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Top national parks to put on your to-travel list

Woomargama National Park

3 Nov 2021 by Daniela Sunde-Brown

Top national parks to put on your to-travel list

From 500-year-old towering red gums and expansive wetlands to pink lakes and semi-arid, moon-like landscapes, the Murray River region’s national parks show off the diversity of Mother Nature.

Campers, bushwalkers, cyclists, paddlers, tourists, birders and even foodies are catered for across these eight national parks found along The Murray.

1. Mungo National Park

Enter Mungo National Park and you might think you’ve uncovered an alternative world. The ancient landscape with dry, red craters, towering quarts and clay dunes, sand formations and a dried lake bed give visitors serious moon surface vibes.

The UNESCO World Heritage-listed park has strong links to Australia’s indigenous heritage with ancient burial sites, fireplaces, stone tools and preserved footprints.

Archaeological digs have uncovered amazing artefacts here including Australia’s oldest human remains. Mungo man and Mungo lady date back some 42,000 years and were preserved in the sand by carbonite and low humidity.

We’ve pulled together a guide with everything you need to know about Mungo National Park before you go.

2. Murray Valley National Park

Majestic red river gum forest is the reason to visit Murray Valley National Park. This three-part reserve was established to protect and preserve the gum forests in Riverina’s Ramsar-listed wetland.

The special ecosystem supports more than 60 threatened native animals and more than 40 endangered plants, so keep your eyes focused while walking or biking along tracks such as the tranquil Gulpa Creek trail.

A park in many parts, there are three main areas to explore: Gulpa Island in the north-west, Moira in the south-west, and Millewa in the east.

Keen campers can pitch a tent along the Murray or Edward rivers, catch a fish for dinner and kayak at leisure. Bird watchers will be in heaven and can use Reedbeds Bird Hide to spot yellow rosellas.

3. Murray-Sunset National Park

Wide open landscapes, incredible sunsets, spring wildflowers and long starry nights make this vast, isolated park in the far north-west corner of Victoria a gem worth exploring.

What separates Murray-Sunset National Park from the pack is that the semi-arid environment is relatively untouched, one of the few remaining in the whole world.

Bring your camera to snap photos of the Pink Lakes, which change colour from a deep pink to glistening white depending on the season. If you visit in spring, you’ll also catch the desert wildflowers in bloom.

Murray-Sunset National Park is popular for 4WD touring, walking and camping.

4. Barmah National Park

Heritage-listed Barmah National Park is home to the largest red gum forest in the world with 30-metre high trees that are more than 500 years old.

The forest, wetlands and waterways provide a home for more than 300 native birds, fish, reptiles, frogs and other animals that you can spot while hiking, camping or paddling in the park.

Popular trails include the Lakes Loop (4.5km), Broken Creek Walk (7.5km) and Steamer Plain Track (5km). The Sand Ridge Track passes significant Aboriginal sites such as scarred trees, mounds, stone artefacts and burial sites.

During the wet season it’s magical to paddle through the flooded woodlands or let Kingfisher Cruise tour you along the winding creeks and lakes anytime of year.

The temperate Mediterranean-esq climate also makes it possible to camp beneath the stars year-round.

5. Gunbower National Park

The largest inland island in Australia sits in the centre of Gunbower National Park.

This 26,400-hectare floodplain is made up of magnificent red gum and black box forest, providing a home for native birds, mammals, reptiles and amphibians.

Trails through the park aren’t just for bushwalkers or cyclists. Those that love to canoe or kayak will enjoy Safe’s Lagoon and Gunbower Creek where a 5km trail through the wetlands gets you up-close with rare native bird species.

Those on foot or bike might like to start from Koondrook with the half-day Turtle loop (13.2km) or Eagle Loop (9.1km) walks.

There are more than 50 listed camping areas throughout the park, the most popular being the well-maintained Masters Landing campground thanks to its boat ramp, bathrooms and picnic shelters.

6. Hattah-Kulkyne National Park

A colourful parade of birdlife thrives around the vibrant freshwater lakes of Hattah-Kulkyne National Park. The sandy soil, stunning lakes and searing summers make this 48,000 hectare-park a paradise of birds, animals and vegetation.

Popular for bushwalking, there are four well-marked trails to choose from. The most gentle is the 40-minute Hattah Nature walk (1.2km) or the Warepil Lookout Walk (600m). The latter is a great spot to witness an incredible Mallee sunset with stunning views across the region from the lookout tower.

For a longer trail, the three-hour Mournpall Lake Loop (9.5km) follows the edge of Lake Mournpall and through red gum flood plains and Mallee dunes past Lake Konardin. Keep an eye out for emus, kangaroos, pelicans, ducks, spoonbills, Mallee fowl and emu wrens.

Campers can choose from two spots with basic facilities at Lake Hattah and Lake Mournpall.

7. Yanga National Park

One of New South Wales’ newest reserves, the terrain at Yanga National Park has an ancient and rich history.

If the land could talk it would tell you the stories of Aboriginal families and Australian explorers, of sheep shearers and rabbit trappers, of fishers and campers.

People have been visiting this area for millennia and these days you can camp, fish and trek in the forest.

Keep an eye out for more than 150 species of birds throughout the trees and wetlands, pick up the key and an audio guide to explore the bygone days of the old Yanga Homestead, and camp by the banks of the Murrumbidgee just like Australian explorers Burke and Wills once did.

By the homestead the easy Yanga Lake Walking Track (1km) is wheelchair friendly and passes by a wetlands bird hide and a viewing deck over Yanga Lake.

8. Woomargama National Park

Popular for camping, hiking and 4WD touring, Woomargama National Park is also wonderful for bird watching and wine tasting.

Trek through the park and then reward yourself with a taste of the terroir at a nearby boutique winery.

The Hume and Hovell walking track cuts through Woomargama and is perfect for bushwalking, while unsealed roads will challenge keen 4WD enthusiasts and mountain bikers.

Either way, the protected park is home to a large number of endangered species so keep an eye out for the regent honeyeater, superb parrot and powerful owl.

Backing onto Woomargama National Park, Flyfaire Wines focuses on producing sustainable, low chemical and carbon wines from its single block vineyard. You can drop by the cellar door for tastings and cheese or charcuterie platters.