It’s the season for long weekends! With the school holidays just around the corner, there’s a whole world waiting for you outside with Australia’s best national parks.

Honestly, Australian’s are incredibly lucky, with some of the world’s greatest National Parks so close to our city centres. Some can be difficult to get to without a car, but GoGet can help with that.

However you decide to get there, here are Australia’s best national parks near Sydney, Brisbane, Melbourne, and Adelaide.

Note: While most of these national parks are open, the 2019/2020 summer bushfires have made a serious impact on several of these regions. Check your state’s national parks website before you plan your trip.

The Royal National Park Coast Track

The best national parks near Sydney

The Royal National Park

The Royal National Park was the second national park ever declared in the world. Walk the coast for magnificent views, or experience rainforests, open woodlands and estuarine systems. This park is just 45 minutes south of the Sydney CBD, and is perfect for either a day trip or a long weekend getaway.

Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park

Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park marks where the Hawkesbury River meets the sea. It’s a melding pot of winding creeks, sheltered beaches, hidden coves, and wide expanses of deep blue water. Here you’ll see everything from wildflowers, sandstone ridges, dense forests, and mangroves. The scenery has a rich Aboriginal heritage and a strong sense of history.

The park is just 30 mins north of the Sydney CBD. There are multiple places to enter the park, from Terrey Hills on the northern beaches, all the way around to Hornsby, Berowra, and Brookly, on the Hawkesbury River itself.

Lane Cove National Park

Lane Cove National Park is 20 minutes’ drive from the Sydney CBD and provides a great day out for picnicking, bushwalking and canoeing along the peaceful Lane Cove River. The Lane Cove River Tourist Park offers camping, well-set-up cabins or tent sites, and there are barbecues and camp kitchens to make this an enjoyable experience, giving you time to soak up the atmosphere.

If you don’t want to leave the city, while still getting away from the hustle and bustle, Lane Cove is a perfect option.

The Blue Mountains National Park

90 minutes’ drive from Sydney CBD is one of Australia’s most famous national parks, for good reason. There are walks suited to every fitness level, as well as places to hike, cycle, canoe, and sleep under the stars at camping grounds. We have a list of our favourite places to camp in the Blue Mountains for free.

The Blue Mountains get their characteristic blue haze from the mixing of sunlight with drops of oil released by the eucalypts that blanket the region’s vast tablelands and valleys, just to inspire you further! If you’re not keen on venturing into the national park itself, be sure to enjoy the mountains  from one of the many lookouts along the Great Western Highway.

Note: The Blue Mountains National Park was heavily impacted by the 2019/2020 bushfires – make sure to check what’s accessible when planning your trip.

australian summer holiday bucket list

The best national parks near Melbourne

Port Campbell National Park

What better opportunity is there to pack up the car with your friends and family and head down the Great Ocean Road? Port Campbell National Park is world famous for its extraordinary collection of wave-sculpted rock formations and the Twelve Apostles. Loch Ard Gorge, site of a 19th century shipwreck ‘Loch Ard’, as well as the (now collapsed) Island Archway and London Bridge are other highlights.

This park is arguably the most famous of all on the Great Ocean Road and is located 3 hours west of Melbourne CBD.

Cape Otway National Park:

The Great Otway National Park stretches from Torquay through to Princetown, and up through the Otways hinterland towards Colac. The park features rugged coastlines, sandy beaches and rock platforms, and there are some excellent camping opportunities throughout the park.

Whether you’re looking for a family-friendly place to picnic or to enjoy a solitary night under the stars, there’s something to cater to every need. The Park is a 3.5 hour drive west of Melbourne CBD.

Wilson’s Promontory National Park

At the southernmost tip of mainland Australia, Wilson’s Promontory offers spectacular scenery of huge granite mountains, open forest, rainforest, sweeping beaches and coastlines. Great bushwalks range from under an hour to over three days.

Visitors can camp, caravan or stay in huts, cabins, wilderness retreats or lodges. The park is located 3 hours east of Melbourne CBD.

Hanging Rock

Rising 105 metres, Hanging Rock is actually a small steep-sided volcano. Rainwater has gradually created unusual rock formations, including the Black Hole of Calcutta and the Cathedral.

For the ultimate Hanging Rock experience, camp overnight and scare yourself silly with tall tales at Camp Out At The Rock. The Rock is an hour’s drive north of Melbourne CBD. 

Blue Lake on Stradbroke Island in Queensland

The best national parks near Brisbane

Blue Lake National Park

On North Stradbroke Island, Blue Lake National Park has two stunning walks through the island and by the lake. Visitors must be self-sufficient, because there are no facilities. Unfortunately, camping is not allowed in the park, although private accommodation and campgrounds are available at Dunwich, Amity and Point Lookout.

The Park is located 2 hours from Brisbane CBD. You can take a GoGet to Stradbroke by taking the ferry from Cleveland. Just be sure to avoid the 4WD-only parts of the island.

Lamington National Park

Declared in 1915, World Heritage Listed Lamington National Park covers 20,590ha and boasts extensive walking tracks to forests, creeks and waterfalls. Dramatic lookouts afford views over the Gold Coast, other parts of south-east Queensland and northern New South Wales.

There’s one camping area in the Green Mountains section, and a privately-managed campground adjacent to the Binna Burra section of the park. The park is about 110km, or a two-hour drive south of Brisbane.  

Tamborine National Park

Tamborine National Park is one of Australia’s not-so-hidden gems. Enjoy a picnic at sunset or a brisk morning walk in one of the many hidden pockets of rainforest on Tamborine Mountain itself, or treat yourself to the awe-inspiring views of the Scenic Rim mountains and the Gold Coast.

Tamborine Mountain is about 80km, or an hour’s drive south of Brisbane via Beenleigh and Tamborine Village  

D’Aguilar National Park

D’Aguilar National Park offers a number of beautiful picnic destinations, less than 15 minutes drive from Brisbane city, and within 35 minutes drive from the airport. Begin your journey at the Walkabout Creek Visitor Centre at The Gap, where kangaroos, spotted quolls and platypus will welcome you to the amazing wildlife of south-east Queensland.

bushfire affected communities

The best national parks near Adelaide

Innes National Park

Adelaide is blessed with conservation parks dotted through the Adelaide Hills, Barossa and Clare Valleys, and the Fleurieu Peninsula. Though if you want to go a little further afield, get yourself to Innes National Park, on the Yorke Peninsula.  

The spectacular coastal landscapes with rugged cliffs and sandy beaches at Innes National Park allow visitors to enjoy camping, bushwalking, fishing and surfing. If scuba diving is your thing, gorgeous shipwrecks lay nearby off the coast of the park.

While you’re on the YP, the three towns of the Copper triangle – Wallaroo, Kadina, and Moonta – are all very friendly, and great places to visit with the kids. The park is located 3.5 hours drive from Adelaide CBD.

Kangaroo Island National Park

Aside from it’s wine regions, Kangaroo Island is perhaps the most famous destination in South Australia (maybe tied with Coober Pedy). KI is internationally renowned for its spectacular landscapes and amazing diversity of wildlife.

The most recognised attractions are situated within the national parks on the island, including Seal Bay, Remarkable Rocks, Admirals Arch, as well as Cape Borda and Cape Willoughby lightstations.

Kangaroo Island is a 3.5 hour drive south east of Adelaide CBD, via the Kangaroo Island ferry (which you can take a GoGet on!).

Note: Kangaroo Island was heavily impacted by the 2019/2020 bushfires – make sure to check what’s accessible when planning your trip.

GoGet to Australia’s best national parks

With GoGet, Australia’s best national parks are all within reach, for either a day trip or a weekend getaway. Why not this weekend? Just because you don’t own your own car doesn’t mean you can’t experience the very best Australia has to offer.

About Tim Beau Bennett

Tim is an ex-journalist and radio presenter, and has been a professional writer for over a decade. He regularly writes about technology, lifestyle, and smart cities, and has written for news site including the ABC, SBS, and Australian Financial Review.