Australia is home to more than five hundred national parks, featuring a variety of landscapes and natural beauty that are unique to this island nation. The diversity of flora and fauna is impressive, from the red earth of the outback to the lush rainforest of the Daintree, craggy ranges of Alpine regions, and the crystal-clear waters of the coastal areas. There are some incredible parks to choose from, making it difficult to know where to start! To make this decision a little easier, we have put together a guide to five top national parks on an Australia road trip.
To fully explore the beautiful landscapes of Australia, you will undoubtedly need your own transport. All of the parks listed below feature campgrounds either within or nearby, which makes campervan hire the obvious choice. Not only will you have a vehicle to get around in, but also your necessary amenities and accommodation, too.
Mt Kosciuszko National Park – New South Wales
If you and the family are looking for a variety of outdoor activities, including lots and lots of snow then look no further. The Kosciuszko National park will spoil you with snow sports, walks, and mountain biking. From camping to exploring caves, you can climb Australia’s highest mountain, stay in its exclusive heritage accommodation and enjoy a world of white and rich backdrops that will leave you breathless and exhilarated.
This national park will keep you busy for weeks, it is open from 7 am to 7 pm daily, with some road closures throughout the year due to the weather. The Park is split into five key areas, in which you can undertake a series of activities.
Thredbo and Perisher
This wonderful area is a getaway with NSW’s favourite ski resorts, top alpine hikes, mountain bike trails, and endless adventures; a huge part of the snowy mountains. In winter skiing and snowboarding are the main attractions, along these slopes including the popular ski resorts, the largest in the Southern Hemisphere. You can even try your luck at cross-country skiing or snowshoeing the pristine trails. Thrill seekers can also hit some of the mountain bike trails including the Thredbo valley track and experience the awesome grounds whilst camping.
Lower Snowy River
The lower Snowy rivers offer a more baseline and intimate experience of the national park, embracing the wild south with scenic trails or walks, bike rides, or even horseback rides. It is located 40km south of Jindabyne’s snowy region visitor centre. You will find some incredible campgrounds by the banks of the fabled river and there is easy access to the river and its sandy beaches with a mild and dry climate where you can try your hand at fishing, paddling, or swimming in the summer months. There is also plenty of bird watching and wildlife spotting such as redneck wallabies, kangaroos, and emus.
This area is located west of the National Park and this is where the camping spots of Geehi and Tom Groggins are popular spots for fishing and riding, with waterfall views, hikes, and huts in the Jagungal wilderness; the perfect escape and way to explore the National park. From Khancoba, head south on Alpine way heading towards Thredbo and you will be rewarded with epic views of the western falls, jagged peaks, and the steepest part of the mountains with detours to Scammells or Olsen’s lookout, with panoramic views.
This is the perfect base to explore the walks, partake in rides and try your luck at top fishing spots, located between Cooma and Tumut and is the main gateway to the central and northern Kosciusko national park. You can also go camping at the Three Mile Dam campground or set out on foot amongst the heath and snow gums along the GoldSeekers track.
Daintree National Park – Queensland
Imagine a tropical location where you are surrounded by green, lush trees with beautiful coverings, lyrebird calls, and drops of water cascading down the ferns into waterfalls and trickling brooks. Then the tropical wilderness of North Queensland, the Daintree National Park is the wildlife encounter for you.
The Daintree Rainforest itself boasts an incredibly diverse landscape with a large variety of animal and plant species that can’t be found anywhere else in the world. It is also one of the oldest rainforests on the planet covering a 1200 km squared landscape. This park was classified as a national park in the 1980s and forms a vitally important part of the wet tropics in Queensland, and is now a world heritage site. The park itself is split into two separate sections with a sweep of lowlands that connects the two areas which are situated between the two towns of Mossman and Daintree Village.
There are a number of activities that you and your family can undertake when visiting this amazing location.
Crocodile and Wildlife Cruise
Imagine testing the waters and experiencing a unique encounter with Queensland’s oldest dinosaur, the crocodile. Wildlife enthusiasts will love this one-hour crocodile spotting cruise on the Daintree River and is a solar-powered experience, so it’s quiet so as not to disturb the wildlife; watch out for the crocodile and it is not the only reptile about, snakes, and frogs along with birds will be an incredible encounter.
Cape Tribulation, Mossman Gorge and Daintree Rainforest
Another wonderful experience you can have in the Daintree is the Cape Tribulation, Mossman Gorge, and the Daintree rainforest day trip. Immerse yourself in the natural wonders and rich Aboriginal heritage of Australia’s tropical landscape. The trip begins at Mossman Gorge where the smoking ceremony was a part of the indigenous Kuku Yalanji people and then enjoy an encounter with native wildlife, along the Maadja Botanical boardwalk and visit Cape Tribulation, the meeting point of the UNESCO-listed Great Barrier Reef and Daintree rainforest. Once you have had lunch at the Cape Tribulation beach house, embark on a scenic cruise along the Daintree River and experience the wonders of the forest floor.
Daintree Discovery Tours
Another way to visit the rainforest is a personal guided tour. This small tour offers a personalised experience with information that you may never have heard of regarding the incredible history of the forest. Take pictures of stunning views and the hidden gems of wildlife.
Cape Le Grand National Park – Western Australia
Want to walk on the wild side for a change, then Cape Le Grand is the national park to visit. This ancient rugged coastline has a unique landscape, large granite outcrops, and idyllic white beaches. Inland rolling heathlands are home to pygmy possums, western grey kangaroos and a diversity of wildflowers, including the dense thickets of gorgeous banksias. Perfect for swimming or surfing, in the splendid and picture-perfect white sandy bays.
Among the many things to do in this gorgeous sandy escape, is visiting the charging bays of Hellfire And Lucky. These gorgeous white sandy paradises are places to go for a picnic or swimming and with crystal clear ocean, an amazing place to snorkel. Thistle Cove is also another bay that offers sun, sand, and a rock formation that whistles with the sounds of the wind and waves. There is so much to explore.
If you are a seasonal bushwalker or just happy to take a stroll, then consider one of the hiking trails that span over 1km combining Lucky Bay to Thistle Cove and is about a one-hour walk with 360 views over the Cape Le Grand or challenge yourself from Thistle Cove to Hell Fire bay, a 2-hour walk covered with granite but also offers wonderful breezes and stunning views.
Kakadu National Park – Northern Territory
If you are looking for a cultural immersion that will take you through the history of Australia’s rich and diverse world then the Kakadu National park is the National Park for you. Kakadu is one of the largest parks in Australia, nearly half the size of Switzerland, and is a dual world heritage listed site. Kakadu is Aboriginal land and today they work hand in hand with parks Australia to manage Kakadu using a mix of modern and traditional ways. Since the late 1970s Kakadu’s traditional owner has leased the land to the director of the national parks to jointly manage the park and this has been important for shared decisions and the exchange of knowledge, skills and information to maintain and protect the beautiful national park.
There is a wide range of activities and experiences that the park offers for those wishing to visit and is a great way to explore and take in the historical and exquisite beauty the park has to offer.
Ranger Guided Activities
Every year this a range of activities and this year it was the Bininj/Mungguy-led activities that visitors could participate in where you can meet the local artists learning how to paint, explore the billabongs to learn about Kakadu’s habitats and food, and explore the ancient rock art sites; discovering a history rich in culture.
Some of the other activities include the Nanguluwurr rock art talk a 1.7km walk to a small rock art site, the seasonal changes in Kakadu’s wetland tour with local guide Victor Cooper from the Ayal Aboriginal Tours, sharing the knowledge of the seasonal changes. A language lesson listening to a talk by local Bininj (aboriginal people) and linguists from Bininj Kunwok regional language centre in Jabiru, who will guide you and teach you about the Aboriginal languages of Kakadu National Park.
If Kakadu is famous for anything it’s the 10000 crocodiles and that does not count the hatchlings. They have been present marine life for millions of years. There are safe platforms at Cahill Crossing, Yellow water and two cruises; the Guluyambi cultural cruise and the yellow water wetlands cruise are where you can view the crocodiles from afar or up close and personal along the river and depending on the time of day they may be warming in the sun or cooling in the shade, so see keep your eyes open.
You can’t have a national park without waterfalls, these waterfalls reflect the diverse beauty of the heritage-listed site and are a major attraction for visitors, there is a variety that captures the dramatic seasonal changes of the park. From the towering Jim Jim falls to the twin falls, there is so much to see. Some of the waterfalls include the Gunlom Falls, one of the finest and popular with cascading waters plunging into a pristine pool or the dazzling waterfalls spilling from the steep forge walls into a pristine natural pool of the Maguk waterfall.
Cradle Mountain National Park – Tasmania
One of the most iconic national parks to visit in all of Australia is the Cradle Mountain national park in Tasmania; an exceptional natural beauty at the heart of the Tasmanian wilderness world heritage area. Within its walls are thickly covered ancient rainforest, deep river gorges to snow-covered mountain peaks, wild alpine moorland and glacial lakes, these will take your breath away. Wildlife is abundant at the park from devils to quolls, platypus, echidna, wombats, and the black currawong.
There is so much to do in this park, that you will never have a dull moment.
A grade 3, 6km circuit, lasting 2-3 hours depending on your own level of fitness and experience, the Dove Lake walk is a great base track, to begin with and has a consistent change of environments that will leave you lost in a fantasy world of nature while you explore the edges. As one of the premiers walks, the glacial-covered lake has epic views, and if you are lucky to have a sunny day hand, you will traverse beneath the mountain and the ferns through a significant rainforest area.
The Enchanted walk is a sweet 20-minute walk and a delightful and simple starter for your Cradle Mountain experience. It begins near the bridge crossing at Pencil Pine creek and weaves through magical mossy rainforest along the cascading creek. Watch out as you go and look out for the colourful fungi or you might see pademelons and wombats on the edge of the forest and create great photo opportunities along the way.
Perhaps the most popular option for those walkers who love a challenge is the overland track. A 6-day, one-way 65km track that can be self-led or guided as a tour. This life-changing journey attracts walkers from all over the globe, beginning at Cradle Mountain and ending at Lake St Clair with magnificent views of the Tasmanian wilderness. It is a physically demanding, but scenically spectacular experience, and you can stay in huts along the way. You may even be able to witness Tasmania’s highest peak, Mount Ossa.