The Drip Gorge & Hands on Rock

Author: Matthew

9th September 2019

“The Bondi of the Bush”

As a regular traveller for work, I have the pleasure of visiting all manner of places, across Australia and abroad. I’ve long been a firm believer in making the most of an opportunity. I find that every experience has something to offer, if you make the effort to embrace it.

When a new project came up last year, I approached the idea with my usual cautious optimism. “Matt,” my business developer tells me, “we’ve got a great bit of work with a new client, and it’s got your name all over it. It’s down in Mudgee – beautiful place. You’re gonna love it. It’s the Bondi of the Bush.”

Well, let’s say I didn’t find that moniker in any of the tourist brochures.

Still, I knew that I wanted to keep myself busy exploring the town and surrounds, so I got to work on the research. I have a keen interest in exploring the outdoors, and it soon became clear: there were going to be plenty of things to do!

The list continues to grow, and over the coming weeks, I look forward to sharing some of these everyday adventures.

A Toad by the Road

For my first trip, in mid-February, I decided on a pair of bushwalks about half an hour (55 km) to the north of Mudgee: The Drip Gorge, and Hands on Rock. I set out on a Sunday morning, but just fifteen minutes out of town, had found a reason to pull over.

As Destination NSW explains:

Frog Rock is a natural granite rock formation by the side of the road, in the shape of a crouching frog. The granite from this area was used in the construction of the new Parliament House in Canberra.

I hopped out of the car for a quick photo op, then continued on.

The Drip

My first main stop was at The Drip Gorge, in Goulburn River National Park. The trailhead carpark is accessible via a short, unsealed road, and with a bit of care, it was easily navigable by 2WD.

The main viewing area is a 2.8 km return journey by foot, estimated to take 1–1.5 hours. The track is graded between 3 and 4 on the Australian Walking Track Grading System, indicating “bushwalking experience recommended.”

Gorgeous Gorges

I found the main path to be well maintained and easy to follow, and a pair of cross trainers proved to be suitable footwear. The trail snakes through the scrub, under dappled shade and the stunning sandstone formations. Before long, I found myself at the cliff that gives the area its name.

After rain, the water percolates down through the porous stone, then slowly drip … drip … drips out between strata in the rock face. This keeps the area cool and damp, and a vibrant, viridian band of foliage has taken hold along the wall.

Around the Bend

From The Drip proper, experienced walkers are invited to push on along the creek towards Corner Gorge (2 hours return), so I decided to see what else lay beyond. Progress was a little slower, off the beaten track: some shallow wading or stepping stones to cross the river, then tramping along the soft bank or scrambling up leaf-strewn slopes.


Despite the physical exertion, I found the experience remarkably peaceful. Birds called from overhead; insects darted amongst the river grass; clawed footprints suggested a passing wallaby; and at one point a wary goanna scurried off the track and up a nearby tree.

Is Anyone Home?

Uphill from the river, following the bottom of the cliff face again, I came upon a small cave entrance that had been mostly obscured by fallen rock. Some track marks and scat suggested comings and goings, but the tenants must’ve been out for the day!

Small animal cave

A little way further along, the rock wall gave way to a much larger open space, where an overhang provided shade to a soft, sandy floor. As the mid-morning sun climbed higher and hotter, I spent a few minutes’ respite enjoying the view out over the creek.

Looking out from the cave

Disaster Strikes

Having come to Mudgee for work, I hadn’t thought to pack a small “day backpack” for bushwalking. Instead, I’d thrown some fruit, muesli bars and a handful of lollies into one plastic bag, my water bottle into another, and secured them to either side of my belt.

This worked for a while, but—by the time I was making the return journey along the creek, hopping from one rock to the next—with repeated jostling the bags had begun to fray. I’d just made one particularly daring leap when both bags burst apart, sending my bottle and snacks tumbling into the water below.


Not to be deterred, I fished everything out again, shook the water off, and wrapped up my possessions in my jumper. I managed to tie it all up into make-shift sling, and after few test shakes… yes, everything was secure! The height of fashion and function, even if I say so myself.

Wearing a makeshift sling

Hands on Rock

Aboriginal stencil rock art

Just up the road, another trailhead leads to Hands on Rock Reserve. This is a shorter, easier walk than The Drip: just a 1 km / 45-minute round trip, on Grade 3 track. (“Suitable for most ages and fitness levels. Some bushwalking experience recommended.”)

This area is significant to the Wiradjuri people, and was traditionally a place for women and children. The reserve is the site of aboriginal rock art, featuring over a hundred stencils of hands, emu feet and other motifs.

A nearby plaque further informs visitors:

The paints were made from pigments derived from many naturally occurring substances, such as ochre … mixed with water, blood, fats or sap to make a paste. The paint was then applied using brushes of chewed twigs; with the fingers and hand; or blowing from the mouth.

Hands Off Rock

The site’s exact age is not determined, but there is concern that the artworks have begun to deteriorate. It particularly disappointed me to see that previous visitors had ignored requests to stay on the boardwalk, having trampled the ground in front of the rock face. It is my hope that future visitors will show the site respect, and preserve it for generations to come.

Further reading