Walking, hiking, climbing or trekking; all have made an impact on the tourist market in Australia as more and more people join in the exploration of these tracks and trails. The advantages include the healthy exercise, the scenic beauty (ideal for budding photographers), seeing parts of nature’s bounty that you would not otherwise see, such as the local flora and fauna, as well as just that wonderful feeling of ‘being at one’ with nature.
Here, we talk about a few of the longer walks that can be done as one trip, over several days, or in part, as most trails or tracks have a number of sections which can be experienced in shorter walks.
This track covers parts of Victoria, New South Wales and the Australia Capital Territory’s high country. The full distance is said to be 650 to 685 kilometres and it has been calculated that you would have climbed up Mount Everest three times if you do the full walk! Needless to say, most hikers do it in sections, however, the whole track is estimated to take up to two months to walk. The degree of difficulty is known as a ‘hard’ track, requiring proper fitness and full preparation, including food drops. It is best trekked in the warmer months of the year due to the alpine walking involved.
A coastal walk from Cape Naturaliste to Cape Leeuwin in the Margaret River area in the south-western region of Western Australia, this track covers 135 kilometres of ‘easy’ rated walking. The estimated time for trekking the Cape to Cape Track is between six and eight days. Depending on recent weather conditions, water can be difficult to find, so do allow for that. A great time to do this walk is in spring, when the wildflowers show their full splendour, so remember to take your camera!
Starting at the Thurra River, near Point Hicks in the eastern Gippsland region of Victoria, this section of the Coastal Wilderness Walk traverses the Croajingolong National Park and ends at Shipwreck Creek. Covering 45 kilometres of ‘medium’ graded trekking, the average length of time for this walk is three to four days. Amenities at Thurra River, Wingan Inlet (very roughly half way) and Shipwreck Creek include toilets, picnic and parking facilities. A permit is required from the Victorian parks authority.
One of Queensland’s gems is Fraser Island, the largest sand island in the world at 1840 km², with pristine lakes and inspiring subtropical rainforest. The Fraser Island Great Walk starts at Dili, on the eastern side of the island and travels inland. The whole walk, with one section recommended only for experienced bushwalkers, totals 90 kilometres and takes six to eight days to complete. However, there are many smaller, easy walks, taking from a few hours to a full day or more, that encompass some fabulous sights and sounds. One of over 100 lakes on the island, the crystal-clear Lake Mackenzie with its pure silica beach, is well worth the walk. There are campsites along the trail, with bookings and permits required. The cooler months of April to September is the best time of year to visit.
A good way to experience the scenery of the New England Tableland in New South Wales is the Gibraltar-Washpool World Heritage Walk. Start at Mulligans Campsite in the Gibraltar National Park and do a five-day, 40-kilometre loop through very varied scenery. The main loop also has up to another 40 kilometres of side walks, passing through dry gum forest, rocky, granite hills, open heath, swamps and even the largest stand of coachwood trees in the world.
Within the Watarrka National Park, in the Northern Territory, the Giles Track is a relatively short walk of just 22 kilometres. Starting at the Kings Canyon Rim Walk and then joining the Giles Track, the trail passes through weathered sandstone and across a number of creeks to finish at Kathleen Springs. It is a ‘medium’ graded track and comes with a strong recommendation to challenge it as an overnight walk. The trekker must also be able to carry all necessities, including sufficient water.
The Great Ocean Walk hugs the coast beside the Great Ocean Road in Victoria. This 104-kilometre track, walking adjacent to the Bass Strait, goes from Apollo Bay through Cape Otway, Milanesia, Moonlight Head and takes the bushwalker to the grandeur of the Twelve Apostles. With areas of abundant marine life, the stunning flora and fauna of national parks and deserted, picturesque beaches to enjoy, the region also contains a great selection of accommodation and restaurants to be sampled by the visitor, whether walker, camper or tourist.
Recognised as one of the world’s greatest long trails, the Heysen Trail is a big one spanning 1,200 kilometres, however smaller sections are available in differing grades to suit all types of walkers. The trail starts at Cape Jervis and winds its way northwards, passing through the Fleurieu Peninsula, the Adelaide Hills, Barossa Valley, Wilpena Pound and on to Parachilna Gorge in the Flinders Ranges. The trail will take trekkers through five wine regions and a range of country from the surf coast to the outback. Named after the famous Australian artist, Sir Hans Heysen, you will see, firsthand, the spectacular scenery captured in his paintings. Sections of the Heysen Trail are closed throughout the summer months due to the high fire danger.
Starting at the Nitmiluk Visitor Centre, 30 kilometres from Katherine in the Northern Territory, the Jatbula Trail ends 65 kilometres later at Leliyn (Edith Falls). This is a great trail to trek and is growing in popularity. The walk passes waterfalls, rainforest, rocky ledges, hills covered in eucalypts and cool creeks. Originally used by the Aboriginal people as a ‘song line’, you will also be able to see some traditional Aboriginal rock art. This trail should be undertaken in the early part of the dry season, from May to August.
This trail, named after the pioneer pastoralist, Sir Sidney Kidman, starts at Kapunda in the Barossa Valley and ends at Willunga in the McLaren Vale region, somewhere between 225 and 269 kilometres later (depending on where this detail comes from!) The Kidman Trail has the big advantage of having many places to stay and caters for camping and horse float parking. It is not truly a wilderness trail, as it is available to walkers, cyclists and horse-riders. It traverses bitumen and dirt roads, forest tracks, private property and even covers parts of other trails.
An outback trail that runs along the West MacDonnell Ranges from the Old Telegraph Station in Alice Springs, Northern Territory, to Mount Sonder, the trail’s highest point. The full trail is 223 kilometres long, but it can be done in one- to two-day walks over 12 sections. It covers places such as Simpsons Gap, the Ellery Creek Big Hole, Ormiston Gorge and Glen Helen. This one is a hard walk for experienced trekkers and ideally should only be hiked between April and September, during the cooler weather.
This is a very popular track in Tasmania that you need to book ahead and pay a fee to use. The Overland Track is a one-way trail from Cradle Mountain to Lake St Clair, through the Tasmanian highlands in sub-alpine conditions, which takes about six days to complete. There are well maintained huts to stay in along the route, but you need to carry all of your own equipment, as they only contain sleeping platforms and communal cooking areas. As the cabins may be full, a tent and gas-stove are particularly important. At each of these places there are also rainwater tanks and bushwalker’s toilets. The total distance of the Overland Track is 65 kilometres, but there are many marked side tracks too. Book your trip and pay the requisite park fees at the Tasmanian parks authority. Expect to see some fantastic scenery and true wilderness on this medium graded walk.
The Six Foot Track, in New South Wales, is a marathon distance of 45 kilometres, so runners can do in a day, but, for walkers, approximately three days. The trail starts at Katoomba and ends at the Jenolan Caves in the Blue Mountains and follows the original 1884 bridle track through this region of Crown land. A comprehensive map, showing detailed track notes, points of interest, history, flora and fauna as well as safety tips, can be purchased from the New South Wales Crown Land department. Trekkers will see a great range of flora, fauna, forestry, cliffs, caves and waterfalls.
At Litchfield National Park, in the Northern Territory, you will find this 39-kilometre, circular track, which has a number of well visited waterfalls and natural pools. A walk for the dry season, from May to September, this track is best tackled by experienced hikers with a high level of fitness. Three to five days is the average length of time taken to cover 50 kilometres, which includes the campsite link walks at Florence Falls, Greenant Creek, Wangi Falls and Walker Creek, as well as the track itself.
Beautiful, tropical Hinchinbrook Island, in the Great Barrier Reef area of north Queensland, is home to the 32-kilometre-long Thorsborne Trail. This ‘easy’ to ‘medium’ graded trail takes about four or five days to complete and meanders along the eastern edge of this national park island. It passes through or beside lush rainforest, eucalypt forest, natural heath land, clouded-in mountains of up to 1,000 metres high, rocky headlands and sweeping beaches and bays with mangrove edges. Advance bookings are absolutely essential as there are only a restricted number of walkers allowed on the trail at any given time. Permits for walking and camping are also required and can be obtained through the relevant government website. Although this island national park was badly affected by Cyclone Yasi, the Thorsborne Trail has reopened, apart from the side trail to Sunken Reef Bay.
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