Hat Head National Park
On a clear day, it feels like you can see forever from the headland on the Korogoro walking track in Hat Head National Park. If you’re on the trail in the cooler months you’ve got a very good chance of seeing whales as you walk. It’s just one of several great bushwalking tracks in the coastal national park roughly halfway between Port Macquarie and Coffs Harbour on the Read more...
On a clear day, it feels like you can see forever from the headland on the Korogoro walking track in Hat Head National Park. If you’re on the trail in the cooler months you’ve got a very good chance of seeing whales as you walk. It’s just one of several great bushwalking tracks in the coastal national park roughly halfway between Port Macquarie and Coffs Harbour on the Macleay Valley Coast. Perfect for those that love back-to-basics camping holidays, fishing, bushwalking and splashing about in the sea or Korogoro Creek, Hat Head tends to get overlooked by most travellers rushing to get to more fashionable spots to the north–a bonus for those that prefer their getaways crowd free.
- Best for families: Hungry Gate Campground has plenty of shade, and kangaroos often graze in the camping area.
- Best for beach lovers: Smoky Cape Campground, beneath the Smoky Cape lighthouse, is right beside the beach, and popular with fishing folk.
- Best for caravanners: Hat Head Holiday Park. It’s not actually in the national park, but it’s surrounded by it and has hot showers and powered sites and a large bbq area. Outside of peak season you can even bring your dog.
Tips for Snagging a Campsite Reservation
- All campsites in NSW national parks must be must be pre-booked before you arrive at www.nationalparks.nsw.gov.au
- Both the caravan park and the two national park campgrounds get busy during summer and Easter school holidays, when you’ll need to book well ahead. Go mid-week in February and March, and it’s quite possible you’ll be the only ones there.
- Hungry Gate campground is a 20-minute walk from the beach, so it’s sometimes easier to secure a campsite than beachside Smoky Cape campground.
When to Go
Although it can sometimes rain a lot, summer offers the best camping weather, which means it’s also popular, so book well ahead during school holidays. Days might be hottest in January and February, but March and April is the best swimming weather, when the sea is warmest. Winter time, May to November, is the best time to see whales from the lookouts.
Know Before You Go
- Hat Head National Park is 24km east of Kempsey, near the village of South West Rocks.
- Neighbouring Arakoon National Park–at the Smoky Cape end of the park near South West Rocks–is worth a visit. Highlights include the insta-friendly ruins of the old sandstone Trial Bay Gaol on the headland, beachside camping areas and a waterfront restaurant called The Kiosk. Think licensed bistro rather than surf-club takeaway, it is the spot to dine out with a view.
- For a picnic table with a view head to Captain Cook's Lookout on the Smoky Cape headland, which has electric barbecues, picnic tables, toilets and jaw dropping views – it’s a great whale watching spot.
- You can stock up with basics at the Hat Head general store, which also stocks beer and wine, and does a pretty good hamburger, too.