Park of the Month
Onkaparinga River National Park and Recreation Park
August 2017

Onkaparinga River National Park and Recreation Park is the National Parks SA Park of the Month for August 2017.

In the National Park diverse hiking trails take you to cliff tops with magnificent views, or down to permanent rock pools teeming with life. Experience rugged ridge tops and the narrow river valley of the spectacular Onkaparinga Gorge.

In the Recreation Park, the river spills onto the plains, creating wetland ponds and flood plains. The area conserves important fish breeding habitat and hundreds of native plant and animal species, many of which are rare.

You can walk your dog in the Onkaparinga River Recreation Park, between South Road and Commercial Road. You must keep your dog on a lead and under your control at all times. Pets are not permitted in other areas of the park.

Below we’ve outlined 10 hikes and trails in the two parks.

Two new walking trails are due to be opened later this month, the Punchbowl Lookout Walk and the Sundew Loop, both of which go to a new lookout platform with spectacular views deep into the river gorge. Watch out for more news about this trail later this month.

10 Great Hikes and Trails in Onkaparinga River National Park and Recreation Park

Onkaparinga Gorge Loop Trail and Lookout, Sundews Ridge Hike1.

Sundews Ridge Hike

Moderate hike, 5km, 2 hours return

Take a short hike to view the rocky outcrops and meandering river of the Onkaparinga Gorge from the Sundews Lookout. Continue your walk along the ridge top, returning to the car park without descending to the river.

Echidna Hike2.

Echidna Hike

Moderate hike, 3.5km, 2 hours

A narrow trail takes you over moderate slopes and through lovely pink gum, grey box and sheoak bushland. Enjoy the winter and spring floral displays, including stunning orchids. You will see some ruins, get great views of the gorge, and get a good workout.

Sundews River Hike, Onkaparinga River National Park3.

Sundews River Hike

Hard hike, 5.8km, 4 hours

This hard trail descends steeply from the Sundews Lookout to the bottom of the gorge then follows the river downstream beside two perennial waterholes.

Pingle Farm Trail via estuary, Onkaparinga River Recreation Park4.

Pingle Farm Trail via estuary

Easy walk, 3.3km, 90 mins

Walk along the estuary before returning via the ruins of the former Pingle Farm farmhouse and sheds.

You can walk your dog on this hike provided you keep your dog on a lead.

Hardys Scrub Hike5.

Hardys Scrub Hike

Moderate hike, 5.9km, 2-3 hours

Wander through this forest on walking trails and fire tracks. The trail is well marked. We recommend this extra eastern trail as especially delightful to walk through, with some good views.

Wetlands Loop Trail, Onkaparinga River6.

Wetlands Loop Trail

Easy walk, 4.5km, 2 hours

The Wetlands Walk is located on the Onkaparinga River estuary with opportunities for walking, birdwatching and photography, with interpretive signs.

The trail is accessible for families with strollers and small children. It’s not officially an Accessible trail for those with mobility aids and wheelchairs but it can be done. The path is a mixture of boardwalk, and some gravel paths. A blog post on identifies some of the issues for wheelchairs accessing this walking trail, including a short grassed section between the picnic shelter and the start of the trail, and that the gravel paths may be muddy in winter.

You can walk your dog on this hike provided you keep your dog on a lead.

Tatendi Hike, Onkaparinga Gorge (3 Walk Options)7.

Tatendi Hike, Onkaparinga Gorge (3 Walk Options)

Hard hike, 6km, 2.5 – 4 hours (easier options available)

A difficult but rewarding hike, descending steeply into Onkaparinga Gorge. The Onkaparinga River is lined with reed and old gum trees, and has many permanent large water holes.

The official maps online and trailhead signs differ a bit in their route choices and trail lengths, and the walk options are quite different in terms of difficulty. We’ve outlined the 3 best route options below.

  • 1. Difficult walking route circuit, 6.0km
    This involves difficult navigation (it is not well sign-posted) including make route choices, and also involves some difficult terrain (at times dense vegetation, at times steep trail.)
  • 2. Moderate walking route circuit, 4.7km
    Navigation is ok, especially well sign-posted when walking anti-clockwise. The trail along the river is open and easy to follow (unlike further upstream). There are great views into gorge from lookout.
  • 3. Easy walking route to lookout and return, 1.5km return
    This route has easy navigation, and is a short walk with no steep climbs. There are views into gorge from lookout.

Nature Hike8.

Nature Hike

Moderate hike, 3.5km, 3 hours

An easy trail though regenerating pink gum and grey box woodland. This trail is a fine example of these unique plant communities. On the eastern section of the trail you’ll have fabulous views of the gorge.

Old Noarlunga Hike, Onkaparinga River National Park9.

Old Noarlunga Hike

Hard hike, 3.5km, 2 hours

Experience a hike along the Onkaparinga River and in the hills above Old Noarlunga.

This walk only includes one rock scramble but does include some narrow walking trail.

The swing bridge over the Onkaparinga River at the start of this hike on Paringa Parade, Old Noarlunga, was swept away in the spring floods of September 2016. There is a ford upstream from where the swing bridge used to be, but the water is often too high to make an easy crossing. The trail can be accessed via the Tea Tree Track, at Gate 29, on the corner of Barytes Road and Sheoak Road.

Noarlunga Downs Wetland Trail, Onkaparinga River10.

Noarlunga Downs Wetland Trail

Easy walk, 600m one-way, 1.2km return, 30 mins return

This trail is not actually in Onkaparinga River Recreation Park, but follows part of the estuary system, so we’ve included it as a special mention.

The trail follows the edge of what is now a predator-free sanctuary. The trail features art by contemporary Aboriginal artist Paul Herzich.