Exploring Deep Creek National Park

One of the first national parks I visited in South Australia, Deep Creek National Park is a truly wild, coastal part of the Fleurieu Peninsula. The incredible region is characterised by steep cliffs, rolling hills, secluded white sand beaches, walking trails offering panoramic views, and an abundance of native wildlife.

At just 1.5 hours drive from Adelaide, Deep Creek National Park is a great place to head for a weekend. With plenty of camping and nearby accommodation options, you can easily explore the secluded beaches and walking trails on a short trip.

I’ve visited Deep Creek National Park twice now, and have stayed at a couple of the campgrounds and ticked off most of the walks. It’s one of my favourite places to go when heading across to South Australia, so here’s my essential guide to exploring the national park.

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How to get there

Deep Creek National Park is located towards the southern end of the Fleurieu Peninsula. The national park is just 105km south of Adelaide, or 1.5 hours drive, making it perfect for a weekend escape.

The roads inside the national park are all unsealed, but in good condition for 2WD vehicles (except the final descent to Blowhole Beach which is 4×4 only).

It’s undoubtedly one of the best things to do on the Fleurieu Peninsula, along with some epic surf beaches and bustling coastal towns.

Deep Creek National Park pin

When to visit Deep Creek National Park

The most popular time to visit Deep Creek National Park is in summer. The warmer weather makes it perfect for swimming in the beaches. However, this is also when it’s at its busiest and you may find it hard to book a campsite or find a quiet spot on the sand on a weekend in summer.

I would recommend visiting in either spring or autumn. This offers the most ideal weather for walking, fishing, camping and surfing combined. It also means you won’t have to deal with the crowds. Mid-week is often so quiet outside of summer you’ll have beaches all to yourself.

Kangaroos in Deep Creek

Deep Creek National Park fees

As with other parks in South Australia, Deep Creek requires a national parks pass or day entry pass. 

The vehicle entry pass can be paid just for the day, which is $12 per vehicle per day, on top of your camping fees. You can pay online here.

I would recommend getting a Parks Pass for South Australia if you plan on visiting other parks too. These passes are multiple entry and cover most national parks for an extended period of time. It gives you more flexibility and can save you money, instead of having to pay for day entry all the time.

You can get a 2-month Parks Pass for $48 or a 12-month Parks Pass for $108 per vehicle. You can buy these online here.

Deep Creek National Park camping
Camping at Tapanappa Campground

Deep Creek National Park camping

There are some great campgrounds in the national park to stay for a weekend. The bush camping is basic with just a drop toilet, but it offers a great chance to switch off and enjoy the wildlife around you. There’s always some friendly kangaroos around the campsites! But remember to leave no trace, read some of my responsible camping tips here.

Here’s a look at the Deep Creek National Park campgrounds.

Stringybark Campground: The main campground located towards the upper boundary of the park. It’s suitable for all different setups, including caravans, camper trailers and tents. It has toilets and hot showers, so it’s more expensive. But, in my opinion, it’s the least ideal spot as it’s further away from the walks and beaches. No phone reception.

Trig Campground: In the middle of the national park, it has 25 sites for caravans, camper trailers or tents. There are long drop toilets. It’s a great spot for completing some of the walks, especially the Deep Creek Circuit Hike. Some phone reception for both Optus and Telstra.

Tapanappa Campground: Towards the eastern side of the national park, Tapanappa is ideal for mostly tent camping, but it does have some nice spots for small or medium sized campervans and camper trailers. It has 17 sites all up and a long drop toilet. It’s nearby to some beautiful views of the coastline. Not much phone reception, except a little out at the lookout.

Cobbler Hill Campground: On the western side of the park, Cobbler Hill only has six sites suitable for a range of camping set ups. It’s the closest camping to Blowhole Beach and a couple of nice walks. Some phone reception for both Optus and Telstra.

Eagle Waterhole (hike-in only): Located on the 1200km-long Heysen Trail, this campground is hike-in only for a maximum of 16 hikers per night.

The campgrounds must be booked and paid for in advance. It costs $17 per site, except Stringybark which is $29 per site. You can book any of these campgrounds through SA Parks here.

If you prefer to stay in more private accommodation options, you can check out my post on the most unique places to stay on the Fleurieu Peninsula.

Deep Creek National Park map

Deep Creek National Park map
Source: SA Parks and Wildlife Service

Best beaches and walks in Deep Creek National Park

There are some great things to see and do in Deep Creek, from walking trails to fishing off the rocks on the beaches. Here are the best beaches and walks to do while exploring the national park:

Blowhole Beach

One of the most beautiful beaches on the Fleurieu Peninsula, Blowhole Beach is located in the far western corner of Deep Creek National Park. The small, sandy beach is just 200m long, and is flanked by steep cliffs and rocky headlands.

It looks very inviting for swimming, although you need to be aware of strong currents and rips if you head out deeper. Fishing is also popular off the rocks on the edges, with salmon, whiting and flathead out in the Southern Ocean.

To reach the beach, you have a couple of options depending on whether you have a 4WD or 2WD. If you have a conventional vehicle, you can park at the Cobbler Hill Picnic Area and then you must walk down the hill to get to the beach. The walking trail is 1.5km long one way and is steep in places. This is also part of the longer Marrano Creek Hike Circuit detailed below, for any keen hikers.

If you’re lucky enough to have a 4×4, then you can drive down the 4WD track to the beach carpark. From there, you only need to walk a couple hundred metres down to the sand.

Blowhole Beach
Blowhole Beach

Blowhole Beach Hike – Marrano Creek Hike Loop

Distance: 7km | Time: 2.5 hours | Difficulty: Hard

A nice longer hike that takes in Blowhole Beach and some spectacular views in a circuit walk. I started from Cobbler Hill Picnic Area, but you can also start from Cobbler Hill Campground, if you’re staying there for the night.

I walked down the steep trail to Blowhole Beach first, to enjoy the white sand beach completely to myself. The trail then links up with the Heysen Trail and swings around to the left. It follows the coast with incredible views over the sea to Kangaroo Island.

It crosses over a little cove and then starts a steep ascent up the side of the coastal cliffs as it heads away from the sea. It’s a pretty steady climb until you reach the Cobbler Hill Campground. Then, you can follow the dirt road back to the picnic area, if that’s where you left your car.

Hiking in Deep Creek Conservation Park
Deep Creek Waterfall

Deep Creek Waterfall

Located between Trig Campground and Tapanappa Lookout, this waterfall is a beautiful spot to head for an afternoon. While it’s best included as part of the 12km Deep Creek Circuit Hike detailed below, you can make it a shorter out and back walk from either Trig Campground or Tapanappa, if you prefer.

The waterfall flows all year round, and was flowing pretty well when I was there in autumn. The waterfall is just 2.5km from Trig Campground or 3.5km from Tapanappa Lookout. You could also walk there and back from Tapanappa Campground, which would be 10km return.

Read next: The Ultimate Day Hike Packing List

Hiking in Deep Creek
Hiking the Deep Creek Circuit

Deep Creek Circuit Hike

Distance: 12km | Time: 4 hours | Difficulty: Hard

The ultimate Deep Creek hike in my opinion, this circuit walk is a worthwhile day spent out on the trail. The hike takes in some of the best views and features of the national park, including Deep Creek Waterfall, Deep Creek Cove and Tapanappa Lookout.

It’s best started from Trig Campground and Picnic Area, so it’s very convenient if you can camp the night there as well. The loop is often recommended to be completed in a clockwise direction, which is exactly how I did it. It has lots of steep climbs and descents, so it’s best for fit hikers.

From Trig Campground, the trail heads across the hill with glimpses of the ocean in the distance. It then descends down to where you can enjoy the Deep Creek Waterfall for a bit, which flows nicely all year round. The trail then climbs up to Tapanappa Lookout, which is a nice spot for a break with a picnic table.

Deep Creek National Park
The steep walk down to Deep Creek Cove

It then follows a very steep descent down to the shoreline. You have to clamber over a small cove, walk steeply up and over the other side and finally look down onto Deep Creek Cove. This final descent into Deep Creek Cove is extremely steep, so be careful as you pick your way down to the sand (see image above!).

I sat and enjoyed a break at the cove. They do warn against crossing this after severe rain fall, because this cove can be flooded, especially at high tide. However, there was very little water when I was there and I just stepped over the small stream to meet the trail heading back up the other side.

On the climb back up to Trig Campground, you’ll have beautiful views through the valley and back towards the water. The last 1.5km is pretty flat to get back to the car park and camping area.

Fleurieu Peninsula coastline

Aaron Creek Hike

Distance: 11km | Time: 4 hours | Difficulty: Hard

Definitely one of the least used trails in the park, but a beautiful opportunity to enjoy some incredible views without a single person around. There’s the option to either do the easier Aaron Creek Circuit Hike or the longer and more challenging Aaron Creek Hike.

The circuit hike is just 5.5km, whereas the Aaron Creek Hike continues straight down to the coast at Aaron Creek Cove and is an out and back trail for a total of 11km. Either way, they both start from Goondooloo Ridge Picnic Area and Cottage.

The 11km out and back trail down to the cove is the more challenging of the two, as it includes a steep descent towards the sea. To actually get down to the cove, it requires a bit of a rock scramble off-track, but it’s definitely doable if you have the time and sturdy footwear.

The trail then returns the same way, with a steep ascent for much of it. You can take the circuit trail on the way back for something slightly different as well.

Heysen Trail

Heysen Trail

Total distance: 1200km | Wild South Coast Way Section: 80km

The Heysen Trail is the longest designated walking trail in Australia. It runs for 1200km from Cape Jervis all the way up to Parachilna in the Flinders Ranges in South Australia. The trail crosses right through Deep Creek National Park, and you can cover a little bit of it on day hikes, such as part of the Deep Creek Circuit.

However, SA Parks is now marketing the first 80km section of the Heysen Trail as the Wild South Coast Way. This upgraded part of the trail is offered as a four night, five day multi-day hike with world-class campgrounds and shelters, which is great for those looking to do just a small section of the Heysen. Read my guide on hiking the Wild South Coast Way.

You’ll need to be self-sufficient for the five day section and fit enough to tackle some undulating terrain. But, the views and sense of seclusion is unmatched. If you’re interested in long distance hiking, read my guide to thru-hiking the Heysen Trail.

Read next: 10 Tips for Your First Overnight Hike

Camping and hiking essentials

  • Head torch: As soon as the sun sets, you’ll be needing a good quality headlamp to help you find your way around the campground. This Black Diamond one is USB rechargeable too.
  • Camp chair: Kick back and relax at the end of the day with a comfortable and lightweight camping chair. This Helinox camp chair is a high quality option that packs away easily.
  • Gas cooker: Cooking up quality meals while camping makes the experience so much more enjoyable. I recommend a JetBoil stove which is super portable and boils water rapidly for easy cooking.
  • Portable solar panel: If you’re camping at an unpowered site, a small portable panel can come in handy when trying to charge your phone off the grid. This BioLite Panel is easily packable and powerful enough to charge your devices.
  • Sleeping bag: A good sleeping bag is essential to keep you warm, dry and comfortable while camping out. Sea to Summit make some incredible down options, with the Spark III being a staple for many different adventures.
  • Day pack: For exploring beyond camp and heading off on day hikes, a good sized day pack will help you carry all your hiking essentials. Osprey Tempest is the classic day pack I take on all my adventures.
  • Water bottle: To save plastic bottles ending up in landfill, I always carry a LifeStraw Water Bottle with me so you can refill it from anywhere and be confident that the water will be safe.
  • Quick drying towel: From beach swims to freshwater swimming holes, carrying a quick drying towel is a handy addition to any camping trip. Sea to Summit make great lightweight and quick drying towels of all sizes.
  • Deep Creek Cove
    Deep Creek Cove

    Exploring more of South Australia?

    If you’re travelling around South Australia, there’s plenty more rugged national parks and beautiful beaches to explore. Check out some of my other guides:

    Want some more coastal regions?

    Heading up to the Flinders Ranges?

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    Guide to Deep Creek National Park pin

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