Granite Country. The name says it all. A place where the tough stone breaks the earth’s crust en masse, leading to jagged peaks and impossibly steep gorges.
But the formations you’ll see on a road trip through NSW Granite Country haven’t breached the surface like a mountain range. Rather, softer sedimentary rock has washed away over millennia, revealing the harder rock beneath. What you’re seeing is frozen magma from deep within the earth.
In part one we drove between three of the Granite Country parks that NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service manage. We saw the largest granite monolith in Australia, rare grevilleas, and a gorge filled with churning whitewater.
Ready to continue the tour? This 189km road trip will take you through 4 NSW national parks spread over the New England Granite Belt in the north of the state. With waterfalls that drop over 200 metres, World Heritage Gondwana Rainforest, and a host of endangered marsupials, there’s something for everyone.
The best bit? We’ve done the hard work and put together all the best places you can stay within the parks. You’re going to want to spend the night.
Boonoo Boonoo National Park
Our journey begins 27km north east of Tenterfield in Boonoo Boonoo National Park. Pronounced ‘bunna-bunoo’, the name somewhat surprisingly translates to ‘poor country with no animals to provide food’, but Bundjalung country has changed a great deal since colonisation and you can now see kangaroos, spotted-tailed quolls, Rufous bettongs and brush-tailed rock wallabies within the park.
After the excitement of the falls, why not cook up a feed at Boonoo Boonoo Falls picnic area? Or head straight to Cypress Pine Campground and pitch your tent next to the winding Boonoo Boonoo River above the falls. With wild swimming opportunities and 6km of river to explore between camp and the falls, you’re sure to find your own little patch of paradise. You could also book a stay in nearby Robinsons Cabin if you feel like roughing it a bit better than Crusoe.
Water is a lot of fun, stay water safe with our tips on water safety.
Basket Swamp National Park
Just 16km south of Boonoo Boonoo lies Basket Swamp National Park. This protected network of wetland slowly releases filtered water to the Clarence River closer to the coast, maintaining the delicate ecology of the region.
Basket Swamp doesn’t have the facilities of most parks, and will mostly suit those who love self-supported adventures, but when you’re coming from nearby Boonoo Boonoo there are two highlights.
The rocky outcrop of Timbarra Lookout appears after weaving for only 100m through huge granite boulders, and the summit gives you vast views of the park. Follow it up with a visit to Basket Swamp Falls, where water pours over a bulging granite bust into a gorgeous pool below.
Remember: national parks are natural unpredictable environments. Please plan your adventure for all weather conditions, before you go check the NSW National Parks alerts page for up to date info, and stay safe with these bushwalking safety tips
Gibraltar Range National ParkView this post on Instagram
Jump in the car for just under 2 hours and you’ll be at your next gorgeous granite destination, Gibraltar Range National Park! This famous park is a haven for hiking and meanders through the seemingly endless World Heritage Gondwana Rainforest.
On entering the park, head to Raspberry lookout. This is the perfect place to get a sense of the rippled landscape you’ll be exploring in the southern reaches of NSW Granite Country. The lookout has been used by local Aboriginal people and stockmen for centuries.View this post on Instagram
Next stop: Lyrebird Falls walking track. Stretch the legs with this 2km return, grade 4 walk through quintessential Australian forest, with a unique blend of wattle, grass trees, tree ferns, and towering eucalypts providing the canopy. At the edge of the escarpment you’ll be rewarded with epic views of the falls, before you quietly head back, on the lookout for lyrebirds.
Back at the car, you’ll have the choice of searching out more hikes, or settling in at Boundary Falls campground and picnic area. This secluded campground is the perfect place to kick back, chat around the fire about the granite wonders you’ve seen so far, and stroll around with a torch looking for nocturnal friends.
The next day the choice is yours. You can strike out along The Needles walking track, a 6km return, grade 3 walk that culminates at a view of the track’s namesake: 6 huge granite columns, 80m in height.View this post on Instagram
This track forms part of the Gibraltar-Washpool World Heritage Walk – a phenomenal 45km loop, hiked over 3 or 4 days, that intimately connects you with NSW Granite Country and World Heritage Gondwana Rainforest. There are 13 different side trips, totalling over 100km of hiking!
But if just reading that made you tired (or your young ones can’t hike quite that far), why not book a stay at Gibraltar House? This refurbished home sleeps 10 and it’s the perfect base for days of rainforest adventures.
Washpool National ParkView this post on Instagram
Jump in the car for, oh wait, you’re there! That’s right, Washpool National Park is directly opposite Gibraltar Range National Park, you can actually walk between the two. This means that even if you’ve soaked up every inch of granite goodness in Gibraltar, there’s more waiting for you in Washpool. Lace up!View this post on Instagram
We love a lookout, so once again we’re recommending you begin your journey at Granite lookout, a 400m track that leaves from Granite picnic area. The rocky walk (was the name a hint?) takes you to the edge of the escarpment where you can get a true sense for the scale of the park. The rainforest in Washpool National Park is also Gondwana World Heritage-Listed, and countless rare and endangered species call it their home.
While you’re at the lookout, listen out for the cracking call of whipbirds emanating from the valley floor, and turn your eyes skyward to see wedge-tailed eagles riding the thermals above.View this post on Instagram
Keep the flora and fauna themes going on the Coombadjha nature stroll. That’s right, it’s a ‘stroll’ not a walk, so although you could probably walk this 1.4km, grade 2 loop in 15 minutes, we suggest you take an hour, listen for bird calls, and read all of the info signs. There’s a gorgeous fern-lined swimming hole at the end of the walk that offers an intimate chance to connect with the rainforest.
Ranger tip: To protect the fragile rainforest creeks, avoid using sunscreen and insect repellent before swimming, and follow the principles of Leave No Trace.
By now, NSW Granite Country should well and truly have your heart. Why not spend a final night saying your goodbyes to this truly wonderful part of Australia? Bellbird campground offers a close connection to the rainforest, as well as a large dining area with gas BBQs because life is about balance. You can balance seclusion and comfort even further at Four Bull Hut, a refurbished cabin on the western side of Washpool National Park, surrounded by horse riding trails and serenity.
Don’t Take It For Granite!
Turns out that geology puns are really hard, but exploring NSW Granite Country isn’t! We hope these two road trips serve as inspiration, whether you follow them to the letter or cook up your own wild adventure through this magma-ificent part of New South Wales. Ok, sorry, we’ll see ourselves out.
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