New England and Dorrigo National Park - Gondwana Rainforest

New England and Dorrigo National Park - Gondwana Rainforest

Australia
Australia

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.

Fern Tree in Dorrigo

Hiking and camping in such an ancient Antarctic beech forest is something special and sensational. These rainforests were once widespread across Australia. Why it is called Antarctic beech? Fossil pollen has been found in Antarctica which tells an interesting story about the spreading of plants in the world.

It may be 35°C hot at the 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

Dorrigo Wonga Walk Rainforet
Dorrigo Rainforest along the Wonga Walk

First of all, torrential rain can occur, and tents get flooded. On the other hand, dry and warm days are also common. Most important, be prepared and check the weather forecast before visiting the park. Unfortunately, some areas were affected by a fire in the summer of 2019/2020. 

  • Rainy Season
    New England Rainforest Trail


    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 got already flooded a couple of times.
     
  • Drier Season
    Gondwana Rainforest during the drier and colder 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.

Crowds

Dorrigo Wonga Walk Boardwalk
Dorrigo National Park

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. 

Camping in New England and Dorrigo

Campground in the New England National Park

If you plan to visit the New England National Park, make a stop at Dorrigo and its visitor centre first. You can’t camp in Dorrigo, but there is one small campground called Thungutti at the New England National Park entrance. Just 20 sites are available, basic facilities and a picnic area with gas BBQ.

Thungutti Camp Kitchen

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 awesome rainforest. That's more comfortable during the rain.

Toms Cabin in the NEw England National Park

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. 

Toms Cabin from inside in New England
We were allowed to have a look inside the cabin

Best Months to Visit

Jan
Feb
Mar
Apr
May
Jun
Jul
Aug
Sep
Oct
Nov
Dec

Location and Tips

NSW, New England National Park
Australia
Australia

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 untouched Gondwana Rainforest in Dorrigo

The rainforest is soaked with water, 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.

New England Gondwana Rainforest

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

  1. Dorrigo Rainforest Centre 

    Dorrigo Rainforest - Information 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. 

    Boardwalk to the outlook at Dorrigo
  2. Wonga Walk and Crystal Shower Falls
     

    Dorrigo Chrystal Shower Falls
    Chrystal Shower Falls in Dorrigo

    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
     
  3. Never Never Hikes and Swimming

    Hiking Trail Map for Never Never Picnic Area

    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

New England Gondwana Rainforest experienced on a hike

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.

Point Lookout Picnic Area and Shelter

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

Handrail for safety on the slippery trail in New England
A handrail on this slippery part of the hiking trail for safety

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.

New England Antarctic Beech

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

Hiking Map for New England National Park

  • Point Lookout; a 200 m long and wheelchair accessible walk. Come here for a spectacular sunrise during the colder and drier months.

    Kangaroos at Point Lookout
     
  • 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.

    Eagles Nest and Wepping Rock Trail
     
  • 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.

    Fern Trees along the hiking path
     
  • 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.

    Robinson Knob Wilderness Trail
     

Packing List

  • 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

New England National Park - camp kitchen
The shared camp kitchen in New England

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Created by
Micha Herber-Bleich
Micha Herber-Bleich
I love adventurous trips and my husband…