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7 Best National Parks in Australia

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Australia is an incredible destination that is on many travelers’ bucket lists for good reason. Its thrilling natural wonders are a major reason why Australia remains a great destination.  Fortunately, much of Australia’s great landscape is pristine, and its wildlife protected by several national parks.

From coastal cliffs and crystal waters to dense uninhabited rainforests and rare wildlife sightings, Australia’s national park system inspires wonder and should be a top priority of any visitor’s itinerary.  Boasting over 500 national parks, visitors to Australia can delight in a variety of interesting landscapes, impressive and unique biodiversity, and a range of exciting activities.  Here is our list of the best national parks in Australia to visit on your next trip, each providing a distinct, quintessential Australian experience.

PURNULULU NATIONAL PARK

Famous for its Bungle Bungle Range, the striking scenery at this UNESCO World Heritage site makes Purnululu a truly unique destination. Ancient sandstone domes with unusual beehive shapes stand tall with stunning orange and black bands of color. The majestic geographical wonders are a perfect backdrop for inspiring walks, captivating photography and adventuring through Australia’s wilderness.

Highlights

  • Wander around a one-of-a-kind landscape with breathtaking natural pools and gorges
  • Fly over the range in a helicopter for impressive long-range views
  • Test the acoustics while singing in the natural amphitheater of Cathedral Gorge

Lowlights

  • The park is only accessible during the dry season, along a 57 km road requiring a 4x4 vehicle
  • Some walks through the park may be difficult and require overnight camping
  • With a lack of marked trails, hikers should be confident with navigation skills

Purnululu National Park facts

Size 3,120 square kilometers
Location Western Australia, south of Kununurra
Common wildlife sightings Wallabies, wallaroos, echidnas, rare birds, including the Gouldian Finch, monitors, skinks, lizards, pythons, bats, fish, frogs
Best time to visit Dry season (April through December), as other times the park may be closed
Nearby attractions Piccaninny Creek, Kungkalanayi Lookout, Cathedral Gorge, Homestead Gorge, Whip Snake Gorge, Northern Escarpment Walk, Mini Palms Walk, Echidna Chasm Walk, the Domes Walk
Accommodation Primitive camping at Kurrajong and Walardi campgrounds; powered sites at Bungle Bungle Caravan Park; stylish glamping compound at Bungle Bungle Wilderness
Possible activities Hiking, canoeing, snorkeling, rafting, cycling, surfing, scenic drives

GREAT OTWAY NATIONAL PARK

From breathtaking coastal cliffs and pristine beaches to cool lush rainforests and refreshing waterfalls, Great Otway National Park offers a wonderfully varied landscape. A true haven for outdoor enthusiasts, the national park lies en-route the Great Ocean Road which starts in Torquay and ends at Allansford and is a great stop.

Highlights

  • A well-rounded destination with a dramatically varied landscape and iconic views
  • A designated Important Bird Area
  • Walk the giant redwood forest, through historic fern gullies or over treetop bridges
  • Rejuvenate in a grand oasis of waterfalls

Lowlights

  • Downpours and a wet terrain can make hikes difficult; pack proper gear.
  • Wintertime is colder, so parts of the park and nearby businesses may close.

Great Otway National Park facts

Size 1,031 square kilometers
Location Southern Victoria
Common wildlife sightings Koalas, several species of rare birds, whales, dolphins
Best time to visit December through February boasts vibrant lush scenery and warm temperatures perfect for outdoor adventuring.
Nearby attractions Lighthouse Cape Otway, Melba Gully, Triplet Falls, Beachamp Falls, Carisbrook Falls, Hopetoun Falls, Lake Elizabeth, Great Ocean Walk, Madden’s Track Nature Trail, Otway Fly Treetop Park
Accommodation Simple campgrounds at Aire River West, Blanket Bay, and Johanna Beach; caravan parking at Cape Otway Camping & Caravan Park; Rooms at Great Ocean Ecolodge, Glenaire Cottages
Possible activities Hiking, kayaking, snorkeling, cycling, surfing, scenic drives, fishing

KAKADU NATIONAL PARK

View of Kakadu National Park
Kakadu National Park has diverse landscapes ranging from sandstone geological formations, wetlands, and rivers.

Home to over 2,000 species and plants of wildlife, this park is well-known for its impressive and unique biodiversity. The landscape includes sandstone geological formations, wetlands, and rivers making it a perfect destination for wildlife viewing.  Recognized as a World Heritage Site, the park is rich in Aboriginal history and visitors can get a glimpse of the area’s cultural past.

Highlights

  • Spot one of the 10,000+ crocs from the platforms of Cahills Crossing and Yellow Water
  • View prehistoric Aboriginal rock paintings at Nourlangie, Nanguluwur, and Ubirr
  • Immerse yourself in the history of Kakadu on a cultural boat cruise through the scenic East Alligator River

Lowlights

  • Some organized tours may be crowded
  • Hot, humid weather is common.  Bring plenty of water when adventuring out.

Kakadu National Park facts

Size 19,804 square kilometers
 Location  Jabiru in the Northern Territory
 Common wildlife sightings  Birds, crocodiles, rare Leichardt’s grasshoppers, quolls, flatback turtles
 Best time to visit  June to August, as the majority of sites are open and the weather is drier and cooler
 Nearby attractions  Ubir, Gunlom, Nourlangie, Maguk,, Yellow Water, Gubarra, Boulder Creek, Motor Car Falls, Cahills Crossing, Nanguluwur
 Accommodation  Primitive camping in the savanna woodlands of Alligator Billabong Campground or many other nearby campgrounds, caravan at Kakadu Lodge and Caravan Park, glamp at Hawk Dreaming Wilderness Lodge, or book a room in one of several nearby lodges and hotels
 Possible activities  Fishing, boating, birdwatching, swimming, bushwalks, hiking, cultural tours, art walks

ULURU-KATA TJUTA NATIONAL PARK

Uluru Rock during sunrise.
The Uluru Rock is a mysterious and majestic rock formation that is the namesake of the national park.

Recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, this park is a real gem in the Australian outback. Uluru Kata-Tjuta National Park offers visitors spectacular scenery and rich experiences. Watch the sunrise over the massive monolith of Uluru Rock, dip in delicious swimming holes and learn about the rich culture and history of the local Aboriginal tribe on guided bushwalks.

Highlights

  • Surround yourself with an unrivaled landscape in the outback with gorgeous geographical formations.
  • Immerse in the culture, art, and history of one of the oldest human societies in the world.
  • Enjoy mouth-watering BBQs as you camp or glamp in wilderness.

Lowlights

  • Organized tours are popular and may be crowded at times.
  • Flies and mosquitos can be bothersome. Bring netting.

Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park facts

Size 1,326 square kilometers
Location Northern Territory, in Australia’s “Red Center”
Common wildlife sightings Wallaby, kangaroo, emu, possum, rabbit, lizards, python
Best time to visit May through September offers cooler weather for enjoyable walks.  Plus, the colors of Uluru are more vibrant and wildlife more active this time of year.
Nearby attractions May through September offers cooler weather for enjoyable walks.  Plus, the colors of Uluru are more vibrant and wildlife more active this time of year.
Accommodation Campgrounds and caravan parks at Ayers Rock Campground and Curtin Wayside Inn & Springs; multiple budget and boutique lodging options available at Ayers Rock Resort; all-inclusive luxury lodge at Longitude 131.
Possible activities Bushwalks, swimming, climbing, cultural tours, art walks, culinary tours, camel treks, scenic helicopter rides

KARIJINI NATIONAL PARK

Australia’s second largest park, Karijini rewards visitors with geological beauty, vast scenic landscapes, and diverse ecosystems full of wildlife and wildflowers. During the day, navigate your way through rock tunnels or dip in enticing rock pools. At night, relax at camp gazing at the stars.

Highlights

  • Follow the walking trail along the top of the gorge to Oxer Lookout
  • Take a refreshing swim in the pristine natural pool at Fortescue Falls
  • Glamp in the rugged landscape of the outback at Karijini Eco Retreat

Lowlights

  • Yampire and Wittenoom Gorges contain blue asbestos. There is a risk of cancer caused by inhaling asbestos dust.
  • Flashfloods can occur in the gorges after heavy rainfall. If rain is present, do not enter the gorges.

Karijini National Park facts

Size 6,274 square kilometers
Location Hamersley Range in Western Australia
Common wildlife sightings Rare species of birds, red kangaroos, euros, wallabies, echidnas, bats, dragons, lizards, pythons
Best time to visit April through October, as there are severe thunderstorms and cyclones in the summer
Nearby attractions Fortescue Falls Lookout, Dales Gorge, Weano Gorge, Kalamina Gorge, Joffre Falls Lookout, Knox Lookout, Oxer Lookout, Hancock Gorge, Mount Bruce, Hamersley Gorge
Accommodation Primitive camping or fully-furnished glamping tents in the heart of Karijini at Karijini Eco Retreat; rooms at a handful of rooms and lodges in nearby Tom Price
Possible activities Bushwalks, hiking, swimming, birdwatching, BBQ and picnics

LITCHFIELD NATIONAL PARK

Waterfall in Litchfield National Park
Litchfield National Park has a collection of epic cascading waterfalls.

A must visit destination in Australia’s Northern Territory, Litchfield National Park is an outdoor paradise. With a collection of epic cascading waterfalls, crystal clear natural pools and fascinating ecosystems, you may find yourself planning an entire trip just in this spot. This park also hosts some unusual and iconic ecosystems.

Highlights

  • Marvel at the unique phenomenon of the Magnetic Termite Mounds
  • Discover the historic landmarks of Blythe Homestead and Bamboo Creek
  • Wonder at the large collection of towering sandstone monoliths at the Lost City
  • Cool off swimming through a number of cascading falls and deep pools

Lowlights

  • Potential for crowds during dry season. While it is possible to visit during the wet season, many sites may be closed due to severe rains

Litchfield National Park facts

Size  1,458 square kilometers
Location  Southwest of Darwin in the Northern Territory
Common wildlife sightings  Kangaroo, wallaby, sugar gliders, possum, foxes, dingo, saltwater crocodiles, lizards, several species of birds
Best time to visit  Dry season (May through October) for best access to attractions and enjoyable weather
Nearby attractions  Florence Falls, Wangi Falls, Tolmer Falls, Buley Rockhole, Tjaynera Falls, Lost City
Accommodation  Several primitive campsites are available throughout Litchfield (permit required), camp or caravan at Litchfield Tourist & Van Park or Banyan Tree Caravan Park, rooms and bungalows available at several lodges and resorts just outside the park.
Possible activities  Bushwalks, hiking, swimming, wildlife spotting, scenic helicopter rides

With the diverse offerings available in the many national parks of Australia, it may be difficult to decide where to start. With this list of the best national parks in Australia, any park you choose will provide you with exciting opportunities to enjoy Australia’s impressive natural sites, rare wildlife and fascinating history. No doubt, you will find yourself planning subsequent trips to soak in more of Australia’s great pleasures.

For more tours and booking in Australia, visit Tours in Australia.

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