How to spend a weekend in South Australia’s Para Wirra Conservation Park

How to spend a weekend in South Australia’s Para Wirra Conservation Park

Look­ing for a week­end bush adven­ture? We’ve got you cov­ered with an itin­er­ary for this close-to-Ade­laide gem.

If you’re look­ing for a week­end escape from sub­ur­bia with­out spend­ing hours on the road, Para Wirra Con­ser­va­tion Park is the place to go. Locat­ed just south of Gawler and less than an hour’s dri­ve north from Ade­laide, you’ll be immers­ing your­self in nature in no time.

Set your­self up at Wirra Camp­ground, sit­u­at­ed at the east­ern side of the park – it’s a great base for explor­ing this amaz­ing park with its open grassy wood­lands and deep rocky gorges.

The camp­ground has 19 camp­sites nes­tled amongst pink gums, grass trees and hop bush. All sites are wheel­chair acces­si­ble with flat com­pact­ed grav­el sur­faces and some of the sites are suit­able for small camper­vans and camper trail­ers, so please check the web­site details.

You won’t be ful­ly rough­ing it as the camp­ground has acces­si­ble toi­lets, a basic camp kitchen and gas bar­be­cues. And to real­ly give you that authen­tic camp­ing expe­ri­ence, each camp­site has a camp­fire pit for use out­side the fire ban sea­son.

Don’t wor­ry if you have a large group, there’s a spot for you as well – try out the Heli­pad Camp­site. Roll out your swag or set up your tent, it’s a great site to get your extend­ed fam­i­ly or a group of friends togeth­er for the week­end. With a shel­ter and camp­fire pit, again for use out­side the fire ban sea­son, you have space to relax or a start­ing point for lots of walks, rides and the nature play space is not far away.

From all camp­sites, you’ll be able to make use of the exten­sive net­work of bush­walk­ing and bike rid­ing trails while keep­ing an eye out for the wildlife such as kan­ga­roos, emus and echid­nas and a huge vari­ety of wood­land birds.

For those with a pas­sion for native flo­ra, time your vis­it dur­ing late win­ter to ear­ly spring when the native orchids, sun­dews and guinea flow­ers burst into colour.

To help you get the most out of a week­end vis­it, park ranger Tam­my Leggett has some tips for plan­ning your stay.

Fri­day evening

A typ­i­cal Fri­day evening in Para Wirra sees new guests rolling into the park to set up camp. Don’t for­get your fire­wood (out­side fire dan­ger sea­son) and it’s rec­om­mend­ed you invest in some decent tent pegs and bring you’re hammer.

It’s gen­er­al­ly a relaxed scene with the smell of bar­be­ques and camp­fires (out­side of fire dan­ger sea­son), the sound of chil­dren play­ing and a sense of qui­et antic­i­pa­tion as groups of fam­i­lies and friends set­tle into their weekend.

Top tip: Evenings in the park are a great time to spot wildlife. It’s not unusu­al to see micro-bats flut­ter­ing over­head feast­ing on insects. Keep an eye on the tree canopy, if you’re lucky and with the help of a torch you might spot one of the res­i­dent ring-tail pos­sums or even a koala.

Sunset at Gawler View precinct.
Sun­set at Gawler View precinct.

Sat­ur­day morning

Time to rise and shine. There is no need for an alarm clock, the sound of the bush birds will have you out of bed and ready to explore the park.

For those look­ing to real­ly stretch their legs The South Para Grand Hike offers the park’s pre­mier hik­ing expe­ri­ence, remem­ber parts of this trail are walk­ing only – so best to leave bikes at the camp­site for this one.

The Walk­ing SA web­site rates the hike as a Grade 4 Hard Hike, and sug­gests that the 10 km loop will take about 4 and a half hours to com­plete. You can start the trail at a num­ber of loca­tions, depend­ing upon where you are stay­ing. Just fol­low the South Para Grand Hike trail mark­ers and do the trail in a clock­wise direction.

You’ll be reward­ed with spec­tac­u­lar views from the Dev­ils Nose look­out and plen­ty of scenic loca­tions along the South Para Gorge to stop for a cup­pa – as long as you remem­bered to pack the thermos.

This would also be a good time to look sky­wards; you might be lucky enough to spot the elu­sive square-tailed kite, which is known to nest in the park.

Along the way you might also spot one of our indus­tri­ous Friends of Para Wirra vol­un­teers as they tack­le some of the ongo­ing con­ser­va­tion projects in the park. Make sure you say g’day. You might even be inspired to join them at their next work­ing bee, usu­al­ly held on the third Sat­ur­day of every month.

If the South Para Grand Hike is a lit­tle far, please choose your own adven­ture from one of the many oth­er walk­ing or bike rid­ing trails. The Hissey Loop Hike – espe­cial­ly first thing in the morn­ing with all the birds is high­ly rec­om­mend­ed. Make it a lit­tle longer by adding in a trip around the lake.

Top tip: Make sure you don’t get lost on the trail by down­load­ing nation­al park maps through the Aven­za Mapp app on your smart­phone or tablet. The app uses your device’s built-in GPS to plot your real-time loca­tion with­in the park onto a map, and can be used with­out a net­work con­nec­tion or incur­ring roam­ing charges – just watch the bat­tery on your phone.

How to spend a weekend in South Australia’s Para Wirra Conservation Park

Sat­ur­day afternoon

By Sat­ur­day after­noon you might be feel­ing like a change of pace, and the Gawler View precinct is the per­fect place for a relax­ing pic­nic. Here you can see kan­ga­roos and emus walk­ing through the area while the kids play on the nature play space – build­ing hous­es, maybe act out a bush clas­sic or see who can trav­el the quick­est on the fly­ing fox. It’s also a great place for kids to test their bike skills in a bush set­ting.

If the legs are not too worn out, the Lizard Rock Hike is a great walk, and if you time it right you can stop along the gorge to watch the sun­set – just remem­ber your torch for the remain­der of the trip.

How to spend a weekend in South Australia’s Para Wirra Conservation Park

Sat­ur­day evening

Set­tle back into your camp­ground home and, out­side of fire dan­ger sea­son, it’s time to light up the campfire.

It’s a great oppor­tu­ni­ty to try your hand at camp­fire cook­ing. I love get­ting a banana (leave the skin on), slic­ing it along the length – but not all the way through, and fill­ing it with marsh­mal­lows and choco­late buds, then wrap­ping it in alfoil and plac­ing it in the coals for about 5 min­utes until it’s melt­ed – yummy!

If you want to have a camp­fire, be sure to pack your own fire­wood and kin­dling as fire­wood col­lec­tion is not per­mit­ted in the park.

After­wards, kick back and enjoy a spot of stargaz­ing – the night sky over Para Wirra is a site to behold.

Top tip: Check out these five sim­ple but tasty camp­fire cook­ing recipes

How to spend a weekend in South Australia’s Para Wirra Conservation Park

Sun­day morning

Pack­ing up can be stress­ful, so why not fin­ish on a high with a quick vis­it to the lake? It’s a great place to take kids who need to burn off a bit of ener­gy before the dri­ve home. 

The lake is peace­ful, and the short walk around is a great way to start the day before tack­ling the pack­ing up. If you’re ear­ly enough you can see all the dif­fer­ent ani­mals that come down for their morn­ing drink. Just remem­ber that ducks don’t eat our food, so please don’t bring down your left over bread to feed them.

How to spend a weekend in South Australia’s Para Wirra Conservation Park

If you are not quite ready to head home, 10 min­utes up the road you can vis­it Bow­den Cot­tage, which you’ll find in the Barossa Gold­fields, the north­ern sec­tion of the park. 

The cot­tage serves as a muse­um and head­quar­ters for the Barossa Gold­fields His­tor­i­cal Soci­ety, a vol­un­teer group that has restored the cot­tage from a ruin. 

The cot­tage and grounds pro­vide a glimpse into the hus­tle and bus­tle of life in the gold­fields. The cot­tage is open every Tues­day and the 3rd Sun­day of every month.

There are three walk­ing trails from this loca­tion, which range from 45 min­utes to more than 4 hours. The Vic­to­ria Hill Cir­cuit is great option to dis­cov­er the chal­leng­ing life for the min­ers – keep to the trails as mine­shafts are found through­out the area.

There are so many adven­tures to have in Para Wirra, you will just have to come up for anoth­er vis­it, as you can’t fit it all in one week­end.

It’s an easy trip from Ade­laide and there is always some­thing dif­fer­ent to do.

How to spend a weekend in South Australia’s Para Wirra Conservation Park

Make sure you don’t miss out. You can book your camp­site up to 12 months in advance online. Before you head off on your camp­ing adven­ture, check out our guide to camp­ing at Para Wirra Con­ser­va­tion Park.

Main image: Camp­ing in Wirra Camp­ground, Para Wirra Con­ser­va­tion Park

This sto­ry was orig­i­nal­ly post­ed in May 2019.

This con­tent was pro­duced in part­ner­ship with  Good Living