Dandry Gorge, NSW
72km north of Coonabarabran
Recognised as one of the iconic landscapes of inland Australia, the Pilliga Forest, north of Coonabarabran in New South Wales, is in fact, the largest forest in the state west of the Great Divide.
Tucked away almost in the centre of this isolated forest which spreads over 500,000 hectares, is a splendid National Park campsite at Dandry Gorge.
Carved out into the bush here is a series of individual campsites each offering a degree of privacy from the others and big enough for most size rigs. Some large/long caravans or other big rigs however, may have a little difficulty in manoeuvring and drivers may have to be selective in their choice of sites. In addition to the normal campsites there is quite a large camping area suitable for groups or tours. The latter area also doubles as a well-resourced picnic area which comes with several picnic shelters, tables and chairs, free gas barbeques, toilets and a separate day use car park. There are no bins here, so remember to take your rubbish away with you.
The area out here is noticeably quiet and almost untouched which helps to make the remote Pilliga Forest an ideal habitat for a wide range of natural wildlife. Included amongst its birdlife are the glossy black cockatoos, barking owl, red-capped robins, regent honeyeaters and many more. In fact, so prolific is the birdlife here that a special, free, multi-page “Bird Routes of Baradine and the Pilliga” has been produced. This splendid publication (a must for all bird lovers) will guide visitors through a variety of Pilliga trails with plenty of information on what is to be found and where.
The Pilliga Forest is also home to plenty of mammals (kangaroos, wallabies, koalas and bettongs) as well as reptiles and frogs.
Adjacent to the campsite is Dandry Gorge where a relatively easy walk/loop trail (3 km return) leads along the rim of the gorge. On the first section of the trail is a series of splendid sculptures prepared by a number of different artisans each depicting different aspects of ancient Aboriginal life in the region.
The trail then continues down into and along the bottom of the gorge adjacent to Dandry Creek, eventually returning back to the campsite. Along the way there is a number of signboards including cute stories and interesting Aboriginal legends, including a lovely tale of a pair of willy wag tails, some great bush tucker information and a story on Bilirr the glossy black cockatoo. Also found along this very pleasant walk trail are some colourful gorge/escarpment cliffs and information on ancient ceremonial and other sites important to the local Aboriginal people. In fact, the soft Pilliga sandstone here has, over many years, been ideal for early Aboriginals to engrave symbols and stories that were significant to them, including emu trails, wallaby tracks and kangaroo foot prints. There are also hand stencils, carved trees, grooves in the sandstone (where stone axes and spears were sharpened) and a number of cave shelters all to be seen along the way.
You could complete this trail in around an hour, but to take it all in and enjoy this lovely gorge trail allow at least a couple of hours or even more.
Whilst in the Pilliga area also check out the well set-up Pilliga Forest Discovery Centre at Baradine, the salt caves as well as the lovely sandstone caves and for something different, the well-known Pilliga Pottery based in the Pilliga Scrub is certainly worth a visit.
LOCATION: Travel 42 km north of Coonabarabran on the Newell Highway and then west at a signposted No 1 Break Road for 19 km. Then turn south along Top Crossing Road and follow signs a further 11 km to the Dandry Gorge/Sculptures car park and campground.
From Baradine, travel 9 km northeast on Indian Lane and then east onto No 1 Break Road for 13 km. Then turn south onto Top Crossing Road and follow signs a further 11 km to the Dandry Gorge/Sculptures car park and campground.
Roads are suitable for all vehicles if taken with care. Some sections of corrugations can be experienced.
FACILITIES: Toilets, picnic shelters, tables and chairs, free gas barbeques, tank water (untreated) and individual bush campsites.
PETS: No pets allowed. This area is set within Timmallallie National Park.
DISABLED: Disabled toilet facility.
CONTACT: NPWS Baradine Area Office – phone (02) 6843 4000; Pilliga Forest Discovery Centre – phone (02) 6843 4011.
Detailed maps of the area are available at the Pilliga Forest Discovery Centre.