The best national parks in Australia

From the coast to the Outback, Australia has some of the world’s most diverse nature. To discover it, you can visit some of the best national parks in Australia!

Written by Michael Turtle

Michael Turtle is the founder of Travel Australia Today. He has been a journalist for more than 20 years and loves exploring different parts of Australia.

Michael Turtle is the founder of Travel Australia Today and has been a journalist for 20 years.

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The best national parks in Australia

Use the table of contents to jump down the article - or continue reading for my suggestions for Australia's best national parks.

From lush rainforest to windswept desert; with red rocks carved over millennia and golden beaches tracing the coastline, Australia’s landscapes are one of its biggest assets.

Protecting many of our environmental wonders are national parks – areas where major development is prohibited, the ecology is conserved, and we can explore as the world intended.

Australia’s best national parks offer an incredible way to see the country and the diverse natural treasures that are spread across the country. But sometimes it can be a bit hard to know where to start.

The best national parks in Australia
Swimming at Maguk at Kakadu National Park

There are more than 680 national parks in Australia and they are not equal. An iconic World Heritage-listed national park like Kakadu has the same status as a small strip of bushland in Sydney’s northern suburbs (Lane Cove National Park).

This is because, unlike countries including the US, UK, or New Zealand, Australia doesn’t have a proper tiered structure to its national parks, so places quite often get called a ‘national park’ as part of their protection, even if they don’t have anything special or warrant tourism.

Australia's best national parks
Sunset at Wilsons Promontory National Park

The other issue is that ‘national park’ is a bit of a misnomer, because they are actually run by the states and territories, not by the national government (except for six parks… just to make it even more confusing).

Each jurisdiction has different criteria for creating a national park, which is why Queensland has 237 and Tasmania has just 19. There’s also no consistency in the quality of visitor information available online, and there’s a different pricing structure for each state and territory and no pass that covers the whole country (which I know is really frustrating for international visitors, in particular!)

Walls of China, Mungo National Park
The desert landscape of Mungo National Park

That’s why I thought this guide to the best national parks in Australia would be useful. It’s not just a list for the sake of having a list – I hope it will actually be useful if you’re planning a trip around Australia or to any of these specific states.

These are the best national parks that you might want to make an effort to include in your itinerary.

I have broken up the list by state and territory and marked them all on this map, so you can see how they cover so much of the country.

!! MAP !!

The best thing about the best Australian national parks is their diversity and, as you’ll see, there’s something here to keep everyone happy. So, let’s get into the list!


Up north, Queensland has truly embraced the idea of national parks and has the most of any state – in fact, there are a whopping 237 national parks in Queensland!

(And that doesn’t even include the vast Great Barrier Reef, which I’m not including in this list because it’s technically an overarching marine park, not a national park.)

The Queensland coast and coastal hinterland has most of the parks, including tropical islands and lush rainforest – but there are also some stunning spots in the Outback.

Lamington National Park

Close to the Gold Coast and an easy drive from Brisbane, Lamington National Park is one of the best and easiest to access properties in SE Queensland. The thick green forests here are the same type of environment that has existed for millions of years, one of the reasons it’s been listed as a World Heritage Site.

Binna Burra, Lamington National Park
Me gazing out wistfully during a walk in the Binna Burra section

One of the best spots to base yourself to explore the park is at Binna Burra. The hiking trails here will take you into the cool mountain air and through the moss-covered rainforest, where you can imagine the dinosaurs who once roamed here – or just escape from the heat on a summer day!

Great Sandy National Park

The Great Sandy National Park stretches up from the north of the Sunshine Coast and Rainbow Beach, named for its coloured sand, is a popular spot to access the park. But the highlight is Fraser Island (K’gari), another World Heritage Site.

The long beaches, the coloured cliffs, the inland freshwater lakes all contribute to the remarkable ecosystem on Fraser Island, the largest sand island in the world. Some of the dunes reach as high as 230 metres!

It’s worth staying a few days on the island to try some of the buhwalking trails, take a boat trip, or explore the 4WD tracks. Just keep an eye out for the dingoes, which are harmless most of the time, but can cause issues occasionally!

Whitsunday Islands National Park

Further up the coast is one of Queensland’s most popular national parks – although not all visitors even realise that it is one. The Whitsundays, with its 74 islands, has some areas that are dedicated to luxurious resorts and allow development, like Hamilton Island. But much of it is protected by national park.

The jewel of the Whitsunday Islands National Park is Whitsunday Island itself, famous for the bright sand of the stunning Whitehaven Beach, but it’s worth also visiting some of the smaller islands by boat.

Hill Inlet, Whitsunday Island
Many of the tours visit the inlet at Whitsunday Island

To make it a bit confusing, some of the islands are part of other national parks, including Lindeman Islands National Park, and Molle Islands National Park – but don’t let the bureaucracy put you off exploring them all!

Daintree National Park

One of the best national parks in Australia is up in North Queensland, where you’ll find the rich rainforest of Daintree National Park touching the edge of the Great Barrier Reef. With cascading waterfalls, soaring trees, and humid air, the environment is full of wildlife including crocodiles and cassowaries.

The Mossman Gorge region of the park is the most popular because it’s easily accessible from Cairns or Port Douglas, but the more adventurous travellers will head north to more remote areas like Cape Tribulation.

Daintree National Park
Sunrise at Cape Tribulation in Daintree National Park

Because of the size of the park, and the dense tropical wilderness, most of the access to the different features is by car. But there are some walking trails and boat trips that offer different perspectives.

Carnarvon National Park

Away from the coast, about 400 kilometres west of Bundaberg, Carnarvon National Park offers a completely different landscape, with a dramatic gorge and towering sandstone cliffs.

With rock pools, clifftop hikes, and trails through the dry eucalyptus forests, there’s plenty to do (rangers suggest about 3 days) – and you certainly don’t want to miss the wonderful Indigenous rock art and heritage in the park.

Cathedral Cave, Carnarvon Gorge
The enormous overhang where Indigenous art is painted at Cathedral Cave

One of the great things about visiting Carnarvon Gorge is that the main highlights are laid out along the main track, so you can see all the best sights without feeling like you’re missing out on anything.

Boodjamulla National Park

And for the ultimate remote Queensland national park, there’s Boodjamulla (Lawn Hill) National Park in the far northwest of the state. The rich red rocks that line the emerald waterways look a bit like Kakadu and the region is teeming with birdlife.

There are hikes, canoeing trails, and stunning views, but one of the most significant features are the extensive fossil deposits (some 25 million years old) that make up the Riversleigh World Heritage Area.

New South Wales

New South Wales also has a huge number of national parks – just several fewer than Queensland – and I think it also has the most diverse collection. From deserts in the west, to snowfields in the south, beaches in the east and rainforest in the north.

Any visitor to Sydney is likely to pass through one without realising, with the Sydney Harbour National Park dominating the city, and there are plenty of other iconic spots to see across the state.

Royal National Park

The Royal National Park deserves a special mention on this list because, not only was it Australia’s first national park, but it was the world’s second (after Yellowstone in the US)! Just south of Sydney, it’s easy to reach and protects a large part of the coastal environment from development.

The Royal National Park is popular for recreation and there are quite a few picnic and bbq areas. Small towns on the edge of the park – particularly Bundeena, have restaurants and other facilities. (Although, as soon as you head into the bush, you’ll feel like you’re far away from anywhere.)

The network of hiking trails is probably the best part of the park and there are lots of options for any length. I would particularly recommend the 26-kilometre Coast Track which can be done over two days, with refreshing beach stops along the way.

Blue Mountains National Park

Just to the west of Sydney is the vast Blue Mountains National Park, with its dramatic sandstone escarpments, clifftop viewpoints, waterfalls, and wide variety of environments. It’s one of the most popular national parks in Australia because it offers so much: from an epic multi-day hike to afternoon tea in a heritage cafe.

It’s remarkable to notice how much the flora and fauna changes from the top of the mountains down into the verdant valleys. The cliffs can often dominate the landscape – including the famous Three Sisters rock formations – but there are lots of other features in the flora and fauna of the park.

Blue Mountains National Park
Looking out from Echo Point in the Blue Mountains

You can visit the Blue Mountains as a day trip from Sydney but it’s better to stay for a night or more and do some walks in different regions. Towns like Katoomba and Leura have excellent accommodation, restaurants, and cultural offerings like art galleries.

Kosciuszko National Park

Australia’s highest mainland peak, Mount Kosciuszko, is the crowning glory of Kosciuszko National Park, but there’s much more to this park that stretches from near Canberra all the way up to the snowfields – the largest national park in New South Wales..

In summer, you can go horse riding on alpine trails, kayak on the mighty Snowy River, or pack the bag for an adventurous walk (maybe for a few days) into the wilderness, discovering some the heritage huts along the way.

In winter, Kosciuszko National Park is home to some of Australia’s best ski resorts, including Thredbo and Perisher, and it gets very busy during school holidays. Still, there’s plenty to see on the roof of Australia.

Dorrigo National Park

In the north of New South Wales, not far from Coffs Harbour, is another national park that, like Queensland’s Lamington, is part of the Gondwana Rainforests World Heritage Site. Dorrigo National Park, with its enormous tropical ferns and waterfalls, feels like stepping back in time.

Dorrigo National Park
A small waterfall at Dorrigo National Park

There are lots of different walks at Dorrigo that take you through the rainforest to spot birds and another local wildlife. But don’t miss the Skywalk lookout that takes you above the canopy to see the beautiful landscape.

Warrumbungle National Park

Warrumbungle National Park, in the NSW Central West, is Australia’s only Dark Sky Park – perfect for stargazing or trying some astrophotography.

But the park is also known for its volcanic landscape, particularly the jagged stone formations know as the Breadknife, which has an incredible 14km walk amongst it. There are good camping facilities in the park, so it’s an excellent spot to spend a night or two in the Aussie bush.

Mungo National Park

One of the most dramatic national park landscapes in New South Wales is at Mungo National Park, in the far west of the state. Ancient lakes that dried up at the end of the last Ice Age have left moon-like sand formations for you to discover.

The park is part of a World Heritage Site that’s been listed for its nature and its culture – in particular, artefacts of Indigenous life here, including the skeletal remains known as Mungo Man, that date back about 40,000 years.

Mungo National Park Visitor Guide
Watching the sunset from the Walls of China lunette

A walk along the lake’s edge, known as the Walls of China, is a highlight, and I also recommend you take the time to drive the 70-kilometre Mungo Trail that showcases the diversity of the natural features here.


For Canberrans, the alpine bush of nearby Brindabella National Park is a popular spot to visit – but technically it is in New South Wales. This makes it easy to put together a list of the best national parks in the ACT, because there’s only one – Namadgi!

Namadgi National Park

The size of Namadgi National Park is impressive, as it covers about half of the ACT – more than the city of Canberra. And what is protected here is stunning, making the park more than just a natural getaway for the public servants.

In the lower parts of Namadgi are woodlands of snow gums, while higher up there are alpine meadows which turn white in winter. Kangaroos, wombats, and possums live in the park, as does the most important (but hard to spot) animal – the black and yellow corroboree frog.

One of the best ways to visit Namadgi is to bush walk through it, and there are about 160 kilometres of walking trails to explore.


Although Victoria is the smallest of the mainland states, it packs a lot of punch with what it’s got, boasting some of the most diversity in its national parks. From the snow to the coast, with plenty of heritage scattered amongst it all, there’s a reason Victoria’s national parks are extremely popular with visitors.

Dandenong Ranges National Park

Of all the national parks that are easily accessible from Melbourne (and there are quite a few) the most popular is probably the Dandenong Ranges National Park, on the eastern edge of the city, about 40 minutes’ drive from the CBD.

It feels lush and cool here, with tall mountain ash trees creating a canopy and verdant ferns covering the floor. There are about 300 kilometres of walking trails that lead through the park but a visit to the Dandenongs doesn’t need to be too physical. There is a charming string of mountain townships around the park for some light shopping and tea.

Wilsons Promontory National Park

Also relatively close to Melbourne is Wilsons Promontory National Park , but the wonder of The Prom (as its often called) is that it feels so remote and quiet compared to the city 200 kilometres away.

The national park is surrounded by water and the only road will take you just some of the way into the wilderness. To get to many of the campsites along the coast, you’ll have to hike in.

Wilsons Promontory National Park
The coastline of Wilsons Promontory National Park

Although the centre of Wilsons Promontory National Park, with forests and heath rolling up the small mountains, is pleasant enough, it’s the coast that’s the highlight. Granite boulders hug the bluffs and small sandy beaches are perfect for a dip (although the water is usually quite cold!)

Most locals just call it ‘The Prom’ and it’s fitting that Wilsons Promontory National Park has a familiar feel to it, because

Croajingalong National Park

Further east along the coast, at the border with New South Wales, is one of Victoria’s largest national parks, stretching for about 100 kilometres. I also think Croajingalong National Park one of the most interesting, with a dramatic coastline peppered with cliffs and granite boulders, forests with koalas and kangaroos inland, and a large inlet that can be explored by boat or kayak.

Croajingalong National Park
Cruising the inlet at Croajingalong National Park

There are a lot of animals in the park and they can be spotted on casual walks or from the water. It’s also worth staying in the park for a night or two to see the fauna (and the natural colours) change throughout the day. As well as camping, there are lots of good accommodation options at Mallacoota.

Port Campbell National Park

Driving along the coast westwards from Melbourne, you’ll reach Great Otway National Park on the Great Ocean Road. It could well have a place on this list, but I’ve chosen to include Port Campbell National Park instead because it has the greatest icon of this stretch of coast – the Twelve Apostles.

Port Campbell National Park is actually just a narrow stretch of land along the coast between Peterborough and Princetown, and the focus is the dramatic limestone cliff that has a sheer drop down to the beach. Pounded by wind and water for millions of years, erosion has sculpted the incredible formations that rise out of the ocean.

The park is also known for the shipwrecks along the coast, as well as significant Indigenous heritage including shell middens. While most people drive through the park, there are also walking trails.

Grampians National Park

It’s the natural landscapes that make the first dramatic impression at Grampians National Park, with rock formations in the mountains, waterfalls, fern gullies, and wildflowers. Certainly the hikes to viewpoints are popular, as is canoeing and rock climbing.

But Grampians National Park also has rich Indigenous culture, as an ancient landscape that’s been in habited for more than 20,000 years. There are 120 rock art sites and you can learn more about them and other parts of the heritage at the Brambuk Cultural Centre.

Mount William in the Grampians
A lookout at Mount William in the Grampians (Visit Victoria)

In 2021, the 13-day Grampians Peaks Trail opened, offering one of Australia’s best multi-day walks – although there are shorter stretches you can do within a day.

Murray-Sunset National Park

The name gives you a pretty big hint about two of the main features of Murray-Sunset National Park. The first is the River Murray, lined with river red gums, which forms the north west boundary. But most of the park actually feels more like the Outback, with spectacular golden sunsets.

Murray-Sunset National Park is quite isolated and gets hot in summer. The heat evaporates the water in the lakes in summer, creating a crystallised surface that often looks pink – one of the most popular features in the park.

Alpine National Park

At the other extreme is Alpine National Park, snow-covered in winter, with gushing icy rivers in summer. This is Victoria’s largest national park and includes the state’s ten highest mountains. The peaks, covered in eucalyptus and home to birds and rodents, are full of adventure.

The most famous parts of the park are Falls Creek and Mount Hotham, popular ski fields in winter. But there are excellent alpine walking tracks that are revealed in the warmer months. The old cattleman huts throughout the mountains are also an interesting link to the area’s colonial history.


Even though Tasmania is famed for its wilderness, the island state only has 19 national parks, choosing to give only the best areas this designation. (There are also about 800 reserves and other protected natural areas.)

It means pretty much all of Tasmania’s national parks have something special to offer, and it’s hard to narrow down the list, but here are the best of the best.

Freycinet National Park

Some of the most iconic views of Tasmania can be found in Freycinet National Park – the most famous being Wineglass Bay, with its dark blue waters bracketed by green hills on either side.

Most of the national park consists of a peninsula of rugged mountains with pink granite peaks, rolling down to beautiful beaches and striking sea cliffs. Within the forests of eucalyptus are wombats, echidnas, possums, and plenty of birdlife.

The Hazards, Freycinet National Park
The Hazards at Freycinet National Park(Tourism Tasmania/Dan Fellow)

The beaches are the highlight here, so summer is a good time to visit. Most of the bays can only be reached by hiking, and there’s an excellent network of trails for any time of the year.

Cradle Mountain-Lake St Clair National Park

Right in the heart of Tasmania, Cradle Mountain-Lake St Clair National Park is defined by its craggy peaks carved by ancient glacial action, and the large lake that rests to the south of the,.

From either part of the park, you get amazing views of mountains, reflections in the water, and a range of flora as the altitudes change. For the European settlers, it was this part of Tasmania that first inspired them to start protecting the natural environment.

Cradle Mountain
Looking out across the landscape towards Cradle Mountain (Cultivate Productions)

On the water, you can take cruises or go kayaking. There are Indigenous and colonial heritage sites. But, again, bushwalking is the most popular activity and there are lots of trails including the famous 65-kilometre Overland Track.

Mount Field National Park

I’ve decided to include Mount Field National Park on this list because, although it’s not as visited as some of the others in the state, it demonstrates the diversity of national parks in Tasmania.

Not too far from Hobart, it’s one of the state’s oldest national parks and includes Tasmania’s first nature reserve (created in 1885) at Russell Falls, a wondrous waterfall. There are rainforests in the lowlands, glacial lakes higher up, and wallabies hopping throughout much of it. It’s easy to access, making it a great spot for a family day trip.

Southwest National Park

The vast Southwest National Park has very little development and most of it is hard to access. But that’s the point, and why conservationists fought to protect this huge swathe of Tasmania.

There are large lakes in the north, rainforest in the middle, and a dramatic coastline along the south. If you’re prepared for a journey, you can take rafting tours on the river, or maybe tackle 85-kilometre South Coast Track!

Southwest National Park
The start of the South Coast Track leads through rainforest

The strong winds that batter the coast make the walk an epic expedition, and have also shaped the landscapes and the flora along the way.

South Australia

Things in South Australia are epic, and the state’s national parks are no different. From the mighty Murray River, to vast Outback deserts, there are some real adventures to be had away from some of the busier tourist spots.

Ikara-Flinders Ranges National Park

The dramatic landscapes of Ikara-Flinders Ranges National Park make this one of the most striking national parks in Australia, with exposed ridges and rough rolling slopes rising up from the flat plains.

The mountains have long been home to several groups of Indigenous people and you can see their rock art or take guided tours to learn more about the culture. From the 1850s, much of the land was also used by European pastoralists and there is heritage left from those times.

Activities in Ikara-Flinders Ranges National Park include cycling, rock-climbing, and (of course) bushwalking. The highlight is probably a visit to Wilpena Pound, a striking natural amphitheatre formed by a huge circular ridge.

Murray River National Park

Although the Murray River is more than 2,500 kilometres in length, from the NSW Snowy Mountains all the way to its mouth near Goolwa, three small patches near the Victorian border have been protected to create Murray River National Park.

The park consists of some of the most scenic parts of the waterway, with magnificent river red gums along the bank, and steep ochre cliffs at some points. Abundant birdlife can be found in the area, along with western grey kangaroos, lizards, and turtles.

It’s a popular stretch of the river for houseboats, but you can also canoe, swim, and fish. Nearby towns offer an insight into the importance of the river for trade in the early days of settlement.

Nullarbor National Park

The Nullarbor Plain is massive, a huge flat and treeless stretch of red desert across the bottom of the continent. A section along the coastline, 200 kilometres long and 50 kilometres wide, has been declared as the official Nullarbor National Park.

In the south, it has the 87-metre-high cliffs that drop down to the deep blue of the ocean, while the north has exposed bedrock that is so flat that the roads and railway track run for hundreds of kilometres without deviation.

It’s the journey through this unique landscape that makes a visit to the national park so special. Along the way there are viewpoints, 4WD tracks, and some tours of underground caves.

Flinders Chase National Park

While we quite often talk about Kangaroo Island as a single destination for tourists, it actually has a huge amount of diversity in things to see and do, including beaches and local producers. On the less-developed western side of the island, Flinders Chase National Park covers some of the most remote and breathtaking natural features.

Flinders Chase National Park
Admirals Arch on the coast of Flinders Chase National Park

The highlights are mainly along the coastline, including Admirals Arch, Remarkable Rocks, and several seal colonies. Inland, the forest is home to wallabies, kangaroos, emus, and koalas (although they were introduced and are considered somewhat of a pest).

Any trip to Kangaroos Island should include some time in Flinders Chase National Park and, beyond seeing the main sights, there are bush walks, cave tours, and historic maritime sites.

Naracoorte Caves National Park

Naracoorte Caves National Park, in the far southeast of the state, makes up half of a World Heritage Site, along with Riversleigh in Queensland. They’ve been protected because of the extensive fossils founds here.

The fossils include megafauna from half a million years ago – wombats the size of cars, lion-like marsupials, and huge kangaroos. They offer a critical window into the evolution of life across Australia.

Of the 28 caves that have been found in the park, four of them are open to visitors. Some parts you can go into by yourself, while others are accessed by tour only. The models of the ancient animals are particularly striking and put their size into perspective.

Western Australia

Western Australia is home to some of the most incredible landscapes in the country. Because vast swathes of WA are so remote, many of the state’s national parks are not as famous as ones on the east coast, because they’re hard to reach. But, even if you haven’t heard their names before, you’ll be astounded when you visit.

Cape Le Grand National Park

On the south coast of the state, not far from Esperance, Cape Le Grand National Park has a stunning array of bays and beaches, with white sand nestled between rocky headlands.

The rugged granite peaks and sweeping heathland fit with the wild coastline’s strong winds and accentuate the undeveloped and rough surroundings along this part of Western Australia.

The beautiful views are one of the main attractions of Cape Le Grand National Park and there are walks that will take you to some of the best, including the 15-kilometre Coastal Trail.

Nambung National Park

About two hours north of Perth, Nambung National Park is one of the most popular parks for visitors to Western Australia because of its main attraction – The Pinnacles.

These thousands of limestone pillars, rising up to four metres from the stark landscape of yellow sand, each have their own shape, creating an eerie landscape resembling a graveyard or a lost city. Although there are some theories, nobody knows for sure how they were formed.

There are lots of other features within the park, including beautiful beaches, a coastal dune system, and seasonal flowers. There is good snorkelling just off the coastline.

Kalbarri National Park

Kalbarri National Park is about six hours north of Perth. Famous for its spectacular scenery, you’ll find sea cliffs and river gorges, fascinating red rock formations, and fields of wildflowers in spring.

One of the most iconic spots of called Natures Window, a natural rock arch that frames the view perfectly. Another option for a vista is the Kalbarri Skywalk, two cantilevered platforms that you can walk out onto, hanging 100 metres above the Murchison River gorge.

Cape Range National Park

The Ningaloo Reef, a World Heritage Site, is one of the most important natural features of Western Australia and you can easily access it from Cape Range National Park, which runs for about 50 kilometres along the coast.

The inland part of the park is beautiful, with high plateaus cut by deep gorges, with waterways flowing out to the Indian Ocean. But it’s the coast and the water that is the star attraction here.

Turquoise Bay is one of the most popular beaches, but there are more than a dozen others to choose from. It’s simple to just walk straight from the sand into the water, and swim over coral reefs filled with vibrant sea life.

Karijini National Park

Heading inland for about eight hours, you’ll reach Karijini National Park in the heart of the Pilbara. The second-largest national park in Western Australia, it has an enormous escarpment and a high plateau dissected by breathtaking gorges.

The rust-red of the rock walls, contrasted with the green of the ferns and trees, create a dynamic Outback landscape, with walks going through the gorges or along their rims. Waterfalls become rock pools and there are quite a few places to swim.

There’s evidence Indigenous people lived here at least 30,000 years ago and there are lots of significant cultural sites within Karijini National Park. As well as seeing the landscapes and spotting wildlife, it’s worth taking some time to learn about the heritage of the region.

Purnululu National Park

In the eastern part of the Kimberley region, the wondrous Purnululu National Park has been declared a World Heritage Site because it’s the best example in the world of the domed sandstone structures known as cone karst formations.

Named the Bungle Bungle Range, these enormous domes with layered colours were formed about 360 million years ago and then carved by erosion over the past 20 million. With chasms and gorges, it creates a surreal landscape that people view from scenic flights or on walks around the base.

Purnululu National Park is remote and it can take a long time to reach, but it’s worth the effort to explore the incredible geological wonder and learn more about its connection to the Aboriginal people who lived here for at least 20,000 years.

Northern Territory

There are more than 90 national parks in the Northern Territory and each of them offers something special. But some of the parks are in a whole other league, and are some of the most iconic images of Australia.

Visiting these Northern Territory national parks are not just something you do while you’re in the region – they’re why you come here in the first place!

Kakadu National Park

One of the true treasures of Australia, Kakadu National Park is somewhere everyone should try to visit. It’s the country’s largest national park and has an incredible diverse range of landscapes, from stone escarpments of flowing waterfalls, billabongs full of birdlife, and rivers where crocodiles keep an eye on everything.

Nanguluwurr art site, Kakadu
The Nanguluwurr art site has an impressive collection of paintings

You’ll need at least a couple of days to just scratch the surface when you visit Kakadu National Park. Some of the best swimming holes, waterfalls, and walking tracks take time to reach along dirt roads, while a sunset or sunrise cruise on Yellow Water is a highlight.

But you’ll also want time to see the Indigenous rock art, meet the Aboriginal rangers, and learn about the history of the park and why it’s such an important part of the Australian story.

Litchfield National Park

For those who don’t have time for Kakadu, Litchfield National Park offers an easier alternative as a day trip from Darwin, and I still think it’s one of the best national parks in Australia (although doing both parks is the best option!)

One of the most popular features of Litchfield National Park are its waterfalls flowing down into pools that you can swim in. Some get quite busy but there are others, at the end of walking trails, that feel more remote.

Florence Falls, Litchfield National Park
A popular swimming spot for locals is Florence Falls

The weather rock, the termite mounds, and the abundant wildlife means there are plenty of things to do in Litchfield National Park.

Nitmiluk National Park

Just south of Kakadu, sharing a boundary, is Nitmiluk National Park, which is usually accessed from the nearby town of Katherine. Although it shares some characteristics with the stone country of Kakadu, the main feature here is the spectacular gorge.

Nitmiluk Gorge (previously called Katherine Gorge) is filled with water for much of its length, and is popular for boat cruises and canoeing. The orange cliffs on either side create a dramatic background that comes to life if you take a cruise with a Traditional Owner.

Nitmiluk National Park
A boat cruise through the gorge at Nitmiluk National Park

There are also walking trails that go both along the water’s edge and up on the rim, offering different perspectives of the ancient landscape. Along with fish and birds, the park is home to lizards, wallabies, and dingoes.

Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park

The spiritual heart of Australia, there’s almost no other icon in the country as famous as Uluru, the enormous red rock 350 metres and with a circumference of about 9.5 kilometres.

The famous monolith is just part of the broader Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park that includes a large swathe of desert and the marvellously-shaped red rock formations nearby known as Kata Tjuta (previously called The Olgas). From a distance the rocks look uniform but, close up, there is so much texture in the surface, and detail in the flora and fauna.

Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park
Even from the air, you can see the detail on the surface of Uluru

While climbing Uluru is now banned, there are still so many ways to experience the energy of the park, including walks along the base, guided Indigenous tours, and other immersive experiences.

Watarrka National Park

The remote location in the desert of Watarrka National Park is one of the reasons its incredible rock formations seem so dramatic. Rugged ranges rise above the flat plains, rock holes and gorges sprinkled amongst them. Shaped by erosion over the millennia, each shape has a story.

The most famous part of Watarrka National Park is Kings Canyon, an enormous amphitheatre with sheer rock walls 100 metres high. Images of the canyon were taken around the world in the movie The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert but it’s long had an important place in the culture of the local Indigenous people.