Comprising of wild coastline, bird-filled bushland, ancient rainforest, mountains and the baked, scarlet canyons of the Outback, Australia’s scenery is fantastically diverse. And hiking is the best way to access the most remote parts of its mystical wilderness.
Whether you’re keen for a day trip from Sydney, or a multi-day hike through the Northern Territory, here are five of the best trails to discover in Australia.
Blue Mountains National Park, New South Wales
Plateaus of sandstone cliffs clad in dense gum trees, waterfalls and plunging gorges just an hour from Sydney
Standing atop one of the many lookout points in this sensationally beautiful part of the world – staring at plateaus of sandstone cliffs clad in dense gum trees, waterfalls and plunging gorges – it’s hard to believe that you’re only an easy hour’s journey from Sydney. The park gets its name from the slate-coloured haze that cloaks the landscape, a fine mist created by eucalyptus trees secreting oil under the hot sun. Covering hundreds of thousands of hectares and making up part of the Great Dividing Range, the park contains copious hikes; try the 6km-long Grand Canyon Walk, crossing creeks and passing rock overhangs, through bushland populated with rare flora and fauna. Or the National Pass (for more experienced trekkers), a 4.5km circuit hike taking in the Grand Stairway, a set of hand-carved stone steps that cling to the cliff-face and lead to the base of the Wentworth Falls. Stay just opposite the station from which the train departs to the park, at Wake Up! Sydney Central.
Larapinta Trail, Northern Territory
Follow the path through Standley Chasm (or ‘Angkerle’), slicing through steep orange cliffs along the Larapinta Trail
This 223km-long walking track is a prime example of Australia’s barren beauty and biodiversity. While it is best tackled with a tour due to its remote nature, you can still experience this two-week adventure solo, thanks to clearly-defined paths and trail markers every few hundred metres. The route starts in Alice Springs, traversing the West MacDonnell National Park and ending up at the white cypress pine-clad slopes of Mount Sonder. Witness the wonder of Simpson’s Gap, a waterhole framed by two giant ochre cliffs and a sacred site to the Central Arrernte Aboriginal people, where silver gum trees and the gently-flowing Roe Creek provide respite from the heat. And see the surreal Standley Chasm (or ‘Angkerle’), a path that slices through steep orange cliffs, contrasting with impossibly blue skies, the gleaming bone-white trunks of the Ghost Gums and the green palms and ferns. Treat yourself to a luxury stay in the middle of the Outback by checking into Alice Springs’ Squeakywindmill Boutique Tent B&B before setting off on the trail.
Wilson’s Promontory National Park, Victoria
Immaculate, deserted white sandy bays and verdant, rainforest gullies in ‘the Prom’
Affectionately known as ‘the Prom’, this national park – located on a peninsula southeast of Melbourne – is one of Victoria’s most beloved bushwalking spots. The scenery here alternates between the high, rocky ridges of the park’s granite mountains, to verdant, rainforest gullies and immaculate, deserted white sandy bays. Your best bet for getting there is hiring a car (or even better, campervan) in Melbourne and making the 3-hour drive down to the coast, where you can either park your car, camp or stay in cabins and lodges at Tidal River. Of the various walking trails to follow, there’s the multi-day, 60km-long and invigorating Southern Circuit, or numerous shorter routes to beauty spots such as Squeaky Beach, where the rounded grains of quartz sand emit a squeaking sound beneath your feet as you walk. Rest your feet after a day of hiking at the Wilsons Promontory Motel, or head back to Melbourne to stay in the delightful Garden Cottage St Kilda.
Cape to Cape, Western Australia
The pyramid-like Sugarloaf Rock is a highlight along the Cape to Cape track
The 135km-long Cape to Cape track meanders along the wild coastline of Western Australia, connecting the lighthouses of Cape Naturaliste and Cape Leeuwin. Beginning on the bluff overlooking Geographe Bay, every turn of this winding route affords far-reaching views from rocky ridges of unspoilt coves, cliffs and coastal formations like the pyramid-like Sugarloaf Rock, with moody seas crashing at its base. You’ll also pass through the Boranup Karri Forest, where tall, pale-barked karri trees reach over 60 metres tall and the forest floor is coated in wildflowers. There are plenty of organized tours with set itineraries available, but you can easily embark on a self-guided expedition of this awe-inspiring 7-day trail. Start your hiking adventure just a few minutes’ walk from Geographe Bay, staying at Baudins of Busselton B&B.
Cradle Mountain or the Bay of Fires, Tasmania
Hike Tasmania’s Overland Track, a route through misty rainforest punctuated with Cradle Mountain views
The underrated, slightly-out-of-the-way island state of Tasmania also happens to be home to some of Australia’s most stupendous scenery – so much so that we couldn’t possibly pick just one of its best-loved hikes. First up, there’s the Bay of Fires trail, a 4-day trek through coastal wilderness, discovering paperbark forests and coastal lagoons lined with orange lichen-covered boulders. You can do a self-guided camping hike or treat yourself to a tour, staying in boutique eco-lodgings along the way and kayaking through crystalline rivers. Then there’s Tasmania’s Overland Track, a more ambitious 65km hike over six days crossing the Cradle Mountain-Lake St. Clair National Park. Most of the route weaves through misty rainforest where rocks are blanketed with moss, and creepers twist around the ancient tree trunks, but it’s punctuated with Cradle Mountain views from Marion’s Lookout and various other beauty spots. For those who crave the isolation of nature without being totally immersed in it, there are guided tours including gourmet meals and luxe accommodation in mountain lodges. If you opt for a self-guided hike, be aware that you will need a permit when visiting in the winter months (October through till May). Stay amid bushland on the Bay of Fires coast at Bed in the Treetops B&B.