With its iconic, volcanic peaks soaring above the valley below, plus the honour of being Australia’s only Dark Sky Park, a trip to Warrumbungle National Park is truly a unique weekend away.
In his book, ‘When Breath Becomes Air‘, Dr Paul Kalanithi perfectly explains the magic of the mountains – ‘You can’t help but feel your speck-like existence among the immensity of a mountain’.
Add to the mix vast starry skies with clear views of distant universes, and you’ve got yourself a truly humbling experience. This is the magic combo on offer in the Warrumbungle National Park, Australia’s first designated Dark Sky Park, located in central-west New South Wales.
Australia’s Only Dark Sky Park
Low levels of light pollution, low humidity and high altitude combine here to produce crystal clear night skies so amazing they’re protected and used for scientific research. You can geek up on all of this stuff at the Warrumbungle Observatory night sky show – let the astronomers blow your mind with out-of-this-world facts as you stare into a sky full of stars.
Milky Way Magic
After sunset and before the moon rises is generally the best time to see the Milky Way in all its starry glory. You can pull over anywhere on the main road that passes through the park (switch off those headlights) or a great spot to stop is the open field in Camp Blackman. You don’t have to be staying here to enjoy the views and it’s a popular choice with local photographers.
Hiking the Warrumbungles
By day, the Warrumbungles is equally spectacular with a bunch of great treks to tackle. The two absolute musts are Belougery Split Rock, and the Breadknife and Grand High Tops walking tracks. Each is as epic as it sounds, offering show-stopping views of the volcanic mountain range that gives this park its name – Warrumbungle is the Gamilaroi word for ‘crooked mountain’.
The Breadknife and Grand High Tops walk is a challenging 14.5km loop that’ll get your heart rate up for all the right reasons – the panoramic views at the top are so unreal you’ll feel like you’ve been dropped into a Jurassic video game! A quicker hike if you’re short on time is the Fans Horizon walking track, just 3.6km but with enough of a climb to get some pretty sick mountain views.
Belougery Split Rock is a deceptive 4.6km trek with plenty of elevation, including an optional scramble to the very pinnacle if you’re feeling brave – you’re virtually rock climbing when it comes to the really steep bits, with the aid of metal handles hammered into the rock – trust in the metal, hold on tight and don’t look down!
Sundowners at Whitegum Lookout
Once you’re back down from cloud nine, make a stop at Whitegum Lookout to watch the sun dip below the horizon. Take a moment to appreciate this epic nature playground at 60bpm as the sky spills into all kinds of firey red and orange hues. Big ups planet earth!
Camp Blackman and Other Accommodation
If you’re in a campervan or looking to pitch a tent, Camp Blackman is a kilometre down the road and offers that feeling of remoteness with the added bonus of toilets and hot showers.
If you’re looking for the ultimate wilderness experience, there are remote campgrounds for self-sufficient hikers along some of the trekking routes – check out Dows Camp on the Breadknife and Grand High Tops walk.
And if you’ve left it all too late or prefer to stay closer to civilisation, there are a handful of accommodation options in the nearest town, Coonabarabran.
- Warm clothes for stargazing
- Proper hiking boots
- Camping gear
- Water and drink bottle!
How To Get There
The Warrumbungles is a solid 6-hour drive from Sydney, so break at Mudgee (drink some wine and spend the night!) or start early and gun it straight to the Warrumbungles Visitor Centre, the park’s epicentre and a great info point.
- Sunset watching!
The hikes range from beginner to intermediate.