Exploring National Parks and Forests around north east NSW

Search for a specific national park or state forest to find all the trails we've mapped.

Jump to our list of trails by National Park or State Forest below.

Biodiversity and conservation on the north coast

The North Coast bioregion, extends from just north of Newcastle, to the Queensland border. New England tablelands lies to the west. The North Coast bioregion includes the shoreline, floodplains and foothills to the gorges and escarpments of the Great Dividing Range. The area is remarkable for its diversity, with 18% of the bioregion conserved in national parks and nature reserves.

Taking a different, narrower view of the area, the North Coast water catchment area extends from the Hastings Valley to the Clarence River. Some 16,000 km2 or 38% of this area of the north coast is protected in National Parks and reserves. State forests and town council reserves provide even more green space.

How lucky are we to visit or live in this beautiful area of New South Wales!

National Parks, State Forests – what’s the difference?

State Forests are areas with native growth forests as well as plantations. They are managed to provide timber, but also for recreation, flora conservation, protection of fauna habitat, and cultural heritage protection. Areas within forests may be closed for logging, and you might meet logging trucks on roads (a UHF radio can be useful). Tracks provide lots of opportunities for bushwalking, mountain biking and dog walking (on leash). Camping is usually free, but facilities are non-existent or more basic than National Parks. A great example of a State Forest walk is the Bruxner Park Flora Reserve rainforest walk. Styx Forest Way and Hastings Forest Way are examples of popular 4WD or adventure motorcycle routes in state forests.

Many town councils also provide local walks on public land. Rules vary for these, but often dogs on a leash are permitted, and bicycles may also be allowed. Access by public transport is often possible, and facilities include picnic areas, playgrounds, and cafes. Great examples are the Coffs Creek Walk and the Port Macquarie Coastal Walk.

Regional Parks protect areas that have been modified by humans, and provide recreation opportunities. You may be able to take a dog on a leash on trails in some regional parks. A good example is the Solitary Island Coastal Walk in the Coffs Coast Regional Park.

National Parks are set aside to protect predominantly unspoiled landscape, flora, fauna and cultural heritage. In addition to nature conservation, they also play a role in education, scientific research, nature appreciation and of course recreation. There are many walking trails and campsites in national parks, as well as some mountain bike trails and 4WD touring opportunities (such as the Bindarri route on the Orara escarpment), but dogs and other pets are not allowed. No picking the flowers or gathering firewood. An example of a National Park walk is the ever popular Wonga Walk to Crystal Showers in Dorrigo National Park.

Nature Reserves protect areas and ecosystems with high conservation value. While recreation is not the purpose of nature reserves, there are some walks such as Woolgoolga Creek Falls in Sherwood Nature Reserve.

Wilderness areas are large, natural areas essentially unchanged by modern human activity. They protect biodiversity and allow nature to do its thing, with minimal interference from humans. Tread lightly, definitely no dogs, and don’t expect to find any infrastructure in these areas. The New England Wilderness Walk is an example of a trail in a wilderness area. Wild Rivers protect pristine rivers with high conservation value.

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Best Walks on the NSW Mid-North Coast has 40 walks from Port Macquarie to the Coffs Coast and Clarence Valley.

Go exploring with 4WD Treks of Northeast NSW on the coast, mountains and forests.

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