Winter shouldn’t mean putting a lid on your sense of adventure. At these SA parks, it’s a great time to visit.
The winter chill has definitely hit, and those warm and wonderful memories of summer are quickly fading away.
Short of darting off overseas in a desperate bid to follow the sun, there are other ways to enjoy the months ahead and treat yourself to a well-deserved mid-year break.
Maybe it’s not about avoiding the cold altogether, but embracing those special places that are even more enjoyable when the temperatures start to drop.
Here are five South Australian parks where winter is the perfect time to visit:
1. Witjira National Park
Described as a true oasis in the desert, Witjira National Park is the perfect winter escape.
Located almost 900 kilometres north-west of Port Augusta on the western edge of the Simpson Desert, Witjira offers a winter wonderland like no other.
The milder months between May and September are the ideal time to kick back and unwind in this desert beauty, taking in the stunning sunsets and basking in the warm waters of the heritage-listed Dalhousie Springs.
The well-established campgrounds have all the facilities you need for a relaxing stay, and plenty of shady spots to choose from.
But remember, the days might be warm but the nights are chilly. So check out the relevant fire information before you go.
Rainbow over Witjira National Park
2. Ikara-Flinders Ranges National Park
Bushwalking is better in cooler weather, so why not make the most of the colder months and get active.
It can be way too hot to hit the walking trails of Ikara-Flinders Ranges National Park in the peak of summer, and some are closed when it’s a day of extreme fire danger, so April to October are your best bet for a comfortable bush walk.
The park is about 450 kilometres north of Adelaide in the central Ikara-Flinders Ranges, and features four walking trails and 14 hiking paths, catering for different interests and abilities. It’s also home to a section of the famous long-distance Heysen Trail.
Ikara-Flinders Ranges National Park is where you’ll see ancient Aboriginal rock engravings, historic pastoral settlements and ruins of an old copper mining town.
And there’s a bunch of great camping spots to choose from with scenic mountain views or shady woodland sites, and amenities including fire pits with cooking grills.
While you might sweat up a storm bushwalking during the day, remember to pack a jacket for night time.
Cazneaux's Tree, Ikara-Flinders Ranges National Park
3. Innes National Park
So maybe rugging up and staying indoors is your thing – and why not when it could be somewhere like this.
Many national parks have accommodation available to book, including Innes National Park on the Yorke Peninsula. One option there is Shepherd’s Hut, a single-roomed stone cottage with a wood-fired stove. Sounds perfect for curling up with a good book and a delicious hot chocolate or a glass of red wine.
And if you do feel up to braving the cooler weather, there’s Shell Beach metres away and a bank of other activities to keep you busy and warm you up in no time.
Think bush walking, bird watching, wildlife spotting, photography and fishing.
Shepherd’s Hut at Innes National Park
4. Mount Remarkable National Park
Thriving vegetation and wildlife between autumn and spring make this the right time to visit Mount Remarkable National Park.
Whether it’s the western grey kangaroos and emus roaming freely through the park, the protected yellow-footed rock-wallabies or the echidnas that start popping up in spring, here’s a park that makes you feel glad that you didn’t wait for summer to come around before you took to the great outdoors.
For birdwatchers, the 117 native bird species are sure to fill your quota. There’s Australian ringneck parrots, wedge-tailed eagles and brightly coloured variegated wrens in the mix.
This is another park with great walking trails, and the diverse habitats are a wonder to see – from the red quartzite gorges, to the watercourses lined with river red gums. Pack a picnic and a thermos and enjoy the fresh, crisp air.
Just 45 kilometres north of Port Pirie, this park also has a number of camping and accommodation options that you might enjoy.
Emus in Mount Remarkable National Park (image courtesy of Jason Tyndall, Nature Play South Australia)
5. Simpson Desert Conservation Park
Located in the driest region of the country, Simpson Desert Conservation Park is a treat for the explorer.
Sitting among hundreds of kilometres of sand dunes, it’s a four-wheel driver’s paradise. The endless landscapes will take you through the red dunes, salt-crusted lakes, stretches of grasslands and dense scrubland.
After the rains, wildflowers bloom across the sand dunes – make sure you’ve got your camera handy.
While it’s a great option for the avid camper in the milder winter months, don’t despair if you can’t drop everything and pack up the car in an instant, springtime is also an exceptional time to visit.
Don't forget that you'll need a Desert Parks Pass if you're travelling through this park.
Simpson Desert Conservation Park at dusk
With all of our parks, remember to check out the latest information before you head off, including details about fees, safety, fire information and facilities. For all of these parks we've featured, plus many others, you'll need to book your vehicle entry, camping and accommodation online before you leave home.
So where do you like to visit in winter? Have we missed one of your favourite national parks? We’d love to hear your stories.
This story was originally posted in July 2015.
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