A Campervan Roadtrip of a Lifetime to the Warrumbungles Region of NSW
Monday 18th November 2019
By Flynn Graham & Byron Smith
Flynn Graham & Byron Smith
Having lived in Australia for the majority of my life and identifying as someone who loves the outdoors it’s embarrassing to admit how lacking my knowledge of rural Australia is. Like a large percentage of the population, I’ve stuck to the coastlines & forests – wherever there’s water to escape the heat.
Byron Smith and I were presented with the opportunity to collaborate with Camplify & Ozshot – being sent to document a 6-day road trip to Warrumbungle National Park, situated in rural NSW near Coonabarabran.
"I couldn’t predict how much the journey would end up changing my perceptions of rural Australia." - Flynn
The Warrumbungle Shire Council put together an awesome itinerary for us to follow, which made things super fun and easy. Enjoy the journey below!
With a 723km drive ahead, we were eager to hit the road.
"We drove down the coast to Grafton, got some snacks and then headed for Glen Innes. The road to Glen Innes took us through some beautiful countryside, winding its way through valleys, beside the mighty Mann River and eventually climbing up the spectacular Gibraltar Range." - Byron
Concluding our day at an RV rest stop outside Glen Innes where we found a small hill with a beautiful view of a nearby wind farm to watch a sunset.
Day Two – Glen Innes to Pilliga
Waking at dawn, we started driving not long after, stopping briefly to enjoy the sunrise over the town of Inverell, cook breakfast at Cranky Rock Nature Reserve and then our first 'official' destination – Sandstone Caves, Pilliga.
"We drove to Inverell and found a lookout viewpoint, the sun was rising and the tones were so beautiful from the smoke in the air." - Byron
The track to the caves is an easy walk through native Australian bush. The towering sandstorm caves have formed over thousands of years through the weathering of the sandstone. Amazing strips of colour can be seen in the sandstone which adds to the natural beauty of the site. These tranquil sandstone caves have a strong cultural connection with the local Gamilaroi people, who’s artwork and markings you can see within the caves.
Our final destination for the day was Barkala Farmstay. The farmstay is an organic farm, café, pottery studio and accommodation founded by Maria Rickett who bought the property to create an environment where value is placed on caring, working for the love it, expressing yourself through creativity and working with nature.
We had the pleasure of joining an introductory pottery class at their pottery studio, Pilliga Pottery. We were also able to spend time watching Julie, the artistic face of Pilliga Pottery. It is always a joy to see other creatives at work, and I was delighted to watch Julie sketch out designs on paper then transfer these to the pot by hand.
Following our pottery class, we indulged in woodfired pizza at the Blue Wren Bush Café. I can hand on heart say it was one of the best pizzas I’ve ever had. Tired from a long day, we retreated to the van, stoked up the fire and sat on the roof watching the stars rise overhead.
"I can hand on heart say it was one of the best pizzas I’ve ever had." - Flynn
Day 3 & 4 – Pilliga to Warrumbungle
The Pilliga Forest Discovery Centre in Baradine is a central source of information for the Pilliga Forest. The centre contains many interactive displays that will introduce you to the landscape, animals and cultural heritage of the region. A highlight of the displays was the Listening Tree which contained recorded stories from locals of key events over the previous decades.
While in Baradine we caught up with local bird expert, David Johnston, who told us all about the abundant local birdlife. He showed us an amazing bowerbird bower which was conveniently next door! I was amazed at how the bowerbird had collected items of a specific colour to create its bower, decorating it with marbles & white rocks borrowed from a nearby driveway.
That afternoon we arrived at the crown jewel of our trip to the region – Warrumbungle National Park. Australia’s only Dark Sky Park, Warrumbungle is world-renowned for its incredible starry skies with observatories dotting the mountains around the national park. Our very first night in the park we were treated to a cosmic display that will forever be in my mind, the Milky Way burning brightly over our van, stars visible to the naked eye. We scored a great spot for the night at Wambelong Campground, within the national park.
Our time in Warrumbungle National Park was spent being surrounded by native Australiana, staying up late to see the stars, hiking the trails and being educated on the cosmos at the Siding Spring Observatory. The landscape of Warrumbungle is breathtaking and I highly recommend the Fans Horizon walking track and Split Rock Track which offer mind-blowing views over the park.
"The trek was hard and mostly uphill -- but the sunrise views were well worth the pain, as always!" - Byron
We found a good vantage point, with over 180-degree views across the valleys below and waited for the sun to poke out from behind the Warrumbungle Mountain ranges.
The views were so spectacular and definitely worth the early morning rise.
Once the sun had risen, we made our way back down the mountainside to our campsite below, weaving through thick scrub and rock outcrops.
Around 3 pm we headed up to the Siding Spring Observatory, explored the interactive space museum, read some articles and then explored around the site.
The site houses 17 separate observatories including the 3.9m Australian Astronomical Observatory, which is the largest in Australia. Make sure to explore the visitor's gallery inside for a close-up view. Afterwards, we headed to Camp Wambelong to capture sunset photos of the van and surrounding mountains. That evening, we set up camp at Camp Blackman and rested for the evening.
Day 5 & 6 – Mendooran and Beyond
Before starting our journey back to the coast, we were treated to a day of decadence at the Black Gate Distillery (in Mendooran). The distillery is operated by husband and wife dream team Brian & Genise, an incredible couple whose hospitality I’ll never forget. Here we were treated to a tour of the distillery, where they brew rum and whiskey. I tried their rum in a cocktail called ‘Perfect Storm’, which I recommend you look up immediately! Very refreshing!
While at the distillery we sampled cheese by Blue Sky Cheese and chatted to the forces behind Mendooran's first cheese business - Pip & Deb. Using all local ingredients, their range includes Castlereagh Camembert, Peppertree Feta and Beni Blue! They had to take the cheese away before Byron and I ate it all!
In the morning we packed up the van for the last time and started the long drive back to Tweed, hitting the coast in time to catch our final sunset with Vanderlust.
My experiences on this journey have opened my eyes to the beauty to be found in rural Australia, and a greater appreciation for the incredible people who call it their home.
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