Part of the appeal of going to National Parks is for the most part the beauty and scenery you’re likely to experience. For us we also like the peace and tranquility, also read remoteness. This makes National Parks great for taking a break from the “Technology” that we are so reliant upon. The downside of this remoteness can sometimes means that you have no mobile coverage, which means no access to the web. Of course when you don’t have access to the web/data, finding that information we are now so used to being able to find in an instance with the simple tap of our fingers is no longer an option.
That’s where the ‘new’ NSW National Parks mobile app comes in. I say ‘new’ because it has been around for sometime, but it seems not many people are aware of it. I have noticed more recently NSW Parks have been running a few more posts/ads about it, which is fabulous, because it’s such a shame so many don’t know about it and aren’t using it. There have been some really great updates to it that make it really user friendly and definitely one of our go-to apps and one that we recommend to friends and family.
It’s really these referrals to friends and family that got me tapping away to write this piece. After tapping away many different versions in text messages, messenger and email i finally decided to write it all down in one spot that i can refer people too, and also update into the future where i need too – and obviously save myself some time when people ask what apps do we use!
The App Store
I only have the Android version, so hopefully the Apple Store version doesn’t look too different. This is what you are looking for in the app stores. It’s also free to download which is brilliant.
The app has information on over 225 national parks and hundreds of things to see, do and places to stay, so it really is the ultimate NSW parks guide for your phone.
Offline (Download) Feature
The app has a lot of features but the one feature we love is the ability to download information before we head off, or whilst we are on the road (where we have service).
Download a park/s before you head off on your adventure and all the information you need for navigation is stored on your phone allowing you to view information and maps without internet access. You can also use the map to locate parks, trails, things to do and places to stay.
In this instance we’ve searched for Warrumbungle National Park, and you can see the “Download this Park” link – tap the link and you’ll get a confirmation screen letting you know how big the file is (this one is 7MB) and a “Download” button. Tap again and the info will download in the background and then be available for whenever you need it on the “Download” tab at the bottom of the app.
Marking your Favourites
Our second favourite feature is the “Favourite” feature. As we come across different parks, either from friends, blogs, instagram etc, I’ll mark them as a favourite so when we are looking at planning a trip we can see if there are favourites in the location/s we are heading. You can even mark activities etc as a favourite if you don’t want to mark the entire park.
You can see the love heart in the picture above in the top right hand corner, give it a tap and it will then appear down the bottom in the Favourites tab.
Explore activities and attractions in a park
Plan ahead using information about distances, accessibility and facilities.
Locate campgrounds, caravan sites, cabins, homesteads and cottages in national parks.
Book national park accommodation (internet access required).
Use your location to find the national parks closest to you
Find parks all over NSW using the map or the search tool
As you can see from these snap shots the app contains an immense amount of information, and multiple ways to search and locate information as well mark it for a later time, or download for offline use.
So if you like getting out into our National Parks i highly recommend downloading this app.
We left Ezzy’s Crossing and stopped Visitor Centre at Warialda, and the lady there suggested we head to Crank Rock before heading to Kwiambal National Park. I had seen the Cranky Rock pamphlet but given how dry it was we weren’t really expecting to see any water, however the VC lady indicated the water is spring fed so there is usually water there. This changed our minds and off to Cranky Rock we headed.
Cranky Rock turn off is About 5km east of Warialda, off the Gwydir Highway, the 3 km sealed road will take you all the way to Cranky Rock where you will find a jumble of giant boulders heaped in the most fantastic positions by a past volcanic upheaval, features include a suspension bridge, a viewing platform and short walking tracks. The facilities include picnic areas, a large shelter with free barbecues, public toilets and a children’s playground. There is a full time caretaker and kiosk on site if want to stay overnight or even longer there is a campground with powered/unpowered sites and hot showers available.
The name Cranky Rock was derived from an old legend which said that an old ‘Cranky Chinaman’ jumped to his death from the highest point of the balancing rocks after being accused of some wrong doing.
The start of the walk
Suspension Bridge at the start
Looking down into the gorge
Down into the gorge
Down at water level
The boulders are huge!
Cranky Rock is definitely worth a quick or a long stop if you’re out that way.
Kwiambal National Park
Kwiambal NP is located about 30 km from the town of Ashford (about 50km north of Inverell). The Severn River and Macintyre River both flow through and finally converge in the park below the MacIntyre falls.
Gorges, caves and waterholes are only a few of the surprises of Kwiambal National Park. The facilities in the park are brilliant. Each of the areas have covered seated areas, toilets and other than the cave there are free BBQs again undercover. The campgrounds have free firewood (when its available) and Lemontree had a small covered basic camp kitchen like area.
This is one of those places you almost don’t want to share its that good, because as soon as you do, y’all are going to want to go there !!!! (And you should it’s brilliant).
As you first enter the park, you reach the Ashford/Limestone Caves.
From 1916 to 1967, at least 3 of the Ashford Caves were sporadically mined for their phosphate -rich bat droppings (guano) which was used as fertiliser. The current entry to Ashford Main Cave is actually the result of an excavation of 1-2 metres of guano from the cave floor and then tunnelling through the bedrock.
Ashford Main Cave is horizontal in form, allowing easy access for visitors, outside of the summer bat-maternity season. During this period, when thousands of threatened species of bats use the caves as a birthing site, access is limited as disturbance can result in the abandonment and mortality of infant bats.
Ashford Caves occurs on the northern edge of a limestone outcrop, which stretches for 10 kilometres along Limestone Creek.
The parking bay
Once inside the cave you are going to want to have a torch as it gets pretty dark pretty quick! There are a few larger main cavities that you can walk through quite easily however as you go in further the roof level lowers and whilst you could see some had opted for exploring the smaller (ie crawl through) cavities we were happy to stay standing LOL
Entrance to the Limestone Cave
Inside the cave – looking back to the entrance from as far back as we ventured.
Inside Limestone Cave
The walk is really easy, there is a small incline and a few steps when you first leave the parking lot but otherwise its flat and pretty smooth going.
Lemontree Flat Campground
From the cave we made our way to Lemontree Flat Campground, the bigger of the two campgrounds in the park. With the camper up, we had a bite to eat under the shade of the trees and had a bit of a chat to Mr Friendly Skippy who I’m quite sure would have happily let me pat him and hand feed him had i been inclined. It was pretty clear this little guy knew we were a source of food, thankfully the others we saw weren’t quite as comfortable with us and stayed their distance.
As cute as it is dont feed the animals people, its for their own good and for our own safety in some cases particularly the little ones, even the size of these little guys they could do some serious damage if they were frightened or felt threatened.
After a bite to eat we decided to go and check out the other campground before heading to the falls.
Kookabitta is a smaller campground with about maybe 8 sites. There are tables and firepits, drop toilets and an undercover BBQ area. The view of the river is much clearer and its easier to access than at Lemontree.
From Kookabitta we headed to Macintrye Falls where there are few walks and views of the gorge below.
View from the lookout
Looking down into the swimming hole from the lookout
There are two lookouts at the Falls area.
We headed down the track along the Rock Pool Walk which takes you down to the water hole you can see from the first lookout.
Start of the Rock Pool Walk
A very tall Cactus Tree
There are steps to navigate on this track
As you get towards the bottom you are walking/rock hopping across the boulders
Looking downstream from the water hole
The little waterfall was running when we were there, and i can only imagine how spectacular it would be after rain!
We headed back to camp for a nice relaxing afternoon in the shade – well that was the original plan. When we got back to camp i saw the sign for the Dungeon Walk and we decided that we were already in walking mode we may as well keep going.
The Dungeon Walk
The dungeon walk. Hmm. This is one of those funnier after the fact stories. We had downloaded the NSW National Parks app which allows you to download info for offline use, which is great as there is very limited phone service in the park, however we hit a small fault with this walk. There was little info about the walk and a picture showed the walk sign – 1km walk via the Junction Walk. Now Junction Walk track left the campground not far from our campsite, so i thought perfect, a small little lookout walk to end the afternoon.
We jumped on and off the track to check out/try to find the river and look at the flood debris that was around the area.
The little side arm area in front of the campground that still had some water left in it
This guy was soooo tall!!
The track is well marked
Nature’s Easter Egg ?
The track was very well maintained and has markers along the trail so you know where the path is and was free from debris, but beware of the little cactus that jump out of nowhere onto you – those suckers hurt and are a pain to get rid of, i was pulling teeny tiny thorns out of my leg and fingers for quite sometime.
After a little while, we were like this is a very long 1km walk and we aren’t anywhere near a high point for a lookout. We started to doubt this was actually a 1km walk and started to wonder if in fact the lookout was a detour off the Junction Track which was about 7km round trip, which we weren’t looking for at this time of day.
We opted to walk for another 20 mins and if we didn’t see/find anything we would turn around and head back to camp, before sunset. Right on the 20 minutes mark we started to climb and found a pretty awesome view.
The view was pretty special
Looking towards Dungeon Lookout
The Severn River has huge granite slabs on its edges, some with scars from being ground down under the pressure of flooding water mixed with gravel.
We also managed a little bit of signal to access – yep you guessed Google Maps – which showed where we were on the track and sure enough the Dungeon Lookout was still a good 1km away. Given we’d come this far already we decided to push on.
The Dungeon lookout is a great spot to view the Severn rushing through a deep river gorge with steep granite walls and cascades. This is a relatively easy walk, but keep an eye on the kids as the track contours along the cliff line at some spots. We even saw a few little billy goats. Interesting (or maybe not), as goats are not natural to the park area, NPS have an action plan to rid the park of the wild goats by tagging and releasing one goat then tracking it down once it joins an established herd, which means they can capture a bigger herd – a silent assassion goat – cant say we’ve heard of this method before!
As we hit the crest leading out to Dungeon Lookout we were met with a few different signs – no wonder we are confused lol.
From where we had come
We opted not to take this track back
The view from the lookout is pretty impressive and well worth the walk.
With sunset looming, we decided to just backtrack the way we had come up and head back to camp.
We arrived back at camp just before sunset and in time to get the fire stoked up – our first one for this trip, so Tash was a happy camper.
Tuesday morning! Normal Business day – hooray! We got up and headed a few streets up to the Dunlop mechanics we had spied on Saturday hoping they would be able to fix the tyre today (and somewhat quickly). We were in luck. We dropped the truck and headed to the cafe for breakfast. Well what else were we supposed to do !!!!
With a little bit of shopping under our belt – an array of odds and ends that would make you laugh, we got the text to say the truck was ready.
So with Charlie looking a little more flash with his proper tyre back on and spare under the rear we headed back to the park to collect Leeroy and get back on our way.
We drove through to Narrabri and stopped at the always helpful and welcoming Visitor Centre to grab some information (and update some old ones). I had sort of forgotten/not realised that it was cotton harvest time, thinking it was later in April. So i was pretty stoked to see this display and hear that the cotton was out and ready to be harvested.
Not too far into our drive our first crop of cotton for the trip was spotted.
We woke for a loo stop about 6am to find two of the three kids awake, pretending not to be wandering around the vans and camp .. maybe they weren’t … but it was Easter Sunday and chocolate was up for grabs!
The Easter Hunt
A little while later after the littlest one was awake, the Easter egg hunt was underway. We had already spied some of the Easter bunnies handiwork and had laid dibs on some of the eggs if the kids didn’t find them. Unfortunately they outsmarted us on this occasion. But Janelle had us covered so we still had chocolate Easter eggs with our breakfast!
After a big day for some of us yesterday, we got off to a slightly later and slower start this morning. We started the day with a big cook up of bacon, eggs, hash browns and of course the Easter eggs, after all it was Easter Sunday and Tash’s birthday.
After breaky we headed off in search of pottery and artesian bores – yep things that don’t normally go together, but when your talking about the Pilliga, they go together.
From Tooraweenah we headed up the Newell Hwy and then onto the dirt road that takes you to Pilliga Pottery, a world famous pottery institution, where are artists come to learn and teach
Watching the potter turn the clay from nothing into this was mesmerising. he did it with such ease, but watch his arms and legs, it takes the whole body to work the clay and machine.
We had a quick stop at the telescope just outside of Narrabri. The Australia Telescope Compact Array (ATCA), at the Narrabri Observatory, is an array of six 22-m antennas used for radio astronomy and is located about 25 km west of the town. The last time we were here it was December and about 45 degrees, so at around 33 degrees it was far more pleasant to visit!
Pilliga Bore Baths
From the pottery we headed back to the Newell Hwy for a little bit for turning for the dirt roads but not before we all thought the convoy leader (not naming any names Laurence) was taking us to Narrabri for lunch!
After what felt like quite a long time, we arrived at out much anticipated destination for the day – the artesian bore baths of Pilliga where a lovely spring fed warm mineral bath awaited the bodies of the Grand High Top walkers from yesterday.
In response to the town’s diminishing water supply after several years of drought, in 1902 Pilliga sank a bore 560 metres and we can still enjoy its benefits today. The bore has a continuous in-flow to the pool and an out-take on the other side, ensuring the water is always fresh although a little bit of chlorine is apparently added each week when they get cleaned to help control the algae on the sides and floor.
The baths were a little bit busy when we first arrived but once our party of 12 arrived they all scattered. Well not really but we did have the baths to ourselves for a little bit.
Back at Tooraweenah
We arrived home just before sunset after driving through some beautiful agricultural lands including a sunflower patch (that we didn’t stop for, the skippys were coming out in force so it was time to get home)
Tonight’s feast was BBQ and once again the chefs and Linda excelled and we all ate like kings.
The girls even organised a little sparkler on the dessert for Tash’s birthday which was just super lovely.
After a long day driving and with home on the horizon for the rest of the crew tomorrow we had a reasonable early night.