Australian National Parks – Which Are the Best Ones to Visit?
Gondwana is the ancient name of the huge land mass made up of Africa, Australia, India, Antarctica and South America. Over 100 million years ago the mass broke up to form the individual countries. Australia is one of these countries and is one of the driest continents in the world .
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.
No visit to Australia is complete without a trip to at least one National Park. Most of its famous natural attractions are in one of the parks anyway, so by default, you’ll end up visiting.
Which ones are the best National Parks to visit? It’s certainly not feasible to visit or tell you about all 516. I will however tell you which are my favourites.
Firstly a little more background on the National Parks. They can be very large and have often acquired National Park status due to its ancient rock art (Uluru Kata Tjuta – Ayers Rock), special plants or trees, or wildlife. 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. 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.
Want to Camp in the National Parks?
There’s nothing better than camping in some of the best scenery in Australia. This is for you if you like the open air and don’t have a fear of snakes and spiders (it’s not that bad really!) Most parks have specific areas for camping, with strict campfire rules given the risk of bush fires. Don’t expect the luxury of hot running water though. The facilities are usually very basic but there are a few that offer hot showers operated by coins.
You generally need a permit to camp in the National Parks and places are limited. In the peak of summer it can sometimes be hard to find camping spots available so you need to book well in advance. The government websites will allow you to search for campsites. Remember that you will need to do this for EACH state given that the parks are run by the state government. Over Christmas when it is really busy, some of the national parks run a ballot system. If your name is picked out of the hat, you are one of the lucky ones (this is how it works in Freycinet National Park in Tasmania)
It can be a little subjective picking the best Australian National Parks to visit. Below you will find my top 3 but visit the website below for more information on over 15 great Australian National Parks.
Best for Beaches and Coastal Views
If you are looking for pristine beauty then head to Lord Howe Island. It is one of the only islands of Australia to be awarded the UNESCO World Heritage Listing. The island manages to keep the area unspoiled as it only allows 400 visitors onto the island at a time. The island has something for everyone – great marine life, mountain and forest walks and beautiful beaches. The day walk to the top of Mount Gower is known to be one of the best day walks in Australia. You can also take the Valley of the Shadows walk through 40 metre high forests or walk to Kim’s lookout and enjoy the view over the lagoon and island.
Best for Spiritual Rock Formations
Ayers Rock at Uluru Kata Tjuta National Park just has to feature in the top 3. Most come to visit the rock. Did you know its also on the World Heritage list? To see the rock you should make sure you get to the viewing platform (just take your car) at either sunrise or sunset. The light at these times makes the rock look particularly amazing. You can also pay to have a dinner or breakfast overlooking the rock at these times. But there are actually two rock formations in the park. The second is the Olgas and these were in my opinion, even more impressive than Ayers Rock. Make sure you visit both but make your first stop the Cultural Centre which gives great information on guided walks and a chance to meet some local Aboriginals. The most popular walk is the Base Walk. It takes your round the base of the entire rock and takes about 3 hours. Please don’t climb the rock though. It’s totally against the local aboriginal customs and beliefs.
The Grampians National Park, 260km from Melbourne is one of the most popular parks in Victoria. To get there you need to take the Glenelg or Western Highway from Melbourne and the journey will take you about 3.5 hours. There’s lots to do and see apart from the Grampians themselves (a series of sandstone ridges with steep slopes.) Try a 2 day walk or Mount Abrupt for the best views over the park. The Mackenzie falls are very popular but if you want to get off the tourist trail, go further into the park away from Halls Gap. Try Wartook Valley (Mount Zero and Mount Stapylton) or for something more strenuous, go for Mount Difficult. Stony Creek which goes via Stony Peek is also good as is the Wall of China which offers great views to Tower Hill and picturesque Victoria Valley.