Illawarra lookout walking track

Barren Grounds Nature Reserve

Open, check current alerts 

Overview

This short walk offers an easy way for all ages to experience the spectacular views, colourful wildflowers and amazing birdlife on a day trip to Barren Grounds Nature Reserve.

Where
Barren Grounds Nature Reserve
Distance
2km return
Time suggested
30min - 1hr
Grade
Grade 3
Price
Free
Please note
  • It’s a good idea to put sunscreen on before you set out and remember to take a hat
  • Remember to take your binoculars if you want to birdwatch
  • There is no drinking water available in this area, so it’s a good idea to bring your own.
  • The weather in this area can be extreme and unpredictable, so please ensure you’re well-prepared for your visit.
  • There is limited/no mobile reception in this park

Don’t have much time, but want to discover the wonders of this fragile environment? A walk to Illawarra lookout is a must, with spectacular views, colourful spring wildflowers and amazing birdlife.

Starting from Barren Grounds picnic area, this short trail moves along an undulating path through woodland and heath. Before you know it, you’ll arrive at Illawarra lookout, perched on the edge of the escarpment looking down across the hinterland, rolling green hills, and the stunning coastline.

Breathe in the fresh air, take in the spectacular views, then wander back to the picnic area for a relaxing lunch and a hot cuppa.

Along the way, you might spot an echidna waddling across the track, and you’re bound to see an abundance of birdlife. You'll be walking through the prime habitat of ground parrots and eastern bristlebirds, so keep an eye out for these threatened birds.

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/walking-tracks/illawarra-lookout-walking-track/local-alerts

General enquiries

Park info

See more visitor info

Visitor info

All the practical information you need to know about Illawarra lookout walking track.

Track grading

Grade 3

Learn more about the grading system Features of this track
  • Time

    30min - 1hr

  • Quality of markings

    Clearly sign posted

  • Gradient

    Flat

  • Distance

    2km return

  • Steps

    Occasional steps

  • Quality of path

    Formed track, some obstacles

  • Experience required

    No experience required

Getting there and parking

Illawarra lookout walking track is at the northern end of Barren Grounds Nature Reserve. To get there:

  • Continue on the road from the reserve entrance for approximately 1km
  • Illawarra lookout walking track starts from Barren Grounds picnic area at the end of the road

Parking

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.

Autumn

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

Spring

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

Summer

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

Winter

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

Weather, temperature and rainfall

Summer temperature

Average

16°C and 5°C

Highest recorded

42.4°C

Winter temperature

Average

8°C and 18°C

Lowest recorded

2.3°C

Rainfall

Wettest month

March

Driest month

September

The area’s highest recorded rainfall in one day

728.4mm

Maps and downloads

Safety messages

Bushwalking safety

If you're keen to head out on a longer walk or a backpack camp, always be prepared. Read these bushwalking safety tips before you set off on a walking adventure in national parks.

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).

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.

Smoking

NSW national parks are no smoking areas.

Visitor centre

Nearby towns

Jamberoo (6 km)

If the kids are on board, take them to Jamberoo Action Park, where Billabong Beach, Rapid River and Outback Bay will keep them entertained for a whole day. Minnamurra Rainforest is also close by, with easy walks through the rainforest for the whole family to enjoy.

www.visitnsw.com

Nowra (19 km)

Nowra is a historic city and the commercial heart of the Shoalhaven. It's on the Shoalhaven River close to beaches and national parks.

www.visitnsw.com

Wollongong (26 km)

There are plenty of opportunities for adventure activities in and around Wollongong ranging from surfing and swimming to sailing, hang gliding, paragliding, cycling and abseiling. Wollongong is the only place in NSW where you can skydive onto the beach.

www.visitnsw.com

Learn more

Illawarra lookout walking track 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)

Illawarra lookout walk, Barren Grounds Nature Reserve. Photo: John Spencer/NSW Government