Coast, and is bounded by the towns of Scone, Muswellbrook, Dungog and Gloucester.
As the closest town to the park, Gloucester is considered its gateway. With a population of about 2500, the township was established in 1855 (with earlier settlement starting in the 1830s). The main industries are beef and dairy cattle farming and tourism. From Gloucester you can easily daytrip to any location within the park and be back in time for dinner.
Access to the park is possible on the western side from Scone, but the road is rough, and gets steep and narrow in parts. Not the ideal track for a big caravan.
You can also get into the park from the southern side, heading over from Dungog. However, this does leave you at the bottom end of the park and quite a way from any amenities.
A bit of Background
Barrington Tops National Park is part of the Gondwana Rainforests of Australia World Heritage Area, which recognises the exceptional universal value of the park’s natural heritage, helps raise awareness of its importance, and provides a framework for its ongoing protection and management. It is also part of the Barrington Tops and Gloucester Tops Important Bird Area.
Its climate varies depending on the elevation and location within the park. Generally, it experiences a temperate climate with warm summers and cool winters. In the lower areas of the park, temperatures typically range from 5-15-degrees in winter and 15-25-degrees in summer, while in the higher areas temperatures can drop below freezing in winter and reach a maximum of 15-degrees in summer. The coldest temperature recorded in the park is -17-degrees.
The park receives rainfall throughout the year, with the highest amounts falling between February and May. Due to its elevation, Barrington Tops can experience sudden and unpredictable weather changes, and visitors are advised to be prepared for all weather conditions.
The range of plants and animals benefiting from this moist environment is impressive. The park supports a huge variety of wildlife species including more than 50 mammal, 278 bird, 42 reptile and 18 frog species, and since much of the terrain is steep and inaccessible, these animals have lived a life interrupted only by volcanic eruption.
Aboriginal groups thrived in this area for 30,000 years, some establishing a trading route approximately 100km long through what is now the Hunter Valley to Sydney Harbour. The park and adjoining State Conservation Area are the traditional land of several Aboriginal groups, including the Worimi and Biripi people, the Gringai clan of the Worimi people and the Wonnarua people. Barrington Tops’ rainforest offered a wealth of resources, including many edible fruits, including the native cherry, lilly pilly and figs. Barrington Tops National Park protects ancient campsites, scarred trees and sacred ceremonial places.
Things to Do
Before you delve into this natural paradise, head over to the Gloucester Visitor Centre, where you can stock up on everything you might possibly need or want to know about the park. As a rule of thumb, no matter where you are exploring, asking the locals where the best spots are will often uncover destinations. Or reference Hema Maps’ handy flat map of the park that offers all kinds of useful information, including camping areas and 4WD and hiking tracks.
If you’re looking for spectacular views, check out Careys Peak, Devils Hole and Thunderbolts lookouts, where you will be able to take in the rippling textures of the forest below.
Polblue is the largest and most popular campground and is also the highest one in the country to which you can drive. It has 45 campsites, none of which are marked, and good amenities including a community shed for snowy weather, barbecues, toilets and so on. But be sure to bring your own cooking and drinking water, as well as firewood and a fuel stove.
Polblue is the perfect basecamp for families to enjoy bushwalking, mountain biking, 4WD in the summer, photography and birdwatching.
The conditions of the access road to the campground can vary day to day due to the weather, lack of maintenance and the river causeways that run fast and deep on the Gloucester Tops road after heavy rain. So, take care, always drive with caution, and if in doubt perform a U-turn where possible.
Gloucester Tops is another fantastic spot in the park to check out – and one with even more beautiful scenery enroute. When you start off, the road winds alongside a river, and cows graze on vertical hillsides. It’s pastoral, pretty and charming drive.
The only caravan park on the way there is the neat and tidy Gloucester Tops Riverside Caravan Park, where you’ll find a folksy atmosphere, friendly staff, toilets, a laundry, powered sites, permission to build a campfire, and swimming in the nearby Gloucester River. It’s less common to take your caravan all the way up to Gloucester Tops, so this caravan park makes for an excellent basecamp for daytrips. Enjoy exploring the bushwalking tracks that wind through the rainforest and past the park’s waterfalls, including the stunning Apsley Falls. The Gloucester Tops circuit combines three of these popular and scenic walks into a longer 7km circuit that can be done in sections or in one go.
Barrington Outdoor Adventures, based in Gloucester, offers kayaking, cycling and abseiling experiences throughout the park.
- Barrington Outdoor Adventure Centre (P: (02) 6558 2093)
- Barrington Tops National Park
- Gloucester Holiday Park
- Gloucester Tops Riverside Caravan Park
- Gloucester Visitor Centre
- Polblue Camping Area
Check out our new Mid North Coast New South Wales Map that includes a comprehensive map of the Barrington Tops National Park. This is available at all good outdoor retailers or you can purchase directly from Hema Maps at this link.
At Hema Maps, we strive to provide the most comprehensive and accurate maps and guides for outdoor enthusiasts looking to explore Australia's natural wonders.
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