You may have heard of Kosciuszko and Ku-ring-gai Chase National Parks, but did you know New South Wales is home to more than 870 national parks and reserves? If you venture beyond the big-hitters you’ll find an array of lesser-known parks that offer incredible bushwalking, swimming, Aboriginal history, and more. Here are five under-the-radar national parks that call NSW home.
Mungo National Park
The landscapes of Mungo National Park in Outback NSW, 1,000km west of Sydney, are so otherworldly that arriving here feels like stepping onto another planet. In contrast to the green trees and flowing waterfalls of many other NSW national parks, Mungo is full of red earth, sand dunes, wild emus and unusual rock formations. It’s unlike anything else in Australia.
Don’t miss the Walls of China and Red Top lookouts, which can be explored on walking tours and offer magnificent views of the park below, particularly at sunrise and sunset. You can also tackle one of the park’s cycle loops, taking in the desertscapes around you as you pedal. Another must-see is the dry bed of Lake Mungo, which is now filled with photogenic layers of sand and clay called ‘lunettes’. Here, you can also learn more about the Aboriginal history and culture of the Paakantji, Ngiyampaa and Mutthi Mutthi people. The park is home to Mungo Lady and Mungo Man, which date back 42,000 years and are considered to be the oldest human remains found outside of Africa.
Where to stay: There are two campgrounds in the park (the Main Campground has more facilities), or you can opt for a basic but comfortable stay inside at the Mungo Shearers’ Quarters. Consider breaking up the drive here with a night in Wagga Wagga.
Bungonia National Park
You don’t have to go remote to discover a new national park. Just 2.5 hours’ drive southwest from Sydney, you’ll find Bungonia National Park, which is known as the adventure capital of the NSW Southern Tablelands. You can abseil, rock climb, hike and go canyoning or caving here. But for a slower pace, bushwalks are a great way to explore the scenery. A popular walk is the 6.7km Green Track (allow 2.5 to 3.5 hours to complete the loop). Multi-day guided adventure treks are also possible.
Where to stay: Pitch a tent in the national park campground (which has toilets, showers, barbecue facilities and drinking water) or choose from the many accommodation options in Goulburn, just 30 minutes’ drive to the west.
Boonoo Boonoo National Park
It’s in Boonoo Boonoo National Park that famed poet Banjo Paterson proposed to his sweetheart Alice Walker back in 1903. Patterson popped the question at Boonoo Boonoo Falls Lookout, where you can still see the mighty, 210-metre tall waterfall cascade down into the rainforest gorge below.
The national park, 30 minutes north of Tenterfield, is perfect for soaking up northern NSW’s natural beauty with bushwalking trails, secluded rock pools, and more to discover. Pack your swimsuit and tackle the 6.1km River Walk, which takes you through eucalypt forest and past the river, where you may see wallabies and kangaroos grazing; allow 3.5 to 4.5 hours each way.
Where to stay: By the river, Cypress Pine Campground has toilets and barbecue facilities. Just inside the park, there’s also Robinsons Cabin, or get a room in Tenterfield, just 27 kilometres from the park.
Paroo-Darling National Park
An hour north of Wilcannia in far western NSW, Paroo-Darling National Park’s position on the Murray-Darling Basin means you can kayak, canoe and fish here. The rugged park is home to the serene Peery Lake, which draws kangaroos, emus and an incredible array of birds to the shore when full; look out for pink cockatoos! Just keep in mind that this is a remote part of NSW, so you must bring everything you’ll need with you.
Where to stay: Camp at the park’s Coach and Horses Campground, perhaps breaking up the journey in Dubbo if you’re headed here from Sydney.
Mutawintji National Park
Another ruggedly beautiful national park in the Central Darling Shire, 2.5 hours drive northeast of Broken Hill, is Mutawintji National Park, where you can see the crimson red Bynguano Ranges and immerse yourself in Aboriginal history.
The ancestral home of the Malyankapa and Pandjikali people, Mutawintji National Park is NSW’s first Aboriginal-owned national park. Discover Aboriginal rock engravings and spot emus on trails that lace this wild outback landscape such as the 7.5km-return Homestead Gorge Walking Track. You can also explore the park on a tour with Tri State Safaris based in Broken Hill.
Where to stay: The well-equipped Homestead Creek Campground is a great base for exploring the park. It has showers and barbecue facilities, but you’ll need to bring your own drinking water.
This article was original published by Destination NSW.
Image credit: Tyson Mayr, Mungo National Park, Mungo