5 treasures onkaparinga final large
5 treasures onkaparinga final large

5 treasures in Onkaparinga River parks

04 Dec. 2023 4 min read

Our Onkaparinga River insider shares some top tips for visiting two very different parks.

With diverse hikes along ridgetops and through the spectacular Onkaparinga Gorge, Onkaparinga River National Park offers an opportunity to abseil down rugged cliffs and discover some of the best bushland in southern Adelaide.

In contrast, the serene wetlands of Onkaparinga Recreation Park are a great place for a family picnic, fishing, kayaking or birdwatching while strolling along the boardwalks.

Located 35 kilometres south of Adelaide’s CBD, Onkaparinga River National Park and Recreation Park offer something for everyone to enjoy.

Ranger William Sheridan shares his insider tips on some hidden treasures in these parks.

1. Explore the wetlands

It’s a great time to tackle the Wetlands Loop Trail where you can explore the large freshwater lagoons, which are abundant with wildlife.

One of the lagoons has a long, winding boardwalk that takes you across the water and right through the action. The trail is accessible for bikes, prams and dogs on lead, so it’s fun for the whole family.

Start exploring from the Perry’s Bend picnic area on River Road, Noarlunga Downs.

Onkaparinga River Parks

2. Take a hike

Try the Nature, Echidna and Hardy’s Scrub hikes at the eastern end of the national park where you will be rewarded with a peaceful walk through some of the best remaining bushland within the park.

Native birds, koalas, kangaroos and possums are regularly spotted along these hikes, and you might even see an echidna.As well as being a great trail for seeing wildlife, the Echidna Hike includes a heritage hut built in the 1800s. Look out for the nearby track that leads down the gully to a waterfall.

Donkey Orchids

3. Discover the Punchbowl

One of the national park’s best kept secrets, the Punchbowl is the perfect place to get away from the hustle and bustle of the city and step back in time.

This spectacular rock pool in the gorge is surrounded by rugged cliffs with an overhanging rock formation, creating the perfect place to relax while you take in the scenery and enjoy some birdwatching.

From the carpark at Gate 9 on Piggott Range Road, Onkaparinga Hills, follow the Punchbowl Link Trail towards the Punchbowl Lookout, where you will be offered views of the Punchbowl. Continue east along the Punchbowl Link Trail, keeping a look out for native wildlife such as koalas, kangaroos, and echidnas along the way. Continue your adventure by following the walking trail that winds its way down to the river.

The Punchbowl

4. Admire the views

Follow the Sundrews Ridge Hike or the Gorge Hike in the national park. The Gorge Hike offers you the best of both worlds – you can experience the river from the bottom of the gorge, and see the spectacular views of the gorge when you make it up to Sundews Lookout.

While you are admiring the amazing scenery, don’t forget to look for the sundews that give the hikes their name. These small carnivorous plants have pretty white flowers and use their sticky leaves to capture insects for food.

It’s best to do the river hike in late spring through to autumn, as high water levels can make walking along the river difficult.

Insider tip: Last time Ranger William Sheridan was walking the Gorge Hike he spotted one of the more elusive creatures that call this park home – a Rakali, commonly known as a native water-rat, or the “Australian Otter” – so keep your eyes peeled.

onkaparinga look out

5. Get a new perspective

Kayak from Old Noarlunga through the recreation park to the river mouth at Port Noarlunga to see the estuary and all its plants and wildlife from a different perspective.

The calm waters provide an ideal setting to enjoy the scenery and watch the many species of birds that live in, and visit, the park.

If you don’t have your own kayak, you can hire one at Port Noarlunga.

Insider tip: check the tide times before you go, as sections of the river become quite shallow and difficult to negotiate at low tide.

5 treasures in Onkaparinga River parks

Park of the month:

In December, celebrate Onkaparinga River parks as the National Parks and Wildlife Service's featured Park of the Month. Join a variety of events and activities, including a family cultural walk and rejuvenating forest bathing.


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