Caravan Adventures: Feel a need for a break away to chase some trout? Then read on.

Silver Adventurers Jan and Peter (both 73) hit the road in their caravan to chase trout and to explore the most beautiful parts of Australia.

Trout season was on once again! So, what better way to indulge in caravan adventures than to dust off the trout rods, buy more trout flies, hitch up the caravan and head for the New England Tableland? It is in the New England region that you’ll find the Northern Tablelands highland area which forms part of the Great Dividing Range, from the Moonbi Range in the south to the border of Queensland in the north.

The Destination

The tableland region is 900 metres (3,000 ft) above sea-level, so it has distinctive cold climate vegetation. Winter frosts are common on the Northern Tablelands and winter snow is not unusual in this area.

This region has been occupied by Indigenous Australians for tens of thousands of years. In the west it was the territory of the Kamilaroi people. In the highlands, now-extinct languages included Anaiwan to the south of Guyra and Ngarbal to the north of Guyra. Rain runs down the eastern side of the into tributaries of the Clarence River, Hastings River and the Macleay River. The eastern rivers are short and swift. In many places they form deep gorges and waterfalls.

Wollumbi Gorge
Magnificent sights from the top of the Wollumbi Gorge

There are many National Parks along the rugged eastern fringes of the highlands including Cathedral Rock National Park, which has the region’s highest peak, and Nymboida National Park. The western side of the plateau is somewhat less rugged, and rain runs into tributaries of the Severn River, the Gwydir River and the Namoi River. We wanted to explore all of it!

Caravan adventures : Jan and Peter in their van
Jan and Peter in their van

Getting There

We headed south from the Gold Coast to Grafton. From there we made a detour onto Armidale Rd. Of course, the obligatory morning tea stop was activated! This was a stop in at the delightful Coutts Crossing general store. Then, we crossed the Nymboida River just past the village of the same name. Our caravan adventures took us on a stunning scenic drive up the range, which took us onto the Waterfall Way and Ebor.

Caravan Adventures: Ebor

The reason so many people turn up to Ebor is for trout fishing. The streams and rivers around the town are bursting with wild and stocked rainbow and brown trout, eels and Australian Bass.

Ebor Falls Hotel Motel, situated on the Guy Fawkes River, is a great place to put on your map when caravanning. It has different options for accommodation when staying on the beautiful Plateau. But the best one is that the hotel welcomes travellers to camp behind the hotel, with powered sites available.

It was here we spent the next few days. Ebor is handy to a few National Parks in the region and not far from Dorrigo, a popular tourist village. Ebor itself has a popular café and the pub is good for a meal and drinks with the locals. The spectacular two-tiered Ebor Falls are just a short walk from town and are topped by a pleasant picnic area.

Caravan Adventure: The beautiful Ebor Falls waterfall in the New England Tablelands
The beautiful Ebor Falls waterfall in the New England Tablelands

Trout Fishing

Our first trout of the trip was caught in a pool just above the falls. A hotel patron supplied us with the contact details for a nearby cattle property and we gained permission to stalk along their pretty stream in search of another catch. It was a cool, clear day and we enjoyed the lovely countryside, the meandering stream, and the inquisitive cows.

Despite the fact we could see the fish and landed our flies precisely, our flies were not convincing. We needed to try something else. We followed the rough tracks in the town common and then we stalked along the Guy Fawkes River and made our second catch! Success!

Trout Fishing Adventure
Jan enjoying the river view while trout fishing

Caravan Adventures: Local Diversions

The next day was rainy, so we travelled to Armidale and purchased maps and gained wonderful local information from an employee in the sports store. A diversion on the drive back to Ebor on a narrow forest trail took us down to Wattle Flat. We forded a rather deep river crossing to a delightful campsite underneath the river oaks on the Styx River. The water tumbles over rocks and boulders into large pools. We earmarked this spot for a future visit.

Caravan Adventure to Little Styx River
Peter fishing for trout in Little Styx River

A visit to the Dutton trout hatchery on Point Lookout Road was very informative. It was well worth a visit to view the brown and rainbow trout and to witness the “stripping” of the females’ eggs as part of stages of the development program. These eggs are used to grow to reproduction size in the surrounding tanks. The large females are then tagged and released to undisclosed streams in the area. Once the fingerlings reach a mature size, they are used for restocking the rivers of the tablelands and other schemes in the state.

A New Camping Site

The exploring bug got us again! We shifted camp to a public reserve with a pit toilet on the border of the Cunnawarra and New England National Parks. We chose a grassy area amongst the trees on the pretty Little Styx River and spent five days there by ourselves. Late and early in the day we stalked and fished along meandering streams. Despite our failure to land the ‘big one’ – it was a pleasure to stroll in this picturesque countryside.

At other times of the day we ventured into the New England National Park where we experienced some spectacular and challenging hikes. Hiking Our three favourite hikes were Eagles Nest through to Weeping Rocks, Wrights Lookout and the Cascades. The Eagle’s Nest circuit is a grade four challenging loop. It took us under the cliff face down steep rocky steps and finally to where moss clung to the overhanging Weeping Rocks.

Weeping Rock Walk, New England National Park
The Weeping Rock walk in the New England National Park

We climbed to the top of the range at Platypus Lookout with views to the valley below and returned to Point Lookout. Wrights Lookout travels through ferns and moss on an easy forest trail with a final scramble to the top up a steep rocky climb. The 3.4km, grade four hike was worth the effort for the view over the valley and ranges towards the ocean.

A Tough Climb

The Cascades walk, a diversion from the base of Wrights Lookout, took us down the valley to Five Day Creek. The trail then follows the wild cascading stream for a few hundred metres over a narrow, damp and challenging track before returning up the steep climb through the forest and returning to the start of the walk (only recommended for people with reasonable fitness and agility).

It was a beautiful forest hike. We saved the biggest challenge to our last day in this area. We drove 20km to the entrance of Cathedral Rock National Park. First, we enjoyed morning tea in the sub-wetlands picnic area where kangaroos grazed on the grass. With lunches in our backpacks we set off on a 6km loop walk through woodland to the summit turnoff Our challenges for the next 400 metres included rock hopping, scrambles around enormous boulders and straddling crevices.

Cathedral Rock Adventure
Jan and Peter using a chain to climb Cathedral Rock

This climb was not for the faint-hearted and it pushed us to our limit. A chain assists in the final climb to the summit with its spectacular views. Going back down the chain was more of a challenge than the ascent. We completed the circuit through a valley of boulders and gum trees. Reluctantly we left this lovely area to head towards home.

The End of the Caravan Adventures

We camped in the showground at Dorrigo and enjoyed visiting the quaint shops and purchasing fresh fruit and vegetables. A visit to the World Heritage listed Gondwana Rain Forest at the National Parkes Centre was informative as was the popular skywalk suspended over the rainforest. Our circuit stroll through the rainforest took us to magnificent Crystal Shower Falls.

Crystal Shower Falls in Dorrigo
The spectacular view behind the Crystal Shower Falls

The next day, a short trip to the north took us to Dangar Falls where we enjoyed a picnic lunch. Heading home we drove back along Armidale Road. This really is a magnificent part of Australia, and within easy reach of the Gold Coast. We will be back to explore the extra corners of this area that we didn’t get time to do the first time around!

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