Australia is home to over 600 national parks, each offering stunning hikes, unbeatable natural beauty and opportunities for recreation. Best of all, national parks are also a great way to stretch your travel budget. There are some real hidden gems in Australia when it comes to national parks. But with such a huge number of national parks to choose from, it can be hard to choose which to visit as you explore Australia.
To help, we have put together this list of 20 of the most underrated national parks in Australia. These are some of the best places to visit and the best things to do in Australia for anyone looking for cost-effective and fun things to do in Australia. Let’s dive in.
Given its landmass, Australia is home to many national parks. Some are more popular than others, but all are stunning, with a lot to explore. These national parks cover a wide variety of landscapes, rainforests and deserts. The Australian Federal Government runs a few, but most national parks and reserves are operated by each state's local government. Overall, national parks and reserves exist to protect native bush, landscapes and wildlife. As a bonus, they also offer travellers and locals alike, the chance to get into nature and experience some of the untouched beauty of Australian nature and wildlife.
It’s also important to acknowledge the traditional owners of the land as you travel, and understand that many national parks are also sites of significance for the indigenous people of Australia. Be mindful and respectful as you travel, obey all signs and where offered, take tours of National parks offered by independent operators, particularly those that support Aboriginal owned-and-run initiatives with profits going back to local communities. For more information, check out this handy Lonely Planet guide on How to be an ethical traveller in Aboriginal Australia.
There are plenty of great national parks to explore, depending on the Australian season and the part of Australia you are looking to visit! Of the 600-something national parks to check out, here are 20 underrated national parks that are well worth a visit:
Maria Island National Park is an island just off the east coast of Tasmania. From discovering a World Heritage convict site to exploring the spectacular vistas of cliffside hikes, this island is a nature-lover paradise just waiting to be explored.
You may have seen images of friendly kangaroos getting cosy with the locals on the turquoise beaches of Lucky Bay in Cape Le Grand National Park. However, there is so much more on offer in this slice of paradise. Whether you’re looking to meet the furry friends of Lucky Bay or want to experience the coastal scenery on a hike, a visit to this park is easily one of the best things to do in Western Australia.
Top tip: You can pay to stay the night at one of the campgrounds in the national park or choose to stay close by at one of the many great free camping spots in WA.
Mirima National Park, otherwise known as Hidden Valley National Park, is often likened to a mini version of the Bungle Bungles. Discover fascinating rock formations that were deposited over 350 million years ago, as you traverse through the numerous walking trails on offer in this sprawling rocky park.
Coorong National Park is a serene South Australian escape, located just two hours south of Adelaide. Whether you prefer bird watching, boating, kayaking, walking or soaking up the cultural history of this region, Coorong has it all.
Tucked away in the north of the Northern Territory, is the lush oasis of Litchfield National Park. Filled with stunning waterfalls, swimming holes and scenic walks, this park is a quintessential addition to anyone looking to rent a van to travel around the Northern Territory.
Located on the famed Great Ocean Road, the Great Otway National Park is deserving of a spot on a Victorian road trip! Stretching from Torquay through to Princetown and up into the Otways, there is plenty to explore. From rugged coastlines, giant forests, ferny gullies and exquisite produce, the Great Otway National Park is a top must-do for an Australian road trip in this region.
Border Ranges National Park is located in the Northern Rivers region of New South Wales and forms a section of the Heritage-listed Gondwana Rainforest. What makes this park unique (and well worth a visit) is that it is located on the rim of an ancient volcano. Tweed Volcano is believed to be the largest volcanic crater in the southern hemisphere! Come here to enjoy a day hike or grab a spot at one of the local campgrounds.
If you have been dreaming of rugged mountain landscapes, rich cultural heritage and impressive geological features, don’t miss a chance to visit Ikara- Flinders Ranges National Park. Comprising over 95,000 hectares just north of Adelaide, this is the perfect addition to a South Australia road trip.
Tucked away in the southern coastline of Bruny Island, South Bruny National Park is home to jaw-dropping sea cliffs and one of Australia’s oldest lighthouses. Grab your best hiking shoes and experience the magic of this park.
Wooroonooran National Park is a little slice of paradise just south of Cairns in Queensland, Australia. Whether you are an avid mountain biker, hiker, or simply looking for a campground to get away from it all, Wooroonooran delivers. Home to the famed Babinda Boulders and the Mount Bartle Frere hike, there are plenty of reasons to check out this national park.
Top tip: When exploring this area, be sure to spend a night at the freedom camping campground at Babinda Boulders!
Wilsons Promontory National Park is a coastal paradise filled with stunning hikes, pristine beaches and mountainous ranges as far as the eye can see. Spend a day hiking to the peak of Mt. Oberon or relaxing on one of the many beaches. This stunning coastal bushland at the southernmost tip of mainland Australia is easily one of the best things to do in Australia for hiking and nature lovers alike.
If you are looking for things to do in Tasmania, Australia, on your upcoming campervan trip, do not miss a stop at Mount Field National Park. Located an easy hour-and-a-half drive from Hobart, this park offers an idyllic retreat into the mountains. Journey high into the dramatic peaks, exploring glacial lakes, and taking in the beauty of classic Tasmanian alpine plants. Here in winter? Pack your skis and get ready to shred as this park transforms into a ski field!
Millstream-Chichester National Park is hands-down one of the best things to do in Western Australia in the warmer months. Covering a whopping 200,000 hectares, this lush oasis is filled with rock pools perfect for cooling off on a hot day. Sit under the shade of the palm-lined pools as you take in the stark contrast of the surrounding rocky spinifex-lined landscape. How does it get better than that?
Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park is located in the relaxed suburb of Hornsby in greater Sydney. Experience the ancient beauty of Australia’s second oldest national park with a walk through the mangroves, a walk along the stretches of ocean and looking into the past by exploring the Aboriginal sites.
Just 100km from the bustling city centre of Brisbane is the ancient landscape of Springbrook National Park. This park makes up just under a quarter of the World Heritage-listed Gondwana Rainforest - stretching from the Gold Coast into New South Wales. This serene landscape is filled with waterfalls, rainforests and even a dormant volcano! Easily one of the best things to do in Australia.
Port Campbell National Park is located on one of the most iconic coastal drives in Australia: the Great Ocean Road. It has been made famous for its collection of wave-sculpted rock formations, including the Twelve Apostles, Loch Ard Gorge and the London Bridge. A visit to this park is rated as one of the best things to do in Australia, for good reason!
Kakadu National Park is probably the most well-known park on this list, but some people still overlook it! Home to over 20,000 square kilometres of remote beauty, Kakadu is renowned for its thundering waterfalls, lush rainforests, ancient Aboriginal rock art and exotic wildlife. Whether it’s taking a cruise to spot crocodiles, hiking amongst the lush rainforests or settling in for a spectacular sunset, this park really can not be missed.
White Mountains National Park is an eclectic mix of Australia’s best landscapes, making this park truly unique. Here you can wander through white sandstone gorges, sand dunes, lancewood forests and much more - all within the park.
Top tip: This park is only accessible via 4WD, so may need to join a tour to access this remote national park.
Mungo National Park is a World Heritage-listed site rich with Aboriginal history. Best known for the Mungo Lady and Mungo Man; the world’s oldest known remains are thought to be over 40,000 years old! This is easily one of the best things to do in Australia for geology and history buffs.
An hour west of Alice Springs is the natural desert oasis of Tjoritja/ West MacDonnell National Park. Home to sweeping gorges and wildlife refuges, this is the ideal place to come to see some of Australia's most threatened species, including the black-footed rock wallaby. Stretching a span of 161km, you can drive this loop in a day or stay at one of the national park campgrounds and spread it over a few days. Some of the top places to visit include Simpsons Gap, Ormiston Gorge and the Ochre Pits.
Australia is a vast and beautiful country, and there's no better way to see it than on a road trip to some of its most iconic national parks. Whether you're driving through the outback or exploring the coastline, a campervan hire is a perfect way to experience all the beauty of these national parks, and all that Australia has to offer.
Ready to explore some of Australia’s best and most underrated national parks for yourself? Book your Mighty campervan today and pick it up from your nearest branch for a road trip adventure through these stunning landscapes. For more tips on backpacking in a campervan, free camping, and other tips for a cheap campervan trip in Australia, check out the Mighty blog.