From rugged mountain ranges to lush bushland and pristine coastline, South Australia’s best national parks are playgrounds for the adventurous.
Whether you’re looking for one of South Australia’s best hiking trails, camping spots or wildlife hotspots, escape the crowds and get back to nature at one of South Australia’s best national parks. Here’s our guide to the best national parks in South Australia.
1. Ikara-Flinders Ranges National Park
Perhaps South Australia’s most iconic national park, Ikara-Flinders Ranges National Park should be on every intrepid traveller’s bucket list. Quintessential road trip and camping country, the Flinders Ranges is a remote wilderness with towering clifftops and jaw-dropping mountain ranges. Discover deep craters and spectacular gorges and navigate dusty, red roads. Pitch your tent and fall asleep under a blanket of stars before rising at dawn to traverse the ancient peeks of 800-million-year-old Wilpena Pound or jump on a scenic flight to appreciate its magnitude and beauty. Other highlights in Ikara-Flinders Ranges National Park include Rawnsley Bluff, Razorback Lookout in Bunyeroo Gorge and Stokes Hill Lookout.
2. Innes National Park, Yorke Peninsula
Escape to a remote coastal wilderness on the tip of the Yorke Peninsula and soak in the sun without another soul in sight. One of the best coastal national parks in South Australia and the ultimate road trip destination, it’s easy to find your very own slice of eutopia in Innes National Park. Just choose your own patch of paradise where pristine beaches meet bushland teeming with wildlife and set up camp for the weekend. While away the days swimming, fishing, surfing, boating and bush walking through this remote slice of Australiana. The Yorke Peninsula is brimming with beautiful beaches and this neck of the woods packs more than its fair share. Be sure to check out Dolphin Beach, Shell Beach and Pondalowie Bay. Cape Spencer Lighthouse, the historic township of Inneston, Inneston Lake and the Ethel shipwreck are also well-worth a look.
3. Coffin Bay National Park, Eyre Peninsula
At the southern tip of the Eyre Peninsula lies Coffin Bay National Park, where pillowy sand dunes meet glassy waters brimming with fish and bushland teeming with wildlife. Just half an hour from Port Lincoln, there are literally hundreds of spots to throw down your beach towel around Coffin Bay. With turquoise waters reminiscent of the Maldives, this park is home to some of the best beaches in South Australia. Discover pristine remote beaches, epic swells and secluded coves ideal for boating, fishing and snorkelling. Extend your stay in paradise and set up camp on the water’s edge at Yangie Bay campground or settle down at a beachside abode in the Coffin Bay township. And did we mention oysters? Just beyond the national park, you can slurp what are arguably the best oysters in the world straight from the source as you stand in waist-deep in the turquoise waters of a working oyster farm with Pure Coffin Bay Oysters or stay on land and dig into oysters and local wine right on the foreshore with Oyster Farm Tours.
4. Murray River National Park, Riverland
From camping and fishing to house boating, kayaking and hiking, Murray River National Park is a watery wonderland. Sprawling across 13,000 hectares on the banks of the Murray River between Renmark and Loxton in the Riverland, the park has three sections to explore – Katarapko, Lyrup Flats and Bulyong Island. Here, red ochre cliffs and mighty red gums border the impressive waterway and give way to flood plains, wetlands, backwaters and creeks which are best explored by canoe or kayak. Weave your way into the narrow wetlands and take picnic supplies for a tranquil waterfront lunch where kangaroos, emus, koalas, goannas and birds will be your only company. If you’d prefer to stay on land, there are plenty of hiking trails to explore the river’s delicate ecosystems or jump on the guided Murray River Walk tour for one of the most immersive ways to discover the magic of the river. For the quintessential Murray River experience, go with the flow and float down river on your own private houseboat.
5. Mount Remarkable National Park, Flinders Ranges
With rugged mountain ranges, dramatic gorges, steep valleys and towering red cliffs, you could be forgiven for thinking the ancient landscapes of Mount Remarkable National Park were straight out of a postcard from Arizona. But pack up the car and set your coordinates for the Flinders Ranges and you’ll arrive at one of South Australia’s most unique national parks. Just beyond the southern reaches of the Flinders Ranges, get back to nature and spend the weekend exploring this ancient landscape. Home to Alligator Gorge, unearth another world carved into the ancient rocks of the outback over millions of years and discover the Terraces, a long series of small cascading waterfalls or a two or four hour hike. And no, there’s no alligators here, although you might just stumble across some of the friendly locals with kangaroos, emus, echidna, wallabies and goanna just some of the wildlife that call the area home. The park is also home to more than 117 bird species making it a haven for bird watching. There’s plenty of walking trails to suit all fitness levels, picnic areas and campgrounds – everything you need for a weekend escape in the wilderness.
6. Deep Creek Conservation Park, Fleurieu Peninsula
Beyond the vineyards of McLaren Vale on the tip of the Fleurieu Peninsula, Deep Creek Conservation Park combines the best of the bush and the beach with epic coastal views and lush bushland alive with wildlife. In search of the best spot to bushwalk in South Australia? From meandering trails through bushland teeming with wildlife and winding through to secret waterfalls, to secluded seaside trails revealing dramatic coastline and remote, pristine beaches all just 90 minutes from Adelaide, Deep Creek Conservation Park is a bush walker’s dream. Spot kangaroos, bandicoots, cockatoos and bearded dragons as you stroll down one of 15 walking trails or channel your inner botanist and discover some of South Australia’s rarest flora with more than 400 plant species to be found in the park. Stay overnight and pitch a tent at one of the park’s five campgrounds or nestle down in nature with all the creature comforts at Southern Ocean Retreats.
7. Coorong National Park, Limestone Coast
Explore towering sand dunes, meander down quiet waterways and roam along snow-white sandy beaches. Nature lovers will be richly rewarded at Coorong National Park. Stretching some 130km down the coast from the Limestone Coast to the Fleurieu Peninsula, the ecological diversity of this important wetland system is staggering. Encompassing a string of saltwater lagoons and wetlands brimming with fish, you could easily spend a week kayaking the tranquil waters, spotting abundant birdlife, lounging on picturesque beaches and discovering the important Aboriginal culture of the Ngarrindjeri people. Make sure you stick around for dusk – sunsets over the Coorong are a sight to behold. Australian film buffs will also recognise it as the site where Storm Boy was filmed.
8. Onkaparinga River National Park, Fleurieu Peninsula
Jaw-dropping clifftops and gorges spilling down to rockpools, rivers and wetlands teeming with life and hiking trails winding through dense bushland… 45 minutes from the Adelaide? Welcome to Onkaparinga River National Park, one of South Australia’s best kept secrets. Bordered by the coast, hills and vineyards, Onkaparinga River National Park is one of the best spots to bushwalk near Adelaide. Dust off your hiking boots and navigate across rugged ridgetops and down to the lush river valley of Onkaparinga Gorge. Pack a picnic and kick back at Punchbowl; a spectacular rockpool surrounded by cliffs and impressive rock formations. Some of the trails are suitable for mountain bike riding and horse riding, and your pooch can explore the neighbouring recreation park on lead. Throw a line in the river, bring your binoculars for some incredible bird watching opportunities, stroll along the wetland boardwalk or cast off in your kayak and meander down river and out to Port Noarlunga - you won’t believe all of this awaits just beyond the city limits.
9. Lake Gairdner National Park, Eyre Peninsula
Deep in the South Australian outback lies the ethereal expanses of Lake Gairdner National Park. Home to Australia’s third largest salt lake, Lake Gairdner - a surreal inland salt lake stretching 5,000 square kilometres - here seemingly never-ending plains of glistening crystal-like earth span into the horizon. Some sections of the lake’s salt layer can be up to one metre thick, resulting in some of the most unique vistas and photograph opportunities in South Australia. Remote enough to feel like you’ve escaped to another world, but within reach of a long-weekend road trip, this shimmering, dreamy landscape is surrounded by the rugged, red foothills of the Gawler Ranges. Jump on a guided tour with Desert Sky Tours, or pack up the car, mark Lake Gairdner on the map and set off on the ultimate road trip on the Explorer’s Way.
10. Gawler Ranges National Park, Eyre Peninsula
Seeking solitude in nature? Next stop, Gawler Ranges National Park, where spectacular scenery, abundant wildlife and star-filled skies await. Pack up your tent, billy and hiking boots and jump in your 4wd; this remote country was made for explorers. Formed by a series of volcanic eruptions more than 1,600 years ago, the Gawler Ranges is famous for its unique rock formations including the Organ Pipes. Navigate rocky escarpments, granite domes and red pillars as you spot kangaroos, emus, wombats and black cockatoos. At the end of the day, set up camp under the stars and admire distant galaxies. With next to no light pollution, Gawler Ranges National Park offers perfect conditions to explore the cosmos. The park is home to seven campgrounds, or you can cosy up in a little more style under the stars at Kangaluna Camp’s Swagon: a renovated, covered wagon with a swag bed and see-through roof.
11. Nullarbor National Park, Eyre Peninsula
An unmissable stop off when journeying the Nullarbor from Adelaide to Western Australia, vast, desert landscapes give way to plunging sea cliffs in Nullarbor National Park. Stretching along the Eyre Peninsula coastline, this national park is home to the longest sea cliffs in the world, the 100km-long Bunda Cliffs. Offering dramatic coastal views, it’s also one of the best spots in Australia to catch a glimpse of Southern Right Whales on their annual migration between May and October every year. One of the best spots to see these gentle 90-tonne giants of the sea is at Head of Bight in Nullarbor National Park, the most significant nursery ground for Southern Right Whales in the world. At the height of whale season, up to 100 whales can be spotted in the waters of Head of Bight at any one time. For more epic encounters, check out our guide for the best spots for whale watching in South Australia.
12. Flinders Chase National Park, Kangaroo Island
A rugged island wilderness home to abundant wildlife and iconic landmarks including Admiral's Arch and Remarkable Rocks, Flinders Chase National Park is one of the most photographed spots in South Australia. Nestled on the north-west corner of Kangaroo Island about an hour's drive from Kingscote, this national park is a mecca for wildlife lovers, avid bushwalkers and beach bums. Follow the Kangaroo Island Wilderness Trail and skirt along the remote and spectacular coastline of the Southern Ocean, spotting wildlife and rugged beauty along the way. BYO tent and spend the night under the stars. Dedicated campgrounds for walkers provide tent-platforms and facilities.
Due to the bushfires which devastated Kangaroo Island in January 2020, Flinders Chase National Park is currently closed except for commercial tour operators. The rest of the island is open for business and as beautiful as ever, so start planning your island escape.
Explore South Australia’s best walks
From the outback to the ocean, South Australia is packed with incredible long-distance hiking and walking trails to stretch your legs and get back to nature. Tour South Australia’s great outdoors on foot with our guide to the best guided walks in South Australia or stretch your legs just beyond the city limits at one of the best national parks near Adelaide.