The Illawarra is rich in natural beauty, but if you’re keen to venture further afield, the Macarthur region - north-west of Wollongong - offers unspoiled wilderness just waiting to be explored.
There is no better way to see it than to don walking boots and meander along walking trails.
Waterfalls, rock pools, swimming holes and native wildlife are a plenty across Campbelltown and Wollondilly.
Use this guide, pack a picnic and make a day of it with the family this weekend.
1. Burragorang State Conservation Area
For magnificent views of Warragamba Dam and some of its surrounding wilderness, Burragorang lookout and picnic area makes for a great day trip. Learn about the lost village beneath the water and check the NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service for opening and closing times and make sure you come prepared for the extreme and unpredictable weather.
2. Thirlmere Lakes National Park
The area near Buxton features freshwater lakes and is perfect for enjoying picnics and barbecues, walking, birdwatching or canoeing. The walking track is a 6 kilometre trail around three of the park’s lakes and picnic areas - Gandangarra, Werri-Berri and Couridjah - and the historic Heritage Pump Station. Set out from Couridjah picnic area. Parking is available off Slades Road, Buxton.
3. Bargo River State Conservation Area
The area is great for birdwatching, hiking and swimming, located near Yerrinbool. The little-known Cave Creek Walking Track will take walkers through the conservation area. The 7 kilometre peaceful trail is narrow and wide at certain points and will take walkers over Cave Creek and into caves. The turn off is on Wilson Drive, Balmoral Village.
4. Keith Longhurst Reserve
The area off Georges River Road, Kentlyn, offers several walking trails leading down to the Georges River. These include the 2 kilometre Basin Walking Trail and the 2.6 kilometre Old Ford Road Walking Trail, which is a historic road built in the 1880s to cross the Georges River. This popular scenic waterhole showcases a small waterfall.
5. Yerranderie Regional Park
The park is popular with history buffs and 4WD adventurers for its mining heritage, forgotten ghost town, bushwalking tracks and old silver mine relics. Turn at singage to Mount Werong, Oberon and follow signs to the park. Visit the authentic silver mining ghost town and enjoy scenic bushwalking in the wilderness area.
6. Simmo’s Beach Walking Trails
The beach is located on the Georges River and has easy access and picnic facilities. The area is home to endangered and vulnerable ecological trees. There are various trails ranging from 500 metres to 1.5 kilometres. There are easy, paved surfaces walks and harder, unsealed trails. The area can be accessed from Fifth Avenue, Macquarie Fields.
7. Dharawal National Park
Dharawal National Park is a beautiful area near Wedderburn full of walking and bike tracks, waterfalls and rock pools. Highlights include O'Hares Creek lookout and a 2.8 kilometre walking track which has scenic views and birdwatching. Jingga walking track is a 2.4 kilometre short yet challenging walk to a waterhole that offers picnic and birdwatching opportunities. Parking is located on Victoria Road, Wedderburn.