If you want to have a quiet escape from the busy streets of the city and don’t want to go that far, here’s Watagans National Park which offers a magnificent rainforest scenery right at your doorstep. Experience hiking, biking, lookouts and a quiet campground just an hour away from Newcastle. Are you wondering what’s so special about this place?
Watagans National Park has some of the country’s most admirable rainforest settings. It also has a rich cultural heritage with more than 40 Aboriginal sites. Each of these highlight art and engraving techniques, and remnants from the settlement history in the area. Also, the view is extraordinary down towards the rainforest gullies at Monkey Face and Gap Creek lookouts.
Here is an overview of the campgrounds in Dandenong Ranges National Park:
- Gap Creek Campgrounds
- Bungalow Campgrounds
Want to know more about the Watagans National Park? Read more on this article to get you prepped for your next trip!
Jump To Section
How Do I Get to Watagans National Park?
You can go to Watagans National Park through three different routes, from Newcastle, which is only an hour away, from Gosford. Pick the course closest to you and follow this guide:
- Go through south along the F3 Freeway and take the Awaba exit at Ryhope.
- Turn right towards Cessnock Road.
- Turn left onto the Freemans Drive at Freemans Waterhole
- Turn right onto Mount Faulk Road from Freemans Drive just after crossing over the F3 expressway for the second time.
- Lastly, follow Mount Faulk Road uphill into the park.
- Go north along the F3 expressway and take the Morriset/Cooranbong exit near Freemans waterhole.
- Then turn left into the Freemans drive and travel south to get to Martinsville Road on the left.
- Follow through the Martinsville Road to Watagan Road on the left and follow the road uphill to the Watagans Forest Road.
- Now, turn right and follow the road for approximately 6km to the park.
- Travel from Cessnock to Kitchener and Quorrobolong via the Quorrobolong Road.
- Then, turn left onto Sandy Creek Road.
- Now, travel east for about 5km.
- Lastly, turn right to the Heaton Road then onto the Watagan Road, which will bring you to the Watagans at the northern end.
You can park at the Bungalow Campground, Gap Creek Campground, and around the Monkey Face lookout. The road to the Watagans National Park is accessible by 2WD in dry conditions only. For all other times or weather conditions, 4WD must be used. Gates and roads maybe sometimes temporarily close to prevent accidents and damage when the road is wet. Also, there is no public transport to go to the Watagans National Park.
What Do I Need to Know About the Watagans National Park?
To the Awabakal and Darkinjung People, the Watagans National Park is of great importance. Rare insights into art and engraving techniques have been found at around 40 recorded locations in the Watagan Range and the surrounding lands. It is noteworthy that there are over 100 abstract motifs carved into walls throughout the park, given that there are only six recognised Aboriginal engraving sites in the greater Sydney region. You’ll be surely amazed at the historic scenery here at the park.
During the past forestry operations, log chutes and old sawmills still stand amidst the plants as a reminder of the region’s rich settlement history. A fertile timber industry had established itself in the 1820s, providing cedar and hardwood from the area to provide for the buildings and growing coal mining industries. The increased timber production meant it provided employment and wealth to the region and all through the park, and you can still see the relics from these operations. It’s great to visit and appreciate the history and culture of this park.
The best times to visit the Watagans National Park are in summer, spring and winter. In spring, you can enjoy spring vacation camping at Gap Creek or Bungalow Campground and enjoy a campfire as the sunsets. In spring, you can cool off at the Boarding House Dam, which is especially popular during the summer season. You can also enjoy the moist and fresh walk down the Circuit walking track, and you will not feel hot under the shade of the trees at the rainforest. In late winter, you can witness the bloom of the Illawarra flame trees, which can be seen throughout the valley from Gap Creek. Check out also the various lookouts, while the air is crisp and clean in the winter. Also, please note that pets and domestic animals other than certified assistance animals are not permitted in the park. Smoking is also prohibited in the area.
How Are the Campgrounds at Watagans National Park?
There are two types of campgrounds at Watagans National Park, one is the Bangalow campgrounds, and the other one is the Gap Creek campground. The Bangalow campground is perfect for a relaxing getaway for the family or adventure campers.
The Gap Creek campground, on the other hand, offers immediate access to the walking tracks and has a waterfall nearby, and is perfect for a relaxing and private getaway. There is no fee to stay here. You just need to bring your drinking water, cooking water, and firewood. Just note that this is a remote campground, so make sure to arrive well-prepared.
The sites are also not marked and are not powered. Bookings are not required at these campgrounds; campsites are available on a first-in first-served basis.
The tall blue gums and blackbutts around the camping site add to the rustic charm of this campground. And after you’ve settled in, you can take a walk towards the Gap Creek Forest or venture towards the Monkey Face lookout for a scenic view. While you’re all relaxing by the campfire, you’ll be serenaded by the sounds of the kookaburras, lyrebirds or occasionally the sooty owls.
This campground has three campsites available. It is perfect for tents and camping beside the vehicle. The facilities available at this campground are picnic tables, barbecue facilities, car parks and toilets.
Gap Creek Campgrounds
Perfect for relaxing, the natural setting is magnificent with the colourful flora around you like red cedars and blue gums, coupled with the sounds of lyrebirds in the background. If you want a fantastic view, you can take the Gap Creek walking trail nearby to see the impressive Gap Creek Waterfall which cascades more than 40m after heavy rains.
The trees at the campground provide plenty of shade for relaxing afternoon naps after walking on the trails all day. This campground also has three campsites available to people which is perfect for tents, camper trailers and camping beside the vehicle. The facilities are the same as the Bangalow Campgrounds, which has picnic tables, barbecue facilities, car parks and toilets.
If you want to know more about the campgrounds in the national park, you can visit their website.
Where Can I Take A Bushwalk at Watagans National Park?
There are several sights to see and things to do at the Watagans National Park, here are some of them to help you get some ideas on what to do on your trip:
Great North Walk
For all the bird enthusiasts out there and bushwalkers here’s an excellent trail for you. The Great North Walk at Watagans National Park offers magnificent scenic lookouts and a fantastic opportunity to go birdwatching.
This walk is 10km one-way so about 20km back and forth. Time suggested for the trail is about 2-3 hours, and it is a grade 5 trek and is advisable for experienced bushwalkers who are comfortable with undertaking self-reliant hiking. Also, you should tell your family or friends where you’re going and fill in a trip intention form to send essential details about your trip to an emergency contact.
Don’t forget to bring your hat, sunscreen, drinking water, snacks, binoculars and as well as a camera to capture the beautiful memories. You should also bring a topographic map and a compass or a GPS just in case.
Boarding House Dam Picnic Area
This area is one of the must-see starting points for any visit to the Watagans National Park. It originally accommodated the longest-serving and largest logging camp in the area. Now it is a popular picnic spot, especially in the summer.
It offers amenities like picnic tables and barbecues, hiking opportunities and paddling. You can choose to unwind under the shade of the trees or go for a paddle at the dam. Remember to bring along your binoculars if you want to do some birdwatching.
The weather here can be extreme or unpredictable, so please be well-prepared for your visit. Also please note that there is limited mobile reception at this park.
Circuit Walking Track
This walk is a short walk near Newcastle. A great place to visit, walk through the rainforest, following the creek as it passes a moss-covered rock wall. The distance is a 0.6km loop and is estimated to be a 30mins to 1-hour walk.
It is a grade 4 hike and don’t forget your drinking water, hat and sunscreen. It starts at the Boarding house dam picnic area, and this walk offers you an easy hike along the creek, which goes through the pristine rainforest scenery.
In the summer, it makes for a relaxing retreat with the trees and ferns shading you from the hot sun. Bring your swimmers along and head to the creek or dam at the end of the trail. By doing so, you surely have a relaxing time.
Monkey Face Lookout
This area provides a magnificent view of the Martinsville Valley with a space for a picnic. It offers one of the most magnificent vantage points at the Watagans National Park. You’ll want to take your camera and binoculars here as there are terrific bird watching opportunities with glossy black cockatoos that are often seen here.
This place is a spectacular place to visit all-year-round. Since in the summer, the air is crisp and clean, very refreshing and revitalising as you relax at the picnic. In the summer, the sun is hot and casts a great light over the valley making the view a picturesque setting.
Narrow Place Lookout
This place offers you a scenic view of Hunter Valley. Visit this historic lookout near Cessnock. You can go birdwatching here or just plain sightseeing. There is no fee to pay here, it’s free. This lookout was named by the local Hall family, a long-established landowner grazier.
They’d use the steep, narrow track to lead the horses up. Today, the name has stuck, but there’s no need to go on a horse to go up, it is easily accessible by a car now. The Narrow Place Lookout is always open but may need to close at times due to fire danger or poor weather conditions.
In the summer, this section of the park can be subjected to a high chance of bushfire and should be avoided during fire danger.
Turners Walking Track
This trail is near Cessnock and boasts its rainforest scenery, historical heritage and spectacular bird watching opportunities. This trail’s distance is 1km for one-way and 2km for back and forth. The time suggested to be allotted for the walk is 30mins to 1hr and 30mins, and it is a grade 4 walk.
This trail may be advisable for self-reliant bushwalkers since the hike is challenging. Along the way, you may spot some brush turkeys or lyrebirds darting throughout the forest or foraging for food.
You will also pass through the historical remnants of O’Hara’s Sawmill which was built as a short-term mill in the 1950s to salvage timber after World War II.
Are There Any Nearby Towns We Can Visit from Watagans National Park?
Boarding House Dam is a must-visit even with the diversion from the main track. It offers toilets, picnic tables, and a beautiful creekside walking path that cuts through the rainforest and bushlands on its way towards rock holes and waterfalls.
The turnoff leading to The Basin campsite is near the Walkers Ridge Forest Rd. This area offers excellent camping areas and many bushwalks.
Further along, you will reach The Pines picnic area and Wattle Tree camping area. It is nestled amongst an experimental stand of pine trees, so there is enough shade and a soft bed of pine needles underfoot. Also, there are several walking trails leading from the campsite.
What Is the Best Time to Go to Watagans National Park?
During spring, you can camp at Gap Creek or Bungalow Campground and sit on a campfire while watching the sunset. Aside from that, you can visit during summer to cool off at the Boarding House Dam, which is very popular during this season. You can also enjoy the fresh and moist Circuit walking track.
But arguably the best time to go this place is during late winter when the Illawarra flame trees bloom. These trees can even be seen across the valley if you are in Gap Creek Lookout. Also, you can see the impressive views from numerous lookouts while the air is chilly and clean.
What Do Other Tourists Say About the Watagans National Park?
We have been to the Watagans a few times. It’s an excellent day trip destination if you live in the Newy area. Plenty of bushwalks of all levels
There are also a lot of free camping grounds and day areas as well as a few lookouts. Roads are pretty rough but accessible by 2WD vehicle during summer. Also, the park has numerous entry points into the park. It is a bit different from a lot of National Parks in the way that there are state forests within the park.
Also, there are signposts for most of the sites but can be found by pure chance. The only downside is the fact that being easily accessible it seems to draw a lot of visitors that don’t respect nature and other visitors. -Stamrish1 (TripAdvisor)
Why Are Dogs Not Allowed on Trails?
Dogs are not allowed on trails since any dogs are not adapted to hiking, their paws may get torn up, and since they sweat with their feet, they may overheat.
How Far Is the Great North Walk?
The whole Great North Walk track is 250 kilometres, which runs from Sydney to Newcastle in New South Wales, Australia.
Can You Ride the Great North Walk?
If you plan to walk the whole track, it is best to allow 2 to 3 days for the entire track although you can also break the walk into sections for shorter, more relaxed walks. You can even ride the road, which may take up a day or so. There are plenty of places to stop along to rest for picnicking or birdwatching.
Is the Watagans National Park Open?
The Watagans National Park is always open but may close up at times due to weather, road closures or high fire danger.
What Are the Temperatures at Watagans National Park?
During the summer, the temperature is on average, 16-30°C. The highest recorded temperature during the summer is 40°C. But during the winter, it is on average 5-16°C, and the lowest recorded temperature during winter is -6.7°C.
When is the wettest month and the driest month at Watagans National Park?
The wettest month is during December and the driest month is during July. The area’s highest recorded rainfall in a single day is 91.4mm.
What Attractions Are Near Bathers Way Coastal Walk?
There are several attractions near Bathers Way Coastal walk, some of them are, Nobbys head and Breakwall, Nobbys Beach and Fort Scratchley.
Are There Still Aboriginal in Australia?
The Aboriginals are Australia’s first people; they have lived on the continent for about 50,000 years. Today in the modern world, there are 250 distinct language groups spread through Australia. All Aboriginal Australians are related to groups indigenous to Australia.
What Happened to the Aboriginal in Australia?
Darwin visited Australia at a wrong time, between disease, starvation and conscious policies of kidnapping and re-education of native children. The Australian region’s indigenous population declined from over a million in 1788 to just a few thousand by the early 20th century.