What is it about waterfalls? Their sheer beauty, the thundering sound of the water as it plunges into the pool below, the thrill of jumping into the often freezing water after contemplating the leap for a moment or two — they’re just awesome no matter how you want to experience them.
Some of our favourite waterfalls can be found just a couple of hours south of Sydney in the Southern Highlands and Shoalhaven regions. One or two make for a good day trip but if you prefer a few days of chasing waterfalls there’s plenty to keep you busy. There’s also amazing beaches and some unique country towns that are really worth checking out while you’re there. To get you started, here’s a few of our favourite places to explore whenever we’re in the area.
Morton National Park
Located in the Southern Highlands, Morton National Park is filled with hiking and mountain bike tracks, picnic spots and a few gorgeous waterfalls. Fitzroy Falls and Belmore Falls are both easily accessible. The Belmore Falls walking track is just under 2km return, meandering along the track you’ll find stunning views over Kangaroo Valley, and of course the powerful plunging waters of Belmore Falls. With a total elevation of 552m and three drops, this is one impressive waterfall.
Fitzroy Falls is located just a short walk from the Visitor Centre along a wheelchair-accessible boardwalk. The Visitor Centre is a great place to stop with loads of information on the area including Aboriginal culture, wildlife and birdwatching. Erith Coal Mine track is another interesting place to check out. More of a challenge than the other two mentioned, the track is quite steep at times. As the name suggests, the end destination is an old coal mine that was in use from the 1860s to 1915.
It’s now fenced off for safety reasons but you can still see a little way into the mine shafts. Once you get to the bottom you’ll find a peaceful waterfall and swimming hole. It’s not very deep but still perfect for a refreshing dip. You’ll also find Fairy Bower Falls and Tianjara Falls in Morton National Park, with Tianjara Falls being a popular place for experienced rock climbers.
Budderoo National Park
There’s so many waterfalls and swimming holes in Budderoo National Park you could spend a full day here and still probably not see them all! Nellies Glen is only a five minute walk from the car park and is ideal for families or anyone who loves swimming under a waterfall but prefers to do so without the death-defying leap off the edge.
If you’re feeling adventurous, it’s just a hop, skip and a jump upstream to another slice of watery heaven known as Blue Pool. There’s also a small car park not far from Blue Pool, and because of the easy access to this natural wonderland it can get quite busy during summer.
Now for the big one, Carrington Falls. This heart-pumping don’t-go-near-the-edge waterfall is just around the corner from Nellies Glen. There’s a few viewing platforms which provide uninterrupted views of the pounding falls and a number of optional walking tracks that are fairly short, but the best way to experience Carrington Falls is by immersing yourself in one of the many rock pools above the towering 50m falls. The pools are far enough from the drop to be safe, yet close enough to feel the rush of swimming near the edge, making this spot perfect for getting your adrenaline on.
Seven Mile Beach National Park
Ready to add some salt and sand to your wild swimming adventure? Located just ten minutes from the quaint country town of Berry, you would be forgiven for thinking Seven Mile Beach National Park is in the middle of nowhere. The beach stretches for miles, and if you’re lucky you’ll have every mile to yourself.
Taking a moment to soak up our surroundings, feeling the sand between our toes and listening to the crashing waves we were blown away by the wild beauty of Seven Mile Beach. I imagine it gets quite busy during the summer, but like myself and my partner, if you go outside of peak times you may find the beach empty. Sure the water will be freezing, but lovers of wild swimming know that part of the fun is that feeling of ice cold water shocking your body as you bravely enter the water.
The beach isn’t all this park has on offer. There’s a few walking tracks where you can admire the local birdlife, as well as a couple of picnic areas, one of which has barbecue facilities, and fishing is also popular on the beach or by the river.
By now you’ve no doubt worked up an appetite, and Berry has everything you could want in a country town — a pub, some boutique shops, great coffee, a chocolate factory and a couple of wineries close by. Be sure to stop at the famous donut van for some cinnamon donuts. They make them fresh while you wait so they’re warm, soft and delightfully delicious.
The Treat Factory is another must-stop with treats for everyone, from fudge, chocolates and boiled lollies to spice blends and cooking sauces. Make sure you save some time to drop in and stock up on all the things you didn’t even know you needed till you saw them on the shelf.
If you’ve got some energy left over to walk off the treats, the Berry & District Historical Society and the Berry Chamber of Commerce and Tourism have created the Historic Walking Trail around town which is available on Google Maps. By using the map or wandering around the town, you’ll notice heritage plaques on the historic buildings. Berry makes for a great day trip from Sydney or lunch stop during a longer road trip.