If you are looking for a weekend or longer escape and you are after an alternative to the Watagans then a little further north of Newcastle near the township of Stroud are the beautiful and stunning Barrington Tops. Just like the Watagans, Barrington Tops is made up of a combination of National Park and State Forest areas. Stretching between Gloucester in the east and Scone to the west Barrington Tops encompasses over 40,000 hectares. Mount Barrington is actually the remnant of an ancient volcano making for some spectacular scenery through these ranges. Due to its geology and changeable weather early settlement throughout the 19th century was limited to timber getting and summer grazing of stock. In latter years state forests took over the land then in the second half of the 20th century the area was declared a World Heritage Area.
Although some areas of the national park can be accessed from other points the main access to what is known as “The Tops” is along the all weather unsealed Barrington Tops Forest Road. A loop drive can also be incorporated off the main forest road to take in several other points of interest and camping areas that are scattered throughout “The Tops”.
Heading west from the village of Gloucester there are a couple lovely grassed camping and picnic areas not far out of town. Barrington and Copeland Reserves are both free to setup camp at and can be a great great alternative if the other camping areas in “The Tops” are a bit busy although you will have a bit of a drive to get up to the main visitor areas.
Following Barrington Tops Forest Road and after passing a couple picnic areas and lookouts you will soon come to a road junction with Dilgry Circle. This loop road is an excellent way to explore the northern section of “The Tops”taking in a several bush camping areas and the intriguing rock formation known simply as “The Rock”. Diversions off Dilgry Circle can be taken to view the stunning Manning Falls, the well laid out Manning River Camping Area nestled beside the river or further on the 4wd access to Gummi Falls and its secluded camping area. For the more adventurous there are several 4wd tracks that can be taken to further explore this section of Barrington Tops.
Continuing along Barrington Tops Forest Road there are a couple more outstanding lookouts to take in the vistas over Barrington Tops Forest National Park before reaching the turnoff to the 4wd only Barrington Trail. Seasonally closed to protect it the trail is an excellent way to explore deep into the park remaining high up on the ridgeline and provides access to stunning high country sub alpine areas including Little Murray and Junction Pool Camping Areas, both beautiful spots the latter being carry in gear a short distance. Vehicle based camping is available at Little Murray. The rough and tumble Barrington Trail ends after about 18km (allow several hours at least) at Mount Barrington. For the fit and energetic a couple longer walks lead to Careys Peak and Big Hole.
Back out on Barrington Tops Forest Road and heading further west the typical high country wetland of Polblue Swamp and camping area can be found. A walking track circumnavigates the swamp and is a great way to stretch the legs.
Further west there is yet another short diversion to Horse Swamp Camping Area and Polblue Falls. Back out on the main road there are another couple picnic areas and another stunning lookout as well as another hidden serene bush camp before exiting “The Tops” via the Dingo Gate and taking in one last vista just outside the gate before the road winds its way down through rolling hills and open farming country to the tiny hamlet of Moonan Flat with its quaint Victoria Hotel where you can unwind with a cold one reminiscing about your Barrington adventure and maybe answer once and for all if Barrington really is tops.