Secret NSW spot that stunned director

Production for Dark Noise began during the first wave of Covid-19 in May 2020 when the restrictions were endless so right away we realized we had to work out how to make the film locations an ever-present character, an ominous presence that could be felt throughout the story. For this to happen, we knew we needed epic canyons, waterfalls, escarpments, lush rainforests, dense bushland, and an elevated township that sees plenty of rain – the kind of place that could hide secrets and make viewers feel unsettled. Australia was in lockdown and border restrictions were in place so we knew we had to keep filming within the state and find the locations ourselves. With our wishlist in mind, Ben and I – with our two kids in tow – hit the road for the ultimate road trip we could bring to life on the big screen.

We traveled 1250km from the southernmost part of our journey to northern New South Wales and, after much searching, we found exactly what we were looking for. We locked in Oxley Wild Rivers National Park near Armidale in the Northern Tablelands, which has a magnificent rainforest as well as dramatic gorges and waterfalls, and we found Mountain Top estate, a coffee plantation in the Northern Rivers that has some of the most exquisite scenery and looks out over the Tweed River.

Lilburndale is an historic working 
farm and wedding venue on the Hawkesbury River near Sydney
Lilburndale is a working farm and wedding venue on the Hawkesbury River near Sydney

Locations around the Hawkesbury, in particular Lilburndale, a historic working farm, and wedding venue were found by a local locations manager and gifted us our sub-tropical rainforest, but our locations in Armidale and the Northern Tablelands were completely by accident. Having filmed the first block, we were looking to take the kids on a holiday somewhere different and decided to go north and inland, and, of course, we struck gold. I think the kids are so used to having their mum and dad pull over on the side of the road and start filming that it didn’t bother them at all. The Blue Mountains and the Southern Highlands rounded out the locations for the film.

Director Clara Chong filmed Dark Noise in NSW
Director Clara Chong filmed Dark Noise in NSW

I’ve traveled a lot in my 30 years as a director, but I’ve never seen anything quite like the landscape around Armidale. First, you have the drama of Wollomombi Falls, and this rich and varied vegetation. There’s something so breathtaking about the way it all comes together that it was perfect for some of the more dramatic scenes we have in Dark Noise. When Ben and I were editing we realized what we had was an Australian landscape you don’t often see on screen, if at all. I have no doubt viewers will come away with a whole new appreciation for what we have in our own backyards. In most cases, you only have to walk 200m from the carpark of a national park and you’ll find yourself in the most extraordinary environment.

Wollomombi Falls in Oxley Wild Rivers National Park is the highest waterfall in NSW
Wollomombi Falls in Oxley Wild Rivers National Park is the highest waterfall in NSW

Gorgeous landscapes aside, filming during the pandemic certainly had its challenges. Obviously, accessibility is important when you’re lugging equipment and calling in cast and crew from around the country, but that was probably the easiest part. The cast couldn’t touch one another because of social-distancing requirements and one cast member couldn’t fly in to film because Melbourne was in lockdown and we had to recast. So throughout the whole thing, I was rewriting to accommodate this new world we found ourselves in. Often we would take to driving New South Wales’ regional roads just to get some script inspiration or help with the decision-making process. The scenery didn’t just become a key character, but a valued production member in some situations.

Clara Chong on location with her kids
Clara Chong on location with her kids

Since filming wrapped, we’ve traveled up to the Northern Tablelands just to enjoy some downtime as a family. Some places have a way of getting under your skin and, as parents, it’s been wonderful spending time together in a part of the Australian wilderness that so few seem to know about. It’s definitely going to be our family holiday go-to.

This article originally appeared on Escape and do not necessarily represent the views of

About the author


Hi! I’m Ozzie!

Before joining Australia Exploring, I was a writer at Tripadvisor.

I'm looking for the best posts for you about travel adventures in Australia and around the world. This website has the purpose to inspire you to travel… travel more and better. I hope it can help you explore the world a little bit better.

I graduated from the University of Sydney. I live in California with my wife and two children.


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