National Parks - Nature Play SA

Adelaide’s top 10 family National Parks

By Jason Tyndall

 

Keen to take the family to a National Park but not sure where to start? We’ve got you covered with our top tried-and-tested Adelaide Parks.

 

From trails and treks to prime picnic spots and awe-inspiring lookouts, we’ve taken the guesswork out of your next family adventure.

 

And whichever destination you choose, enhance your time in nature with our list of 20 things to notice in National Parks.

 

It won’t be long before everyone agrees: #ItsBetterOutside these school holidays.

1. Shepherds Hill Recreation Park

 

A stone’s throw from the city, Shepherds Hill Recreation Park is a much-loved urban paradise. With walking trails, a winter creek, 16km of mountain bike trails and BMX jump tracks (including one for beginners), it’s the perfect spot to burn off energy.

 

Distance from Adelaide: 9km south

Parking and amenities: Parking via Ayliffs Road, no toilets or barbecues

Trails: River Red Gum Loop offers a short nature walk for young or time-poor families (2.3km, 30 mins). For views of the city and sea, try the moderate Seaview Loop (2.8km, 30 mins) or steeper Grey Box Loop (2.8km, 45 mins). See more trail options here.

 

More things to do: In wetter months the park has puddles, a creek, and bridges to make a splash. Balance upon large fallen logs. Look for koalas and spot common birds. Explore more nature play ideas here.

 

 

2. Hallett Cove Conservation Park

 

Learn about geology and ancient glaciers, like the world-famous Sugarloaf and a 200 million-year-old glacial pavement, at Hallett Cove. With interpretive signs, accessible trails, a rocky coastal shore, and magnificent views this is a not-to-be-missed urban Park.

 

Distance from Adelaide: 22km south

Parking and amenities: Toilets, café, wheelchair and pram accessible areas, parking, adjoining playground, picnic areas

Trails: Choose from two main trails: Coast Park Path and Glacier Hike. The Path is a 6km boardwalk that passes Blackcliff Lookout and the glacial pavement. Glacial Hike (2.3km, 2-hour return) meanders through cliffs to the captivating Sugarloaf

 

More things to do: Learn about the ice age, wildlife, and cultural and geological heritage via interpretative signage. Make stacks from the thousands of smooth coloured pebbles on the beach. Beachcombing and peering at rock pools are popular with families. See these top five things to do in the Park or discover more nature play ideas here.

 

 

3. Para Wirra Conservation Park

 

For an adventure-filled day (and night) consider Para Wirra, a beautiful bushland Park where families can camp, mountain bike, hike, and picnic. Discover rocky outcrops, historic ruins, hidden creeks, a tranquil lake, and the Nature Play Forest.

 

Distance from Adelaide: 40 km northeast

Parking and amenities: Toilets, parking, picnic areas, nature playground, BBQs, campground

Trails: For short family hikes, try Lake Discovery Walk (1km, 30 mins) or find a rock that resembles a lizard’s head on Lizard Rock Hike (1.6km, 45mins). For a bigger challenge, Devils Nose Hike (4.4km, 2 hrs) will reward with stunning views

 

More things to do: Explore Nature Play Forest with its giant fallen logs, cubby building, ropes, tunnels, and flying fox. Look for emus, kangaroos, and echidnas in winter or spot common bushland birds. Learn more with these Ranger tips and nature play ideas.

 

 

4. Cleland Conservation Park

 

Explore hiking and biking trails, sweeping views, and waterfalls in Cleland Conservation Park. Families can enjoy Mt Lofty Summit, spend a day at Cleland Wildlife Park, or spot wildflowers and wildlife, such as endangered Southern Brown Bandicoots, in nature.

 

Distance from Adelaide: 22km southeast

Parking and amenities: Toilets, parking (can be limited on busy weekends), picnic areas, barbecues, YHA Hostel, cafés

Trails: Discovery Walk (1km, 40min) is a relaxing loop of Mt Lofty Summit. For a challenge try Crafers to Mt Lofty Link Trail (4.5km, 2hr 30 mins) or the very steep Waterfall Gully to Mt Lofty Hike (9km return, 1.5 – 3 hours). Click to find more hikes and bike trails

 

More things to do: Look for winter fungi like Hairy Curtain Crust or Yellow Brain. The nearby Mt Lofty Botanic Garden is a well-loved spot for families to relax with its old European trees, native gums, and other unique plants. Find more play ideas here.

 

 

5. Cobbler Creek Recreation Park

 

Nestled between Salisbury and Golden Grove, Cobbler Creek Recreation Park is a northern nature refuge ideal for families to bushwalk and mountain bike. Burn off energy on the Kites and Kestrels playground, bike pump track, and numerous scenic trails.

 

Distance from Adelaide: 19km north

Parking and amenities: Parking, picnic areas, BBQ, toilets, dog walking

Trails: Younger children can ride short Beginners and Easy Does It circuits. The Mai Tappa Circuit (2.2km loop) is a walking track celebrating Kaurna Culture. Discover the many trails through tree-lined creeks and along ridge tops with scenic Adelaide views

 

More things to do: Try spotting kestrels hovering above grassy areas and lizards sunning themselves on fine days. Learn about bush tucker on the Mai Tappa Circuit (meaning ‘food pathway’). Discover five treasures of Cobbler Creek and more things to do here.

 

 

6. Anstey Hill Recreation Park

 

Find active adventures or places to relax and wonder in Anstey Hill Recreation Park. Families can enjoy picnicking, exploring local history, or chase thrills on beginner to advanced mountain biking trails.

 

Distance from Adelaide: 19km north

Parking and amenities: Parking, toilets, picnic areas, dog walking, accessible trails

Trails: Little Quarry Loop is a 650m trail suitable for prams and limited mobility access. Take in an ancient amphitheatre and views of Adelaide on Geological Hike (1km, 1 hr return). Newman’s Nursery Walk explores ruins from the 1850s

 

More things to do: Spot Western Grey Kangaroos, koalas, echidnas, and butterflies. Try Geocaching in the Park for your own real-life treasure hunt. Pick up food or enjoy a bite to eat at a local bakery. Discover more nature play ideas for Anstey Hill here.

 

 

7. Onkaparinga River Parks

 

Onkaparinga River Recreation Park and National Park have unique features, trails, and activities that bring families back for more adventures. From boardwalks traversing wetlands and nature trails to wild rugged gorges, camping, rock climbing, and kayaking – Onkaparinga has something to capture everyone’s imagination.

 

Distance from Adelaide: 35km south

Parking and amenities: Parking, toilets, camping (National Park), picnic areas

Trails: Punchbowl Lookout Trail (1 hr, 2km return) is popular in the National Park (suitable for prams and limited mobility access). Chose Sundews Ridge Hike (4kms, 2 hours) for a more adventurous option. Steeper Gorge trails include Gorge Hike (6kms, 4 hours). Families enjoy Wetlands Loop Trail in the Recreation Park.

 

More things to do: Take in views from Punchbowl and Sundews Lookouts. Hike into the River Gorge to see the river valley, permanent rock pools, and wildlife. Spot birds like Sandpipers, Ducks, and Swamphens in the Onkaparinga Estuary. Find Ranger tips here. 

 

 

8. Morialta Conservation Park

 

Morialta is a much-loved spot for creek adventures, picnics, hiking, mountain biking, rock climbing, koala spotting, and the amazing Mukanthi Playground. In winter the waterfalls enthral families (along with a climb into Giant’s Cave).

 

Distance from Adelaide: 10 km northeast

Parking and amenities: Parking, toilets, BBQs, shaded tables and benches available, grassed areas for ball games

Trails: Discover many easy to challenging walks in the Park. Morialta Falls Valley Walk (45 mins, 1.6km) is accessible to prams and limited mobility, taking in popular sights. Morialta Falls Plateau Hike (1 hour 30 mins, 2.5km) features panoramic views of Adelaide

 

More things to do: Spend a few hours exploring the playground and Fourth Creek. Try to spot Peregrine Falcons from Park Lookouts. Listen for frogs and keep an eye out for tadpoles, yabbies, and birds like rosellas and wrens. Check out these 10 things to do at Morialta or find more nature play ideas here.  

 

 

9. Blackwood Forest Recreation Park

 

If there was a place where the curiosity and imagination of childhood thrives – it would be Blackwood Forest Recreation Park. Located in the Adelaide Hills, it features an old pine forest with paths, cubbies, and fallen logs. A creek with relatively slow flow runs in wetter months, allowing children to test their balance and agility.

 

Distance from Adelaide: 12 km south

Parking and amenities: Parking, no toilets

Trails: A handful of brief access trails are ideal for strolls, dog-walking, mountain biking, and local forest play. The park is small so find a path that meanders into the forest, set up a picnic rug, and let the kids run wild

 

More things to do: In autumn and winter spot colourful fungi, lichen and moss. Find or build cubbies with fallen logs and branches. Discover remnants of old fruit orchards beyond the forest and along the creek line. Cooee to other children and families in the distance.

 

 

10. Belair National Park

 

Whole generations of Adelaide families have visited Belair to walk, ride bikes or horses, picnic, play sport, and explore the natural world. There are woodlands, lakes, creeks, and geological formations to discover, diverse trails, recreational facilities for hire, and open spaces for gatherings and celebrations. 

 

Distance from Adelaide: 13 km

Parking and amenities: Toilets, parking, sporting ovals and courts, plant nursery, a kiosk in peak periods, playground. Park entry fees can be paid at the gate or online. Accessible carparks and toilets available (see Accessibility Map)

Trails: Playford Lake is ideal for a picnic and a gentle stroll along Wood Duck Walk (1km, 30mins return). Lorikeet Loop (3km, 1 hr 25 mins return) takes in Old Government House State Flora Nursery and the Adventure Playground

 

More things to do: Discover Belair’s winter waterfalls. Pack a torch and visit Echo Tunnel. Spend an afternoon at the adventure playground and build a cubby using long fallen sticks. Spot wildflowers, birds, and butterflies in bushland. Visit the nursery for native plants for your garden. Find more nature play ideas here.

 

 

 

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Discover why #ItsBetterOutside these school holidays with more handy tips and ideas for families.