15 must see National Parks in Australia

Coming up with a list of the most beautiful National Parks in Australia was a challenge, we kept arguing on which to include so instead on this page we have focused on the ones that along with being beautiful parks are best known and relatively easy to visit, the must-see national parks in Australia.

These diverse environments are home to the country’s most spectacular landscapes and ancient sites. We have just scratched the surface with these, and there are plenty more to choose from, but you have to start somewhere, right?

We recommend you try to add as many of these to your holiday plans as you can. While we love a city break, the natural beauty in the boundaries of these parks is next level.

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Frequently asked questions about Australia’s National Parks

Which is the largest National Park in Australia

At almost 20,000 square km, Kakadu is the largest National Park in Australia. Over 28 million hectares or nearly four percent of Australia’s land is covered by these parks. As you will probably read in many guidebooks, it’s approximately half the size of Switzerland.

Which Australian National Parks are UNESCO sites?

Those of you who like to tick off UNESCO World Heritage sites on your travels better get your skates on. You have some serious ground to cover Downunder.

Several parks are completely covered by a UNESCO listing like The Blue Mountains, Uluru, Kakadu, Great Sandy, Ningaloo, Purnululu and the Daintree National Parks.

Others are partially included, like Dorrigo and 27 others along the NSW and South East QLD coast covered in the Gondwana Rainforests of Australia. Mungo National Park, which is part of the Willandra Lakes Region listing. There are also 27 Queensland parks included in the Wet Tropics site.

How many National Parks in Australia

There are 681 National Parks in Australia, almost all are actually state-operated but known as National Parks.

State Number of Parks
Queensland 237
New South Wales 235
Western Australia 101
Northern Territory 24
South Australia 19
Australian Capital Territory1
More parks than most of us will ever get to see!

There are also six Commonwealth National Parks, including Uluru, Kakadu, and NSW’s almost unknown Booderee National Park in Jervis Bay.

For each park, we have listed the nearest city and given the google map reference. Click the link and Google maps will open in a new window. From this map, you can get directions to the park from your current location.

Can you buy a National Park pass for Australia?

Yes, passes are available, but sadly there is not one that covers the entire country.

  • NSW offers several passes -the multi-park pass which includes all except Kosciuszko is $65 per year.
  • Victoria – entry to all parks is free as is basic camping.
  • Tasmania – offer passes valid for 8 weeks
  • South Australia – offers passes separate passes for the desert parks and all other parks in the state. Prices start at $44 for two months.
  • Queensland – require you to have a vehicle pass or camping permit you can buy online here.
  • Western Australia – offers a couple of options 4-week pass for $60 or an annual pass for $120.
  • Northern Territory – most do not charge entry fees, except the ones below, so no pass.

The Commonwealth National Parks, including Kakadu, Uluru, and Bodeeree have different rates for each park, ranging from $13 per car for Bodeeree, $38 for 3 days in Uluru to $40 for a week pass to Kakadu.

15 National Parks in Australia that should be on your shortlist

So in no particular order, we present the national parks that really should be on your radar when planning a holiday in Australia.

Kakadu National Park

Just 2 hours south of Darwin, Kakadu is our largest National Park and the location of some of the most well preserved ancient art in Australia. Try to catch a Kakadu sunset from Ubirr Rock, it will stay with you for a long time.

Kakadu National Park Rock Art at Nourlangie
Paintings at Burrungkuy Nourlangie rock art site
Paintings at Burrungkuy Nourlangie rock art site in Kakadu
Kakadu National Park

You will also find numerous stunning waterfalls, impressively high termite mounds, and just a few crocodiles in the confusingly named Alligator River. I did a 5-day camping tour the included both Kakadu and nearby Litchfield National Park and highly recommend you consider this amount of time to learn more about our landscape and culture.

Kakadu makes a great winter holiday in Australia.

Check out our guide to things to do in Darwin for tips on visiting the Top End

Uluru and Kuta Tjuta National park

With one of the world’s most recognised symbols of Australia in its name, Uluru needs no introductions. Home of the Anangu people, this ancient landscape will leave a strong impression well beyond that of the large red rock at its centre.

Uluru in the midday sun with a blue sky
The view that never gets old!

We have written guides for planning your Uluru visit and the walks we think you should try. My best bit of advice. Don’t cut your time here too short. Try to stay 3 days if you can to have time to experience all there is to offer. We share our advice about walking at Uluru here.

Nearest city: Alice Springs

Check out our tips for choosing the best accommodation in Uluru before you go

Port Campbell National Park

The 12 Apostles are the reason the park will make your must-see list, but the entire coastline here is breathtaking. Only 230km from Melbourne the Port Campbell National Park is one of the most popular day tours from Melbourne.

London Arch Great Ocean Road Day 2
London Arch in Port Campbell National Park

Try to spend at least one night in the area so that you can experience sunset and sunrise. Check out our 2-day itinerary for the Great Ocean Road for detailed advice.

Nearest city: Warrnambool

We have a great two day Great Ocean Road itinerary you might like to follow

Grampians National Park

An easy day trip from Melbourne the Grampians feature sandstone mountain ranges, challenging hiking trails, scenic drives, and six waterfalls.

View over Grampians National Park Victoria Australia
View along the Wonderland Hike
Mackenzie Falls Grampian National Park
Mackenzie Falls in the Central Grampians,

Don’t miss Mackenzie Falls, one of the largest in Victoria; you can hike to the base or view the falls from the wheelchair-accessible lookout. Head to the central area of the park to join the wonderland hike that starts near Halls Gap. You should also stop into the Balconies Lookout and Reeds Lookout.

Nearest city: Melbourne

Blue Mountains National Park

A bushwalker’s paradise you could spend weeks trying to see all the fantastic trails in this UNESCO-listed park. Try to make time to visit walks and lookouts over both the Grose and Jamison Valleys.

Pulpit Rock lookout in Blackheath Blue Mountains
Pulpit Rock lookout in Blackheath Blue Mountains

We have written a one-day guide on visiting, hiking, and staying in the Blue Mountains over on our Sydney site.

Nearest city: Penrith

Mungo National Park

One of the lesser-known parks and one we are planning to visit in the next couple of months. It’s been on our wish list for quite some time. Friendly often comment about how there is a very strong spiritual feel about Mungo

Walls of China Mungo National Park

A section of the parks is part of the World Heritage Listed Willandra Lakes region. The must-see here is the Walls of China, which is magnificent at sunset. Staying the night is essential as it’s just too far to drive after sunset back to off-site accommodation. Mungo Lodge books out early, so be prepared. There are also basic rooms at the Shearers Quarters and some lovely looking glamping tents.

Nearest city: Mildura

Take the train to Broken Hill before you visit Mugo

Daintree National Park

Home to the oldest tropical rainforest, not just in Australia but worldwide, the Daintree Rainforest is lush and home to a rich indigenous history.

Daintree national Park Mossman Gorge
Mossman Gorge – Credit: Tropical North Queensland
Cassowary Cape Tribulation Queensand
A Cassowary on Cape Trib beach Credit: Tropical North Queensland

Be sure to visit the beautiful Mossman Gorge and Cape Tribulation, where you might spot an elusive cassowary. Don’t get too close; these unique-looking birds are not that friendly.

A stay at Daintree Wilderness Lodge will allow you to enjoy this magnificent spot in one of seven private eco villas.

Nearest city: Cairns

Great Sandy National Park

Taking in both the coastline between Rainbow Beach and Noosa Heads and the UNESCO-listed Fraser Island, the Great Sandy National Park is one of the most popular in Queensland.

SS Maheno shipwreck Fraser Island Queensland
The rusty wreck of Maheno on Fraser Island
Fraser Island Lake National Park Queensland
Lake Wabby Fraser Island

The wreck of the Maheno and Lake Wabby are two popular spots within the Fraser Island section of the park. Another popular activity here is the Fraser Island Great Walk – a 90km trek usually completed over a week. You can also choose to complete sections of the walk.

Kingfisher Bay Resort makes a great base for your visit if you don’t want to camp. They offer resort-style rooms and self-contained accommodation. A more affordable option is Fraser Island Retreat.

Nearest city: Noosa

Flinders Chase National Park

Located on the western end of Kangaroo Island, Flinders Chase National park is also home to another of Australia’s Great Walks.

Remarkable Rocks Flinders Chase National Park. One of Kangaroo Island's iconic landmarks, South Australia
Remarkable Rocks get their golden colour from lichen

Make the visitors’ centre your first stop and pick up some walking guides; we highly recommend the Platypus Waterholes Walk (4.5km). These little guys are the most elusive of Australia’s native animals, and your chances of spotting one here are excellent.

There is plenty to do here, so if you fancy spending a couple of days, why not consider a night sleeping in the lighthouse. Check out our guide to planning a visit to Kangaroo Island before you go.

Nearest city: Adelaide

Ikara Flinders Ranges National Park

The red dirt that spells outback and a surprisingly beautiful array of spring wildflowers are just two reasons to visit this park 400km north of South Australia’s capital Adelaide. Best known perhaps for Wilpena Pound or Ikara its traditional indigenous name.

Flinders Ranges National park in Australia
Wilpena Pound in the Flinders Ranges, South Australia

This park is one of the most remote on the list and perfect for 4 wheel driving or those who like to take the road less travelled. This is the best South Australian road trip you can take and is our favourite outback spot in the country. We spent three days at Wilpena Pound Resort taking various day walks and loved it!

The park is home to many important indigenous areas and is wonderful for learning more about this culture. Lake Eyre, which has its own national park, is relatively nearby.

Nearest city: Adelaide

Kalbari National Park

Just 2 hours north of Perth, near Geraldton, Kalbarri National Park, is best known for Nature’s Window. The park is also popular for canoeing and abseiling. Don’t let the red dirt fool you, you can explore Kalbarri with a regular 2 wheel drive.

Kalbari National Park Western Australia
Nature’s window and the Murchison river

Kalbarri has both a coastal and inland section, and you can see both in a 2-3 day stay. On the coastal section, don’t miss Mushroom Rock and Pot Alley. Visit in September or October for spring flowers and migrating whales.

Nearest city: Geraldton

Ningaloo Reef National Park

The Ningaloo Coast is a World Heritage-listed marine park that is most famous for its whale sharks, but you will find all sorts of marine life in these crystal clear waters, including dolphins, dugongs, manta rays, whales, and turtles.

Ningaloo Reef Beach Western Australia 800
Ningaloo Beach and Reef

The reef is very close to the shore so you can snorkel directly from the beach. Be sure to visit the Jurabi Turtle Centre to learn more about these wonderful creatures while you are here. Ningaloo Reef Resort makes a great base for your stay.

Nearest city: Carnarvon

Freycinet National Park

The image of Wineglass Bay is one of the most recognised places in Tasmania. The hike to the top of Mount Amos provides one of the most spectacular views in the country.

Friendly Beaches Tasmania
Mount Amos view Wineglass Bay Freycinet National Park Tasmania

With places like the “Friendly Beaches” and “Honeymoon Bay,” you know Freycinet National Park is worth putting on your Tasmanian Itinerary. Even if you are short on time in Tasmania, don’t skimp here, the Wineglass Bay lookout walk will only take an hour and you will thank us later for insisting you visit. If you have the time base yourself in Coles Bay for at least one night.

Nearest city: Launceston

Cradle Mountain-Lake St Clair National Park 

Tasmania’s Cradle Mountain offers everything from a short walk to the challenging Overland Track 6-day hike. We highly recommend the 3-hour walk around Dove Lake, which is suitable for almost everyone.

Cradle Mountan National park Dove Lake
Cradle Mountain from along the Dove Lake hike
Dove Lake walk view Tasmania Cradle Mountain National Park
Charles at Dove Lake

We recommend at least an overnight stay, there is so much wildlife in the area that comes out at dawn and dusk. Meet wombats, platypus and echidna on the short tracks around your accommodation. We loved our stay at Cradle Mountain Lodge.

Nearest city: 143km from Launceston

Namadgi National Park

The only national park in the Australian Capital Territory, Namadgi, is a great spot to find kangaroos in the wild. The park offers 1000km² of pristine bushland and over 200 sites of Aboriginal significance.

Namadgi National park
Mount Ginini Credit: Dfrg.msc via Wikipedia

Part of the Australian Alps, the area is lined with snow gums and alpine ash trees and offers 160km of walking tracks, making it’s an excellent spot for some serious hiking. If you want a taster walk, check out the Mt Aggie (1km) return track, you can pick up a map at the visitors’ centre.

The park is also popular with mountain bikers with some challenging trails.

Nearest city: Canberra

Got a question? Head over to our Australia Travel Tips Facebook Group and ask a local.

1 thought on “15 Must See National Parks in Australia”

  1. When it comes to images of paradise, the Whitsunday Islands National Park is hard to beat. These tiny drops of heaven are scattered amongst the Great Barrier Reef and boast perfect white beaches, crystal clear waters and an array of awesome activities. Be it a sailing tour, a helicopter flight, a camping trip or a snorkeling experience, the Whitsunday Islands really must be seen to be believed. Hotspots include the famous Whitehaven Beach, as well as the Heart Reef and Hamilton Island, so make sure you allow at least a few days to soak up the magic of this destination.

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