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CAMPLIFY UNCOVERED: THE WARRUMBUNGLES

Wednesday 4th December 2019
By Cam Donovan
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By Cam Donovan
Everything you need to know about exploring the Warrumbungle region in a caravan, motorhome or campervan.

Welcome to the first of many Camplify Uncovered experiences. We’re on a mission to uncover regional Australia’s best-kept secrets, and identify the hidden gem roadtrips you NEED to add to your bucket-list. At a time of extreme weather conditions and drought, regional towns are crying out for visitors to help their local economy and businesses thrive.

Did you know that visitors on camping and caravanning holidays in Australia contribute more than $8billion to the local tourism economy? With caravanning holidays more popular than ever before, we’re here to guide you along the roads less travelled, helping you to avoid the crowds and enjoy unforgettable adventures.

Our first stop: None other than the Warrumbungles 

A mere 6-8 hours from Sydney & Brisbane, and just 120km from Dubbo, lies Australia’s ultimate stargazing location - the Warrumbungles.

The Warrumbungle region offers some of the naturally brightest and greatest views of the night sky on our planet. In fact, its crystal-clear night skies, high altitude and low humidity, have seen the Warrumbungle National Park secure its status as the Southern Hemisphere’s first and only Dark Sky Park.

It’s not just stargazing that the region has to offer. From bushwalking amongst the volcanic Warrumbungles mountain range, trying your hand at pottery in Pilliga and tasting the local delicacies of Mendooran (cheese, rum and whisky!), there really is something for every adventurer!

Need more convincing or ready to get that adventure booked? Read on and explore our essential guide to visiting the Warrumbungles.

Image: Byron Smith

INSPIRATION:

We sent two campervan enthusiasts and photographers, Byron and Flynn, on an epic 5-day adventure to the Warrumbungle region. See what they get up to as they explore a jam-packed itinerary of local experiences prepared by the Warrumbungle Council, and adventure in Camplify van, Vanderlust

Pull-out quote: "I couldn’t predict how much the journey would end up changing my perceptions of rural Australia." - Flynn



PLANNING YOUR ADVENTURE:

Image: Flynn Graham
          Hire ‘Vanderlust’ on Camplify

Selecting the perfect van
Camplify has thousands of neighbourhood caravans, campervans and motorhomes all available to hire now. Each van is unique in its own way, equipped with all the features you need to have an amazing, comfortable journey. To explore the different van types available to hire and find the one best suited for your adventure, check out the Camplify RV hiring guide

Getting there
With many visitors beginning their journeys to Warrumbungle from Brisbane, Sydney and Newcastle, we’ve prepared a few roadtrip itineraries including some of the best places to explore when travelling around the New England region:


WHERE TO STAY:

The Warrumbungles Shire is home to many magnificent and affordable campsites. See some of our favourites below:

Barkala Farmstay
Image: Byron Smith

Barkala Farmstay is a working Australian farm and also the home of the famous Pilliga Pottery. 
Child and pet-friendly, this site offers many activities for the whole family to enjoy: from trying your hand at pottery, taking a dip in the swimming pool, bushwalks and interacting with the farm animals.

  • Unpowered
  • Drinking water available
Camping prices:
  • $18 per night per couple
  • $10 per night per single
  • $5 per night per child

Contact information:

Camp Wambelong
Image: Byron Smith

Camp Wambelong rests in the Warrumbungle National Park. The campground offers spectacular views of Belougery Split Rock and offers an access point to many great walking tracks.

  • Unpowered
  • Tank water available; treat/boil before consumption
Camping prices:
  • $6 per night per adult
  • $3.50 per night per child
  • Park entry fees apply

Contact information:

Camp Blackman

Camp Blackman is a popular base from which to explore Warrumbungle National Park. It is equipped with barbecues, picnic tables, hot showers, and resident kangaroos.

  • Powered and unpowered sites
  • Water is unavailable
Camping prices:
  • Unpowered sites
  • $6 per night per adult
  • $3.50 per night per child
  • Powered sites
  • $12 per night per adult
  • $6 per night per child
  • Park entry fees apply

Contact information:

The Pines Campground

Situated in Coolah Tops, The Pines Campground is a remote camping area and a peaceful setting for outdoor activities. Perfect for bushwalking, mountain biking and birdwatching.

  • Unpowered 
  • Water available nearby at Norfolk Island Creek; treat/boil before consumption
Camping prices:
  • Free

Contact information:



WHAT TO DO WHEN YOU GET THERE: 

With so many things to explore in the Warrumbungle region, we’ve pulled together our top 10 must-see activities:

PILLIGA

Image: Byron Smith

Pilliga Forest Discovery Centre
Pilliga Forest is a large and diverse outback landscape. To make the most of your visit, it’s a great idea to drop by the Centre to pick up maps, seek advice from the friendly staff, and find out about guided tours, as well as which are the best birdwatching routes. Interactive displays will give you your first taste of this dramatic landscape and inspire you to get out there and explore.

Image: Byron Smith

Sandstone Caves
Walk in the footsteps of the Gamilaroi people along the short Sandstone Caves walking track in Pilliga Nature Reserve. You’ll pass through the scenic forest to the impressive sandstone hills, with some containing ancient Aboriginal rock engravings. Take some time to read over the interpretive signage for more of an insight into this special place. More info here


Image: Flynn Graham

Pilliga Pottery
Try your hand at pottery-making and see local artists at work in Pilliga Pottery. Collected as art around the world, Pilliga Pottery’s designs range from its signature Blue Wren and Australian bush flora, to Celtic inspired mythical dragons. Feeling peckish, don’t miss out on a chance to try the cafe’s woodfire pizzas and delicious menu all made with locally sourced produce. Visit the Barkala Farmstay website here

WARRUMBUNGLES

Image sourced via https://www.nationalparks.nsw.gov.au/ - Photographer: Robert Mulally/OEH

Warrumbungle Visitor Centre
With so many bushwalks to explore, we recommend the visitor centre being one of your first destinations in Warrumungle. Here the friendly staff can tell you about the many walking tracks, share free maps, the best volcanic remnants in the park, great picnic spots and camping tips. Check it out on the National Parks website here


Image: Byron Smith

Fans Horizon Walking Track
This short but challenging hike gives you a taste of the famous volcanic rock spires and domes of Warrumbungle National Park. Detailed information about this track is available here.

Image: Flynn Graham
Siding Spring Observatory
The Siding Spring Observatory (SSO) is the largest optical observatory in Australia and is an important site for astronomy, astrophysics and space science in Australia. Whilst not open to the public in the evening, during the day visitors can enjoy an interactive astronomy exhibition. Here you can catch a glimpse of some of Australia’s largest optical telescopes - including the (4 storeys high!) Anglo-Australian Telescope (AAT). Discover more on the Siding Spring website here

Image: Flynn Graham

Milroy Observatory 
Don’t miss the chance to enjoy a tour of the night sky with Donna Burton, aka Donna the Astronomer. Donna is one of the world’s first females to discover two comets, and the only Australian female to do so. Experience phenomenal views of the sky from many unique telescopes, including a 1960s research telescope. Note: booking are essentials and it’s recommended to stay in close contact with the observatory to ensure the tour is not postponed due to weather and visibility. Read their website for more info. 

MENDOORAN

Image: Byron Smith

Black Gate Distillery
Black Gate Distillery offers a place to relax in unspoilt beauty, where you can unwind and enjoy warm country hospitality. Enjoy tastings and a tour of handcrafted single malt whisky and dark rum made onsite. Learn more about the distillery here

Image: Flynn Graham
Blue Sky Cheese
Cheese lovers are in for a real treat, with the product of two local farmers, passionate about making hand-crafted cheese, the old fashioned way. The makers, Pip and Deb, open the doors to their kitchen every Wednesday when cheesemaking is in full swing. Here you can purchase their sought-after Castlereagh Camembert, Peppertree Feta or Beni Blue. Learn more about Blue Sky Cheese here

Photo by Shiftchange at English Wikipedia via Wikimedia Commons.

COOLAH TOPS
Coolah Tops National Park is where the Warrumbungle and Liverpool ranges meet. There are trails for bushwalking and mountain biking in the park, as well as campsites, enchanting waterfalls and spectacular lookouts (a must-see is the Pinnacle lookout). Among the diverse wildlife are wallabies, gliders, kangaroos and eagles. 

NEW ENGLAND ADVENTURES
Image: Flynn Graham

While its resemblance to the UK is up for debate, there's no doubt in the land’s natural beauty as you cruise down winding country roads, up misty hilltops and across lush valleys. 

Nestled within this patchwork of untouched wilderness and fertile farmland are historic townships like Tamworth and Armidale. Rich in culture and activities for all ages, these charming regional centres are bursting with small-town hospitality. 

Since the Warrumbungles is nestled within the New England region, we figured that you may as well explore the surrounding towns while you’re there. Whether it be winding back the clock at Beardie’s folk museum in Armidale or conquering the summit of NSW’s very own Uluru, there’s a seemingly unlimited array of activities to enjoy with your family and friends.  


STARGAZING LIKE A PRO: 
Image: Byron Smith

Donna Burton of Milroy Observatory, also known as Donna the Astronomer, is one of the world’s first females to discover two comets, and the only Australian female to do so. We caught up with Donna to get the low down on the Warrumbungles 60 years of astronomy research and its unique stargazing credentials.

“Having the Warrumbungles on your doorstep is a dream come true for any astronomer. 

“If you time your trip well, at least three days after a full moon, it’s possible to see 6,000 - 7,000 stars with the human eye. The view of the milky way against the volcanic landscape is truly magnificent.”


The best Christmas lights in the Aussie Outback 

For those seeking a show-stopping Christmas celestial display, the best dates to catch iconic dark skies of Warrumbungle over the festive period are 16th December to 31st December and 14th January to 31st January. Early risers could also be in for a treat with a meteor shower expected at 4am between the 14th and 15th December.

Astrophotography: How To Guide

Image: Flynn Graham

Wanting to capture images of your stargazing adventure? It can be hard for photography to do the majestic skies of Warrumbungle justice. We caught up with photographer, Flynn Graham after his trip to the Warrumbungles to get his advice on how to photograph the night sky:

Flynn’s recommended equipment:
  • DSLR/Mirrorless Camera which allows ‘Manual’ control (tip: Check out Canon sharing community, Kyōyū to hire photography equipment)
  • Tripod
  • Warm clothes - you’ll be spending a lot of the evening outside
  • eBook - I like to pass the time reading on my phone!

Location is key:
The key to a good astrophotography location is a lack of light pollution - you want to be able to see those beautiful stars! Head as far as you can away from major cities and towns. 

Warrumbungle National Park truly is one of the best places to see the stars in Australia, its Dark Sky Park status means that surrounding towns have their lights all pointing down to minimise the light pollution.

Time
The best time of night for astrophotography changes throughout the year, depending on when the Milky Way is rising and the phases of the moon. A great app for planning your astrophotography is ‘Photopills’, this app will show you the location of the moon, sun and the Milky Way at any time of day in the year! 

A common misconception is planning your trip around the full moon, whilst you may be able to capture some fantastic shots of the moon it’s bright light will prevent visibility of the stars. Milroy Observatory recommends visiting at least three days after the full moon - for pristine clear skies two weeks after a full moon is recommended.

Suggested camera settings
  • Manual Focus: Zoom in on the largest star and tweak your focus until it’s spot-on!
  • Shutter Speed: 20-30 seconds 
  • Aperture: As low as your lens will allow - f1.4-4.0 is desirable
  • ISO: 1600-6400

TIP: If your stars are turning out a little blurry you may need to lower your shutter speed 

Final thoughts
Happy shooting, and don’t forget - patience is key! Once you’re out there and the milky way is up, take your time and play around! 

Take your photos to the next level by introducing subjects such as your epic campsite or a friend with a torch.



TIPS FROM A LOCAL:

Image: Byron Smith

To make the most of your Warrumbungles adventure, we recommend planning as much as you can in advance. We caught up with staff at the Warrumbungle Council to get some local advice for planning your visit.

Plan your route
  • The regional location means that phone reception can be patchy. We recommend having all planned journeys pre-downloaded to your phone or sat nav in advance
  • If planning to drive during the evenings, e.g. to a night sky show at Milroy Observatory, we recommend staying very close by. Roads are very quiet at night, meaning that wildlife can be very active. Try to make your journey back to camp as short as possible, driving slowly and carefully along the way  
  • Be sure to research road access to your intended destinations and ensure you have the right type of vehicle to access these, e.g. access to Sculptures in the Scrub is via an unsealed road
  • Be mindful that you can’t tow a caravan on Observatory Rd (to Siding Spring observatory) in the Warrumbungle as it is too narrow and windy. There are plenty of safe unhitching points in the area if needed.

Seek local advice
  • There are many fantastic bushwalks for all abilities. Before setting off, we recommend heading to the local visitor centres to pick up free maps, learn about the walking routes best suited to you, and camping advice in general. 

Check the weather
  • Summer can be very hot and dry. During this time National Park closures can be expected, so when planning to stay in a campsite make sure you contact the local visitor centre to check that it’s open. 
  • Clear skies are best for stargazing - the fewer the clouds, the better. Check the forecast using BOM or another trusted source. 
  • Winter is the best season for pristine night skies, but can be very cold in the evenings. Autumn and Spring are often the preferred seasons to visit.

Take plenty of supplies
We’ve included below some of the essentials, but there’s also the option to stock up on supplies at the local Coonabarabran shops:
  • Water
  • Plenty of food
  • Plenty of gas
  • Warm clothes
  • Medical supplies
  • Extra batteries for torches, cameras and other devices

Respect the environment
To preserve the seemingly untouched beauty of the Warrumbungles, we need to take great care of it. Exploring and camping in this area is a privilege. See our very own guide to eco-friendly camping here

Keep Wildlife Wild #DONTFEEDIT: 
If there’s one thing for sure when visiting the Warrumbungles, it’s that you’re going to encounter a huge amount of wildlife. While it may be tempting to treat your new furry friend to a chocolate-coated muesli bar, feeding wildlife is actually very harmful. Please refrain from doing so. Read more about this topic here

Check upcoming events
Why not plan your visit around one of the upcoming events in the region:
  • Star Wars fest Coonabarabran – May 8-10, 2020. Situated in the “astronomy capital of Australia”, Coonabarabran is hosting the first Australian Star Wars festival in May, 2020. Visit their website for more information.
  • Hartwood Country and Campfires – April 10-12, 2020. Gates open on March 30, 2020. Hartwood, located just south of Tambar Springs, hosts a country music and entertainment festival over the Easter long weekend. For more information: https://hartwoodfestival.com.au/
  • Tunes on the Turf – November 2020. The annual music festival in Dunedoo supports local farmers markets, musicians and businesses, hosted by the Dunedoo Sports Club. For more information: https://dunedoosportsclub.com/tunes-on-the-turf/
  • Mendooran World Whiskey Day – May 16, 2020. Hosted by the Black Gate Distillery at Mendooran, the event invites guests to try a wide range of local, Australian and international whiskies, spirits, craft beers and ciders. For more information: https://www.blackgatedistillery.com/world-whisky-day
  • StarFest – October 2020. Held on Labour Day long weekend and hosted by the Siding Spring Observatory, StarFest celebrates all things astronomy and includes the popular Bok Lecture and Science in the Pub events. For more information: http://www.starfest.org.au/

If you’ve read this entire guide and all of the resources attached to it, we have no doubt that your bucket list is now brimming with things to see and do in the wildly wonderful Warrumbungles region. From beautiful bushwalks and sunsets to cheese-eating and stargazing that’ll leave you in awe, you’re sure to have an experience that you’ll never forget. And hey, you’re providing much-needed economic support to Australia’s rural communities -- that alone is worth the trip! 

Equipped with this essential guide, now all you have to do is find an awesome van to take you there and back again!

Stay tuned for our next Camplify Uncovered adventure.

Camplify can help you find the perfect RV so that you can experience the joys of caravanning without having to own one yourself. Interested? Learn more about Camplify for hirers here
 
So what is Camplify? 
 
We are Australia’s largest caravan and motorhome sharing community, helping connect holidaymakers with thousands of local van owners. 
 
What does that mean?
 
Essentially, we provide a unique sharing platform where local owners of caravans, camper trailers, motorhomes, and campervans list their van  for hire while not in use. As a van owner, this enables you to earn up to $10,000 - $20,000 a year by sharing with others
 
As a holidaymaker, Camplify helps you find a van that’s perfect for your next adventure, so you can experience the freedom & joys of caravanning - without having to own one yourself. 
 
Interested? Learn more about Camplify here > 



To find out how Camplify can work with you and your RV, register today here.

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