10 Best Treks in Australia


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10 Best Treks in Australia

So, what are the 10 best treks in Australia?

In this vast country we’ve had a stab at showing you ten that range from the obscenely huge to four that are manageable in a two week break from your desk in the UK.

Being a country where two thousand miles can be covered without much of a thought, some of its walks are a thousand miles plus.

Early on in this piece we look at the opportunity to cover as much as 5,000 miles in one trek!

That alone should show you that in a country of this size you’re likely to find everything from high mountains to seemingly endless beaches.

There’s a huge variety of plants and animals too, and not a few that could kill you if you’re not too careful.

Let’s now take a blast through the 10 best walks in Australia, starting with a few that even Australians think are pretty big.

Obscene distance trails

Australia is a very big country!

When they talk long distances they really mean it.

In theory you could spend more than a year trekking the first three routes consecutively, covering more than 5,000 miles – yes, miles!

The reality is a little different.

Recent bushfires that have razed much of the countryside to the ground have made it impossible for you to sign off for 18 months to do all of the first three.

It is possible to take a few months out to take on certain sections, and yes we are saying a few months here and there!

Let’s start with the first obscene distance trail – the 3,311 mile Bicentennial Trail

Bicentennial Trail

  • Distance: 3,311 miles
  • Time: 276 days
  • Start: Cookstown, Queensland
  • End: Healsville, Victoria
  • Best for: Exploring the east coast of Australia

If you were to fly in a jet aircraft on this route you’d be airborne for eight hours, and have travelled a similar distance to that from the UK to the USA.

Celebrating two centuries of white settlement on the continent, it is designed to be walked in sections that involve coach and stock routes, old pack horse trails, mail runs and country roads along the east coast.

Much of the route is in total tropical wilderness and you will often be several days away from any decent settlement.

Even while an ‘Anglo-Saxon’ country, this is a true exploration of a world that will probably never be conquered in a large part by mankind.

Over the southern hemisphere summer of 2019-20 much of the route was obliterated by wildfires.

It isn’t possible to plan a year out and to hike it end to end as a result.

You can however take a month out here and there to explore stretches of the route, and considering you can in theory take eight months to do it, that’s a fair bit of hiking to be done.

What can you see?

Everything from tropical rainforest to mountains, coastal wilderness and agricultural lands along the way.

Watch out for the crocodiles – though they are merely the biggest thing that can kill you with only one bite!

It is truly one of the best ways to ‘get’ Australia in one hit from city to complete wilderness and everything between.

Heyson Trail

  • Distance: 746 miles
  • Time: 62 days
  • Start: Cape Jervis
  • End: Parachlina Gorge, Flinders mountain range
  • Best for: Exploring the mountains close to Adelaide, South Australia

Unlike the two completely obscene treks above, this one is designed to be taken on in one hit, though you should check with local authorities to see if this is possible just now.

If you were to plan a book on an Australian trekking odyssey, this 746 mile section would take you the last leg from Cookstown, QLD to the Parachlina Gorge.

The southern section of the route is widely held as almost family friendly with relatively gentle climbs and descents along the Mount Lofty mountain ranges.

Here, expect bushland and large meadows that will appeal in a gentle way.

Heyson Trail

You will pass Adelaide as part of the route and are never too far from resupply as you go.

This is the warm up for the northern section of the trek!

The northern leg is from Spalding to Parachilna Gorge, and appeals to very serious trekkers.

You will be days without resupply and must carry a fair weight of gear and water over some tough terrain as you go.

As ever that investment of energy yields some fantastic rewards that you will definitely want to write home about (or that book indeed…)

As with the monsters above, you can do the Heyson Trail in chunks, perhaps a week or more hiking in the bush.

Not everyone has two months plus preparation to spare in their diaries!

Mind you, at 62 days this could be an adventure should you be planning a Gap Year before/after uni…

Bibbulmun Track

  • Distance: 621 miles
  • Time: 52 days
  • Start: Kalamunda, Perth Hills
  • End: Albany, Western Australia
  • Best for: Exploring the best of South Western Australia

This is in the SW corner of Australia, some thousands of miles from the three treks we look at above.

It’s still up there with the longest treks in the UK and at close to two months of trekking is no gentle stroll.

Though much the same climate as the other three treks owing to the latitude of the route, you are in quite a different world here to those you get to explore along the east coast of the continent.

Monkey Rock To Lights Beach walk on the Bibbulmun Track

Here you will encounter mist-shrouded valleys, karri and tingle forests, coastal heathlands and a variety of other terrains and environments that can only come from exploring this vast, untamed continent.

There are sections of the walk that once committed, that’s it for you – the longest distance between two towns is 12 days.

That means you need to carry a lot of water, food and living equipment just for that leg alone!

The Bibbulmun Track

A piece of safety advice here: you should not take the walk on between December and March.

The Australian summer heat is too fierce and given last summer’s experience of wildfires this can be a lethal mistake to make.

As with the other treks you can still do chunks of it at a time.

The organisation that runs and maintains the track, the Bibbulmun Track Foundation even offers eight or nine day guided tours that can give you the best parts of the hike as part of a shorter trip.

Federation Trail

  • Distance: 1,864 miles
  • Time: 156 days
  • Start: Sydney
  • End: Adelaide (with a spur to Canberra)
  • Best for: A full flavour of SE Australia

At almost 1,900 miles and taking a third of a year to trek end to end, this is another example of where the Australians say ‘big’ they really mean it.

Starting in the cultural capital of Sydney, the Federation Trail takes in coastal areas, native bushland, alpine plateaus, eucalyptus forests, open plains, rainforests, rich farmland and historic towns.

This is widely held as one of the most stunning long distance treks in the country.

The entire route has been ‘proof walked’ and you can download GPX routes from the Federation Trail website.

Federation Trail sign

As with the Bicentennial Trail, it isn’t possible to do end to end at the moment due to the wildfires that have beset the continent of late, but you can still take a month here and there to explore it in parts.

It is a true mix of human-cultural and wilderness walks, with the opportunity to take a week or two to do a diversion to the capital, Canberra as you go after starting at what many misconceive as its capital, Sydney.

Adelaide at the end is no sleepy backwater either!

The Federation Trail overlaps some of the Bicentennial Trail and could in theory be linked as part of the sort of trek you could publish a memoir on.

(Somewhat) saner treks doable in under a month

After the four monsters we’re now looking at two treks that could be managed in as little as a month.

By UK standards they’re almost normal for a big hike as they are under 300 miles and with proper planning could be taken on as part of a longer holiday.

As with any hike of 20 days plus you will need to think of logistics well ahead of time.

Where’s your food coming from?

Are you laying caches and if so how and where?

How are you going to manage a water supply?

What do you really need to carry given you’re going to hate every extraneous gramme of weight by the end?

How fit are you?

All these need taking into account, but for that these two hikes are achievable without being a Bear Grylls type!

Tasmanian Trail

Tasmania

  • Distance: 299 miles
  • Time: 25 days
  • Start: Dover, Tasmania
  • End: Devonport
  • Best for: Transecting the island of Tasmania.

Tasmania is Australia’s largest island, and has a lot of unique ecology to take in, not to mention the cultural aspect of this outpost of the country.

The Tasmanian Trail is a walking, cycling and horse riding route from the north to the south of the island and offers the opportunity to visit coastal and inland parts in one journey.

Those planning on taking on the trek from end to end will need to be experienced and skilled in wilderness trekking.

Tasmanian Trail

The terrain can be very hard-going at times and there are two river crossings without bridges along the route which are impassable after heavy rain.

Given how bonkers the climate is down that way these days, when it rains it can mean major flooding.

Water can again be an issue on the route – yes, there can be too little at times too.

Prepare for this hike as you would any other long distance trek with supplies for the odd few days in the wilderness.

The Trail is run by the Tasmanian Trail Association and is always done after buying a guidebook (as you should before any multi-day walk anyway).

In addition there are sections of the trail where there are locked gates and a campsite that can only be accessed with a special key.

Using PayPal the overseas visitor can put down an AU $100 deposit for the key and pick it up at Latrobe towards the northern end.

Minus a $20 admin fee, the money will be returned on returning the key to the people who loaned it to you.

The Larapinta Trail

Western Australia

  • Distance: 142 miles
  • Time: 20 days
  • Start/End: Alice Springs Telegraph Station
  • Start/End: Mt Sonder
  • Best for: Possibly the best desert trek on the planet?

The Larapinta Trail follows the spine of the West MacDonnell mountain ranges through the arid backcountry of Western Australia.

It is widely regarded as one of the best treks in Australia and for those who want to feel like a top adventurer without going too far afield this is probably the one for you.

You can take on the trek heading from east to west or west to east.

The Larapinta Trail

Traditionally people head east to west with the high point of ascending Mt Sonder at the end.

Others have pointed out you could well regret constantly walking into the afternoon sun, so choose to start at Mt Sonder.

Talking of the sun, it helps to take this walk on in the winter months as you would otherwise be hiking long distances in temperatures above the 40 degrees C mark.

Since their winter is the UK summer that shouldn’t be too painful, although asking the boss for a month off to do a trek like this might be a little more painful!

No, you won’t have wifi or mobile phone reception for much of the way so you can’t ‘digital nomad’ it!

This is a well-administered trail with water accessible every day at campsites along the way.

That lessens the load on your shoulders but is one minor issue in the nightmare of logistics that a desert trek of this kind involves!

Treks you can do on a two week holiday

The next four treks we look at are doable on a two week escape from Blighty.

Yup – you can book a normal two weeks off and fit the whole hike in from end to end, as well as the four or so days getting to the other side of the planet and back.

Sound realistic for most people?

Great!

Just because we don’t write superlatives on the length of these doesn’t mean they are any less fun or an adventure either!

The Cape to Cape Track

  • Distance: 77.7 miles
  • Time: 8 days
  • Start: Cape Naturaliste
  • End: Cape Leeuwin
  • Best for: Exploring the south west corner of Australia

Cape Leeuwin is one of the three Southern Ocean ‘Great Capes’ that also includes the Cape of Good Hope and Cape Horn.

As such this relatively short trek by Aussie standards takes in one of the most important landmarks in the world with almost nothing south of you before Antarctica.

This trek crosses geological formations of granite, limestone and sand dunes.

The capes themselves are granite and have flora and fauna clinging on to this incredibly hard rock.

The Cape to Cape Track

Limestone is formed from organic material and is much younger and more fertile than the metamorphic rock that forms the capes.

The sand dunes arrived far later and the rivers that empty into the sea still run westwards despite this.

The track passes inland at times, meaning that this isn’t just a coastal path like the South West Coast Path in the UK.

You will run into heathland and forest as you go, and get to see a range of plants and animals that live nowhere else in Australia let alone the planet!

The changing landscape of the Cape to Cape

Yellow robins, parrots and red winged wrens are endemic here, and as to mammal life?

Much of that is nocturnal but you may get glimpses of them in the evenings.

Nocturnal animals include brush-tailed phasgogale and chuditches are returning as foxes are being controlled, and you will almost certainly run into a kangaroo or two!

Watch out to sea too – humpback whales and southern right whales are making a comeback in this area!

Investigator Trail

South Australia

  • Distance: 55 miles
  • Time: 5 days
  • Start/End: Lincoln National Park
  • Best for: Exploring the Eyre Peninsula

Some of the treks we cover in this article are only for the most extreme, hardcore trekkers.

This trek, that takes place entirely in Lincoln National Park, SA, is for those who are fit enough to walk for 4-5 days but aren’t skilled hardcore hikers.

You can be reasonably new to the discipline and get by in short.

What you get from this 55 mile hike is some mind-blowing views that your friends will love when you snap them.

Coastal view from the Investigator Trail

There are huge sand dune systems that will seriously impress as you go, and the sea itself is a surfer’s and fisherman’s paradise too.

Though you should always prepare for not catching anything in your itinerary, it may pay to bring a rod and tackle with you so you can indulge in the Aussie tradition of a ‘barbie on the beach’ with  your freshly caught catch.

Though you may have to cover a bit over 10 miles a day, that leaves plenty of hours to play every day between the hikes.

This is one of those treks where with a little extra weight on your back you can have no end of fun!

Lincoln National Park is a bit of a drive from Adelaide but in return you could well be in for quite a buzz from the journey!

Jatbula Trail

Northern Territory

  • Distance: 39 miles
  • Time: 3-4 days
  • Start: Nitmiluk Gorge
  • End: Edith Falls
  • Best for: Following some of the walkabout routes of the Jawoyn People

This walk is named after Peter Jatbula, a member of the Jawoyn tribe of indigenous people who fought successfully to protect their lands from the government.

The walk crosses their ancestral lands and you will encounter artwork that may have been done several centuries (and longer) ago as you explore this piece of living history.

It is quite tightly restricted to protect the lands on which trekkers walk.

The first thing to note is that you can only walk it from Nitmiluk Gorge to Edith Falls and you yourself can’t go on walkabout without really sticking to the way marked route.

Edith Falls

You must also stay in campsites (that also have your water for the next day – the carrot!).

Finally you need to book well in advance to be one of the limited numbers of outsiders allowed to visit the Jawoyn lands.

Details of this and other restrictions can be found here.

What you get in return is the privilege of visiting and exploring a world that remains virtually unchanged at the hands of the white people who colonised Australia just two centuries ago.

Jatbula Trail

The climate may be changing but the world in which you walk has seen its people there for many centuries before Western colonials did.

This means you are entering a part of the world that our forefathers who ‘conquered the world’ rather pleasingly didn’t manage to conquer, at least once the laws allowed the indigenous folk their lands back.

Now, that’s a rare honour anywhere on this planet!

Great Ocean Walk

  • Distance: 64 miles
  • Time: 8 days
  • Start: Apollo Bay
  • End: Twelve Apostles
  • Best for: Some of the best coastal walking in Australia

Hiking between seven campsites along the way, this is an opportunity to see and feel the wonder of some of the best coastal trekking that Australia has on offer.

You will be confronted with a range of cultural, ecological and geological phenomena that together make for a fantastic experience.

What do you want?

High cliffs and seas tumbling over rocks far below?

Got it.

Long beaches that you can lose yourself on?

Got it.

The Twelve Apostles?

Those too.

The Twelve Apostles

What about Australia’s unique wildlife from snakes and spiders to kangaroos and marsupial rodents?

This has it too!

How about aboriginal relics both old and new?

This all builds up layer by layer to make for a walk where you will never be bored.

The Great Ocean Walk

Many of the other walks we look at here can mean quite a journey just to get there.

The Great Ocean Walk is on the SE corner of Australia, just 2.5 hours west of Melbourne so this is a trek that you can access without days and days of travelling just to get to the start-line.

Once on the trek you will find solitude and escape even so.

There are some stretches on minor roads but you won’t be overwhelmed with traffic and noise.

All of these combined make the Great Ocean Walk one of the very best treks that you can do even on a two week break from work in the UK – now that makes it a trip worth taking on!

The 10 best treks in Australia

As we have discussed, Australia is just huge.

The distances between places are vast. When they say you are doing a big walk they mean that with bells on.

For all that?

You’re not going to see much of what you do here anywhere else.

Happy trekking!

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