5 of Australia’s best new national parks
2021-2022 was a bumper year for new national parks in Australia. From NSW to WA, spectacular and unique landscapes filled with our world-famous wildlife await.
A legacy for all Australians
National parks protect the best of Australia’s natural and cultural heritage. They are national icons, home to our remarkable wildlife and jaw-dropping landscapes, and are considered some of Australia’s most important public assets. From the desert environments of the Red Centre to the lush rainforests of Queensland, our national parks reflect the extraordinary diversity of the Australian continent.
Read on to find out more about the newest editions to Australia’s rich national parks legacy!
1. The expanded Gardens of Stone NP, NSW
Now, these striking sandstone formations—as well as the area’s rare wildlife and significant First Nations’ heritage sites—are safe for future generations.
Where to find itThe Gardens of Stone National Park is located on Wiradjuri Country in the Central Tablelands region, 125km (78 mi) northwest of Sydney, and forms part of the Great Dividing Range (the third-longest land-based mountain range in the world!).
Why it's importantLong threatened by coal mining, this wilderness area is now a haven for 80+ rare and threatened species and 16+ threatened ecological communities. There’s even an ecosystem that exists in Gardens of Stone that you won’t find anywhere else on Earth: upland swamps on sandstone, including flora like the Pagoda daisy. The park also features the highest-elevation sandstone plateau in the Blue Mountains (Newnes Plateau), and its ancient pagodas, cliffs, steep gullies and deep slot canyons are of international significance.
The park boasts exceptional cultural heritage values too, including the Mayinygu Marragu (Blackfellows Hand) Aboriginal Place—a place of special meaning to Wiradjuri people.
Photo: Lost city pagodas at sunset | Gary P Hayes Photography (garyphayes.photography)
Photo: Mt McLean View | Gary P Hayes Photography (garyphayes.photography)
Photo: Carne Creek Cauldron | Gary P Hayes Photography (garyphayes.photography)
What you'll find thereBlue Mountains water skinks and giant dragonflies (read about them in our Wilderness Journal) are two wildlife species only found in the general region, and they share the park with other threatened animals like koalas, spotted-tailed quolls and regent honeyeaters. And evidence of the park's long and ongoing First Nations presence exists in the form of various artefacts, art engravings and pigmentations, carved and scarred trees, stone arrangements and grinding grooves.
2. Munga-Thirri—Simpson Desert NP, SA
At four times the size of Yellowstone in the US (or more than half the size of Tasmania), Munga-Thirri—Simpson Desert became Australia’s largest national park when it was declared in November 2021. Located within the driest region of the continent, it’s considered an ‘intact wilderness’—one of only a few still in existence on our planet.
See how Wilderness Society worked for years to deliver this national park.
Where to find it
Munga-Thirri—Simpson Desert National Park is in South Australia’s far north, near its border with Queensland and the Northern Territory, and lies within the Lake Eyre Basin. The South Australian section is the traditional lands of the Wangkangurru/Yarluyandi people; other groups include Aranda and Arrente, who all maintain a strong connection with their Country.
Why it's importantThis vast, intact wilderness is one of the world's best examples of parallel dunal desert, with the longest parallel dune systems on Earth. More than 150 species of birds inhabit the Simpson Desert, including the rare Australian Bustard, and its temporary wetlands attract thousands of birds from across Australia who come to feed and breed. The grey grasswren and Eyrean grasswren are two bird species endemic to the area, each evolved solely to survive in this exact spot, and desert mammals that only exist here include the kowari (a brush-tailed marsupial rat). All told, this globally significant desert ecosystem is a sanctuary to more than 900 species of plants and animals. Continuous First Nations' custodianship of the area stretches back thousands of years.
Photo: Kowaris are small carnivorous marsupials only found in the dry grasslands and deserts around Munga-Thirri | Ariana Ananda
Photo: They burrow in small sand mounds and hunt nocturnally | Ariana Ananda
Photo: Kowaris will eat most animals of equal or smaller size to them, including birds | Ariana Ananda
What you'll find thereMunga-Thirri is the site of astounding scenes during the rainy season when water becomes trapped in the dunes. Native wildflowers—like the long dormant seeds of poached-egg daisies and fleshy groundsel—burst into life across the red sand, creating a colourful carpet of flowers, and birds flock to the wetlands from all across the country. Dingoes, dunnarts, mulgara (ampurta), budgerigars, thorny devils and water-holding frogs all call this place home. Wedge-tail eagles are known to nest near the ground here, in large piles of sticks, which is rarely seen in other areas they inhabit. Rock carvings and places of cultural significance occur throughout the desert region.
3. Wombat-Lerderderg National Park, Vic
The Wombat-Lerderderg National Park, declared in June 2021, brought together the Lerderderg State Park and much of the Wombat State Forest to provide vital habitat for many of Victoria’s threatened species—such as Australia’s largest flying mammal, the greater glider.
Where to find it
Spanning 44,000 hectares between Daylesford and Bacchus Marsh in Victoria’s north-west, the Wombat-Lerderderg National Park straddles the Great Dividing Range and lies across the traditional Country of the Dja Dja Wurrung and Wurundjeri peoples.
Why it's importantThe area is a bountiful storehouse of biodiversity. Many rare and threatened plant species exist here, and hundreds of different types of fungi have been documented across the park’s diverse habitats. Wombat leafless bossiaea (Bossiaea vombata) and Wombat bush-pea (Pultenaea reflexifolia) are two endemic plant species, which means this is the only place on the planet they’re found.
Another notable feature of the park is the extent of mineral springs, which are said to account for 80% of Australia's mineral springs. The mineral waters are rich in calcium, silica, magnesium, iron and sulphur. The park also contains the headwaters of the Lerderderg, Moorabool, Coliban, Campaspe and Loddon rivers.
Photo: Wombat leafless bossiaea (Bossiaea vombata)
Photo: Wombat bush-pea (Pultenaea reflexifolia)
What you'll find thereSeveral extinct volcanoes can be found within the national park, such as Mount Babbington, Mount Wilson and Blue Mount, with rock types that date back to the Palaeozoic era.
Threatened mammals like greater gliders and brush-tailed phascogales take refuge in these forests. Several state-listed threatened bird species also call the area home, including powerful owls, great egrets, intermediate egrets, grey goshawks, Australian masked owls, and square-tailed kites.
4. Dryandra Woodland, WA
Western Australia’s newest national park, declared in January 2022, preserves the last original large woodland area in the western Wheatbelt—a crucial haven for the state’s mammal emblem, the critically endangered numbat.
Where to find it
Only two hours from Perth, the Dryandra Woodland near Narrogin lies on the Country of the Noongar people. The Dryandra area belongs to the Wiilman tribe, who refer to it as Wilgadjny.
Why it's important
A rare remnant of the open eucalypt woodlands which covered much of the Wheatbelt prior to the late 1800s, Dryandra is home to 24 mammal, 98 bird and 41 reptile species. Major populations of three nationally endangered species exist there: the woylie (brush-tailed bettong), the red-tailed phascogale, and over 50 percent of the total known population of numbat.
Over 800 native flora have been identified within the woodland, including 15 that have been declared priority species under the Department of Environment and Conservation's Declared Rare and Priority Flora List.
First Nations people have occupied WA’s southwest for at least the last 40,000 years, and important cultural sites are present in the national park.
Threatened animals taking refuge in the park
Critically endangered numbats | Jiri Lochman/Lochman Transparencies
Mound-building malleefowls | H. Beste
Short-billed black-cockatoos (also known as Carnaby’s black cockatoo) | Laurie Boyle
Woylies or brush-tailed bettongs
Western quolls | Jiri Lochman/Lochman Transparencies
Red-tailed phascogales | Jiri Lochman/Lochman Transparencies
What you'll find thereOpen eucalypt woodlands of white-barked wandoo and powderbark, with thickets of rock sheoak and kwongan heath, play host to an abundant variety of wildlife—tammar wallabies, brushtail possums, tawny frogmouths, kangaroos and wallabies are regularly seen here. Threatened animals taking refuge in the park are woylies, red-tailed phascogales, short-billed black-cockatoos, numbats, chuditch/western quolls and mound-building malleefowls.
Significant First Nations' sites include an ochre pit used for body decoration, rock art, artefact scatters, stone arrangements and a scarred tree.
5. Coming soon: The Lakes, Qld
Where to find itAbout 100km (62 mi) north of Hughenden and near Townsville, The Lakes lies on the traditional Country of the Gudjala people.
Why it's importantThe new national park will protect the headwaters of the South Gregory River which feeds into the Great Barrier Reef catchment. It will also safeguard a variety of threatened species and a range of ecosystems that are currently under-represented in Queensland’s reserve system.
What you'll find thereThe Lakes is made up of about three or four large perch wetlands on top of the Great Dividing Range. Throughout this escarpment country and across the gulf plains, countless bird species flourish. The area is also home to greater gliders.
All new National Parks of 2021-2022
Dryandra Woodland NP in the Wheatbelt
Warlibirri NP in the Kimberley
Cape Range (South) NP, also known as part of the Ningaloo (Nyinggulu) Conservation Estate, in the Midwest
Lakeside NP in the Midwest
Munga-Thirri—Simpson Desert NP in the far north of the state, near its border with Qld and the NT
Wapma Thura—Southern Flinders Ranges NP in the Wirrabara and Mount Remarkable area
Cleland NP in the Adelaide Hills
Deep Creek NP on the Fleurieu Peninsula
Lake Frome NP in the Northern Flinders Ranges
The expanded Gardens of Stone NP next to Wollemi NP
Koonaburra NP near Ivanhoe
Langidoon-Metford State Conservation Area, east of Broken Hill
(Please note these parks are not receiving visitors yet)
Wombat-Lerderderg NP in the north-east
Pyrenees NP northwest of Avoca
Mount Buangor NP west of Ballarat
The Lakes NP in North Qld
TAS, NT, ACT
No new NPs created
Wilderness Society has contacted parks and environment departments in each state and territory for a complete list of national parks declared during the period 2021-2022, and will update this list accordingly.
Why we need more!
State forests, by contrast, aren’t protected in the same way as national parks. A state forest is crown land that’s been set aside for recreation, preservation, and/or timber production.
Wilderness Society campaigns for places we love across Australia that possess exceptional heritage values to receive national park protection, shielding them from logging and other threats. Read on to learn more about where we’re focusing our efforts, and how, thanks to our supporters, we’re making new parks and World Heritage areas possible!