Want an easy but exciting weekend getaway from Sydney or Canberra? Our Explorer Rachel Dimond has you covered with this awesome beginner 4WD trip to Deua National Park. You’ll take in Big Hole, Marble Arch Canyon and some stunning riverside, starry sky campgrounds.
• Dry Canyoning
• A big hole (like, really big)
• Reeeeal fun amateur 4WDing (I’m talking river crossings and car sick passengers)
• A ton of native wildlife
• Plenty of wild swimming
4WDing In Deua National Park
My tale begins on a Friday night after one of the longest weeks at work I have ever experienced. There was one car, one cheap motel room and five pals. Lucky for us we don’t mind intimate spaces and physical contact. After a short sleep and an early breakfast of bacon and eggs on the tailgate we were ready to get stuck into our day in Deua National Park, driving into the park from the east with the intention of exiting to the west after having our fill of 4WDing.
For the first forty-five minutes or so the road was a fairly standard fire trail affair, until a deer materialised in front of the car and appeared to be paralysed with fear. We passed a sign denoting that the rest of the trail would be 4WD only and as ominous, dark rain clouds appeared we knew we had fun times ahead.
The road became steep; very steep. The kind of steep where there are drainage gutters dug across the road to prevent it from becoming a waterfall in heavy rain. Up and down and up and down, mountains flitted in and out of view to the north and south. The carsick bemoaned their lack of medication preparation and called shotgun for respite as the smell of burning brake pads filled the air at each stop. Next time I’ll be sure to bring a sick bag.
We pulled into Bendethera Campground, about halfway through the park, to scout it out for a subsequent trip, and squealed with delight at each river crossing. Seriously, driving through water is badass. With calm waters, open campgrounds and lots of room we will definitely be heading back here in the warmer months, lilos and kayaks in tow.
The second half of the car trip combined the steep inclines and declines with one lane hairpin turns. When we came to the Dampier trig station the dark clouds finally dropped their guts on us. The joke was on them. It was so cold that big fluffy snowflakes began to whip around the mountain and this was met with squeals and screams of delight and proclamations of awe. At this point, we should have predicted the freezing temperatures of the night to come. We did not.
Marble Arch Canyon And The Big Hole
We arrived at Berlang Campground, our home for the night, right on lunch time. So another gourmet tailgate meal was prepared and the afternoon’s adventure commenced to the Marble Arch Canyon via The Big Hole.
To summarise: creek crossing, BIG hole, dry canyon, great adventure. The hike is approximately 13km return and fairly easy. The only steep descent/ascent you will experience is coming in and out of the canyon.
Spoiler. The hole is BIG! Really big. The canyon has just the right amount of manoeuvring to make you feel like a rookie Spiderman and it is actually made of marble! So make sure you have a head torch and check it out. The hike is a pleasant ramble through gum forest and overflowing with native wildlife. We saw two echidnas (!!!), tons of wombats (my fave furry critters) and a slew of native birds.
Back To Berlang Campground
We arrived back at the campground at sunset, but not before one of the crew misjudged a step on the river crossing and ate it hard. She was fine. The only thing hurting after the fuss was our bellies from all the laughing. Wood was chopped, fire was lit, tent was erected and wine was mulled. We went to bed with toasty toes and warm bellies. All was well until the witching hour…
“Is everyone awake?”
“ Can anyone else not feel their face? Or their toes? Can anyone feel anything?”
Turns out it’s easy to misjudge the temperature of the night when you’ve had a few too many wines by the campfire to warm you. By this time the wine had had time to make its way to our bladders and no one was getting back to sleep. Group toilet trip!
As we exited the tent it became obvious it was well below zero. The tent flap was more like a solid door and the grass crunched underfoot. And then we looked up. WOW! Being the night of the new moon and far from city lights the stars were quite overwhelming. They felt…closer? They twinkled brighter. They actually lit up the ground. We didn’t even need headlamps. Night vision FTW.
“Rach. Rach. Rachel!”
“Go take some photos.”
“What? No. I’m a popsicle. You go do it.”
“Nah. Don’t know how.”
And that is why I will forever remember those stars as I saw them. Bright and brilliant. No cameras. No photos. Unfortunately nothing I can share with you except words. Sometimes, that is the nicest way to remember.
“You guys wanna play Taboo!?”
“No! Go to sleep.”
Sunrise And A Coffee
Morning came and my many, many layers still weren’t quite doing it. I was in desperate need of coffee. As my pals all slept I watched the sun come up over the ridge while I waited for some water to boil. My husband ran from the tent to the car and yelled, “It’s still bloody -6ºc!” Well, that explains a lot.
Once the tent thawed out and breakfast was consumed we packed up and headed back Sydney way. We couldn’t resist a coffee break in Braidwood and neither should you. Head to 134 Espresso Bar for the best soy latte you will ever lay your lips on. The perfect way to end our big day in Deua.
• Overnight camping gear
• Wine (always)
• Water or water purification system
• Four Wheel Drive (not required if approaching Berlang from the West)
How To Get There
Drive four hours south of Sydney to get to the Moruya side of Deua National Park or an hour and three quarters south west of Canberra to get to the Berlang side.
• Dry canyoning
• Freezing your butt off (seasonal)
Hiking: A fairly easy ramble for any reasonably fit adult. It will take about four hours to complete. Suitable for active kids, closely supervised at The Big Hole. The creek crossing at the beginning can become dangerous at times of high rainfall as can the Marble Arch Canyon. The hike is more than halved by turning around at The Big Hole. However, I absolutely recommend continuing to the Marble Arch Canyon if time and ability permits.
4WDing: We stuck to the main fire trails between Moruya, Bendethera Campground and Berlang Campground. As amateur 4WDers we found it to be a great drive with a Ford Ranger that has not been modified. The creek crossings were a good depth but would increase in difficulty and depth with rainfall.
The return hike to the Marble Arch Canyon via the Big Hole is approximately 13km and will take anywhere from three to six hrs. Crossing the park in a 4WD from Moruya to Berlang will take the better half of a day depending on the frequency of passenger spew stops.
More NSW camping adventures…