When Is the Best Time
Where there is rainforest, there is rain. The New England and Dorrigo Gondwana rainforests are worth visiting throughout the year despite the weather.
Hiking and camping in such an ancient Antarctic beech forest is something unique and sensational. These rainforests were once widespread across Australia. Why is it called Antarctic beech? Fossil pollen has been found in Antarctica, which tells an exciting story about the spreading of plants worldwide.
It may be 35°C hot at Ebor Falls, just 30 km north of the New England National Park, but in the forest, it’s cool, with temps frequently around 16°C during spring and summer. Nights get pretty chilly. It’s a perfect example to experience the positive impact of forests on our environment and against climate change.
Weather New England and Dorrigo National Park
First of all, torrential rain can occur, and tents get flooded. On the other hand, dry and warm days are also common. Most importantly, be prepared and check the weather forecast before visiting the park. Unfortunately, a fire affected some areas in the summer of 2019/2020.
- Rainy Season
It frequently rains from November to March. Temperatures can be high on average 25°C and top 30°C on a clear sunny day. If it’s misty and cloudy, temperatures drop on average to 15°C. Check the forecast before pitching your tent. The campground has already flooded a couple of times.
- Drier Season
In April, the rain decreases and May to October are drier. May to August are the coldest months; day temperatures are on average below 20° and nights cool down to 7°C. However, be prepared if you plan to camp; night temperatures can be near freezing with occasional snowfall due to the high elevation.
If you like to experience nature without the crowds and awesome day hikes, this is one of the rare places. The secluded Thungutti campground is very seldom fully booked. Usually, there are just four or five sites occupied. While hiking, we just met one family in the entire day. However, during Easter, it can be a little busy during the day.
Thungutti Campground in New England
If you plan to visit the New England National Park, make a stop at Dorrigo and its visitor centre first. There isn't any campground in Dorrigo National Park, but one small campground called Thungutti at the New England National Park entrance. Just 20 sites are available, with basic facilities and a picnic area with a gas BBQ.
This is the right place for you to get close to Mother Nature in the real wilderness. The gas BBQ was the only luxury here. Sugar gliders visit the campground during the night. You can hear them in the kitchen/BBQ area searching for leftovers. The fee for two adults is $12 for one night. Nowadays, booking online is essential. Map and campsite booking: Agree on terms and conditions first to continue your tent site booking.
There are three cabins to rent inside the National Park in the middle of the incredible rainforest. That's more comfortable during the rain.
Toms Cabin is equipped with an oven, a basic kitchen, and four bunk beds. Other huts for family and friends are the Chalet with a balcony and The Residence for up to 10 people.
Best Months to Visit
Location and Tips
The Gondwana Rainforests can be found only in the north of NSW and southeast of Queensland. Much of the world has looked like these rainforests 80 million years ago. It’s one hour drive to Dorrigo and another hour to New England National Park entrance from Coffs Harbour. It feels like being in an utterly different world from the past in a pristine wilderness.
The rainforest is soaked with water, and covered with moss and lichens. We visited Dorrigo first and hiked the Wonga Walk, details below, and continued to New England where we pitched our tent. These two days were some of the most impressive ones experiencing such unique lush vegetation and awesome wildlife.
The parks are located within an altitude range from 100 m to 1.563 m — the reason for subtropical, warm temperate and cool temperate rainforests.
Dorrigo National Park - 3 Highlights
- Dorrigo Rainforest Centre
Don't miss out on the fantastic Rainforest Centre in Dorrigo. Learn about the Gondwana rainforest, the different tree and plant species which are up to 600 years old and how these forests survived until today. The shop of the Rainforest/Information Centre offers beautiful gifts and souvenirs. I bought several presents with Aboriginal paintings and some made out of banksia. The view from the outlook next to the Rainforest Centre is awesome. The boardwalk to the outlook is leading through the rainforest canopy.
- Wonga Walk and Crystal Shower Falls
Walk at least the well maintained "Wonga Walk Circuit" almost 6km long and parts of it are wheelchair accessible (beginning and end). The Wonga Trail starts next to the Rainforest Centre. Walk among the giant trees and fern trees, listen to the bird song, hike behind the Crystal Shower Falls and enjoy this magical rainforest. Entrance fee $2
- Never Never Hikes and Swimming
If you like to see more of these stunning waterfalls start one of the many hikes from the Never Never picnic area. Bring your bath clothes on warm and sunny days. Swimming is possible at several waterholes along the river. You can find the best spot next to Coachwood Falls. It is a little busy here at the Never Never picnic area, but not overrun. If you chose one of the hikes at Never Never you may be almost alone on the trails.
All picnic areas in Dorrigo are accessible by car.
New England National Park
This Gondwana rainforest is representing a significant ongoing biological evolution with a World Heritage Recognition for more than 35 years already. Due to the remote location of New England, there are few visitors only and the park is full of wildlife. Experience a rich diversity of more than 500 different plant species.
When you enter the park, there is an information board providing you with details for the available hikes and the three picnic areas as well, which are accessible by car.
Why are Gondwana Rainforests Unique
It’s a journey through time, the supercontinent which was covered in rainforest. At this period, it was warmer and wetter. The dominant plant was the fern. The climate became drier and cooler. Life on earth experienced a mass extinction. However, life in the Gondwana rainforest persevered. Some of the most extraordinary plants and wildlife evolved in the Gondwana rainforest, and these forests still provide an incredible array of life.
The impact of humans reduced Gondwana distribution. Today little pieces of the Gondwana treasure remain. Nowadays, these rainforests are protected by having a World Heritage Status.
Highlights and Hiking Trails in New England
- Point Lookout; a 200 m long and wheelchair accessible walk. Come here for a spectacular sunrise during the colder and drier months.
- Eagles Nest; an outstanding, more challenging steep trail, a journey into the past - millions of years ago. Along this hike are impressive old Antarctic beech trees. The trail is just 2 km long but can be extended to Weeping Rock and the Beech forest. The path is slippery wet from the water trickling from the rocks. The trail takes a couple of hours due to the wet soil. You may be astonished by this beautiful nature and rest for a while. We spotted a lyrebird in the tree, and crimson rosellas occur here as well.
- The Lyrebird Walk is a longer loop trail 5.5 km long starts at the Banksia Point picnic area.
- The Tea Tree Falls Walk starts at the Thungutti camping area and continues to the Lyrebird Walk. It's a flat 4 km return walk.
- Wrights Lookout is a challenging 4 km, 2 hours long trail. The trailhead is at the Robinsons Knob Trail car park.
- Cascades Walk; a strenuous, almost 6 km long trail for cold water lovers.
- The Robinson Knob Wilderness Trail is a multi-day hike of 33 km through the marvellous New England National Park.
- Rain gear; Where there is rainforest - there is rain!
- Waterproof hiking boots; the trails are soaked from the rain.
- Plenty of water and food; you can't buy anything nearby.
- Waterproof camera to capture this outstanding piece of nature during rain.
- A torch or headlight for the night
The shared camp kitchen at the Thungutti campground in New England