Off-Road Adventures in Oxley Wild Rivers National Park (NSW)

Highlights:

Oxley Wild Rivers National Park is a World Heritage listed area, littered with stunning gorges, valleys and waterfalls. It and the surrounding national parks offer an absolute wealth of fire trails to explore by both 4WD and AWD. Despite the numerous times my partner and I had traipsed up the Oxley Highway, we did not discover this area until we were tipped off by a family friend who recommended we overnight at Youdales Campground.

Youdales Campground and Youdales Hut are only accessible by 4WDs with high clearance and low range. You also need to book ahead to arrange a permit and collection of a key for the locked gate, so it does require a day or two of pre-planning. National Parks should also be able to hook you up with a sketch map to the area if you ask them nicely (we had one emailed to us). But if you’re sitting there thinking that the high clearance, low range warning is just National Parks being conservative and surely your Subie could get down there, think again. Even in our Landrover Defender, we scraped the underside of our vehicle in some sections. We were also in low first most of the way down. It is STEEP! And eroded in sections.

But if you are equipped with a 4WD with low range and high clearance, boy oh boy are you in for a treat! Being so remote, you are likely to have the campsite to yourselves. We explored the historic hut with beers in hand, as well as the neighbouring Kunderang Brook, before setting in for some stargazing and astrophotography and then cheese, wine and dinner by the fire (fire pits and firewood are provided – thanks National Parks!). All with not another soul in sight. Well except for the resident possums and their creepy glowing eyes!

If your vehicle doesn’t fit the above description, there are plenty of other camp grounds in the area. Ask National Parks for some recommendations for your vehicle type and the conditions. We particularly liked Bushy Mountain campground as well.

Making our way back up out of the valley the next morning, we set off to take the “long” way home, south via the Racecourse Trail through Werrikimbe National Park. The Racecource Trail was very well maintained and should be accessible by AWDs or even a 2WDs in good weather. But again, check the conditions with National Parks before you go. And remember, this is a remote area with no mobile phone coverage, so do be prepared. You don’t want to get bogged or beyond your comfort zone out here!

Essential gear

  • Camping gear and food for the length of your trip
  • Topographic map, 4WD map or GPS
  • Recovery gear, first aid kit, as well as a PLB or satellite phone in the event of an emergency (National Parks can loan you a PLB)
  • Camera with a wide angle lens, if you’re keen on astrophotography

How to get there

There are numerous access points. We gained entry via Kangaroo Flat Road off the Oxley Highway, south of Walcha. Access is also possible via Carrai Road, Coachwood Road and the Racecourse Trail from Kempsey, or the Hastings Forest Way and Racecourse Trail from Port Macquarie. If you intend to stay at Youdales campground, you will need to collect a key in Walcha. The Walcha area National Parks office should be able to provide advice to help you plan your trip.

Activities

  • 4WDing
  • Camping
  • Photography, including astrophotography
  • Bushwalking
  • Swimming

Skill level

Easy. Intermediate if you intend to access Youdales Hut and campground, and the track becomes much more difficult after rain and may not be accessible.

Distance Covered

Oxley Wild Rivers National Park is about a 445 km drive from Sydney. Youdales Hut is about 96km from Walcha, but the 700m descent is slow going due to the very many steep switchbacks. Leave about three hours for the trip from Walcha (including some stops to take in the view along the way). Where you want to go beyond that is up to you, the conditions, your vehicle and your off-road skill level!