National parks visitation at an all-time high with locals exploring their backyards

Warrumbungle National Park, Pilliga National Park seeing much higher visitor numbers than normal

Tourism
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It's been a busy Christmas and New Years for the NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service.

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COVID-19 has dealt a blow to many of the region's industries, but business is booming in our local national parks.

Warrumbungle National Park and Pilliga National Park are both seeing a huge increase in the number of day visitors and overnight visitors exploring their own backyard.

NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) area manager, John Whittall, said the Warrumbungles had some of its campsites booked out over the Christmas and New Year period, which was "really unusual for us".

"Normally we get a handful of people that stay in the park over Christmas, this year we think we had about 80 campers," Mr Whittall said.

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He said this was because of recent rain and travel restrictions. The water is also flowing freely in the park's waterways.

"The fact that it's been raining and it's beautiful and green and looks lovely out there, and then because of COVID-19, instead of going interstate or overseas they're travelling some of their regions," he told the Leader.

"They're packing up the families and experiencing regional NSW, so that's a real benefit of COVID if you can find any positives from it."

Most people who camp at this park take on the grand high tops walk, Mr Whittall said, whereas the grey nomads "just want to stay somewhere nice".

"They may do the walks but some are getting to the stage where they can't," he said.

Over at the Pilliga Forest Discovery Centre, Mr Whittall said January's were "usually really dead", but this year "anecdotally it's busier than normal".

Visitation had increased three-fold over November and December at this centre, with tourists checking out the Sculptures in the Scrub.

"I would say there was a fair few more day trippers than campers but we did have people camping out there as well," the area manager said.

He said the increasing heat might impact numbers, "but not to the extent it usually does because people are still travelling around NSW".

Locals wishing to camp in any NSW national parks now need to book online through the NPWS website, so they can keep track of who has come in for COVID-19 tracing.

The story National parks visitation at an all-time high with locals exploring their backyards first appeared on The Northern Daily Leader.

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