If you’re searching for a year-round adventure playground, you can’t beat NSW’s National Parks. Unleash your wild & free spirit with these underrated beauties.

We acknowledge the Traditional Custodians of the Countries on which these adventures take place who have occupied and cared for these lands and waters for thousands of years. We pay our respects to them and recognise that sovereignty was never ceded.

The Beauty of NSW National Parks

You know what I love most about NSW’s national parks? I mean, you probably don’t because I’m a stranger… so let me enlighten you. What I love most about the national parks in NSW is the fair dinkum diversity. 

From wetlands to woodlands, eucalypt forests to coastal environments, rainforests, grasslands, heathlands, alpine and desert regions – yeah, NSW has it all. I get tingles just thinking about it, and all the epic and diverse adventures that can be had across this magnificent state’s national parks. 

Guess how many national parks there are in NSW. Go on, have a wild guess.

There are over 225 national parks in NSW. SO MUCH ROOM FOR ACTIVITIES! So I’m imploring you to ditch the crowds and find your bliss in one of more than 225 gems across the state. I’ve made it easy for you with a list of 12 of the most beautifully underrated national parks in NSW, so let’s do it – let’s get out there legends! 

PSA: We love our wild and precious places so as always, leave no trace, respect the local flora and fauna and tread lightly.

The 12 Most Underrated National Parks in NSW

1. Oxley Wild Rivers National Park

 

Oxley Wild Rivers National Park, Walcha, DNSW

 

Location: near Armidale
Activities: walking, camping, biking, horse riding, and fishing

In the gorgeous Northern Tablelands of New South Wales you’ll find Oxley Wild Rivers National Park, part of the Gondwana Rainforests of Australia World Heritage Area.

With an abundance of wilderness areas, dry rainforest, wild and gorgeous rivers, mesmerising gorges and waterfalls, and a seriously diverse range of wildlife, this is a national park worth spending a whole weekend exploring. 

Whether you fancy camping, hiking, taking a paddle, a cycle or even a horse ride, there’s something for everyone at Oxley Wild Rivers. 

Pro tip: Check out the Apsley Macleay Gorges, one of Australia’s largest gorge systems with incredible ridge top views and visit Wollomombi, the highest waterfall in NSW.

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2. Hat Head National Park

 

Smoky Cape Lighthouse, Arakoon, DNSW

 

Location: near Kempsey
Activities: camping, bushwalking, fishing, swimming, whale-watching, and bird-watching

For an unforgettable Mid-North Coast adventure, check out the natural paradise of Hat Head National Park. 

If coastal national parks are your jam, you’ll no doubt froth over this place. From jaw-dropping beaches to epic sand dunes, rainforest and wetlands, there’s plenty to explore, so don’t forget to pack ya tent and make a weekend out of it. 

Take a hike along several amazing walking tracks, cast a line in the water or just grab a book and relax to the sound of birdsong. Speaking of birds, keen birdwatchers might find Black swans and Spoonbills in the park’s wetlands, hawks and eagles soaring above the beach cliffs while curlews and plovers meander on the shore. 

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3. Warrumbungle National Park

 

Breadknife and Grand High Tops Walk, Warrumbungle National Park, DNSW

 

Location: near Coonabarabran
Activities: camping, walking, birdwatching, and star-gazing

Recognisable by its jutting and jagged peaks that tower above the valley floor, Warrumbungle is one of the most majestic national parks in NSW – especially if you’re a lover of starry night skies, it’s internationally recognised as an official ‘Dark Sky Park’.

The Breadknife is a sight to behold, towering at a whopping 90m above the park floor. The Breadknife and Grand High Tops walk is one of the best walks in NSW and it’s where you’ll find the most soul-stirring views of the park’s iconic rock formations.

Wildfires in 2013 mean most of the park’s most popular sites have been rebuilt with modern facilities – you’ll get the comforts of home combined with the fun of the great outdoors.

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4. Pilliga National Park

 

 

Location: near Coonabarabran
Activities: camping, hiking, bird-watching

If you want to hit two national parks with one stone, Pilliga National Park is less than an hour’s drive from Warrumbungle National Park. It’s an iconic Aussie landscape with next-level rugged beauty.

Pilliga itself is a huge forest that covers over half a million hectares and features 2,000km of public access trails – meaning there’s a heck of a lot of adventuring to do here either by foot or via car (best to do along the Coonabarabran-Baradine-Warrumbungle scenic drive).

Pilliga Forest is made up of Pilliga Nature Reserve, Timmallallie National Park, Pilliga West, and East State Conservation Areas. You could easily spend a whole weekend exploring this beautiful area.

It’s particularly important to the Gamilaroi people, and you can take a guided discovery tour of Sandstone Caves to find out more about this important Aboriginal site.

If you’re a keen ornithophile, keep an eye out for Pilliga’s rare Barking owls (sounds like a sing-song ‘woof woof’) and Mallee fowls.

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5. Yengo National Park

Location: Blue Mountains
Activities: 4WDing, hiking, mountain-biking 

Any fourby enthusiasts in the house? You gotta check out Yengo National Park, which is part of the Greater Blue Mountains World Heritage Area. 

What’s truly special about Yengo is not only its remote and wild beauty but also its unique Aboriginal cultural heritage. There are plenty of Aboriginal sacred sites and rock engravings to explore while you’re there. 

Jump in your 4WD and explore the steep gorges and rocky ridges of this underrated national park that’s less than two hours by car from Sydney or Newcastle. 

That’s not to say 2WD owners can’t get out and about in this park, but it’s definitely a whole lot more fun in a fourby (or on a mountain bike). On foot? You can walk the Big Yango loop trail before setting up camp under a starry night sky. 

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6. Mount Kaputar National Park

 

 

Location: near Narrabri
Activities: camping, cycling and mountain-biking, walking, horse riding, and bird watching

Close to Warrumbungle and Pilliga national parks you’ll find Mount Kaputar National Park. About 1 hour’s drive from Narrabri in northern NSW, Mount Kaputar is for the true adventurers.

A wilderness getaway like no other, you’ll be left speechless at the sight of this park’s gigantic forests, mesmerising rock formations and views of the plains below. 

From camping to walking, cycling to bird watching and horse riding, let your spirit run wild as you take in the breathtaking views of Mount Kaputar and its surroundings.

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7. Bundjalung National Park

 

 

Location: near Yamba
Activities: beach walking, fishing, canoeing, and mountain-biking

For a magical North Coast experience, check out Bundjalung National Park – about 1.5 hours north of Coffs Harbour. 

If an adventure by the water sets your soul alight, you’ll obsess over Bundjalung’s mix of rivers, beaches, and freshwater lagoons. 

You can’t beat a day paddling along Evans River or Jerusalem Creek, or if you prefer dry land you can mountain bike the Macaulays Lead or Serendipity fire trail. Not a fan of wheels? A walk along Ten Mile Beach is out-of-this-world, and you can stop along the way for a snorkel or fish on the shallow reefs.  

Bundjalung is ideal for beachside camping and seriously relaxing afternoons.

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8. Meroo National Park

Location: near Ulladulla
Activities: fishing, walking, paddling, birdwatching, cycling and camping

If your heart often leads you down south (like mine does), Meroo National Park is the ultimate coastal paradise. Close to Ulladulla and Batemans Bay, there’s plenty of joy to be found in and amongst this stunning park, especially if you’re a water baby.

There are gorgeous coastal lakes that are perfect for kayaking, paddling and fishing. Or, if you fancy a walk or cycle, there are several unsealed roads and trails that are prime for exploration. 

I’d recommend setting up shop at Tabourie Lake because it’s the perfect spot for a bit of everything: fishing, paddling, windsurfing, swimming, walking and birdwatching.

If you head to Meroo National Park during whale-watching season (May-November), you’ll find epic views at Meroo Head lookout or Nuggan Point. 

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9. Dharawal National Park

 

 

Location: near Campbelltown
Activities: walking, cycling, and swimming

For an underrated national park close to Sydney, you can’t beat Dharawal National Park. This is one of my personal favourites and each time I’ve gone, I pass a maximum of one or two other explorers. 

A significant place for the Dharawal people, this park offers a truly diverse bushland experience. With a distinctive network of creeks, including the ecologically-important O’Hares Creek catchment, this national park also protects several special Aboriginal sites, like Minerva Pool, which is accessible via an easy walking track. This pristine waterhole is sacred and is only swimmable for women and children. It’s a sacred women’s site and men are asked not to enter the water.

With a plethora of tall eucalypts, heaths, swamps, waterfalls and rock pools, Dharawal National Park is nothing short of magical. 

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10. Heathcote National Park

 

 

Location: Heathcote
Activities: bushwalking, camping, and swimming

Another underrated beauty that’s very close to Sydney’s CBD is Heathcote National Park. Close to the more popular Royal National Park, Heathcote is the perfect spot for some off-the-grid camping and bushwalking.

Characterised by beautiful native vegetation and wildlife and plenty of freshwater pools, this park is truly for the wild and free. Due to its limited facilities, it’s definitely a place for self-sufficient adventurers, which makes it all the more fun. 

The Kingfisher Pool is not to be missed, and you can catch this gorgeous paradise (complete with a waterfall, mind you), along the Bullawarring walking track, which is undoubtedly one of the best walks near Sydney. It’s a rough track, with short steep sections, but man is it worth it.

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11. Bungonia National Park

 

 

Location: near the Southern Highlands
Activities: caving, canyoning, rock climbing, abseiling, and hiking

A short 1.5 hour drive from Canberra will see you reach Bungonia National Park, which is the perfect spot for the thrill-seekers among us.

I’m talking caving, canyoning, rock climbing, abseiling, and some killer hiking trails of course! There are some gentle woodland walks too, but this national park certainly ups the ante when it comes to adrenaline-pumping adventures. It’s literally known as the adventure capital of the Southern Tablelands!

There are about 200 ‘wild’ caves in the park, so come prepared (no seriously, make sure you’re experienced or come with an experienced friend before tackling some of these wild spots – safety first, friends!). Parent talk aside, you’ll undoubtedly have some stories to tell after a day adventuring in Bungonia. 

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12. Ben Boyd National Park

 

Ben Boyd National Park, Green Cape, DNSW

 

Location: Far South Coast
Activities: swimming, snorkelling, surfing, hiking and camping 

Ben Boyd National Park, which is soon to be renamed in the language of the Yuin people, spans a whopping 47km of jagged coastline and protected coves. 

Sitting pretty on the Far South Coast of NSW (pretty much on the line between NSW and VIC), this coastal national park is actually separated into two areas, split down the middle by Twofold Bay.

So, whether you’d rather spend the day surfing in the park’s Pambula-Haycock area or marvel at the rocky cliffs in the Green Cape area, you’ll certainly find your joy in this spectacular national park. 

There are some short hiking tracks you can finish in a day (like the Pambula River or Pinnacles loop walking tracks), or if you’re after something a bit meatier you can hike the coast from Boyds Tower to Green Cape Light station in 2-3 days – also known as the Light to Light walk.

Just there for the day? There are a bunch of pretty beaches to swim, snorkel and surf at, or cast a line for some rock fishing. 

What’s truly magical about Ben Boyd National Park is it features more than 50 Aboriginal sites, so there’s plenty of culture and history to learn about on your adventure.

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Tell Us Ya Faves

So there you have it – NSW truly does have some spectacular national parks doesn’t it? These are some of our faves, but we’re dying to know your favourite underrated national parks in NSW. Drop us a comment below and spill the beans, please!