Where’s Wallis? Warrumbungle National Park, NSW

Where we stayed:

  • (Nearly, rain stopped play) Camp Blackman, Warrumbungle NP – $25/night (4ppl)
  • Pilliga Pottery, Barkala Farmstay – Eagle Valley ~$200/night (4ppl)

Where we ate:

  • Blue Wren Cafe (Barkala Farm): Pizzas, German fare and great coffee;
  • Black Kockatoo Restaurant, Coonabarabran: Gluten free options

What we did:

I first came across the Breadknife walk a couple of years ago, and it had been firmly pinned on my ‘to visit’ map since, but with it being a 6 hour drive from Sydney, it’s just that bit too far for a weekend trip.

So in August this year, when 3 girlfriends and I were able to get some leave at the same time, we took a Thur – Sun trip, meaning 2 days on the road and 2 full days in and around Warrumbungle NP and the Pilliga.

The gang at the (somewhat cloudy) summit

If you’re making the trip that way, I would actually recommend taking a few days more if you can, because there were still places we wanted to see in that area that we didn’t make it to, including:

  • Pilliga Sandstone Caves
  • Mount Kaputar
  • Sawn Rocks
  • Pilliaga natural hot bore baths
  • Siding Spring Observatory (no point us going given the cloud cover!)

I should probably preface this post by saying I may need to make a call never to go on another hiking holiday with my friend Loren, since there appears to be a pattern emerging…

2017 = go to Flinders Ranges, South Australia, renowned for amazing sunsets… do not see sun for 3 days due to cloud cover.

2020 = go to Warrumbungle NP, Australian’s only ‘Dark Sky Park‘, renowned for spectacular star gazing… do not see stars for 3 nights due to cloud cover.

There’s a couple of ways you can drive from Sydney to Warrumbungle NP: 1) Through Mudgee, 2) Through Hunter Valley. Either way guarantees some good wine! Since we were picking up Sarah from Central Coast we opted for the Hunter Valley route.

An early start meant it was only mid-morning by the time we hit the Hunter, so we pushed on and took our break up around Wingen, where we found the Burning Mountain walk. The description of ‘Australia’s only open burning coal seam’ sounded too exciting to pass up.

Burning Mountain

I’ll be honest, it wasn’t exactly what I was expecting… where were the flames?!? but it was a lovely way to stretch the legs on the long journey and see a new area.

The timing of our trip in early Aug 2020 was just as NSW COVID restrictions were beginning to lift. Although we were very much within the rules to travel around the state, you should have seen the look of horror on the face of Mabel from the local visitor’s centre when she asked where we were travelling from and we said Sydney. I’ve never seen someone recoil behind their perspex screen so fast :O

We had originally booked into Camp Blackman within the Warrumbungle NP for all 3 nights of the trip, as the weekend got closer and the forecast heavy rain gave no sign of shifting, we decided to look into back up options.

The closest town to Warrumbungle NP (about 26ks away) is Coonabarabran, or “Coona” for short! Accommodation options in Coona were mainly motels, with a few main street pub/hotels.

I happened to stumble across a cute looking farmstay, a bit north of Coona in the Pilliga nature reserve. They had space for the first 2 nights so we booked in there to the ‘Eagle Valley’ lodge.

The Old Schoolhouse Accommodation at the farm

What a wonderful lucky find it was! You must check out the website to get the full back-story of the farm, but in summary: Maria came to Australia when she was 26, came to visit the Warrumbungles, loved the area so much she bought land, raised her kids here and they built the farm, accommodation and pottery from the ground up.

Pilliga Pottery

I really don’t think any photos can do it justice, we all agreed we’d never been anywhere like it. The craft that has gone into the place was insane. Eagle Valley, the cottage where we stayed, was around 2km away from the main farmhouse, and was built by Maria’s son Bernhard as a ‘project’ when he was 18. It’s fully off-grid with solar power and rainwater supply.

Everything inside Eagle Valley was hand crafted… beds included

They also did great coffee at the cafe, and yummy pizzas, so we didn’t need to leave the property between arriving on Thursday night and setting off for our hike Sat AM. Must say we were VERY happy with our choice not to camp when sitting on the sofa by a log fire Friday night with the rain pouring down outside.

Outside Eagle Valley
Walking on the farm land
Caves on the farm

After a relaxing day on the Friday, we were energised and ready for our hike on Saturday.

The Breadknife and High Tops walk is often lauded as ‘one of the best day walks in NSW’ and I can see why. Even on a very overcast day it was a wonderful walk, and the terrain was challenging but manageable.

‘The Breadknife’ running through the heart of the park

You have to get a National Park pass before starting the walk, so we headed to the visitors centre to do that and then drove to Camp Pincham car park where the walk begins.

Off we go

It’s a loop walk, so you have a choice of directions. You walk about 1km from the carpark before coming to a fork. Sarah had previously done it clockwise, so we decided to go the other way around.

This meant the majority of the uphill was on uneven ground but that worked to our advantage for the descent where we had the proper path and steps.

Spot the roo

About 6kms in there’s a side track you can take to go up Bluff Mountain. It adds about 4km of walking and 250m of climbing. We got about half way up before deciding to turn back due to rapidly worsening visibility and next to zero chance of a view from the top.

Loren with Bluff Mountain in the background

We pushed on and found a gorgeous lunch spot around ‘Lugh’s Throne’ with a view over the rest of the national park to the farmland beyond.

Lunch views

Picnic devoured, we rounded the final corners to reach the view from the top of the Breadknife. We actually did a little scramble to get to a great spot where you effectively looked down the ‘spine’ of it.

Up up up
Up top
Sarah and Ellen
Getting our bearings before the descent

The walk down was great, largely steps and proper laid path which made it much easier. The track hugs along the side of the Breadknife and then down onto the National Park floor below.

It look us around 5 hours in total, with 4 of walking and probably 1 of snacking/resting/photos 🙂

Once we’d completed the walk we decided to check out the nearby ‘Emu Logic’ Emu farm. It was great, there was a cute little 2.y.o who showed us all the birds and emu chicks, and we even bought an emu egg (equivalent of 10 regular eggs!) which Ellen turned into yummy emu quiches the next weekend.

I got some Emu oil, which Ben has got somewhat tired of me suggesting it as a remedy to any ailment… “Itchy? Try emu oil! Sunburn? Emu oil” 😀

Emu chick

That night we were staying in a motel in Coona (as Barkala farm only had 2 nights available) and had a surprisingly delicious dinner at another motel restaurant called ‘The Black Kockatoo’ before crashing out and hitting the road back to Sydney on Sunday.

A wonderful long weekend, would really recommend and I hope I’ll get out that way again to see some more of the area, and some stars!

Cx

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