Tuesday, January 31, 2012

National Parks

My friend Jenny’s mom once told me that she’d like to visit all of the national parks in the United States.  A big task that would be as the United States has 58 national parks scattered far from Maine to Hawaii, Alaska to Florida, and even American Samoa and the US Virgin Islands.  That’s a lot of driving and flying – or swimming or walking for the insane.

If you’re up for a slightly bigger challenge, you can try visiting all of Australia’s national parks.  And by “slightly bigger challenge”, I really mean “hahahaha you’ll never do it!”

Australia has a whopping 582 national parks.  582!  That covers roughly 4% of Australia’s area.  When you add on the other roughly 1,750 protected areas in Australia, it turns out to be around 10% of the continent.  Not bad.

Now, to be fair, the US has massive state park systems – over 6,600 strong – along with a handful of national forests and such.  That more than makes up for the lower number of national parks.  But still.  582 is damn whopping.

Living in the US for 27 years of my life, I ended up visiting… five national parks.  Just five.  That’s sad.  Looking back, my first was Shenandoah NP in Virginia on a road trip with my friend Jenny summer after freshman year of college.  I was 19.  The next two were Mt Rainier NP and Olympic NP – both done while I was living in Seattle.  And the last two – Grand Canyon NP and Petrified Forest NP – were done on my cross-country drive from Seattle back to Florida.  I crammed in those two right before I moved to Australia.  I’ve been to 30-something states, but apparently I’ve been slacking on the national parks.

I’ve made up for it a bit in Australia.  In Western Australia, I hit up Torndirrup NP, William Bay NP, and Gloucester NP with Cade and Karen.  I popped into Naracoorte Caves NP in South Australia along with Port Campbell NP and Great Otway NP in Victoria while on my big Adelaide to Melbourne road trip with Liz last year.  Kei and I saw Watarrka NP and Uluru-Kata Tjuta NP when we went to the Northern Territory last July.  And I’ve made the rounds in the Sydney vicinity:  Blue Mountains NP, Royal NP, Seven Mile Beach NP, Kamay Botany Bay NP, Ku-ring-gai Chase NP, and Sydney Harbour NP.

While on our South Coast road trip earlier this month, Oscar and I checked another one off my list:  Booderee National Park.

Booderee NP takes up nearly all 26 square miles of the Jervis Bay Territory (pronounced Jarvis Bay by Australians in the same way that derby is pronounced darby and clerkship is pronounced clarkship… wtf?).  The Jervis Bay Territory is a small piece of land at the bottom of Jervis Bay on NSW’s South Coast, but it is not part of New South Wales.  It was ceded by NSW to the Commonwealth (federal) government back in 1915 so that Canberra (Australia’s inland capital) would have access to the sea.  Jervis Bay was sort of a part of the Australian Capital Territory (ACT) until 1989 when the ACT achieved home rule.  Jervis Bay was then transferred back to the Commonwealth government.  Today, in addition to the national park, the area consists of a military base and a small Aboriginal village.

Ok, enough of the history lesson.  Booderee NP was stunning.  Our first stop was Green Patch beach:

Look at that sand!  It is said to be the whitest sand in Australia.

The water in Jervis Bay was incredibly clear.  No major seaweed issues, no big waves, no pesky birds, and no fish swimming around my feet.  The water was frigid, but everything else lined up so I went in for a long dip anyway.  It took me a while to thaw out.

On the other side of the park, the view out to Wreck Bay was fantastic.  The water was slightly warmer (but still frigid) and the waves were bigger.

The middle of the park featured botanical gardens and a short hike around Lake McKenzie.

We were told by the visitor centre to check out the lighthouse at the far east end of the park, looking over the Tasman Sea.

The lighthouse was actually lighthouse ruins.  The sign said they built the lighthouse in the wrong place and it actually caused a bunch of shipwrecks.


Finally, back to the Jervis Bay side of the park to take a late afternoon nap at Murrays Beach.  While the lighthouse lacked in excitement, watching the park ranger who got his truck stuck in the sand as the tide came in totally made up for it.  Evil, I know.  But so entertaining.

So, if you kept count, Booderee brings my grand total to 15 national parks visited in Australia.  Only 567 more to go!


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