Explore Australia's national parks with Audley

Australia’s national parks are the wildest way to see the country. In every state, these protected landscapes wow with their geology, biodiversity and cultural heritage. If you’re keen to explore some of them, Audley’s experts are on hand with inspirational suggestions and that all-important bank of knowledge that comes with first-hand experience.

South Australia

Many of South Australia’s national parks are easily accessible from Adelaide, making them easy to slot into a holiday itinerary. From bush to beach, there’s a park with your name on it.

Ikara-Flinders Ranges National Park

Ikara-Flinders Ranges National Park’s most prominent landform is the elliptical Wilpena Pound. Before erosion and weathering reshaped this sunken natural amphitheatre it stood taller than the Himalaya. You’ll also want to explore the meandering Brachina Gorge where yellow-footed rock-wallabies make their home among the heavily-creased rocks. It’s a steep descent down into Bunyeroo Gorge, but driving along the creek bed is a memorable experience. Round out your trip witnessing a spectacular sunset from the Stokes Hill lookout.

Key experience: 4x4 tours

Book a guided 4x4 tour to experience the Flinders tracks with those who know them best. They’ll help you make sense of the geology and history of the place while building in stops in the park’s most photogenic corners.

Flinders Chase National Park

Flinders Chase National Park occupies the south western tip of Kangaroo Island, famous for landmarks such as Remarkable Rocks, Admirals Arch and the Cape du Couedic lighthouse. Regeneration has been swift following the devastating 2020 bushfires. Native sedges and gahnias, together with yaccas, hakeas and mallees have greened up the landscape. Some wildflowers are blooming again for the first time in 70 years. Wildlife numbers are also bouncing back; you might encounter kangaroos, echidnas and goannas.

Key experience: Spy seals at Admiral Arch

A colony of more than 100,000 long-nosed fur seals live in the water surrounding Kangaroo Island and they often haul out on the rocks at Admiral Arch. Follow the boardwalk to a viewing platform from where you can watch them rest and play.

Western Australia

The sculpted gorges, forested hills and dazzling beaches of Western Australia’s 112 national parks blend geology, flora, wildlife and cultural sites. But above all, the parks here deliver on colour.

Cape Range National Park

Swathes of wildflowers soften the rugged terrain of Cape Range National Park, the northern gateway to the Coral Coast. Today’s fossil-rich landscape is evidence of an ancient shift in sea levels compounded by centuries of weathering. Despite the arid climate, more than 630 plant species thrive within its canyons. Figs cling to rock ledges, while carpets of dampiera, mulla mullas, everlastings and Sturt’s desert pea splash bold brushstrokes of purple, yellow, white and red across flatter ground.

Key experience: Tracing the wildlife trails

Abundant wildlife awaits those walking Cape Range National Park’s trails. Spot marsupials like black-footed wallabies, euros and red kangaroos as well as emus, echidnas and birds as you tackle the Yardie Gorge Trail, Badjirrajirra Walk and Mandu Mandu Walk.

Leeuwin-Naturaliste National Park

The enduring popularity of Leeuwin-Naturaliste National Park isn’t hard to explain. Coastal cliffs and beaches backed by Aeolian dunes line this striking coastline, while granite outcrops litter the shallows. They’re the setting for world-class surf breaks; visitors also come to fish and swim. Bush walks along windswept headlands are accessible to all but serious hikers will be keen to complete the 80-mile long Cape to Cape Walk Track which runs the length of the Leeuwin-Naturaliste ridge.

Key experience: Whale watching

The Indian and the Southern Oceans meet at Cape Leeuwin, at the south-westerly point of Australia. Whale watching season lasts from May to December; observe from land or sea as humpbacks and southern right whales arrive to court and mate. 

Victoria

Victoria’s countryside boasts 45 national parks. Lace up your hiking boots: some are easily tackled as a day out from Melbourne while others are worthy destinations during a longer road trip. 

Grampians (Gariwerd) National Park

The national park the traditional owners know as Gariwerd is one of Australia’s finest. Plan a walking adventure in the mountainous Grampians to make the most of its impressive sandstone peaks, wildflower meadows and epic views. Whichever route you take, be sure to reach The Pinnacles lookout; along the way, there’s a good chance of encountering wildlife such as koalas, kangaroos and skinks. Indigenous rock art is also a must-see while you’re in the area.

Key experience: Hollow Mountain (Wudjub-guyan) walk

Ease yourself into this strenuous hike on gravel that winds through native pines, eucalypts and banksias. Push on, navigating strewn boulders and slippery surfaces as you climb past weathered caverns to look out over Mount Stapylton and the Wimmera Plains.

Wilsons Promontory National Park

You’ll find Wilsons Promontory National Park, nicknamed “the Prom”, at the southernmost tip of mainland Australia. Granite peaks like Mount Oberon and Mount Bishop dominate the landscape; from these summits you’ll be treated to striking views of stringybark forest and offshore islands. The sandy coast warrants a closer look, particularly Squeaky Beach, where grains of quartz squeak as you walk over them. Offshore, the Wilson Promontory Marine National Park delivers rocky underwater reefs and colourful sponges. 

Key experience: Guided bushwalks

A wide range of wildlife, including kangaroos, wallabies, wombats and emus, coupled with the park’s dramatic scenery, are reason to book a guided bushwalk. Pack-free, single- or multi-day tours can be arranged year-round and customised to your own preferences.

New South Wales

New South Wales boasts more than 225 national parks. They serve up a diverse range of landscapes spanning snow-capped mountains, ancient tracts of rainforest, rocky plateaux and glorious sandy beaches.

Blue Mountains National Park

At the heart of Blue Mountains National Park is a striking sandstone ridge. It rises from a dense forest of eucalypts whose oil droplets scatter the light to give the area its signature blue haze. Ride a cable car and admire iconic landforms like the Three Sisters, Orphan Rock and Mount Solitary. Alternatively, descend to the valley floor via the vertiginous Scenic Railway – its 52° incline makes it the world’s steepest – to hike through a Jurassic rainforest.

Key experience: Visit Katoomba Falls

The Kedumba River tumbles over the edge of a steep escarpment to form the Katoomba Falls. View it, and the Jamison Valley beyond, from the Scenic Skyway gondola or hike the Furber Steps Walking Track to Vanimans Lookout and Juliet’s Balcony.

Tomaree National Park

Spot dolphins, fur seals and migratory humpbacks off the coast of Tomaree National Park. Here, sea eagles soar overhead, koalas snooze in the treetops and echidnas sniff about on the ground. In peaceful, sandy coves such as Wreck Beach, panoramic ocean views create the ideal place to unwind, while consistent waves draw more active types to surf at Box Beach. Check out the historic gun emplacements at Fort Tomaree, part of Australia’s World War Two defences.

Key experience: Tomaree Coastal Walk

Dip in to the delightful Tomaree Coastal Walk, a 16-mile trail best tackled over two or three days. You’ll follow in the footsteps of the Worimi people as you hike from Tomaree Head to Birubi Point enjoying breathtaking sea views.

Queensland

Queensland is home to more UNESCO World Heritage Sites than any other Australian state, so you know you’re also in for a treat if you plan to visit its national parks.

Great Sandy National Park

Great Sandy National Park can broadly be divided into two main regions. In the park’s southern Cooloola region, kayak through the Noosa Everglades, one of only two such habitats on the planet. Later, camp out on Teewah Beach, reachable only by 4x4 over a sandy track. Over on K’Gari (Fraser Island), admire the colossal, multi-hued cliffs lining Rainbow Beach and paddle along crystal-clear Eli Creek. Wind down at Champagne Pools, the island’s ocean-facing rock pools.

Key experience: Drive along 75 Mile Beach

Get behind the wheel to conquer 75 Mile Beach. Concealed bumps, dips, and washouts in the sand make this a challenging but thrilling drive. Technically it’s a highway but first and foremost it’s a beach, so stay abreast of tide times before setting out.

Lamington National Park

Together with Springbrook, Mount Barney and Main Range, the Gondwana Rainforests of Lamington National Park have UNESCO World Heritage status. They form the remaining fragments of an ancient ecosystem that’s been evolving for 225 million years, long before the dinosaurs became extinct. You’ll want to explore on foot: stroll past booyongs, figs and brush box to reach pretty Morans Falls or embark on the Border Track which connects the trailheads at Binna Burra and Green Mountains.

Key experience: Rainforest Canopy Walk

Immerse yourself in the canopy as you follow this verdant treetop trail along nine suspension bridges suspended 16 metres above the ground. Epiphytes colonise branches while ferns carpet the forest floor. Come early or late in the day for the best birdwatching.

Northern Territory

From the Top End to the Red Centre, national parks encompass some of the most breathtaking landscapes within the Northern Territory. Two, Kakadu and Uluru-Kata Tjuta, are also UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

Kakadu National Park

Immerse yourself in nature and history within one of Australia’s largest and most captivating national parks. Fly over Jim Jim Falls, Kakadu’s highest; in the dry season, you can hike through monsoon forests to see it cascading down from a towering sandstone escarpment. On guided walks, admire 20,000 year old rock art (kunbim), learn the stories passed down through the images painted by the present-day Bininj/Mungguy landowners and find out how the land supports them.

Key experience: Cruise the wetlands

Take a boat ride through Yellow Water Billabong, located on Jim Jim Creek, a tributary of the South Alligator River. Spot saltwater crocodiles plus some of the many birds that live here, including kingfishers, whistling ducks, brolgas, jabirus and magpie geese.

Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park

For 550 million years, the monolith we call Uluru has towered above the surrounding plain. This colossal rock is sacred to the Anangu people. They’ll lead you around its base as they recount stories of the Dreamtime. The place is mesmerising; time seems to stand still as you watch the light change. Close up, the terracotta of the rock is intense against a cerulean desert sky. Meanwhile, the spindly mulga trees crowding its base are a reminder of Uluru’s scale.

Key experience: Explore the domes of Kata Tjuta

Kata Tjuta means “many heads” and you’ll soon understand why as you clap eyes on the cluster of 36 sandstone domes found about thirty miles away from Uluru. Show respect for the Anangu people by hiking only on the marked trails. 

Tasmania

Wilderness and wildlife characterise Tasmania’s 19 national parks, which cover about 40% of the state’s land area. Stellar geology, exquisitely dramatic terrain and remarkable biodiversity make it a compelling destination.

Cradle Mountain-Lake St Clair National Park

Rising above serene Dove Lake, Cradle Mountain’s craggy ridge is strung like a hammock between its two peaks. It’s equally impressive from Marion’s Lookout or from the shore of the lake. Time your visit for autumn when the fagus trees that smother its lower slopes brighten into a rich palette of yellows and reds. Magical walks traverse mossy rainforests brimming with fungi and glacial lakes litter the area, not least Lake St Clair, Australia’s deepest lake.  

Key experience: Cradle Mountain summit walk

Not for the faint-hearted, you’ll need to be an experienced bushwalker to cope with the exposed scrambling required for this rocky climb. But if you can handle it, this demanding summit hike with its 600 metre elevation gain rewards with extraordinary views.

Maria Island National Park

Aboriginal and convict history, extraordinary geology and an abundance of wildlife combine to make Maria Island an irresistible stop for travellers making their way along Tasmania’s scenic east coast. The ochre-streaked, heavily-eroded sandstone of the Painted Cliffs makes a photogenic starting point close to the ferry dock. Stretch your legs a little more to summit the 711m high Mount Maria or conquer twin peaks Bishop and Clerk where you’ll be rewarded with an outstanding view over the Freycinet Peninsula.

Key experience: Go wildlife watching

Maria’s isolation makes it a wildlife haven. Seals and sometimes whales swim close to the shore, while furry wombats graze on grassy meadows alongside wallabies and Forester kangaroos. Tasmanian devils now thrive here, following a successful breeding programme initiated a decade ago.

Why Audley?

Audley’s experts know Australia like the back of their hand and can recommend the national parks that are right for you, whether you prefer exploring the crimson-red Outback or lush emerald-tinged rainforest. They’ll suggest the best time of year to visit, helping you craft an unforgettable trip. Planning a visit to this vast country can be overwhelming and Audley are the experts in taking the stress out of planning a once-in-a-lifetime trip to this enigmatic country.