Park of the Month, Onkaparinga River National Park and Recreation Park, September 2018

Onkaparinga River National Park and Recreation Park is the National Parks SA Park of the Month for September 2018.

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.

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

Punchbowl Lookout Walk1.

Punchbowl Lookout Walk

2km, 1 hour return, Moderate Walk

Walk suitable for prams and strollers Walk suitable for those with mobility issues including wheelchairs Trail shared by mountain bikers

A new trail opened in Spring 2017. The one kilometre Accessible trail visits a new lookout above The Punchbowl, where you can see spectacular views into the Onkaparinga Gorge. The trail is a consistent one metre wide and made of compacted gravel, and with gentle contoured gradients, so as such is suitable for those with mobility access issues, including wheelchairs and prams. There is some seating mid-way along the trail.


Punchbowl Link Trail (Sundews Carpark to Punchbowl Lookout)2.

Punchbowl Link Trail (Sundews Carpark to Punchbowl Lookout)

Trail shared by mountain bikers

6km, 3 hours return, Moderate hike

A new trail opened in mid-September 2017. The 6km loop trail visits a new lookout above The Punchbowl, where you can see spectacular views into the Onkaparinga Gorge. The trail is well contoured as it winds its way along the gullies heading out to the lookout. When it reaches the Punchbowl Lookout, it follows the Punchbowl Lookout Walk back to Piggott Range Road, where it follows a trail back along the road to the Sundews Carpark.


Echidna Hike3.

Echidna Hike

3.5km, 2 hours, Moderate hike

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.


Hardys Scrub Hike4.

Hardys Scrub Hike

4km, 2-3 hours, Moderate hike

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.


Nature Hike5.

Nature Hike

3.5km, 3 hours, Moderate hike

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.


Onkaparinga Gorge Loop Trail and Lookout, Sundews Ridge Hike6.

Sundews Ridge Hike

5km, 2 hours return, Moderate hike

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.


Sundews Lookout Hike7.

Sundews Lookout Hike

5km, 1.5 hours return, Moderate hike

Take a short hike to the Sundews lookout to see the rocky outcrops and the river flowing through the Onkaparinga Gorge.


Chapel Hill Lookout Loop8.

Chapel Hill Lookout Loop

1.6km, 45 mins return, Moderate hike

Trail shared by mountain bikers

Walk across the gentle slopes of the upper gorge to enjoy views from the lookout deep into the river gorge below.


Gorge Hike, Onkaparinga River National Park9.

Gorge Hike

5.8km, 4 hours, Hard Hike

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


Gorge Link (Onkaparinga River)10.

Gorge Link (Onkaparinga River)

3.4km, 2 hours one-way, Hard Hike

Trail shared by mountain bikers

Hike across the park, descending down into the river gorge and crossing the Onkaparinga River. The descend into and climb out of the river gorge is steep and may be slippery after rains. The river is often impassable during wet periods.


Old Noarlunga Hike, Onkaparinga River National Park11.

Old Noarlunga Hike

3.5km, 2 hours, Hard Hike

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. The trail can be accessed via the Tea Tree Track, at Gate 29, on the corner of Barytes Road and Sheoak Road.

A new bridge is being constructed by the SA Government, and it may be open in December 2018 / January 2019, although construction is yet to commence.


River Hike, Onkaparinga Gorge12.

River Hike, Onkaparinga Gorge

4.2km, 2.5 hours, Hard Hike

Walk down into Onkaparinga Gorge, experiencing spectacular views across the gorge and walking to the edge of waterholes. This area has the most intact native vegetation in the park. It starts off along gentle slopes, but becomes steeper as you descend into the gorge.


Old Coach Link13.

Old Coach Link

2km, 2.5 hours one-way, Hard Hike

Trail shared by mountain bikers

The Old Coach Link is a newly marked trail due to open in the first week of September 2017 as part of the Government of South Australia’s $10 million upgrade of the Adelaide’s national parks. Start from Old Noarlunga, at either Gate 1 in Old Noarlunga (near the site of the former swingbridge), or from Gate 3 on Church Hill Road.


Pingle Farm Trail via estuary, Onkaparinga River Recreation Park14.

Pingle Farm Trail via estuary

3.3km, 90 mins, Moderate Walk

Walk suitable for dog walking Trail shared by mountain bikers

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.


Noarlunga Downs Wetland Trail, Onkaparinga River15.

Noarlunga Downs Wetland Trail

600m one-way, 1.2km return, 30 mins return, Moderate Walk

Trail shared by mountain bikers

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


Wetlands Loop Trail, Onkaparinga River16.

Wetlands Loop Trail

4.5km, 1.5 hours, Moderate Walk

Walk suitable for dog walking Trail shared by mountain bikers

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 PushAdventures.com.au 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.