1. Chookarloo, Kuitpo Forest
A place where childhood memories are made, this narrow gum-lined creek runs by the Chookarloo campsite, picnic areas, and fire pits. Curving banks of varying heights, logs, and climbing trees provide challenges while footbridges invite curiosity about trolls and forest creatures.
Where: Brookman Road, Kuitpo
Distance from Adelaide: 47 km south
Parking and amenities: Parking, public toilets, picnic tables, and shelters. 23 campsites available to book online. Fire pits for use outside of the fire-ban season only
More things to do: Climb fallen logs and explore Chookarloo’s eucalypt woodlands (can you find Adelaide’s best tepee?) Look for fungi like Pixie’s Parasols and Fly Agaric. Walk or ride the 1.1km Chookarloo Walk or venture further on the Heysen Trail. Find more things to do in Kuitpo here.
2. Brownhill Creek
Part of Brownhill Creek Recreation Reserve, this narrow creek captures the imagination with its many crossing points, steep valleys, ancient red gums, and rich cultural history as a camping, hunting, and gathering ground for Kaurna People.
Where: Brownhill Creek Road, Mitcham
Distance from Adelaide: 8km southeast
Parking and amenities: Picnic areas and multiple parking sites
More things to do: Guess which River Red Gums are more than 300 years old. Cross-country run or bushwalk the Wirraparinga Trail (2.3 km, 45 mins one way) or walk or ride along the shared-use trail (3km, 1 hour one way). Picnic at Seven Pines or The Mitcham Lions Club Picnic area. Camp or book accommodation at Brownhill Creek Tourist Park.
3. Hazelwood Park
Characterised by towering Red and SA Blue Gums, Hazelwood Park has been a favourite childhood place to play for over a century with its wide-open spaces, First Creek, permanent waterhole, local ducks, and a small seasonal waterfall.
Where: Davenport Terrace, Hazelwood Park
Distance from Adelaide: 7km east
Parking and amenities: Accessible playground, parking, public toilets, BBQs and picnic tables, café / kiosk in George Bolton Swimming Centre
More things to do: Admire the gum trees and try to spot koalas or local birds like Lorikeets. Climb upon large fallen trees. Discover Wombat Waterhole playground, much loved by families for its hill, slides, flying foxes, and inclusive play elements. Kick a footy on the wide-open grasses while enjoying a picnic with family and friends.
4. Morialta Conservation Park
A year-round favourite, Morialta’s Fourth Creek comes alive with children playing on its banks in winter and along its dry rocky bed in summer. Its shallows form part of Frog Island (‘Yulta Karta’ in Kaurna language) in the Mukathi playspace, where children can build cubbies, find an Aboriginal fire pit, Kaurna shield, carved canoe, and native animals.
Where: Stradbroke Rd, Woodforde
Distance from Adelaide: 10 km northeast
Parking and amenities: Parking, public toilets, picnic tables
More things to do: Look for tadpoles, frogs, and yabbies in spring. Make a day of it at the multi-award winning Mukanthi Play Space. Explore Morialta Conservation Park’s bushwalking trails, including its three waterfalls. Wander the path upstream to find shelter and let imaginations run wild in Giants Cave. Find more nature play ideas here.
5. Blackwood Forest
Located in the Adelaide Hills, this small creek travels through the base of an old pine forest, historic orchard, and patches of blackberries in Blackwood Forest Recreation Park. Follow creekside paths and small trails to discover a slow flowing creek with occasional islands in the depths of winter. Play in cubbies and test balance and agility on fallen logs.
Where: Myrtle Road, Hawthorndene
Distance from Adelaide: 12 km south
Parking and amenities: Parking, no toilets
More things to do: Discover the old orchard, once featuring 4000 varieties of fruit trees. Look for cubbies or create your own in the pine forest. Pack a picnic or hot thermos to enjoy in the forest or upon hillsides with sweeping views. Mountain bike, stroll or walk dogs on a lead along the short leisurely forest trails.
6. Wilfred Taylor Reserve
Set aside at least half a day to enjoy Christies Creek and Wilfred Taylor Reserve, home of a new $2.2 million nature playground (the largest playground of its kind in southern Adelaide). Walk, ride and play by the creek, taking in ancient Red Gums and birdlife like Lorikeets and New Holland Honeyeaters.
Where: Wheatsheaf Road, Morphett Vale
Distance from Adelaide: 26 km south
Parking and amenities: Parking, sheltered picnics, toilets, BBQs, accessible playground
More things to do: Enjoy a picnic and play on the grassy banks of the narrow creek. Look for gigantic River Red Gums (some are thought to be 500 years old). Follow the 7km Christies Creek Linear Trail. Find abundant active, imaginative, and sensory play opportunities in the playground, created for all ages and abilities.
7. Shepherds Hill Recreation Park
Hidden amongst suburbia in Shepherds Hill Recreation Park, this magical creek calls families to return for more adventures. Often being shallow, narrow, and slow-flowing it’s a perfect place to wade in gumboots and jump across banks. Let children take their pick of the creek trails and see where they lead you.
Where: Ayliffes Road, St Marys
Distance from Adelaide: 11 km south
Parking and amenities: Parking at several access points, no toilets
More things to do: Look for Golden Wattle blooming in winter and listen for Common Froglets. Walk the easy River Red Gum Loop or hike the hillside trails for 360-degree views of the coast, hills, and plains. Mountain bike along 16km of Park trails or try the jump tracks in ‘The Bowl’ or ‘Kids Zone’. Balance upon the many fallen gum trees. Find more ideas here.
8. Bridgewater Reserve
An Adelaide Hills favourite, the creek at Bridgewater Reserve travels past local hospitality destinations and integrates with a popular playground. Discover steps, rocks, and paths inviting play by the creek. When flows are faster or higher, admire the watercourse from the bridge, upper playground, or sloping grass hill.
Where: Mount Barker Rd, Bridgewater
Distance from Adelaide: 28km southeast
Parking and amenities: Nearby toilets, picnic tables
More things to do: Spend a few hours playing in the recently upgraded playground. Discover a secret world of fairy homes at the Bridgewater Fairy Garden (from the playground, follow the 2km return walk along the Heysen Trail). Enjoy a meal or drinks at the nearby Bridgewater Mill or Bridgewater Inn.
9. Sturt Gorge Recreation Park
Tucked away in Adelaide’s south is the charming Sturt River in Sturt Gorge Recreation Park. Families love to hike, traverse, and play at this watercourse (perfect for rock hopping). Crossings and path accessibility can be impaired after heavy rains, but equally, this can be a good time to discover the Park’s tiered waterfall.
Distance from Adelaide: 13km south of CBD
Parking and amenities: No facilities
More things to do: Try one of the many bushwalking or mountain biking trails. Observe the world from the Sturt Gorge Dam wall. Admire the ancient rock formations and grassy woodlands. Balance upon logs, scramble across rocks, and spot informal rope swings. Listen for frogs and different sounds of moving water. Find more ideas here.
Image: Claire Lock
Discover why #ItsBetterOutside these school holidays with more handy tips and ideas for families.