Onkaparinga River National Park

  • Picnic Areas
  • Campfires Permitted
  • Caravan Sites
  • BBQ Facilities
  • Toilets
  • Camping
  • Rock Climbing
  • Walking Trails
  • Bird Watching
PDF Park Brochure
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Onkaparinga River National Park and Recreation Park park locator map
The Onkaparinga River is South Australia's second longest river, it flows through two very different parks on its journey to the sea, creating a contrast of gullies, gorges and wetlands.
 
Just next door, to the west of the national park, Onkaparinga River Recreation Park boasts wetlands, boardwalks to explore and kayaking opportunities.
 
Tag your Instagram pics and see them display on this page #onkaparingarivernationalpark 

About

In Onkaparinga River National Park, diverse hiking trails take you to cliff tops with magnificent views, or down to permanent rock pools teeming with life. You’ll see rugged ridge tops and the narrow river valley of the spectacular Onkaparinga Gorge. This park protects some of the finest remaining pockets of remnant vegetation in the Southern Adelaide region. Wherever you go, you’ll be among native wildlife such as birds, koalas, kangaroos and possums - you may even spot an echidna. Areas of the park were used as farmland for many years, so you can also discover heritage-listed huts and the ruins of houses built in the 1880s. 

Just next door, to the west of the national park, Onkaparinga River Recreation Park boasts wetlands, boardwalks to explore and kayaking opportunities.

Opening hours

Open 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

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 - Willunga

Phone: (+61 8) 8550 3400

After Hours Regional Duty Officer: 0427 556 676

When to visit

Visit the Onkaparinga River National Park at any time of year and you’ll find something fun to do while you’re out enjoying nature.

Getting there

The park is located 35km south of Adelaide, the main walking trails are on the northern side of the gorge accessed from Piggott Range Road.

If you're in your own vehicle, you can find this park on the map.

There is also public transport to this park from the Adelaide city centre. 

Pets in parks

 

Pets are not permitted within this park. There are however, a number of South Australian National Parks where you can take your dog on a lead. 

Facilities

There are many spots for an informal picnic in Onkaparinga River National Park. If you’re walking in the national park, just pick your favourite view or river rock and make yourself comfortable.
There are several more formal picnic areas in the park, with amenities, free barbecues and lovely views. Next to gate 25 you’ll find a shady picnic ground with shelters, amenities, and free BBQ's. It’s tucked in behind one of South Australia’s best known wineries, so you can pick up a fine bottle of red to pair with your meal.

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

Camping coming soon!

We are spending $1.7m on improvements to the park to make it an ever better place to spend with family and friends.
You can look forward to new camping facilities, expected to be complete by December 2017.

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.

Videos and virtual tours

Onkaparinga River National Park - a view from above

Take a virtual tour of this park

Get a taste for the beauty of the river gorges, the wetland boardwalk and more.

Traditional owners

Translated from the Kaurna language, ‘Ngangki’ means women, ‘Pari’ means river, and ‘ngka’ means location. So the correct translation for Onkaparinga is Ngangkiparingka, which means women only places along the river.

There were many Kaurna yarta (land) family groups in the traditional areas that have been recognised as Kaurna pangkara (country), and also along the plains and hills south of Crystal Brook and west of Mount Lofty to Cape Jervis. Many local place names such as ‘Onkaparinga’, ‘Noarlunga’ and ‘Willunga’ have their origins in Kaurna language.

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

Colonial settlement began in the Noarlunga district from about 1839. In 1831 Captain Collett Barker entered the Onkaparinga River and ventured inland to the Horseshoe Bend (Old Noarlunga). Other early explorers and survey teams also passed through the district in 1837-8. By 1841, over 150 settlers occupied land in the Noarlunga area. Settlers were predominantly engaged in establishing agricultural ventures but included early storekeepers. Growth and development within the district was rapid. A wooden bridge was constructed across the river in 1840. Early crops were transported by flat-bottomed barge down the estuary and out through the mouth of the Onkaparinga River to waiting coastal ships. In 1854-5 a towpath from Old Noarlunga to the tramway terminal at Port Noarlunga was constructed to facilitate the passage of horse drawn barges.

In 1846 John Jared, of Lincolnshire, brought his family to South Australia and farmed for 15 years in the Aldinga/Willunga district before purchasing 240 acres at Noarlunga. He called the property Clear Farm and gradually increased his holding to 400 acres, much of which was within the current Onkaparinga River Recreation Park. In 1862 he constructed the family home and continued to farm the land until succeeded by his son John William Jared in 1871.

John William Jared extended the house and with his wife Hannah, renamed the property Pingle Farm. The remains of Pingle Farm are conserved within the reserve today. The structures include the main dwelling, a large limestone barn and an underground cylindrical tank. Other historic sites within the reserves containing remnants of early settlement also exist but have yet to be researched or documented to fully understand their significance.

The majority of the land that comprises Onkaparinga River Recreation Park and National Park was transferred to the Department of Environment in 1982 and was dedicated in 1985 as Onkaparinga River Recreation Park. The gorge section of the park was reclassified to National Park in 1993.

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.

  • Visiting the new Punchbowl Lookout for spectacular views over the Onkaparinga Gorge, magestic cliffs and Punchbowl waterhole, taking either the short Punchbowl Lookout Trail or the picturesque Punchbowl Link Trail starting from the Sundews Trails carpark.
  • Taking the Hardy’s Scrub Hike – this patch of scrub is a very important conservation area with excellent diversity and high quality native vegetation.
  • Discovering heritage-listed huts and ruins of houses that were built in the 1880s on the Echidna Trail.
  • Relaxing with friends and family at one of the gorgeous picnic areas in the park – some offer BBQs, toilets and shelter, and all are close to great trails.
  • Kayaking the Onkaparinga River from Old Noarlunga through the recreation park to the mouth of the river at Port Noarlunga.
  • Hiking in the eastern end of the national park in late winter and early spring to discover the amazing display of wildflowers and birdlife.
  • Taking your family on the Wetlands Loop Trail in the recreation park – it’s bike, pram and dog friendly (on lead), with great views of the river and a boardwalk over the wetlands.
  • Walking to the Sundews Lookout in the national park for spectacular views of the Onkaparinga Gorge.
  • Read about 5 treasures in Onkaparinga River Parks on the Good Living blog.  

Bushwalking

Walks in the parks range from easy walks to more challenging hikes. While you're bushwalking in the parks, you’ll be rewarded with magnificent views of the gorge, river and estuary.

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.

Moderate hikes

  • Echidna Hike (2 hrs, 3.5km)

    A narrow trail takes you over moderate slopes and through lovely pink gum, grey box and sheoak bushland. Enjoy the winter and spring floral displays, including stunning orchids. You will see some ruins, get great views of the gorge, and get a good workout.

  • Hardy’s Scrub Hike (2 hrs, 4km)

    This patch of native vegetation is a very important conservation area with excellent diversity of plants created by the varied soils. Grey box grows in fertile loam or clay soils, pink gums prefer soils with a sandy well drained surface and a clay or rocky base. Southern cypress pine grows only in sandy loam soil.

  • Nature Hike (3 hrs, 3.5km)

    An easy trail though regenerating pink gum and grey box woodland. This trail is a fine example of these unique plant communities. On the eastern section of the trail you’ll have fabulous views of the gorge.

  • Sundews Ridge Hike (2 hrs, 4km)

    Take a short hike to the Sundews lookout to see the rocky outcrops and the river flowing through the Onkaparinga Gorge. Sundews Ridge Hike is a moderate loop trail that runs along the ridge top, returning to the car park without descending to the river.

Hard hikes

  • Old Noarlunga Hike (2 hrs 30 mins, 3.2km)

    Cross the swinging bridge to start this trail. You’ll discover the re-vegetation that is returning this once heavily grazed land to its original state. There are extensive views over the township of Old Noarlunga and the Onkaparinga River estuary.*

  • Sundews River Hike (4 hrs, 4.5km)

    Experience the river, and the plants and animals that live in the gorge. This is a hard hike that descends steeply from the lookout to the bottom of the gorge. You’ll follow the river downstream for a short distance before returning up the steep slopes of the gorge to the ridge and the car park.*

  • Tatendi Hike (4 hrs, 3.5km)

    Walk across the gentle slopes of the upper gorge for great views. From there, narrow rough trails descend steeply to the river where the vegetation becomes thicker and more diverse.*

*Some sections of these trails are not well defined, particularly along the river. Hiking experience required.

Stay in the park

Pink Gum Campground 

Bookings for this new campground are now available for camping from Wednesday 1 November 2017. 

Situated at the eastern end of the park, this brand new campground has 11 campsites, including three that are suitable for caravans, a toilet, washing-up facilities and fire pits for use outside the fire ban season.

Click through to the booking page for campsite descriptions, pictures and to secure a site. 

Accessibility information

Most of the campsites are wheelchair accessible, they are on flat ground with a compacted gravel surface. The road slopes down to the toilets but is accessible by car. The toilet facilities are wheelchair accessible, with a 900mm door width and a fixed handrail alongside the toilet.

Rock climbing and abseiling

For those with the appropriate training, experience and equipment, rock climbing and abseiling opportunities are available at the Onkaparinga River National Park Rock Climbing Zone.

Access via gate 15 carpark Chapel Hill Road, Blewitt Springs. Large groups are advised to call the Willunga Natural Resources Centre to check availability.

Rock climbing and abseiling are only permitted in the areas indicated on the park map. Please respect this for your safety and to protect the park.

Please: 

  • Use holdfasts to tie off if available.
  • Don’t tie off to trees unless tree protection is used.
  • Be careful when using trails in this area.

Commercial operators must be licenced.

Kayaking and canoeing

The estuarine waters of the Recreation Park are a perfect environment for canoeing, kayaking and paddle boarding. Beginners will feel safe learning to paddle in the calm waters of the river between Main South Road and Commercial Road. Whether you’re a beginner or an expert, you’ll love the scenery, as the river meanders through floodplains and wetlands on its way to the sea.

There is a brand new kayak and canoe launch at the Recreation Park main entrance at Perry's Bend which includes steps and a ramp to enable you to safely slide your boat down to the water.

Teach and learn resources

If you are looking to visit Onkaparinga River parks for educational purposes, you might like to check out our Onkaparinga River parks education pack and the Onkaparinga River parks kids pack.

These were developed for schools and families by park rangers and the Natural Resources Adelaide and Mt Lofty Ranges’ NRM Education team.

Mountain biking

 

Bird watching

You’ll see all kinds of birdlife in the Onkaparinga River National Park, particularly if you take a few moments to be still. There is a diverse range of species that live in, or visit, the parks – many of conservation significance. Hunting birds, such as the peregrine falcon, scour the landscape in search of birds, small mammals and lizards. You’ll probably hear the yellow-tailed black cockatoo long before you see one, their raucous cries announce their presence well in advance.

Fishing

Fishing is NOT in Onkaparinga River National Park, however is permitted in the nearby Onkaparinga River Recreation Park.

Flora

In the eastern area of the National Park a low open forest of Grey Box and Sheoak can be seen. On the upper ridges and higher valleys a low woodland of pink gum, dryland tea-tree and sheoak is present. On wetter sites throughout the eastern section of the reserve, an open forest formation of blue gum and manna gum can be seen. Along the creek and riverbanks a riparian association dominated by river red  gum occurs.

Within the floodplain and estuary area of the Recreation Park, important samphire flats occur. These areas, along with their saline  margins, support communities of samphire, chenopods, saltbush and sedges. Samphire's include Sarcocornia blackiana and Arthrocnemum halocnemoides. Aquatic estuarine flora is dominated by Garweed and various algae.

Videos

Onkaparinga River National Park - a view from above

Fauna

Mammals present within the park include western grey kangaroo, common brushtail possum, common ringtail possum and  echidna. The lesser long-eared  bat and the southern forest bat.

You’ll see all kinds of birdlife in the Onkaparinga River Natiopnal Park, particularly if you take a few moments to be still. There is a diverse range of species that live in, or visit, the park – many of conservation significance. Hunting birds, such as the peregrine falcon, scour the landscape in search of birds, small mammals and lizards. You’ll probably hear the yellow-tailed black cockatoo long before you see one, their raucous cries announce their presence well in advance.

Approximately 20 fish species  are  recorded for  the  estuary  and river. The major fish species include jumping mullet, black  bream and yellow-eye mullet. Algae, molluscs and garweed form  the  major  diet  of the  fish species.
Amphibian records include: common froglet, banjo frog, spotted marsh frog and brown tree frog. At least 20 reptile species have been recorded in the reserves. These include cunningham's skink, eastern bearded dragon and barking gecko.
Common butterfly species include: meadow argus, cabbage white, saltbush blue, australian painted lady, common grass-blue and lesser wanderer. Gahnia filum  sedge-lands in the estuary may  provide habitat for populations of the  endangered yellowish  sedge-skipper.   

Volunteering

Want to help?

To find out how you can help in this park or nearby, please visit Natural Resources Adelaide and Mt Lofty Ranges – Volunteering.

Want to join others and become a Park Friend?

To find out more about Friends of Parks groups please visit Friends of Parks South Australia.

You could join others to help look after a park. You can take part in working bees, training and other events.

Safety

Bushwalking

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

Ensure that you:

  • when hiking, wear sturdy shoes, a hat and sunscreen
  • be aware of weather conditions and avoid walking during the hottest part of the day
  • make sure you have appropriate weather proof clothing
  • carry enough water to be self-sufficient
  • please be respectful of other users at all times
  • stay on the designated trails and connector tracks for your own safety, and prevent the spread of declared weeds to other areas in the park
  • ensure someone knows your approximate location and expected time of return
  • take appropriate maps.
  • Walk, hike or trek - what's the difference?

Mountain biking

To protect the surrounding environment and to ensure the safety of all riders and shared trail users, please be aware of the international Trail Users Code of Practice when using shared trails. Important points to remember include:

  • plan your ride
  • comply with all signs
  • ride only on formed tracks/trails
  • share the trail - obey give way rules
  • avoid riding in wet, muddy conditions
  • ride lightly and leave no trace or rubbish
  • control your bike within your limits
  • clean your bike to avoid the spread of weeds or plant diseases
  • carry sufficient food and drinking water
  • respect the rights of others
  • tell others about the code

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:

  • leave your pets at home
  • 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.

Fire

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. 

Fire restrictions

  • Wood fires and solid fuel fires are prohibited between 18 November 2016 to 30 April 2017.
  • Wood fires and solid fuel fires are only permitted in the designated campfire areas within Pink Gum Campground from 1 May 2017 to 17 November 2017, other than on days of total fire ban.
  • You must bring your own firewood, as the collection of firewood within National Parks is prohibited.
  • Gas fires are permitted through the year, other than on days of total fire ban.
  • Ensure you are familiar with the fire restrictions for this park.

Water

Please take care on the trails during winter. The river is deep and fast-flowing and should not be crossed. There are also occasional environmental flows released seasonally.

Maps

Park maps

Maps on your mobile

If you have a smartphone or tablet you can download the free Avenza PDF Map app and have interactive national park maps on hand when you need them.

The app uses your device's built-in GPS to plot your real-time location within the park onto a map. The app can be used without a network connection and without roaming charges. You can also measure area and distance, plot photos and drop placemark pins. 

How to get it working on your device:

1. Download the Avenza PDF maps app from the app store whilst you are still in range (its free!).
2. Open up the app and click the shopping cart icon.
3. Click ‘Find’ and type the name of the national park or reserve you are looking for.
4. Click on the map you are after and install it (all our maps are free).
5. You will now find a list of your installed maps on the home page of the Avenza app.
6. Use our maps through the Avenza PDF map app while in the park and never take a wrong turn again.

Fees

Entry fees

 

Vehicle entry to this park is free, however fees apply for camping.

Camping and accommodation

Bookings for this new campground are now available for camping from Wednesday 1 November 2017. 

Please pay for vehicle entry and book your campsite prior to arrival as self registration stations are not available in this park.

Click through to the online booking page for more details about individual campgrounds and fees.

Alternative booking and payment options

If you prefer not to book online, cash payments for this park can be made at:

McLaren Vale

McLaren Vale and Fleurieu Visitor Information Centre
Address: 796 Main Rd, McLaren Vale SA 5171
Phone: (+61 8) 8323 9944

Other fees and permits

There are no other fees or permits associated with this park. 

PDF Park Brochure