Located approximately 20 kilometres from Adelaide, Mark Oliphant Conservation Park is an attractive patch of bushland where you can enjoy walks through a forest landscape while discovering magnificent native bird life. Common species include the white-throated treecreeper, golden whistler, brown thornbill and honeyeaters. There's also the southern brown bandicoot if you're lucky enough to spot one of them.
The park consists of four walking trails. Families with young children will find Candlebark Trail rather rewarding. This 250-metre trail is smooth, flat and easy to explore. It leads to a shelter and picnic area with candlebark gum trees standing proudly nearby. Some 40 metres in height, these mighty trees grow in high rainfall areas within the Adelaide Hills. The shelter, which was recently refurbished, has a brand new picnic table perfect for that family outing. From the car park, head west and you'll soon come to the point where the trail begins.
Those who prefer a greater challenge can have a go at hiking either Skink Loop Trail, Bandicoot Loop Trail or Heath Loop Trail. Although gentle, the three-kilometre Skink Loop Trail does have some steep and uneven sections. However, this is the best trail for birdwatching and its stringybark gum trees are pretty grand too.
Heath Loop Trail
The 4.5-kilometre Bandicoot Loop Trail meanders through the majority of the park. It includes a section of unsealed road which is accessible by vehicles, so you'll need to take extra care along that stretch. Southern brown bandicoots can sometimes be spotted. They are endangered, but fortunately, the park plays an important role in providing habitat for these short-nosed marsupials.
If you're after a spectacular scenery, follow the two-kilometre Heath Loop Trail and you won't be disappointed. Unlike the other three, this trail begins near the entrance of the park. Just look out for its purple-coloured trailhead.
The park can be accessed via Scott Creek Road once you're in Heathfield. Its newly upgraded car park caters for a dozen or so vehicles and entry is free, however, there are no toilets, so do take that into account when planning your visit. I thoroughly enjoyed my afternoon in the park and would drop by again in the near future.