Now you shouldn’t feel bad if you haven’t heard of Dharawal National Park until now… we hadn’t either! Our Explorer Jono met up with a local park ranger to unearth some of the gems within this amazing hidden national park, just south of Sydney!
New South Wales is home to a vast network of National Parks, providing an endless list of places for outdoor enthusiasts to explore. When heading South of Sydney, Royal National Park has attracted the masses due to its proximity to Sydney, its diverse landscapes and its famous ‘Instagrammable’ locations.
However, just a little further past here is the national park you’ve never heard of oﬀering all those things and more – Dharawal National Park.
Dharawal National Park
Dharawal National Park was declared a National Park in 2012 and is the traditional land of the Dharawal Aboriginal people. Their longstanding connection with every facet of the land on which the park stands is still preserved today, with the park protecting several ancient Aboriginal sites, including drawings and axe-grinding grooves.
Due to 70 years of restricted public access, the area has been largely undisturbed, meaning that extensive pristine parklands await your arrival.
Just a stone’s throw south of Sydney in Campbelltown, this national park has a touch of everything to meet any of your outdoor needs. With picnic and toilet facilities as well as infrastructure tailored to accommodate every type of explorer, it’s the perfect place for a little escape. Here are a few ideas for you and your crew, so that you can experience the region like you never have before.
Jingga Falls Track
Distance: 2.8km return walk
Has the summer got you feeling like you need to cool oﬀ but Kmart is sold out of pedestal fans? Jingga Falls is the perfect solution.
In the language of the Dharawal, in relation to water, jingga means ‘nice and sweet’ and this little known paradise delivers exactly that.
Following the trail from the park’s northwestern entry through Campbelltown, a ﬁre trail leading oﬀ to the right marks the beginning of your walk to Jingga Falls. Begin your walk here down a steep track, though it may look a little intimidating it’s worth the walk!
Follow the track as it snakes down towards your destination, but don’t forget to look up to enjoy the eucalyptus and the dramatic sandstone formations that surround you. As you reach the last bend in the track you’ll be greeted with your reward, a beautiful freshwater watering hole beckoning you on the horizon.
Take a dip under the falls and swim downstream to explore the O’Hares Creek in all its glory. Find a spot by the creek to sunbathe or have a picnic and be sure to keep your eyes peeled some of the local fauna stopping by for a swim!
Distance: 2.4km return walk
If you haven’t got your ﬁll of watering holes, Dharawal is the gift that keeps on giving.
Entering the park again at its northwestern entry, the trail for the Minerva Pools is signposted and before the turn oﬀ to the Jingga Falls Track. Take a relaxing stroll down through the bushland and follow the signs that point you down to Minerva Pools.
On your way, be on the lookout for some of the animals that call this bushland home like the swamp wallaby or a yellow-tailed black cockatoo.
When you reach the end, stop and peer over the pools at the lookout but then make your way down to the pristine waterhole. Dip your toes in the running water ﬂowing down a small cascade into the pools below and take in the view.
If you decide to have a swim, paddle out to the rock island on the far end of the pool (a great little spot to sunbathe or to jump off back into the pools!).
Minerva Pool has been identified as a sacred women’s place for the Dharawal People. Out of respect it is requested only women and children enter the waters of the pool.
Distance: 2.8km return walk
If you’re looking for a quick walk through some of the pristine bushland without having to travel too far this is the one for you.
Take a stroll starting at the carpark at the northwestern entry to the park via Campbelltown. The ﬂat sealed bitumen track that leads you to O’Hares lookout is well maintained meaning that it’s an easy walk that is also wheelchair, pram and mobility scooter accessible.
Take in the surrounding landscapes consisting of scribbly gums and red bloodwoods over head, you may even spot a goanna or a wallaby making its way across the track on your walk.
A signpost will direct you towards the lookout after a short walk, take a right turn and soon enough the bushland will open up into a scenic vista looking down over the deep gorges, rock pools and rugged landscape carved from the Hawkesbury sandstone.
If you’re into birdwatching don’t forget your binoculars as this is a perfect vantage point to spot some wildlife.
When you’ve had enough time to take in the view, head back the way you came and stop at the secluded picnic area surrounded by bushland (but very close to the carpark) for a bite to eat!
Next to the bathroom facilities you’ll ﬁnd picnic tables (also purpose-built for wheelchair accessibility, yay!). Unpack your lunch here and relax for a moment longer before you head home.
10B Cycle Trail
Distance: 30km return ride
Remember that mountain bike in the shed collecting cobwebs? The 10B Cycling Trail is the perfect reason to dust them oﬀ and get back on the saddle.
It’s accessible from the park’s northeastern entry and follows an unsealed road through open forest and vast woodlands along a sandstone ridge. For the most part, the trail is a medium grade ride but the ﬁnal 3 kilometres is where you earn your stripes!
The descent into Stokes Creek Gorge means a good slog as you ride back up into the parks northern entrance at Wedderburn. This trail is perfect for beginner and intermediate riders as well as small groups. So grab your friends and their bikes and tick this one oﬀ the list!
Guided Indigenous Walks and Sensory Tour
Discover the indigenous heritage of Dharawal National Park on a guided walking tour that runs the second Saturday of each month, between February and November.
Led by an Aboriginal Discovery Ranger, these guided tours will provide a unique perspective of the Australian landscape that will give you a new appreciation of the National Park.
The Indigenous Tours take one of two popular tracks at the national park namely, the O’Hares Creek Lookout and the Minerva Pools track. Each tour lasts 1.5 hours and costs $10.
This is an experience not to be missed. Places are limited and bookings are essential, so head here to book your spot.
In addition to their Guided Indigenous Walks, the park also boasts a new Summer Series Sensory Walk on the third Saturday in December and January.
Join one of the rangers on a slow walk through the park where the focus is on the journey and experiencing the park’s surrounds with all your ﬁve senses. Taste bush foods, touch and smell the diverse native vegetation and hear the sounds of the bush on this inclusive walk suitable for everyone. Head here to book.
Distance: 1.4km return
Looking for a secluded waterfall to sit under? Dharawal has got you covered once again.
Enter the park’s eastern entry from Helensburgh onto Darkes Forest Road and park your car just after the Glenbernie Orchard. The walk starts on a ﬁre trail that heads down the hill which forms into a boardwalk. This boardwalk will lead you down to a lookout that sits above the falls.
When you arrive at the lookout take a moment to enjoy the view but the adventure doesn’t stop here. To get to the bottom of Maddens Falls here is where you go a little oﬀ track and it’s well worth it.
Traverse the top of the falls and look for a little track to the right leading down to the ﬁrst ledge of the falls. This section of rock is a great picnic spot, so don’t forget to pack some a little lunch hamper for you and your crew. For the more adventurous, the bottom of the falls is a short scramble a little further down the rocks.
Go back into the bush behind you and make your way around the ledge towards the bottom of the falls, this section is a little more tricky to navigate so don’t go down if you aren’t conﬁdent you can get back up!
When you’re done for the day, stop for a few apples or an ice-cold cider at the Glenbernie Orchard. I dare you to ﬁnd a better way to ﬁnish your day!