… Ok, they’re not really ‘secret’ outback national parks – they’re just NOT as well known as others!
We LOVE sharing little known, off-the-beaten-track places that few people have heard of.
Sooo… to inspire you to explore our amazing country more – AND to show you that there’s some outback in almost every state in Australia- we’ve put together a list of 25 ‘secret’ outback national parks and reserves.
Please note that this is not a definitive list of every outback protected area or national park.
*There are over 10,000 different terrestrial conservation reserves, national parks, nature parks and other kinds of protected area in Australia.
NEW SOUTH WALES
Gundabooka National Park
Where is it? Gundabooka National Park is located in northwest NSW. It’s about 50km southwest of Bourke, and 110km northwest of Cobar.
See & Do: The park is rich in Aboriginal art and cultural sites, and European pastoral heritage. Bushwalking, camping, scenic drives and photography.
Access: 2WD, caravan and camper-van friendly.<
More info: http://www.nationalparks.nsw.gov.au/gundabooka-national-park
Mutawintji National Park
Where is it? Mutawintji National Park is located in the north-west of NSW, approximately 130km from Broken Hill & White Cliffs, on the way to Tibooburra.
See & Do: This remote outback park is full of Aboriginal heritage sites, such as rock engravings, ochre paintings and hand stencils and other cultural sites. Bushwalking trails, picnics, camping, nature watching, photography, visitors centre, cultural tours.
Access: Dirt road access, suitable for 2WDs, caravans and campers (with care)
Paroo-Darling National Park
Where is it? The Paroo-Darling National Park is located in the far-west of NSW, near Wilcannia and White Cliffs. It’s split into two sections: the Lake Peery section, which is north of Wilcannia, and the Wilga section, which is east of Wilcannia.
As the park’s name suggests, it’s centred around the Paroo and Darling Rivers.
See & Do: Swimming, canoeing, camping, fishing, bushwalking, bird watching. There are also significant Aboriginal heritage sites, and sites with connection to early explorers and pastoralists.
Access: 2WD, caravan and camper-van friendly.
Yanga National Park
Where is it? Yanga National Park comprises 76,000 hectares and is located near Balranald in the state’s far south-west. It’s also close to Mildura (Victoria) and Swan Hill (Victoria). It’s located on the Murrumbidgee River.
See & Do: A MUST for bird watchers (there’s a bird hide at Yanga Lake), camping, fishing, bushwalking, historic buildings, and plenty of Aboriginal cultural sites. The Yanga Woolshed has excellent audiovisual signage and information, along with excellent ranger-guided tours (it even has iPad stations!).
Access: 2WD, caravan & camper-van friendly.
Davenport Ranges – Itwelepwenty National Park
Where is it? The Itwelepwenty (ee-DUHL-ah-pawnch)- Davenport Ranges National Park is located approximately 350km north east of Alice Springs, and approximately 15km south of Tennant Creek.
See & Do? The Davenports give you the opportunity for swim almost year round, get away from the crowds (although be warned: Policeman’s Waterhole gets very crowded with locals over Easter), enjoy some challenging 4WDing, great scenery, birdlife and photography.
Access: 4WD only. You could easily tow an off road caravan or camper trailer into Whistleduck Creek or Old Policeman’s Waterhole, however DO NOT take either on the Frew River track unless you’re happy to ruin it. This park is frequently closed during summer months due to heavy rainfall and impassable roads/creek crossings. Please check road conditions before you go.
Dulcie Ranges National Park
Where is it? Located approximately 230km north-east of Alice Springs, off the Binns Track or Plenty Highway. This is possibly the least-visited national park in Central Australia!
See & Do: Remote area camping, historic station ruins and graves, and many amazing Aboriginal rock art sites. Bushwalking and photography. Experienced hikers will love exploring the gorges and hills, which have springs and waterholes.
Access: 4WD access only. Camper trailers not recommended.
More info: Please call the NT Parks Commission’s Regional Office in Alice Springs to check the latest access conditions before you go: 08 8951 8250
Read our EXCLUSIVE guide to this little known & little visited park here
Mac Clarke (Acacia peuce) Conservation Reserve
Where is it? Located on the western edge of the Simpson Desert, the Mac Clarke Conservation Reserve is approximately 300km south of Alice Springs.
The Mac Clarke Reserve is entwined with central Australian history and foresight. Mac Clarke, a pastoralist, recognised the significance of the Waddywood Tree (Acacia peuce) as a keystone species and created a reserve to protect approximately half of the NT population of the trees.
See & Do? Just getting to the reserve is an adventure! These amazing trees live in what must be one of the harshest environments in Australia. Combine a visit to the Reserve with a stay at Old Andado for a truly incredible outback experience.
Access: 4WD and offroad caravan/camper trailer access. After rain, the road will be closed so do check conditions.
Ruby Gap Conservation Park
Where is it? Located 150km east of Alice Springs, Ruby Gap Conservation Park can be reached by taking the Ross Highway and then turn off to Arltunga Historical Reserve along a good gravel road. Ruby Gap is 38km by rough 4WD track from Arltunga.
See & Do: 4WDing, bushwalking, camping, photography, birdwatching swimming. Please read our full post on Ruby Gap Nature Park here.
Access: This is for EXPERIENCED 4WDers only. You could tow an off road camper trailer if you were a very careful, patient driver. No caravans unless you can afford the recovery bill.
Currawinya National Park
Where is it? The Park is located about 170 km SW of Cunnamulla adjacent the QLD/NSW border near Hungerford
See & Do: The Park protects sites of Aboriginal and early European cultural heritage. It also protects wildlife, in particular, the Bilby. Walking, driving and camping feature here.
Access: Recommended 4WD, via pastoral properties. Please respect the right of pastoral property owners. Camper trailers allowed.
Diamantina National Park
Where is it? Located in Queensland’s far south-west, Diamantina National Park is approximately 300km south of Winton and 350km from Windorah.
See & Do: Diamantina is a big, remote and totally spectacular park that’s got a bit of everything. There’s 4WD tracks, bush camping, hiking trails, extensive and significant Aboriginal and European heritage sites, canoeing, fantastic birdwatching and photography opportunities.
Access: Recommended 4WD, off road camper trailer access. The park is frequently closed after rain, so please check current conditions via the link below.
Mariala National Park
Where is it? Located right in the middle of Queensland, Mariala National Park is approximately 130km north-west of Charleville. It’s a little visited national park that features stunning cliffs contrasting with mulga plains.
See & Do: 4WDing, bushwalking, photography and nature watching. There is a walking track to scenic lookout, and a 4WD track which also takes you up on to the range.
Access: 2WD across the gravel Charleville-Adavale Road, caravans and camper trailers with car. 4WD only through the park.
Welford National Park
Where is it? Welford National Park is located in the central west of Queensland, approximately 210km south of Longreach. The parks features the Barcoo River winding through it, protects some of the famous Mitchell Grass plains, and also features dunes, mulga and spinifex country.
See & Do: 4WDing, bush camping, fishing, swimming, bushwalking, Aboriginal and European heritage sites, canoeing, birdwatching and photography.
Access: 2WD and camper trailer access through the Barcoo section of the park. 4WD recommended access in other sections of the park.
Danggali Conservation Park
Where is it? Danggali is located 90km north of Renmark, via the Old Wentworth Road. It’s about 350km NE of Adelaide). It’s one of the most accessible outback areas in South Australia, and one that quickly gives you a sense of being very, very remote.
See & Do: 4WDing, bushwalking, camping, photography, birdwatching, lots of wildlife. The tracks inside the park are very well signposted. There’s a lot to see and explore, including Aboriginal heritage sites, old homesteads and LOTS of kangaroos!
Access: There is 2WD access to the park and some of the campgrounds but many areas of the park are remote and require 4WD.
More info: SA Parks & Wildlife/Danggali
Lake Torrens National Park
Where is it? Just about everyone has heard of Lake Eyre, but what about its little brother, Lake Torrens? Lake Torrens is located 345km north of Adelaide and about 20km from the opal mining village of Andamooka. It’s a vast salt lake, that has only filled with water once in the last 150 years.
See & Do: 4WDing, photography, birdwatching, camping, relaxing.
Access: 4WD only access. An off-road camper trailer could access the Andamooka end, with the permission of Andamooka Station. Trailers are DEFINITELY not recommended on the Mulgaria Station access. Don’t do it unless you want to piss off the station owner and ruin access for everyone.
More info: SA Parks & Wildlife Lake Torrens page
Mamungari Conservation Park
Where is it? Formerly the amusingly named ‘Unnamed Conservation Park’, Mamungari Conservation Park in the far-west of South Australia, is now a jointly managed park with the Maralinga-Tjurutja Traditional Owners. The park is located 450km north-west of Ceduna.
See & Do: One of the famous Len Beadell tracks, the Anne Beadell Highway passes through the park. We use the term ‘highway’ creatively here – it’s a full on 4WD track. There are many sites of significance to Aboriginal people – who also live within the park, former rocket test sites, and the park is one of only 12 biosphere reserves in Australia – due to its pristine condition.
Access: This is 4WD only access. I’m not sure we would take our off road camper trailer through here, although I’ve seen other people who have (and damaged them!).
You will need SEVERAL permits to access this area. Start writing away for these about 3 months before you go. Please see the link below for details. Camping fees apply.
Yellabinna Regional Reserve
Where is it? Yellabinna Regional Reserve is located 30km north of Ceduna, and 640km (as the crow flies) from Adelaide. Access is via Eyre Highway and Googs Track.Yellabinna Regional Reserve and Wilderness area gives you the opportunity to explore a remote area of parallel sand dunes, rocky granite outcrops, salt lakes, mulga and spinifex country.
See & Do: area is of significance to Aboriginal people and contains many important sites, as well as being home to endangered species such as sand dunnarts and malleefowl. 4WDing on Googs Track, birdwatching and camping are what people come here to do.
Access: 4WD only. Can be done with an offroad camper trailer. Fees apply – see the link below for details.
More info: SA Parks & Wildlife Yellabina page
Big Desert Wilderness Park
Where is it? Located just west of Wyperfield National Park, approximately 450km from Melbourne.
See & Do: This is a true wilderness park, that offers experienced hikers and nature-watchers the chance to explore unfarmed, pristine landscapes. There are several 4WD trails (the Red Bluff and Border Tracks), which cross the park.
Access: By 4WD and FOOT only (don’t be lazy. Try bushwalking: you’ll see more). Suitable for offroad campertrailers only.
Hattah-Kulkyne National Park
Where is it? Hattah-Kulkyne National Park is located in the north-west Victoria, approximately 450km from Melbourne and 60km south of Mildura.
See & Do: The park contains a series of lakes fed by the Murray River, and also includes river access. There are numerous campsites, scenic drive (most suitable for 2WD), walking tracks, birdwatching locations, boat ramps, and several dog-friendly areas.
Access: 2WD, caravan and camper-van friendly.
Little Desert National Park
Where is it? Located approximately 375km north west of Melbourne, Little Desert National Park is close to Nhill, Horsham and Dimboola.
See & Do: The parks contains landscapes that vary from open grassland and desert sand dunes to the River Red Gums on the banks of the Wimmera River. There are numerous campsites, walks varying from half an hour to four days, scenic drives, over 600km fabulous 4WD tracks, birdwatching and wildflowers during spring and after rains.
Access: Little Desert National Park has both 2WD and many sections of 4WD-only access. In many areas of the park, you would be unable to bring a caravan due to sandy and rough terrain. Off road camper trailers recommended.
Murray-Sunset National Park
Where is it? Located in the far northwest of Victoria, the Murray-Sunset National Park is located between Mildura and Ouyen. It’s about 550km from Melbourne and 400km from Adelaide. It’s the state’s largest national park, and is often billed as ‘Victoria’s outback’.
See & Do: This is a place where you really need a week to experience the many destinations and different landscapes within the park. Murray-Sunset National Park offers visitors a wide variety of different activities – from boating to 4WDing and remote camping – and seeing the famous Pink Lakes.
Access: As mentioned above, there are places within the park which are accessible by 2WDs, caravans and camper trailers, and other places only accessible by 4WD.
Wyperfield National Park
Where is it? Located 450km north west of Melbourne and 105km north of Dimboola.
See & Do: Wyperfield National Park offers sand dunes, mallee and floodplain landscapes. There are a number of 4WD tracks, 2WD scenic drives, an information centre, numerous campsites and picnic areas, and plenty of hiking, birdwatching and photographic opportunities.
Facilities: There are five campsites, some of which are total bush camping with no facilities, to those with pit toilets, fireplaces, picnic tables and water tanks. Some campsites require advance bookings, so check the Parks Victoria factsheet here.
Goongarrie National Park
Where is it? Goongarrie National Park is located 90km north of Kalgoorlie, and approx. 590km east of Perth.
See & Do: The Park has a rich history, both Aboriginal and European. It’s full of significant Aboriginal sites, contains a former gold mine, Australian sandalwood harvesting, and historic station buildings and plenty of relics. You can stay at the station buildings. There are several 4WD tracks within the Park, walking trails and many opportunities for birdwatching, photography and astronomy.
Access: 2WD, caravan & camper-van friendly.There are some 4WD tracks within the park.
More info: http://parks.dpaw.wa.gov.au/park/goongarrie
Karlamilyi National Park
Where is it? Karlamilyi (formerly Rudall River) National Park is Western Australia’s largest national park. Chances are that few people have heard of it.
It’s a true desert park, linking the Gibson Desert to the Great and Little Sandy National Parks in the Pilbara region. It’s located approximately 1250km north-east of Perth, and 620km south-east of Karratha.
See & Do? This is a truly REMOTE wilderness park. Part of the experience is just getting there. There are several 4WD tracks within the park, bush camping, Aboriginal heritage sites, swimming, birdwatching and photography.
Access: High clearance 4WD, off road camper trailers only.
Please note: This is NOT a place for outback beginners. You will need remote area experience (i.e Simpson Desert-type experience) to visit Karlamilyi. Take a GPS, a satellite phone, EPIRB or SPOT device with you. If you don’t have this, then tag along with someone who does.
Kennedy Range National Park
Where is it? The Kennedy Range National Park is located around 240km west of Carnarvon, and around 1200km north-east of Perth.
See & Do? Excellent walking and photography opportunities –the Kennedy Range is a breathtaking plateau with red cliffs, sand dunes, mesas and buttes.
Access: Gravel road access suitable for 2WD, camper trailers & caravans from the eastern escarpment. The approach from the western escarpment crosses the Gascoyne River, and requires high clearance 4WD.
Mount Augustus /Burringurruh National Park
Where is it? Mount Augustus is Australia’s largest sandstone-conglomerate monolith, being twice the size of Uluru. This stunning geological formation is located 1212km north-east of Perth, and 430km east of Carnarvon.
If the picture at the top of this page doesn’t inspire you to go see this place, NOTHING WILL!
See & Do? Mount Augustus is known as Burringurrah to the Wajarri people. It is of great significance to them, and there are a number of rock art galleries and other sites that visitors can see. There are a variety of short walks and full day hikes, canoeing and swimming, abundant wildlife and amazing photography. A 49km scenic drive allows you to circumnavigate Mt Augustus. No camping is permitted within the park.
Access: 2WD, caravan and camper trailer HOWEVER: Please note that the you will need to drive on unsealed roads once you leave Gascoyne Junction.
More info? http://parks.dpaw.wa.gov.au/park/mt-augustus
A Final Word:
We really appreciate you taking the time to read our post about little known outback national parks. We hope we inspire you to get out and visit a few.
Writing a post as epic as this takes a lot of time and research. If you’d like to say thanks to us, please share this post on Google + and Facebook.
Of course, if you’ve been to any of these parks and you’d like to share your experience, please leave us a comment below. AND: if you’ve got some other ‘secret’ national parks you’d like us to feature also let us know in the comments below.