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Australia's Great Walks

With dramatic scenery ranging from pristine beaches to wild, untamed bush, Australia's hiking trails are outstanding. Great Walks of Australia represents the best of the best

By Great Walks of Australia
Published 2 Jun 2017, 16:40 BST
Australia’s Great Walks
Australia’s Great Walks

Cradle Mountain Huts Walk, Tasmania

Best for: A world heritage region

Some of the trees you'll pass on this walk are more than 2,000 years old. The region is home to one of the last expanses of temperate rainforest in the world, full of the knotted, towering trunks of myrtle beech trees. Breaks in the canopy afford incredible views of Cradle Mountain while waterfalls hidden among the undergrowth make perfect places to stop for lunch.

It's not just woodland you'll marvel at during this trek, however. This unspoilt region has been subjected to severe glaciation leaving steep gorges, deep blue lakes and limestone caves. During the six-day, 37-mile hike you'll wander through button grass plains, alpine meadows and open moorland. Private huts nestled among the trees along the route provide excellent accommodation, with three-course meals prepared by your guides and hot showers.


Bay of Fires Lodge Walk, Tasmania

Best for: Beaches

This walk is all about its incredible location, from white sand beaches, to red-hued rocks, to crystal clear waters stretching as far as the eye can see. Tasmania's Bay of Fires Walk is a lot more than a trek from A to B, and a morning spent kayaking down the Ansons River is followed by an afternoon exploring secluded shell coves. At the end of the day, the famed Bay of Fires Lodge waits with afternoon tea, a range of spa treatments, and a signature standalone bathtub in the Australian bush with views across the ocean.

This four-day, 20-mile walk ambles along pristine beaches, through eucalyptus forests and across coastal heathland. The first night is spent in a semi-permanent camp in secluded sand dunes, the following two in the luxury of the lodge. As night falls, the surroundings are no less astounding, the sky blanketed with a multitude of stars.


Classic Larapinta Trek in Comfort, Central Australia

Best for: Outback and night skies

Walking the ridgelines of the West MacDonnell Ranges, the sheer scale of this ancient land will amaze and humble you. Scenes are wild, almost otherworldly in their beauty, and range from vast sprawling floodplains to razorback rocky outcrops. The trek traverses high canyons, cuts across open Australian bush and follows winding, tree-lined ravines.

This six-day trail covers up to 45 miles and isn't for the faint of heart. It's as challenging as it's rewarding, walking in the footsteps of age-old explorers whose stories are shared by the guides. Three semi-permanent campsites provide well-earned comfort at the end of each day, with hot showers and a heated dining tent. Larapinta perfectly illustrates how much of Australia is still nature's domain; civilisation feels a million miles away. 


Scenic Rim Trail, Queensland

Best for: Glamping and rainforests

The glamping site on the Scenic Rim Trail is set deep in the Queensland bush. It makes for a charming backdrop and the main lodge features both an open-plan living area and dining area complete with a stone fireplace. Furthermore, from a five-course degustation menu to wood-fired pizzas, the food on this hike is phenomenal — all fresh and locally sourced.

Starting in the foothills of South East Queensland's Main Range National Park, the four-day, 20-mile walk covers mountains, cliffs, forests and ancient volcanic plateaus. Along the way guides point out local plants and wildlife, like the 100-year-old red cedar trees that were used by indigenous tribes for basket weaving. Birds are abundant and it's likely that by the end of the four days, you too will be able to differentiate between their songs.


Margaret River Cape to Cape Walk, Western Australia 

Best for: Ultimate luxury

Lavish accommodation, visits to two award-winning wineries, sublime dining options and — because no holiday would be complete without it — a private didgeridoo performance — five stars just aren't enough for this walk. Combine that with rolling waves, white sands, coastal cliffs and thick forest; the Margaret River Cape to Cape Walk has it all. The journey packs in as many regional highlights as possible — limestone caves are there to explore, rock pools beg to be jumped into and, from August to November, the ground underfoot is carpeted in wildflowers.

Spread over four days, the relatively gentle 25-mile trip proves not all hikes need to have you bent double and wheezing. And at the end of the day, the rich landscape can be appreciated from the tub: each villa has a private plunge pool — the ideal spot from which to watch the sunset.


Freycinet Experience Walk, Tasmania

Best for: Spectacular coastal views

Wineglass Bay is recognised as one of the world's best beaches. The crescent-shaped coastline is a pure powdery white, gently sloping down to water that glistens in the sun. This is just one view that will stop you in your tracks on the Freycinet Walk, and it's a scene made even more spellbinding by the dolphins, seals and humpback whales that congregate offshore at certain times of the year.

All walking options during the 23-mile, 4-day hike cover remote corners of the national park, and you can choose between challenging mountain climbs up cliffs of spectacular pink granite, or more leisurely coastal routes.


The Maria Island Walk, Tasmania 

Best for: Animal lovers

The six beaches on this walk will leave even the keenest seaside goer speechless, with dolphins dancing offshore an unforgettable highlight. Inland, it's not unusual to cross paths with wombats, kangaroos and wallabies, and bird enthusiasts will revel in sightings of the forty-spotted pardalote and swift parrot.

This is an easier walk, with the option to cover as little as 15 miles or as many as 26 over the four days. At the end of each evening you'll fall asleep to the sound of the waves in one of two beachside camps. You'll also get your fill of forest, passing through the world's largest stand of Tasmanian blue gum trees, as well as clifftops at Fossil Bay, with spectacular views stretching out across the ocean.


Murray River Walk, South Australia

Best for: Bird watching

The mighty Murray River stretches for almost 2,000 miles. Starting life as a tiny spring in the mountains of the Great Dividing Range, it snakes through vast wetlands and through the world's largest red gum forest. This walk showcases the best of the area, winding around oxbow lagoons and past spectacular red ochre cliffs. The region is home to a wonderful array of wildlife — it supports over 170 varieties of birds, from red-capped robins to fairy-wrens, plus animals like emus and grey kangaroos.

The 25 miles of this four-day walk are covered at a gentle pace, so the scenery is fully appreciated. A houseboat follows you down the river, alleviating the hassle of unpacking and repacking, and three-course feasts of local produce are served up from a menu designed by native food pioneer Andrew Fielke.


Seven Peaks Walk, Lord Howe Island 

Best for: Adventurous walking

Some sections of this walk wind their way around the mountainside, thin paths clinging to the side of the cliff. It's an awe-inspiring, adrenalin-inducing experience. On the final day, those seeking a challenge can ascend the 2,871ft peak of Mount Gower, the views from the top of this extinct volcano are well worth the climb.

Covering almost 30 miles, this five-day walk gets off to a stylish start as you cross North Bay in a glass-bottomed boat. The next three days take in island hotspots, such as the glorious Middle Beach, Smoking Tree Ridge, Intermediate Hill (with its new observation post) and Rocky Run. There are also plenty of opportunities to swim, beachcomb and explore Jurassic Park-style banyan forests. Each night you'll return to the plush Pinetrees lodge, with sunset drinks followed by a four-course meal.


The Arkaba Walk, South Australia

Best for: Beds with a difference

Sleeping under the night sky is a rare pleasure. This hike redefines the classic Aussie bush walk, offering you the chance to sleep outside in Arkaba's signature star beds. With no light pollution for miles, the southern hemisphere's stars can be seen in all their glory.

Over four days, The Arkaba Walk covers about 28 miles of ever-changing landscape. Field guides unpick the secrets of this country, drawing hikers' attention to the bush's 60,000-year backstory. Trek through creeks and broken countryside to the foothills of the Elder Range before ascending the beautiful Red Range for views across neighbouring mountains. The final night of this walk is spent in The Arkaba Homestead, one of the Luxury Lodges
of Australia.


Twelve Apostles Lodge Walk, Victoria 

Best for: History buffs

More than 300 ships have been hurled into the headlands that line this walk; the wrecks a reminder of the treacherous nature of early voyages. Many were transporting the first British convicts, brought to Australia over 200 years ago. Down on Wreck Beach, guides share stories about ill-fated ships — one from China carried a cargo of tea, its contents staining the sea for days afterwards.

Running from September–May, the walk covers 34 miles through the Great Otway and Port Campbell National Parks. The Twelve Apostles — huge slabs of rock jutting out of the ocean — come into view on the last day. These boulders lose a couple of centimetres to erosion a year, and only seven rise above the water, but their numerical shortcomings make the spectacle no less impressive.


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