These 10 national parks are little-known and little-visited. But they are well worth exploring.
Millstream Chichester National Park, WA
On the long drive north through the Pilbara, the Millstream Chichester National Park comes as a blessed relief. The Fortescue River creates refreshing waterholes to splash about in, while the rock formations and time-ravaged mesas in the north make for spectacular rugged country photography. It makes for a top choice for camping out on the way to Broome. See parks.dpaw.wa.gov.au/park/millstream-chichester
Barmah National Park, Victoria
This smallish park, just north-west of Echuca, is the ideal spot for becoming entranced by the majesty of the Murray River. It’s home to Australia’s largest remaining patch of red gum forest, and the soaring branchless tree trunks are often found climbing out of the water. There are campgrounds by the Barmah Lakes, but the two-hour Kingfisher Cruise is an idyllic way to glide through learning about the birdlife. See kingfishercruises.com.au
Fitzgerald River National Park, WA
Between Albany and Esperance, this UNESCO Biosphere Reserve hosts an extraordinary collection of orchids. It’s home to half of WA’s native species – and 70 of them occur nowhere else. They’re sprinkled between a dreamy coastline, deep river valleys and a section of the rabbit-proof fence. Wildlife-lovers are in luck too – whales can be spotted from the shore at Point Ann. See parks.dpaw.wa.gov.au/park/fitzgerald-river
Namadgi National Park, ACT
Just south-west of Canberra, and in the northern reaches of the Australian Alps, Namadgi is a walker’s paradise. There are several mountains to conquer, with many such as the 1913-metre-tall Bimberi Peak requiring no specialist climbing skills, just a willingness to plod upwards. There’s plenty of variety – snow gum forests, granite mountains looking out over meadows, Aboriginal rock art sites and a frankly greedy number of kangaroos.
Yanga National Park, NSW
It’s the ghosts of the past that make Yanga, one of our newest national parks, so special. The park is centred around a giant woolshed, once one of the titans of the wool industry. The 100-metre-high temple of corrugated iron still has the trappings of shearing carnage in place, and walking through it while it’s empty is hugely evocative. More peaceful is the lake next to the old homestead, where it’s possible to head out on a kayak. See nationalparks.nsw.gov.au/visit-a-park/parks/yanga-national-park
Franklin-Gordon Wild Rivers National Park, Tasmania
South-western Tasmania is about as untamed as wilderness gets. Shaped by glaciers, and dotted with Huon pines that grow for 3000 years, only one road passes through this national park. Indeed, it’s often easier to explore by water, with boat cruises, canoeing and rafting trips available. But there are also rainforest boardwalks leading to plummeting waterfalls. Strahan is the best base for exploring.
Mungo National Park, NSW
The landscapes are extraordinary, with solidified, wind-blown sand dunes and dry lakes making for a moon-like vision. But Mungo is important for changing the way we thought about human inhabitation in Australia – skeletal remains found here showed that Indigenous people have been in Australia for a lot longer than previously thought. Indigenous-guided tours that delve into that history and traditional beliefs about the land and weather will leave you with your mind racing. See visitmungo.com.au
Eungella National Park, QLD
On this part of the Queensland coast, attention tends to go towards the sea, where the Whitsunday Islands pull in allcomers. Head the other way, though, and the Eungella National Park provides cool mountain respite. The waterfalls and swimming holes of Finch Hatton Gorge are hugely appealing, but Broken River is the main drawcard as it’s one of the few spots on the planet where you’re pretty much guaranteed to see a wild platypus. See npsr.qld.gov.au/parks/eungella
Coorong National Park, SA
There’s something wistfully romantic about the Coorong’s lagoon landscape, with the redoubtable dunes of the Younghusband Peninsula keeping the Southern Ocean at bay from the shallow lakelets and salt pans. Hundreds of species of waterbirds love it, so pack a pair of binoculars, and take a slow meander down the Coorong Scenic Drive. See coorongcountry.com.au
Finke Gorge National Park, NT
The landscape looks like it formed before life itself emerged, with sandstone plateaus, natural amphitheatres and walking trails down into the gorges. But the wilderness feel of this 4WD-only Red Centre national park is interspersed with striking oases, king of which is Palm Valley, which brims with red cabbage palms that can’t be found anywhere else on earth.