Australia’s superstar national parks such as Kakadu, Daintree and Kosciuszko sure soak up the attention, but Steve Madgwick reckons these 10 deserves a whole lot more love too.
This Pilbara-based park is the little sister to nearby Karijini National Park. Spring water feeds permanent pools and paperbarks line creeks in defiance of surrounding ochre cliffs and spinifex. The 1920s-Millstream Homestead acts as a visitors’ centre, outlining the area’s activities, and the culture of the Yindjibarndi people (and the ‘Warlu serpent’).
2. Mirima, WA
Mirima is a miniature version of the Bungle Bungle Ranges and it’s right on the doorstep (two-kilometres east) of relaxed Kimberley town, Kununurra. ‘Hidden Valley’ offers a selection of walks, from laid-back to sweat-inducing, around the home of the Miriwoong people. There is a flock of choice for bird watchers too, with species such as the white-quilled rock pigeon colonising the sandstone hills. parks.
3. Ku-ring-gai Chase, NSW
Around 20 kilometres from Sydney’s CBD is a surprisingly diverse, 15,000-hectare park. This Mecca of wildlife spotting, rock art and outdoor activities is set in valley after valley of classic Sydney sandstone stretching from the Hawkesbury River to the sea. A great place to start is the Kalkari Discovery Centre with nearby Bobbin Head a tranquil place for a family picnic and a dip.
4. Gundabooka, NSW
South of outback icon Bourke, craggy Mount Gundabooka stands half a kilometre above the surrounding plains, overlooking the Darling River. The Mulgowan Aboriginal Art Site walking track takes in rock art (animal motifs and hand stencils) and the hunting tools of the Ngemba and Paakandji peoples. Keep an eye out for pink cockatoos around the woodlands, floodplains and sandhills at Gundabooka.
5. Coorong, SA
Around two hours’ drive south-east of Adelaide will land you in 130 kilometres of lagoon-scape of Coorong National Park. The wetlands are a fecund breeding ground for pelicans (the film Storm Boy was set here) and an array of other wild birds. Mounds of ancient shells mark the campsites of the Ngarrindjeri people. The park is ripe with walking, four-wheel-driving and kayaking opportunities.
6. Tasman, Tasmania
Across the bay from the modern history lesson at Port Arthur in Tassie’s south-east, lies the 300-metre columnar dolerite cliffs and isolated beaches of Tasman National Park. The Cape Pillar Walk is the highlight of the sublime coastal walks, a great way to see the majestic cliffs. The northern tip can be explored by car or cruise the coast from Port Arthur, to spot seals, penguins, dolphins and whales.
7. Litchfield, NT
Ticked off Kakadu? Litchfield, only a couple of hours’ drive from Darwin, is accessible most of the year and, unlike Kakadu, you can swim here without the threat of saltwater crocs. The park’s four spectacular waterfalls – Florence, Wango, Tjaynera and Surprise Creek – are full year-round. Magnetic termite mounds, with perfect north-south orientation, are one of many reasons for the trip.
8. Limmen, NT
A national park since 2012, Limmen lies in the heart of the remote tropical savannah, 305 kilometres south-east of Katherine. Its cultural footprint extends from indigenous culture to foreign seafarers, Macassan trepangers, European explorers and pastoral pioneers. The sandstone pillars of the ‘Lost City’ are worth the journey alone. Prepare well before heading this way and avoid the wet season.
9. Lamington, QLD
Flee the bustle and neon of the Gold Coast to this hinterland oasis, situated on a 900-metre high plateau – a pristine World Heritage Area, with Mount Tamborine your ever-present backdrop. Come face-to-face with the dense subtropical rainforest and its birdlife during a canopy stroll around O’Reilly’s Tree Top Walk (oreillys.com.au), up to 30 metres above the forest floor.
10. Great Otway, Great Ocean Road, Victoria
Cruise past all of the Great Ocean Road’s main towns to reach Cape Otway National Park, with its rugged coastline, rock formations, beaches, ferny forests and lakes. It’s easy and rewarding to get off the beaten track here and trek to breathtaking waterfalls such as The Cascades. It’s equally close to the region’s delicious produce nestled in the nearby hinterland towns.
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