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Onkaparinga Gorge Hike

Home > Adelaide > Adventure | Escape the City | National Parks | Outdoor | Parks
by Jack Oram (subscribe)
18-year-old freelance videographer, photographer and writer living in the south of Adelaide. View my portfolio and blog at
Published June 25th 2018
Explore one of Adelaide's hidden gems today
When you turn into the carpark of the Onkaparinga River National Park, you could be mistaken for thinking that you've entered an alternate universe. While just 25 kilometres from the city-centre of Adelaide, the only hustle and bustle to be heard here is the birds in the trees and the kangaroos in the bushes.

Nature Kangaroo Onkaparinga Australia Trees
A friendly Kangaroo and joey curiously peek around bushes

I arrived on a steamy 35 degree day, far from an appropriate temperature to do so, but I was motivated nonetheless. Armed with a camera, a small selection of lenses, a tripod and two water bottles, I set off on a nine-kilometre, four-hour hike that would fatefully take me over six to complete.

Setting off into the unknown, it quickly became apparent that while the visual beauty of the Onkaparinga River National Park is undoubted, the absolute serenity and seclusion of the location plays a major role. Nothing but wind-swaying leaves, bird-chirps and the occasional flick of my shutter reached my ears, which was a much-welcomed change from the reality that is cars, car horns and more cars. If you're quiet, walking peacefully along the trail, with a bit of luck you might encounter a kangaroo, or one of the various species of lizard that enjoy sunbaking on the rocks of the track.

Nature Onkaparinga Australia Trees Explore Adventure Escape Path Hike Trail
One of the trails within the park. Immersion in nature is no difficult task in here.

Roughly a kilometre into the hike, the dirt and rock path unfolds into the Sundews Lookout, and inspiring views of the Sundews Ridge are beheld as a much-desired updraft is felt travelling up the ridge. I spent about ten minutes here, snapping photos and re-hydrating, before continuing down the trail towards the Onkaparinga Gorge.

Nature Kangaroo Onkaparinga Australia Trees Gorge
Once you hike down into the park, the gorge itself is an absolute treat, especially on a hot day.

The grass-invaded dirt path that plunges into the park twists and turns, crests and dips, and snakes side to side for roughly two more kilometres, until eventually, I arrived at my destination; the stunningly serene Onkaparinga Gorge. The tranquillity of this spot cannot be overstated, as sheer rock faces plunge into the glassy gorge water, water reeds and grasses line the shore, and the entire area is shaded by massive gumtrees. As far as lunch spots go, this one is hard to beat. Another half hour effortlessly glided by as I shot the location from as many angles and locations as accessibility would permit, until I decided it was too hot and I was too hungry to stay any longer.

Nature Kangaroo Onkaparinga Australia Trees
This view can be seen just a kilometre into the gorge hike.

The roughly four-kilometre trek back to the carpark is a deceiving scramble of boulders, grasses, trees and bushes. However, while not obviously marked, I decided to follow the general direction indicated by the old, dried-out riverbed. I eventually reached a wooden sign directing me around the gorge (roughly one more kilometre), and then another sign directing me up a perilously steep four-by-four track to the carpark.

As a result of the lack of obvious markings, the trek home permitted a strong feeling of connection with the atmosphere of the park, as if no human had ventured where I was currently standing. It had me scrambling up and over boulders, weaving in and out of tall, yellow grass patches and ducking under low-lying bush and tree branches with no distinct pattern or direction. After the at least 30-degree-angle climb up the four-by-four track, the trail flattened out, and I was presented with yet another sign, either indicating left along the Punchbowl Lookout Trail, or straight up a four-by-four track to the carpark. I can't recommend the Punchbowl Lookout Trail enough. As it weaves around the ridgetop, again providing the goods with some awe-inspiring views of the gorge and a sensational gentle breeze, I couldn't help but feel a massive appreciation for the gorge and its inhabitants.

Driving from the park was a bittersweet process, as I would've loved to stay for another few hours, but was prevented by my lack of preparation and the temperature of the hot day.
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Why? Views, solitude and silence
Where: Onkaparinga Gorge
Your Comment
I is a magnificent place,,but you need to be really fit and must take lots of care.I always carried a sturdy walking stick with me, which I found to be of great help.
by noelp (score: 3|1199) 505 days ago
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