Many countries around the world have treasured national parks that offer a safe haven for wildlife, outdoor recreation for adventurers, and breathtaking beauty to expand our imaginations. But did you know that Australia has more than 500 national parks just waiting to be explored? These national parks cover nearly four percent of the entire country and have landscapes ranging from forests to deserts and marine regions. While every park here deserves a visit, here are 11 of our favorites to get you started!
**Update: This article was originally written before the devastating fires in Australia. For more information and how you can help, go here.
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Cape Le Grand National Park
This Western Australia National Park is about a 45-minute drive from the town of Esperance and offers incredible scenery with white sandy beach and rugged coastlines. Here you’ll find the home of the western gray kangaroos, pygmy possums, and lots of colorful wildflowers. Come here for fun at the beach, whether that’s surfing, swimming, or going fishing in a boat. You can camp at two campgrounds here on a first come, first served basis.
Bungle Bungle Range, Purnululu National Park
This is another amazing national park that was actually considered a secret to the outside world until 1983. Here you’ll find sandstone domes striped in black and orange colors that look like huge beehives. It’s amazing to see the Bungle Bungle range from above on a helicopter flight. You can also stay at the Bungle Bungle Savannah Lodge and see the Cathedral Gorge here in all of its red rock glory.
Nambung National Park
Nambung National Park is another must-see national park here because of its limestone pillars, yellow sands of the Pinnacles desert, and movie-like atmosphere. You can visit the Hangover Bay and Kangaroo Point beaches here to see the coastal dunes and wildflowers. The best time to see the wildflowers is between August and October. To learn more about the area, check out the Pinnacles Desert Discovery Center. This park makes an excellent day trip from Perth, and there are nearby accommodations in Cervantes.
Jervis Bay National Park
Jervis Bay is another park worth checking out if you love white sand beaches, fishing, and whale watching. This place has a strong significance with the local Aboriginal people, and it’s easy to see why. Many areas seem untouched by modern life among the wetlands, woodlands, forests, and waterways. This is a relaxing park that’s perfect for having a picnic, going snorkeling, or just tossing a frisbee around on the beach.
Kakadu National Park
We also love Kakadu National Park, which is large, rugged, and has rock art that dates back at least 20,000 years. Here you can learn about the local Aboriginal culture, see waterfalls, and observe migratory birds in the wetland areas. Come here to hike along rugged trails and observe the pristine beauty of nature.
Cradle Mountain National Park
Tasmania is an island off the mainland but still part of Australia and an amazing place to plan a vacation. Cradle Mountain–Lake St Clair National Park is best known for its ancient rainforests, glacial lakes, and rugged mountains. Wildlife is abundant here, so if you’re patient, you may see the famous Tasmanian devils, platypus, and lots of species of birds. Plan to spend a couple hours taking a walk around Dove Lake for epic views of Cradle Mountain or climb to the mountain’s summit if you’re feeling adventurous. There are campgrounds and cabins here to stay overnight and spend a couple days exploring the landscape.
Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park
For awesome desert landscapes in the Northern Territory head to Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park. This is an ancient land that celebrates the culture and spirituality of the country’s history. You can hire an Aboriginal guide to hike through the park and learn about local stories. Meanwhile, other travelers take hot air balloon rides and helicopters to see the desert from way up high. Other ways to travel through to see the sights include riding on the back of a camel or renting a motorcycle. This harsh environment is also home to many creatures, including kangaroos, wallabies, and many species of birds.
Karijini National Park
You can also see rugged landscapes, geological formations, and get active in the outdoors when you visit Karijini National Park. This park is located in the Hamersley Range and is the second largest park in Western Australia. Visit this park in the late fall through the early spring for the best weather. You’ll be rewarded with towering mountains, deep gorges, and vast plains. If you visit after a rainy period, you’re most likely to see beautiful wildflowers in bloom. Certain parts of this park, including the Junction Pool Lookout, are wheelchair accessible and offer lovely views. Just be mindful of the possibilities of extreme heat, aggressive dingoes scavenging for food, and steep drop-offs on the gorge edges.
Royal National Park
Many travelers start and end their Australian journeys in Sydney, and this national park is just south of the city. Come here for an easy day trip and to get away from the city crowds with secluded beaches, bushland, forests, and coastline. This park was established in 1879 and is the second-oldest national park in the world. Popular things to do here include cycling, surfing, bushwalking, and whale-watching. You can get here in about an hour from the Sydney Central Business District.
Girringun National Park
This is a national park in Queensland with six sections: Blencoe Falls, Dalrymple Gap track, Mount Fox, Princess Hills, Wairuna, and Wallaman. The Wallaman Falls is the tallest single-drop waterfall in all of Australia and definitely worth checking out. You’ll also love climbing over Mount Fox, which is an ancient volcano, seeing the Kangaroo Hills countryside, and marveling at the Herbert River that forms its own waterfall.
William Bay National Park
While there are so many more we could write about, the last park we’ll mention on this list is the William Bay National Park. Here you’ll find turquoise waters, sandy beaches, and granite rocks that hover high above. Come here to go snorkeling, swimming, and to hang out on the beach. This is also a lovely place to see wildflowers in the spring and during hot weather too.