Desert and mountains on your doorstep

With the cooler weather approaching what better time to start thinking about the outback. We are not talking about that huge outback adventure that takes many weeks but more like a few days away in the “outback” to unwind, recharge and forget about the stresses of daily life even if not only for a short time. We have a couple of areas that may not have been on your radar in the past but well and truly should be. Yes both these escapes are over the Great Dividing Range, one will make you feel like your in the outback and the other like you are in the mountain ranges, albeit less crowds.

The largest relatively flat forest west of the Great Dividing Range comprising of over 500 square kilometres is known as the Pilliga Scrub. Made up of a combination of State Forest, National Park and Nature Reserves this vast landscape sits on flat sandy plains. There are literally thousands of kilometres of roads and tracks here and you could easily lose yourself for days and not see another soul. If you want a place to relax, unwind and contemplate the meaning of life then the Pilliga is the place to go. Heavily logged in the past for its rich timber resources,  in particular Ironbark that was used for railway sleepers, the logging in the forest today is much less although some still does occur.

Travelling the Pilliga Forest

Easily accessed off the Newell Highway north of Coonabarabran a n umber of forest roads will lead you into the Pilliga. We do recommend obtaining a map of the forest prior to your visit and these can be downloaded from the Pilliga Forest Discovery Centre website. There is much to do in the Pilliga from enjoyable car and 4wd touring to bird spotting and koala sighting (the Pilliga is known to have quite a large koala population). Make sure you chuck the tent or swag in as there are a number of campsites scattered throughout the forest and national park ranging from sites with no facilities if you like to get right back to basics through to sites with toilets and gas barbecues. A night or two out here will really make you question how big this universe actually is with dark starlit skies extending into eternity, it is a place to relax and consider what is really important in your life.

The Aloes, Pilliga Scrub
The Aloes Historic Site in the Pilliga
camping at Rocky Creek Mill, Pilliga State Forest
Camping at Rocky Creek Mill, an old sawmill site in Pilliga State Forest
Views from the lookout tower at Salt Caves Camping Area are outstanding
Salt Caves, Timallallie National Park
Dam walk from the Salt Caves Camping Area
Dandry Gorge Timallallie National Park
Dandry Gorge in Timallallie National Park includes a small camping area and the Sculptures in the Scrub Walk.
Sculptures in the scrub, Dandry Gorge, Timallallie National Park
Sculptures in the scrub, Timallallie National Park
Dandry Gorge and sculptures in the scrub at Timallallie National Park
Sculptures in the Scrub, Timallallie National Park
Sandstone Caves, Pilliga
The Sandstone Caves are an important Indigenous Site in the Pilliga
Ironbarks Crossing, Pilliga
Ironbarks Crossing, Pilliga

Each visit to this vast forested desert we always much more contented and filled with wonderment and inspiration. If you have not considered the Pilliga before we urge you, put it on your list for your next short escape, we guarantee you will not be disappointed.

Moving a little further south and in the central west of New South Wales are several National Parks that not only provide solitude but will captivate you with beautiful scenery, an oasis hidden amidst farming country. Just to the west of the tiny hamlet of Grenfell is Weddin Mountains National Park. This mountain oasis was once synonomous with notorious bushranger Ben Hall and his gang during the 1860s due to its many hiding places, one of these Ben Halls Cave can be viewed along a short walking track.

Ben Halls Cave, Weddin Mountains National Park
Ben Halls Cave

There is also history to delve into with the remains of Seatons Farm providing an insight into farming during the great depression years  and built from local timber and second hand materials. It is a great place to stroll around and get an impression of how harsh life on the farm must have been during these times.  It really cements how strong and resilient our early pioneers were.

Seatons Farm, Weddin Mountains National Park
Remnants of Seatons Farm
Seatons Farm, Weddin Mountains National Park
Example of what life was like for these early pioneers
Seatons Farm, Weddin Mountains National Park
Reminders of the pastoral past are scattered throughout Seatons Farm

There are two camping areas, one near Seatons Farm and Ben Halls Cave (the walk starts from the camping area) and a second smaller site in the east of the park.

Ben Halls Camping Area, Weddin Mountains National Park
Camping at Ben Halls Camping Area

Further north and between the towns of Orange and Forbes the little known Nangar National Park can be found. Another oasis on the middle of farming country the Nangar-Murga Range dominate the landscape here. Driving through the park is like entering another world and a welcome relief from the flat farmlands as the rugged escarpment dwarfs the access track. Just after entering the park is a reminder of the pastoral past here. Although the historic homestead no longer exists the historic shearing shed is well worth a stroll around and is another remnant of our pioneering past.

Historic Shearing Shed, Nangar National Park
The historic Shearing Shed is worth a stroll around

Further on a delightful camping area situated in a natural amphitheatre beside Terrara Creek makes the perfect place to pitch the tent for a night or two in relative isolation. The abundance of Kangaroos and wallabies also add to the bush escape experience and again will leave you unwound and recharged.

Terarra Creek Camp, Nangar National Park
Camping at Terarra Creek

On from the camping area there is “Dripping Rock” to explore, although on our last visit it was dry, and a 4wd track leads to the summit of the range with outstanding views over the surrounding countryside.

Dripping Rock, Nangar National Park
A very dry Dripping Rock
Dripping Rock, Nangar National Park
Dripping Rock in wetter times

Yet further north and between Peak Hill and Parkes (better known for its annual Elvis Festival) is Goobang National Park. Part of a woodland complex, one of the largest remaining in this region there are an astonishing array of vegetation communities found here. Bird and wildlife is abundant and you will really feel like you are out in nature. Another mountain range dominate here and the short but steep drive up to Caloma Trig in the north of the park will provide outstanding vistas over the farmlands below.

Caloma Trig Lookout, Goobang National Park
Views over the surrounding farmland are outstanding from Caloma Trig

An easy grade 4wd track also cuts through the heart of the park and links its two camping areas. Wanda Wandong in the far north of the park is a large, well laid out site and although it is over bollards there are numerous parking bays and plenty of room to spread out while Greenbah in the heart of the park is a much smaller site also over bollards set amongst tall forest, a true bush experience. Both sites have pit toilets and fire pits.

Goobang National Park driving
Enjoyable driving through Goobang National Park
Wanda Wandong Camping Area, Goobang National Park
Plenty of room to spread out at Wanda Wandong Camp

We hope we have given you some inspiration for your next getaway and showed that escaping the rat race and away from the crowds even just for a couple days is possible. It just goes to show you don’t have to drive for days to get that authentic outback or bush experience, some of the best places are hidden right on your very own doorstep.


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