There are so many beautiful national parks in the world for families who love the outdoors. The national parks in the US are known for their grandness, the national parks in Europe are known for their pristine beauty, the national parks in the UK are known for their inspiring landscapes, the national parks in Africa are known for their exotic wildlife, what about the national parks in Australia?
Well, Australian national parks are known for their mind-boggling diversity. From rugged cliffs to the lush rainforest to stunning beaches to gorgeous gorges to meandering creeks, Australia’s national parks hide a new experience at every turn!
It’s not easy to list a few best national parks for a country that has the highest number of national parks in the world. Here, with the help of travel experts, we have tried to narrow down to the best national parks in Australia for your outdoor bucket list.
Kakadu National Park, Australia’s largest national park and a UNESCO World Heritage site, undoubtedly tops the list of the best national parks in Australia for families. The park is unbelievably diverse! You can witness wetlands, rainforests, rugged cliffs, gushy waterfalls, exotic wildlife, prehistoric rocks, and whatnot (Phew!!) – all at one place – Kakadu National Park.
With so much to see and do here, you need at least three days to feel and experience the national park. Let me list down some of the few family-friendly things you can do at Kakadu National Park:
The park is open all through the year though some parts remain closed during the tropical summer.
Where to Stay: There are four main areas within the park with a lot many accommodation options from hotels, cabins to campsites. Cooinda Lodge and Hawk Dreaming Wilderness Lodge, both offer an extra special experience.
When to Go: June and August (dry months)
Entry Fee: The prices of the park pass vary depending on the season, with lower prices (adult pass: $25/child pass: $12.50/family pass: $65) during the tropical summer from November to May and higher prices (adult pass: $40/child pass: $20/family pass: $100) during the dry season from May to October. The park pass includes free ranger-guided walks, talks, and other cultural activities.
How to Get There: Kakadu National Park is just about 3 hours away from Darwin by road. It’s a 4WD track to get to the national park. Taking a day trip to Kakadu from Darwin is also an option if you’re short on time or don’t want to drive a rough and rugged road.
Expert Tip: sunrise or sunset times are perfect to enjoy the exotic wildlife of Kakadu. Ah! and make sure you have binoculars to have an enriching wildlife experience.
Approximately an hour west of the bustle of the Sydney CBD, you will see the blue allure of the bush paradise that is the Blue Mountains National Park stretching before you.
Covering an area over 11,000 meters square, this natural wonder was deservingly added to the UNESCO World Heritage list in 2000 due to significant natural value and unique fauna. It is one of the largest protected areas of bushland in Australia.
With hundreds of walking options to choose from, this region offers plenty of scope for showing kids the exceptional landscape of sandstone cliffs, tumbling waterfalls, and vast valleys, while appreciating an important piece of Australian history.
The traditional owners of the land are the Dharug and Gundungurra people, and evidence of their early occupation can be seen throughout the mountains, from shelters, rock carvings, paintings, and grooves in stone from tool making. It was also populated by early settlers and signs of the convict labor remain.
Where to Stay: Covering such a vast area, where you choose to stay will largely depend on what you would like to do and there are accommodation options all over the mountains. For a central location look to base yourself in the suburbs of Leura and Katoomba.
When to Go: While parts of the mountains are quite temperate in climate, the upper mountains are at a high altitude. This may mean slightly cooler in summer, and the occasional chance of seeing snowfall in winter. Whenever you visit there will be something to see as the mountains change with the seasons, but visitors may prefer the less extreme conditions in spring and autumn.
Entry Fee: $8 per vehicle per day
How to Get There: You can reach to the Blue Mountains by car, bus, or train from Sydney. It takes a little over an hour by road via M4. The train departs from Central Railway Station every hour and takes about 2 hours to reach Katoomba, the closest town to the Blue Mountains National Park.
Expert Tip: While most mountain towns are built along the Great Western Highway, most places you will likely want to visit aren’t right on the train line so it is helpful to have access to a vehicle. This would also offer the ability to do the amazing drive down the other side of the mountain to explore the Hawkesbury region.
Located on the beautiful coast of Queensland, Australia, the Whitsunday Islands National Park is, without a shadow of a doubt, one of the most beautiful places on Earth!
The archipelago is made up of 74 islands but only a handful are inhabited.
The Whitsundays is particularly famous for being home to the breath-taking Whitehaven Beach! Not only is this one of the whitest and softest sand in the world but it also swirls up in an estuary and mixes with the crystal clear water to create a stunning sight! The best way to observe it is by going on a bushwalk to Hill Inlet.
They also lie by the Great Barrier Reef, making it one of the best places in the world to go snorkeling or scuba diving.
One of the best ways to experience the area is by going on a day trip in the Whitsundays. There are a plethora of tour companies in Airlie Beach and they offer all sorts of activities.
The most popular way to get around is by boat. You can either choose to charter your own boat or go on a cruise from Airlie Beach or Hamilton Island. Bushwalking is also a popular thing to do. The islands are very well preserved and offer great walking opportunities!
The islands of Whitsunday and Hamilton are usually the favorites when it comes to hiking.
But if you want to see the Whitsundays from their best angle, you must go on a scenic flight. You will fly above Whitehaven Beach, the Heart Reef, and the Outer Reef! Kids and grown-ups love it! What are you waiting for?
Where to Stay: In terms of accommodation, you will find a few National Park campgrounds on the islands however there is no electricity. The best places to stay are on Airlie Beach (if you are on a budget) or Hamilton Island (if you’d rather book an island resort). The Reef View Hotel on Hamilton Island is an all-time favorite!
When to Go: The most popular months among tourists are September and October but if you want to beat the crowds, plan during the months of November and December. Weatherwise, the months offer warm weather. If you want your kids to enjoy spotting the humpback whales – June, July, and August are the best months.
How to Get There: The nearest coastal town is Airlie Beach but if you are flying you can also go straight to Hamilton Island.
Expert Tip: You can’t leave Whitsundays before you witness the incredibly gorgeous sunset over the blue ocean.
Freycinet National Park is a perfect national park for families. The main attraction, Wineglass Bay, is often among those listed in top beaches in the world and the hike there is very achievable (and fun) for a family.
There are many hikes within the park but Wineglass Bay is our top one for families. It takes about an hour each way, but this can be tough as it’s up and down between two peaks with stairs most of the way. Still, our four years old was able to hike about 2/3 of it himself. Our 8 and 10-year-olds have no problem.
With older kids, you can do a circuit via Wineglass Bay, the Wineglass Bay lookout, and Hazards Beach in about 4 hours. This means you only have to walk over the hill in one direction and get to see more of this great park.
For a relaxing time and enjoying the turquoise waters with views of the granite cliffs and abundant marine life book a Wineglass Bay cruise from Cole Bay.
Where to Stay: You can camp within the national park in designated areas or there are campsites at the entry of the park. Otherwise, there are many accommodation options in nearby Coles Bay. We love staying at the Big 4 Iluka with our kids.
When to Go: While you can have a great hike here year-round, Summer and early Autumn (December to April) are my top times to visit here when the water is warmer.
Entry Fee: Tasmanian national park fees apply which is currently $40 for a vehicle up to eight people.
How to Get There: Located on the east coast of Tasmania, Freycinet National Park is about two hours drive from Hobart or Launceston, the main entry points to the state. There are day tours to this park, but I recommend taking your own car.
Expert Tip: Our top tip for visiting Freycinet is to take plenty of supplies with you. You can stock up in Coles Bay beforehand. There are no shops or anything else available once you are in the park. If you want to swim, make sure you take your swimsuits.
If you want something really special and very unique, the Iron Range (Kutini-Payamu) National Park in Queensland, Australia is an incredibly beautiful and isolated area that is perfect for families looking for an adventure!
The national park is in an area called Cape York which is 850 km north of Cairns with much of the drive being on dirt roads through extremely isolated areas.
The national park is bordered by the Great Barrier Reef and you can take a charter boat out to some of the last untouched stretches of coral reef and enjoy fishing, diving, or snorkeling. Kids will also love spotting some of Australia’s rarest native species on one of the many hiking trails before discovering a hidden waterfall or swimming hole for a quick swim to cool off.
Where to Stay: It’s a great park for families who love camping and nature. If you are self-sufficient you can stay in one of the very basic National park campgrounds but if you like to have a few home comforts The Greenhouse has comfortable cabin style accommodation with air-con, hot showers, and even an onsite cafe.
When to Go: The park is only accessible by road in the dry season (approx May to December). The wet season sees a lot more rainfall but the area is even more lush, green, and beautiful but is only accessible by a tiny 20 seater plane from Cairns.
How to Get There: You can fly to Weipa or Coen from Cairns and drive from there.
Expert Tip: My top tip for visiting the park would be to invest in some quality hiking boots for the whole family. There’s a lot of area to be covered and the best way to spot wildlife and see some of the best spots is to bash through the bush and spend some serious time on foot.
By Oksana & Max from Drink Tea & Travel
Daintree National Park is one of the most spectacular parks in the nation. Located in tropical North Queensland, it is known for being the place when the rainforest meets the reef. Land and water lovers will get a kick out of visiting this park with their families.
To be enchanted by the smells and sounds of the rainforest, take a walk through it. We recommend taking a walk to visit Mossman Gorge.
There are ways to get to Mossman Gorge on foot. One is a 10-minute loop which is perfect for families with little ones. However, for those a little older the one-hour hike is breathtaking. Once you get down to the Gorge don’t be afraid to get your feet wet. Swimming is permitted here.
If it is your first time in the area it doesn’t hurt to go on a guided rainforest walk. Your guide will teach your family about the ecosystem in the area and point out interesting wildlife and flora.
Another great place to take a stroll is along Cape Tribulation beach. This long white sand beach is fringed by the evergreen rainforest trees and vegetation. You can’t swim there due to jellyfish but it is a lovely place to have a picnic.
For something a little more heart-pumping, take a Crocodile Cruise along the Daintree River. The best time to see them is during the dry season, where they can be found sunbathing along the shores. For adventure enthusiasts there is river drift snorkeling tour that can be booked.
Otherwise, a jungle canopy tour can’t be beaten for adrenaline junkie teens. You’ll have a birds-eye view of the part as your zip line through it.
Where to Stay: There are some amazing accommodation options in towns and villages on Daintree rainforest’s doorstep like Mossman or Cape Tribulation. Some of our recommendations are:
Stonewood Views | Daintree Wilderness Lodge | Noah Creek Eco Huts | Daintree Rainforest Bungalows
When to Go: May to September
Entry Fee: AUD$37.00 per Adult | AUD$18.00 per Child aged 5 to 17 years | AUD$90.00 per Family
How to Get There: Daintree is about 2-hours’ drive from Cairns or an hours’ drive from Port Douglas. You can rent a car and enjoy the Great Barrier Reef Drive or can join a guided tour by 4WD or coach from Cairns or Port Douglas.
Book a Daintree, Mossman Gorge & Cape Trib Tour with Cruise
Expert Tip: Exercise caution while hiking as the rainforest is home to unique fauna and includes dangerous and poisonous plants too. Make sure to carry a skin ointment, mosquito patches, and bug sprays.
Hope our handpicked list of the best Australian national parks helps you plan your next Australian outdoor adventure for your family.