Bumpy rides, adventurous trails, off-road tracks, and unbeatable views. There’s just something about 4WD trips that simply can’t be matched by anything else. Plus, for those of us living in or visiting New South Wales, we’re in for a treat with all the spoils of off-roading adventure right in our own backyard!
If you’re itching to conquer the rugged terrain of NSW, consider yourself in for a wild ride. From untouched sandy beaches that’ll have you feeling like you’ve stumbled upon an oasis, to rainforest tracks that’ll push your skills to the limit, NSW is an off-road paradise just waiting to be discovered. Buckle up, because here are our top picks for the most epic 4×4 adventures you can tackle in NSW.
Exploring Barrington Tops National Park: A 4×4 Paradise
Barrington Tops National Park is located in the Northern Tablelands region of New South Wales, Australia. It’s the perfect place for an adventurous drive through some of Australia’s most beautiful scenery.
The park offers a variety of activities and trails including hiking, mountain biking, horse riding, and camping (you’ll need to book ahead). There are also two lookouts where you can enjoy stunning views over Barrington Tops National Park or even see koalas!
The best way to get there is via a 4×4 vehicle as some sections of the road are unsealed. Your drive shouldn’t take more than 90 minutes from Port Macquarie or Murwillumbah with one stop along the way at Mount Warrigal lookout point, where there are toilets available. Make sure you bring plenty of water with you if planning on doing this trip during the summer months when temperatures can reach 40 degrees Celsius!
A key point to remember when traversing the expanse of Barrington Tops National Park is its combination of roads and trails. While the roads can accommodate easier skills with 2WD vehicles, the trails are reserved for 4WDs and call for a moderate to advanced skill set. It’s important to watch out for mountain bikers and bushwalkers, as the trails are shared.
If you’re looking for somewhere special, try camping out under starry skies at one of 3 designated campsites within this area:
- Gloucester River campground includes 30 campsites and caters to tents, trailers, caravans, and vehicle-side camping;
- Junction Pools campground is a beautiful, secluded area that houses only 5 campsites, and is only accessible by a 4WD trail;
- Polblue campground is a spacious and relaxing camping area that’s perfect for caravans and vehicle-side camping setups. With 45 campsites available, you’ll be spoilt for choice here.
Be sure to book your campsite ahead of time and bring your own tent, sleeping gear, and other necessities.
Barraba Track & Mount Kaputar National Park
Located amongst volcanic mountains in Northern NSW near the towns of Barraba and Narrabri is one of NSW’s best-kept secrets, Mount Kaputar National Park. This National Park is a sensational high-altitude destination with some of the greatest views in the state.
The park offers many different 4×4 tracks, including the Barraba Track. This track is a great way to get a taste of what it’s like to drive through rugged terrain with options for mountain biking and bushwalking. It’s also possible for you to drive through Mount Kaputar National Park on your way from Barraba to Dungowan, although this area isn’t recommended for inexperienced drivers or those who don’t have moderate to high 4WD skills.
The Barraba Track is a one-way 8km stretch of beautiful bushland, various rocky terrains, steep climbs, and narrow shoulders. Twist and turn your way through the track while taking in spectacular views of the volcanic mountains.
Bookings are essential for entry, as well as a 4WD driving permit for $10 per vehicle. The track is restricted to 8 4WDs per week in order to preserve the site and ensure optimal safety for all drivers. Barraba Track is accessible to most 4WDs and skill levels and is possibly the best way to ascend to the top of Mount Kaputar at its height of roughly 1500m above sea level. Be prepared for incredible views from this vantage point!
The best campsite once you’ve traversed the track is Dawson’s Spring. Enjoy fully equipped accommodation with a variety of BBQ options, walking tracks, picnic spots, and more.
Tackling Stockton Beach: NSW’s Iconic 4WD Playground
Stockton Beach needs no introduction. It’s been a mainstay of 4×4 adventures in NSW for decades and is the perfect summer adventure destination for those looking for the ultimate weekend away.
Located in the Worimi Conservation Lands north of Newcastle, and accessible from Williamtown in the south or Anna Bay in the north, Stockton Beach offers an expansive 19km of beachfront for sand-driving action. You’ll of course need to obtain a beach driving permit before heading there. This also allows you to test your 4×4’s sand driving capabilities in the Recreational Vehicle Area where you’ll discover some of the best dune driving you can experience in NSW.
The terrain here varies from soft sand to rocky outcrops along with some steep climbs that offer some challenging obstacles for drivers looking for an adventure. The best time to tackle Stockton Beach’s 4×4 tracks is during low tide when you can explore all parts of the beach without getting stuck in soft sand or missing any hidden gems.
To ensure you make the most of your time away, it’s crucial that you’re carrying a comprehensive range of recovery gear. When it comes to winching heavy loads or when you’re really stuck in the sand or mud, having a Snatch Block readily available will go a long way – this item is one of the most versatile tools to have in your recovery kit.
Watagans National Park: Off-Road Thrills Amidst Nature’s Beauty
Located on the beautiful Central Coast of NSW, Watagans National Park is known to be one of the most challenging and exciting 4×4 tracks in NSW, and for good reason: it doesn’t matter how modified your 4WD is or how experienced you are beyond the wheel, there’s a track that will suit you – everything from mild to wild.
Some of our favourite 4×4 tracks in the park include:
- Watagan Forest Road: An easy skill-level track, this scenic route offers plenty of room and flat terrain to take things at your own pace while getting to enjoy the views. Running from the Hunter Valley’s Cooranbong down to Jilliby on the Central Coast, this track also has lots of fun 4×4 tracks branching away from the main.
- Creek Road: A moderate skill-level track, Creek Road takes things up a notch with some more difficult terrain and 4×4 climbs. Come prepared for a few slippery ascends, ruts, and rock steps. This track is conveniently located near some of Watagans’ best campsites, so it’s a great option for those comfortable behind the wheel.
- CPT 80 Road: Things start to heat up with this hard skill-level track. Get ready for big ruts, rocky steps up and down, and large puddles scattered throughout. You’ll want to bring a good winch for this track to get you through the bog holes and assist with the advanced climb out.
- Daniels Point Road: Now for the big guns, Daniels Point Road is only for those with advanced skill levels under their belts. This treacherous yet exhilarating track is known for its extreme ruts, deep bog holes, and wild climbs. Ensure you bring all the best gear for this trip, along with a team of experienced 4×4 drivers!
Watagans National Park also features several campgrounds that are easily accessible, including the Bangalow and Gap Creek campgrounds, both offering BBQS, fire rings and amenities. For those looking to tap further into their adventurous side, there are lots of scenic lookouts, bushwalking, and mountain bike tracks waiting to be explored.
Yalwal: Explore Historic Trails
With a range of iconic 4WD tracks, Monkey Gum is definitely a destination worth a visit. The exciting trail winds its way through the forest, up and down hills, and across streams. It’s not an easy track by any stretch of the imagination, but it’s certainly worth taking on if you’re looking for a challenge.
Make your way up the mountain and take advantage of a whole network of challenging and technical courses. The steep ascents and descents, sharp bends, river crossings, and plenty of rocky terrain will test even the most experienced drivers. But if you have time for only one track in Yalwal then this should be it!
We recommend carrying an electric winch to ensure you can get yourself out of any situation you may find yourself in along Monkey Gum.
The best time to visit Yalwal is during summer (December–February), when temperatures are warmer and rainfall is lower than in other seasons.
Coffs Harbour: Scenic 4×4 Trails to Remember
If you’re looking for an adventure that will take your breath away, Coffs Harbour is the place to be. Nestled on Australia’s North Coast and surrounded by lush rainforest, this coastal city offers some of the best 4×4 tracks in NSW.
Tracks in Coffs Harbour range from easy drives through forest roads to extreme skill-based treks through rough terrain. Whichever route you take, you’ll want to bring along a good GPS system, as the many trails weave and wind their way all over the region – which can quickly turn into a maze if you’re not familiar with the area.
Take your trusty 4WD through tracks like Perseverance, Rocky, and Commando (all very aptly named due to their hardcore natures). Or, if you’re feeling like a more relaxed and scenic cruise, head down to the beaches for a picture-perfect drive along a pristine coastline. If you’re planning on doing any beach driving, though, be sure to check the Coffs Harbour beach driving regulations first.
Along with essential equipment and 4×4 recovery gear, you’ll want to bring plenty of space on your camera roll for any and all of the incredible Coffs Harbour tracks. From white sandy beaches and crystal clear waters to sparkling waterfalls and lush rainforests, there’s no shortage of beautiful scenery to enjoy in this iconic 4×4 NSW hotspot. Check out our tips on camping and equipment ideal for Coffs Harbour tracks.
Safety Tips and Preparations for Conquering NSW’s 4×4 Trails
It’s important to be prepared for any situation, especially if you’re planning on those more challenging 4×4 tracks. At Ark, we’re all about safety first, so here are some recovery tips and tricks that will help ensure a safe and enjoyable trip:
- Always carry a tow rope or snatch strap with at least 100 feet of recovery line ( preferably more).
- A winch is also an essential piece of equipment when traversing difficult terrain where getting stuck could happen at any moment. If you’re going through really rough terrain, an electric winch is your best bet.
- Make sure your vehicle has sufficient ground clearance for the track you plan on driving on – you don’t want stuff getting caught under the chassis!
- Roll down your windows if you’re in dangerous territory. If your vehicle collides with a tree or rolls, this will help to prevent injuries from shattered glass.
- Always walk the track you’re venturing down first to test for unstable rocks. Oftentimes a patch of ground that looks safe from a distance actually consists of uneven rock that can shift and slide when driving over it.
- Bring sandbags or other ballast weights if possible so that if one tire does get stuck, it won’t pull out all four tires simultaneously. This can also help to prevent rollover accidents from occurring due to sudden weight shifts when stopping suddenly.
- Make sure your vehicle has a good high-torque starter motor and battery, as well as an auxiliary power source (generator or solar panel) that can power the winch. If possible, bring extra batteries to recharge with so that you don’t have to worry about what happens if you get stuck for more than one day.
- Consider investing in a portable power system for longer trips, as this provides an inbuilt AC-DC and DC-DC charger and can power up anything from your fridge to your vehicle battery.
At ARK, we Live & Breathe the Off-Road Life
For the team at ARK, exploring the country in a 4×4 and a camper trailer isn’t just a job, it’s a lifestyle. Not only do we have all the gear you need to ensure your time on the tracks is trouble-free, but we also do all our own real-world testing.
We’ve been in the 4×4 industry for over 40 years and are Australia’s largest 4×4 retailer, with a team of over 200 dedicated staff. We’re often venturing out across the country to discover new and exciting trails at all levels of difficulty, during which we use our own trusted gear for optimal results and safety. When it comes to getting out on the trails and exploring new places there is no better gear you can equip yourself with than ARK!
Shop our huge range of 4×4 off-roading essentials to prepare yourself for the ride of a lifetime.