Adventurous mum Nell and her husband leave the kids at home and go on a hiking and camping getaway to New England National Park. Escaping the daily grind and enjoying outdoor activities together allows them to not only reconnect but to rediscover what is truly important.  

Nell's husband looking out over the vast valley

There is a sense of excitement as we turn west off the Pacific Highway, just South of Coffs Harbour. Two parents set free in a van, singing off key and eating gummy bears. We are on our way to New England National Park, which lies between Dorrigo and Armidale.

Exploring the outdoors has always brought me moments of immeasurable joy. Hiking through national parks, snowboarding alpine slopes, mountain biking down pine scented trails and finding my meditation in motion while rock climbing, are some of my favourite activities. These moments also hold some of my most treasured experiences with my husband. Life with two mini humans and varying commitments has complicated adventures to say the least. Orchestrating a couple of days alone together often results in the search of quiet natural beauty and smokey campfires.

Soon we are winding up the Great Dividing Range, accompanied by amazing coffee procured in the eclectic town of Belligen. The drive is beautiful; slow ascents offer glimpses across lush farmlands all the way to the ocean. The small country town of Dorrigo sits at the top of the range. It is the last equipped spot to grab supplies before heading an hour west to New England NP.

We bump along past grazing cattle before turning into Thungutti Camping Ground as the sun sinks low and fog spatters droplets of water on our windscreen. The campsite is remote, so it’s important to arrive prepared. There is untreated tank water available, toilets, cold showers as well as electric and wood BBQ’s (firewood is normally provided, but not guaranteed). We arrived midweek and had ample choice of the 20 available sites. There are also three cabins scattered throughout the park if you are looking for a little more “luxury” which can be booked here.

Nell walking through the misty forest, rugged up in layers and her bright red beanie

As the last light of day fades away, our campfire begins to crackle. Inland, and high on the range, the autumn air is beyond crisp. We don layers, pull on woolly beanies, and huddle close to the flames. Smoke swirls around, giant gumtrees tower overhead… and I talk to my husband.

Looking up towards the sky through the mist and gum tree branches

It isn’t the conversations we have on a daily basis about dinners, laundry, kids appointments, vehicle insurance, or how insanely tired we both are. No, these conversations are more from the soul, they have depth. They involve dreams, and emotions, and big plans, and gratitude.

We wake just before dawn and drive five minutes to Point Lookout. Rugged up in the morning air, we stroll 200m past moss covered rocks to the edge of the escarpment. With very little effort we’ve reached 1563M above sea level and are gifted with stunning views of the sun rising above the Pacific Ocean. The platform is all ours, so breakfast is enjoyed in peace as we survey the changing landscape and watch clouds rush toward our viewpoint.


Before long we are heading down the trail from Robinsons Knob carpark. We’ve packed snacks and adequate water for the day along with suitable outdoor clothing for the area’s unpredictable weather conditions. Our plan is to visit Wrights lookout before exploring the Lyrebird circuit, just under 9km hiking for the day.

We walk along in a mix of quiet conversation and simple as we breathe in the scenery. Our only expectation was an unknown adventure but with the lush ferns, towering eucalypts, a rocky plateau offering panoramic views, waterfalls trickling down basalt cliffs and an outright mythical temperate rainforest, New England National Park has proved to be pure magic.

Moss and other ferns growing a tree in front of a hiker walking down a trail.

In a day of walking we experienced such diversity in landscape, flora and fauna. It seemed that around each bend there was a different world to discover. The remote location offered a sense of isolation, besides passing another pair of hikers we had the trails completely to ourselves. So together we explored, with muddy shoes and tired legs, through showers of rain, sweaty ascents and icy winds. We then tumbled into our van with big grins, and happy hearts, reminded that, when we exit the merry-go-round of life, we are two big kids who still adore each other’s company.

Nell walking along a trail surrounded by lush flora


These experiences gift us with the time and space to appreciate the world we live in and the people we share it with. Leaving the rat race behind, and all the obligations and distractions that come with it, allows us to rediscover what is truly important….Connection.


Where is your favourite spot to get away in the wilderness with a loved one? We would love to hear in the comments below!

#ExperienceIsEverything | #PaddyPallin

About The Author


Nell lives on the Gold Coast in Australia. She is the founder of Mum’s Gone Climbing, mother to two sensitive wildlings, wife to her best mate, part-time videographer, and fulltime dirtbag adventure dork. Nell is passionate about supporting other mothers to balance parenthood, inspire their children by living their own joy, and find adventure that fills their stoke. Follow Nell’s shenanigans on Instagram at @mumsgoneclimbing.

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