Free national park entry … would it be a good thing?

Published: November 28, 2016
Banff national park

The cost of entry to Australia’s national parks is one that many grey nomads consider to be unreasonably high and some claim it stops some from enjoying the wilderness locations as much as they would like.

Complaints about these fees are typically batted away by the various authorities which cite the cost of maintenance, management and infrastructure improvements. It seems unlikely then that the bodies responsible for Australia’s national parks will take a leaf out of Canada’s book … and make national park camping completely free.

To celebrate, its 150th anniversary since Confederation, Canada is to offer free entry to its national parks for all visitors in 2017.

Parks Canada says it is increasing its inventory of campsites and promoting ‘lesser-known and less-visited’ parks.

However, not everyone is happy about the generous offer. In the same way as many of Australia’s most iconic national parks are already incredibly popular in peak periods, so too are those such as Banff in Canada.

The fear is that the free entry offer may be ‘too successful’ in some areas and put strain on facilities, such as parking and roads.

While acknowledging the budgeted $83.3-million over five years to help Parks Canada accommodate the free admissions, one Liberal MP – John Aldag – says trouble is brewing.

“I know on a summer’s day in Lake Louise there’s no parking already and I’m just wondering, with the money that’s coming, if there will be any opportunities to mitigate, perhaps, increased visitation?” he asked.

Environment Minister Catherine McKenna said the challenge was to maintain the ecological integrity of the parks at the same time as getting more people out to enjoy them.

However, she downplayed the problems.

“I could not think of a better way to celebrate the beauty of Canada than through free access,” she said.

Parks Canada opened reservations as of January this year, rather than April, and bookings are up 20% so far over the same date in 2015.

Experts say the free access next year should give a huge boost to the profile of the national parks, which is good, as long as Parks Canada is prepared for the influx.

·         Do you think national park entry fees in Australia should be reduced? Are our parks already busier than you would like them to be? Comment below.

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Kristine Barker
5 years ago

If the money we pay at National Parks goes toward their upkeep and improvements then I think it is appropriate to charge entry fees as well as fees for overnight camping. The entry fee at Uluru has been put to great use. The visitor centre, walks and viewing platforms along with Ranger activities were all fantastic when we were there this August.

5 years ago

We found the fees at Ayres Rock to be outrageous especially for older people of limited abilities. A day pass (not 3 as justification) of perhaps $10 would be more appropriate. All taxpayers have contributed already.

Faye Paull
5 years ago

As pensioners we will not pay to go into a national park. I think it now costs $90 just to enter Kakadu. It was $9 just to drive to a beach and back out again in about 10 minutes in WA.

5 years ago

Well Wilson’s Promontory National Park is free to visit between sunup and sundown with all its facilities free during the day including showers etc. Now if you want to stay overnight in your motorhome or caravan then there is a very hefty charge applied. Not just in peak periods but off peak as well so this little wood duck avoids it like the plague and there are other options.

5 years ago

CAMPING: Peak Rates apply Friday & Saturday nights from Melbourne Cup weekend to 28 February, Summer & Easter school holiday, all long weekends except the Queen’s Birthday. Shoulder Rates apply week days from 1 Nov – 30 April, weekends from 1 March – 30 April (except for Easter school holidays) and September school holidays. Off Peak 1 May –
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5 years ago
Reply to  Deplorable

I got a national park pass a few years ago in NSW. I got a few discount admissions and some free at certain parks and full wack at others. No good in any other states. What do they mean by “national”?
Canada and the US have national parks. One pass works everywhere with very few exceptions. I’m a full time rv’r living in the US. When I turned 50 for $10 I got a card for free entry to every national park in the country. That includes everyone in my vehicle. Still had to pay for a site but was very reasonable but could be hard to get in at peak periods. Usually plenty of commercial RV parks outside for $30 to 40+.
When I go to Aus I get an old clunker, borrow my brothers swag and a tarp and go paddock bashing around the outback. Have a blast for a few months and head back to the States and do the same thing in comfort for a fraction of the cost.

5 years ago
Reply to  Deplorable

Just reading the complex waffle here turns me off even bothering to go near there. My mind hurts just looking at all the numbers & dates!

5 years ago

Hi all;
Maybe not reduce but ONE fee covers all parks ( how about Aus wide ) . Traveled up to central Australia several years ago and took in all of the sights, but @ $25.00 per person and i think only good for 3 days, so $ 50.00 just to visit. Let alone the cost of staying @ and to have toilets not working and in need of repair and in need of a good clean , same with the camp grounds. Paper and the usual rubbish around the place put’s a poor image on the place.
Had the same happen @ kakadu , cost was also a $25 sting per person and again places were they love to take your money and don’t get a lot in return. Like i don’t mind paying the money, but when the place looks like it’s gone to the dogs, one starts to wonder why.

But i would like to see one fee that lasts for 6/12 months and all good for any national park in Australia.

Yes i know ……not going to happen, one can help not to dream.


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