The Best National Parks in Australia

The 11 Best National Parks in Australia

Australia is a continent-sized country and given that over 80 percent of Australians live in concentrated urban areas along the coast, there’s no better place in the world to lose yourself in nature.

Vast, remote, and sparsely populated, Australia’s best national parks are home to ancient Aboriginal rock art and rare indigenous species like the cassowary. From the humid rainforests of the Northern Territory to the temperate lakes and mountains of Tasmania, the sheer diversity of Australia’s landscapes and climates is hard to comprehend. 

And with almost 700 national parks – ranging from the beaches of the Great Sandy National Park in Queensland to the gorges and canyons of Western Australia’s Karijini National Park – it’s equally hard deciding which ones to visit. 

With so many national parks to see, you might not know where to begin, which is why we’ve compiled this list of our favorite Australian national parks for you. Stick to these fun recommendations, and there’s no doubt you’ll have an amazing time exploring this incredible corner of the world!

11 Incredible National Parks in Australia 

1. Blue Mountains National Park, New South Wales

Best National Parks in Australia: Blue Mountains National Park

One of the best national parks in Australia is found right outside Sydney. Part of the Great Dividing Range that separates the east coast from the hinterland, the Blue Mountains National Park is easily accessible from the New South Wales capital. 

In fact, it’s only a 90-minute drive to Katoomba, the gateway to the Blue Mountains, or a leisurely two-hour scenic rail journey through the Sydney suburbs and on into the wilderness. Once in Katoomba, you can walk to Echo Point, a dramatic lookout above the steep Jamieson Valley, which carves a path through the mountains.

Here, you’ll find the precariously balanced Three Sisters rock formation, the Scenic Skyway can whisk you across the gorge, and the steepest railway in the world can take you right down into the valley itself, where you’ll find waterfalls, forests, and hiking trails. 

2. Port Campbell National Park, Victoria

National Parks to Visit in Australia: Port Campbell National Park Victoria

Follow the Great Ocean Road west from Melbourne and after 120 miles (193 kilometers) of scenic driving, you’ll reach Port Campbell National Park. 

This is the most iconic national park in Victoria, and even if you’ve never heard its name before, you’ll have seen photographs of the dramatic coastal scene it protects. 

This is prime road-tripping territory, and you’ll love the awe-inspiring views of the 12 Apostles from the limestone clifftops. The coast here has been shaped for millennia by the wind and waves, and there are countless arches, grottoes, and unusual rock formations to explore within Port Campbell National Park. 

3. Grampians National Park, Victoria 

Must-Visit National Parks in Australia: Grampians National Park Victoria

Australia’s best national parks exist not only to protect the country’s vast, beautiful nature but also to protect its aboriginal heritage, too.

Head to Victoria’s Grampians National Park, around a three-hour drive northwest of Melbourne, and you can find some of the most fascinating aboriginal rock art in the state.

In fact, Grampians National Park – or Gariwerd, as the local Jardwadjali people called the Grampians mountain range long before Europeans arrived in Australia – is home to an estimated 90 percent of Victoria’s rock art, depicting myths from Aboriginal DreamTime and scenes of hunting, wildlife, and local ways of life as it was lived for tens of thousands of years. 

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4. Kosciuszko National Park, New South Wales 

Best National Parks in Australia: Kosciuszko National Park New South Wales

Kosciuszko National Park is named for Mount Kosciuszko, which, at 7,310 feet (2,228 meters) high, is the tallest peak in Australia. 

In summer, the peak is surprisingly easy to summit, given you can drive to within a mile of the top itself. Longer hiking routes also exist, with the two to three-hour hike from Thredbo (which can be reached on the ski lifts) being a popular route. 

In winter, you might be surprised to find that Kosciuszko National Park is the most popular ski destination in Australia. With plenty of snow on the high-altitude mountain, you can ski and snowboard after catching lifts to the top of the runs. 

5. Great Sandy National Park, Queensland 

National Parks to Visit in Australia: Great Sandy National Park, Queensland

Hervey Bay is your gateway to the Great Sandy National Park, which protects 850 square miles (2,201 square kilometers) of gorgeous coastline in southern Queensland. 

Great Sandy National Park is divided into two distinct sections. The first is an area of coastline on the mainland stretching between Rainbow Beach and Noosa Heads. This is the heart of the Fraser Coast, and the area is known for its sandy beaches, surfing, and hiking trails.

The section area protected by Great Sandy National Park is Fraser Island, or K’gari, the largest sand island in the world. Join a four-by-four trip across the island, and you can swim in the creeks, camp out on the beach, and spot wild dingos among the dunes. 

6. Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park, Northern Territory

Must-Visit National Parks in Australia: Uluru Kata Tjuta National Park

Located in the remote red deserts of the Northern Territory, Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park protects the most famous rock in the world. 

This is the home of Uluru, a distinct “Inselberg” that the local Aboriginal people believe to be sacred. To visit, you’ll need to fly or drive to Alice Springs, first, a dusty town of some 25,000 thousand people in the Red Centre of Australia. 

The national park protects some 500 square miles (1,295 square kilometers) of unusual rock formations and desert landscapes, and there’s more to see here than just Uluru. Equally distinct is Kata Tjuta, a bulbous red rock that rises to 3,497 feet (1,066 meters) above sea level.

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7. Kakadu National Park, Northern Territory

Best National Parks in Australia: Kakadu National Park Northern Territory

Sprawling across a vast area of mountains, rainforest, and crocodile-infested rivers in the Northern Territory, Kakadu National Park is one of the largest protected areas in Australia.

Covering around 7,500 square miles (19,425 square kilometers) of land to the southeast of Darwin, Kakadu National Park is the best place to learn more about the Top End of Australia. 

Sparsely populated and magnificently remote, Kakadu National Park has been the home of local Aboriginal groups for almost 60,000 years. Across the park, you’ll find rock art and cave paintings at ancient sites like Ubirr, while spectacular natural sights like Jim Jim Falls and the Mamukala Wetlands are must-visits. 

8. Daintree National Park, Queensland 

National Parks to Visit in Australia: Daintree National Park, Queensland

Brave the sweltering humidity and tropical downpours of Far North Queensland, and you can immerse yourself in the unique ecosystem of the world’s oldest rainforest.

Thought to be 135 million years old, time stands still as it has for millennia in the Daintree Rainforest. Located an hour’s drive north of Cairns, the Daintree National Park protects almost 500 square miles (1,295 square kilometers) of ancient rainforest stretching north toward Cape Tribulation. 

There’s much to explore in the Daintree. Come face to face with massive saltwater crocodiles on a Solar Whisper tour of the Daintree River, hike to (crocodile-free) freshwater swimming holes in the rainforest, or be guided through Mossman Gorge by an Aboriginal elder. Make your way to Cape Tribulation, and you can see where the rainforest meets the Great Barrier Reef in dramatic fashion. 

9. Karijini National Park, Western Australia 

Must-Visit National Parks in Australia: Karijini National Park Western Australia

Deep in the semi-arid desert of the Pilbara, you’ll find one of the most fun national parks in Australia. It’s a long way from anywhere, but make the journey to Karijini National Park, and you’ll be rewarded by the sight of verdant gorges and glorious waterfalls hidden among the dusty red plains of Outback Australia.

Karijini National Park, with its deep canyons and waterways, is a lifeline in the desert, and nothing beats jumping into the ice-cold water at Joffre Gorge after an epic drive (it’s 14 hours from Perth to the south or 10 hours from Broome to the north). 

Karijini National Park is a canyoneer’s playground too, and you’ll love exploring Hancock Gorge and Weano Gorge as you enjoy the remoteness of the Pilbara. 

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10. Cradle Mountain-Lake St. Clair National Park, Tasmania

Best National Parks in Australia: Cradle Mountain Lake St. Clair National Park

Tasmania’s rugged wilderness can be explored in the Cradle Mountain-Lake St. Clair National Park, which covers some 600 square miles (1,554 square kilometers) of mountains and lakes 100 miles (161 kilometers) away from Hobart.

The park’s namesake is Cradle Mountain, a distinct peak that reaches an altitude of 5,069 miles (1,545 meters) above sea level. Cradle Mountain is the start or end of Tasmania’s Overland Track, a tough 40-mile (64-kilometer) hiking trail that traverses the national park.

The Overland Track stretches from Cradle Mountain to the national park’s other namesake, Lake St Clair. At 705 feet (215 meters) in depth, Lake St. Clair is the deepest lake in the entire country. 

11. Ikara-Flinders Ranges National Park, South Australia 

Best National Parks in Australia: Ikara Flinders Ranges National Park

If you’re touring through South Australia, then 360 square miles (932 square kilometers) of ancient rocks and curious geology await you in the Ikara-Flinders Ranges National Park.

Located some 300 miles (483 kilometers) north of Adelaide, cross the Flinders Ranges, and the Outback really begins. Known for its semi-arid climate, here you’ll find millions of years of geological activity written in the rocks rising from the red earth.

You’ll be awed by the sight of the Brachina and Bunyeroo Gorges, while Wilpena Pound is a vast amphitheater formed by the natural layout of surrounding mountain peaks. It’s a truly spectacular place to visit and one of our favorite national parks in Australia!

There you have it! The best national parks in Australia. What’s your favorite Australian national park?

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About the Author:

  • Richard Collett

    Richard is an award-winning travel writer based in Southwest England who’s addicted to traveling off the beaten track. He’s traveled to 75 countries and counting in search of intriguing stories, unusual destinations, and cultural curiosities.

    Richard loves traveling the long way round over land and sea, and you’ll find him visiting quirky micronations and breakaway territories as often as he’s found lounging on a beach (which is a lot).

    When he’s not writing for BBC Travel, National Geographic, or Lonely Planet, you can find Richard writing for the Wandering Wheatleys or updating his off-beat travel blog, Travel Tramp.

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