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Australian National Parks - A Guide For Your Visit
By: Jennifer Schellington

Gondwana is the ancient name of the huge land mass made up of Africa, Australia, India, Antarctica and South America. Over 100 million years ago the mass broke up to form the individual countries. Australia is one of these countries and is one of the driest continents in the world.

There are 25 million hectares of National Park in Australia (3% of the total size of Australia,) and this equaes to 516 parks in total. Most of the parks are serviced by the local state government e.g. parks that are in NSW are looked after by the NSW government. There are some parks however that are seen to be very special and these are run by the Federal Government. Most of the key travellers' routes are in a National Park. Your trip to Australia will therefore, more than likely, include a trip to one. It is not my intention to tell you about all 516 parks but I will share with you which ones I think are the best.

Before I do though, understand how the National Parks operate. A National park can literally be a park but its more likely to be a larger area where wildlife and plant/tree species are special or sacred. It can also be sacred rock formations e.g. Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park is home to Ayers Rock. A national park can span for huge distances with the average visitor only touching a small corner of it. Others are more manageable and you can see much more.

The majority of parks require an entrance fee. This can be by person or by vehicle depending on the park. It's not normally very much (around $10) but for popular parks such as Ayers Rock, you can expect to pay more. Most passes give you unlimited access to the park for 48 hours.

Australian National Parks and Camping

Many people choose to camp in National Parks. This is a great idea if you like the open air and arent too worried about snakes or spiders (only joking!) There are usually designated areas for camping and there are strict campfire regulations given the risk of bush fires. The facilities are usually quite basic though so dont expect hot showers. That said, some of them do!

You generally need a permit to camp in the National Parks and places are limited. In the peak of summer it can sometimes be hard to find camping spots available so you need to book well in advance. The government websites will allow you to search for campsites. Remember that you will need to do this for EACH state given that the parks are run by the state government. Over Christmas when it is really busy, some of the national parks run a ballot system. If your name is picked out of the hat, you are one of the lucky ones (this is how it works in Freycinet National Park in Tasmania)

It can be a little subjective picking the best Australian National Parks to visit. Below you will find my top 3 but visit the website below for more information on great Australian National Parks.

Best for Coast and Beaches

Lord Howe Island is one of the only Australian islands to have been added to the UNESCO world heritage list due its pristine beauty. Only 400 tourists are allowed on the island at any one time to ensure its prefect-ness is maintained! This is a perfect place to experience fantastic marine life and glorious walking through forests and mountains. You can explore the Valley of the shadows, filled with 40-metre high forests of Kentia palms and towering banyan trees. The day walk up Mount Gower is one of the best day walks to do in Australia. You can also walk to Kims lookout and enjoy great views across the lagoon to the southern tip of the island.

Best for Rock Formations

Whilst Ayers Rock might be on the tourist trail, this National Park (Uluru Kata Tjuta) is formidable and deserves to be in the top 3 of all the Australian National Parks. It's also a World Heritage listed site due to its culture and rock formations. Most come to visit the Rock and you really should make sure you see it at either sunset or sunrise. They say that this is the best time to view as the changing light on the rock makes it look particularly stunning. You can take your car to the special viewing platforms but get there in good time to get a good spot. I'd also recommend doing one of the organised dinners or breakfasts which take place at these times. There are two rock formations in the park though and the second, The Olgas, are in my opinion, more impressive than the rock. Make sure you visit both. First stop should be the Cultural Centre as this gives you an idea on the walks and times for guided walks if you prefer to have a guide. Don't forget to check out the Aboriginal goods that are usually on sale here too. The Base walk is the most popular (9km) Allow about 3 hours which is plenty of time to take photos. Don't climb the rock. Not only is it steep and dangerous, it's totally against the local aboriginal culture and beliefs.

The Grampians National Park is one of Victoria's largest parks and has great walks, scenery and wildlife. Its 260km from Melbourne along the Western or Glenelg highways (takes about 3.5 hours) The Grampians are a series of sandstone ridges with steep slopes and are very picturesque. The most spectacular waterfall is Mackenzie Falls. You can also see good Aboriginal rock art at Billimina and Wab Manja. There are a couple of 2 day walks for the serious walkers amongst you. But for the best view of the park head to Mount Abrupt. Access to the park is at Halls Gap. But if you want to escape the tourists head to Wartook Valley, e.g. Mt Zero and Mt Stapylton. For the really adventurous go for Mount Difficult which is hard going but amazing. Stony Creek Track to the Bundaleer passing Stony Peak is another good one. You can ascend the Wall of China to obtain the vast views to Tower Hill and the picturesque Victoria Valley.

Author Resource:-> Jennifer Schellington has nearly 5 years experience in travelling Australia. Her website,
http://www.realaustraliatravel offers practical information for planning your trip to Australia as well as where to go and what to do. Click here for more information on Australian National Parks

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