Australia National Parks
"Australia National Parks offer THE best scenery and landscapes"
Australia is the driest continent in the world and is part of a former giant land mass, Gondwana, which connected the southern continents of Africa, Antarctica, Australia, India and South America, and broke up more than 100 million years ago.
Today there are 516 National Parks in Australia covering 3% of the land. That might not sound very much but given the size of Australia, it equates to 25 million hectares!
The parks are looked after by state governments but there are some National Parks that are deemed so significant that they are looked after by the Federal Government.
A trip to Australia should include a trip to an Australia National Park. In fact, it’s hard not to – most of the key attractions or travellers routes will take in some of the best National Parks.
I couldn’t possibly take you through all 516 Australia National Parks. What I intend to do is tell you about some of the best ones.
How the Australia National Parks Operate
They can be very large and have often acquired Australian National Park status due to its ancient rock art (Uluru Kata Tjuta - Ayers Rock), special plants or trees, or wildlife. Generally the average visitor only gets to visit a small pocket of the park given its size but there are others that are more manageable given they are smaller.
Generally you will be asked to pay an entrance fee to get in an Australia National Park. The entrance fee is either per person or per vehicle. Its not usually very much (around $10 per person) but it can be more expensive in very popular areas such as Ayers Rock. The pass is usually valid for 48 hours.
Camping in Australia National Parks
Many people choose to camp in Australia National Parks. This is a great idea if you like the open air and arent too worried about snakes or spiders (only joking!) There are usually designated areas for camping and there are strict campfire regulations given the risk of bush fires. The facilities are usually quite basic though so dont expect hot showers. That said, some of them do!
Camping requires a permit and you must book well in advance to get a camping spot. You can search the government websites to find the campsites that have the facilities you require. Remember you will need to do this for each state. If your trip falls near Christmas then you really need to book well in advance. This is the most popular time due to the school holidays around this time. Some of the parks even run a ballot where your name is pulled out of a hat if you are one of the lucky ones.
Visit Camping Australia
The Best of Australia National Parks
So which are the best Australia National Parks to visit? To be honest, it is a very subjective view and it depends what you are looking for. Whichever you pick, they all have stunning scenery. I've tried to group them into different themes to make your choice a little easier.
Whitsunday National Park
Whitehaven Beach and the islands of the Whitsunday are all deemed to be an important Australia National Park. The islands were formed when changing sea levels drowned a mountain range. The scenery is spectacular and the marine life is also protected as this area is part of the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage site. You can also spot whales here between May and September.
For an awesome walk with great views, try the walk through woodland from Tongue Bay (Whitsunday Island) to a lookout for a beautiful view over Hill Inlet and Whitehaven Beach. You can also take a short walk that leads to the aboriginal rock art site at Nara Inlet (Hook Island). Go to Whitsundays Australia for more information about the different islands and where to stay.
Booderee National Park – Jervis Bay
I felt like I was in an advert for Malibu or Bounty chocolate – a paradise of white sandy beaches and perfect turquoise water. My favourite beach here is Green Patch. Use the entrance inside the Australian National Park (rather than the one outside) as its much quieter and in my opinion more serene.
There’s more than one beach to choose from which is good as this area can get quite windy. If its windy on one side, it tends to be calmer on the other. Murrays Beach and Cave beach are my other favourites. There are also some nice walks around Streamers Head down to St Geoge’s head. The walk will take you about 3 hours. But if you just fancy a light walk then try Cave beach to Bherwerre Beach – 2km from the car park. There is also a nice Botanical Garden here too where you can take a leisurely stroll through the trees. A good place to go Kangaroo spotting too.
Lord Howe Island
This is one of the only Australia National Park islands to have been added to the UNESCO world heritage list due its pristine beauty. Only 400 tourists are allowed on the island at any one time to ensure its prefect-ness is maintained! This is a great place to experience fantastic marine life and glorious walking through forests and mountains. You can explore the Valley of the shadows, filled with 40-metre high forests of Kentia palms and towering banyan trees. The day walk up Mount Gower is one of the best day walks to do in Australia. You can also walk to Kim’s lookout and enjoy great views across the lagoon to the southern tip of the island.
For more details on where to stay and what to do go to
Lord Howe Island
An amazing island off the coast of Queensland, all of which is deemed National Park. The best access point is Hervey Bay. This island is very unusual as it is totally made of sand. It is 123km long and 22km wide. This Australia National Park has long stretches of sandy beaches, rainforests (the only one in the world where the trees grow out of the sand to such heights,) and stunning fresh water lakes. The joy of exploring this Australia National Park is that you get to do it in a 4WD car. It’s really good fun driving on the beaches and through the sandy lanes of the Rainforest – not for the faint hearted though. You can always take an organized tour if you prefer.
For more information of what else to do and where to stay go to
Fraser Island Australia
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BEST FOR ANCIENT ROCK FORMATIONS
Uluru Kata Tjuta
This is probably the most visited National Park in Australia given it’s the home of Ayers Rock. This is a world Heritage listed site for its culture and natural values. It is the heart of the red centre and a very spiritual place indeed.
My favourite walk in this magnificent Australia National Park is the Valley of the Winds, which is around the Olgas (pictured below.) They do close the walk by 11am though if the temperature exceeds 36 degrees. It’s not fun walking in that heat anyway so do get there early so you can enjoy the 7km walk.
For more information visit the page on Uluru National Park and
Ayers Rock Australia
Purnululu (Bungle Bungles)
If a remote wilderness experience is what you are after, then head to the Kimberleys and the Bungle Bungles. Whilst this Australian National park has been used for years by the aboriginal community, the area was only discovered in the 1980’s.
The Bungle Bungles are rocks formed by the consolidation of sand grains and look like beehive-shaped towers. One of the most obvious features of the sandstones is the alternating orange and black or grey banding. The bands reflect the number of permeable layers or rock (meaning water can move through them.)
For more ideas go to Bungle Bungles
Watarrka National Park (Kings Canyon, Red Centre)
Between Alice Springs and Ayers Rock, you should visit Kings Canyon as part of your visit to the Red Centre. Its rugged ranges, rockholes and gorges are legendary and a fine specimen of an Australia National Park. There are two walks that take in the spectacular Kings Canyon with its steep walls. The first is the Rim walk which I highly recommend.
There are parts that are quite steep so you need a reasonable level of fitness and the walk is about 6km long.
There’s also guided tours and even slideshows in the evenings. The Voyages Kings Canyon Resort whilst it’s a bit pricey, is worth staying at to really enjoy and take in the scenery.
For more information go to Kings Canyon National Park
SPIRITUAL AND ABORIGINAL
Kakadu and Litchfield National Parks
The Nearest city to this Australia National Park is Darwin and Kakadu is a spiritual haven with great examples of aboriginal rock art. There’s also beautiful waterfalls and gorges to explore. The river cruise is a must to see the scenery and wildlife. There are plenty of walks that take in the waterfalls and gorges. You don’t need a 4 WD to explore the park either.
Litchfield National Park is often over looked and is seen as the poor cousin to Kakadu. This Australia National Park is in itself worth a visit, even just to see the huge turmite mounds. There’s also some more gorges and these are better for swimming in when compared to the crocodile invested waters of Kakadu. Florence Falls and Wangi Falls are impressive and less busy than Buley Rock hole.
Given its proximity to Darwin, this needs to be visited between May and October.
For more information, click here for
Kakadu National Park
or here for
litchfield National Park
The Grampians Australian National Park Victoria
This is one of Victoria’s largest parks and has great walks, scenery and wildlife. It’s 260km from Melbourne along the Western or Glenelg highways (takes about 3.5 hours)
Click here for more information on Grampians National Park
GREAT FOR SERIOUS WALKERS
Freycinet National Park, Tasmania
Famous for its granite mountains and white sandy beaches, this is one of the most breathtaking Australian National Park. You have to come here just to see Wine Glass Bay but there really is more to see.
You can trek the entire Freycinet Peninsula in 3 days or just take a very short stroll to the Wine Glass Bay lookout (40 mins) If you want to actually walk on the beach of Wine Glass bay, you can do that too (2 hour circuit or take a longer walk to Hazards Beach a 4 hour circuit)
I’d really recommend taking a drive up to Cape Tourville (there is a lighthouse there) as the views are stunning. But it’s also hard to miss Honeymoon Bay or the Friendly Beaches. Try Sleepy bay for snorkelling or diving, particularly if you are a beginner. In the summer months there’s lots going on here. There is an open air cinema which shows slide shows and other interesting information usually in the evenings.
Go to Freycinet Tasmania for a few more details including camping and accommodation options.
Click here for more information on getting to
Cradle Mountain/Lake St Clare National Park Tasmania
This is the Australia National park to come to for stunning mountain scenery. It is the start point for the famous Overland Track which runs from Cradle Mountain to Lake St Clare. The track is 65km long and is for the serious walker. But don’t be put off by that, the Dove Lake loop track is a really easy walk with great views of Cradle Mountain which won’t take you the 6 days it takes to do the Overland track – it will take you about an hour.
There is also a chance to explore the rainforests here – from a quick 10 minute walk to something much longer. Expect to see some wildlife too – we saw a couple of wombats. Tasmanian devil , the spotted-tailed quoll and the eastern quoll can also be found round these parts. Click here for more information on Cradle Mountain Tasmania
Blue Mountains National Park nr Sydney
Only an hour from Sydney, it’s no wonder that this Australia National Park receives nearly 3 million visitors every year. The blue mountains, so called due to a blue haze that can sometimes be seen above the forest (due to the Eucalyptus trees,) are not actually mountains.
In fact the area is an uplifted plateau dissected by a number of large rivers. Most visitors never even enter the park itself and spend the time looking from viewing platforms at spectacular waterfalls (Wentworth Falls) and rock formations (Echo Point’s 3 sisters.) There’s also a scenic railway and cable car offering great views of Echo Point and the mountains. You can also visit quaint villages (Leura) for afternoon tea and cake.
There is now the Great Blue Mountains Drive which offers a scenic drive around the area. But for the serious walkers, the Blue Mountains offers some great walks. There are relatively easy day walks such as the the walk from the Golden Stairs to the Ruined Castle. For something more taxing try Valley of the Waters from Wentworth Falls or Govetts Leap to Grose Valley a 15km circuit.
Click here for more information on Blue Mountains National Park
Hichinbrook Island National Park
This Australia National Park island is off the coast of tropical North Queensland making May to October the best time to visit. It is famous for its 32km Thorsborne bushwalking trail. This is only for the experienced walker as the trail is pretty challenging. You need at least 3 days here to enjoy it but it is worth it. I’d also walk south to north as the scenery at the end then is most dramatic. Watch out for mosquitoes and flies given it is the tropics (long pants and tops are best) but expect it to be hot too. Click here for more information on Hinchinbrook Island
Flinders National Chase, Kangaroo Island
This Australian National park has become a sanctuary for endangered species for both plants and animals. You can try to see a platypus along the platypus walk or go Koala spotting. But rest assured you are guaranteed to see Wallabies and Kangaroos. It’s also home to the Remarkable Rocks and Admirals Arch which are worth a visit. Accommodation here is also good. You can stay in old lighhouse Keeper’s cottages at Cape du Couedic or Cape Borda. There’s also the Wildnerness Resort here too offering lovely food and a chance to get up close and personal with the wildlife.
Click here for more information on
Kangaroo Island Australia
Walls of Jerusalem National Park, Tasmania
This is an isolated and stunning park not too far from Cradle Mountain. The focal point is Mount Jerusalem but it also has amazing alpine fauna, glacial lakes and valleys. Serious walkers wanting a challenge should try the two to three day circuit route that includes King Solomon's Throne and the Pools of Bethesada.
Click here for more information on Walls of Jerusalem
Top of Australia National Parks
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