The holidays are a wonderful opportunity to get the kids (and adults!) off the screens and take some time to explore nature. Walking in nature allows you to connect with nature, but also with your walking partners.
Exploration and seeing new things, combined with fresh air and some exercise allows a complete reset and brings you back to who you really are without the distractions of our modern lives ... isn't it time we reconnected?
Here, Jenae Johnson of Bushwalk the Gong shares her pick of the best local trails to get the whole family interested in nature ...
1. KIAMA COASTAL TRAIL
Looking for a coastal adventure with the dog? This pet-friendly walk around our rugged southern coastline provides epic views, geological wonders and some history lessons care of the informational signage. You may even spot some whales and seals.
What you need to know: With various entry and exit points, the walk can be extended to about 22kms so choose the distance that suits you. This is a very open trail, so don't forget sunscreen and appropriate clothing. Suitable for beginner and younger walkers.
Highlights: The historic sites and treasures, including Cathedral Rocks and the Blowhole.
2. MADDENS FALLS
Looking for a short adventure? This trail leads to a beautiful waterfall along a path bustling with birds and exquisite wildflowers. Suitable for the whole family, and those with lesser mobility or confidence with bushwalking.
What you need to know: Part of the Dharawal National Park, the walk starts on Darkes Forest Road in Darkes Forest. There is a small car park and information board that marks the trail head. It starts down a wide maintenance trail with a slight downhill section, before reaching the boardwalk after about 200-odd metres. Suitable for beginner and younger walkers.
Highlights: After checking out the magnificent falls, duck across the road to Glenbernie Orchard for a crisp apple juice or cider.
3. NELLIES GLEN AND CARRINGTON FALLS
Looking for a choose-your-own-adventure walk? Take a country road trip to the beautiful Budderoo National Park near Robertson and enjoy a suite of walks leading to waterfalls, swimming holes and magical canyon views.
What you need to know: Suitable for beginners, the trails are well marked, with multiple adventures in and around Nellies Glen, including the Blue Pool, Missingham Lookouts and Carrington Falls. There's also the option to expand the walks to a full day of adventure and exploration. Head to Jamberoo Mountain Road at the Carrington Falls turn-off, 10 kilometres from Robertson and take your pick between the Blue Pool car park or the Nellies Glen car park.
Highlights: Warris Chair is about 500m from the car park at Nellies Glen, so not too far and an easy flat stroll for kids, offering jaw-dropping views of the valley below.
4. MT KEIRA RING TRAIL
Looking for a solid adventure for all ages? The Mount Keira ring trail offers rugged trails, wildlife and spectacular views. A myriad of trails twist and turn around the track providing a great workout and plenty of adventure.
What you need to know: A very attractive feature to the ring track is the availability of different trails and terrains that sprout from the main track. In fact, even doing the track in 'reverse' allows for a completely different experience. The best starting spot is Byarong Park car park. If you are driving up from Wollongong on Mt Keira Road, it is a small car park on the left, just before the Archery Range (if you go past the Girl Guide Camp you missed it, so turn around).
Highlights: Lookout for the cheeky birdlife and interesting plant life - maybe some fungi in the cooler months.
5. WODI WODI TO MT MITCHELL
Looking for a walk to test your fitness and stamina? This longer version of the Wodi Wodi track will take you through creek beds and rainforest, before joining the Forest Trail where you can feast your eyes on breathtaking views of the northern Illawarra coastline.
What you need to know: Not for the faint hearted, this trail is rough, with little to no signage - and it's nice and steep. Suitable for confident and fit bushwalkers only. The long, steep trail starts at the Stanwell Park Railway station on the western side, right off the platform - if you're on the east (southbound), just pass under the tracks through the brightly painted tunnel. You'll reach a sign for a side trail, which goes to Stanwell Tops and the function centre. For the Wodi Wodi walk, continue ahead, eventually heading downhill.
Highlights: This trail is a great way for teenagers to experience some serious wilderness with a few challenges - and of course get the must-have Instagram selfie at the peak.
Head to bushwalkthegong.com for full trail guides.
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