How to spend a day in South Australia’s Coorong National Park

How to spend a day in South Australia’s Coorong National Park

Want to make the most of your vis­it to this icon­ic park? We’ve got you cov­ered with this one-day itinerary.

Coorong Nation­al Park is a place of adven­ture and untamed wilder­ness. Locat­ed along the coast about a 2‑hour dri­ve south of Ade­laide, vis­i­tors come for bird watch­ing, boat­ing, kayak­ing, fish­ing, camp­ing, walk­ing, four-wheel dri­ving and Euro­pean and Abo­rig­i­nal cul­tur­al history.

The park extends 150 km from the Gool­wa Bar­rage fol­low­ing the coast and lagoon south-east towards the town­ship of Kingston in the south east.

Vis­it­ing the Coorong is a great detour if you’re trav­el­ling between Ade­laide and Mount Gam­bier, or even as far as Mel­bourne if you want to avoid the busy Dukes High­way. Much of the park can be enjoyed with a 2WD vehi­cle, so every­one is able to enjoy this beau­ti­ful place.

To help you plan your vis­it, we’ve pulled togeth­er some ideas on how to spend a day in the park. This itin­er­ary is writ­ten for peo­ple head­ing south from Tailem Bend towards Kingston, so if you’re trav­el­ling from the oth­er way remem­ber to reverse it.

Top tip: It’s impor­tant to remem­ber that Coorong Nation­al Park cov­ers a large area, so you’ll need to allow at least 8 hours to com­plete this itin­er­ary from start to fin­ish. If you’re short on time, con­sid­er start­ing or end­ing your day at Jack Point Pel­i­can Obser­va­to­ry, which will shave about 3 hours off your vis­it. Or if you’re not in a rush and you pre­fer to explore the park at a cruisi­er pace why not pack your camp­ing gear and stay a few nights? There are 16 camp­grounds through­out the park to choose from. 


Point Mal­colm Lighthouse

Just south-east of Tailem Bend, start your Coorong adven­ture by tak­ing the Princes High­way towards Meningie. Take the turn off to Nar­rung and con­tin­ue to the fer­ry to cross The Nar­rows’, which con­nects Lake Alexan­d­ri­na and Lake Albert.

As you make the short jour­ney across, keep an eye out for Australia’s only inland light­house at Point Mal­colm. The light­house oper­at­ed between 1878 and 1931 to help guide fish­ing boats, sail­ing ves­sels and pad­dle steam­ers through The Narrows. 

Point Malcolm Lighthouse
Point Mal­colm Lighthouse

Mark Point Mill

Con­tin­ue your jour­ney and head to the his­toric Mark Point Mill, which was built between 1880 and 1890. In the ear­ly agri­cul­tur­al days, cat­tle and sheep were dri­ven to and from Vic­to­ria along the Coorong. The tanks and troughs at Mark Point were made from local lime­stone and mor­tar and served many thou­sands of sheep, cat­tle and hors­es with vital fresh water.


From the Nar­rung Fer­ry, trav­el towards Meningie for 32 kms and then turn right onto the unsealed Love­day Bay Road. After 6 kms turn left onto the unsealed Mark Point Road and con­tin­ue for anoth­er 5 kms to the Kar­too Road boat ramp. The Mill is locat­ed about a 10-minute walk from the boat ramp or a short dri­ve in a 4WD vehicle.

Mark Point Mill
Mark Point Mill


By now you’ve prob­a­bly worked up an appetite. Head towards Long Point, which will take about 30 min­utes. There’s good facil­i­ties here, includ­ing toi­lets, pic­nic tables and a small jet­ty which is great for fish­ing or launch­ing a canoe.

Once you’ve fin­ished your lunch, head towards the Princes High­way. You can either take the sealed Nar­rung Road to Meningie or take the scenic, unsealed Sev­en Mile Road that fol­lows the shore­line of the Coorong lagoon. Once you’re back on the high­way, head south-east towards Salt Creek.

Long Point campground and picnic area
Long Point camp­ground and pic­nic area


Jack Point Pel­i­can Observatory

A vis­it to the Coorong isn’t com­plete with­out look­ing for your own Mr Per­ci­val, the Aus­tralian pel­i­can made famous by the Storm Boy’ movies and novel. 

Jack Point is home to a large breed­ing colony that can be viewed from a pur­pose-built obser­va­to­ry deck. 

You’ll find the sign-post­ed turn-off to Jack Point about 14 km north-east of Salt Creek on the Princes Highway.

Jacks Point – Australian pelican breeding colony
Jacks Point – Aus­tralian pel­i­can breed­ing colony

Salt Creek Oil Rig Monument

Make a quick stop at Salt Creek to dis­cov­er the unique sto­ry of the oil rush that nev­er was.

In 1852, while look­ing for stray hors­es, troop­ers from a gold trans­port com­pa­ny found what they described as nat­ur­al oil springs.

From 1903, the Coorong Oil Com­pa­ny leased 32,000 acres (approx­i­mate­ly 13,000 hectares) south-west of Salt Creek and drilled sev­er­al wells. 

No oil was ever found, and in 1930 it was found that the sup­posed oil dis­cov­ered by the troop­ers was a nat­ur­al sub­stance derived from algae and not of min­er­al ori­gin. The dark, elas­tic and bitu­mi­nous mate­r­i­al was lat­er named Cooron­gite, reflect­ing where it was discovered.

A repli­ca oil rig serves as an his­tor­i­cal mon­u­ment to this inter­est­ing piece of history.

Oil Rig Monument, Salt Creek
Oil Rig Mon­u­ment, Salt Creek

Nrug­gie Ngop­pun Trail

If you feel like you need to stretch your legs, take a stroll along the Nrug­gie Ngop­pun Trail, which means good walk’ in the lan­guage of the Tra­di­tion­al Own­ers, the Ngar­rind­jeri People. 

This delight­ful trail at Salt Creek is rat­ed as an easy walk and the 2.5 km loop will take just over an hour to complete. 

Keep an eye out for local wildlife and native plants. The trail will also take you past the cause­way that was built as part of the South East Flows Restora­tion Project where Salt Creek flows into the Coorong.

Nruggie Ngoppun walking trail
Nrug­gie Ngop­pun walk­ing trail

The Loop Road

As you con­tin­ue your jour­ney south from Salt Creek, con­sid­er tak­ing the scenic, unsealed Loop Road through the park. 

The road pass­es by numer­ous lakes and fol­lows the shore­line of the Coorong. There’s a num­ber of walk­ing trails plus great oppor­tu­ni­ties to stop and see the local birdlife.

Loop Road, Coorong National Park
Loop Road, Coorong Nation­al Park

Chi­na­mans Well

Just south of where the Loop Road re-joins the Princes High­way, you’ll find a fas­ci­nat­ing and unique piece of local history. 

The dis­cov­ery of gold in the Vic­to­ri­an colony led to a mass migra­tion of peo­ple who set off to find there for­tune fol­low­ing the Coorong Road to Vic­to­ria. This includ­ed hun­dreds, if not thou­sands, of Chi­nese min­ers who dis­em­barked ships in SA in order to avoid the £10 tax that was imposed on Chi­nese min­ers arriv­ing at Vic­to­ri­an ports. 

The loca­tion, now known as Chi­na­mans Well, has a reli­able sup­ply of water and is thought to have been estab­lished by the Chi­nese in about 1856 to sup­ply the trav­el­ling pub­lic with fresh water and vegetables. 

Allow your­self some time to explore the area. Fol­low the trail and the signs to find the well, asso­ci­at­ed quar­ries, stock water­ing trough, the remains of an eat­ing house and the foun­da­tions and stumps of tele­graph poles.

Chinamans Well
Chi­na­mans Well

Things to pre­pare before you go

Before you jump in the car and head out to explore this amaz­ing park, there’s a few things you can do to prepare. 

First off, while it’s free to enter this park with your vehi­cle, it’s impor­tant to remem­ber if you plan on camp­ing you will need to book your camp­site before you head into the park. You can do this online or at one of the book­ing agentsalong your way. 

It’s also a good idea to down­load park and camp­ground maps on your phone while you still have inter­net recep­tion. Anoth­er option is to get the Aven­za PDF Maps app and down­load the park map. When you’re in the park, the app will use your phone’s built-in GPS to plot your real-time loca­tion onto a map – even when you don’t have inter­net reception.

The park tru­ly is a rugged wilder­ness, and that also means there’s lim­it­ed facil­i­ties avail­able, so you’ll need to come prepared. 

Make sure you pack enough drink­ing water and food as there are no shops locat­ed with­in the park. It’s also a good idea to pack sun pro­tec­tion (a hat, sun­glass­es and sun­screen) and insect repel­lent. If you’re plan­ning on hik­ing, it’s also essen­tial you wear suit­able footwear and cloth­ing, such as long pants.

Want some extra tips for your next vis­it? Find out what Park Ranger John Git­sham rec­om­mends.

This sto­ry was orig­i­nal­ly post­ed in March 2019.

This con­tent was pro­duced in part­ner­ship with  Good Living