6 ALMOST Secret TOP Australian National Parks!

Last Updated on December 7, 2017 by Red Nomad OZ

NatParks_Infographic_LR

At LAST I’ve got the answer to that irritating question – Have you been to all the Australian National Parks?

I’ll just get out my recently released 2nd edition of Explore Australia’s excellent Explore Australia’s National Parks!

And point out that to visit ALL of Australia’s 500+ National Parks would be a life-long project.

The question comes up because lots of visitors stop counting after Uluru-Kata Tjuta, the Great Barrier Reef, Kakadu and the Blue Mountains. But what about the other 500 or so? Over the years, our travels in Australia have taken us to some spectacular National Parks that we’ve often had all to ourselves.

Using Explore Australia’s National Parks will help to narrow the field. And I’m not just saying that because I was lucky to get a complementary copy – check out the infographic at left, then take a little armchair tour of these 6 less well known Australian National Parks and you’ll see what I mean!!

And if this doesn’t whet your appetite for Aussie travel, then NOTHING will!

Let’s head to South Australia first!

1. Great Australian Bight Marine National Park, South Australia

Driving the Nullarbor is the ultimate road trip – part of a 4000 km journey from one side of Australia to the other, its big chunks of nothing broken only by roadhouses, rest stops and ‘roos! And stopping for the obligatory photo of yourself in the middle of a long stretch of empty road with nothing all around …

Whale with Calf, Head of Bight, South Australia
Whale with Calf, Head of Bight, South Australia

But the drive through the Nullarbor Regional Reserve is an adventure in itself with several world exclusives, including Nullarbor Links, the world’s longest golf course; the Nullarbor itself, world’s longest, flattest limetone formation; and the Bunda cliffs – longest unbroken stretch of cliffs without a natural harbour in the world.

Whales in Bight, with Bunda Cliffs behind, South Australia
Whales in Bight, with Bunda Cliffs behind, South Australia

For those unimpressed by such things, the Great Australian Bight – that big concave bit along the bottom of the continent – is a world reknowned Southern Right Whale nursery and migration path.

And on a good day – May to October – literally dozens of whales and calves can be spotted up and down the coast from the Head of Bight viewing platforms.

Such a spectacle, in fact, that I almost didn’t notice the scenic public toilet!

Read MORE: Whale Watching at Head of Bight

2. Wyperfeld National Park, Victoria

For a complete change of pace, Victoria’s Mallee country is a surprise to those who thought the Outback was confined to Australia’s more central parts.

Wonga Campground, Wyperfeld National Park, Victoria
Wonga Campground, Wyperfeld National Park, Victoria

Only 450 km north-west of Melbourne, visit Wyperfeld’s eastern section from nearby Hopetoun or Rainbow, but for a real outback experience camp in one of the park’s two campgrounds and explore the park on foot.

Dunes at Wyperfeld National Park, Victoria
Dunes at Wyperfeld National Park, Victoria

With walking trails to suit all levels of fitness, the park is part of a complex lake system and is a known habitat for the endangered Mallee fowl.

During our May 2012 day trip, we saw two other cars. But although lots of others joined us for our second stay on the June long weekend in 2014,  we were on our own again once the weekend was over.

And when you’re done with Wyperfeld, drop in to nearby Patchewollock for the BIG Mallee fowl!

Read MORE: Patchewollock and Hopetoun 

3. Cape Range National Park, Western Australia

The poor relation of Exmouth’s two parks, Cape Range is often overshadowed by the world famous Whale Sharks of Ningaloo Reef. And while these Western Australian Coral Coast offshore attractions are undeniably spectacular, Cape Range was so intriguing on our August 2012 visit, we saved Ningaloo for next time.

Yardie Creek Gorge, Cape Range National Park, via Exmouth, Western Australia
Yardie Creek Gorge, Cape Range National Park, via Exmouth, Western Australia

After escaping our campsite between the twin delights of the amenities block and the backpacker accomodation, Yardie Creek Gorge along the western side of the range running down the middle of Northwest Cape was a welcome surprise.

Yardie Creek Gorge, Cape Range National Park
Yardie Creek Gorge, Cape Range National Park, Western Australia

It’s not every day you get to see a classic Outback Gorge with a river running into the ocean!

The eastern side of the range was even more dramatic. A very rough, narrow, winding and steep drive along the aptly named Charles Knife Road revealed more rugged Outback scenery with staggering views across to the ocean.

And in the height of tourist season, with caravan parks and campgrounds full to bursting, we lucked out with only a couple of other vehicles!

Although one contained quite possibly the only sarong-wearing Frenchman in the world …

Read MORE: Exploring Cape Range National Park

Charles Knife Road Lookout, Cape Range National Park, via Exmouth, Western Australia
Charles Knife Road Lookout, Cape Range National Park, via Exmouth, Western Australia

4. Keep River National Park, Northern Territory

Described to us as the ‘mini Bungle Bungles’ in a nod to one of Western Australia’s big ticket items, the Northern Territory’s Keep River National Park actually abuts the WA border. And makes a mockery of the 1½ hour time difference! Although we left Kununurra early, by the time we’d visited the Ranger station and nearby Cockatoo Lagoon, then driven to the 7km Jarnem Loop walk trailhead, the morning had all but gone.

Jarnem Walk Lookout, Keep River National Park, Northern Territory
Jarnem Walk Lookout, Keep River National Park, Northern Territory

No matter.

This spectacular walk through bizarre rock formations to the 360ºlookout, then down through a lightly wooded valley past more rock formations to an Aboriginal rock shelter complete with paintings was virtually people free!

White-quilled Rock-pigeon, Keep River National Park
White-quilled Rock-pigeon, Keep River National Park

Add a lifer – White-quilled Rock-pigeon – for twitcher Pilchard and I see a return to this remote Top End park in our future …

I can only imagine the views at sunset and sunrise – but one day we’ll stay in one of the campgrounds for a few days and find out!

And when one day we visit the real Bungle Bungles, we’ll see how it got it’s nickname.

5. Paroo-Darling National Park, New South Wales

Jolting along the rough road from remote opal mining town White Cliffs towards Paroo-Darling National Park’s Peery Lake, we spotted a Winnebago parked in the middle of the road. Stopping to make sure the owners were OK, we asked where they’d come from. The middle aged couple exchanged guilty glances and seemed strangely reluctant to tell us.

Lake Peery, Paroo-Darling National Park, via White Cliffs, New South Wales
Lake Peery, Paroo-Darling National Park, via White Cliffs, New South Wales

‘You’re not Park rangers, are you?’, she finally asked. Then the penny dropped! They’d illegally stayed at the lake overnight.

‘It’s not really camping,’ she continued. ‘We’re fully self-contained!’

And that was our introduction to both Paroo-Darling National Park and the new definitions of ‘camping’.

Paroo-Darling National Park, New South Wales
Paroo-Darling National Park, New South Wales

The park is a string of seven old pastoral leases, several of which form one of the only reserves on the Darling River floodplain.

The park’s only campground – the Coach and Horses – is in this section, more easily reached from Wilcannia.

In the northern sections, along the Paroo River Overflow before it meets the Darling near Wilcannia. In this part of the park, the massive bulk of Lake Peery, full during our 2010 visit, supports abundant birdlife but when dry its unique mound springs become visible.

Read MORE: White Cliffs, New South Wales

6. Boodjamulla (Lawn Hill) National Park, Queensland

Back in 1998 on our first and only visit, Queensland’s Lawn Hill was considered a remote destination with the riverbanks at closest town Gregory Downs a makeshift stopover campsite before the rigours of 100 km of bulldust and gravel.

Lawn Hill Gorge, Boodjamulla National Park, Queensland
Lawn Hill Gorge, Boodjamulla National Park, Queensland

Nowadays, nearly 15 years later, it’s still a long, hard 100 km of unsealed road. With either mud or dust, depending on the time of year.

But it’s still one of the most spectacularly memorable National Parks in Australia, an Outback oasis with a soaring red rocky gorge system, clear water and staggering scenery. The canoe trip from the camping area up the gorge, then over the portage point into the higher gorge is an amazing experience. Get close to the wildlife too! Swim with the giant carp, spot freshwater crocodiles lurking in the gorges – and watch out for snakes in the water! My first instinct was to paddle like hell when my oar nearly hit a snake in the water; but Pilchard wanted to paddle back to see what he’d missed.

Lawn Hill Upper and Middle Gorges, Boodjamulla National Park, Queensland
Lawn Hill Upper and Middle Gorges, Boodjamulla National Park, Queensland

I guess that’s the essential difference between us!

Back at the campground’s cold showers, the high limestone content in the water gave a whole new meaning to ‘sculpted hairdo’ …

Expansive view from Jarnem Walk Lookout, Keep River National Park, Northern Territory
Expansive view from Jarnem Walk Lookout, Keep River National Park, Northern Territory

While travelling to these National Parks may take a little longer, the trip is well worth the extravaganza of stunning scenery, wonderful wildlife and extraordinary experiences you’ll encounter.

If YOU would like to explore Australia’s National Parks further, Explore Australia’s Explore Australia’s National Parks would make a GREAT investment in your Aussie travel!

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70 comments

    1. You’re right, Aaron! Yardie Creek Gorge is AWESOME!! But I couldn’t believe the two sections of the Cape Range NP were so different! Did you get to the Charles Knife Road part??

  1. WOW! Lawn Hill Upper and Middle Gorges, Boodjamulla National Park, Queensland looks really nice. So glad that you revealed these “almost secret national parks”. I’m really enjoying your blog!

  2. When i look at your images of our National Parks and the outback in general it’s like a whole unique world out there. I’m not much of a camper myself Red but it takes my breath away when I see these outlooks and can imagine what it must be like to sit high up on an escarpment and gaze over such vistas.. I did do it when I was a lot younger when I lived in Africa, similar scenes. I wonder if you’ve had a look at ‘Las Adventuras’ Chris is a really keen birder, you would find his trips around Arizona fascinating I’m sure.. link below

    http://gardeningandthespanishway-rohrerbot.blogspot.com.au/

  3. I just love the Blue Mountains National Park, always something amazing to see there. I think the Paroo-Darling National Park sounds very interesting. I have relatives out that way, next time I visit I’ll have to have a look.

    Yes – I’m entering the competition 🙂

    1. Haven’t been to the Blue Mountains in YEARS!!! But I could easily be persuaded … never let a chance go by, I say!!! Good luck!!

  4. Karijini National Park is on my wish list. It’s one of WA’s unique treasures! From the ancient gorges to the wildflowers, it has it all!

  5. Wollemi National Park would be my choice as I’d love to see the Pine in its natural habitat rather than just looking at a nursery specimen. AND I am entering the competition unless family and friends are disqualified on the grounds of nepotism and pointing out typos (LOL) 🙂 Gawain

    1. No one is excluded from this giveaway thanx to the impartial use of random.org!! But if you miss out, you can always borrow my copy …

  6. I’d love to visit the Purnululu National Park and the Bungle Bungle range, mainly because I haven’t been to that part of Australia. It would be a fabulous experience!

  7. Hi, entering the competition for the National Parks book.

    I’d visit Southwest National Park in Tasmania. I’ve always been attracted to the place, wanted nothing more than to walk the Western Arthurs, Mt Anne, and the South Coast Track, but have never gotten around to doing it. Maybe this year is the year to start?

    1. Yeah, make it happen NOW! Tassie’s a bit of a mystery to me – only been there once for a few days! Maybe I’ll see you there – good luck!

  8. Love Exploring our amazing National Parks each year,
    Finke Gorge is next on our list… in July we’re…
    Tackling central Australia’s rugged terrain..
    Impressive cliffs, river beds, red dirt… once again…
    Marvelling at our unspoilt landscape…
    Crystal blue springs, cool waterholes to escape…
    The heat and dirt… but nothing can compare…
    To the unique wildlife… spectacular Palm Valley… found there!
    “Explore… National Parks” would certainly be..
    Welcomed to explore Australia’s incredible beauty with me!!

    1. FAAAAABULOUS poem! Central Australia always delivers!! Thanx for entering so creatively, and good luck!

  9. Wollemi National Park and Wolgan Valley and the beautiful Emirates resort. My sort of camping!

    Please enter me in the competition!

    1. HHHMMMmmm… looks like I’ll have to check my book for details! Makes me realise how many more I have to see myself! Thanx for entering, and good luck!

  10. I’d love to head north to the Byfield National Forest.
    The timber is tall enough to shut out all your worries,
    and there are many different camping spots from all angles.

    would love this book to enhance our camping adventures 🙂

    1. I haven’t been to Byfield – looks like I’m no closer to visiting them all myself! Thanx for entering, and good luck!

  11. Freycinet National Park is on my list of ‘want to experience’ – I reckon if we score a copy of Explore Australia’s National Parks we might just take the challenge of visiting them all – now that we’re ‘almost grey nomads’ 🙂

    1. Hahaha, thanx for entering and good luck in your quest to visit them all!! I might see you out there one day!!

    1. I remember washing my hair in water so cold I thought my scalp would shrivel up at Carnarvon Gorge! But, I’d go there again in a heartbeat! Thanx for entering!

  12. Stop it, Red. I can’t bear that you have all that and we have the Cotswolds.
    Seeing it here gives me an idea what a fantastic continent Oz is.

    1. Haha, nothing like enjoying a cruel laugh at another’s expense … I’m sure the Cotswalds are beautiful!!!

  13. Wonderful list, Red. I’d love to visit them all. We are so lucky in Aus to have such great open spaces and National Parks. Have quite a few down here in SWA too 😉

  14. to Carole up at comment #2 – I have had Lamington NP described enthusiastically by a traveller who thinks it the best.
    Nothing like a gorge full of cool water.
    Great post, as always dear Red.

    1. I’d be hard pressed to say what’s ‘best’ – they’re all good, but they’re all different! Thanx as always for your kind words …

  15. They all look like awesome National Parks, well worth visiting. The Marine Park would be one of my favorites. Great post!