On top of the world – well, the Hunter – this park is a World Heritage wilderness lying on the rugged Barrington Plateau, which rises to almost 1600m. Northern rainforest butts into southern sclerophyll here, creating one of Australia’s most diverse ecosystems, with giant strangler figs, mossy Antarctic beech forests, limpid rainforest swimming holes and pocket-sized pademelons (note: it is illegal to put pademelons in your pocket).
Bushwalks, mountain biking, horse riding, canoeing, fishing and 4WDing are the order of the day here. The Barrington Trail is particularly popular for 4WDing, but it’s closed during winter. Be prepared for cold snaps, and even snow, at any time.
Barrington Outdoor Adventure Centre (6558 2093; www.boac.com.au; 126 Thunderbolts Way; 1-/2-day tours $125/335) specialises in mountain-biking adventures with limited uphill legs. But if you would rather wrestle the rapids Canoe Barrington (6558 4316; www.canoebarrington.com.au; 744 Barrington East Rd, Barrington; 2hr hire $40) hires canoes and kayaks.
Day tours to Barrington Tops can be organised through the Port Stephens Visitor Information Centre (p166
Camping is possible throughout the park. The most popular grounds are at Gloucester River ($8), but there’s free camping at Devils Hole, Little Murray and Junction Pools, although you need a 4WD to get there.
Alternatively, Barrington Wilderness Retreat (6558 3048; www.australianoutdooradventures.com; 535 Manchester Rd, Barrington; sites $10, dm/s/d $28/32/70) fronts 600m of rapids, known in kayaking and canoeing circles as ‘The Steps’, where you can raft by moonlight.
The park can be accessed from Scone, Dungog and Gloucester. For more information contact Gloucester NPWS (6538 5300).