Ever heard of Coorabakh Np on the mid north coast of NSW ?
The whole area is scattered with stunning beaches and coastal getaways, but some times if you look a little inland you just might be surprised.
Sitting quietly between Taree and Port Macquarie, Coorabakh National Park has many surprises with Volcanic Plugs, stunning lookouts, and huge rock formations inhaling pristine rainforest and eucalyptus old growth forests.
Coorabakh National Park, relatively small at 1,830 hectares, was declared in 1999 to protect its wide variety of wildlife and the parks stunning scenery.
Entry to the park can be made from Moorlands, just south of Port Macquarie where there are plenty of signs pointing you in the right direction towards the park. Traversing through dairy farms when you leave the Pacific Highway, you get a sense of adventure as you look westwards towards the escarpment ridge lines that lay ahead.
One of my favourite stops before heading into the park is the little country store at Hannam Vale. Jam packed with home made goods, has its own sit in book exchange and library plus they make the best coffee and other sweet creations for miles. The cafe come PO, store, meeting place and once servo dates back to 1914 and still loaded with old school charm.
Heading out from Hannam Vale into the state forests keep an eye out for the old logger trees, where you can still see the cutouts from the planks that the timber cutters stood on when these huge trees were cut by axe over 100 years ago. The forests are full of eucalyptus, hardwood, coachwood and bloodwood trees.
The forest loop drive of around 100km isn't a hard drive but in some sections where the road does get a little steep it might be wise to select 4wd high for added traction.
Road base out here changes from a granite base material to black soil, that can get pretty slippery in times of rain.
Along the way there are many stops that can be explore such as Waitui Falls. In summer time this is a great spot for a dip as where the water spills over a massive rock face into a deep pool while surrounded by a pocket of rainforest and several overhanging rock faces. Popular with the locals there’s even picnic tables and a bbq here to use.
Forest Way heads into Coorabakh National Park and its significant to the Biripi Aboriginal people from the local area and takes its name from Coorabakh, meaning bloodwood.
Heading deep down into Starrs Creek picnic area there’s toilets, tables and a formed pathway which lets you wander through a thick pocket of stunning rainforest, where you can get up close and personal to large red cedar stumps, and wander through a maze of spectacular palm trees where the grounds are often covered with a thick moss in the cooler times, but keep the bug spray handy as the mosquitos can get pretty friendly.
Further along Forest Way you’ll climb higher onto the ridge lines, the forests thin out giving way to scattered views westward throughout the trees. There are several lookouts along the way that include Flat Rock, where the road runs beside some seriously steep cliffs that drop down into the neighbouring valley.
Flat Rock viewing platform has been built right on the edge of the cliff line where the views are nothing short of spectacular in all directions, and its wheel chair friendly too. In the distance remnants of volcanic plugs that blew their tops out millions of years ago can still be seen. These tall jaggered peaks stand several hundred metres high scattered in the valley farmlands.
On the Forest loop there’s Big Nellie. 30 million years ago this volcanic plug exploded high and wide, but after it cooled it left a tall thick chunk of rock poking high above the surrounding forest. Keen hikers and rock climbers frequent the rock for the challenging and heart thumping scramble to the top.
Other plugs in the area include Little Nellie and Flat Nellie where over time the lower softer areas have eroded away from intense rain and constant winds. But I noticed on the protected southern slopes the soil is deeper and more fertile, there’s tall eucalyptus forests, yet the creek lines carry more sub tropical species.
The diversity of animal species come from the wide range of landscape and plant communities. Koalas, brush tail possums, Parma wallabies, stuttering frogs and a host of bush birds are just a few of the species found in the park.
For those who maybe a little scared of doing an extreme walk to the top of a volcanic plug you can explore Newby's caves and Newby's lookout. It's a short easy stroll from the parking area up beside a stunning creek, lined with palms and other cool climate trees.
The path leads you to a number of overhanging rocks where caves have formed from times when the creek’s in full flood with raging torrents of water.
The lookout and caves were named after John Newby who established the first dairy farm in the Manning. A pioneer of the district who lived between 1810 to 1880. He ran the first well organised trading service in the valley using the river as the main form of transport.
Slowly the densely forested land was opened up, with Newby at the forefront establishing the first dairy farm and becoming the inventor for several farming inventions. When he died his family owned most of the farming land that you can see from the lookout, tho today it's owned by private landholders, State Forest and National Parks.
Further along Forest Way the last stop is the very impressive Vincent's lookout. While it's a short 2km detour off the main road up Tower road, it’s worth another look at the stunning views covering the coastline, fertile valleys and parts of the Great Dividing Range.
From the many lookouts around Coorabakh its evident that its a tall timer NP being preserved for the future, but allowing full access to the public. The Great Dividing Range that runs for thousands of kilometres along our east coast can often look the same, but Coorabakh has a different feel with its tranquil setting and the peaceful drive.
No camping is allowed in this National Park, but at the end of Forest Way at Coopernook, there’s cheap camping near the pub or an hour away in Crowdy Bay NP.
Exploring Coorabakh National Park might only be a day affair, but where else can you view volcanic plugs, swim in cool mountain water holes yet be so close to the eastern sea board.