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Onkaparinga River Recreation Park

  • Picnic Areas
  • BBQ Facilities
  • Toilets
  • Disabled Toilets
  • Dogs on Lead
  • Canoeing
  • Fishing
  • Walking Trails
  • Bird Watching
  • Cycling

About

In Onkaparinga Recreation Park, the river spills onto the plains, creating wetland ponds and flood plains. The area conserves important fish breeding habitat and hundreds of native plant and animal species, many of which are rare. The Onkaparinga River estuary also provides habitat for endangered migratory birds. You can go fishing in the river, wander along the wetland boardwalks, ride a bicycle on the shared use trails, walk your dog (on a lead), kayak the calm waters or just be at peace with nature.

Just next door, to the east of the recreation park, Onkaparinga River National Park boasts cliff top views, deep gorges and rock climbing. 

Opening hours

Open 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Closures and safety

This park is closed on days of Catastrophic Fire Danger and may also be closed on days of Extreme Fire Danger.

You can determine the current fire danger rating by checking the Fire Ban District map on the CFS website.

Check the CFS website or call the CFS Bushfire Information Hotline 1800 362 361 for:

Listen to your local area radio station for the latest updates and information on fire safety.

Contact details

Natural Resource Centre - Willunga

Phone: (+61 8) 8550 3400

After Hours Regional Duty Officer: 0427 556 676

When to visit

Visit the Onkaparinga River Recreation Park at any time of year and you’ll find something fun to do while you’re out enjoying nature.

Getting there

The parks are located 35km south of Adelaide. Access to the Recreation Park from River Road, Noarlunga Downs and from Commercial and Sauerbiers Roads, Seaford Meadows.

Videos and virtual tours

Take a virtual tour of this park

Get a taste for the beauty of the river gorges, the wetland boardwalk and more.

Kayaking in Onkaparinga River Recreation Park

Accessibility

Parks are for all to enjoy, we would love to hear from you about your experience in nature. You can share your comments, pictures and videos with us and others by tagging @NationalParksSA on Facebook,  Instagram or email us.

Facilities 

Parking

There is a council owned car park located at Perrys Bend with one dedicated accessible space.

Toilet

There is a council owned, accessible toilet (right hand) located at Perrys Bend carpark and picnic area.

See and do

Picnic area

There is a council owned, picnic area with a BBQ and picnic tables located at Perrys Bend.

Trails
Wetlands Loop Trail (3km)

The flat trail is a mixture of boardwalk, and some gravel paths. A blog post by Push Adventures provides some good information on the Wetlands Loop. Note that the blog posts identifies some of the issues for wheelchairs accessing this walking trail, including a short grassed section between the picnic shelter and the start of the trail, and that the gravel paths may be muddy in winter. Note that there is a now a dedicated access path from the car park to the trail.

Dogs on a lead are also welcome.

Assistance dogs

Assistance dogs are permitted in most public places and are therefore welcome in South Australia’s parks and reserves. Assistance dogs must be appropriately restrained on a lead and remain under your effective control at all times while in a park or reserve.

As per the dogs in parks and reserves policy, if the dog is not an accredited assistance dog, they must be trained to assist a person with a disability to alleviate that disability and meet standards of hygiene and behaviour appropriate for a dog in a public place. However, refusal may be given if the person with the disability is unable to produce evidence the dog is an assistance dog with the appropriate training.

Before taking your assistance dog into a park that does not normally allow dogs, it is highly recommended that you contact us so we can provide you with the latest information on any potential hazards within specific parks that may affect your dog. Please contact the park via the contact details provided under the contact tab or call the information line on (+61 8) 8204 1910.

Dogs allowed (on lead)

Dogs are welcome in this park.

Please ensure you:

  • Keep your dog under control and on a lead no more than two metres in length.
  • Stick to designated walking trails.
  • Bring disposable bags to clean up your dog’s faeces (please be aware there are no bins in national parks).

Discover other parks you can walk your dog in on our find a park tool or read 12 dog-friendly walks in Adelaide Parks by Good Living for inspiration.

Facilities

There are many spots for an informal picnic in the Onkaparinga River Recreation Park. There is parking, a BBQ, picnic tables, a kayak and canoe launch and a toilet located at the main entrance on River Road.

The location of these facilities can be found within our park maps.

Useful information

  • Important: Collection of firewood within National Parks is prohibited. Dead wood plays a vital role in providing shelter for animals and adding nutrients to the soil.

Plants and animals

Plants

Within the floodplain and estuary area of the Recreation Park, important samphire flats occur. These areas, along with their saline  margins, support communities of samphire, chenopods, saltbush and sedges. Samphire's include Sarcocornia blackiana and Arthrocnemum halocnemoides. Aquatic estuarine flora is dominated by Garweed and various algae. 

Animals

Mammals present within the park include western grey kangaroo, common brushtail possum, common ringtail possum and  echidna. The lesser long-eared  bat and the southern forest bat.

You’ll see all kinds of birdlife in the Onkaparinga River Natiopnal Park, particularly if you take a few moments to be still. There is a diverse range of species that live in, or visit, the park – many of conservation significance. Hunting birds, such as the peregrine falcon, scour the landscape in search of birds, small mammals and lizards. You’ll probably hear the yellow-tailed black cockatoo long before you see one, their raucous cries announce their presence well in advance.

Approximately 20 fish species  are  recorded for  the  estuary  and river. The major fish species include jumping mullet, black  bream and yellow-eye mullet. Algae, molluscs and garweed form  the  major  diet  of the  fish species.
Amphibian records include: common froglet, banjo frog, spotted marsh frog and brown tree frog. At least 20 reptile species have been recorded in the reserves. These include cunningham's skink, eastern bearded dragon and barking gecko.
Common butterfly species include: meadow argus, cabbage white, saltbush blue, australian painted lady, common grass-blue and lesser wanderer. Gahnia filum  sedge-lands in the estuary may  provide habitat for populations of the  endangered yellowish  sedge-skipper.

Flora and fauna species lists

To download flora (plants) and fauna (animals) species lists for this park, use the 'Create Simple Species List' tab under 'Flora Tools' or 'Fauna Tools'  in NatureMaps

Traditional owners

Translated from the Kaurna language, ‘Ngangki’ means women, ‘Pari’ means river, and ‘ngka’ means location. So the correct translation for Onkaparinga is Ngangkiparingka, which means women only places along the river.

There were many Kaurna yarta (land) family groups in the traditional areas that have been recognised as Kaurna pangkara (country), and also along the plains and hills south of Crystal Brook and west of Mount Lofty to Cape Jervis. Many local place names such as ‘Onkaparinga’, ‘Noarlunga’ and ‘Willunga’ have their origins in Kaurna language.

Aboriginal peoples have occupied, enjoyed and managed the lands and waters of this State for thousands of generations. For Aboriginal first nations, creation ancestors laid down the laws of the Country and bestowed a range of customary rights and obligations to the many Aboriginal Nations across our state. 

There are many places across the State that have great spiritual significance to Aboriginal first nations.  At some of these places Aboriginal cultural protocols, such as restricted access, are promoted and visitors are asked to respect the wishes of Traditional Owners.

In places where protocols are not promoted visitors are asked to show respect by not touching or removing anything, and make sure you take all your rubbish with you when you leave.

Aboriginal peoples continue to play an active role in caring for their Country, including in parks across South Australia. 

European history

Colonial settlement began in the Noarlunga district from about 1839. In 1831 Captain Collett Barker entered the Onkaparinga River and ventured inland to the Horseshoe Bend (Old Noarlunga). Other early explorers and survey teams also passed through the district in 1837-8. By 1841, over 150 settlers occupied land in the Noarlunga area. Settlers were predominantly engaged in establishing agricultural ventures but included early storekeepers. Growth and development within the district was rapid. A wooden bridge was constructed across the river in 1840. Early crops were transported by flat-bottomed barge down the estuary and out through the mouth of the Onkaparinga River to waiting coastal ships. In 1854-5 a towpath from Old Noarlunga to the tramway terminal at Port Noarlunga was constructed to facilitate the passage of horse drawn barges.

In 1846 John Jared, of Lincolnshire, brought his family to South Australia and farmed for 15 years in the Aldinga/Willunga district before purchasing 240 acres at Noarlunga. He called the property Clear Farm and gradually increased his holding to 400 acres, much of which was within the current Onkaparinga River Recreation Park. In 1862 he constructed the family home and continued to farm the land until succeeded by his son John William Jared in 1871.

John William Jared extended the house and with his wife Hannah, renamed the property Pingle Farm. The remains of Pingle Farm are conserved within the reserve today. The structures include the main dwelling, a large limestone barn and an underground cylindrical tank. Other historic sites within the reserves containing remnants of early settlement also exist but have yet to be researched or documented to fully understand their significance.

The majority of the land that comprises Onkaparinga River Recreation Park and National Park was transferred to the Department of Environment in 1982 and was dedicated in 1985 as Onkaparinga River Recreation Park. The gorge section of the park was reclassified to National Park in 1993.

See and do

Rangers recommend

We have picked the brains of our park rangers to find out what they would recommend you see and do whilst visiting this park.

  • Relaxing with friends and family at one of the gorgeous picnic areas in the park – some offer BBQ's, toilets and shelter, and all are close to great trails.
  • Kayaking or paddle boarding the calm waters of the Onkaparinga River from the Kayak launch area at Perrys Bend west, head upstream to Old Noarlunga or downstrem to the mouth of the river at Port Noarlunga.
  • Taking your family on the Wetlands Loop Trail – it’s bike, pram and dog friendly (on lead), with great views of the river and a boardwalk over the wetlands.

Bushwalking

Walks in the parks range from easy walks to more challenging hikes. While you're bushwalking in the parks, you’ll be rewarded with magnificent views of the gorge, river and estuary.

Bushwalking is a fantastic way to connect with nature, keep fit and spend time with family and friends. South Australia's national parks feature a range of trails that let you experience a diversity of landscapes.

Moderate walks

  • Pingle Farm Trail (2 hrs, 4.5km)

    This trail takes you past a ruined farmhouse. Once the home of early settlers, it reminds us of their lives and work. You’ll also pass the Encounter Marine Park Sanctuary.

  • Noarlunga Downs Wetland Trail (30 min, 1.2 km return)

    Discover the stories of the river, wetlands, water and traditional owners through the interpretative artwork of Paul Herzich. A major rehabilitation project has helped to return this part of the wetlands to a thriving habitat for native plants and animals.
  • Wetlands Loop Trail (Short loop = 1 hr, 3 km / Long loop = 1.5 hrs, 4.5 km loop)

    Follow the eastern bank of the Onkaparinga River where you’ll see two freshwater ponds. They support a variety of wildlife such as birds, frogs and fish, and some uncommon plant species. The flat trail is a mixture of boardwalks and gravel paths and is accessible for wheelchairs and families with strollers. An access path links the trail to the car park on River Road. Dogs on lead are also welcome on this trail. Please note that the gravel paths may be muddy during winter months.

Cycling

Jump on your bike and feel the wind in your hair on the shared use trails in this park. It’s an enjoyable ride for the whole family. The surfaces are even and obstacle free, and you’ll have lovely views of the river.

Learn more about cycling in SA's parks, including other parks offering cycle tracks, trail classification and read the trail user code of practice for important points to remember when planning your bike ride.

Easy

  • Pingle Farm Trail (4.5km)

    This trail takes you past a ruined farmhouse. Once the home of early settlers, it reminds us of their lives and work. You’ll also pass the Encounter Marine Park Sanctuary.

  • Noarlunga Downs Wetland Trail (1.2 km return)

    Discover the stories of the river, wetlands, water and traditional owners through the interpretative artwork of Paul Herzich. A major rehabilitation project has helped to return this part of the wetlands to a thriving habitat for native plants and animals.
  • Wetlands Loop Trail  (Short loop = 3 km / Long loop = 4.5 km)

    Follow the eastern bank of the Onkaparinga River where you’ll see two freshwater ponds. They support a variety of wildlife such as birds, frogs and fish, and some uncommon plant species.

Kayaking and canoeing

The estuarine waters of the recreation park are a perfect environment for canoeing, kayaking and paddle boarding. Beginners feel safe learning to paddle in the calm waters of the river between Main South Road and Commercial Road. Whether you’re a beginner or an expert, you’ll love the scenery as the river meanders through floodplains and wetlands on its way to the sea. 

There is a brand new kayak and canoe launch at the Recreation Park main entrance at Perry's Bend which includes steps and a ramp to enable you to safely slide your boat down to the water.There are a few other spots along the river suitable for launching your craft, but remember the estuary is tidal so it can get shallow and muddy at low tide. 

Kayaking in Onkaparinga River Recreation Park

Bird watching

You’ll see all kinds of birdlife in the Onkaparinga River Recreation Park, particularly if you take a few moments to be still. There is a diverse range of species species that live in, or visit, the park – many of conservation significance. Hunting birds, such as the peregrine falcon, scour the landscape in search of birds, small mammals and lizards. You’ll probably hear the yellow-tailed black cockatoo long before you see one, their raucous cries announce their presence well in advance.

The white-faced heron, great egret and royal spoonbill are commonly seen feeding in the estuary. Many birds migrate from the northern hemisphere to escape the arctic winter. Every Australian summer they come from Siberia, China and Japan to feed.

Fishing

All manner of marine life breeds and thrives in the clean environment of the recreation park estuary. This popular fishing haven attracts many keen anglers, fishing the waters for mulloway, jumping mullet, black bream, and yellow-eye mullet. There have been about 20 fish species recorded in the estuary and river.

Fishing is actively managed in South Australia by the Department of Primary Industries and Resources SA.
Check out these useful links before embarking on your fishing adventure:

 

Please note fishing is only permitted in Onkaparinga River Recreation Park and NOT in Onkaparinga River National Park.

Volunteering

Want to help?

To find out how you can help in this park or nearby, please visit Natural Resources Adelaide and Mt Lofty Ranges – Volunteering.

Want to join others and become a Park Friend?

To find out more about Friends of Parks groups please visit Friends of Parks South Australia.

You could join others to help look after a park. You can take part in working bees, training and other events.

Safety

Bushwalking

The international Trail Users Code of Conduct is to show respect and courtesy towards other trail users at all times.

Ensure that you:

  • when hiking, wear sturdy shoes, a hat and sunscreen
  • be aware of weather conditions and avoid walking during the hottest part of the day
  • make sure you have appropriate weather proof clothing
  • carry enough water to be self-sufficient
  • please be respectful of other users at all times
  • stay on the designated trails and connector tracks for your own safety, and prevent the spread of declared weeds to other areas in the park
  • ensure someone knows your approximate location and expected time of return
  • take appropriate maps.
  • Walk, hike or trek - what's the difference?

Cycling

Trail Users Code of Practice

To protect the surrounding environment and to ensure the safety of all riders and shared trail users, please be aware of the international Trail Users Code of Practice when using shared trails. Important points to remember include:

  • plan your ride
  • comply with all signs
  • ride only on formed tracks/trails
  • share the trail - obey give way rules
  • avoid riding in wet, muddy conditions
  • ride lightly and leave no trace or rubbish
  • control your bike within your limits
  • clean your bike to avoid the spread of weeds or plant diseases
  • carry sufficient food and drinking water
  • respect the rights of others
  • tell others about the code

Fire

Can I have a fire or barbecue?

  • Wood and solid fuel fires are prohibited throughout the year. (Exception: Scout Lease - wood or solid fuel fires permitted in designated location from 1 May - 31 Oct)
  • Gas and liquid fires are prohibited throughout the year.
  • Ensure you are familiar with the fire restrictions for this park.

 

Closures and safety

This park is closed on days of Catastrophic Fire Danger and may also be closed on days of Extreme Fire Danger.

You can determine the current fire danger rating by checking the Fire Ban District map on the CFS website.

Check the CFS website or call the CFS Bushfire Information Hotline 1800 362 361 for:

Listen to your local area radio station for the latest updates and information on fire safety.

Water

  • Please take care on the trails during winter.
  • There are occasional environmental flows released seasonally.

Know before you go

Every national park is different, each has its own unique environment, it is important to be responsible while enjoying all the park has to offer.

Please ensure that you:

  • keep your dog on a lead at all times and check if there are areas of the park where dogs are not allowed
  • do not feed birds or other animals, it promotes aggressive behaviour and an unbalanced ecology
  • do not bring generators (except where permitted), chainsaws or firearms into the park
  • leave the park as you found it - place rubbish in the bins provided or take it with you
  • abide by the road rules (maintain the speed limit)
  • respect geological and heritage sites
  • do not remove native plants
  • are considerate of other park users.

  • Important: Collection of firewood within National Parks is prohibited. Dead wood plays a vital role in providing shelter for animals and adding nutrients to the soil.

Dogs

Why does my dog need to be on a lead?

If your dog is off lead, it is more likely to impact on native wildlife and other visitors in a park and be at risk itself.

Risks to wildlife:

  • Dogs off tracks will leave a scent in the bush that will keep wildlife away.
  • Uncontrolled dogs may frighten wildlife and disrupt their natural behaviour.
  • Some dogs will kill or injure wildlife.

Risks to other park visitors

  • Dogs may be aggressive to other park visitors.
  • Even friendly dogs can knock people over causing injury.
  • Some people want to enjoy parks without dogs.

Risks to your dog

  • Poison baits may be laid to control foxes. Baits can be fatal to dogs.
  • Even if your dog is friendly, other dogs may not be.
  • Your dog can catch parasites (such as fleas and ticks) from wildlife.
  • Snake bites are a real risk in natural areas such as parks.
  • Wildlife such as kangaroos and koalas will defend themselves if threatened by a dog and can cause significant injury to or the death of your dog.

Maps

Cycling maps

Maps on your mobile

If you have a smartphone or tablet you can download the free Avenza PDF Map app and have interactive national park maps on hand when you need them.

The app uses your device's built-in GPS to plot your real-time location within the park onto a map. The app can be used without a network connection and without roaming charges. You can also measure area and distance, plot photos and drop placemark pins. 

How to get it working on your device:

1. Download the Avenza PDF maps app from the app store whilst you are still in range (its free!).
2. Open up the app and click the shopping cart icon.
3. Click ‘Find’ and type the name of the national park or reserve you are looking for.
4. Click on the map you are after and install it (all our maps are free).
5. You will now find a list of your installed maps on the home page of the Avenza app.
6. Use our maps through the Avenza PDF map app while in the park and never take a wrong turn again.

Fees

Entry fees

Come and enjoy this park for free. 

Camping and accommodation

There is no camping or accommodation available within the Onkaparinga River Recreation Park, however camping is now available nearby in Onkaparinga River National Park.

PDF Park Brochure