When you think of the Blue Mountains, it’s often the easily reached areas close to Katoomba and Leura and iconic sights like the Three Sisters that spring to mind. But if you venture a little further into the World Heritage Area, you’ll find pristine wilderness that is well worth the extra effort.
With the Wollemi NP on one side and the meandering Cudgegong River on the other, the heritage village of Rylstone, 3.5hr from Sydney, is surrounded by natural beauty and plenty of walking tracks.
A good place to start is Dunns Swamp, 20 minutes out of town. Although it may not sound that inviting, this scenic spot is a firm favourite with locals and visitors to the Mudgee wine region who are in search of outdoor adventure in the form of camping, canoeing, swimming and fishing.
Set on the western edge of Wollemi NP, the swamp is home to natural bushland, striking rock formations and serene waterways. It’s also a great destination for bushwalking with five clearly marked walking tracks to discover, each with something different to offer.
Beginners can start with the easy 500m Campsite Rocks Walk which passes an Aboriginal heritage site and is also a great place to spot gliders by night. Slightly longer at 800m is the Platypus Point Walk which offers spectacular views across the water. With two rock scrambles, the Pagoda Lookout Walk requires a little bit more care. The 1.8km track is a great view to explore the sandstone rock formations and volcanic remnants. It peaks at the viewpoint which delivers panoramic views across the Cudgegong River down below.
The 4.5km Weir Walk also offers beautiful views as well as the occasional platypus or turtle sighting close to the weir itself. Be prepared for some steep steps in places along this route. The longest walk at 5.5km is the rather relaxing Waterside Walk where the forest and water views are interspersed with exciting wildlife finds.
Other animals you may come across include wombats, possums, Eastern grey kangaroos. If you’re especially lucky, you may even spot a broad-headed snake or a brush-tailed rock wallaby – just a couple of the rare and endangered animals that can be found here.
There’s plenty to keep you occupied here but it’s not all the region has to offer nature-lovers. The walking track at Ferntree Gully, 17km north of Rylstone, also has great appeal for walkers, leading them down into a cool valley which twitches with life.
The one-hour walk will loop you past the ferns for which the gully is named as well as orchids and more sandstone rock formations. Other plants to look out for include large fig trees and the Pandora Pandoreana while animals are represented by lyre birds, echidnas, kangaroos, wallabies and wombats as well as several species of snake.
And if you need a place to stay immerse yourself in nature for the entire weekend by choosing accommodation out in the wild such as Wollemi Retreat – an award-winning eco-lodge complete with outdoor spa bath and wood-fired pizza oven where your only company will be kangaroos by day and the stars by night.