Top 4 forests for families in SA

By Jason Tyndall


Whisk your children to far-away forest worlds where they can explore, imagine, and ignite their curiosity.


Inhale a sense of mystery and adventure while taking in colourful displays of seasonal fungi, lichen, and moss. Watch for iconic wildlife, from kangaroos and koalas to bandicoots and gliders. Experience walking, picnics, bike rides, or camping in our pick of South Australia’s family-friendly forests.


Experience why #ItsBetterOutside with our pick of top SA forests for families.

1. Kuitpo Forest


Kuitpo Forest is a cherished destination for SA families to walk, mountain bike, horse ride, picnic, camp, and walk dogs on a lead (except in Native Forest Reserves). Outside of the fire-ban season, its a perfect spot to toast marshmallows and damper over an afternoon fire.


Distance from Adelaide: 47 km south

Top spots:


  • Chookarloo Campground and Picnic Area: Book to camp with family and friends from April to November. Make use of free picnic areas and fire pits that can be used without bookings (outside of fire ban season). Wander the short Chookarloo Walk or pick how far you’ll hike along the Heysen Trail. Discover the local creek, hidden cubbies, fallen logs, and fascinating fungi. Access via Brookman Road, Meadows.


  • Rocky Creek Hut: Home to our iconic Nature Play Forest Festival, Rocky Creek is the ideal spot for a family picnic. Stroll along the Eucalyptus Trail (or Heysen Trail), spot koalas, build cubbies, and let imaginations run wild in the pine and eucalyptus forest. The stone hut is one of a handful of simple accommodation options for an overnight or weekend forest stay. Access via Razorback Road, Meadows.



  • Onkeeta Trail: A meandering 10.8km loop trail suitable for bushwalking, mountain biking, and horse-riding. Travel through pine and native forest, including walking through Knot Hill Native Forest Reserve (no dogs permitted in this area). Families can spot wildflowers, birds, and signs of wildlife such as echidnas and kangaroos. Access off Peters Creek Road (Fire Gate KH3).



2. Mount Crawford Forest


Swap the city for fresh pines, native bushland, boulders, and captivating views in Mount Crawford. Home to an extensive network of forests and trails managed by ForestrySA, families can camp, walk, mountain bike, horse ride, dog walk, and even fossick for gold (permit required). Explore the Heysen, Mawson, and Kidman Trails which all traverse the forest reserve.


Distance from Adelaide: 52 km northeast

Top spots:


  • Chalks Campground and Picnic Area: Popular with kangaroos at dawn and dusk, Chalks is a basic open bush campground with scattered gums. Choose from 25 sites with fire pits, picnic tables, untreated rainwater, and toilets available. A range of small walking trails are nearby, as well as the Heysen Trail. Access via Warren Road, Mount Crawford.


  • Rocky Paddock Campground: With large boulders protruding from the ground and sunlight that filters through majestic pines, Rocky Paddock Campground is a basic yet memorable bush campground. Features include 30 sites with fire pits, picnic tables, untreated rainwater, and toilets. Select from several walks for families. Access via Gordon Road, Mount Crawford.


  • Jenkins Nature Trail: Set up to conserve plants and wildlife, the Jenkins Nature Trail is a peaceful and meandering walk through native scrub. Gain insight into the region’s history as you wander past a fenced 1800’s gold mine. In spring the trail comes alive with wildflowers (learn more about the local native plants here). Access via Mount Road, Mount Crawford.


  • Warren Tower Hike: One for older children and challenge seekers, this 9km hike takes in views from the Warren Tower and traverses Warren Conservation Park – a quaint park with beautiful native vegetation. Expect the walk to take 4.5 hours and be prepared with ample water and sun protection. Find more walk details here. Access via Watts Gully Road at Warren Conservation Park.



3. South East Forest Reserves


Planning a road trip through the South East? Discover the beauty of the region’s Green Triangle, a network of pine and native forests which includes Mount Burr, Penola, and Mount Gambier Forests. Take a family pit stop to stretch the legs, picnic, or explore the pine forests you pass or take in some of the region’s best-kept secrets below.


Distance from Adelaide: various, approximately 400 km southeast

Top spots:


  • Ghost Mushroom Lane: After a spookier pine forest experience? Put Ghost Mushroom Lane on the annual calendar.  This after-dark forest experience will have the family spotting glow-in-the-dark ghost mushrooms in May and June (take a look at this ForestrySA guide to taking photos of these ghoulish fungi).


  • Honan Native Forest Reserve: Located just out of Glencoe, Honan Native Forest Reserve is a native Stringy Bark Forest featuring several well-signed trails with boardwalks. If exploring at dusk keep an eye out for Southern Brown Bandicoots, Swamp Wallabies, and Sugar Gliders.


  • Hell’s Hole: Discover an ancient sinkhole on this small, worthy detour from Mt Gambier. To find it, pop ‘Sea Coast Hill Road’ in Google maps then follow the well-posted signs. From the carpark, you’ll meander a recently upgraded trail through the scrub to a platform overlooking Hell’s Hole, an expansive sinkhole that’s thousands of years old.


  • Lake Edward: Set aside time to enjoy this fresh water lake in an ancient volcanic crater, full of waterbirds. Lake Edward boasts an enjoyable walk with picnic areas, views, and bird hides, and can also be enjoyed by canoe. Access is east of Mt Gambier via the township of Glencoe (follow signage along Lake Edward Road).



4. Blackwood Forest


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, this old pine forest is full of paths, cubbies, and fallen logs. A creek runs in the wetter months with a relatively slow flow, allowing children to test their balance and agility.


Distance from Adelaide: 12km south

Top spots:


  • Old fruit orchards: In the early 1900’s the area featured 4000 varieties of fruit trees. A short walk beyond the pine forest will have you spotting interesting remnants of these orchards.


  • Trails: A handful of brief access trails in the park are ideal for strolls, dog-walking, mountain biking, and local forest play.


  • Activities: Blackwood Forest is the perfect place to slow down, relax with a long picnic, explore and play. Go on your own as a family, meet friends or cooee across the forest to other children. Dog walking, horse-riding, and cycling are all permitted. There are no toilets but it’s a short drive to the Blackwood shopping precinct. Access via Turners Avenue, Hawthorndene.






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


Nature Play SA is supported by the Green Adelaide Board.