Barren Grounds picnic area

Barren Grounds Nature Reserve

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Barren Grounds picnic area is a secluded spot away from the crowds and the gateway to discovering the wonders of Barren Grounds Nature Reserve.

Picnic areas
What to
Drinking water, hat, sunscreen
Please note
  • Remember to take your binoculars if you want to birdwatch
  • The weather in this area can be extreme and unpredictable, so please be well-prepared for your visit.
  • There is limited mobile reception in this park

Set among bloodwood and silvertop ash trees, Barren Grounds picnic area is a secluded spot away from the crowds. It makes a great day trip for the family or a scenic stop on your drive through Jamberoo Pass.

Spend the afternoon here and enjoy this peaceful setting. Spread out your lunch on one of the picnic tables and listen to the sounds of the bush coming to life, with wallabies passing in the distance and birds darting about overhead.

Feeling energetic or just want to explore some more? Why not go on one of the many walks that start here? Whether you want to wander in the bush for an hour or half a day, there’s something for everyone. Take a short stroll along Illawarra lookout walking track for dramatic views or spend a few hours in the rich heathlands of Barren Grounds Nature Reserve on either Cooks Nose walking track or Griffiths walking track.

For directions, safety and practical information, see visitor info


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Visitor info

All the practical information you need to know about the Barren Grounds picnic area.

Getting there and parking

Get driving directions

Get directions

    Barren Grounds picnic area is at the northern end of Barren Grounds Nature Reserve. To get there:

    • Continue on the road from the reserve entrance for approximately 1km
    • The picnic area is at the end of the road

    Road quality

    • Unsealed roads

    Vehicle access

    • 2WD vehicles (no long vehicle access)

    Weather restrictions

    • All weather


    Parking is available at Barren Grounds picnic area.

    Best times to visit

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


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


    Enjoy the colourful wildflower display in the reserve's upland heaths.


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


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

    Weather, temperature and rainfall

    Summer temperature


    16°C and 5°C

    Highest recorded


    Winter temperature


    8°C and 18°C

    Lowest recorded



    Wettest month


    Driest month


    The area’s highest recorded rainfall in one day




    • Non-flush toilets


    Maps and downloads

    Safety messages

    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).


    Disability access level - medium

    • Assistance is required to access this area
    • There are wheelchair accessible toilets



    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.


    NSW national parks are no smoking areas.

    Visitor centre

    Learn more

    Barren Grounds picnic area 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.

    Plants and animals protected in this park


    • A spotted-tailed quoll walks across a moss-covered forest floor at night. Photo: Lachlan Hall © Lachlan Hall

      Spotted-tailed quoll (Dasyurus maculatus)

      The spotted-tailed quoll is the largest remaining carnivorous marsupial on the Australian mainland. It’s protected as a vulnerable species in NSW.

    • Profile view of an eastern bristlebird on the ground amongst grassy habitat, it's beak open during birdsong. Photo: Leo Berzins © Leo Berzins

      Eastern bristlebird (Dasyornis brachypterus)

      The endangered eastern bristlebird is a shy, ground-dwelling songbird. Less than 2,500 birds are left in the wild, restricted to 3 isolated areas in eastern NSW and southern Queensland.

    • An eastern ground parrot bird's green and yellow colouring camouflages it amongst grassland. Photo: Lachlan Hall © Lachlan Hall

      Eastern ground parrot (Pezoporus wallicus wallicus)

      The eastern ground parrot is a beautiful, ground-dwelling native bird that lives in low heathland habitat along the NSW North and South coasts and escarpments. It’s listed as a vulnerable species in NSW.

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