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Remote walks, beautiful waterways, refreshing swimming holes, brilliant camping in peaceful surroundings and enough flora and fauna to fill your fancy. You will find all of this, and more, in the spectacular Barrington Tops region of NSW. So, pack your walking boots, tent, daypack, sunscreen, jacket, and supplies, and get ready to immerse yourself in an ancient and dramatic wilderness area. 

Located 350km north of Sydney, the Barrington Tops region, which includes Gloucester Tops, is part of the Gondwana Rainforests of Australia. The Gondwana Rainforests are listed as World Heritage sites due to their unique landforms and species diversity of the over 40 regions covered along the east coast of Australia.  Barrington Tops National Park rises to over 1500m and protects one of the largest temperate rainforests in mainland Australia. 

A southern belle: Gloucester Tops

As you wind your way up Gloucester Tops Road, you climb and then you climb some more. It’s an easy drive but keep your eyes on the road, which is difficult given the spectacular views encountered along the way. The turnoff to the road to Gloucester Tops is seven kilometres before you hit Gloucester town if you’re coming up The Bucketts Way. (70km from the turn onto Bucketty’s Way from the A1 motorway).

Gloucester River campground is a gem and is found just inside Barrington Tops NP. The camp has tiered level sites for tents or camper-trailers. The camp kitchen is well maintained, and the amenities block has toilets. The Gloucester River burbles beside the picnic area, across the road from the campground and is a welcome relief after a day on the trails. In a truly magical experience, fireflies winked their way past our camp after dusk and the next morning a Superb Lyre Bird wandered through. It doesn’t take long to realise this is a very special part of the world.  

Two women hiking the Gloucester Tops circuit in Barrington Tops National Park. Destination Barrington Coast

From the campground, it’s a 30-minute (16km) drive to the start of the Gloucester Tops Circuit. There’s an ample sized car park and toilet block and information board. It’s easy to see why this would be a busy spot during weekends, especially summer. The circuit is 8km and slated to take three to five hours according to the National Parks notice board. It’s not long once you have left the car park that you arrive at the Andrew Laurie Lookout. Be prepared to soak in the view and the remarkable story of Andrew Laurie. He was a war veteran from the region who led the way in establishing dedicated walking trails within the Barrington National Park region, particularly Gloucester Tops. The Laurie family were one of the first settlers to the area and still live in the community. The lookout offers a view over Andrew Laurie’s property. 

Trees and trails

After you’ve soaked in the views from the lookout you will first hear, then see, Gloucester Falls. If it’s a hot summer’s day, a wallow in the rock pools is incredibly satisfying. It’s a relatively easy scramble down to the falls and its pools. Following the track in a clockwise direction, there’s an easy cut through track to the car park or you can stretch your legs and go along the Gloucester River track which links to the Antarctic Beech Forest walking track. This walk meanders along the river’s sub-alpine woodland, which has a wonderful array of blossoms in the warmer months and plenty of bouncing fauna to keep an eye out for. Once you enter the Antarctic Beech forest a cool temperate rainforest greets you along with tree ferns and a carpet of moss, all hiding under the magnificent beech trees towering above you. The 8km walk finishes back where it started at the car park. 

The pristine Gloucester Falls is a nice place for a cooling dip in the warmer months.

If you’d like to spend a full day on the trail, then the Mountaineer-Glowang Trail leaves from the Gloucester River Picnic area, just a few hundred metres from where the Gloucester Tops Circuit commences. The Mountaineer-Glowang Trail is a 15km one-way walk and concludes (or starts) at Wangat/Middle Ridge Road. It is a walk that follows a ridgeline and climbs several peaks, including The Mountaineer. It’s as remote a walk as you can want and so prepare well for it, including letting someone know when you expect to get back. The weather can be quite changeable in this alpine region so be mindful of that before you set out. 

Back-tracking in the Barringtons

Now that we’ve covered off the southern section of Barrington Tops NP, you must back-track down Gloucester Tops Road. As you head out there is a signed turnoff to Barrington Tops (approx 5km down the Gloucester Tops Road) which takes you through Rawdon Vale into Barrington Tops NP. It’s an easy backtrack and passes through stunning farmland to get to the park. 

Keep an eye out for Cobark Lookout on the eastern edge of Barrington Tops State Forest. It’s a beautiful viewing platform and a perfect spot for a cuppa and to soak in one of the many stunning views you will see during your time here. 

First things first

Turning into Pheasants Creek Road from Barrington Tops Forest Road at Honey Suckle Picnic area, opens up a selection of great camp spots and is a nice loop road that connects to Tubrabucca Road which joins back onto Barrington Tops Forest Road, right near The Firs, a stand of Douglas firs, planted in 1966. They were planted as a test to the commercial viability of the tree in the high altitude of the Barringtons.

You will spot plenty of native wildlife in this mountainous region, including the iconic lyrebird.

The dark and moody nature of the closely planted fir trees is very different to the open eucalypt forests just metres away. We spotted a Lyrebird family as we crept through. An amazing experience to see the male dancing to his mate before leading them away in a hurry once they realised we were there.  

Camps along Tubrabucca Road

The Manning River campground is a very nice spot with flat campsites, toilets, and a pleasant bush outlook. It is located in the Barrington State Forest and if you’re an angler, well worth a few casts (you will need a NSW recreational fishing licence). The Manning flows for over 260km from the Barringtons to the ocean near Taree. 

Gummi Falls campground is a stunner. There are two separate camping areas with a nice little walking trail following Gummi Creek connecting the campgrounds. The camp has your typical national park amenities block. In spring, yellow flushes of Scotch Broom line the creek and while looking beautiful, it is an introduced weed. Its prevalence throughout the Barrington region looms as the greatest threat to the stability of this fragile wilderness. You can join the Broom Bash, which is an initiative to eradicate Scotch Broom and there are volunteer days where the species is targeted. Despite this, Gummi Falls is an excellent basecamp to put your pegs in the ground and explore the natural beauty of the area. The walk to the falls is short and Gummi Creek glistens beside you along the way. 

Polblue campground includes this impressive shelter (complete with large fireplace), and is very popular, especially so if there has been snow.

Horse Swamp campground isn’t a swamp at all. It’s a lovely small camp area with toilets and you are surrounded by Barrington eucalypt stands and the wonderful array of birds that reside there. Very secluded and very peaceful. Polblue Campground, along Barrington Tops Forest Road, is a jewel in the national park. It is a very large campground, with excellent facilities and a community shelter containing a sizable fireplace, which in winter would be popular as it snows regularly. The Polblue Swamp Track departs from the campground and is an easy 3km loop, traversing platforms that take you across the swamp and creek. It is a brilliant way to see the biodiversity that makes the Barringtons beloved by so many.

A word of warning: if it has been snowing, Polblue Campground gets overrun with snow-seekers as a bonkers amount of people converges on the Barringtons. Every inch of the 47 campsites at Polblue gets taken up. Plan that snow trip during the week, not on a weekend. 

Barrington Fire Trail camps

This trail, traversing the park’s southern section, is recommended for 4WD vehicles only (or, if you’re keen, you can jump on a mountain bike to explore it), and it can be closed in winter and wet weather. Little Murray Campground is 5km along the trail and Junction Pools around 13km down the trail. There are a few trails leading off the Barrington Fire Trail for the intrepid 4WD traveller. Best check with the local NPWS office in Gloucester (02 6538 5300) for track access. 

Little Murray campground is a purler of a spot, and this writer’s personal favourite. A flat open area with a toilet, surrounded by Scotch Bloom, the earth is like a mossy carpet underfoot. Lots of wildlife and Little Murray Creek trickling at the edge of the campground. The bird chorus is a constant soundtrack, and we experienced a herd of feral horses coming through camp for an evening grass pick. There are warning signs that young male horses can be quite aggressive in mating season, so remember that they are wild animals and do not approach them.  

Following the Barrington Trail down to Junction Pools campground.

Further along the track you will find remote Junction Pools campground, the stepping off point for the Aeroplane Hill walking trail. The camp area is small, uneven and despite a lovely vista it wouldn’t be our preference, given the other camping options available. That said, there is a vast network of walks (for the well prepared) in the area. 

Walking on air

The Aeroplane Hill walking track leaves Junction Pools campground and is a 6km one-way walk through the region’s high peaks, with Carey’s Lookout a highlight along the way. Another day walk is the Edwards Swamp Track, a 7 kms one-way track which connects to the Corker Trail and the Link Trail connecting Carey’s Peak to Gloucester Tops. You can camp at the walk in Black Swamp campground. The Edwards Swamp Track links back onto the Barrington Fire Trail, a short walk from where you commenced. 

The Corker trail is a challenging two-day walk and only for the fit and experienced bushwalker. It’s a 20km return hike exploring rugged mountain country. There is the option to camp at Wombat Creek. The Link Trail between Gloucester Tops to Carey’s Peak is another epic at 38km return. This trail allows for mountain biking and follows a tree-lined ridge which separates the Kerrepit and Chichester rivers. 

There are short walks, longer day-hikes and overnight (and longer) treks in Barrington Tops National Park. Catherine Boyd/Destination Barrington Coast

These adventure walks are in remote areas. Plan accordingly and advise someone where you are heading and when you’ll return. The weather in these high-altitude climates can change in a heartbeat so make sure you are very well prepared. Many other walks and trails exist in the national park. Check the NPWS Barrington Tops’ page for a comprehensive list. 

The Barrington Tops region: A nature lover’s playground

The Barrington Tops region is truly wild. It does require some planning to enjoy the full scope of what is on offer. The camping areas get packed in summer and when there’s been snowfall. The walks offer the same variety; some are easy and for the inexperienced, others you need to really plan for.

Wherever you are in the Barrington Tops region you will be astounded by the dramatic nature of the landscape and the array of flora and fauna at every turn. A week here will only scratch the surface, but that just makes the perfect excuse to return to again and again, all year round… Just watch out for the weekend crowds if it’s been snowing.

See Barrington Coast for more info on the Barrington Tops region.