Did you know that over 4.3 million visitors went hiking in NSW in 2016? Thankfully, there is a phenomenal selection of amazing hiking trails in NSW that are perfect for explorers, hikers and photographers alike. Whether you are looking for active weekend leisure activities, walking tracks or multi-day hikes, many picturesque paths and rare wildlife encounters await.
For this list, we leave behind the big cities and crowded beaches to focus on some of the lesser known, picture-perfect National Parks and Reserves. No matter where your adventure takes you, remember a little preparation will add to your enjoyment. Take a big bottle of water, sturdy footwear, binoculars and a camera!
Hume & Hovell Track
The Hume and Hovell Track provides the opportunity to follow in the footsteps of two of Australia’s most famous explorers. This 425 km journey, from Yass to Albury, is the same track that Hamilton Hume and William Hovell followed in 1824 en route to Port Phillip. As you would expect, this area has a rich history that will satisfy you history buffs. There are several historical sites along the way starting with Cooma Cottage at the trailhead, which was the main residence of the great Hamilton Hume himself.
The track can be easily divided into manageable sections, with multiple picnic spots and 17 campsites. Reflections Holiday Parks Burrinjuck Waters provides convenient accommodation for the second night. From here, a 15 to 20-minute boat ride aboard the NV Getaway transports hikers across Lake Burrinjuck to the next stage of the track near Cathedral Rock.
Castle Rocks Walking Track, Munghorn Gap Nature Reserve
For world-class photos of rare wildlife, intriguing geological formations and wide vistas without the long trek, visiting Munghorn Gap Nature Reserve is a must. Bird watching is one of the key attractions in the Reserve. Over 160 native species have been identified so far, including the iconic kookaburra and galah, tiny weebills, lyrebirds, colourful flame robins, peregrine falcons, wedge-tailed eagles and the endangered Regent Honeyeater.
The 8 km long Castle Rocks Walking Track is named for the impressive tiered sandstone formations that are often likened to pagoda, the tiered towers seen in South Asia. This easy hike takes approximately 3 to 5 hours, depending on fitness levels and how easily distracted you are by rare birds and stunning views.
Wondering how to get there? Munghorn Gap Nature Reserve is a mere half hour’s drive from Mudgee, a town 268 km north-ly of Sydney. Accommodation is available at Reflections Holiday Parks Cudgegong River. This is a fantastic option for those either wanting an authentic Aussie camping experience or the comfort of a cabin surrounded by nature.
Mount Kaputar National Park
It’s difficult to choose just one walking trail in this stunning park. The network of hiking tracks has something to suit every ability and timeframe. A mere 0.65 km return, the scenic Euglab Rock walking track can be accomplished in 15 to 30 minutes and the easy trail is a hit with kids. If you are looking for a challenge but short on time, the Governor Summit walking track, also known as Corrunbral Borawah, rewards a steep climb with wild mountain views. Alternatively, the 3.5 km Bundabulla Circuit Walking Track boasts spectacular views of Mount Kaputar.
This National Park is located 50 km east of Narrabri, within the Nandewar Ranges. Mount Kaputar, standing at 1,510 metres, is the traditional home of the Kamilaroi people and rock carvings can be found scattered throughout the area. There are plenty of serene picnic areas, panoramic lookout points, campgrounds, and holiday parks to choose, from whether you are in need of rest in between adventures or just looking for an ideal photo shoot location.
Minyon Falls, Nightcap National Park
The Minyon Falls walking track is the most popular trail in this region, and for a good reason. Hikers traverse serene forest, pristine creeks and are rewarded with the cascade of a spectacular waterfall. More experienced hikers can choose to tackle the Goorgana walking track and explore the rugged, iconic peaks that form the backbone of the National Park. The Big Scrub Walking Track offers a gentler 1.5 km loop that has plenty of photo opportunities - without the sweat.
Nightcap National Park is located near Lismore, inland from Lennox Head and south-west of Byron Bay on the North Coast of NSW. The World Heritage listed rainforests within the Park have brought many visitors from around the world. The area is renowned for its rich diversity of flora and fauna, and it is a sanctuary for many threatened species of birds, bats and frogs. If you are lucky, you may even see an endangered spotted-tailed quoll or a critically endangered red goshawk, so keep that camera ready.
Montague Island Nature Reserve
Described as one of Australia’s most under-rated destinations by Lonely Planet, Montague Island is an award-winning eco-tourism experience. A short boat ride from Narooma on the South Coast of NSW, approximately 4 to 5 hours south of Sydney, this ecological paradise is one of the Sapphire Coast’s best-kept secrets.
A range of guided tours are available to show you the best perspectives from which to photograph the island. There is an abundance of wildlife, including little penguins, peregrine falcons, fur seals, whales and dolphins. As if that is not enough, there is the Lighthouse. Built out of solid granite in 1881, visitors can climb the winding staircase for stunning 360-degree views.
Those who wish to stay on the island can do so in the Keeper’s Cottages, or you can opt to stay on the mainland in the towns of Narooma or Bermagui, both of which allow easy access to the many hidden parks and coastal walks along the Sapphire Coast.
Sofia Lockett is a freelance writer from New Zealand, who is also a passionate traveller and photographer. Sofia often focuses her pieces on tourism and art, having written for contemporary art sites such as Ocula. You can also find her writing on her website here.