Belair National Park
Set aside in 1891, Belair National Park is one of the oldest national parks in the world and the ﬁrst in South Australia. Treasured for its historic value and referred to simply as ‘the national park’ for much of its life, Belair has long been a favourite recreation area for residents of Adelaide.
From Adelaide via Belair Rd then Upper Sturt Rd; walking distance from Belair train station; Metro bus 195; park is day-use only
Spring and autumn
13 km south-east of Adelaide
- Parks SA Belair (08) 8278 5477
- Park bookings (08) 8278 8279
Park entry fee. Tennis courts and barbecue facilities can be booked. Dogs on lead only.
Adelaide 1300 764 227
Featured Activities in the National Park
Walk to Upper Waterfall
Visit Amphitheatre Rock amid giant century-old sequoia trees
Let the kids loose in the adventure playground
Wander through Old Government House and check out the State Flora Nursery
A look at the past
Following the establishment of Adelaide in 1836, Belair became the site of a government farm in 1840 and the ﬁrst governor’s summer residence was built here in 1859. In 1881 a proposal to subdivide the land for agriculture was vehemently opposed and after a decade of public lobbying the park was proclaimed in 1891 for public recreation. By 1929, it had sports grounds, arbours and pavilions set among plantings of poplars, willows, oaks and sequoias. After years as a recreational area, often suffering detrimentally from over-visitation, the park was formally made a national park in 1991.
Before the arrival of Europeans, the Kaurna people lived on the narrow coastal plain around Adelaide and are the traditional owners of Belair. They probably shared their hunting grounds with the Peramangk people of the ranges. When Europeans arrived in 1836 only 300 Kaurna had survived the smallpox plagues that swept down the Murray River in the early 1800s. These remaining people were further decimated by disease and dispossession, but from 1868 small groups moved to Point Pearce on the Yorke Peninsula. Today the Kaurna descendants maintain their culture and language.
Belair nestles in the foothills of the Mount Lofty Ranges. Half of the park is gently sloping parkland with ovals, lakes, tennis courts, playgrounds and a golf course. Further into the park the landscape changes to steep-sided gullies, ridges, waterfalls and eucalypt forests, a refuge for the native vegetation that once clad the entire Adelaide Hills. In the south-eastern corner a dramatic rock overhang, Amphitheatre Rock, can be reached by a short walking trail. It is surrounded by introduced redwood trees that were planted in the early 1900s.
Eucalypt forest and woodlands dominate the eastern and western sections of the park. In the east, where the forest is more open, species include South Australian blue gum, manna gum and pink gum, and messmate stringybark in the more rugged terrain. In the west, there is the best remaining stand of grey box (Eucalyptus microcarpa, once proliﬁc in the Adelaide Hills), and South Australian blue gum, while river red gum thrives along the banks of streams. The understorey comprises native grasses and sedges although these have been overtaken in many places by introduced plant species.
One of the most special creatures of Belair is the endangered southern brown bandicoot (Isoodon obesulus). It builds its nest above ground, generally in densely vegetated areas where the foliage and debris provide perfect shelter and concealment. This nocturnal marsupial hides out during the day but in the evening, if you are fortunate, you may see one of them snifﬁng and rooting around among the leaf litter for worms, insects and grubs.
Including the southern brown bandicoot, there are 15 mammal species native to Belair National Park. Western grey kangaroos, distinguishable from eastern greys by their brown colour, are a common sight. These are the kangaroos that Matthew Flinders and his men feasted on after landing on Kangaroo Island, which prompted Flinders to give the island its name. Western grey kangaroos are able to survive on a diet of coarse grasses and some particular shrubs.
Other native mammals are short-beaked echidnas, ringtail and brushtail possums, yellow-footed antechinuses and six species of bat. The nocturnal bush rat (Rattus fuscipes) is another creature that is widespread although you will be lucky to catch sight of this reclusive animal. Constructing a burrow in densely vegetated areas, it feeds mainly on insects, supplementing with seeds and fruits and, in winter, fungi that emerges from the forest ﬂoor after rain. Koalas and red kangaroos have been introduced.
Reptiles include ﬁve species of snake, but only the eastern brown is common. In grassland areas watch out for shingleback lizards, with their distinctive stumpy tails and pine-cone-like skin, or eastern bearded dragons feeding on insects among fallen logs. The common bluetongue shies away from human contact, sheltering in burrows, rock crevices and leaf debris, and is difﬁcult to spot. Six species of frogs can be heard. All congregate around the creeks and pools.
Birdwatchers can look out for 137 native bird species, with rainbow and musk lorikeets, red-rumped parrots, galahs, laughing kookaburras, scarlet robins and superb fairy-wrens. Around the lakes are grebes, cormorants, white-faced herons and ducks.
The park is open every day from 8am to sunset, except on days of total ﬁre ban. The excellent park facilities include an adventure playground to keep the little ones amused. Ovals, tennis courts, shelters and heritage pavilions can be hired up to 12 months in advance (see Fact File for booking details).
Walking trails vary from the Wood Duck Walk (1 km, 15 minutes, easy), a leisurely stroll around Playford Lake suitable for people with limited mobility, to a strenuous hike into the rugged north-east corner along Waterfall Trail (6.5 km, 3 hours, difﬁcult). Melville Hill Track is a short (1 km) walk through stringybark forest with the possibility of seeing a southern brown bandicoot.
Cyclists must keep to the sealed roads (40-kph speed limit). The Valley Road winds through the southern section of the park and side roads branch off to other sites and attractions.
Old Government House and gardens is open on 1pm–4pm on Sundays and public holidays. This was the summer residence for South Australian governors between 1860 and 1868. Nearby along Minno Creek is a pile of ruins, all that remains of the dwelling built by the ﬁrst European settler in the area, Nicholas Foot, in 1839.
Horse riding is possible on designated roads or on the Tom Roberts Horse Trail.