Tyler Thompson's guide to the best of Myall Lakes National Park and Karuah National Park.

The age old question amongst four wheel drivers is: Do you prefer the beach or the bush? Well why not have the best of both worlds with a visit to the picturesque Myall Lakes area in the southern precinct of the Barrington Coast!

Don't forget you'll need a beach driving permit.

Where is Myall Lakes?

The Myall Lakes area sits between Hawks Nest and Smiths Lake, south of Forster. There are plenty of towns on the southern approach for stocking up supplies before your adventure including Karuah, Hawks Nest and Bulahdelah. If coming from the north then you’ll have Forster, Nabiac, Coolongolook or Bulahdelah.

Little Gibber in Myall Lakes National Park is a popular 4WD destination, particularly in summer.
Little Gibber in Myall Lakes National Park is a popular 4WD destination, particularly in summer.

Best time of year to visit?

The area is open all year round although autumn and spring are generally considered the best seasons to visit due to optimal temperatures. But if you prefer those cool nights camping then winter may be best for you, or if those long sunny days at the beach are more appealing then a summer visit is the way to go.

Mungo Brush campground in Myall Lakes National Park.
Mungo Brush campground in Myall Lakes National Park.

Camping

There are many campgrounds to choose from in the area, the majority are located within the Myall Lakes National Park. All NPWS campgrounds here must be booked and paid online prior to arrival. It’s important to note that several campgrounds in the area do not allow fires so make sure to check the specific campground you are booking.

Here are my top three Myall Lakes destinations:

Dark Point in Myall Lakes National Park.
Dark Point in Myall Lakes National Park.

1. Little Gibber Headland and Dark Point, Myall Lakes National Park

This is one of my favourite 4WD beaches in Australia with white sand and crystal clear waters, you won’t ever want to leave. Accessible from the beach access points at Hawks Nest, it’s best visited on the few hours either side of low tide. Make sure to air down your tyres before you hit the beach, 16-18PSI is always a good starting point and you can go lower if needed. From the access point at Hawks Nest it’s a short 15-20 minute drive north along the beach to arrive at Dark Point where you can park your 4WD, set up your awning and enjoy your own slice of beach paradise.

Little Gibber in Myall Lakes National Park.
Little Gibber in Myall Lakes National Park.

2. Mungo Brush, Myall Lakes National Park

Mungo Brush is an amazing little spot to set up camp on the edge of the lake and enjoy what Myall Lakes National Park has to offer. This spot is accessible by 2WD via Mungo Brush Road, there are several campgrounds to choose from but remember to book and pay online at the NPWS website prior to arrival. The lake offers plenty of water activities including boating, kayaking, swimming and fishing, the best part is watching the golden sun disappear over the lake at the end of the day. If you are after some surf or beach fishing then straight across the road you have Mungo Beach, only a short walk down to the surf or if you have a 4WD you can drive straight down on to the beach. Be warned, this beach has some of the softest sand I’ve ever encountered! I once found myself in a scary predicament on this beach , bogged in the soft sand with an incoming tide, I had to let my tyres down to 2PSI to get out of there. (See video below)

If you’re feeling confident the drive north up to Big Gibber Headland is definitely worth it.

Karuah National Park on the Karuah River, NSW.
Karuah National Park on the Karuah River, NSW.

3. Karuah National Park

Marking the inland boundary of the Myall Lakes region is the almost-secret Karuah National Park. If you love camping in the bush by the river then this little place is the one for you. Accessed off the Bucketts Way, there are two campgrounds by the Karuah River (Tattersalls and Little Mountain) and plenty of quiet spots that you’ll probably have to yourself for a few days. As this is a NPWS national park, you’ll need to book and pay online. The park is accessible by 2WD if you stick to the main gravel roads leading to the campgrounds, but for those off-road adventures there are many 4WD tracks in the area to explore. These tracks range from easy to difficult, so make sure to pack your recovery gear as it can get very muddy out there after some rain!

Although I’ve only covered my top three Myall Lakes destinations, there is miles more to see! It is an amazing piece of Australia to spend some time at adventuring and relaxing with the best of both the bush and beach. After your first visit to the area you’ll be sure to continue going time and time again. Don’t forget to pack your favourite swimmers and beach towel, the colours of the water you’ll have to see to believe!

YouTube series covering the area and some extra spots not mentioned in the article:

Instagram highlights... see where your adventures can take you: