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Australia’s most spectacular landscapes and seascapes are to be found in our National Parks. They are places for exploration and immersing oneself in nature, are great for a low cost family holiday and are also the most important places for conservation and biodiversity. The best National Parks in Australia include great wilderness areas and some marine parks as well, and are a lasting legacy for future generations.
There are 681 parks in Australia bearing the title “National Park” when in fact the majority are State Parks. These parks are owned, managed and funded by State Governments through agencies such as the New South Wales Parks & Wildlife Service and Parks Victoria. To be accurate Australia has 6 Commonwealth National Parks, the Australian National Botanic Gardens and 58 Commonwealth Marine Parks that protect some of the country’s most stunning natural areas and Aboriginal heritage.
Included in our National Park count are Booderee National Park, NSW; Christmas Island National Park; Kakadu National Park, NT; Norfolk Island National Park; Pulu Keeling National Park, Cocos (Keeling) Islands; Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park, NT.
I have asked some other travel bloggers where are the best National Parks (or State Parks) in Australia and here is what they’ve come up with.
Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park is one of the most iconic National Parks in Australia. It is also one of the only places in the world which has received dual listings on the UNESCO World Heritage list – for both nature and culture.
Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park is located within Australia’s Red Centre in the Northern Territory. While Uluru is the main drawcard, for obvious reasons, it is not the only landmark on offer here. Kata Tjuta – otherwise known as “The Olgas” is also well worth visiting, especially if you enjoy hiking. This rock formation is located about 45 minutes’ drive from Uluru.
There is plenty to see and do within this region, even though the Uluru rock climb was officially closed in October 2019 due to the sacredness of the site for Australia’s Indigenous community.
Uluru is a fantastic site to visit, with helicopter flights to get that birds eye view or the walking trail around the base which is 10km in distance and takes about 3-4 hours if you stop to take photos. There are also other activities like Segway tours, or even hiring a bicycle and taking a few rides around the track which can be done if you don’t want to walk it.
Kata Tjuta also has a lot of options for walks and hiking, with the Valley of the Winds a must do. This walk is a little bit strenuous if you do the whole thing – but it is worth it. The views are amazing and the winds really do surround you throughout. The distance for the whole hike is around 7.4km and takes a good 2-2.5 hours to complete. For those looking for a less strenuous option here, the Walpa Gorge is a good place to explore too.
Sunrise and sunset are must do’s for either location, but there is a real magic about seeing the day start and end looking at Uluru. Ayers Rock Resort also offer a lot of free activities so visitors can gain a real understanding of Indigenous perspectives during their stay.
No matter what you choose to see and do in Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park, it will truly be a memory that is ingrained in your soul forever. This place is magical. Do not miss out on visiting it.
Kakadu National Park is Australia’s largest national park and is one of just 20 UNESCO World Heritage sites in the world to be listed for both cultural and natural values.
This spectacular national park protects six major habitats and a huge number of animals and birds, including the infamous saltwater crocodile and the iconic Jabiru stork. From a cultural perspective it is not only renowned for its incredible Aboriginal Rock Art, which dates back as far as 20,000 years, but also for being home to the oldest human habitation site in Australia.
Highlights of exploring Kakadu include visiting these rock art sites at Ubirr Rock, taking a sunrise boat ride on the Yellow Water Billabong to observe the incredible wildlife waking up, swimming in one of the many beautiful waterholes and just enjoying the vast sweeping scenery.
Note that Kakadu is best visited during dry season (May – October) as during the wet season, many roads are impassable and swimming holes are closed.
Namadgi National Park is remote and wild yet has an abundance of Aboriginal cultural sites, early European settler sites and plenty of Aussie wildlife. Situated in the Australian Capital Territory (ACT) (where Canberra, the capital, is located), Namadgi stretches across 160 kilometres with many marked walking tracks that suits any type of adventurer.
Two of my favourite parts to explore are Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve and Bendora Arboretum. Tidbinbilla gives you the opportunity to get up close to Australian wildlife. There are plenty of kangaroos, wombats, emus, koalas and even the elusive platypus along plenty of other birds and mammals.
The other must see is Bendora. So what is so special about it here? Well this place was established in 1940 as an experiment on what type of commercial trees can be grown in and around Canberra. There were 21 of these experimental arboretums created in the ACT but 20 were destroyed during the 2003 bush fires. Bendora holds an interesting mixture of trees that you wouldn’t normally see in this part of Australia so it is definitely worth it for any explorer.
Did you know that three million day-trippers visit the Blue Mountains National Park every year? This is the most visited National Park in NSW and one of 20 World Heritage sites in Australia. So what makes this place a must-see? Well, if you get beyond the famous lookouts that attract the tour buses in their hundreds, you will discover true wilderness.
The park covers 250 million hectares, much of it inaccessible and rarely ever visited. In 1994, the Wollemi Pine, a species of tree considered one of the rarest and oldest in the world, was discovered by a bushwalker in a remote part of the park. Add to this more than 150 species of plants that are not found anywhere else in the world, and you have a unique environment.
The Blue Mountains National park, which is ten times older than the Grand Canyon, has more walking tracks than any other in the country. Hikers will appreciate the 140 kilometres of signed walking trails to explore with paths graded from easy to very challenging. There are also dozens of waterfalls, some large popular ones but many tiny hidden ones too. While the bushfires of 2020 damaged a large area of the park, much of it survived, and new growth is sprouting.
One of the best National Parks in NSW and Australia that we’ve visited is the Tomaree National Park, which is spread around the coastline of the vast Port Stephens natural harbour on the state’s Mid North Coast.
It’s named after Tomaree Head, a mountain at the entrance to the harbour, with parts of it on both the north and south sides of the harbour.
Tomaree National Park is unique because of its combination of incredible landscapes and amazing wildlife-watching opportunities. Port Stephens sells itself as the dolphin-spotting capital of Australia, and we’ve seen some every time we’ve been out in the harbour, whether on organised tours or on the boat by ourselves. It’s also a great whale-watching destination between May and November.
However, we love it mostly because of its incredible beaches. Start with the 20-minute hike up Tomaree Head to what is surely one of the best views in all Australia, with three small beaches below and a sand bar stretching across to an island in the distance. The path starts from the car park next to Zenith Beach, at the foot of the mountain, one of the most sublime beaches you could ever hope to see.
One of the best National Parks in Australia has to be the beautiful the Bouddi National Park located on the NSW Central Coast. The Central Coast is a popular holiday spot thanks to its lovely beaches and iconic natural areas. The name Bouddi is the aboriginal local name for the area which means heart and was one of the first national parks established in NSW, making it a pretty special spot!
Covering almost 1,532-hectares of protected land there are many walks to do in Bouddi National Park. Our top pick is the 3km Coastal walk that runs from Putty Beach to Maitland Bay (or you can go all the way to Macmaster’s Beach which is around 8km).
The walk is fairly easy making it a great option for all ages and fitness levels and definitely a great one to do with kids! Along the boarded track you will see views for days, wildlife and native floral and vegetation. At the end of the walk, you will be rewarded with the stunning Maitland Bay, a sheltered cove that is perfect for cooling off with a dip in the calm ocean!
Tip: Start your walk at Putty Beach where you can park in the car park for $8.00 a day or just outside on the side of the road free of charge. You will then walk straight onto Putty Beach to begin your journey to Maitland Bay.
A must on any Sydney to Broken Hill drive is Mungo National Park! It is known for its photogenic “Walls of China” and panoramic star-studded skies. Located a 420 km or 4.5h drive from Broken Hill, Mungo National Park is a dream for anyone looking for out-of-this-world scenery. Expect clay formations that look like the surface of the moon and, if you get lucky, an electric sunrise and sunset.
Mungo National Park delivers on everything that it promises and gives you an added bonus, one of the world’s most important cultural and archaeological treasures: Mungo Lake. Formed around 100,000 years ago, the now dried-up lake provided proof of human presence dating back over 45,000 years ago!
Most visitors will rightfully so come to see the famous “Walls of China”. They are viewable from a platform or through one of the walking tours. As the fragile clay formations and archaeological findings are protected, you can only get up close and personal with a guide present, but they are very special indeed. You can book both a daytime and sunset tour, but I do highly recommend going at nightfall as sunset amongst the Walls of China is nothing short of magical.
I’m fortunate to live near a selection of gorgeous Gondwana Rainforest National Parks being close to the New South Wales and Queensland border. One of these is the sensational Springbrook National Park in the Gold Coast Hinterland, only 32 kilometres from the Gold Coast.
The drive up is very scenic upon a steep and winding road where you’re rewarded with glimpses of breathtaking views down deep forested canyons and back over the high-rise buildings of the Gold Coast. Along the way there are many lookouts with panoramic views, quaint little cafes and teahouses to stop for some refreshments, parks with picnic and BBQ facilities and walking trails to suit all levels of fitness.
Before you know it you are amidst spectacular waterfalls, lush rainforest, ancient trees, impressive views, exceptional ecological diversity and natural beauty.
You can explore these forest habitats with nine different walks where you will encounter the diverse wildlife – such as the the elusive and unique Albert’s Lyrebird. These include: Purling Brook Falls, Wunburra Lookout, Canyon Lookout, Goomoolahra Falls Lookout, Best Of All Lookout, Twin Falls Circuit and Warrie Falls Circuit.
I would highly recommend a drive to Springbrook National Park to visitors and locals alike for a great day trip from the Gold Coast or Brisbane.
The world heritage-listed Daintree in Far North Queensland is comprised of two sections—Mossman Gorge and Cape Tribulation. It is a must see experience when you’re travelling to Cairns or Port Douglas. The Daintree covers an area of around 12,000 square kilometres and is the largest continuous area of tropical rainforest on the Australian continent. Along the coastline north of the Daintree River, tropical rainforest grows right down to the edge of the sea – a spectacular sight.
Mossman Gorge is located in the southern part of Daintree National Park, 80 kilometres north of the regional town of Cairns and about five kilometres from the cane-farming town of Mossman. Upon arrival the Mossman Gorge Centre, an indigenous eco-friendly building, is located at the entrance to Mossman Gorge. Here you can learn about the Kuku Yalanji people and visit the art gallery and shop which showcases the art and design of the local Kuku Yalanji people and leading Indigenous artists from across Far North Queensland.
After leaving Mossman Gorge you travel a distance of about 6 kilometres before you come to the second section of the Daintree National Park. Here you can enjoy a very educational one hour boat cruise down the Daintree River with an experienced guide, learning about the river and its eco system. We saw a large amount of estuarine crocodiles, endemic birds to the region, frogs, pythons, tree snakes, butterflies and insects – some of these are rare and only found in this area.
It’s worthwhile driving further northwards towards Cape Tribulation that entails catching a vehicular barge across the Daintree River. A stop at the Daintree Discovery Centre is recommended where we learned a bit more about the Daintree rainforest, its flora and fauna. There is an elevated boardwalk through the lush green rainforest with interpretive signage along the way highlighting the flora and fauna that is native to the forest.
It’s a very scenic drive towards the town of Cape Tribulation with many places to stop and take in the panoramic views of where the rainforest meets the ocean. Make sure you’re on the lookout for the rare Cassowary bird!
South Bruny National Park in Tasmania, is an exciting mix of towering coastal cliffs, rugged woodlands and sandy beaches looking to the immense Southern Ocean.
Read how to get from Hobart to Bruny Island.
South Bruny National Park walking trails cater for all levels of fitness, the shortest being a 1.5 hour easy return on the east coast from Adventure bay to Grass Point with it’s ruined whaling station.
A more strenuous walk is East Cloudy Head Walking trail, a 12 km return wilderness walk accessed from the west coast town of Lunawanna. The walk leads South-East along the beach before climbing a steep heathland track to East Cloudy Head and unsurpassed ocean views. Birds nest on the surf beach during Spring and Summer.
The shining light of the National Park is Cape Bruny Lighthouse. First fired by sperm whale oil in 1838, it was replaced by a separately housed solar light in 1996.
From the Car Park a bunny filled lawn joins the fairly steep lighthouse walk. Even without taking a tour (the only way to get inside the building), the views from the lighthouse base are not to be missed. West lies the most southerly point of mainland Tasmania and to the north Mt. Wellington. East is Lighthouse Bay with it’s deserted picture perfect beach, accessible only by a steep track nearby historic graves.
The rugged wilderness of South Bruny National Park is complemented by an emerging tourist industry outside the boundary, making Bruny Island an exciting destination.
Port Campbell National Park is one of the best-known Aussie National Parks, although it is better known as the most famous section of the beautiful Great Ocean Road.
The Great Ocean Road runs for over 200 kilometres to the south-west of Melbourne – beginning in Torquay and running past the small town of Port Campbell. What many consider the ‘most exciting’ part, with incredible sandstone cliffs and ‘rocky stacks’ out in the water, is within Port Campbell National Park.
Port Campbell National Park is one of the must-see day trips from Melbourne, although I recommend spending at least 2-3 days doing a Great Ocean road trip. It deserves extra time so you can see the famous Twelve Apostles lookout as well as some amazing tiny towns along the coast, koalas along certain parts of the road, and a famous gourmet food trail as well.
Karijini National Park is in the Pilbara region of Western Australia. It’s about 1400 kms from Perth. When you make camp at Karijini you might wonder why you bothered. On the surface, it’s a land of red dust, flies and scrubby vegetation. But, the beauty of Karijini is in its gorges.
From the incredible colour and shape of the rocks to waterfalls, rock pools and lush vegetation, each gorge has its own unique look. Depending on the gorge, you can find yourself wading through water, stepping over cubes of multi coloured rock or walking through head-high grass.
They are like nothing you have seen before. The gorges to Google to see what’s in store are Dales, Joffre, Hancock (including Kermit’s pool), Weano (including Handrail pool) and Knox. Also check out the four gorge view from Oxer Lookout.
We spent 3 days in Karijini with our 8 and 10 year old who had no problem with the walks and climbing. The most accessible gorge is Dales. It has Fern Pool at one end, Circular Pool at the other and Fortescue falls in between. Circular Pool is a great place for a swim.
Accommodation options range from unpowered campsites at Dales Campground, which is adjacent to Dales Gorge, or the upmarket Karijini Eco Retreat near Joffre Gorge.
There is a reason Karijini is on the bucket list of so many travellers. Exploring the Karijini gorges was one of the best experiences we had on our trip around Australia.
Leeuwin Naturaliste National Park is in Australia’s south-west corner and is the most visited national park in Western Australia. Located in the Margaret River region, it hugs the rugged coastline, stretching from Bunker Bay in the north to Augusta in the south.
At the northern end lies Cape Naturaliste where visitors can view the lighthouse which local legend says is haunted by ghosts. At the southern end, the national park stretches to Cape Leeuwin, Australia’s most southern point and the Cape Leeuwin Lighthouse which was built in 1895.
The Leeuwin Naturaliste National Park is unique for its diverse natural features. These include impressive granite formations such as Sugarloaf Rock and Canal Rocks, towering Karri forests with some of the tallest trees in the world and the spectacular coastal scenery. The park is also home to over 300 limestone caves, including Jewel Cave which is one of Australia’s largest caves open to the public. These features can all be explored on the 135 km long Cape to Cape Hiking Trail which is Australia’s longest coastal walk.
The national park’s biggest claim to fame, however, is the incredible surf breaks peppered along the entire coast. The awe-inspiring break such as Supertubes, The Box and Lefthanders near Gracetown regularly attract the world’s best surfers in the winter months when the swell is the most powerful.
At the time of publishing this collaborative post Australia is almost in total lockdown with state borders closed to visitors and tourists. However at present we are encouraged to get outdoors and exercise in the fresh air. I can’t think of anything better than getting out into your backyard and visiting some of your Australian National and State Parks.
Kathy was a 50 something year old when she started up this blog 6 years ago, but has since turned over another decade and is now in her early 60s. She is married with two adult children and lives on the Tweed Coast of New South Wales, Australia. Kathy enjoys living life to the fullest and loves to keep fit and active by maintaining a healthy diet and exercising regularly. Some of her interests include reading, photography, travelling, cooking and blogging! Kathy works part-time as a freelance writer but her real passion is travelling and photographing brilliant destinations both within Australia and overseas and writing about it.