South Australia is a beautiful state. I like to think of it as a state of stark contrasts. Along the coast, you will find untouched beaches and sapphire waters ranging from cold Great White Shark hunting ground temperatures to lukewarm. Drive further north and cross an arid desert or weave through wine country. The Might Murray River also runs through this wonderous state. Not to mention, South Australia has islands. Plural. From Kangaroo Island to Thistle Island, this state has a surprise waiting around every corner.
You can find these surprises in its jaw-droppingly beautiful and raw national parks. Ready to explore? Here are seven national parks you need to add to your list to discover natural wonders. Remember, to keep these wild places alive, leave no trace behind.
Ikara-Flinders Ranges National Park
Not even the Sahara Desert can hold a candle to Ikara-Flinders Ranges. This unique slice of South Australia spans 95,000 hectares and is made up of towering clifftops, deep craters, jaw-dropping mountain ranges and dusty, red roads. Visitors can spend the day exploring its lesser-known areas, whether spotting a rock formation from the road or while out on a hike. Although the popular attractions are well worth your time too. Be sure to visit Wilpena Pound, a giant natural amphitheatre, Rawnsley Bluff, Razorback Lookout and Stokes Hill Lookout. There are several camping grounds, but for a unique experience, book a stay at Arkaba, a luxury resort offering a guided multi-day hike spread across four nights, with all the trimmings of a glamping experience in the outback under the stars.
Coorong National Park
Cruise along the Limestone Coast and be rewarded with saltwater lagoons, wetlands, and expansive sandy beaches you can drive on (if you have the right vehicle). Coorong National Park spans all of the above and then some, from the Limestone Coast to the Fleurieu Peninsula. In case you’re wondering, that’s 130km of coast to explore. It’s an adventure lover’s playground, offering kayaking down still waters to fishing in rough seas. There’s an essential and impressive wetland system to explore, home to incredible birdlife. It’s a particularly amazing spot at dusk when the sunsets over the range and the birds all take flight. Coorong is an easy and worthy detour if you’re travelling between Adelaide and Mount Gambier, but if you ask us, we recommend carving out a few days to explore the area.
Coffin Bay National Park
Apart from producing what is considered one of the world’s best oysters, Coffin Bay National Park is also a nature lover’s paradise. Situated on the Eyre Peninsula, visitors will find impeccably white sandy beaches, towering dunes that seem endless on the horizon, and a slither of private land, home to some of Australia’s best-kept secret views of the literal edge of Australia. This slither is called Whaler’s Way, and tourists can book a tour with Australian Coastal Safaris to explore the privately-owned land and the rest of the national park. Stand on the edge of Australia, view seals below, and enjoy jaw-dropping views of Australia’s edge. You can also take a 4X4 tour through the dunes, go sandboarding, or wade into the sheltered waters of Coffin Bay.
Murray River National Park
Undoubtedly, Murray River is a natural wonder, rewarding visitors with over 130 million years of First Nations history, culture, and heritage. The river snakes through NSW, VIC, and SA. At any point along the river, you will find incredible views, but in South Australia, expect to find the famous Big Bend, offering a gun barrel view downriver. Thanks to its remote location, you will also find Australia’s only Dark Sky Reserve, where the Milky Way can be seen as clear as day. In town, explore the charming little village, sleep on a riverboat, or visit the Monarto Safari Park, Australia’s largest safari park. Feed giraffes, spot rhinos, and play with the lemurs.
Nullarbor National Park
We all dream of doing the Nullarbor, but few rarely take the plunge. Its remoteness doesn’t make it the most accessible journey, but it definitely makes it a once-in-a-lifetime trip. Although, if you still want to experience the raw landscape, you can skim its edge, revealing Nullarbor National Park. Here, visitors will drive along the longest sea cliffs in the world, also known as the impressive Bunda Cliffs. The cliffs are just as dramatic as the coastal views. Get up close to the edge to spot the Southern Right Whales on their annual migration between May and October. At times, there can be over 100 whales in the area.
Deep Creek Conservation Park
Looking for wildlife? Venture to Deep Creek Conservation Park. Here, you will find more kangaroos than you can count, hopping and grazing on the verdant hills hugging a dramatic coastline. Visitors can find endless hiking trails, meandering through bushland, flush with secret waterfalls and local wildlife. There are also a handful of beaches you can explore and plenty of campgrounds to pitch a tent for a few nights. Unlike most of the other national parks, Deep Creek is only 90 minutes from Adelaide, making it a popular weekend destination. Depending on where you are and the weather, you can see the spectacular scenery of Backstairs Passage, Kangaroo Island, and Deep Creek Valley.
Flinders Chase National Park
Speaking of Kangaroo Island, hop on the ferry or board a short plane ride and explore Flinders Chase National Park. This expansive area encompasses turquoise shores, dense bushland, and remarkable rock formations. Spend the day hiking or biking the trails. Keep an eye out for short-beaked echidnas waddling by or roadside. The national park is home to abundant flora and fauna specific to the region. Hug the coastline to spot the long-nosed fur seals basking on rocks, wade into sparkling gemstone-coloured waters, and climb rock formations. Be sure to visit Remarkable Rocks, one of the most photographed places on the island.