Illawarra tourism route

Barren Grounds Nature Reserve

Open, check current alerts 

Overview

See the best of the Illawarra and Southern Highlands touring this scenic driving route. Pack up the car and set off on a road trip from Bowral to Fitzroy Falls and beyond.

Where
Barren Grounds Nature Reserve
Distance
120km one-way
Price
Free
Please note
  • If you’re stopping for a swim along the way, please take care in the water and please supervise children at all times.
  • Be sure to bring drinking water with you, along with supplies for your vehicle.
  • A current NSW recreational fishing licence is required when fishing in all waters

Take in the beauty of the Southern Highlands, Illawarra and Morton National Park from the comfort of your car on the Illawarra tourism route.

After fuelling up with petrol and a cuppa in Bowral take Nowra Road to Fitzroy Falls, travelling through the rolling hills and pretty pastures of farming country. Stop to walk to the falls and collect maps from the Fitzroy Falls Visitor Centre, then continue on to Belmore Falls, absorbing striking views over the sandstone escarpment and deep valleys as you drive.

From Belmore Falls in Morton National Park, drive through lush rainforest to Robertson; be sure to stop and enjoy a range of cafés, restaurants and bakeries in Robertson.

Stopping for a family photo in front of the Big Potato is a must, and then continue down Jamberoo Mountain Road via Carrington Falls in Budderoo National Park. Enjoy a picnic and the fantastic lookouts at Barren Grounds Nature Reserve before making your way to lovely Kiama. Check out the blowhole, go fishing or relax in one of the seaside cafes.

Then, whenever you’re ready, return to Sydney via Wollongong or head up Macquarie Pass to Bowral and on to Canberra or Sydney.

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/driving-routes/illawarra-tourism-route/local-alerts

General enquiries

Park info

See more visitor info

Visitor info

All the practical information you need to know about Illawarra tourism route.

Getting there and parking

Get driving directions

Get directions

    Both Fitzroy and Belmore Falls are in the northern precinct of Morton National Park. To get there follow Nowra Road from Bowral and continue along the Illawarra tourism route.

    Park entry points

    Best times to visit

    There are lots of great things waiting for you in Morton National Park. Here are some of the highlights.

    Autumn

    Grab an oar and canoe down the Shoalhaven River or the Kangaroo River. Autumn rains create ideal conditions for river paddling, and you'll find good spots for beginners as well as for more experienced paddlers.

    Spring

    Take the Three Views or Granite Falls walking tracks to see wildflowers in colourful bloom.

    Summer

    The rainforests of Morton National Park are a great place to escape the summer heat – try the Erith Coal Mine track at Bundanoon or the nearby Fairy Bower Falls walk.

    Weather, temperature and rainfall

    Summer temperature

    Average

    13°C and 26°C

    Highest recorded

    38.3°C

    Winter temperature

    Average

    0°C and 14°C

    Lowest recorded

    -9°C (Nerriga)

    Rainfall

    Wettest month

    June (Moss vale); March (Nerriga)

    Driest month

    September (Moss Vale and Nerriga)

    The area’s highest recorded rainfall in one day

    333mm (Moss Vale); 200.7mm (Nerriga)

    Maps and downloads

    Safety messages

    Beach safety

    Beaches in this park are not patrolled, and can sometimes have strong rips and currents. These beach safety tips will help you and your family stay safe in the water.

    Cycling safety

    Hundreds of cyclists head to our national parks for fun and adventure. If you're riding your bike through a national park, read these mountain biking and cycling safety tips.

    Mobile safety

    Dial Triple Zero (000) in an emergency. Download the Emergency Plus 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).

    Prohibited

    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.

    If you're transiting through a national park or reserve on a public road, pets must remain within the vehicle.

    Smoking

    NSW national parks are no smoking areas.

    Visitor centre

    Learn more

    Illawarra tourism route is in Barren Grounds Nature Reserve. Here are just some of the reasons why this park is special:

    Go wild for flowers

    Flowers in bloom, Barren Grounds Nature Reserve. Photo: John Spencer

    Barren Grounds Nature Reserve is famous for its heath wildflowers in spring and summer and flowering banksias in winter. The heathland is also one of only 4 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. Around 180 bird species can also be found here, including honeyeaters, southern emu wrens, lyrebirds, crimson rosellas, cockatoos and grey currawongs. If you're really lucky, you might even spot the bright green ground parrot or an eastern bristlebird. In fact, it was to protect these two threatened heathland birds that Barren Grounds Nature Reserve was set up in 1956.

    • 6-day birding and natural history tours Explore the beauty and diversity of Australian wildlife at Sydney’s doorstep on this 6-day tour with the knowledgeable guides of Inala Nature Tours. Visiting parklands, you'll see amazing birds, mammals and reptiles in their natural habitat.
    • Cooks Nose walking track Stroll through the park's rich heathlands on Cooks Nose walking track and you’ll be rewarded with striking scenic views from the escarpment overlooking Kangaroo Valley.

    Historic heritage

    Illawarra lookout walking track, Barren Grounds Nature Reserve. Photo: John Spencer

    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.

    Education resources (1)