Road trip to find NSW's biggest trees

Skywalk Lookout, Dorrigo - Destination NSW Copyright
Skywalk Lookout, Dorrigo - Big Trees Road Trip, NSW

Important Safety Message

With recent wet weather and flooding across Australia's east coast, check Live Traffic to ensure the route is safe before driving to any of the destinations below. Ensure your NRMA roadside assistance is up to date before any road trip and never drive through flood water. If you are in a dangerous situation and immediately impacted by the floods, call the emergency services.

 

Follow our road tripper, Dorian Mode, as he explores the north coast of NSW and inland towards Dorrigo in searcof some of NSW’s awe-inspiring giant trees.

Big tree road trip tips
  • Take a picnic and a thermos as most of the big trees are a little off the beaten track.
  • Look for your local tourist information centre in town to get all the local insights.
  • Make sure your car is insured for off-road to drive those dirt tracks to your big tree.
  • Remember to take your binoculars if you want to go bird watching while tree watching.


One of my favourite movies is the Kirk Douglas 1952 classic, Big Trees, about America’s giant redwoods. It got me thinking: Why is it only the Yanks who take pride (and place great symbolism) in their giant redwoods and sequoia when five out of the 10 tallest trees in the world are found in Australia? 

While they are peppered all over the country – many in Tasmania – I was most interested in my home state of NSW. So with its tallest tree only four hours from Sydney, we set off on a family road trip to the lush mountain forests of the Mid North Coast, where you’ll find NSW's ancient colossi in all their glory.

Tree 1: Grandis Tree (Eucalyptus grandis) - Bulahdelah 

Sydney to Bulahdelah 
3 hr 5 min | 253 km

Bulahdelah is typical of towns bypassed by freeways (in Bula’s case, the M1) and in search of a new identity beyond a friendly refuel and snack stopover. The surrounding National Parks are inspiring and beautiful, with Myall Lakes offering great fishing and kayaking (it is also terrific area to explore in a houseboat).

But on arrival to Bulahdelah, this ‘road trip rapture’ begins to evaporate like a giant bluegum shedding its bark. Why? Because I’ve hired a four-wheel-drive hybrid, and forgot to tick the off-road insurance option, only to realise big trees are found off road.

So I’m at Bulahdelah Tourism Centre, pacing. How can we see the biggest tree in NSW if we can’t drive there insured!? My son plays with his phone. My wife looks anxious.

Joe and Val, smiling septuagenarians manning the information desk flag us over. “Did you say you’d like to see the Grandis?” In a flash, we are bouncing around their brown LandCruiser to see our first big tree.

The Grandis Tree – a spectacular Flooded Gum – is the tallest tree in NSW and over 400 years old. With its ghostly trunk touched by the low afternoon light, it stands like a lighthouse amongst its lesser brethren. It’s over 70 metres. We are awestruck. This is bush whale watching. And it’s cleverly framed, as if walking into a shrine.

To get there I suggest coming in from Lakes Way to reach it as signage is not ideal. At Grandis you’ll find tables to enjoy a picnic and and there’s a toilet (a long drop that leads straight to hell). Finally, remember, you are in nature so listen to the chiming birds and smell the bouquet of the rainforest.

We depart for our accommodation at Diamond Waters Treehouse Retreat at Dunbogan (not Dumb Bogan as Siri insists). My son loves the accommodation as it’s like sleeping in a giant treehouse, only with Netflix.

The Grandis Tree - copyright Barrington Coast
A perfect pit stop north of Bulahdelah, Grandis picnic area is a must visit. At 76.2m high and with an enormous 11.5m circumference at its base, the Grandis rates as one of, if not the tallest tree in NSW. Credit: Barrington Coast

Tree 2: Old Bottlebutt (Corymbia gummifera) - Wauchope 

3 hrs 43 mins | 304kms

Bulahdelah to Wauchope 
1 hr 30 min | 134 km

The following morning, we leave Dunbogan, heading for the unofficial most mispronounced town in NSW, Wauchope (waw-hope?!).

In 1836, Captain Robert Andrew Wauch (he dropped 'ope' due to a family quarrel) purchased 760 acres on King Creek, calling the station ‘Wauchope’. From this seed a settlement grew. Encircled by verdant national parks, state forests and towering trees, it was an important timber town (it’s home to Australia’s largest Blackbutt forest) and was a vital dairy producer. Moreover, opened in 1976, Timbertown Pioneer Village (which we visit) underscores the district's 19th century timber origins.

At Wauchope we travel south on the Bago Road to our next old tree. Over 200 years old, the famous Old Bottlebutt is the largest Red Bloodwood tree in the Southern Hemisphere. Its unique shape, with its large flared ‘butt’, gives the tree its moniker.

Seeing it up close takes your breath away. A large, sheltered area and picnic table invites us to have a cuppa and an egg sandwich (we love egg sandwiches on road trips for some reason) before exploring the pretty 600-metre looped walking track, beginning and ending at the picnic area.

It’s all accessible via the Old Bottlebutt Walking Track. There are toilets here, too. Yep, long drop. We leave the tree to visit Timbertown.

The Old Bottlebutt Tree, Burrawan State Forest - Big Trees of NSW road trip
Old Bottlebutt' is a grand and ancient Red Bloodwood tree located in Burrawan State Forest. The largest recorded example of its kind, Old Bottlebutt is unique in shape, its large flared 'butt' having a massive girth of more than 16 metres just above its base. At over 200 years old, Old Bottlebutt is a must-see. Credit: Destination NSW 

Tree 3: Jack Feeney (Eucalyptus Microcorys) - Dorrigo

1h 51m | 137km

Wauchope to Dorrigo
2 hr 18 min | 180 km

From Wauchope, we head up to Dorrigo. I always assumed Dorrigo was an aboriginal name, but Major Parke – who explored the Dorrigo Plateau and fought in the Peninsula Wars under a Spanish General, Don Dorrigo – is said to have named the town after his friend. Though, it’s more likely that, like numerous NSW towns which are variations of indigenous names, the derivation of 'Don Dorrigo' is Dundurriga (Gumbaynggirr for the Stringybark).

Famed for its stunning waterfalls and bushwalks, I describe Dorrigo to Sydney chums as the ‘Blue Mountains of Bellingen’, and in keeping with our timber theme, most of the streets in Dorrigo are named after trees: Myrtle, Cypress, Rosewood, Mahogany, Tallowwood, Kurrajong, Ash, etc.

It’s a pretty  if not anxious  drive up the escapement to Dorrigo, with hairpin bends and surprise logging trucks (hey, don’t take any big trees, fellas). It takes us some time to find the Jack Feeney Tree on Coramba Rd, Dorrigo. The council needs to signpost it better as even the locals aren’t sure exactly where it is. But what a beauty! This stately tallowwood stands at 58 metres.

It’s humbling to stand beneath its wide belly and gaze skywards. Our son stands in the trunk for a photo to give the tree perspective. The following day we walk amongst treetops at the fabulous Dorrigo Rainforest Centre. The centre is run by passionate tree-folk going out of their way to help you engage with these woody leviathans.

Moreover, flanking the Dorrigo Rainforest Centre is the brillo Skywalk Lookout, which offers killer views over Dorrigo National Park and encompasses the Bellinger Valley to the coast. Bring the binoculars!

Jack Feeny Tree, Eucalyptus microcorys (tallow wood), near Dorrigo, New South Wales.
Jack Feeny Tree, Eucalyptus microcorys (tallowwood), near Dorrigo, New South Wales is possibly the largest tallowwood tree known. Its circumference is 10.09 metres and its height is 55.5 metres.

Enjoy the trip!

3hrs 46min | 318km

We really enjoyed our modest pilgrimage and have a new appreciation for the treasures that can be found if you are prepared to explore.

Remember to drop into your local tourism info centre. They are mostly run by lovely volunteers like Joe and Val who very kindly drove us to our first tree. But they will also steer you into other interesting areas of travel. Stop and have a chat with them.
Couple enjoying the scenery along the Crystal Shower Falls walk in Dorrigo National Park. Copyright status: Destination NSW copyright
We loved this road trip to find NSW's greatest trees, taking us to some of NSW's most beautiful forest areas, like Dorrigo (pictured). The next time you take a deep breath of air give credit to a tree or hug a tree in thanks for what it gives us – the very air we breathe! Image: Destination NSW