Carrai and Coachwood trails

Carrai National Park

Affected by closures, check current alerts 

Overview

Carrai and Coachwood trails combines 2 remote 4WD adventures in Carrai National Park and Oxley Wild Rivers National Park, between Kempsey and Armidale.

Where
Carrai National Park
Distance
137km one-way
Time suggested
2 days
Price
Free
What to
bring
Drinking water, snacks, clothes for all weather conditions, first aid kit, personal locator beacon
Please note
  • This route combines Carrai trail in Carrai National Park and Coachwood trail in neighbouring Oxley Wild Rivers National Park.
  • It can be driven in either direction and is recommended with an overnight stop at Daisy Plains huts.
  • The start of Carrai Road to Kookaburra is 24km. It’s another 22.5km to/from Daisy Plains Hut. It’s around 51km from Coachwood Road to Oxley Highway via Racecourse trail and Kangaroo Flat Road.
  • This is a remote area. Please ensure you’re well-equipped, with fuel, spare tyre, water, and warm clothing. It’s a good idea to bring a personal locator beacon.

This route combines Carrai trail in Carrai National Park and Coachwood trail in Oxley Wild Rivers National Park. Driven in either direction, it’s a great way for self-reliant 4WD enthusiasts to explore the views and natural beauty of the mountain plateau west of Port Macquarie.

From Kempsey, it’s around a 1hr drive to reach Carrai trail, which follows unsealed Carrai Road through open farmland before delivering you into the forest. After around 24km, at the junction with Coachwood Road, stop for a break in Kookaburra. Once a thriving centre for trade in prized red cedar, it’s now a ghost town overgrown by trees.

From Kookaburra, continue around 22.5km north along Carrai trail, through old growth forest to Daisy Plains huts. Set among tall eucalypts, the 4 basic huts are a good place to stay overnight if you want a break from driving.

Wake to the squawk of glossy black cockatoos and savour a camp breakfast next to the kitchen hut’s open fire, before backtracking to the junction with Coachwood Road. Follow this trail, which winds 17km through Gondwana rainforest in Oxley Wild Rivers National Park. The 300m walk to unfenced Hoppy’s lookout is an optional stop along the trail.

From the end of Coachwood trail, connect with scenic Racecourse trail around 19km, and make your way out via Werrikimbe National Park, and Walcha.

For directions, safety and practical information, see visitor info

Current alerts in this area

There are no current alerts in this area.

Local alerts

For the latest updates on fires, closures and other alerts in this area, see https://www.nationalparks.nsw.gov.au/things-to-do/4wd-touring-routes/carrai-and-coachwood-trails/local-alerts

General enquiries

Park info

See more visitor info

Visitor info

All the practical information you need to know about Carrai and Coachwood trails.

Getting there and parking

Carrai trail is in Carrai National Park, and Coachwood trail is in Oxley Wild Rivers National Park. To get to there:

From Kempsey:

  • Turn off Macleay Valley Way north of Kempsey onto Second Lane
  • Cross the train line and continue to the end of the road
  • Turn right onto River Street which becomes Armidale Road
  • Drive around 19km then turn left on Temagog Road
  • After 8.5km this becomes Willi Willi Road, continue 17.5km
  • Turn left onto Carrai Road. From here, it’s 24km to Coachwood Road or 46.5km to Daisy Plains huts.

From Armidale:

  • Take New England Highway south then Oxley Highway east
  • From Walcha continue around 54km
  • Turn left onto Kangaroo Flat Road and follow signs to Werrikimbe National Park
  • Take Mooraback Road, then Racecourse trail through to Coachwood Road
  • From here, Coachwood Road travels 17km to Kookaburra, where it meets Carrai Road.

Road quality

  • Unsealed roads

Vehicle access

  • All roads require 4WD vehicle

Weather restrictions

  • Dry weather only

Facilities

  • Non-flush toilets and a kitchen hut with open fire are located at Daisy Plains huts in Carrai National Park. Bring your own firewood.
  • The huts also offer basic accommodation on a first-come, first-served basis.
  • Please ensure you’re well-equipped.
  • There are no bins so please take your rubbish with you when you leave the park.

Maps and downloads

Safety messages

These 4WD trails are in a remote area. It’s a good idea to advise a family member of friend of your travel plans.

Mobile safety

Dial Triple Zero (000) in an emergency. Download the Emergency + app before you visit, it helps emergency services locate you using your smartphone's GPS. Please note there is limited mobile phone reception in this park and you’ll need mobile reception to call Triple Zero (000).

Permitted

Bushwalking permitted. Keep well back from cliff edges, lookouts and waterfalls at all times, especially when taking photos. Please stay on tracks, be aware of your surroundings and footing, and ensure children are supervised.

Camping

Permitted at Daisy Plains hut. Free camping is not permitted along this route.

Cycling

Mountain biking is permitted on public roads.

Prohibited

Camp fires and solid fuel burners

Gathering firewood

Horses

Pets

Pets and domestic animals (other than certified assistance animals) are not permitted. Find out which regional parks allow dog walking and see the pets in parks policy for more information.

Smoking

NSW national parks are no smoking areas.

Learn more

Carrai and Coachwood trails is in Carrai National Park. Here are just some of the reasons why this park is special:

A safe haven for native animals

Hastings River mouse (Pseudomys oralis), Carrai National Park. Photo: OEH

Maintaining vast tracts of remote forest, like those at Carrai, is essential for protecting biodiversity and keeping the populations of native animals at high levels. Carrai is known to harbour endangered species like the Hastings River mouse, a rodent that likes damp habitats, and the giant barred frog, which grows to a size of about 12cm and lays its eggs on banks overhanging rivers. Listen for its deep grunt when you stop by a creek.

From the 1800s

Daisy Plains Huts, an old forestry camp on Carrai Road, Carrai National Park. Photo: Shane Ruming/OEH

In many ways, Carrai’s remote location has protected it from extensive grazing and mining. In 1818, John Oxley was the first European to visit the New England Tablelands, closely followed by cedar loggers. Graziers eventually moved their stock up river valleys onto the tablelands. Both tin and gold were mined in the area until the 1960s, and forestry ceased in the early 90s.

  • Carrai and Coachwood trails Carrai and Coachwood trails combines 2 remote 4WD adventures in Carrai National Park and Oxley Wild Rivers National Park, between Kempsey and Armidale.

Protecting Carrai's wilderness

Rock outcrop in Carrai National Park. Photo: Piers Thomas/OEH

An area of 3,530ha within Carrai National Park has been declared wilderness under the Wilderness Act 1987. Although much of Carrai's forested area has been affected in some way by human habitation - logging and grazing, for example - it's now protected, allowing it to recover. There are three old-growth forest ecosystems in the park, including groves of white mahogany, dry redgum, bloodwood, native apple, and tallowwood. Look for the endangered Guthrie's grevillea, with its green and maroon flowers, as well as epiphytic orchids attached to the trunks of trees.

Traditional lands of Thunggutti People

The view from Carrai National Park over the upper Macleay Valley. Photo: Piers Thomas/OEH

The Carrai plateau is a special place for the Thunggutti People, with many ceremonial sites that have their origins in the dreamtime. It's believed that Aboriginal people moved from the coastal hinterlands to the New England Tablelands, including parts of what is now Carrai National Park, during the summer months. In the early to mid-1800s, the rugged country at the head of Macleay River also provided refuge for many Aboriginal people.

Education resources (1)

View of mountainous landscape including Kemps Pinnacle from Hoppy's lookout, in Oxley Wild Rivers National Park, with wildflowers in the foreground. Photo: John Spencer/OEH.