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Hidden Gems



Relax, unwind and get back to nature with an escape to the idyllic bush campsite Coolendel.

Shoalhaven River

Coolendel is a bush camping retreat and wildlife refuge, 32km inland from Nowra, on the NSW south coast 160km south of Sydney. It lies at the end of a meandering 12km dirt road and provides a great balance of comforts and unspoilt bushland attractions for all the family.

Coolendel (an aboriginal word for angry waters) grew out of a failed farming venture by Ron Henderson.  He recognised the value of this old gold mining area when friends of his started asking to camp along the banks of the upper Shoalhaven River, which flows for 2.5km around the property in a series of small rapids and wide, gently flowing reaches. He began to provide a few basic facilities for casual guests but decided to sell out in 1984.

Swimming at  Coolenden

The auction sale of 50ha (127 acres) property went to a consortium of three local families: Arthur and Rhonda Moorhouse, Mitchell and Marla Coleman and Brian and Kerry Bates. They began a program of improvements that reopened the park to the public in 1986 and it has since been steadily growing in popularity and facilities.

Essentially built around a park-like central main camping area and the larger ‘Burrows’ area, Coolendel also provides a series of smaller sites where groups of campers have some privacy.

Campers at Coolenden

Coolendel is especially suited to families, with several kilometres of open dirt roads and small trails through the bush which is the ideal spot for children of all ages to go bike riding.

However, the real drawcard here is the river – the clear flowing water and gentle rapids are great for swimming and floating along on a li-lo. We found that walking over to the northern side of the river loop and dropping into the water on a floaty and then simply drifting along with the current was a great way to see the sights.

Swimming at  Coolenden

Bushwalking is also popular, with tracks ranging from a few hours to more adventurous full-day efforts, or even tackling the 100km Two Rivers Walk to the Clyde River.

If you’re of an optimistic mind you can try gold panning or fossicking around Grassy Gully Creek, where various efforts were made to mine for the mother lode from the 1870s. Watch out for old mines, many of which remain open and unmarked.

Morton National Park

You can also fish (the bass are always active), go canoeing (bring your own or Coolendel has them for hire), visit the old gold mines at Yalwal, take the fourbie up one of the fire trails (we recommend Old Burrier Fire Trail, which takes you to great views from McKenzie’s Lookout) or keep an eye on the 60 species of birds in the area.

In fact, the wildlife is one of the highlights of Coolendel. Being right next to Morton National Park ensures that red neck wallabies, swamp wallabies, grey kangaroos, wombats, possums, goannas (mostly friendly but treat with caution) and bower birds are present in abundance. While the ever-present peacocks give this campground a unique character.

Peacocks at Coolenden

Facilities include hot showers and flushing toilets, plentiful fresh water taps, with a few scattered small shelters and two large shelters, one with cooking and food service areas.

The park show hands out hiking maps with information and sells supplies. You won’t get phone reception in the park and there are no powered sites. There are two well-equipped cabins and a bunkhouse which sleeps 20 to provide for larger groups.

Campers at Coolenden

The park is massive but during Easter you will have to book. At other times you will have space to stretch your legs and indulge in some backyard cricket with the kids.

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