Basalt country The north-western margin of the Upper Hunter is a spectacular range resulting from the erosion of extensive lava flows. Steep ranges, distant views, huge grass trees, volcanic features and the State’s most inland rainforests are some of the features that can be experienced.
Towarri and Coolah Tops National Parks and Cedar Brush, Wallabadah and Ben Halls Gap Nature Reserves protect many of these features, though access to some reserves can be difficult.
Other nearby reserves include Scone Mountain National Park and Brushy Hill, Woolooma, Wingen Maid and Burning Mountain Nature Reserves. The latter reserve contains a coal seam that has been on fire naturally for many hundreds of years.
Barrington Tops Reaching an altitude just shy of 1,600 metres, Barrington Tops and nearby ranges provide an incredible range of diversity. Within the space of a day it’s possible to walk through lowland subtropical rainforest, moist eucalypt forests, temperate rainforests, and subalpine woodland and fens. Sudden weather changes and snow on the tops are common, so visitors need to be well prepared at all times of the year.
The cool subalpine plateau is a great place to escape from the summer heat, and is a popular camping venue. Many rare terrestrial orchids occur in the boggy subalpine soils.
Waterfalls and canyons in the upper Williams, Gloucester, Allyn, Paterson and Chichester Rivers provide exciting summer recreational opportunities. The rainforests are of particular interest, and are included in the Gondwana Rainforests of Australia World Heritage Area. They can be readily accessed within Barrington Tops and Mount Royal National Parks, Mount Allyn Flora Reserve and Chichester State Forest.
Sandstone country The rugged sandstone plateaus and gorges to the south and west of the Hunter River are largely protected within Wollemi and Yengo National Parks, and comprise the State’s largest wilderness areas. These form part of the Greater Blue Mountains World Heritage Area. Spring wildflower displays and a diversity of eucalypt species are notable features.
The drier western extremities act as a transition between coastal and inland ecosystems, which makes them particularly interesting for bird watchers and native plant enthusiasts. Goulburn River National Park and Lees Pinch and Durridgere Nature Reserves are great places to experience these latter environments.
The sandstone country is also notable for its incredible heritage of indigenous rock art.
Gloucester country Centred on the Gloucester-Nowendoc district, this sparsely populated area comprises a mosaic of different geological, ecological and land tenure units. Important features include the widespread occurrence of small ‘dry rainforest’ patches, usually in locations protected from fire by rocky screes and outcrops, and healthy populations of the endangered brush-tailed rock wallaby.
There is an emerging network of reserves to protect the natural values of this area, including Woko, Curracabundi, Barakee and Nowendoc National Parks; Bretti, Camels Hump, Khatambuhl, Mernot, Monkeycot, Tuggolo Creek, Watchimbark, Running Creek, Monkerai, Killarney and The Glen Nature Reserves; and Coneac, Copeland Tops and Black Bulga State Conservation Areas. However, many of these reserves currently have restricted or no access.
The most accessible location to sample this country is the popular walking track to the top of the Gloucester Bucketts, just outside of Gloucester. Visitors in early spring are rewarded by a spectacular floral display of the pink rock orchid.
Myall coast Placid coastal lakes, fringing paperbark forests, spring wildflowers on the coastal sand masses, and open ocean beaches are characteristic features of the Myall coast. Myall Lakes and Booti Booti National Parks provide outstanding recreational opportunities, whilst Darawank Nature Reserve also protects a significant coastal corridor.
There are numerous restricted-access offshore and estuarine island reserves that provide important breeding habitat for seabird and other species. These include Seal Rocks, John Gould, Stormpetrel, Little Broughton Island, Boondelbah, Corrie Island, Wallis Island, Regatta Island, Yahoo Island, Bandicoot Island and Mills Island Nature Reserves.
Also to be found in the adjoining coastal foothills are moist eucalypt forests with some of the State’s tallest trees. Examples can be found in the Bulahdelah and Myall River State Forests, Myall Lakes, Wallingat and Ghin-doo-ee National Parks, and the Wallamba Nature Reserve. Some of these forests contain the remains of historic timber tramways and trestle bridges dating from forestry activities in the early 20th Century.