For a fun day out, visit the Watagans near Freemans Waterhole and Cooranbong. This wilderness spot is an hour from Newcastle (less from Lake Macquarie) and offers bushwalking, adventure and camping in beautiful surrounds. There are a number of walks you can do in Watagan National Park but this article focuses specifically on the Gap Creek area.
Gap Creek Falls Trails
Get out for a day of bushwalking in the Watagans with a selection of walks and lookouts. Head to the Gap Creek Day Use Area. It marks the start of the Gap Creek Falls Trails. You’ll also find picnic tables, barbecues and toilet facilities here.
Gap Creek Walking Track
The track begins with the Gap Creek Walking Track which is a 20 minute mostly flat return walk. It provides a taste of hiking through the Watagans without too much effort. In some spots, the path narrows and you’ll have to climb over vines while in other places, the trail opens up.
There’s interesting things to see along the way like vines, giant felled trees and trees that you can hide in like this one below.
You’ll come to a fork in the trail near a large overturned tree. You can go left and continue on the Gap Creek Falls walk (450 metres) or go right at the tree to the Gap Creek Forest Walk (400 metres).
Gap Creek Falls walk
This walk is classified as moderate by National Parks and Wildlife Service but it’s pretty steep on the way down and back. Although we saw lots of younger kids on the trail, some were being carried back on the return trip. Be ready to take lots of breaks on the way back up the hill to catch your breath.
But if you have adventurous kids, it’s worth doing. It’s a fun hike 450-metre trek down to the waterfall. There are trees to climb under and overhangs to explore.
The track is clearly laid out and is a mostly dirt path with rock steps along the way.
Just watch your step as it can be a bit slippery in places (Wouldn’t want to do this hike after rain).
It’s a beautiful nature walk with red cedar trees and blue gums all around. Listen for the bird life especially whip birds.
As you progress on your walk, you’ll hear the sounds of the waterfall before you can see it. Note that the last part of the walk is the steepest so watch your step. But as you get to the bottom, you’ll be rewarded with views of the waterfall and pool.
This is Gap Creek Falls, a 40 metre waterfall over sheer rock. Depending on rainfall, the waterfall intensity varies.
It’s a beautiful spot so take your time exploring the base of the waterfall. Mossy rocks, stone walls and lush vegetation. It makes you a perfect natural outdoor play area and you’ll spot kids climbing over rocks and touching the cool waterfall water.
Gap Creek Forest Walk
If you still have energy after the Falls walk or have young kids and don’t want to do a steep walk, venture down the Forest Walk.
This mostly 600 metre flat walk goes through rainforest towards the creek and has a more wilder feel than the Falls Walk.
Along the way, you’ll spot strangler figs, fallen trees, fungi and lots of vines.
At the end, you’ll reach Gap Creek. Here, you can see a mini waterfall and the clear water that runs to the Gap Creek Falls.
You’ll also find lots of large boulders to climb up on for a better look of the creek.
Monkey Face Lookout
Before you leave the Watagans, stop by the Monkey Face Lookout. It’s an 18 minute drive from Gap Creek area to the lookout.
This is one of the best viewpoints in the Watagans with scenic views towards the Martinsville Valley.
There is also a nearby trail which leads past large rocks to a lower area where you can watch people abseiling down a sheer cliff.
Look the other way through the trees and you’ll spot Eraring Power Station and views of Lake Macquarie.
Want more views? Head near the entry of the Monkey Face Lookout parking lot and you’ll spot the sign for Gap Creek lookout.
Gap Creek Lookout
Head 600 metres and you’ll find more views including some stunning vegetation.
Good to Know
Park Fees: No charge to enter Watagans National Park
Getting there: Gap Creek campground is in northeastern section of Watagans National Park. Here are directions to get to this area on the National Parks & Service website.
Road conditions: The roads in Watagans National Park are unsealed, and accessible by 2WD in dry conditions only. 4WDs should be used at all other times. Go slow on the roads as they are narrow with potholes.
Bring: Hat, sunscreen, insect repellent, drinking water and snacks
Facilities: Toilets, picnic tables and barbecue facilities
Download: Install the NSW Parks App on your smartphone. You can download information and a park map and refer to it in the National Park. Note, there’s no phone coverage in this area.
Camping: Want to stay the night? Stay at the Gap Creek Camping Area. There are no camping fees at this campground but a $6 booking fee applies. Bookings are required. Book online or call the National Parks Contact Centre on 1300 072 757.
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