Once A Hidden Delight, Now An Overnight Stopover
Hidden up in the mountains of Watagans National Park, you’ll find a secluded campground. Gap Creek Campground can be a delightful place, especially when you have it all to yourself. However, it has become a regular first-night stopover for backpackers heading North out of Sydney. So solitude is far from guaranteed.
Despite this, you can still have a relaxing time here.
You’ll find drop toilets here, a few picnic tables, barbecues and fire pits. Otherwise you have to be totally self-sufficient, including all water.
Checking Out The Wildlife
We arrived after lunch and stayed for 2 nights. The day was pretty hot, so our shady camp site was most welcome. We had the place to ourselves until late afternoon. A young German couple arrived, then two young Frenchmen in their respective backpacker-mobiles. They were quiet, friendly and really interesting to have a yarn with.
Earlier in the afternoon, we somehow adopted a rather friendly wallaby. She had no fear at all and was happy to hop around our feet and under our chairs. No doubt, people had been feeding her. For some reason, she liked us and decided to stay. And before you ask, no we weren’t feeding her.
When the French boys arrived, one of them asked if she was our pet!
Australian brush turkeys wandered through our campsite, looking for any that remotely resembled food. They really are such dumb creatures, and so amusing to observe.
We also had two resident goannas who were like guard dogs. They prowled around our campsite both days… obviously we had invaded their territory. Fortunately these fellas weren’t aggressive like goannas so often are.
Wildlife Of A Different Kind
So the first night was really peaceful, with all three groups just taking in the surroundings and enjoying the solitude. The whole campsite was snoring by 9:30pm!
But all this was about to change…
Let me just say, we’ve travelled a lot in this country. And backpackers have always been an inspiring bunch. They’re young, curious and fascinated by Australia. Without exception, we’ve found them to be courteous and really interesting people.
However, not this time.
Just before 10pm, we were awoken by a van driving around the entire campsite and shining their lights into our sleeping quarters. Eventually they backed in right beside us, and I mean right beside us.
Three young German men alighted, talking loudly and slamming doors. We were literally looking straight down at them from our camper, they were that close.
So I called out, asking them to be quiet and asking whether they really needed to camp right on top of us. All three looked at each other, jumped in their van and took off down the road! Maybe they’d been watching “Wolf Creek” the night before…
We actually felt a bit sorry for them. They’d probably flown into Sydney that day, picked up their van and headed North on the East Coast run. No doubt they were excited and busting to start their adventure in Oz. Then they rock up to a campsite and some cranky old Aussie bloke yells at them. Oh well, they’ll learn.
The second night was a bedlam. By 6pm, the campsite was overflowing with campers. In fact it was so crowded, three groups were camped in the day parking area.
A group of nine German backpackers arrived in 3 vehicles, and the party started. We spoke to a few of them and they were great. They’d all met up and decided to travel together.
Unfortunately for us, the campsite basically morphed into party central. Nearly every camper was a German backpacker, so the party quickly grew. We knew it was going to be a noisy night, so we just resigned ourselves to the fact. And fortunately for us, rain started at about 11pm and the party died out.
It was just a shame Gap Creek’s solitude was destroyed that night. I can understand why Gap Creek Campground has become a stop-over for backpackers travelling North. Watagans National Park is perfectly situated, a few hours North of Sydney plus it’s a free camp. There really are no other free camping options.
However, it’s disappointing they couldn’t appreciate the bush setting. Then again, I probably would have done the same thing at their age…
Falling Trees and Wild Weather
When you’re surrounded by huge gum trees, the sound of a tree falling is a little disconcerting. The first afternoon we heard a loud CRACK, a pause, then the sound of a huge tree crashing to earth. This was no more than a couple of hundred metres away in the bush.
Then it happened again the next day, this time further away. After that, we were eyeing off all the massive gums towering over us.
Day two also brought a cold change. We could hear the wind roaring through the trees across the valley. Love that sound! Fortunately we were protected by the mountain behind us and hardly had a breeze.
Taking A Hike
Gap Creek Waterfall is a steep and winding walk from the campground. You walk through thick undergrowth with huge gums overhead. A steep track winds you down into an incredibly beautiful waterfall.
You drop into a circular chasm surrounded by steep cliffs. If you’re lucky, the waterfall will be flowing over the cliffs into a deep pool. It then meanders along a creek overgrown with ferns.
This walk is well worth the challenging climb back up the side of the mountain to the campground. Take plenty of water and wear proper shoes.
Gap Creek Campground in Watagans National Park has clearly been discovered by backpackers on their East Coast adventure. Some obviously appreciate the beauty and solitude, as was the case on our first night.
However, our experience on the second night sort of spoiled our memories of this place.
We certainly plan to explore more of the Watagans National Park. But would we go back to Gap Creek Campground? Probably not.
There are too many other places in this country where you’re guaranteed peace and solitude every night of the year. So why tempt fate?
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Any errors or omissions are mine alone.