New South Welshmen and women – the long weekend is coming. While popping another candle in the cake for Queen Liz is a worthy enough cause, I reckon that ramping up your explorer game and checking out some further afield National Parks is the best way to use your extra day off.

NSW National Parks and Wildlife service reckon they have 850 national parks and reserves under their belt, but most are too far away for a normal 2 day weekend. With 3 days (or 4 if you were looking a bit sniffly on Thursday arvo) there’s heaps of time to venture further afield.

Set your sights on these 5 National Parks that are more than a stone’s throw from the big smoke:

Mt Kaputar National Park – 7 Hours From Sydney

Rising out of the plains around Narrabri and forming a key part of the Nandewar Range, Mt Kaputar National Park, is an elevated bushland oasis. Mount Kaputar itself is 1,489 metres above sea level and with most of the park over a kilometre up, temperatures in the park are generally up to 10 degrees cooler than on the plains below. You might even see some snow!

You can set up a basecamp at Dawsons Spring or Bark Hut campgrounds before you hit the trails. The lookout at the end of the Governor track is particularly stimulating at sunset, but bring a headtorch to avoid falling all the way back down to your tent.

Mt Kaputar is also the perfect place to nerd out on nature: creep around the Dawson’s Spring nature trail at night in search of wildlife or take a day-trip out to Sawn Rocks, one of Australia’s best examples of “organ-piping”, a geological phenomenon that occurs as basaltic lava cools.Euglah Rock, Doug Sky Lookout, Mt Kaputar National Park, NSW, Tim Ashelford

Nymboi-Binderay National Park – 7.5 Hours From Sydney

Deep in the wilds behind Coffs Harbour there’s a rainforested gorge-fest just begging to be relaxed in. Split by the Nymboida River, Nymboi-Binderay National Park is subtropical nirvana featuring soaring eucalyptus trees, platypus infested rivers (damn) and frothing whitewater.

In fact the Nymboida River forms part of Australia’s longest white water river trail and many guided tours begin here.

If you’re looking to slow everything right down you can explore the calmer sections of the river by paddleboard, saunter beneath the gums on the Coachwood loop track or just chill at one of 3 remote campsites.North Face, hammocking on the Nymboida River, Nymboi-Binderay National Park, Henry Brydon, NSW

Warrumbungle National Park – 6.5 Hours From Sydney

Warrumbungle National Park, just out of Coonabarabran in country NSW, serves up a tantalising combination of starry skies and downright wacky rock formations.

The Warrumbungle Range, which everyone just calls “The Warrumbungles”, feature the rocky remains of an eroded shield volcano. The formations have metal names like “Split Rock”, “Fans Horizon”,”Crater Bluff” and “The Breadknife” (?), you can walk beneath them and throw up your horns on the Grand High Tops walk.

It’s also a gold star Dark Sky Park, this means it officially gets dark enough to see “the full array of visible sky phenomena” when the moon isn’t out. It’s no mistake the Sliding Springs Observatory is just down the road.

Warrumbungle National Park, Harry Candlin, Split Rock, NSW, sunset

Split Rock – @harrisoncandlin

Wadbilliga National Park – 6 Hours From Sydney

If you’re looking for a real wilderness weekender head into Wadbilliga National Park. Nestled between the Snowy Mountains and the South Coast, Wadbilliga features a range of habitats from alpine to coastal with rugged gorges straight out of the Northern Territory.

The Tuross River runs throughout the park and eventually leaps off a series of jagged granite cliffs as the Tuross Falls. Camping at the Cascades campground is situated on the river and the cascades produce the purest, all-natural, organic white noise around. It’s the perfect starting point for the Tuross Falls and Cascades walking tracks (had fun naming this place didn’t they?) but be quick, bookings are essential.

Tuross Falls, Wadbilliga National Park, Tuross River, NSW, waterfall, gorge

Tuross Falls – @woodfiredlettuce

Deua National Park – 4.5 Hours From Sydney

“A perfect location, between Canberra and the sea” sounds like a dodgy real-estate agent on full bore but there’s some truth to it thanks to Deua National Park. Beneath the delicate ferns and tranquil rivers lies a band of everyone’s favourite cavemaker – limestone – which is responsible for some incredible geological formations within the park.

Top of the list is The Big Hole, a 100m metre deep, open-roofed cave. As the name suggests, it’s effin’ huge and from the viewing platform you can gaze directly into it’s yawning mouth/hell. From here you can continue on to see the stalactites hanging under the Marble Arch and explore some cheeky slot canyons.

Finish up at Berlang campground with a cold one or take a paddle on the Shoalhaven, you could even combine the two, but you didn’t hear that from me.

The Big Hole, Deua National Park, NSW, Mark Davies, geology, rocks, cave, deep

Photo Credit: @sharkmavies

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