Introduction to Bushwalking in NSW
Although there’s still much to do, we’ve done excellent walks in regional NSW from the coast all the way to the outback. The Great Dividing Range runs down the east coast of Australia, and there many walks amongst these mountains, valleys and escarpments. The coast is dominated by sandy beaches. West of the Great Dividing Range is a mostly flat plateau that is used largely for agriculture, but there are still great walking destinations inland, like Warrumbungle National Park. Read on for more info, or go straight to a list of the walks. And if you want to learn about walking near Sydney, then go to the Around Sydney page.
It’s difficult to summarise walks in NSW because its a big and varied place, but many of our walks have been in areas that are similar to Sydney and surrounds: grand sandstone cliffs, thick Eucalypt forests, and sandy beaches. The main exceptions are the alpine walks in Kosciuszko National Park, which are described in more detail below, a few walks around the spectacular gorges of the New England Tablelands, and the walks we did on our first road trip to the outback.
Finding Track Notes
There are guide books for various regions in NSW, and we used Take a Walk in Southern NSW & the ACT by John and Lyn Daly, and Best Walks of the Southern Highlands and also of the Shoalhaven, both by John and Gillian Souter, for a number of walks in southern NSW. We’ve also used the NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service website, and the website Trail Hiking Australia is good for walks across the country.
Weather in NSW
The weather in NSW varies less between seasons than many places on Earth, but there are quite large variations between regions. The coastal areas are generally a bit milder and wetter; it can be humid up north. It drys out further inland to the west of the Great Dividing Range, and eventually becomes desert on the western edge of the state. There’ll be days in summer which are too hot for comfortable hiking, and this is particularly so in the west: definitely leave walking in the outback for autumn through to spring. Winter makes for pleasant walking in all but the alpine regions, although if you have the gear then get out in the snow too.
Kosciuszko National Park
Australia’s tallest mountains, including Mt Kosciuszko at 2228m, are situated in southern NSW bordering the state of Victoria, and offer alpine scenes that are pretty rare in Australia. The northern end of the park has some excellent walks at lower elevations.
One thing to note about walking in Kosciuszko National Park is that despite the high ground there are not really many big ascents. On the eastern side the land rises quite gradually, and it’s only the western side of the mountains-the Western Ranges-that are steep. It is possible to climb from about 400m of elevation to the top of Mt Kosciuszko, but the track is overgrown and it’s not a day return walk (Hannel’s Spur Track – I’ve never done it myself, just read about it). Instead you get a selection of walks through the vegetation of the high country, including attractive snow gums. Views off the western edge of the park are extensive, and can be seen on the classic Main Range Track, but not so much from the summit of Mt Kosciuszko itself. The ski town of Jindabyne is a good base for these walks.
The northern end of the park is less famous, probably because of its lower elevation, but there is some unique scenery, not to mention a number of wild horses (known as brumbies). Tumut is a good place to stay for accessing the northern end of the park.
Kosciuszko National Park Track Notes
There are a number of guide books for this area, but we don’t go there enough to justify purchasing them, and found the NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service resources were enough. Wildwalks describes some walks at the southern end of the park, and I have used a very old edition of the Geehi Bushwalking Club walking guide for a couple of the lesser known routes.
The Weather in Kosciuszko National Park
Summers are a bit cooler up high but you might be exposed in the alpine areas with little or no tree cover, so take a hat and sunscreen. The flies seem to go a bit ape in the high country summer, so be prepared for them too. They have proper winters in Kosciuszko National Park so definitely prepare for sub-zero temperatures and snowy conditions. They’re not called the Snowy Mountains for nothing.
The Walks in Regional NSW
You can browse through a list of the walks I’ve posted on so far…
Kosciuszko National Park
On this walk high up on the Main Range I visited Australia’s third highest peak for the first time, Mt Twynam at 2196m of elevation, it’s sibling Little Twynam (2130m), the spectacular Blue Lake, and nearby Hedley Tarn. There’s excellent alpine scenery the whole way, and with the possible exception of the justifiably popular Blue Lake, you’ll avoid the worst of the crowds that frequent the southern area of the range near Mt Kosciuszko. (more…)
The attractive Nichols Gorge Track branches off from the common start with the Clarke Gorge Track, near the camping area at Blue Waterholes. Not quite as spectacular as the narrow and shear sided Clarke Gorge, Nichols Gorge is nevertheless very atmospheric, and has the added advantage of being a circuit walk, (and you won’t get wet feet). It feels a bit more remote than it is (which I like), and opens out onto a wide treeless plain in the latter half. (more…)
The Old Mountain Road walking track is a straightforward walk along a historic (unsealed) road, built in 1860 during a gold rush. There are remnants of poles and wires along the route, and views of the Bogong Peaks Wilderness Area from near the end. It’s a steep 4km ascent from Jounama Creek Campground to the turnaround point at the Snowy Mountains Highway, and you can do the Jounama Creek Track from the same starting point. There are track notes on the NPWS website, and in this NPWS brochure, which describes the walk as a one way descent from the top. (more…)
We’ve stayed in Perisher a few times on the first weekend of the ski season (the June long weekend). Apart from doing the Porcupine Rocks walk, we also walked once to Blue Cow in very wintery conditions. It’s along a road, so although it is recommended for summer, I think early winter before heavy snowfall is a more picturesque but still practical option. (more…)
There are good views of the Budawangs to be had at the turnaround point of this 2-3 hour walk, but much of the walking is along a fire trail, which can be a bit monotonous. Nevertheless worth it if you want access to views on a straightforward walk, or like us if you’ve already done walks in the area* and want to do something different (*eg, the nearby Mount Bushwalker Track). (more…)
We originally intended to do the Pretty Beach to Pebbly Beach circuit, but set off from the wrong beach (Merry Beach), and came across the rather impressive headland called Snapper Point. This has tall striated cliffs and large rock platforms, and is worth a visit. You can’t continue around the headland though, so we returned to Merry Beach and climbed Durras Mountain to the large water tank at the summit. Although somewhat obscured by rejuvenating native vegetation, there are still partial views of the coast. (more…)
These pics are from our second time up The Castle (847m), one of NSW’s most challenging and spectacular day walks, situated in Morton National Park on the South Coast of NSW near Ulladulla. The views are probably the best I’ve seen in NSW, and with just enough exposure near the top to get the adrenaline flowing, it makes a memorable walk for any fit bushwalker. (more…)