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Visitor numbers to some of South Australia’s most iconic national parks have skyrocketed

More and more people are rediscovering South Australia’s natural beauty with visits to some national parks skyrocketing 35 per cent over the past year.

Visitor numbers to some of South Australia’s most iconic national parks have skyrocketed
Cleland Wildlife Park

Naracoorte Caves saw a 35 per cent increase in visitors in the past 12 months while Seal Bay had a 33 per cent increase over the same period as tourists and locals head back out to explore our unique national parks.

A total of 90,812 people visited the UNESCO World Heritage-listed Naracoorte Caves from 1 January to 31 December 2022. A further 85,374 people checked out the sea lions at the stunning Seal Bay on Kangaroo Island.

Visitor numbers have also risen 25 per cent to 34,158 at Tantanoola Caves, by 20 per cent to 28,234 at Adelaide Gaol, and by 11 per cent to 89,946 at Cleland Wildlife Park in the past 12 months.

The news comes as South Australia is poised to open its newest park, Nilpena Ediacara National Park, within the iconic Northern Flinders Ranges and home to the world’s best example of the Ediacaran fossil fauna.

Due to open in late April and located on the traditional lands of the Adnyamathanha people, it will be the most internationally significant addition to our State’s national park system.

In the South­ern Flinders Ranges, the new­ly pro­claimed Wap­ma Thu­ra Nation­al Park, com­pris­ing the Telowie Gorge, Wirrabara Range, and Spaniards Gul­ly con­ser­vation parks, is undergoing a $10 million upgrade as part of the Remarkable Southern Flinders Ranges project.

Bookings at the newly reopened May’s Homestead and Postman’s Cottage at Flinders Chase National Park on Kangaroo Island also have been in demand, and visitors are urged to book well ahead of time to guarantee a spot.

At Naracoorte Caves, the increases follow upgrades to site amenities, including the installation of a new playground and accessible tourism experiences.

It also follows the release of University of Adelaide research last year showing the caves are more than half a million years older than previously determined.

Seal Bay has been home to an Australian sea lion population for thousands of years and offers one of the most exceptional nature-based experiences in the world.

One of South Aus­trali­a’s most impres­sive caves is at Tan­ta­noola Caves Con­ser­va­tion Park, which has an extra­or­di­nary dis­play of cave dec­o­ra­tions (speleothems) and is one of Aus­trali­a’s few wheel­chair-acces­si­ble caves.

Operating as a prison from 1841 to 1988 and having held more than 300,000 prisoners during this time, Adelaide Gaol has transformed from an institute of punitive justice to an icon of history and heritage-listed tourism.

Cleland Wildlife Park has been a major tourist attraction in South Australia since 1967. It provides an immersive nature experience for visitors and the chance to get closer to some of our state’s most popular animals.

Site Manager for Naracoorte and Tantanoola Caves, Thomas Shortt said it’s been a fantastic past 12-months.

"We’ve been excited to welcome record numbers of visitors to the Naracoorte and Tantanoola Caves," he said.

"Visitors big and small have been loving the new AV experience at Naracoorte, which complements the existing activities very well here at the caves.

"Both sites continue to grow in popularity and we’re excited to see what 2023 brings!"

To plan your visit and book your tickets, visit www.parks.sa.gov.au