Grab some friends and pack your car for a getaway as there has never been a better time to get out and explore your own back yard. With travel restrictions causing travel chaos, there is nothing better than escaping out into the wild and Roam at Home.
Imagine emus walking right up to you, crocodiles basking in the sun and cod fishing on the Murray River – that’s what you’ll be rewarded with when you get off the beaten track in one of Australia’s most gob-smacking, jaw-dropping and dazzling national parks.
Each state has its own secret hideaways and Discovery Parks has come up with the top 24 national parks to visit when you’re looking for a serious taste of adventure.
NEW SOUTH WALES
Are you a Sydney-sider? Take a weekend to have a breather on the Central Coast. Walk through the red gums forest and meander your way through to calm, unspoilt beaches. To get your legs stretched and moving around after sitting in the car, try the Bouddi Coastal Walk. From Putty Beach to MacMasters Beach, make sure to stop at the lookout over Maitland Bay. It isn’t the hardest walk you’ll ever do, but definitely bring water and wear the right shoes.
Don’t worry about the namesake – you’ll find peace and solitude in this beautiful part of the world. You’ll find yourself in the midst of a rainforest, watch whales migrate in their pods and skip through the wildflowers. Take the time to learn about the indigenous Birpai people, with sacred sites dating back 6,000 years. If you consider yourself a bookworm of all reads Australiana, don’t miss out on looking around Kylie Tennant’s writer’s retreat hut.
Stay at Discovery Parks – Harrington
Skiing, snowshoeing, mountain biking, hiking – this place has the year-round goods. The heartbeat of Thredbo doesn’t stop once the snow melts. Yarrangobilly Caves have a thermal pool to dip your toes into, horseback riders will have a dream afternoon in the trails of High Plains, and you might be lucky enough to see the platypuses peeking out for a happy hello. For a long walk, embark on the (20km) Thredbo Valley Walk. You’ll be rightly exhausted, accomplished and hungry for a feed from Maya Asia Cuisine.
Stay at Discovery Parks – Jindabyne
The Nullarbor is worthy of a stopover – and the national park that’s there is proof of it. The world’s largest semi-arid cave landscape, you’ll find yourself walking along flat lands before happening upon the Koonalda Cave. The cave is a massive archaeological site with Aboriginal artwork that’s on its roughly 20,000th birthday (so don’t you yammer on about being over the hill!). We hope you’re able to see the famous wedge-tailed eagle – these guys have a wingspan that can stretch up to 230cm. An eagle as big as a door? We’re in.
Stay at Discovery Parks – Streaky Bay before you head into the Nullarbor or when you return to South Australia
Gotta love the beach, but gotta love them hills too. Home to a wildlife park, hugging a koala is guaranteed to put a smile on that dial. The animals here are a friendly bunch and even an emu or ostrich might saunter by. Spend the morning feeding and petting the animals, have a sammie at Mount Lofty summit and then take the afternoon to cruise around the Adelaide Hills wineries and breweries. A convenient drive from Adelaide, and an absolute must if you’re got the time.
Before you get too excited, you need a 4WD to scoot around here. But that’s how you know it’s a full-blown, outback adventure to tell your friends about. The lake itself isn’t a puddle to splash in; at 144km long and 77km wide, the lake is a spectacular sight (especially when the rains come in). It is so big, you’re probably wondering how you’ll even have a chance to fully experience this place. Problem solved: get yourself on a scenic flight. The painted hills, birdlife and views of the Flinders Ranges will impress even the pickiest of travellers.
Stay at Discovery Parks – Roxby Downs
The fountain of youth is flowing freely at Karijini – at least, that’s how magical this ancient place feels. An oasis in red dirt country, each of its gorges are unique and charming in their own right. Cool off and go for a swim in one of the many natural pools and lagoons. Better to look than to touch the water? The Junction Pool Lookout has a view of the pool itself 100m down below. Now, that’s a drop! While Karijini is remote, the isolation and beauty is a gift after driving through the desert.
Who knew there could be 300 species of wildflowers and that they could all be in one location? If you got a canoe for two, glide along Honeymoon Pool and feel anew. Wellington National Park is a place to reinvigorate your senses. Smell the flowers, touch lush leaves of the forest, see the dam in its enormity and hear the birds chirping. Winter, though, adds a dash more green to the bush.
Western Australia’s first national park, consider John Forrest National Park as your next day trip from Perth. Family’s good company to share lunch with, but how about eating next to a few furry guests? Grey kangaroos, kookaburras and wallabies are all common residents to see when exploring the park. We recommend walking out to the waterfalls: Hovea and National Park Falls. The trails to the falls are clear and beautiful, surrounded by native jarrah and red gum trees.
Kookaburras singing in the old gum trees should be the slogan. You can hear them distinctly amidst the calls of wildlife in the forest, basically thinking they’re performing at an arena. The mighty Murray struts her stuff: banks to fish for golden perch, tracks to walk and ponder life on, and a forest full of kangaroos, emus and koalas. Best fact about this place: it has the world’s largest river red gum forest.
Stay at Discovery Parks – Echuca
You won’t find ladies playing their church tunes, but columns made from molten lava that look like floor to ceiling organ pipes. These tall, rosette rock formations are a remarkable backdrop for a picnic. The organ pipes are easily accessible, only about an hour’s drive from Melbourne. This is definitely for those who love a good walk: the hike to and from the pipes is a steep one.
Stay at Discovery Parks – Melbourne
Smack dab in between Warrnambool and Geelong, the Great Otways are worth the effort to visit. This is a large park, so plan your visit before you get there. You can walk a stretch of the Great Ocean Walk, go four-wheel driving on the Goat or Cowley Tracks and be soothed by the cascading waterfalls. Tick this off on your Great Ocean Road journey.
The brochures harp on about Kakadu, but Litchfield has to be seen if you’re in the Top End. After long hikes in the humidity, swim in the waterholes during dry season when the crocs aren’t about. Florence Falls are particularly special: they’re double waterfalls rushing down in a monsoon forest. There’s a lookout over the falls if you wanna have a bird’s eye-view. Unusual but fascinating tip: go see the termite mounds. These solid formations can be metres high and are difficult to believe they were built by puny termites. That’s some serious weightlifting.
Stay at Discovery Parks – Darwin
Billabong beauties! The photographers out there won’t know where to stop. From crocodiles soaking up the sun to wallabies in the forest, the fauna is abundant and truly wild. Barra fishermen have to get out to Hardies Lagoon. You’ll be casting lines right into the pink sunset. Feeling like going at a slower pace? A cruise is a popular way to see more of the waterways and the park.
Stay at Discovery Parks – Darwin
If you stay in Darwin long enough, someone will tell you “get to Berry Springs and stay back for a meal at the tavern”. Trust and listen to them, you won’t be disappointed. Berry Springs is nature’s spa. Warm, calm pools invite you to sit back and relax: pure bliss. Bring noodles if you can! Not the kind you eat, silly, but the foam ones you can sit about on in the water. The park has plenty of shade, but wear a good amount of sunscreen and mozzy repellent just in case.
Stay at Discovery Parks – Darwin
Northwest of Hobart, deep in the swamp gum forests, Mount Field National Park is a wonderland when the snow settles and green as a leprechaun’s top hat in the summer. A little secret (sort of) is the potential to see those mythical webbed-footed and furry creatures: the platypuses. Scout them out as the sun rises over Lake Dobson and you could be in for a treat. The feature image of this blog? Oh yeah, that’s Russell Falls at Mount Field National Park. They’re sort of a really big deal.
Stay at Discovery Parks – Hobart
Love recycling, learning about the earth and getting your hands a bit dirty? Ben Lomond National Park is your holiday candy. The base of the park is comprised of all types of stone – like quartzite and slates – and it was formed by glaciers. Hundreds of native and rare plant species grow and echidnas have been seen sitting about with their mates drinking Boag’s. If you’re looking to change direction, drive up the zig-zag road of Jacob’s Ladder (but drive with caution, especially in winter).
Stay at Discovery Parks – Hadspen
Walkers, hikers and full-blown adventurers are all catered for at Cradle Mountain. Tell your buddies you walked on the Overland Track and you technically won’t be lying. A good stretch of the track passes through this park. For something more leisurely, the circuit around Dove Lake will be breathtaking without leaving you breathless. But of course, you can’t get out here and turn down the Tassie devils. Head over to Devils @ Cradle for a tour to see these Looney Tunes.
While a bit of a climb up to the summit, Mount Archer’s views of Rockhampton and Roslyn Bay is the cherry on top of a Capricorn Coast getaway. If you’re hungry by the time you get there, drive up instead and use the BBQs for lunch. When looking around, remember to look up! Not for drop-bears, but for black cockatoos perched on the eucalyptus.
Stay at Discovery Parks – Rockhampton
Did you know that there was a national park made entirely of lamingtons? Your parents never told you, but that’s where all of the lamingtons are taken from – slices of coconut covered chocolate bushes and trees that grow wild.
We wish! What a neat discovery that would be. Would live there and avoid our two fruit and three veg for good. We promise you though, you’ll live without seeing a lamington for a day and getting lost in here. The vegetation is thick and lush, a true rainforest. Check out the gnarly Antarctic beech trees that are up to 200 MILLION years old. Waiting at the post office for 10 minutes can feel like eternity – don’t know how these trees kill time!
Stay at Discovery Parks – Byron Bay
Bushwalkers,here is your paradise. Jutting out from the dry plains of the Queensland out outback, Blackdown Tableland National Park is entangled with trails leading to creeks, lookouts and ancient Aboriginal art. Rainbow Falls is an easy walk to get to and the most loved hideaway of the national park. A 40m drop into a clear pool, enjoy a cool down while swimming in these relaxing waters.
Stay at Discovery Parks – Blackwater