Kuringai Chase National Park
This is our home turf, so we know it well. It’s only 45 mins from Sydney CBD, but it feels like another world. Lush, dense bush hangs off the surrounding hills and cascades down to the water, ocassionally punctuated by rock escarpments, waterfalls and pristine sandy beaches. I think the best time to visit is between May and October. Sure its extra refreshing in the water after a long hike, but you can easily find yourself with a perfect sandy beach all to yourself. The network of trails around here are wonderful, some of the best are:
- Resolute Loop Track
- Cowan to Brooklyn via Jerusalem Bay
- West Head Lookout to Great Mackerel Beach
- Berowra to Mount Kuring-gai via Apple Tree Bay
- Bobbin Head, Sphinx and Warrimoo Loop Track
- Gibberagong Walking Track (Including Bobbin Head Boardwalk)
- Barrenjoey lighthouse & Palm beach
Bouddi National Park
On the north side of Pittwater is the Bouddi National Park. The best water access to this park is from Iron Ladder beach, where you can anchor and go ashore. Alternativley you can head up the channel into Brisbane Water and access the park from there.
At Iron Ladder there is a small beach, awesome rock ledges to jump off and trails leading to Little Tallow beach, Tallow beach and beyond into the National Park. Box Head is an awesome spot to chill. There are great views out over Pittwater, Broken Bay and the Tasman sea where you and look out for Whales, dolphins and seals.
Tomaree National Park
The best thing about anchoring at Shoal Bay, inside Port Stephens is the great beach and the easy access to Tomaree National Park. The park has some great trails including the summit climb up Tomaree Head with incredible panoramic views around the area. Lower down Tomaree Head there are the remains of some WW2 gun emplacements, which are worth exploring.
Interestingly, a 20 km Circuit walk is about to be constructed which will meander through the coastal villages and pristine beaches providing series of half day, full day or multi day walking options through the Tomaree NP. Sounds like a good idea, as the coastal landscape is amazing.
Myall Lakes National Park
This National Park extends up the coast from Hawkes Nest to Seal Rocks. It encompasses one of the state’s largest coastal lake systems Myall Lakes, and includes Broughton Islands. It has some exceptional camping spots on the strip of land that separates the Tasman Sea from the lakes and is a kayakers paradise. You could easily pack a tent on your kayak or throw one in your tinnie and explore this area for days, camping on remote beaches. There are also epic bush walks like the 21km Mungo track and the shorter Tamboi track and options for 4WD and mountain biking.
If you’re not a hiker, biker or kayaker you could head for the small hamlet of Seal Rocks, which has has long held mythic status among the global surfing community. You can explore the beaches, watch the surfers or take a lesson and enjoy the mellow breaks yourself.
Saltwater National Park
This small National Park make’s a nice stop to explore saltwater point, or some of the other short, family friendly, trails on offer. If you have a kayak, you can drop it into the flat, tranquil waters of Khappinghat creek and explore wetlands, mangroves and sections of rain forest. It’s a nice compact area to explore.
Hat Head & Arakoon National parks
Hat Head National Park and Arakoon National Parks join each other along the strip of coast between Hat Head and Trail Bay.
In calm conditions you can anchor in the bay to the north of Hat Head, and to help get ashore there is a creek with a small slipway, this makes access to the park by dinghy easier than a beach landing. But you will need settled/calm conditions. There are a number of nice walking trails and some great beaches to explore.
Just north of Hat Head National Park is Arakoon National Park. If visiting by boat you can anchor in Trial Bay. You will need calm conditions, and/or a southerly weather system, but trail bay is a good roadstead anchorage and ideal place to explore the Gaol from or simply await a tide to enter the Macleay River at South West Rocks.
Once ashore, both these parks have plenty to keep you interested. Arakoon’s main draw card is the old Gaol, which you can look around. Or you can tramp one of the short trails that run through the park. The Scenery around here is simply stunning and in the right conditions well worth a stop. If you are looking for a less energetic way to pass your time South West Rocks has, a nice holiday atmosphere with good foreshores, pleasant beaches and sweet fishing.
Bundjalung National park
Accessing by boat is best done by entering the Clarence River at Yamba and anchoring in Iluka Bay, from which it would be possible to explore the park on foot, bike or kayak. The Esk river is reputedly the longest unspoilt natural coastal river system on the north coast of NSW. It makes for a great kayaking excursion and you’ll feel like you’ve entered a wildlife wonderland, with prolific bird and fish life. If your lucky you may even spot a koala! You enter the mouth of the Esk at the upper end of North Arm, not far from Iluka.
As an alternative there are a number of car hire places in Yamba and these would make a visit easier and provide you the opportunity to explore some of the inland parks in this area.