MAPS AND GUIDES:
With the COVID-19 restrictions requiring all of us to remain at home now is a good time to plan for future trips! The SE Forests region of NSW is great place to visit even though much of the area in this blog was affected by the fires in late 2019 early 2020.
The Australian bush will recover and the small communities need our help so please consider heading into the country and spending a few dollars at the local towns along the way. Start planning a future trip to assist the recovery.
About South Easts Forests NP
The South East Forests region of NSW is bit of a hidden gem with fantastic camping, great 4WDing, spectacular scenery and all for free! There are a range of places to visit and things to see, usually without seeing anyone else at all!
The South East Forest National Park is located in the far South East of NSW, to the south of Cooma and not far from Bega and Eden. The park can be accessed via several main roads including the Snowy Mountains Highway which is the route we’ll take on this trip.
Before venturing into the Park, make sure you check out the NSW National Parks website for up-to-date details on any road closures and for more great information on the area.
A great place to start a trip in this region is the pretty little town of Nimmitabel, on the Snowy Mountains Highway 36km south of Cooma. Nimmitabel is on the Monaro plains with beautiful rolling hills and farmland with cattle & sheep grazing. The town has a range of historical buildings, grocery store, service station, cafes and a great bakery (would personally recommend one of their pasties or pies). There is even a leather, lolly & sheep products shop (Woolly Wonders) for a unique gift from the area.
From Nimmitabel follow the Snowy Mountains Highway south past the Monaro Highway turnoff to Packers Swamp Road which is on the right (19km from Nimmitabel) and just before the descent down Browns Mountain. Its gravel roads from here onwards so perhaps let a little pressure out the tyres. Packers Swamp Road winds southwards through forested areas for 14km to a road junction with Cattleman’s Link Track – turn left into Cattleman’s Link Track which leads into the South East Forest National Park.
Nunnock Camping Area & Swamp
At the start of Cattleman’s Link track is Nunnock Camping Area which is a small area with four sites, pit toilet, picnic shelter, tables and an information board. The sites are grassy with plenty of shade.
Another 500m further on is the Nunnock Swamp viewing area and walking track. The raised viewing platform is just a short stroll from the parking area, and if you have plenty of time there is a 5km circuit of the swamp available.
Nunnock Swamp and grasslands is a significant area to the local Aboriginals (Maneroo people) due to its seasonal availability of food, medicines, and fibres. This area is also rich in European heritage with evidence of early grazing, timber felling, and exploration. Adjacent to Nunock Swamp are extensively native grasslands that have been used for centuries by pastoralists. The ruins of Keys Hut and stockyards are evident – the Keys family used this area for summer grazing from the 1930s until the property was sold to the NSW government in 1999.
From Nunnuock Swamp continue on Cattleman’s Link Track which becomes Cattleman’s Track and after 1km take the turnoff on the left to Alexanders Hut.
Alexanders Hut is a picturesque hut overlooking grasslands and forested areas. It looks just like a High Country Hut which makes it quite unique for the area.
Charlie Soloman owned this land between 1898 and 1922. The original hut was where the current pear tree stands – it burnt down when Charlie left the fireplace unattended while he headed out to check on his cattle. He sold the property to the Robinson family who arranged to build the current Alexanders hut. The single roomed hut was built by George Summerell and his sons Norm and Harry in the early 1920s. It was later extended to its current state by the Robinson’s before the Wilkinson Family took over the property and hut in the 1990s. The area was obtained by the NSW Government in 1999 and hut is now maintained by a ‘friends of the hut’ group.
There is a small camping area around the hut as well as a pit toilet. The hut is available for use during adverse weather conditions.
From Alexanders Hut backtrack to Cattlemans Track and continue southwards where it joins with Postmans Track.
The Postman’s Track was the original 1850s bridle path down Tantawangalow Mountain and was used to deliver the mail from the tableland towns of Bombala and Cathcart to the Bega Valley. These early mountain trails were not for the faint-hearted and a geologist surveying the local area in 1851 described the route as “…. rendered difficult to strangers by the extent and denseness of the scrub and the state of the declivities and creeks”. With the need for a direct route to carry produce from the Monaro Tablelands to the shipping port at Merimbula, a new road was built in the early 1860s following much of the original Postman’s track. However this new route also had significant problems – it crossed three unbridged creeks and very steep terrain causing problems for the bullock teams. On steep ridges large logs were often tied to the back of the wagon to slow it down to keep it from sliding into the bullocks. The road was so bad that it was condemned and eventually replaced by the existing Tantawangalow Mountain Road.
The first challenge on Postman’s Track in the sandy crossing of the Tantawangalo Creek at Devils Crossing. There is a sign warning that this crossing has claimed many vehicles in the past so make sure you check the water depth and walk the crossing first.
Once across Devils Crossing you have arrived at the delightful Postman’s Camping Area – arguable the best campsite in this area. With the bubbling creek, large shady gums, fire pits, toilets, and great swimming holes it is the perfect place to set up camp for the night. There usually is plenty of firewood around so get a fire going, grab a cold beverage and relax in this picturesque location.
From Postman’s camp head up the hill following Postman’s Track for a further 5km until it terminates on Tantawangalo Mountain Road. Turn left and follow the road down the mountain to the Six Mile Creek Rest & Camping Area.
The Six Mile Creek Rest area is a reserve linked to a travelling stock route. In the past it was used by drovers, bullock wagons and horse drawn carriages on the journey from the Monaro Tablelands to the coast. It is a pleasant place to rest awhile, just as many have done over the past 60 years. There is a short easy walking trail opposite the camping area that leads to a viewing platform overlooking a series of cascades. Six Mile Creek is also a good camping option with a pit toilet, firepits, shady campsites, and swimming opportunities in the creek.
From Six Mile Creek continue on Tantawangalo Mountain Road towards Candelo. Approximately 9km on at McCarthy Creek there is a monument dedicated to William & Jane McCarthy who moved to this area in 1862 establishing the Mountain Inn that provided food, drink and accommodation for travelers and drovers moving between the coast and the Monaro.
From McCarthy Creek continue a further 13km to the lovely town of Candelo.
This quaint little town has a number of historical buildings throughout. There is a general store, petrol, cafes and a great park opposite the main street adjacent to the river. The park offers free overnight camping and would be a great place to spend the night after your adventure in the SE Forest National Park.
The adventure doesn’t have to end at Candelo if you have time. It’s only a short drive to Bega and the Princes Highway but if you continue down the Myrtle Mountain Road more adventure awaits!
From Candelo follow the Myrtle Mountain Road for 27km down to Wyndham, perhaps stopping at the Myrtle Mountain Lookout for extensive views towards the coast. Through Wyndham head west on the Darragh Road for 2km then turn left onto the New Buildings for 11km then turn right onto Big Jack Mountain Road. A further 11km north is the turnoff on the left to the Cow Bail Trail.
Cow Bail Trail
The Cow Bail Trail was once used as the transport route by Ben Boyd to move supplies from Boydtown on Twofold Bay to the Monaro Tablelands. This trail has sections with deep ruts and is clay based so it is best avoided in wet weather. Several steep sections will test out your 4WD – it is a fun track.
The Cow Bail Track terminates on Coolangubra Forest Way which is a well-maintained gravel road. Head south for 11km to the turnoff on the left to Myanba Gorge.
Myanba Gorge is a great picnic area for lunch with tables and toilets. There is a boardwalk to a series of cascades along the creek, and further on to a lookout overlooking the Towamba River Valley below.
From Myanba Gorge backtrack to Coolangubra Forest Way and continue south. Next is a fire trail up to Pheasants Peak – this unmarked track is worth exploring and requires low range and plenty of clearance. It terminates into Wog Way, turn right and follow Wog Way onto Imlay Road. Turn right onto Imlay Road and follow it down to the Princes Highway.
The SE Forest region of NSW is not widely traveled but has plenty to offer the avid camper and 4WDriver. The campsites are fantastic, scenery spectacular, and there is plenty of 4WD tracks to explore. Come and explore this area of southern NSW for yourself – you won’t be disappointed.