Para Wirra Conservation Park

  • Picnic Areas
  • BBQ Facilities
  • Toilets
  • Disabled Toilets
  • Dogs on Lead
  • Horse Riding
  • Walking Trails
  • Bird Watching
PDF Park Brochure
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Para Wirra Conservation Park park locator map

With its extensive grassy areas, relaxing lakeside, and beautiful bush setting, Para Wirra Conservation Park is a well-loved gathering place for family and friends.

Tag your Instagram pics with #parawirraconservationpark to see them displayed on this page.

Para Wirra Conservation Park park locator map

With its extensive grassy areas, relaxing lakeside, and beautiful bush setting, Para Wirra Conservation Park is a well-loved gathering place for family and friends.

Tag your Instagram pics with #parawirraconservationpark to see them displayed on this page.

About

This is a perfect park for immersing yourself in nature – for walking, picnicking, and observing native animal life. The park is also home to the Barossa Goldfields, where you can discover the ruins and the history of a once thriving mining operation.

There are over 100 species of birds living in the park, including the cheeky emus you’ll see patrolling the picnic grounds. You can see kangaroos grazing at dawn and dusk, and on a warm day bearded dragons and sleepy lizards bask in the sunshine. If you’re in luck you might also spot a short-beaked echidna, a shy creature whose diggings can be found throughout the park. 

Opening hours

This park is open seven days a week from sunrise to sunset (except Christmas Day).

This park is closed on days of Catastrophic Fire Danger and may be closed on days of Extreme Fire Danger.

Listen to the local area radio station for the latest updates and information on fire safety. 

Contact details

Natural Resource Centre - Gawler

Phone: (+61 8) 8523 7700
Email: DEWNR.AMLRGawlerOffice@sa.gov.au

When to visit

Para Wirra Conservation Park is great at any time of year. In the warmer months, the park is the perfect spot for picnics, barbecues, to take a leisurely stroll or play a game of cricket on the bush oval. Winter is the best time to attempt the more challenging hikes, and it is also marvellous for wildflowers.

Pets in parks

You and your dog can enjoy this park providing you keep your dog on a lead and under your control at all times. Don't forget to bring your disposable 'doggie-doo' bag to clean up after your dog.

Facilities

Para Wirra Conservation Park is a perfect spot for group and family gatherings, with accessible facilities in a natural bushland setting. The lake is one of the park’s most popular places, there’s a barbecue area and picnic tables with a view out over the water. On a calm day, you’ll see the surrounding bushland reflected in the water with mirror-like perfection. 

The Gawler View picnic area is a huge, open recreation space with an oval and a flat grassy area near the barbeques. There are shelters, toilets with disabled access, and even a playground for the little ones. The Wirra picnic area also has free barbecues and amenities with disabled toilet access.

Facilities:

  • Picnic areas and shelters
  • Barbecues
  • Toilets
  • Disabled toilets
  • Bush oval and other open space areas
  • Resource room for hire
  • Car park areas

The location of these facilities can be found on our park maps.

Find out about exciting new developments in this park.

Useful information

  • Mobile phone coverage can be patchy and unreliable in this park, especially if you are in low-lying areas.

  • Important: Collection of firewood within National Parks is prohibited.

Pests and diseases

Phytophthora (fy-TOFF-thora), otherwise known as root-rot fungus, is killing our native plants and threatens the survival of animals depending on plants for food and shelter.

This introduced fungus can be found in plant roots, soil and water. Help stop the spread by using hygiene stations, staying on tracks and trails and by complying with all Phytophthora management signs.

Traditional owners

The three nations connected to Para Wirra are the Peramangk, Ngadjuri and Kaurna nations. Tapering gradually to meet the Barossa Valley and the mallee plains, the rugged Mount Lofty Ranges and South Para River form a natural meeting place for the Kaurna people across the Adelaide plains; the Peramangk people to the east; and the Ngadjuri people to the north.

Translated from the Kaurna language, ‘Para’ (really Pari) means river, creek or gully. ‘Wirra’ means forest. So Para Wirra is the forest where a waterway (river or creek) flows. Today, Para Wirra Conservation Park is an important area for all three nations, and National Parks are working with them to develop and promote cultural interpretation of the park.

Aboriginal South Australians are the first peoples of our State and have occupied, enjoyed and managed these lands and waters since the creation. For SA's First Peoples, creation ancestors laid down the laws of the Country and bestowed a range of customary rights and obligations to the many Aboriginal Nations across our state. 

Aboriginal peoples' oral histories and creation stories traverse the length and breadth of Australia’s lands and waters, including South Australian Parks. These stories interconnect land and waters with complex meaning and values and hold great cultural significance. We recognise and respect Aboriginal people's ownership of their stories and that they hold rights and obligations to care for Country. It is through these rights and cultural obligations and a shared goal to protect the environment for generations to come that DEWNR is committed to meaningful collaboration and involvement with Aboriginal peoples in the management of our shared parks.

History

Barossa Goldfields

Gold was discovered here in the 1860s and although a number of mining syndicates invested heavily, they did not make their fortunes. Small scale mining continued in the area until the mid-1930s and many remains of mining activity can be seen throughout the northern end of the park. 

Stop in at the quaint Bowden Cottage Museum to learn about the gold mines and the challenging lives of those who worked in them. The cottage is open most Tuesdays and the third Sunday of every second month by the Barossa Goldfields Historical Society volunteers.

Geology

The Geology of the Para Wirra Conservation Park provides evidence of a long and dynamic history, involving deposition, deep burial, metamorphism and folding and subsequently uplift and faulting. This history began with the development of the Barossa Inlier about 1600 million years ago. After a period of erosion between 850-550 Million years ago, in a basin deposition occurred. The sediments were then buried to a depth of 10 km, and subjected to folding and faulting, resulting in gold mineralisation. From this time to the present a period of erosion and uplift occurred bringing the rocks to the surface.

See and do

Rangers recommend

We have picked the brains of our park rangers to find out what they would recommend you see and do whilst visiting this park.

  • Taking a hike! There's a walk to suit everyone, whether it is a leisurely stroll on the Lake Discovery Walk, or a hike down to the South Para River. You can link trails for a full day adventure or take short loop walk after a picnic lunch.
  • Learning about the fascinating history of the Barossa Goldfields as you walk through a once thriving gold mining area.
  • Visiting the quaint Bowden Cottage Museum to learn even more about the gold mines and the challenging lives of those who worked them.
  • Become a Junior Ranger with us! Download and complete the '20 Things to Do in Para Wirra' activity sheet and then arrange to see a ranger at the Information Centre to collect your Junior Ranger Badge.
  • Enjoying the magnificent views out across the park, and down into spectacular gorges from the ridge of the Devils Nose Track.
  • Playing a game of cricket or football on the bush oval, then cooking a barbecue in the Gawler View picnic area. 
  • Riding your horse along picturesque bush tracks through the southern section of the park.
  • Walking your dog (on a lead) around the shores of the lake. This is particularly beautiful in the early morning and in the evenings before sunset.
  • Visiting the park in spring and taking a walk along the many native wildflower-lined trails. Keep an eye out for native orchids that bloom this time of year.
  • Celebrate the park with our rangers every September at our annual Para Wirra Discovery Day - It's a fun festival with heaps of activities for the kids, food stalls, guided walks and much  more.

Bushwalking

Bushwalking is a fantastic way to connect with nature, keep fit and spend time with family and friends. 

South Australia's national parks feature a range of trails that let you experience a diversity of landscapes. Our trails cater for all levels of fitness and adventure and our classification system makes it easy to select an experience suitable for you.

Easy walks

  • Lake Discovery Walk (30 mins)

    This popular short trail is great for families where you can soak up the tranquil setting of Para Wirra's lake. You're sure to see many waterbirds and bush birds along the way, so bring your binoculars. Great in the morning and late afternoon.

Moderate hikes

  • Devils Nose and Back Hike (2 hrs, 4.4km)

    Take the ridge top walk to the Devils Nose Lookout. Sweeping views of the Barossa Range, Gawler District, South Para Gorge and Misery Farm will take your breath away. Bring your camera!

    Access: car park and trailhead west of the lake.

    Devils Nose Hike Brochure

  • Devils Nose via Lizard Rock and Hissey Trails (4.5 hrs, 9.7km)

    Starting near the Park Headquarters take the anti-clockwise loop along the Hissey Loop Trail to the Lizard Rock trail, from there take the link trail to the Knob and wind your way down toward the South Para Gorge, an open clearing before the gorge will lead you to the path that winds it's way up to the Devil's Nose Lookout. After taking in the spectacular views, make your way back to the Headquarters along the Hissey Loop.

    Access: Car park on the western side of the lake.

  • Hissey Loop Walk (1 hour, 2km loop)

    Walk along the shaded valley of Wild Dog Creek and take in the scenery as you meander around the tranquil Lake. Ideal for families or visitors with limited time.

    Access: Near the lake access road (east side).

    Hissey Loop Walk brochure

  • Lizard Rock Nature Walk (45 mins, 1.6km return)

    An enjoyable loop trail with easy grades and picturesque views across Wild Dog Creek valley. Explore the rock formations along the ridge and see if you can spot the Lizard Rock! Great for family groups.

    Access: Near the Gawler View Barbecue and Natureplay areas.

    Lizard Rock Nature Walk brochure

  • The Knob Lookout Hike (2 hrs, 4.5km return or 1 hr 30 mins, 3.2km loop)

    Whether you walk or drive to the Knob you’ll find yourself immersed in valleys of bushland surrounded by high hills, miles away from city life.

    Access: Next to the shelter north of Gawler View Picnic Area.

    Take the hike one way then return along Scenic Drive or via Lizard Rock Nature Walk, making it a loop. You can also access the Quarry Hike before you get to the top of the Knob for a longer walk in the bush.

  • Mack Creek Hike (4 hrs, 7.5km)

    Follows Mack Creek downstream through a valley of magnificent river red gums. Look out for the beautiful orchids flowering in late winter and spring.

  • Phoenix Hike (2 hrs 30 mins, 5km loop)

    Take a walk through time and see the major mines of the Barossa Goldfields. Follow the pickaxe symbols every 200 metres, reading the stories of early miners on interpretive signs along the way. Explore the old tramway tracks from Menzies Mine, near the Battery.

    Access: Car park on Allendale Road near Bowden Cottage.

  • Quarry Hike (2 hrs one way, 4km or 4 hrs return, 8.4km)

    For an adventurous workout amongst nature, take a hike through the South Para River gorge and see what birds you can spot. Take a breather by the old goldmining Battery site beyond the steep climb through the gorge, then make your way to Para Wirra Road (park boundary) for a stunning view of the valley.

    Access: Below The Knob Lookout.

  • Victoria Hill Walk (45 mins, 1.5km)

    Discover the secrets of this historical mining town in the Barossa Valley. Allow time to stop and read the interpretive signs along the route that tell the colourful story of the Barossa Goldfields.

    Access: Car park on Allendale Road near Bowden Cottage.

  • Wirra Loop Hike (2 hrs 30 mins, 5km loop)

    A delightful nature trail, great on its own, or as part of other trails in the Forestry SA network. Look for wildflowers year round and stop by the dam along Blue Gum Track to see the wildlife that comes to visit!

    Access: Wild Dog Creek car park, east of Para Wirra Drive and just south of Wirra Road.

Mountain biking

Mountain biking is currently not permitted in this park. 

Stay in the park

There are currently no campground facilities or accommodation available within this park. However community and recreation organisations, school groups and Scouts can arrange special 'camp-over' activities at one of the open spaces by appointment with a ranger (conditions apply).

For enquiries please call the Gawler District Office or the Para Wirra Conservation Park: (+61  8) 8280 7048.  If the phone is unattended, leave a message and the ranger will get back to you. 

Find out about exciting new developments in this park.

Horse riding

At the southern end of the park, you can bring your horse in for a ride along unspoiled bush tracks. There are two entry points off Humbug Scrub Road, one with a car park area large enough to turn a horse float around. Please note that horses are not allowed on the walking trail along Mack Creek.

See the park map for riding tracks.

Phytophthora dieback is killing many native plant species, and threatens the survival of animals depending on plants for food and shelter. Horses and riders can spread the disease through plant material that sticks to hooves, boots, bandages or boot covers.

Barossa goldfields

Gold was discovered here in the 1860s and although a number of mining syndicates invested heavily, they did not make their fortunes. Small scale mining continued in the area until the mid-1930s and many remains of mining activity can be seen throughout the northern end of the park. 

Interpretative walks of the Barossa goldfields take you past many points of interest, and you can visit Bowden Cottage, a museum run by the Barossa Goldfields Historical Society dedicated to the goldmining days. 

Please note that fossicking is not permitted in Para Wirra Conservation Park.

Birdwatching

Para Wirra Conservation Park can be a noisy place. You'll hear the raucous cries of wattlebirds when the gums and wattles are flowering and see families of white winged choughs digging for roots and grubs. You’ll hear the strange and unique drumming sound emus make as they wander through the picnic grounds (watch out for your food or they will try to steal it from you, and please do not feed them). The smaller birds, like the scarlet robin, blue wren and eastern spine bill, make their busy rustling noises as they go about their business closer to the ground.

Barbecues and picnics

Para Wirra Conservation Park is a perfect spot for group and family gatherings, with accessible facilities in a natural bushland setting. The lake is one of the park’s most popular areas, there’s a barbecue area and picnic tables with a view out over the water. On a calm day you’ll see the surrounding bushland reflected in the water with mirror-like perfection. 

The Gawler View picnic area is a huge, open recreation space with an oval and a flat grassy area near the barbeques. There are shelters, toilets with disabled access, and even a playground for the little ones. The Wirra picnic area also has free barbecues and amenities with disabled toilet access.

Teach and learn

If you are looking to visit Parra Wirra for educational purposes, you might like to peruse our Educational Pack tailored to Para Wirra Conservation Park. This pack was developed for schools and families by park rangers and the Natural Resources Adelaide and Mt Lofty Ranges’ NRM Education team.

You may also wish to download Nature Play SA's 20 Things to Discover in Para Wirra Recreation Park.

Volunteering

Groups of community-based volunteers assist park staff to protect the natural features and cultural heritage of the park. New members with shared interests are always welcome.

If you think you might be interested in volunteering opportunities within this park please contact our Volunteer Support Unit.

Videos

Take a virtual tour of this park. Get a taste for the various historic sites, the lake and the panoramic views which you will be rewarded with whilst walking within the park .

Safety

Bushwalking

The international Trail Users Code of Conduct is to show respect and courtesy towards other trail users at all times.

  • Keep to defined tracks and trails – this is particularly important in the northern area of the park where there may be unfenced goldmine shafts. 
  • Always leave yourself plenty of time, particularly when walking down from the Goldfields area into the main body of the park. The return walk is very steep.
  • Pay attention to the weather. Be extra careful in wet or extreme weather conditions, particularly when crossing the South Para River ford.
  • Wear sturdy shoes, a hat and sunscreen. Make sure you have appropriate wet weather clothing.
  • Carry enough food and drinking water to be self-sufficient. The hotter the conditions, the more water you will need.
  • Do not rely on tanks or creeks in the park for drinking water.
  • Carry a map of the park and the walks at all times.
  • If you’re planning a long walk, you should inform an emergency contact person who will know if you don’t return at the designated time.

Fire

This park is situated in a CFS Bushfire Prone Area.

This park is closed on days of Catastrophic Fire Danger and may be closed on days of Extreme Fire Danger.

Listen to the local area radio station for the latest updates and information on fire safety. 

  • Wood fires and coal fires are prohibited throughout the year.
  • Gas fires are permitted in designated areas only (other than on days of total fire ban).
  • Gas barbecues are available throughout the park, or you may bring your own gas barbecue.
  • On some total fire ban days the park may remain open, but the use of all barbecues is prohibited.

Water

Please do not swim or bathe in the lake, there are submerged objects just under the water and it can be unsafe.

Know before you go

Every national park is different, each has its own unique environment, it is important to be responsible while enjoying all the park has to offer.

Please ensure that you:

  • keep your dog on a lead at all times and check if there are areas of the park where dogs are not allowed
  • do not feed birds or other animals, it promotes aggressive behaviour and an unbalanced ecology
  • do not bring generators (except where permitted), chainsaws or firearms into the park
  • leave the park as you found it - place rubbish in the bins provided or take it with you
  • abide by the road rules (maintain the speed limit)
  • respect geological and heritage sites
  • do not remove native plants
  • are considerate of other park users.

  • Important: Collection of firewood within National Parks is prohibited.

Maps

Maps on your mobile

Search for this park in the Avenza PDF Maps app, download the free park map for your mobile device when you have an internet connection. 

Because our maps are geo-enabled, whether you have internet or not, you will always have your location dot no matter where you are. The app allows you to calculate distances and (with sufficient GPS signal) locate yourself within the park.

Fees

Entry fees

Fees apply to enter this park.

Entry permits can be obtained from the self-registration stations within the park. Please bring the correct money as change is not available.

Vehicle entry fees

Vehicle entry: $10.00
Vehicle entry (concession): $8.00

Fees collected are used for conservation and to maintain and improve park facilities.

Park pass

If you intend to visit often, you may like to purchase any of the below park passes.

Single Park Pass

Is this your favourite park? If you visit often, it's more economical to purchase a Single Park Pass giving you vehicle entry to this park for 12 months. 

There are 13 parks that are part of the Single Park Pass system.  

Holiday Park Pass and Multi Park Pass

Want to explore SA’s parks all year round? Purchase a Multi Park Pass (12 months), or a Holiday Park Pass (for 2 months) which entitles you to vehicle entry and optional camping not just for this park, but up to an additional 58 parks as well!

Camping and accommodation

There is no camping or accommodation available within this park. 

Other fees and permits

Para Wirra Resource Centre

Full day hire: $45.00

For bookings and enquiries please call the Para Wirra Conservation Park: (+61 8) 8280 7048

If the phone is unattended, leave a message and the ranger will get back to you. 

Group Visits

If you are planning to visit the park with a large group please call in advance. With notice we can make sure the park is sufficiently staffed for your visit.

Phone: (+61 8) 8523 7700