Arakoon National Park

Overview

Arakoon National Park, home to historic Trial Bay Gaol, offers beachside camping, rocky foreshores with great fishing and beaches perfect for whale watching and swimming.

Read more about Arakoon National Park

The idyllic Arakoon National Park on the NSW mid north coast is home to the historic Trial Bay Gaol and is a wonderful place for a daytrip to explore Australian history or for a family camping holiday. There are great picnic and camping spots by the tranquil Trial Bay, and the area is surrounded by rocky foreshores and sandy beaches.

Trial Bay Gaol, dating from the 19th century, was built to house prison labourers who were tasked with building a breakwater. Today the gaol is a picturesque ruin and a fascinating place to explore. There are excellent fishing spots around the park’s rocky headlands and the park’s sheltered beach is a great spot for swimming, snorkelling and paddling.

Don’t be surprised if you see dolphins frolicking in the calm waters and if you’re visiting around July or August, you might see whales on their annual migration.

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/visit-a-park/parks/arakoon-national-park/local-alerts

Contact

See more visitor info

Visitor info

All the practical information you need to know about Arakoon National Park.

Getting there and parking

Get driving directions

Get directions

    From the south:

    • Take South West Rocks Road along the Macleay River from East Kempsey (37km)
    • Or take Tourist Route 12 from South Kempsey to travel via Crescent Head (80km)

    From the north:

    • Turn off the Pacific Highway 1km past Clybucca on to Plummers Lane

    Park entry points

    Parking Show more

    By bike

    Check out the Bicycle information for NSW website for more information.

    By public transport

    For information about public transport options, visit the NSW country transport info website.

    Best times to visit

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

    Spring

    The wildflowers will be out so it's a great time to hike the park's walking tracks During the spring, when the she-oaks produce fruit, glossy black cockatoos come in to feed on the ripe seeds .

    Summer

    School's out and it's a great time for a family camping holiday – spend your days swimming, snorkelling, fishing and exploring the park's attractions.

    Winter

    Catch the whales on their journey north along the coast.

    Weather, temperature and rainfall

    Summer temperature

    Average

    20°C and 26°C

    Highest recorded

    41.7°C

    Winter temperature

    Average

    12°C and 20°C

    Lowest recorded

    4°C

    Rainfall

    Wettest month

    March

    Driest month

    September

    The area’s highest recorded rainfall in one day

    343.7mm

    Facilities

    Maps and downloads

    Safety messages

    However you discover NSW national parks and reserves, we want you to have a safe and enjoyable experience. Our park and reserve systems contrast greatly so you need to be aware of the risks and take responsibility for your own safety and the safety of those in your care.

    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.

    Nearby towns

    South West Rocks (4 km)

    South West Rocks is a sleepy coastal retreat at its barefoot best. It's an oceanfront holiday town on north-facing Trial Bay.

    www.visitnsw.com

    Kempsey (37 km)

    Kempsey is a historic river town close to national parks and majestic beaches. Kempsey is a convenient place for an overnight stop for anyone driving between Sydney and the North Coast.

    www.visitnsw.com

    Crescent Head (58 km)

    Crescent Head on the NSW North Coast is surrounded by some of the stunning natural environments in the State. As well as long stretches of coastline with fabulous beaches, there is a string on coastal national parks to explore. Go surfing, fishing, boating and bushwalking, enjoy bird watching or whale watching, spot dolphins, turtles and even koalas in the wild.

    www.visitnsw.com

    Learn more

    Arakoon National Park is a special place. Here are just some of the reasons why:

    Traditional lands of Dhungatti People

    Monument Hill walking track, Arakoon National Park. Photo: Barbara Webster

    The region surrounding Arakoon National Park has high cultural and spiritual significance to the local Dhungatti People. There are numerous Aboriginal sites within the park of great spiritual and cultural significance, with dreaming stories and cultural learning part of them, still passed on today. These include middens, stone arrangements and spiritual sites. We work with local Aboriginal communities to protect this rich culture.

    Fascinating heritage

     Trial Bay Gaol, Arakoon National Park. Photo: David Finnegan

    Dating from 1886, Trial Bay Gaol is a unique example of a public works prison. It was also used as an internment camp in World War I and today the ruins continue to intrigue visitors. It'll take you about an hour to wander through the gaol and the museum. The region has high cultural and spiritual significance to the local Dhungatti people.

    • Bridle trail Bridle Trail walking track is an easy short walk offering a glimpse of the historic heritage of Trial Bay Gaol in Arakoon National Park near Kempsey.
    • Friends of Trial Bay Gaol The historic ruins of Trial Bay Gaol, in Arakoon National Park on the NSW Mid North Coast, are a significant heritage area. Friends of Trial Bay Gaol invite you to volunteer to help in the protection and promotion of this amazing piece of local history, especially during the annual Sculpture in the Gaol.
    • Heritage detectives Help unlock mysteries of the past while exploring historic Trial Bay Gaol from top to bottom. Who were the prisoners were and where did they came from? What crimes did they commit to deserve their punishment and what work they carry out in captivity? This Stage 3 (Years 5-6) school excursion to Arakoon National Park focuses on HSIE. 
    • History mysteries Explore the old granite gaol at Trial Bay and help to unlock mysteries of the past on the History Mysteries school excursion. This is a Stage 2 (Years 3-4) excursion to Arakoon National Park, focusing on HSIE.
    • Monument Hill walking track Featuring stunning coastal views, the easy Monument Hill walk takes in the historic monument built for German gaol internees before finishing at Little Bay picnic area.
    • Powder Magazine walking track Powder Magazine walking track is a short walk near Trial Bay, in Arakoon National Park, offering scenic views and historic heritage.
    • Trial Bay Gaol For a glimpse into Australian history, head to South West Rocks to explore the historic ruins of Trial Bay Gaol. Make sure you see the view from the sentry’s lookout.
    • Trial Bay Gaol: Life behind bars kids tour Come along and find out what life behind bars was really like for the prisoners here. Trial Bay Gaol, in Arakoon National Park, is brimming with stories.
    • Walk on the dark side: Sunset tour Wander through the old Trial Bay Gaol at sunset. Visit the darker side of history and hear about stories of prisoners' crimes, sordid tales and gore during World War I.
    Show more

    Abundant bird life

    Little Bay, Arakoon National Park. Photo: Michael Van Ewijk

    Birds are abundant in Arakoon National Park. In wetland areas, you might see black swans, egrets, herons and spoonbills. On the heath, there are fantails, wrens, honeyeaters and quails. Hawks, falcons, ospreys and eagles soar above the cliffs and forage along the beaches. During the spring, when the she-oaks produce fruit, glossy black cockatoos come in to feed on the ripe seeds. Despite its small size, Arakoon harbours several threatened species, including the osprey and glossy black cockatoo. You're also likely to spot wallabies and echidnas, and the nocturnal brush-tailed phascogales and sugar gliders. During September and October, you can often see humpback whales just offshore, on their return journey to Antarctica.

    Scenic headlands

    Monument Hill walking track, Arakoon National Park. Photo: David Finnegan

    The Smoky Cape Adamellite which forms Little Smoky and the Arakoon peninsula is significant as the only coastal outcropping of granite between Bundaberg in Queensland and Moruya Heads in southern NSW. It was used to construct the prison. The naturally vegetated hillslopes of Arakoon form a scenic backdrop to Trial Bay and the popular holiday town of South West Rocks.

    • Bridle trail Bridle Trail walking track is an easy short walk offering a glimpse of the historic heritage of Trial Bay Gaol in Arakoon National Park near Kempsey.
    • Heritage detectives Help unlock mysteries of the past while exploring historic Trial Bay Gaol from top to bottom. Who were the prisoners were and where did they came from? What crimes did they commit to deserve their punishment and what work they carry out in captivity? This Stage 3 (Years 5-6) school excursion to Arakoon National Park focuses on HSIE. 
    • Monument Hill walking track Featuring stunning coastal views, the easy Monument Hill walk takes in the historic monument built for German gaol internees before finishing at Little Bay picnic area.

    Ideal family getaway

    Trial Bay Gaol Discovery tour, Arakoon National Park. Photo: Rob Cleary/Seen Australia

    Arakoon National Park is in a magnificent natural setting with a spectacular coastline. There are coastal walks with wonderful views and places to picnic and excellent beachside camping and cottage accommodation. If you’re looking for a place to swim and snorkel, head to sheltered Trial Bay and the kiosk is nearby if you’re looking for a relaxed lunch or dinner. The picnic area at Little Bay is popular with young families, offering barbecues and a large grassed area for games.

    • Front Beach Front Beach offers family friendly options including swimming, paddling, liloing and picnicking in Arakoon National Park on the mid North Coast of NSW.
    • Little Bay picnic area Little Bay, a popular beach picnic spot near South West Rocks on the north coast, features barbecues, shaded tables, children’s play equipment and a kangaroo or two.

    Plants and animals you may see

    Animals

    • White-bellied sea eagle. Photo: John Turbill

      White-bellied sea eagle (Haliaeetus leucogaster)

      White-bellied sea eagles can be easily identified by their white tail and dark grey wings. These raptors are often spotted cruising the coastal breezes throughout Australia, and make for some scenic bird watching. Powerful Australian birds of prey, they are known to mate for life, and return each year to the same nest to breed.

    • Humpback whale breaching. Photo: Dan Burns

      Humpback whale (Megaptera novaeangliae)

      The humpback whale has the longest migratory path of any mammal, travelling over 5000km from its summer feeding grounds in Antarctica to its breeding grounds in the subtropics. Its playful antics, such as body-rolling, breaching and pectoral slapping, are a spectacular sight for whale watchers in NSW national parks.

    • Swamp wallaby in Murramarang National Park. Photo: David Finnegan

      Swamp wallaby (Wallabia bicolor)

      The swamp wallaby, also known as the black wallaby or black pademelon, lives in the dense understorey of rainforests, woodlands and dry sclerophyll forest along eastern Australia. This unique Australian macropod has a dark black-grey coat with a distinctive light-coloured cheek stripe.

    • Short-beaked echidna in Ben Boyd National Park. Photo: Sharon Wormleaton/OEH

      Short-beaked echidna (Tachyglossus aculeatus)

      One of only 2 egg-laying mammals in the world, the short-beaked echidna is one of the most widespread of Australian native animals. Covered in spines, or quills, they’re equipped with a keen sense of smell and a tube-like snout which they use to break apart termite mounds in search of ants.

    • Grey headed flying fox hanging from a tree branch. Photo: Shane Ruming/OEH

      Grey-headed flying fox (Pteropus poliocephalus)

      The grey-headed flying fox is one of several threatened Australian animals and the largest Australian native bat, with a wingspan that extends up to 1m. Known to inhabit woodlands, rainforests and urban regions, these fascinating nocturnal mammals congregate in large roost sites along the east coast of NSW.

    Environments in this park

    Education resources (1)

    School excursions (2)

    What we're doing

    Arakoon National Park has management strategies in place to protect and conserve the values of this park. Visit the OEH website for detailed park and fire management documents. Here is just some of the work we’re doing to conserve these values:

    Preserving biodiversity

    The biodiversity of Arakoon National Park is protected by minimising the impacts of visitor use, weeds and pest animals, and regenerating important plant communities using local endemic species.

    Managing weeds, pest animals and other threats

    Pests and weeds have a significant impact to the ecosystems within Arakoon National Park. Risk assessments for new and emerging weeds are carried out as an ongoing initiative within the park. Pest management of bitou bush and boneseed is a priority and an important part of the work NPWS does to protect the integrity of biodiversity which exists within Arakoon.

    Conservation program

    Bitou bush threat abatement plan

    Bitou bush poses a serious and widespread threat to threatened species populations and ecological communities on the NSW coast. The NPWS bitou bush threat abatement plan helps to reduce the impact of weeds at priority sites using control measures such as ground spraying, aerial spraying, biological control and physical removal.

    Managing fire

    NSW is one of the most bushfire prone areas in the world as a result of our climate, weather systems, vegetation and the rugged terrain. NPWS is committed to maintaining natural and cultural heritage values and minimising the likelihood and impact of bushfires via a strategic program of fire research, fire planning, hazard reduction, highly trained rapid response firefighting crews and community alerts.

    Conservation program

    Planning for fire

    Bushfires are inevitable across fire-prone vegetation types within NSW national parks. NPWS prepares for wildfires by working with other fire agencies, reserve neighbours and the community to ensure protection of life, property and biodiversity. Every park has its own fire management strategy, devised in consultation with partner fire authorities and the community to plan and prioritise fire management.

    Scenic coastal view from Monument Hill, Arakoon National Park. Photo: Debby McGerty