The Road Less Travelled – Bendemeer to Narrabri and surrounds

The Road Less Travelled – Bendemeer to Narrabri and surrounds

I’m always looking for a dirt road over the black top

Time to head west and not take the usual black top route, I had a quick review of the Hema 4×4 atlas and found an alternate route.

The whole trip was from my home in Coffs Harbour to Narrabri. There are a few different ways to go and I have driven the black top routes many times.

Mix it up and head for Bendemeer

This time I decided to mix it up with some dirt road touring. Heading from Coffs, up through Dorrigo, Ebor, Armidale then on my way to Tamworth I decided to have a stop in Bendemeer. A small town that I’d passed right by many times before.


The Bungendore Spur Road sign

Bendemeer was originally founded as McDonald River in 1835, but renamed in 1853. Prior to this, the area was part of the Kamilaroi Aboriginal language group. Once crossing the McDonald River, I headed out along Watsons Creek – Manilla Road, then onto Bungendore Spur Road.

Narrow decent

Not far along here the second main sign reads ‘narrow descent – not suitable for trucks and caravans’ – I thought this seems interesting, it’s only about 5 km from here that it does get interesting.


I thought, ‘this seems interesting’


It’s only about 5 km from here that it does get interesting!

The switch back

The road which is just wider than the Hilux with steep drop offs on my passenger side, hope I don’t meet any oncoming traffic. Just a little further is the first 180° Switch back with a bowl cut in to do a 3-point turn.



Lat -30.7365 Lon 150.9443

If you had a van it would definitely be a disconnecting process. Less than 1km on, the second 180°, how cool is this!  Check this out – Lat -30.7365 Lon 150.9443 after this is a straight run to Halls Creek then Manilla.


After this a straight run to Halls Creek then Manilla

Reaching Manilla

At Manilla there are some great remaining Railway Timber Viaducts and Iron Bridges.


Railway timber viaducts at Manilla

After checking them out it was time to look for the next dirt road. Heading out along Rangari Road for a mix of blacktop and dirt.

Next stop – Dripping Rock

Out of nowhere a Racecourse appears, then shortly after a turn off to Dripping Rock.


Random racecourse

A slight detour, one way in and out. If the area wasn’t in drought it would be an amazing water hole to relax and escape the heat. But this time there was barely any water and it smelt like goat pee, but still worth the drive.


Dripping rock walking track


Jez grabbing the perfect selfie at Dripping Rock

Next stop – the incredible Sawn Rocks!

While I was based in Narrabri for work for the next 6 days, I looked up what else was within reach to explore in the afternoons after I had finished my day job.

One spot I had driven past numerous times but never turned off was Sawn Rocks, about 36km out of Narrabri on Kilarney Gap road, an impressive pentagonal basalt – Pipe Organ like structure which just blew my mind!


The impressive pentagonal basalt structure – ‘Sawn Rocks’

Sawn Rocks is within Mount Kaputar National Park. From the carpark it’s about a 15min walk in and on has pretty good path. This rock formation comes from the slow and even cooling of molten rock that enable individual crystals within the rock to align perfectly with each other.


‘Sawn Rocks’ is within Mount Kaputar National Park

A quick 58km one way trip to – Waa Gorge

The next afternoon adventure was a quick 58km one-way trip to Waa Gorge on the road to Terry Hie Hie. Driving along the dusty road.


Heading in the right direction to Waa Gorge

Waa Gorge appeared in the distance, with numerous gates to go through this one-man adventure involved more in and out action than the horizontal folk dance with the missus.


Just one of the many gates to pass through

With the info sign saying a 1hr walk to Waa Gorge, I had my doubts but hey let’s go explore.


Mount Kaputar National Park information sign

You first come across the Mill – Bullah waterholes that weren’t as deep as you’d expect due to the drought in this area.


Mill-Bullah waterholes – on the low side during a drought

The waterholes and waterfalls would be spectacular after some rain. As I hiked up past the plunge pools on this mild 43° day I decided it was best to explore Waa Gorge another day when it was a bit cooler and I wasn’t alone for safety reasons. Time to head back to Narrabri Bowlo for a few cold frothies.


Mill-Bullah Waterfalls on the dry side

The Pilliga – Artesian Bore Baths

As another afternoon knockoff approached, Pilliga – Artesian Bore Baths was next on my list. Having been to Moree and Burren Junction bore baths, I heard that Pilliga was the pic of the bunch as far as the baths go and only an hour’s drive from Narrabri.


The Pilliga – Artesian Bore Baths


Jez at the Pilliga – Artesian Bore Baths


Pilliga Bore – Established 1902

It was a toasty 43° when I visited. On reading the information board I found that the bore was sunk in 1902 as part of the town’s permanent water supply and even at 38° felt cool on this hot summer’s day.


The bore was sunk in 1902 as part of the town’s permanent water supply

After the bore I’m onto a couple of schooeys at the pub and the purchase of another coldie holder would be the order of the day.


Time to knock a couple back at the Pilliga Hotel

How tough it was back then

On the way, there’s plenty to see if you really look. I don’t know why it is but I love looking at old infrastructure, disused railway lines, loading cranes, grain silos. Just thinking of how tough it was back then and the effort it took to survey, design, build and maintain these services before cars and trucks took over.


An old timber bridge


Angles of the old timber bridge


Old farmyard relics


Grain silos with a mackerel sky

Other things spotted along the way were old concrete mile markers, wedge tail eagles, old shearing quarters and plenty of rusty tin.


Concrete mile marker


Wedgetail Eagle

Arriving at Pilliga having a quick drive around this semi remote town which was established back around 1867 things have slowly changed, but not that much. It would have been quite tough living back in those days.


An old scraper


An old rusted up Loading Crane

Live Coordinates of these locations

Racecourse in the middle of nowhere – -30.6810° 150.2361°

Dripping Rock Turn Off – -30.6578° 150.1922°

Dripping Rock –      -30.5966° 150.2962°

Sawn Rocks – -30.1453° 150.0540°

Mill-Bullah Waterholes – -30.0634° 150.0998°

Words and Images by Jereme Lindsell of Trickydevil Offroad for North Storm waterproof bags


Instagram: @trickydeviloffroad 
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