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Barren Grounds Nature Reserve

“Our day in Barren Grounds was a peaceful retreat away from the holiday crowds. We took the kids for an easy walk, had a lovely picnic and enjoyed the stunning views.”

Escape from the city for the day and immerse yourself in the unique and fragile landscape of Barren Grounds Nature Reserve. Almost completely encircled in rocky cliffs at the top of Jamberoo Pass, it has a wealth of birdlife and unique plant species. The heathland wildflowers burst with colour during spring.

With walks ranging from an easy 2km to a more challenging 20km, there’s something for the whole family to enjoy. Head to Illawarra lookout or Cooks Nose for magnificent views of the Illawarra coastline and surrounding countryside. Or head off on Griffiths walking track and spend the day in the bush.

Barren Grounds is a birdwatcher’s paradise, with around 180 different species of birds. Keep your binoculars and cameras handy to catch a photo of honeyeaters, southern emu wrens, crimson rosellas, cockatoos and grey currawongs. You might even spot a threatened ground parrot or eastern bristlebird.


Why you should visit

Barren Grounds Nature Reserve is a special place. Here are just some of the reasons why:

Historic heritage
Barren Grounds Nature Reserve holds a very special place in the history of conservation in NSW, as it was the third faunal reserve to be gazetted under the Fauna Protection Act. Led by early conservation leaders like Myles Dunphy, Paddy Pallin and Allen Strom, it was protected in 1956. Since then, it has been an important place for researchers and students alike to record and learn about the incredible biodiversity of this area. The stone building at Barren Grounds picnic area – once known as The Lodge - was used for accommodation by researchers and honorary rangers.

Diverse plant life
Thanks to conservation efforts in the 1950s, Barren Grounds Nature Reserve remains a place rich in biodiversity and home to many unique plant species. It’s famous for its heath wildflowers in spring and summer, which bring the reserve to life and colour, and flowering banksias in winter. The heathland is also one of only four large areas of heath on the NSW South Coast, making it an important habitat for many species of plants and animals. A large number of threatened or regionally rare ferns and other species also occur in wet sheltered sites below the escarpment, including several species of filmy fern.

Birds, birds and more birds
With around 180 bird species found here, you can easily understand why Barren Grounds Nature Reserve is paradise for birdwatchers. On the heath, you're likely to come across honeyeaters and southern emu wrens. In the forest areas, lyrebirds, crimson rosellas, cockatoos and grey currawongs are commonly seen. And if you're really lucky, you might even spot the bright green ground parrot or an eastern bristlebird while walking on the heath. In fact, it was to protect these two threatened heathland birds that Barren Grounds Nature Reserve was set up in 1956.

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Getting there


From Moss Vale:

  • Take Illawarra Highway east towards Robertson
  • Just after Robertson, turn right onto Jamberoo Mountain Road.
  • Continue until you reach the signposted entrance on your right

From Kiama:

  • Take Jamberoo Road heading west to Jamberoo
  • Turn left onto Jamberoo Mountain Road and follow it to the top of the escarpment
  • The reserve entrance is signposted on your left

Get driving directions


 Opening times

Barren Grounds Nature Reserve is always open but may have to close at times due to poor weather or fire danger.

 Close to

Barren Grounds Nature Reserve is close to:

  • Jamberoo (10km)
  • Robertson (16km)
  • Kiama (20km)
  • Moss Vale (38km)
  • Wollongong (40km)
  • Sydney (122km)

 Public transport

Barren Grounds Nature Reserve is not accessible by public transport.


Bicycles are not permitted on management or walking trails in this reserve.

Weather and climate

 Visiting through the seasons

There are lots of great things waiting for you in Barren Grounds Nature Reserve. Here are some of the highlights:

Spring (Sept, Oct, Nov)

  • Enjoy the colourful wildflower display in the reserve’s upland heaths

Summer (Dec, Jan, Feb)

  • Escape the crowds on the coast for a peaceful picnic among nature

Autumn  (Mar, Apr, May)

  • Enjoy spectacular views on a clear autumn day of the coastline and surrounds from Illawarra lookout

Winter (Jun, Jul, Aug)

  • Warm up with a brisk walk in the misty highlands and admire the flowering banksias



  • The average temperature ranges between 16°C and 5°C
  • The area's highest recorded temperature in summer is 42.4°C

Winter ­

  • The average temperature ranges between 8°C and 18°C
  • The area’s lowest recorded temperature in winter is 2.3°C


  • The wettest month on average is March, the driest is September.
  • The area's highest recorded rainfall is 728.4mm in one day


Fitzroy Falls Visitor Centre

Phone: 02 4887 7270
Street address: Morton National Park, Nowra Road, Fitzroy Falls NSW 2577
Opening hours: 9:00am-5:00pm, daily (closed Christmas Day)

Barren Grounds Nature Reserve, Stone Bridge. Photo: John Spencer/NSW Government