Willi Willi NP Day Trip (NSW Mid North Coast)

There’s something about driving on the dirt roads through NSW forests… so we thought we’d explore the hinterland behind Wauchope NSW… and headed off to check out the Wilson River Picnic Area.

From Beechwood, you turn North into Bellangry Rd and enjoy 17km of sealed road as you wind up the valley… but take it easy. Although the posted limit along here is 80/100kph… the road has far too many unmarked turns to travel too fast.

Once you hit the dirt road of Hastings Forest Way… you’ve got approximately 30km of windy, bumpy, and VERY hilly unsealed road to negotiate… the vibrations from some sections will give you a nice all-over massage for the next 50 mins or so!

Number 1 Tower

Worth stopping at on the way is the “Number 1 Tower” in the Bellangry State Forest. This is a magnificent lookout which offers sweeping views of the Wilson River catchment and forests stretching all the way to the coast.

This area use to be the site of the Bellangry Number 1 Fire Tower, and was used to spot bushfire smoke in summer. Now it’s a nice daytime picnic area, with toilets available.

The turnoff to Number 1 Tower is 9km in after the dirt starts, at the five ways junction, and just 1km off Hastings Forest Way.

After you’ve taken in the magnificent views at #1…

Continue your journey westward along Hastings Forest Way for another 14.4km to the junction of Wilsons River Road. Now, take the right-hand turn and head down to the Picnic Area. This last section is 6.5km long, and is very slow to negotiate! The very last bit might have you wishing you had a 4WD vehicle… but it is still OK for 2WD if you take it steady 🙂

Wilson River Picnic Area

wilson-river-picnic-areaPlease note – we came in from the Wauchope side. The “track” from Rollands Plains is clearly signposted 4WD ONLY

This picnic area in the Willi Willi National Park at Wilson River is actually quite small… with three covered tables, and toilets nearby (just up the road). The National Parks website says there are gas bbq’s here… but we didn’t see them. Only just the one fire pit.

After a brief exploration of the nearby river and bridge (there’s a reasonable sized swimming hole next to the bridge) we soon settled in for a nice lunch of prawns and avocado!

The Waterfall Walk

Foolishly, some might say in hindsight, we then decided to tackle the waterfall walk… a moderately difficult track along the river. While the sign says 1500m, the NP website says 7.2km return and a Grade 5 track!!!

wilson-river-strangler-fig-rootsThe track is well worn… with lots of slippery leaf litter underfoot. There are some interesting sights to see along the way, including the magnificent strangler figs!

After questioning our reasons for taking this hike in the bush… we saw a sign which said we “only” had 500m to go to the falls… so we decided to push on. This last bit was by far the most treacherous. A very narrow trail with lots of rocks and roots to climb over… and plenty of worries about falling off and sliding down the cliff into the undergrowth!

Finally the waterfall itself came into view!

Was it worth it?

Well we certainly didn’t have any hesitation of jumping straight into the swimming hole at the bottom… as the cooling waters were needed to aid in the recovery from the gruelling hike!

And here was a first!

First time swimming under a waterfall!


After a short while, with the overhead rumblings of thunder threatening, we decided it would be best to head back and get outa Dodge just in case it started raining, as the road is not so good for 2WD in the wet apparently.

On the hike into the waterfall, we had noticed an “alternate” track back to the picnic area via a river crossing. So, rather than face all those uphill and downhill bits again, decided to take this track… which soon disappeared as it seems not too many use it. We forged on anyway, only to discover that the “river crossing” as such was an upstream walk for several hundred metres along and IN the river itself!

All good fun though, and thankfully the Glade picnic area next to road appeared just in time! As the family recovered from their epic adventure, I forged on another 400m along the (level) road to retrieve the car!

Totally knackered, we headed back the same way we came in – as we had received advice that the northern road into the area via Rollands Plains was really ONLY suitable for 4WD vehicles.

Cobrabald Camping Areas

I thought we might check out the Cobrabald Camping area in the State Forest on the way back… it’s “only” an 11k detour from near the No 1 Tower turnoff at five ways junction. However, after a short trip down this slow, bumpy section of road, we decided that could wait for another day as the 22k return trip would have taken well over an hour!

And our bodies had had enough of the pounding from the dirt road already 🙂

All in all… a nice road trip trough the bush… and the paddlepops and iced coffee back at the Beechwood General Store were very welcome!

Please note… I would NOT recommend taking LONG vehicles (caravans and motorhomes) on these roads! The Hastings Forest Way is suitable for 2WD vehicles in the dry… and sections of it may require a 4WD in the wet.


* Number 1 Tower
* Wilson River Picnic Area
* Cobrabald Camping Areas