Today’s tour takes you into the western reaches of the Narrabri Region into the heart of the Pilliga Forest. Soak your aches away in the hot artesian baths and venture onto the road less travelled.
Tour – Day 5
Kamilaroi meaning: Swamp Oak
Situated 105km west of Narrabri and approximately 60km north west of Gwabegar, the scenic drive from Narrabri is sealed and takes about one hour, whilst the Journey from Gwabegar is unsealed. Pilliga got its start from the early development of the timber industry. Gazetted as a township in 1885, Pilliga was once an important centre on the Cobb and Co route, but today is renowned for its Artesian bore baths.
The area has strong historical ties from the 1830s, when it was settled by the early squatters, to the 1950s when Indian trader, Nabob Allem and his family based themselves in Pilliga and peddled their wares in a horse drawn wagon to the grazing families in the western district. Nabob Allem made quite an impression on the town, as it evidenced in an article printed in the Coonamble Times after his death, beginning “Nabob Allem died last Friday. And the people of Pilliga, HIS people, are mourning his loss. For Nabob Allem was the ‘King of the Scrub’, King of Pilliga, and unofficial Mayor”.
A wander in the cemetery reveals a fascinating montage of the lives and trials of the past. Of particular interest are the rough–hewn graves of the Indian traders.
When you’ve worked up an appetite, the Pilliga Pub, with adjoining accommodation, or the Pilliga Café are both great places for a meal, drink, or to rest your head for the night.
Pilliga Artesian Bore Baths
Constructed in 1902 as a permanent town water supply after severe drought, the Bore has become a popular recreational spot for swimming. The therapeutic value of this mineral-rich water has long been recognised by locals and visitors who make regular pilgrimages to the 37-degree pool to soak away those aches and pains. A roof covers the pool area and has lighting for night time bathing. Camping and caravanning is permitted at the bore baths (fees apply). It has toilets, showers and a BBQ area.
Pilliga Lagoon and Wetlands Walk
The Pilliga Lagoon is a birdwatcher’s paradise attracting a high diversity of bird species including some migratory birds.
The Pilliga Wetlands Walk is a 2.7km (one way) unsealed roadway that links the Pilliga Bore Baths to the township of Pilliga, points of interest along the track include Aboriginal scar trees.
A selection of bird drives is available throughout Narrabri Shire, concentrating around the Pilliga Forest and National park and Pilliga Lagoon area. These areas attract a high diversity of bird species including some migratory birds.
The picturesque Namoi River meanders through Pilliga. Directions to the best known fishing spots along the river are available from the Narrabri Shire Visitor Information Centre or by contacting the Pilliga Fishing Club. Bag limits and fishing licenses apply in the rivers of NSW. Picture yourself spending a relaxing afternoon in the shade of a gum tree with a line in hand.
Take a wander through the Pilliga Cemetery to see the graves of Indian (or Pakistani) Nabob Allem and several other traders.
Pilliga Forest–“A Million Wild Acres”
Ever heard of the Pilliga Yowie? The Pilliga Forest, with its vast and unusual semi–arid woodlands spanning over 3000m2, is said to be the home of this Big Foot kin. Seekers are drawn from across the globe in search of this mystical (or is that mythical?) creature. Yowie’s aside, the Pilliga Forest has been long recognised as one of the most important areas for biodiversity in eastern Australia, home to at least 300 native animal species, and over 900 plant species including cypress pine, ironbark, eucalypt, broom plains, and beautiful spring wildflowers.
The scenery within the Pilliga Forest is distinctly unique and makes a trip into the scrub quite an adventure. As you drive across one of the many crisscrossed roads, you may come across remnants of the past (chimney stacks, abandoned timber mills and a cobblestone road) and the future (gas wells).
Today, the Salt Caves area offers a recently revamped picnic area with BBQs and toilet facilities, but according to legend, the caves were once 30m deep, and salt hung in columns like stalactites from the roof. Wild horses, wild cattle and kangaroos were often seen and local women collected the salt to cure their meat. The Pilliga Forest lookout tower offers an incredible bird’s eye view of the entire Forest and the surrounding ranges.
The nearby dam is a great spot to experience the Pilliga’s immense variety of birdlife.
The Sandstone Caves, hidden deep in the Pilliga Forest, are a delight that often go undiscovered.
A 2km looped walking track circles the caves, leaving viewers speechless at the unique tunnels and formations that have evolved over many thousands of years. As you walk you will find a number of caves, including one which is closed and undergoing preservation. Keep an eye out for indications of Aboriginal habitation in this cave – grinding marks and artwork in sandstone.
Sculptures in the Scrub is a cultural delight in the heart of the Pilliga. Indulge all your senses as you explore the five magnificent sculptures inspired by the Aboriginal connection to the surrounding landscape. Soak in the view of Dandry Gorge and then descend into the sheltered oasis of Dandry Creek below. During early spring you will be treated to spectacular wildflower displays.
There is a picnic area with BBQs to relax in for lunch or a campground for those who wish to soak up the atmosphere for longer.
Handy Hint: It is advisable to purchase a Pilliga Forest map from the Visitor Information Centre as there are 2,700 km of tracks through the forest and although most are marked, it would be easy to take a wrong turn
Kamilaroi meaning: Place of Many Trees
The location of this small village, deep in the Pilliga Forest, is key to its existence. Known as the “Heart of the Pilliga” it is roughly the geographical centre of the timber industries that grew and flourished in the Western Region of the Pilliga. Linked by rail to Baradine and borne from the prosperous timber trade, Gwabegar once sported no less than twelve sawmills! In the early 1900s Gwabegar was integral in the ‘sleeper cutting’ process that largely enabled the creation of a railway across Australia. Sleeper cutter camps and koala colonies are points of interest in the Gwabegar area. The forestry industry shut down several years ago in Gwabegar but it remains a vibrant town.
Camping and caravanning are permitted free of charge at Anzac Park, a designated primitive camping ground. Please note that this park has no facilities and that rubbish must be taken with you.
Bird watching in the Pilliga
Pickup a brochure at the Visitor Information Centre for a guide on what birds you may hope to spot in the different areas, or visit the following page links for more information about birdwatching in the Pilliga and Narrabri Shire bird routes.
50-58 Wellington Street Baradine
Ph:(02) 68 434011
Open: 7 days 9am – 5pm (closed Christmas Day)
Start your exploration of Pilliga Forest at the award-winning and wheelchair accessible Pilliga Forest Discovery Centre. Located in Baradine, known as the gateway to Pilliga Forest, the Discovery Centre is an ideal place to drop in.
To make the most of your visit, it’s a great idea to drop by the Centre to pick up maps, seek advice from friendly staff, and find out about guided tours, as well as which are the best birdwatching routes.
Interactive displays will give you your first taste of this dramatic landscape and inspire you to get out there and explore. This first ‘walk in the forest’ will reveal plants and animals, and Aboriginal cultural heritage – Pilliga like you’ve never seen it before. You’ll often find art exhibitions from local artists and other cultural contributions to the community taking place here.
The centre is architecturally designed and environmentally sustainable, making it the tourism centrepiece of the region.
Discover the hidden secrets of the Pilliga Forest and the stories of yesteryear with this fun and entertaining exhibition. The architecturally designed environmentally sustainable centre will captivate visitors of all ages. Featuring the latest interactive displays and technology your “walk in the forest” will reveal fauna, flora and Aboriginal cultural heritage.