New England National Park is easily one of the most underrated national parks in NSW. Located on the stunning Northern Tablelands, New England National Park is a beautiful area with amazing hiking. The three best walks are packed with epic lookouts, glorious rainforest and serene cascades. Included in this top three list is possibly the best sunrise hike in NSW – Wrights Lookout Walking Track.
So, if you’re up for an unbelievable sunrise and other brilliant trails in one of the state’s best national parks, you’ve made the right choice to hike in New England National Park! Read our guide to find out more about these three breathtaking routes and how to fit them into your hiking itinerary.
For more sensational hiking in northern NSW, check out our hiking guides for Mount Kaputar National Park, Oxley Wild Rivers National Park (coming soon) and Gibraltar Ranges (coming soon).
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New England National Park
New England National Park is one of the premier national parks of northern NSW. Part of the Gondwana Rainforests of Australia World Heritage Area, this national park is packed full of natural beauty. By doing these top three walks, you’ll experience the best that this area has to offer. With the longest walk only being around 3 hours or so, it’s even possible to pack all of these walks into one glorious day of hiking. Alternatively, these three walks could be very comfortably spread over a couple of days!
NSW National Parks has graded each of these trails individually using the Australian Walking Track Grading System. However, considering we have combined a couple of trails into each walk, we have personally rated each walk as a whole, with a more in-depth description of the difficulty below.
1. Wrights Lookout and Cascades Trail Walking Tracks
- Type: Out & Back (Wrights Lookout) with Loop (Cascades Walking Track)
- Distance: 8km
- Time: 2.5 hours
- Accumulated elevation gain: 340m
- Difficulty: Hard
- Trailhead: Thungutti Campground
By combining the Wrights Lookout and Cascades Trail Walking Tracks, you’ll have yourself the best walk in New England National Park. Not only is Wrights Lookout one of the best places to see the sunrise in NSW, but the Cascades Trail Walking Track is an incredibly serene hike in its own right.
Keep in mind, the Wrights Lookout is best kept for a sunrise hike. Beck and I were absolutely blown away by the sunrise here, so it’s certainly worth planning your trip around this!
So if you’re keen on heading to Wrights Lookout for sunrise, you’ll be setting off in the dark, starting your hike on the flat and wide Robinson’s Knoll Trail from Thungutti Campground. After around 1.5km, you’ll arrive at the Robinson’s Knoll Trail three-way junction. Keeping left follows the Robinson’s Knoll Trail, which is for those completing the multi-day New England Wilderness Walk (maybe we’ll do this one day!) The trailhead sharply to the right is for the Cascades Trail Walking Track, which you’ll do afterwards. The middle trail, which begins to veer to the right is the trail to follow for Wrights Lookout.
This trail begins to steeply climb, and as you gain more elevation, your surroundings begin to reveal with the emerging sunlight. After 500 metres or so, you’ll arrive at a flattened plateau with patches of heathland, signalling your arrival at Wrights Lookout.
Wrights Lookout Sunrise
There are plenty of options for watching the sunrise at Wrights Lookout. Feel free to explore the flat and exposed plateau for your optimal viewing location! After arriving at Wrights Lookout, we ventured slightly left and forward nearing the edge of the lookout and found some rocks to sit and enjoy the sensational sunrise.
We also found other great views further to the right, when exploring after sunrise. Either way, you’re bound to experience one of the best sunrises in NSW!
Cascades Trail Walking Track
After a glorious sunrise at Wrights Lookout, head back to the Robinson’s Knoll Junction because it’s time for the amazing Cascades Trail Walking Track. If you’re a keen speed hiker, you’ll be able to walk back to the junction much quicker, now that you can actually see the trail post-sunrise!
WHAT IS SPEED HIKING? Well, there’s not much to it really – it’s just hiking at a greater speed than your usual walking pace. It’s a great way to cover a trail quicker so you can fit more into your day. Admittedly though, we don’t recommend speed hiking for a sunrise hike when the trail is only dimly lit by your headlamp!
Once you begin the Cascades Trail, you’ll be surrounded by dense rainforest, which is quite dissimilar to the more exposed Wrights Lookout Track. Being golden hour, the light will begin to penetrate into the forest, revealing the vivid green of the forest floor. The narrow, flat and winding path eventually takes a left turn, descending more sharply down to Five Day Creek, where you’ll have a feast of cascades to enjoy.
Take care as you follow the side of the creek – Beck and I found this part of the track quite challenging with a few slippery edges and unstable terrain. Despite the difficulty, walking by the many cascades was truly stunning. The Antarctic Beech Forest landscape is breathtaking.
Once you’ve finished this part of the track, you’ll have a steep climb when departing the creek. You’ll then rejoin the drier forest trail and soon enough, you’ll arrive back at the trailhead. From there, you’ll finish the walk by completing the return journey of the Wrights Lookout Track.
2. Point Lookout and Eagles Nest Walking Tracks
- Type: Loop
- Distance: 2.5km
- Time: 1 hour
- Accumulated elevation gain: 160m
- Difficulty: Easy
- Trailhead: Point Lookout Car Park
The Point Lookout and Eagles Nest Walking Track are again, a combination of two trails, which form an excellent hiking route. Albeit, the Point Lookout Walking Track is a mere 500 metres, so the majority of the walk takes place on the fantastic Eagles Nest Walking Track. But, the highlight of this walk is perhaps the incredible Point Lookout.
Similar to our sunrise recommendation for Wrights Lookout, we urge you to time your visit to the Point Lookout for sunset – you won’t be disappointed! There was a bit of cloud cover when we visited Point Lookout, so we didn’t experience the most spectacular of sunsets. But even so, the rolling mist and improving visibility made for epic views. Given that you want to visit Point Lookout for sunset, it makes sense to start with the Eagles Nest Walking Track and then finish with Point Lookout.
Eagles Nest Walking Track
The Eagles Nest Walking Track is a superb loop trail that enters luscious Antarctic Beech forest and has many great lookouts. We chose to walk the track in an anti-clockwise direction, but it doesn’t really matter which direction you choose!
If you choose to walk anti-clockwise, the windy path soon takes you to a couple of lookouts; the Platypus Valley Lookout (pictured below) and another unnamed viewpoint. The light drizzle and low mist meant we didn’t have exceptional views from these lookouts.
Thereafter, you’ll find yourself immersed in a beautiful mossy forest, which leads you to the Weeping Rock – a green-faced cliff wall that dribbles water. With the grey skies above, our photos could not do this place justice with the poor lighting. But, the Weeping Rock and surrounding forest were nevertheless, really special.
Following Weeping Rock, the trail winds its way to another viewpoint – this time, it’s the official Eagles Nest Lookout. Fingers crossed you have better visibility than when we visited. Even so, we managed to enjoy a decent view of the vast array of mountain ranges.
After Eagles Nest Lookout, you’ll begin to wind up an ascending trail that quickly arrives back at Point Lookout. There are actually two lookouts at Point Lookout – one unnamed and the other, the official Point Lookout.
Truth be told, the unnamed lookout is probably the better of the two lookouts as there are fewer trees impeding your views. We enjoyed the sweeping Northern Tablelands from this lookout even more than from Point Lookout.
Still, the views from Point Lookout were quite remarkable.
3. Tea Tree Falls and Lyrebird Walking Tracks
- Type: Out & Back (Tea Tree Falls) with Loop (Lyrebird Walking Tracks)
- Distance: 10km
- Time: 3 hours
- Accumulated elevation gain: 405m
- Difficulty: Moderate
- Trailhead: Thungutti Campground
For the third and final hike, you’ll again, combine two walking tracks: Tea Tree Falls and Lyrebird Walking Tracks. Although this combined trail isn’t quite as epic as the top two New England National Park walks, both tracks offer something a little different. The Tea Tree Falls Walking Track is a much more relaxed and gentle trail with luscious forest to enjoy. On the other hand, the Lyrebird Walking Track is more physically demanding, with an undulating trail that meanders through thick forest and also cuts through exposed landscapes. When combined together, you have an enjoyable but challenging trail with mixed difficulty and varied natural attractions.
To begin, walk the initial 2km of the Tea Tree Falls Walking Track from the Thungutti Campground. If there aren’t any other hikers around, you’ll at least have the noisy black cockatoos as company. When we visited, we didn’t see Tea Tree Falls, which is found with some off-trail exploration.
After 2km you’ll meet a trail intersection that joins the Lyrebird Walking Track. We decided to continue straight, which connects you to the other side of the Lyrebird Walking Track. This short section steeply descends into the forest before ascending sharply. From there, we turned left and completed the Lyrebird Walking Track in an anti-clockwise direction.
Lyrebird Walking Track
The upper loop of the Lyrebird Walking Track (think of this trail like a figure of eight), is probably the most beautiful part of the walk. If following anti-clockwise, as shown above, the trail gradually descends as you approach the outskirts of the Eagles Nest Walking Track, and then continues to descend as you complete the upper loop of the figure of eight. Along the way, you’ll find luscious forest terrain, including large boulders which form a cool little cave.
You’ll have a sense of déjà vu as you complete the upper loop of the Lyrebird Waking Track and return to the same junction you arrived at when you completed the first 2km of the Tea Tree Falls Walking Track. But you’re hike isn’t over yet, so continue straight! The trail continues to descend, passing through the incredible forest.
Eventually, you’ll leave the forest and enter much more exposed terrain. The transition from lush forest to dry heathland is fairly swift. It feels like you’ve transcended onto a completely new walking trail! The exposed track provides sweeping views of the Northern Tablelands for the first time on this walk.
Soon enough, you’ll wind around the bottom loop of the figure of eight that makes the Lyrebird Track, touching the outskirts of Robinsons Knoll Trail. As the trail sends you back northwards towards Point Lookout, you’ll be surrounded once more by thick forest. Completing this walk anti-clockwise means the home stretch is quite steep and a good workout! Eventually, you’ll cross back over to the Tea Trees Falls Track and retrace your steps back to the Thungutti Campground.
Top 3 New England National Park Walks Recap
The top three New England National Park walks are some of the best hiking you can experience in northern NSW. There are mindblowing lookouts, luscious rainforest and challenging hiking trails – what more could you want? Better yet, New England National Park walks never seem to get too busy. So whenever you choose to visit, you’re guaranteed a peaceful national park, mostly filled with noise from the local wildlife.
Getting to Sydney or Brisbane
Flights: Of course, you’ll need to fly to Sydney (or Brisbane) to do this trip from abroad. If you’re travelling to Sydney or Brisbane from overseas, use Skyscanner to search for the cheapest flights. When flying abroad, we always get the ball rolling with a Skyscanner search.
Also, if you’re based in the UK or US, you should sign up to Jack’s Flight Club for the best flight deal alert service. By simply subscribing to the free weekly newsletter or buying a premium membership, you could save lots of money on international travel. If you’re interstate, subscribe to I Want That Flight for the best flight deal alerts to and from Melbourne. You can usually find cheap flights with Jetstar or Tiger Airways.
Getting to the New England National Park Walks
From Sydney, New England National Park is around 7 hours away; and from Brisbane, around 8.5 hours. So realistically, a weekend trip to New England National Park might not be on the cards from these destinations. You may have to smash out the three best New England National Park walks as part of a long weekend trip or even as part of a longer trip.
Thankfully, there is plenty of parking at the trailheads for all three of the hikes. Both the Wrights Lookout and Cascades Trail Walking Tracks, as well as the Tea Tree Falls and Lyrebird Walking Tracks, start from Thungutti Campground, where there is ample space to park. For the Point Lookout and Eagles Nest Walking Tracks, there is a large car park at Point Lookout.
We camped at Thungutti Campground, which is very conveniently located if you’re keen to tackle some of these New England National Park walks. Not only that, but this campground is absolutely superb. Sure, there are only basic facilities (such as one cold shower), but there is free firewood, picnic tables, BBQs and toilets – all of these things a luxury when compared to some other remote NSW National Park campsites. You’re looking at $12.30AUD/night ($9USD) in 2021, which when you think about it, is an absolute steal considering how beautiful this campground is!
We camped for just one night, before heading to the nearby Cathedral Rock National Park (post coming soon), where we camped at Barokee Campground.
Being located around the halfway point of the stunning Waterfall Way (post coming soon), New England National Park and the Thungutti Campground are somewhat remote. So, it’s best to stock up on some supplies at either Armidale, Coffs Harbour or Dorrigo (depending on where you’re visiting from) before you head to New England National Park. Ebor would be the closest town, but there are no large supermarkets here.
Five Hiking Gear Essentials For New England National Park
These are our five hiking gear essentials for exploring New England National Park. For a more comprehensive hiking gear list, check out our 66 Travel Accessories That You Must Travel With. Otherwise, for a general summary of everything you’d need for a trip, visit our Ultimate Packing Checklist.
- Merrell Moab 2 Mid Goretex hiking boots – with adequate waterproofing and traction, we were happy to be wearing these boots when hiking the slippery and challenging Cascades Trail Walking Track
- Osprey Skarab 30L Day Backpack – a great hiking backpack which will comfortably fit all of your hiking gear
- The North Face TKA Glacier Snap Fleece Jacket – it’s best to stay warm when waiting for that glorious sunirse at Wrights Lookout
- Columbia Silver Ridge Convertible Trousers – there are some slightly overgrown parts of the Wrights Lookout Walking Track, so having some cover on your legs, particularly when hiking in the dark is a sensible option!
- GoPro HERO 9 – make sure to capture your epic hiking adventures with the latest GoPro
Five Camping Gear Essentials for New England National Park
Given New England National Park is a little out of civilisations way, it’s best to camp in the national park to make the most of your time here. In fact, the Thungutti Campground is one of our favourite NSW National Park campgrounds.
We all know that camping gear can make or break a trip. These are our five camping gear essentials for New England National Park You can find more information on camping gear by visiting our in-depth packing checklist and travel essentials guide.
- Vango Alpha 400 4 person tent – you might think that a 4 person tent is a bit overkill for 2 people; but, you’ll have ample space with this tent, making for a comfortable nights sleep
- Vango Ultralite Pro 200 sleeping bag – this sleeping bag will keep you warm during winter – the Northern Tablelands can get surprisingly cold
- Sea to Summit Aeros Premium inflatable pillow – this is one of our most beloved bits of camping kit. It deflates to pocket size, so it’s a great addition if you don’t have enough space to pack pillows
- HIKENTURE inflatable sleeping mat – getting a good night’s rest is an absolute must with all of these New England National Park walks to complete
- Aeropress Coffee Maker – there’s nothing better than a hot coffee, and the Aeropress makes for the ultimate coffee making experience when camping
Each one of these New England National Park walks combine separate trails, which makes navigation a little trickier. Plus, the signage for the Lyrebird Walking Track is almost non-existent. So, we recommend using Wikiloc or AllTrails maps for GPS guided directions.
For those not so prepared, if you’re needing navigation help during your hike and don’t have any phone reception, consider using Maps.me. Although you need to have at least downloaded the map of the general area beforehand.
- Head to Wrights Lookout for sunrise, even in unideal weather: Despite a poor weather forecast, we still decided to hike to Wright Lookout for sunrise. Honestly speaking, we hesitated when our alarm went off early because of the light rain and howling winds we could hear from inside our tent. But even without a completely clear sky, the sunrise was absolutely amazing!
- Follow the mantra – each to their own: if you want to do some shorter walks in New England National Park, no problemo! Simply break up the walks suggested above into their respective indiviudal walking tracks.
- Visit any time of year: New England National Park is stunning all year round, so visit whenever!
Are you keen to explore the top three New England National Park walks? Share this post with your hiking buddy.
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