I’ve you’ve got a couple of days free and you want to explore New South Wales, you may want to visit the Barrington Tops National Park.
The Barrington Tops is an amazing World Heritage Site located about 250kms north of Sydney.
The region between Mount Barrington, Mount Royal and the Gloucester Tops was declared the ‘Barrington Tops National Park’ in 1969.
In 1986 the Barrington Tops National Park was listed as a World Heritage Area and a Wilderness Area.
The water that runs through many of the creeks and rivers of the national park are well known for being pure.
Important Lesson Learnt
There are two ways to access the national park — from the east, and from the west. The road to the top from the west is totally unsealed. The road from the east — from Gloucester — is mostly sealed. We drove up to the national park from Scone — and experienced the ‘charm’ of the unsealed road — it’s a slow drove, but has some amazing views.
The quickest way to the top of the Barrington Tops is via Gloucester.
If you’re driving into the Barrington Tops National Park, prepare for a full day experience. The drive has lots of tight corners that you’ll need to navigate. There are no cafes or shops in the national park. But, there are a couple of picnic areas. Mobile phone coverage in this region of New South Wales is poor.
The Barrington Tops National Park is a popular destination for four wheel drivers. We passed plenty of 4WD ‘convoys’ inside the park.
The drive from the west into the Barrington Tops is an eye-opener — driving close to cliff-drops of hundreds of metres along unsealed and unfenced road. Not many people take this route via the Barrington Tops Forest Road — you’ll find yourself driving your car away from the cliff’s edge. Don’t look down!
Once we reached the mountain’s plateau we stopped briefly at an old picnic ground located at the gate to the the Stewart Brooks State Forest.
The drive along the top of the Barrington Tops is rewarding. You’ll drive into the middle of a 1966 experimentation plantation — The Firs.
Popular with campers and picnickers is the Polblue Campground and Picnic Area. The Polblue Swamp Walk is located at this spot. A local person pointed-out to us that the swamp is the starting point for many river catchments in northern New South Wales. If you have a spare hour, the walk around the swamp is worth doing. Keep an eye out for the helipad!
The peak mountain in the national park is Brumlow Top — it hits a height of 1,586 metres. This spot is located along a trail near Polblue.
As we drove east across the Barrington Tops we came across two lookouts. Both lookouts are located not far from the Barrington Tops Forest Road — and they’re well sign posted.
The Devils Hole Lookout provides the widest view of the Barrington Tops National Park.
The other lookout, Thunderbolts Lookout, is named after Frederick Wordsworth Ward — he was a convict who escaped Cookatoo Island and called himself ‘Captain Thunderbolt.’ This spot overlooks the area where he conducted some of his crime sprees during the 1860s.
On our way out of the national park — heading east over the mostly sealed road — we drove down the Scone Road to Barrington where we turned left and travelled 90kms to Walcha.
Thunderbolts Way has lots of corners at the southern end of the road, but there are some long straights as you near the plains south of Walcha and Armidale. The road is popular with motorbike riders.
We saw lots of motorbikes doing excessive speeds along the Thunderbolts Way. We didn’t come across and speed cameras or patrolling police cars.
The only food stop that we passed on our whole trip between Scone and Walcha was at Moonan Flat on Hunter Road — a small cafe, and large outdoor pub.
Walcha is a popular food stop for people travelling along Thunderbolts Way. Several cafes were open when we visited on a Saturday afternoon.
From Walcha, you can choose to drive down the mountain to Wauchope and Port Macquarie, or along the tablelands to Armidale. We chose Armidale where we stayed the night before travelling east to Dorrigo and eventually Port Macquarie.
The trip was thoroughly enjoyable.
We enjoyed exploring a part of New South Wales that most people would drive around and not pass through.