If there’s ever a location that reminds us of the beauty of wilderness camping, Mann River Nature Reserve is it. Located in a valley in the Gibraltar Ranges, off the winding dirt road of the Old Glen Innes Road (between Grafton and Glen Innes), the park’s relative isolation keeps it pristine.
Not only is it peaceful and quiet, but we're surrounded by wallabies and kangaroos!
When the mama kangaroo bends down to nibble at the grass, the joey in her pouch can also reach the tips of the grass.
There are beautifully flat, bush-lined designated camping spots on one side of the reserve, perfect for caravans.
We choose to park past the toilets and the most stingy mulberry tree we've met this season. Although we're on slightly sloping land, we're away from those who may use generators and closer to the creek.
While Calista collects the wood for our small fire, her sisters sit further up the hill and sketch the wallabies and kangaroos that are grazing nearby. Providing the weather is good, a camp-fire is almost an Australian right, and the ranger drops off piles of timber off-cuts so that the campers don't forage in the nearby woods for their firewood.
I appreciate the installed fire-places. They feature plates, chains and hooks — all accessories to make cooking over the fire very easy.
The only cooking we're doing tonight is marshmallows. Aisha and Calista have been wanting toasted marshmallows for months, but previously we've been restricted by fire-bans in our camping spots.
As well as large kangaroos and smaller wallabies, we saw fireflies dancing along in the dark. The family camping next to us spotted a platypus in the water one morning, which is highly unusual and is a great indication of the water’s purity.
This is granite country, and the huge rocks are strewn throughout the river valley, forming shallow streams, swimming holes and short lengths of "rapids" in the Mann River waterway.
Every desire to go swimming is prefaced by an adventure in rock climbing and jumping. The girls love to play on the variety of landforms, and when water's involved, there's no obstacle too hard!
Eddies of coarse, yellow sand make little beaches along the water.
The girls play in the mostly shallow stream and try riding their boards down the short lengths of more rapid water.
There's so much variety to the Mann River here at the reserve. Some parts are shady and shallow, others have sunny swimming holes. There are rocks and muddy patches and sand, too.
We loved playing at this spot. The girls entered in Nerf wars with other kids, played in the water and on the rocks, sketched the wildlife that surround the place and used the natural environment as the basis for the endlessly creative fantasy worlds they inhabit.
Mann River Nature Reserve is definitely now a family favourite, and the only possible improvement would be to bring some of our friends to camp alongside us. If you’re passing by Glen Innes or Grafton, it’s definitely worth stopping here for a day or two!