Ranger tips: Onkaparinga River parks

Ranger tips: Onkaparinga River parks

Get insid­er tips on the best places to vis­it and must do activ­i­ties from Senior Ranger Steve Johnson.

Locat­ed 35 km south of Adelaide’s CBD, Onka­paringa River’s parks offer some­thing for every­one to enjoy. 

There are 2 parks, the Onka­paringa Riv­er Nation­al Park and Onka­paringa Riv­er Recre­ation Park which have vast­ly dif­fer­ent envi­ron­ments to explore and activ­i­ties to enjoy.

The nation­al park boasts hikes along ridgetops and through the spec­tac­u­lar Onka­paringa Gorge, rock climb­ing with amaz­ing gorge views, water­holes, shared trails for bike rid­ing, and a camp­ground for overnight stays.

In con­trast, the serene wet­lands of the recre­ation park, locat­ed to the west of the nation­al park, are a great place for a fam­i­ly pic­nic, fish­ing, bike rid­ing, kayak­ing or bird watch­ing while strolling along the board­walks with your pooch.

To help you plan your next vis­it, here are some tips from Dis­trict Ranger Steve Johnson:

What’s your favourite walk­ing trail in the Onka­paringa Riv­er parks?

The parks have so many amaz­ing trails, like Punch­bowl Link Trail and Riv­er Hike, but the Echid­na Hike has always been my favourite.

The Echid­na Hike takes you through pris­tine sec­tions of the nation­al park, where you can expe­ri­ence a diverse range of rare and beau­ti­ful wild­flow­ers amongst nation­al­ly sig­nif­i­cant Grey Box Wood­land. There’s even a water­fall at the right time of year! 

Down­load a park map before your trip to find the trail and where to park.

Ranger tips: Onkaparinga River parks

What’s the parks best kept secret?

I reck­on it’s still the gorge and riv­er itself because it’s so beau­ti­ful and so hid­den – par­tic­u­lar­ly right down in the gorge along the riv­er. When you’re sit­ting by a water­hole amongst riv­er red gums with cliffs tow­er­ing over­head, it’s like you’re in the Flinders Ranges, but you’re a 10 minute dri­ve from the south­ern suburbs!

I rec­om­mend the Gorge Hike to ful­ly expe­ri­ence the gorge. Best time of year is late spring to autumn when the water lev­els are down and the riv­er is a series of beau­ti­ful water­holes. Be aware that the Gorge Hike is rec­om­mend­ed for expe­ri­enced hik­ers as some sec­tions of the trail are not well defined. 

Ranger tips: Onkaparinga River parks

What’s your favourite activ­i­ty to enjoy in the park?

Well, I’m a keen bush­walk­er and bird watch­er, but now that I’m a dad my favourite activ­i­ty is to explore nature in the park with my family.

It’s one of the best things you can do with your chil­dren as they learn so much and it makes them so hap­py, relaxed and tired!

No fences, no con­crete, no stress. Just a nat­ur­al play­ground with trees, flow­ers, water and lots of wildlife. Good healthy fun. Take a cof­fee and you’ve got it made!

Ranger tips: Onkaparinga River parks

Where’s the best spot to see views of the gorge?

I rec­om­mend the view­ing plat­form at Punch­bowl Look­out. The views are spec­tac­u­lar and it’s only a 20-minute walk from the carpark via the Punch­bowl Look­out Trail.

Bikes, wheel­chairs and prams are all wel­come. Access is via the Punch­bowl Look­out car park off Pig­gott Range Road in Onka­paringa Hills.

If you’re up for more views and a longer walk or ride, I rec­om­mend the Punch­bowl Link Trail. Start this one from the Sun­dews car park at Gate 11, which is acces­si­ble from Pig­gott Range Road in Onka­paringa Hills.

Ranger tips: Onkaparinga River parks

What’s your favourite camp­site in Pink Gum Campground?

I love camp­site 9 as it has beau­ti­ful views of the park, it’s quite sep­a­rate from the oth­er sites and it adjoins the love­ly grassy Pink Gum area in the cen­tre of the campground.

If you have a young fam­i­ly site 10 is excel­lent. It kind of comes with its own fenced of front yard, which is full of trees and oth­er nat­ur­al fea­tures for the chil­dren to explore.

Ranger tips: Onkaparinga River parks

What’s your favourite thing to do at Pink Gum Campground?

Giv­en its close prox­im­i­ty to the spec­tac­u­lar rock climb­ing area in the gorge, climbers are lov­ing Pink Gum.

I also rec­om­mend the beau­ti­ful Riv­er Hike down into the gorge. It has won­der­ful views across the gorge and there’s so much to explore once you reach the river.

A quick walk upstream and you’re amongst ancient rock for­ma­tions, big riv­er red gums and peace­ful water­holes full of aquat­ic life. 

Park of the Month

Through­out the month of Feb­ru­ary, the parks of Onka­paringa are being cel­e­brat­ed as Nation­al Parks and Wildlife Ser­vice’s Parks of Month. There are heaps of events and activ­i­ties to get involved in and explore the park.

In the mean­time, check out our guide to camp­ing at Onka­paringa Riv­er Nation­al Park for more insid­er tips on stay­ing in the park.

This sto­ry was orig­i­nal­ly post­ed in Feb­ru­ary 2020.

This con­tent was pro­duced in part­ner­ship with  Good Living