Each state and territory has its own protected area management authority; departmental names vary from state to state, but Australians tend to generically dub them the National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS). The thousand-odd national parks range from suburban commons to the Great Barrier Reef, and from popular hiking areas within striking distance of the cities to wilderness regions that require days in a 4WD simply to reach. They protect everything within their boundaries: flora, fauna and landforms as well as Aboriginal art and sacred sites, although not always to the exclusion of mineral exploitation in WA or the Northern Territory.
Entry and camping fees are variable. Some parks or states have no fees at all, some charge entry fees but often don’t police the system, some charge for use of camping facilities, while others require permits – free or for a small fee – obtained in advance. Each state offers a pass – which makes it cheaper if you want to visit many national parks and for longer periods – but no national pass is available. If you’re camping you can usually pay on site, but booking ahead might be a good idea during the Christmas, Easter and school holidays.
Some parks have cabin accommodation, either self-catering or bunk-style with a camp kitchen, but nearby resorts or alternative accommodation are always independently run. For details on the names and vagaries of each state or territory’s system, consult the websites listed here.
Australian Dept of Wildlife environment.gov.au
New South Wales & ACT environment.nsw.gov.au/nationalparks
Northern Territory nt.gov.au/ipe/pwcnt
South Australia environment.sa.gov.au/parks
Western Australia dpaw.wa.gov.au