Dharawal National Park



Full write up featured on We Are Explorers

New South Wales is home to a vast network of National Parks, providing an endless list of places for outdoor enthusiasts to explore. When heading South of Sydney, Royal National Park has attracted the masses due to its proximity to Sydney, its diverse landscapes and its famous “Instagrammable” locations.

However, just a little further past here is the national park you’ve never heard of offering all those things and more – Dharawal National Park.

Dharawal National Park was declared a National Park in 2012 and is the traditional land of the Dharawal Aboriginal people. Their longstanding connection with the every facet of the land on which the park stands is still preserved today, with the park protecting several ancient Aboriginal sites, including drawings and axe-grinding grooves. Due to 70 years of restricted public access the area has been largely undisturbed, meaning that extensive pristine parklands await your arrival.

Just a stone’s throw South of Sydney in Campbelltown, this national park has a touch of everything to meet any of your outdoor needs. With picnic and toilet facilities as well as infrastructure tailored to accommodate every type of explorer, it’s the perfect place for a little escape. Here are a few ideas for you and your crew, so that you can experience the region like you never have before.

Jingga Falls Track (Distance: 2.8km return walk)

Has the summer got you feeling like you need to cool off but Kmart is sold out of pedestal fans? Jingga Falls is the perfect solution.

In the language of the Dharawal, in relation to water, ‘jingga’ means ‘nice and sweet’ and this little known paradise delivers exactly that.

Following the trail from the park’s northwestern entry through Campbelltown, a fire trail leading off to the right marks the beginning of your walk to Jingga Falls. Begin your walk here down a steep track, though it may look a little intimidating it’s worth the walk!

Follow the track as it snakes down towards your destination, but don’t forget to look up to enjoy the eucalyptus and the dramatic sandstone formations that surround you. As you reach the last bend in the track you’ll be greeted with your reward, a beautiful freshwater watering hole beckoning you on the horizon.

Take a dip under the falls and swim downstream to explore the O’Hares Creek in all its glory. Find a spot by the creek to sunbathe or have a picnic and be sure to keep your eyes peeled some of the local fauna stopping by for a swim!

Minerva Pools (Distance: 2.4km return walk)

If you haven’t got your fill of watering holes, Dharawal is the gift that keeps on giving.

Entering the park again at its northwestern entry, the trail for the Minerva Pools is signposted and before the turn off to the Jingga Falls Track. Take a relaxing stroll down through the bushland and follow the signs that point you down to Minerva Pools.

On your way, be on the lookout for some of the animals that call this bushland home like the swamp wallaby or a yellow-tailed black cockatoo. When you reach the end, stop and peer over the pools at the lookout but then make your way down to the pristine waterhole. Dip your toes in the running water flowing down a small cascade into the pools below and take in the view.

If you decide to have a swim, paddle out to the rock island on the far end of the pool (a great little spot to sunbathe or to jump off back into the pools!). Minerva Pool has been identified as a sacred women’s place for the Dharawal People. Out of respect it is requested only women and children enter the waters of the pool.

Maddens Falls (Distance: 1.4km return)

Looking for a secluded waterfall to sit under? Dharawal has got you covered once again.

Enter the park’s eastern entry from Helensburgh onto Darkes Forest Road and park your car just after the Glenbernie Orchard. The walk starts on a fire trail that heads down the hill which forms into a boardwalk. This boardwalk will lead you down to a lookout that sits above the falls.

When you arrive at the lookout take a moment to enjoy the view but the adventure doesn’t stop here. To get to the bottom of Maddens Falls here is where you go a little off track and it’s well worth it.

Traverse the top of the falls and look for a little track to the right leading down to the first ledge of the falls. This section of rock is a great picnic spot, so don’t forget to pack some a little lunch hamper for you and your crew. For the more adventurous, the bottom of the falls is a short scramble a little further down the rocks.

Go back into the bush behind you and make your way around the ledge towards the bottom of the falls, this section is a little more tricky to navigate so don’t go down if you aren’t confident you can get back up!

When you’re done for the day, stop for a few apples or an ice cold cider at the Glenbernie Orchard. I dare you to find a better way to finish your day!