Well we really scored well this time, one of the most beautiful and pristine camp sites we’ve been to, and we have it all to ourselves!
We have been itching for COVID border closures to lift so that we could extend our exploring trips into northern NSW, particularly during summer so that we can escape the heat by heading into the New England highlands area and NSW’s coastal ranges. After a bit of research we decided that the Nymboida National Park area looked like a great place to start with its history of mining and grazing and nearby historical areas such as Dalmorten.
The Nymboida River cuts through a declared wilderness area in the rugged northern ranges of New South Wales, starting west of Dorrigo and winding its way northward to meet the Mann River and eventually the Clarence River which passes through Grafton before emptying into the sea.
To get there we headed south from Brisbane on the Mount Lindsay Highway before turning off to join the Lions Road, a privately funded link between Rathdowney (Qld) and Kyogle (NSW) that is a breathtaking drive across the McPherson Range, part of the Border Ranges World Heritage Rainforest. An interesting stop over on the Lions Road is the border loop, a section of the main coastal railway line that climbs the mountains by spiraling upward through tunnels on a track profiled like a helix, if you’re lucky you will be at the lookout when a train comes through.
The road continues through tunnels and under bridges until it arrives at the pretty inland town of Kyogle where a great coffee can be had at the Sugarbowl café. From there we were on the Summerland Way to Casino then Grafton, where we stopped for a hot lunch courtesy of the 12V Road Chef oven, hot chicken drumsticks that we had roasting on the drive down the range.
Soon after Grafton we left the bitumen and followed Old Glen Innes Road into the State Forest area, then took the forest tracks to gated boundary of the Nymboida National Park.
The last section of track dips steeply down to the river, through areas of forest that were badly burnt during the bushfires that swept through here in the summer of 2019. The scrubby undergrowth is rejuvenating but many of the old growth trees are now dead – it will be many decades before the forest here returns to normal.
The last 10 kilometres into the campground is best tackled with a 4WD – while a conventional vehicle may get through when its dry the climb back up the hill would need 4WD once wet, particularly if towing. The track also has many ‘woa-boys’ to negotiate, these humps are placed across the track to divert water away and prevent erosion.
We dropped into the main campground that is a large grassy area with toilets and fire pits that would suit large groups or campers that are not completely self sufficient. We were glad to find the campground empty but still decided to continue down to the river itself and look for a waterside location – boy am I glad we did, we were faced with a beautiful stretch of river and nobody else in sight, we had complete run of the place and picked the best camp site we could find…
By now we are getting pretty efficient at setting up the Patriot Campers X3 so we soon had camp erected and sorted. We bought firewood with us in case it was scarce but there were a few left over logs to supplement our pile and we soon had a fire on the go to keep things cosy.
While we were distracted setting up a herd of cattle wandered up the valley, almost coming right into our camp. There was plenty of green grass for them to choose from and they continued feeding and drifted away by nightfall.
I soon had the Weber fired up and dinner coming together just on dark. One unfortunate aspect of camping by water is the number of bugs that you are sharing the habitat with and once it was dark our lights brought them out by the thousands. We were thankful that the X3 camper has the option of an interior dining area and we retreated inside to eat while insects of all sizes were crashing into the mesh screens. The onslaught subsided a little after dusk, just enough to wash up and get ready for bed.
After our first outing in the X3 we added a cheap ‘egg crate’ style foam mattress topper, which helped to soften the bed but not quite enough – on this trip are trying a gel type topper and so far it has been great. You really sink into it yet it is still somehow firm, and really comfortable, although it does tend to hug you a little when you move. One shortfall of the X3 that we are working around is the lack of bedside storage, particularly for whomever ends up near the ladder side of the bed. There is nowhere to put a water bottle or your phone other than down the side of the mattress, where it gets lost in the night… so I its a project I have on the list to find or make a canvas pouch to fit somewhere for storage that will fold up with the tent.
Morning broke clear and warm so we were up early and enjoyed breakfast overlooking the river, its waters sparkling and shimmering as it gurgled over rocks and past our camp.
We were planning to spend two nights at Nymboida but the forecast was updated to predict rain in the next 24 hours. Although I was confident the Landcruiser would haul us out if the road got wet and greasy it was a risk that we didn’t need to take, and we were keen to keep exploring the area.
So once breakfast was cleared away we decided to break camp and move on – check out our next blog as we visit the historic Dalmorten area before heading to the coast and a camp I found at the Black Rocks campground in the Bundjalung National Park.