Douglas-Apsley National Park

National Park in Bicheno

Four kilometres north of Bicheno is the turn-off to Douglas-Apsley, an impressive park, with rocky peaks, eucalypt forest, waterfalls, abundant bird and animal life and a river gorge with deep swimming holes – and best of all, none of the midsummer hordes that swarm over Freycinet. Walk to the swimming hole at Apsley Gorge (two to three hours return) or to the Apsley River Waterhole (15 minutes return). There's basic, walk-in bush camping here, too (free, but national park fees apply).

This stretch of intact dry eucalypt forest is typical of the environment that blanketed much of the east coast before European settlement. The area was declared a national park in 1989 after a public campaign against the woodchipping of local forests.

Access to the park is on gravel roads. From the south, turn west off the highway 4km north of Bicheno and follow the signposted road for 7km to the car park. At the time of writing, road access to the northern end of the park was restricted due to dangerous road conditions on the forestry E-road; until things improve it's a 3km walk in from Piccaninny Creek. Note that open fires are banned in the park from October to April; cook on a fuel stove instead.

At the park’s northern end is the walk to Heritage & Leeaberra Falls, which takes five to seven hours return (plus the walk in along the E-road). There’s camping near the falls. For experienced bushwalkers, the major walk is the three-day Leeaberra Track. The walk must be done from north to south to prevent the spread of the Phytophthora plant disease present in the south. There's not much adequate drinking water on this walk – carry your own. Note that water from the Apsley River should be boiled for three minutes before you can safely drink it.