5 treasures in Onkaparinga River parks

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, take a dip in waterholes along the river 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.

Senior Ranger Steve Johnson shares his insider tips on some hidden treasures in these parks.

1. Explore the wetlands

The recreation park’s wetlands are full of water for the first time in two years, so 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 during late winter and spring. You’ll be rewarded with a spectacular display of orchids and wildflowers.

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 Gate 10 on Piggott Range Road, Onkaparinga Hills, follow the service track towards the gorge, keeping a look out for native wildlife such as koalas, kangaroos and echidnas along the way. Then continue along the walking track that winds down to the river.

Insider tip: Last time Senior Ranger Steve Johnson was at the Punchbowl a Brown Goshawk kept a close eye on him from a nearby River Red Gum – so keep your eyes peeled.

The Punchbowl

4. Admire the views

Follow the Sundews Ridgetop or Sundews River hikes in the national park. The river 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.

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.


Explore Onkaparinga parks during August

Throughout the month of August, Onkaparinga National Park and Recreation Park are being celebrated as Park of Month – an initiative between Nature Play SA and DEW.

Why not explore the park with Ranger Steve or a Friends of Onkaparinga Park volunteer at the Onkaparinga River Parks Family Day on 14 August or enjoy a guided tour of Noarlunga Downs Wetland on 28 August. Click the Park of the Month events tab for all the details.

Don’t forget to share pictures of your visit on Instagram – just tag #onkaparingarivernationalpark.

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