If you’re looking for a natural bush escape, or somewhere cool to camp during the middle of summer then the Barrington Tops NP, 1500 metres above sea level is for you. There is plenty to do here for people of all ages and you can easily enjoy a week here.
Located 756 Km’s south of Brisbane or 343 Km NNW of Sydney, you can access the National Park by two wheel drive via Barrington Tops Forest Drive, a good dirt road from either Scone or Gloucester. In bad weather (snow or heavy rain), 4WD may be useful as the roads in are steep (especially when coming from Gloucester). Loaded up we were in second gear most of the way to the top with third being just out of reach when coming from Gloucester – but at least you get to enjoy the view.
We had 6 days to explore the park and after looking at a number of spots settled on Polblue Swamp camping area. This is a large, grassed area with enough room to hold a few groups and still have ample space between camp sites.
While setting up camp, the wife and kids went to explore Polblue Swamp. It’s an easy 40 minute walk that works it’s way in and around the swamp. Along the way you come across a variety of different wildlife, or witness evidence of their presence. Our kids enjoyed doing this walk daily to spot wild life and got the surprise of thier life when they came across an Echidna resting on the side of the track.
As the sun starts to set, kangaroos and birds start to come out and feed around the campsites. After dark while enjoying a camp fire you’ll also hear the wombats scrummaging around in the bush and occasionally fighting with one another. They sound so close when you’re lying in your tent late at night.
We were here during the Easter school holidays in 2015. There were a few people in the campground but it was enjoyable with at least 50 metres between camps. Nights were cold but days were pleasant. By 7:00 am it was comfortable in the sun. I would definitely recommend bringing warm clothes and good sleeping bags for the nights here.
Facilities at Polblue are also good with gas BBQ’s available in the community hut (not that we used them) and sealed pit toilets. The toilets looked quite new when we were there and are certainly wife approved! 🙂
Fires are allowed within Barrington Tops NP but collection of wood is not. So bring you own or take a short drive to one of the state forests easily accessible by the Barrington Tops Forest Rd. After a short drive you’ll have the back of the car filled with some decent lumber. I came across a couple of places where they seemed to stockpile fallen trees which made timber collection a breeze.
If you’re like me, as good as a place is you’ll get itchy feet and want to explore the surrounding area. The good news is that there is plenty to explore.
Little Murray’s Camping Area
When we did our research from home Little Murray’s Camping Area was actually where we planned to stay. When you get there it’s a nice open area that’s in beter condition than Polblue Swamp.
The only thing that put us off is the 7 – 10 km easy 4WD in and out all the time. It was going to add 30 – 40 minutes in and out onto every trip. For this reason only we stayed at Polblue.
If you were coming with a large group and not looking to travel a lot, then this would be a great campground with a great fire pit to use. It also has a small stream down the end that’s perfect for a COLD shower from a bucket of water.
On the drive down this track, we also came across a herd of wild Brumby’s. Idling in first gear low range, we managed to park right beside them with only a couple moving a little further into the bush. With the engine off and the kids quiet we watched them for a good 10 – 15 minutes right beside the car before they finally decided to head into the bush.
Thunderbolts and Devil’s Hole Lookout
If you’re just looking to do the easy items, then you can use the main Barrington Tops Forest Rd to explore Thunderbolts and Devil’s Hole Lookouts. Both of them have cracking views of the area and are a definite must.
Barrington Tops State Forest – Manning River Camping Area
We also did the loop track around Pheasant Creek Rd and then Tubrabucca Rd. This would be an easy drive in a Falcon and takes you out of the National Park and into the Barrington Tops State Forest. The Manning River Camping Area is positioned in a magic location but unfortunately it’s been trashed by idiot’s and there’s hardly a flat spot to set a tent. With a little work by council this would be a fantastic spot located right beside the Manning River. It’s still worth popping in for a look as the river is a great spot to catch a family photo or two.
Stewarts Brook State Forest
After checking out a number of different campsites, small waterfalls etc we went on the hunt for some 4WDing. Barrington Tops NP didn’t have much to offer from a 4WD perspective. It has a lot of great tracks but they all seem to be gated and permanently locked. As we started to venture into the surrounding state forests though, more options became available. On the way to Scone, you’ll pass Bull Ridge Rd. We took this and then turned into Bull Gully Rd. The Hema map indicated that it had a gate but we decided to continue anyway. Lucky we did because the track was good and the gate open.
However, once you passed the gate you start to head down the side of the mountain range – and I mean down the side of the mountain range. I’ve been 4WDing for a number of years and it’s not too often I’ll get out of the car and take a look at a steep track because I was nervous, but I did on this one. The track was in good condition but had small ruts from people coming up. I was descending in first gear low range and at times the car was sliding down on loose rocks, just requiring light throttle to steer and keep her pointing where I wanted.
I wish I had photos or video of this descent but my wife was testing how well attached the oh shit bar was for Toyota.
At the end of this descent you’ll come to a creek crossing that is easy, but about 1 metre deep. On the other side is Middle Ridge Rd. We headed downstream on this road towards Moonan Brook before heading back towards Barrinton Tops NP. There were a couple of other good looking tracks in this part of the park but given we were on our own, we figured we would save it for another time when we had support. Hand winching on your own isn’t fun! 🙂
On the other side of Barrington Tops NP is Gloucestor Tops. This is a easy day trip from Polblue by heading back down towards the town of Barrington on the Barrington Tops Forest Rd and then taking the Rawdon Vale Rd. Once you hit Rawdon Vale Rd, get the camera and video out. This well graded dirt road is a beautiful drive that you should take the time to enjoy. Once you hit Gloucestor Tops Rd, turn right and start the ascent to the top. On Gloucestor Tops Rd there are a number of fords to cross with solid concrete bases. Our kids love crossing these and we found ourselves doing circuits so they could hang their arms out the window while the water was splashing.
At the top of Gloucestor Tops we took the walk down to Gloucestor Falls. This is quite a long walk and you do descend a fair way (easy on the way there). The conditions of the track were really good but there were a couple of small sections that were a little tricky due to wet rocks and mud (close to the falls).
Just before the falls there is a great outlook over the valley and spot to take a family photo. Unfortunately we didn’t explore any more of Gloucestor Tops by foot as the walk to the falls tired out our kids. We headed home, back through the fords, back through the fords and back through the fords again before heading back to Polblue. 🙂
Not having been here before we used the Barrington Tops and Wollemi National Parks Map by HEMA. It had all the tracks that we came across accurately mapped so we could work out where we were. The 1st Edition map we had was slightly inaccurate regarding gate locking dates as we found many gates permanently locked. Otherwise excellent.
Permits and Fees
There are fees for camping in the Barrington Tops NP. For vehicles you’ll need a vehicle permit and overnight fees apply. You can’t buy the vehicle permit within Barrington Tops so you’ll need to arrange one before you arrive. You can pay for your campsite via the honesty box within the park so make sure you bring cash to pay for your permits. For details on costs follow this link.
Overall, Barrington Tops and the surrounding state forests is a great area to camp and you can easily spend 4-6 days here without having to repeat the same activities and get bored. Or, if you enjoy spending time in one spot then Polblue is an enjoyable spot to do it. Make sure you bring gear to prepare for the cold nights!