After taking a road trip into a NSW national park, it might be tempting to head straight to your cabin or campground. But stopping off at a visitor centre first can give you the pro tips, local perspectives and real-time conditions that you need to make the most of your trip. Don’t believe us? Here’s what you’ll find at some of our most popular visitor centres.

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    Get a deeper understanding of local Aboriginal culture

     

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    In Sea Acres National Park, 5km south of Port Macquarie, you’ll find Sea Acres Rainforest Centre. It’s a gateway to the rainforest experience, giving you a wealth of information about the local Aboriginal culture and surrounding rainforest environment. 

    Watch one of the ‘Spirit of the Land’ short films to get a deeper understanding of the local Birpai people’s connection to country, or join local Aboriginal Ranger Nardja on the Muluman tour to imagine what the land was like tens of millions of years ago, when rainforests were first born. 

    Did you know: A pair of Powerful Owls are regularly spotted on the rainforest boardwalk. They are Australia’s largest owl, with a wingspan of up to 140cm.

     

    The visitor centre is located at the start of the 1.3km boardwalk which is fully wheelchair and stroller accessible. The onsite Rainforest Cafe is a peaceful spot to enjoy breakfast, brunch or lunch between walks, while the shop features a range of unique and sustainable gifts, toys and books.

    If you’re after a rainforest experience closer to Sydney, head to Budderoo National Park and make Minnamurra Rainforest Centre your first stop. Make sure to join a Minnamurra Rainforest self-guided audio tour to make the most of the most southern subtropical rainforest on Australia’s east coast.

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  • 2/6

    See exhibitions of local art, film and photography

    Snowy Region Visitor Centre. Photo credit: Elinor Sheargold © Elinor Sheargold / DPE
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    Kosciuszko National Park

    Elinor Sheargold / DPE (2016)

    -36.47594, 148.25877

    Visitor centres not only give you information about where to stay and what to see, they can also offer a glimpse into the art and culture of the local area. In the Thredbo-Perisher area of Kościuszko National Park, you’ll find the Snowy Region Visitor Centre, which features a small art gallery and cinema.  

    Taking in an art or photography exhibition before enjoying the latest box office hit is the perfect activity for a rainy day. You can also enjoy Aboriginal cultural displays, as well as digital screens that give you a new perspective on the Snowy Mountains. 

    While you’re there, ask the team about the best walks to experience in the park, or tips for getting to the summit of Mt Kościuszko. They’ll be able to give you the latest information on weather conditions and safety alerts, as well as lots of maps and brochures to help plan your trip.

    Corroboree Frog. Photo credit: John Spencer / DPE
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    Corroboree Frog

    Snowy Region Visitor Centre

    Kosciuszko National Park

    John Spencer / DPE (2014)

    -36.41493, 148.62185

    Did you know: You can get up close and personal with live Corroboree frogs that live in a display at the Snowy Region Visitor Centre.

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    Discover local tips for making the most of your hike

    Warrumbungle Visitor Centre. Photo credit: Rob Mulally / DPE
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    Warrumbungle Visitor Centre

    Warrumbungle National Park

    Rob Mulally / DPE (2018)

    -31.28109, 149.01345

    Nobody knows their national park like the staff in a visitor centre. They’re like a concierge to the park, listening to the deep knowledge of rangers and the experiences of other visitors to help you curate a trip that ticks all the right boxes. 

    At Warrumbungle Visitor Centre in Warrumbungle National Park near Coonabarabran, there are a dizzying array of options for camping, stargazing and hiking the incredible rock formations in the park, created by millions of years of volcanic activity. 

     

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    Chat to the staff for their advice on what hikes might be best for you. Most visitors are drawn to the signature Breadknife and Grand High Tops walk, a spectacular 14km loop that journeys through valleys, over mountain tops and among native wildlife.

    Ranger tip: Try to visit Warrumbungle National Park during a new moon cycle, where you’ll have the best chance of experiencing the stunning astronomical formations in this Dark Sky Park.

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  • 4/6

    Uncover hidden gems you won't find on a map

    A person inside on the interactive displays in the Pilliga Forest Discovery Centre indoors. Photo credit: Robert Cleary / DPE
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    Pilliga Discovery Centre

    Pilliga Nature Reserve

    Robert Cleary / DPE (2012)

    -30.94972, 149.06562

    Planning an itinerary based on what looks great on Instagram means you may be missing out on some hidden gems. Take the path less travelled by checking out the visitor centre first, where you can get the goss on the most underrated areas of the park.

    Pilliga Forest Discovery Centre in Pilliga National Park is located near Baradine and has some helpful guides with directions to the most Instagrammable spots, including the sculpture trail, salt cave and fire tower. Along the way, keep an eye out for glossy black cockatoos, brush-tailed rock wallabies, and the Pilliga Mouse. 

    Couple indoors looking at the interactive display, in Pilliga Forest Discovery Centre. Photo credit: Robert Cleary / DPE
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    Pilliga Discovery Centre.

    Pilliga Nature Reserve

    Robert Cleary / DPE (2012)

    -30.94972, 149.06562

    You’ll also find interactive displays at the visitor centre, including listening stations where you can hear stories of the Pilliga and a timeline mapping the history of the region. The environmentally sustainable centre also boasts regular exhibitions from local artists as well as community events.

    Ranger tip: Be aware of the Yowies. They are creatures that live within the Pilliga. Some say they’re friendly, some say they’re foes, some say they don’t exist. Best come and decide for yourself!

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    Find out what areas of the park are open and safe to visit

    Blue Mountains Heritage Centre. Photo credit: Elinor Sheargold / DPE
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    Blue Mountains National Park

    Elinor Sheargold / DPE (2018)

    -33.63063, 150.30673

    One of the more practical reasons for stopping off at a visitor centre at the start of your trip and not on the way home, is that staff in visitor centres often have a real-time view of weather and safety conditions in the park. 

    You might save yourself getting stuck in a fast-moving storm, or waste time trying to get somewhere that’s closed for the season. If you’re visiting Blue Mountains National Park, the Blue Mountains Heritage Centre is the best place to learn which walking tracks are open and how difficult they might be. 

    Blue Mountains Heritage Centre indoors. Photo credit: John Spencer / DPE
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    Blue Mountains Heritage Centre

    John Spencer / DPE (2017)

    -33.63063, 150.30673

    There’s also an art gallery and theatrette where you can learn more about the animals and plants you might see during your stay. 

    Did you know: There’s a virtual reality experience at Blue Mountains Heritage Centre. Just pop on the goggles and for about 15-20mins, you can travel through the incredible Claustral Canyon.

     

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  • 6/6

    Learn more about the history of the area

    Heritage Centre, Hill End Historic Site. Photo credit: John Spencer / DPE
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    Heritage Centre

    Hill End Historic Site

    John Spencer / DPE (2017)

    -33.03226, 149.41662

    It can be hard to get a sense of the history and heritage of a park when you’re enjoying outdoor activities or telling stories by the campfire. Stopping in at a visitor centre is a great way to peek into the past and imagine what life would have been like many years ago.

    At Hill End Heritage Centre, there are interactive museum displays and a wealth of historic information that offers a perfect introduction to Hill End Historic Site. You can take a self-guided tour through more than 120 years of Hill End history, through screen projections, interactive iPads and historic artefacts.

    Explore the beautifully restored 1950s Rural Fire Service shed with an old red blitz fire truck, as well as remnants of a a miner’s cottage from the 1890s gold rush days. By the time you’re done, you’ll feel as though you’ve stepped back in time (and perhaps ready to try your luck at gold panning).

    Did you know: Hill End Historic Site is dog friendly, so your furry friend is welcome at campgrounds, picnic areas and lookouts, as well as on public roads and walking tracks.

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See our full list of visitor centres so you can make one your first stop next time you visit a NSW national park. As well as being a convenient bathroom stop, our helpful visitor centre staff can also help you understand the culture, heritage and environment of the national park, as well as the best places to eat, stay and play.