15 of the Most Beautiful 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.
- Frequently asked questions about Australia’s National Parks
- 15 National Parks in Australia that should be on your shortlist
- Kakadu National Park
- Uluru and Kuta Tjuta National park
- Port Campbell National Park
- Grampians National Park
- Blue Mountains National Park
- Mungo National Park
- Daintree National Park
- Great Sandy National Park
- Flinders Chase National Park
- Ikara Flinders Ranges National Park
- Kalbari National Park
- Ningaloo Reef National Park
- Freycinet National Park
- Cradle Mountain-Lake St Clair National Park
- Namadgi National Park
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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.
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 usually charge per park, about $25 for 3 days, but have waived fees for the rest of 2020.
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.
You will also find numerous stunning waterfalls, impressively high termite mounds, and just a few crocodiles in the confusingly named Alligator River. We 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.
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.
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.
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
Grampians National Park
An easy day trip from Melbourne the Grampians feature sandstone mountain ranges, challenging hiking trails, scenic drives, and six waterfalls.
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.
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
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.
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
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.
Nearest city: Noosa
Flinders Chase National Park
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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