Park visitor survey

Our 2018 survey of domestic visitors to national parks showed visits increased by over 16% from 2016 to 2018 and again, the Blue Mountains National Park was the most visited park.

We conduct a population-wide visitor survey every 2 years to gather information from Australian residents about their use of our parks. Information is collected on how many parks survey participants visit, what parks they visit, activities and experiences they undertake, levels of satisfaction, etc. The survey helps us with park management and planning for visitor facilities.

Survey results

Domestic visits

In 2018 there was an estimated 60.23 million visits to parks. This was made up of 45.33 million adult and 14.9 million child visits. This is an increase of 16.6% on 2016 results.

Park visitation by year

Adult visitation

Child visitation

Total visitation

2008

31,128,875

6,798,741

37,927,616

2010

27,262,279

6,581,347

33,843,626

2012

28,745,337

6,750,287

35,495,624

2014

31,674,661

7,761,387

39,436,048

2016

40,103,897

11,558,047

51,661,944

2018

45,333,817

14,902,193

60,236,009

Our most visited parks

In 2018, Blue Mountains National Park retained its top position as the most visited park with 8.4 million visits. This was followed by:

  • Royal National Park – 6 million visits
  • Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park – 3.9 million
  • Kosciuszko National Park – 3.3 million
  • Sydney Harbour National Park – 2.4 million.

Other results

Results for some of the other survey questions are presented here. 

Intrastate visitation comprised 87% of all visits, whereas interstate visitation comprised 13% of visits in 2018. This is a proportional increase from 2014, 2012 and 2010.

Visitors from Melbourne, at 4%, were our most significant interstate market.

Final adjusted annual park visitation estimate 2018
Final adjusted annual park visitation estimate 2018 Adult visits Child visits Total visits
Number % Number % Number %
Sydney 24,826,398 54.76% 8,496,187 57.01% 33,322,585 55.32%
Remainder NSW 14,937,565 32.95% 4,280,507 28.72% 19,218,072 31.90%
ACT 686,397 1.51% 259,833 1.74% 946,230 1.57%
Melbourne 1,920,081 4.24% 682,206 4.58% 2,602,287 4.32%
Remainder Vic 575,303 1.27% 219,814 1.48% 795,117 1.32%
Brisbane 1,099,846 2.43% 605,504 4.06% 1,705,350 2.83%
Remainder South East Qld 753,086 1.66% 164,702 1.11% 917,788 1.52%
Remainder Qld 64,888 0.14% 23,455 0.16% 88,343 0.15%
SA 120,192 0.27% 43,446 0.29% 163,638 0.27%
WA 219,565 0.48% 79,368 0.53% 298,933 0.50%
Tas 105,414 0.23% 38,105 0.26% 143,519 0.24%
NT 25,081 0.06% 9,066 0.06% 34,148 0.06%
Total Australia 2018 45,333,817 100.00% 14,902,193 100.00% 60,236,009 100.00%

Over 40% of visits to our parks are part of a regular routine, 32% are day-trip-based and 19% are part of an overnight or multi-day trip.

Graph showing the types of trip national parks visitors are taking

Just over 45% of NSW national park visitors indicated that the only reason for their trip was to visit the park. Another 25% of visitors indicated that the park was the main reason for their trip.

Graph showing the role of national parks visitation in trip generation

The proportion of visits made by 18–24 year olds in 2010, 2014, 2016 and 2018 were significantly higher than in 2008. The proportion of visits from 18–34 year olds in 2010 and 2018 was significantly higher than in 2008, 2013 and 2016. This indicated that the age profile was younger for visitors in 2010 and 2018. The same upward trend was apparent for 25–39 year olds, and there was a slight decrease in visits by 50 year olds.

Graph showing the age of national parks visitors

NPWS = NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service

Walking was consistently the most common activity undertaken in parks at 64%. This had increased slightly from 63% in 2016.

Other activities undertaken by park visitors included:

  • water-based recreation at 21%, which has was up from 2016
  • touring and sight-seeing at 14%
  • picnicking/dining at 14%.

These were followed by a range of other activities including enjoyment and appreciation of nature, which had increased to 6% compared to previous surveys, cycling, nature play, and camping and accommodation.

Graph showing on-park visitor activities

Visitor satisfaction with their park experiences in 2018 was the same as that attained in 2016, with 94% of visitors satisfied to very satisfied. In 2018, 65% of visitors were very satisfied, a 5% higher rating than achieved in 2016.

Graph showing overall visitor satisfaction with park visit

NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) used a random representative population-based telephone (landlines and mobile phones) survey to collect this data. More than 1,200 people were interviewed in 13 four-week waves in 2018, giving a total of 15,645 interviews. Respondents from NSW, Victoria, Queensland and the ACT were surveyed about NSW parks they had visited within the last 4 weeks. Visits from the rest of Australia were estimated.

For more information read Annual Visits to NSW NPWS Managed Parks in New South Wales (PDF 2.7MB).

This survey was repeated in 2020 to track changes to our domestic visitation.

The study was based on a survey method developed by Parks Victoria. The Department of Planning and Environment wishes to acknowledge the generosity of Parks Victoria in sharing their experiences and the method.