The ultimate guide to hiking Australia
What you need to know to hike, trek or bushwalk in Australia - including some of the best trails to wander.
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The best way to see more of Australia is by walking.
In fact, the only way to reach some of the most incredible wonders is on foot, and there’s nothing quite like seeing it for yourself in a way that lets you quite literally stop and smell the flowers.
Find out everything you need to know before you go, and get inspired by checking out some of Australia’s great walks.
Australia's best hiking trails and bushwalks
New South Wales hiking trails
New South Wales is a big state with more than its fair share of mountains, so it’s home to some of the most spectacular hikes in the country.
The Blue Mountains
This region is definitely home to some of the best hiking paths near Sydney, and you can’t hike New South Wales without making your way to the Blue Mountains.
One of the best features of the region, other than the natural wonders, is that there’s something for absolutely everyone. It’s one of the few places you can find wheelchair accessible trails as well as tracks ranging from a couple of hours both ways to immense multi-day treks.
You can find caves, waterfalls, wildlife, swimming holes and some of Australia’s most incredible scenery in this region, including the most famous Three Sisters formation.
There are a few different trails you can use to explore the area. The walks start in Katoomba and range from easy, accessible trails to challenging multi-day treks.
Find a list of trails and what’s involved before starting to plan your trip.
If you’re looking for a more intensive one-day guided trip and want to hear about the region’s history and Dreamtime legends, it can be well worth taking in a guided tour for a full 10 hour hike across some of the more challenging paths.
If you want more, the Blue Mountains also has the 42km (one way) Six Foot Track from Katoomba to the Jenolan Caves, which you can do during a multi-day trek.
You can find the highest summit in all of Australia at the end of the Mount Kosciuszko Summit Walk, making this one of the truly great trails of Australia.
It’s not hard to reach either. It’s roughly a seven-hour drive from Sydney and about half that from Canberra. While fairly challenging, you can do it as a day trip from Kosciusko National Park. It generally takes only up to six hours each way at a fairly leisurely pace.
It’s only open in the warmer months between September and May since the region is used for skiing in the winter. Even in the warmer months, you can still find snow-capped peaks so it’s important to prepare well.
While you can do the peak in a single day, there are also plenty of multi-day snow mountain treks you can do with trails running all across this famous region.
Either way, the high altitudes mean this area can be prone to extreme weather at all times of the year. You can expect both hot and cold weather, sometimes on the same day, so you should make sure you’re prepared to spend the night if necessary, especially if you’re doing the trek closer to winter.
A number of cabins are maintained on the trails for exactly this purpose, but depending on the route you might not be able to count on reaching them, so plan ahead. Make sure you check the weather forecast and are prepared.
The NSW visitors centre recommends sticking to the tracks, bringing plenty of drinking (and cooking) water, food and a portable camping stove with gas. You can order a stove online with Wild Earth if needed as well as pick up some discounts on these and other necessary gear.
If you start very early, you can complete the trek as a day trip from Canberra, but accommodation in Jindabyne and the park area is plentiful and is typically significantly cheaper in the warmer months, provided you avoid school holidays.
Victoria hiking trails
Victoria has more trails than can be named, but its most famous, not-to-be-missed sights are probably the Twelve Apostles and The Pinnacle at Halls Gap, both of which you can do on foot.
Walk the Great Ocean Road for the Twelve Apostles
By walking it end to end, you can get up close and personal with some of Australia’s most awe-inspiring seaside terrain, including Shipwreck Coast, Castle Cove, Moonlight Head, Princetown and the world-famous Twelve Apostles (of which only eight remain).
The shortest route will take you through a very manageable 53km, but it can be well worth doing properly over the course of about four days instead.
It might be worth doing it with the help of a tour guide to make sure you get to all the must-sees along the way.
The Pinnacle at Halls Gap
Hall’s Gap is quite a hike but rewards you with what is very likely the greatest view in all of Victoria. More like a climb than a walk, you have several options to the top, but in all cases you can have a lot of fun with this one.
Expect to clamber over rocks, to ascend steep and sometimes narrow trails, and to take some time. The direct distance isn’t very long, but the ascent means you should add some extra time for planning purposes. It can get slippery in places, especially when wet, so a good pair of boots is a must.
You can with added delivery and bonus discounts. The tighter turns means you should stick with smaller, lightweight backpacks.
While challenging in places, it’s still quite doable for young kids and the elderly as long as they are fairly fit. This climb is popular, so it can pay to avoid the weekends and try to arrive earlier in the day.
Obviously, the view is best enjoyed in clear weather, but even on cloudy or foggy days the trail still has plenty to recommend it.
Keen bushwalkers won’t want to pass through Victoria without making sure they find their way to Wilsons Promontory. It’s one of Australia’s most well-known national parks, encompassing rich forests and seaside views as well as plenty of historical interest and wildlife.
Mudflats, beaches, sand dunes and imposing cliffs characterise the seaside areas. You may even get to see whales if you’re lucky.
Farther inland, regions are particularly known for a rich collection of native wildlife. Lucky trekkers can expect to see wombats, wallabies, snakes, emus and feather-tailed gliders. For bird watchers in particular, the sanctuary is a truly renowned area. It’s a favourite of overnight campers with plenty of sites available inside the park itself in the form of both cabins and campgrounds.You can visit Turu to explore some campgrounds available in Wilsons Promontory as well as in the rest of Victoria. You can also check out some user reviews so you know what to expect from each.
If you’re looking for a great hike near Melbourne that can be done in a single day, you might want to check out tours on Viator. They include a fairly challenging 11-hour hike to the summit of Mt Oberon and focuses mainly on finding the most incredible views and taking in highlights including Squeaky Beach, Lilly Pilly Nature Walk and Tidal River Township. It’s a sprawling national park and the choice of how to do it is all yours.
Whether you want seaside, forests, views, history, wildlife or all of the above, this region can definitely deliver. The sheer variety means there are no hard and fast rules for doing it, other than being prepared for the weather. It’s hot in summer and wet in winter, so make sure you’re dressed for the occasion.
Queensland hiking trails
The sunshine state might be popular for its beaches and nightlife, but with its 100+ national parks, it’s also home to some of the most truly unique walks in all of Australia. Each is greater than the last, so here’s a small sample of the hiking trails in QLD that await.
Fraser Island finds its place on the world map for a lot reasons. It’s the world’s largest sand island and is laden with pristine beaches as well as being the last remaining home of the original dingo species.
Shipwrecks and marine life make it a great diving spot while over 100 freshwater lakes can reward those who venture further inland with spots to cool off mid-hike.
It’s well within reach of Brisbane for day trips, but it also hosts plenty of its own accommodation options for those who want a stay more dedicated to the island itself.
Remarkably, given its reputation and popularity, Fraser Island actually has Australia’s cheapest beachside accommodation.
For campers, the Fraser Island Great Walk is highly recommended. The full trail is a 90km trip through a rainforest growing right out of the sand. The trail encompasses mangroves, swamps and tropical wonders of the kind you’ll generally only find in Queensland.
It usually takes about a week to complete the full trail, but those pressed for time can take in just a slice of it. There’s a lot to see and do, so if you want to get more value for your time, you can do what a lot of visitors do and blend 4WD rides with hiking over several days.
Other than the potential distances involved, you won’t find too many challenges walking the island, making it an outstandingly family-friendly option for bushwalks.
If a combination of a tropical island paradise and outstanding walking paths sounds right, then Fraser Island might be perfect for you. You can take a look at 24 top Fraser Island tours here to see what’s available and pick out any that grab you, or you can navigate the island your own way.
Stock up on your beachwear (you can get discounts on gear, bodyboards, free beach towels and more here) and head to Fraser Island for a walk through paradise.
Carnarvon National Park is one of Australia’s more geographically unique features, consisting of a raised sandstone plateau cut through with deep gorges eroded over thousands of years.
The result is a wild and remote vibe as you hike past sandstone cliffs, overlook sweeping tablelands and take in shady canyons with their own ecosystems formed over thousands of years. It’s a wilder bushwalk than others, but you can still take day trips or take intensive multi-day treks depending on what you’re looking for.
The day-trip version is well worth it, with a 10km trail that’s packed with more features and scenery than you’ll find on much longer trails.
You can reach notable geographical features like Big Bend, Wards Canyon, Cathedral Cave, The Amphitheatre and the Moss Garden on a day hike. The remarkable abundance of features like these probably goes a long way towards explaining why this area is particularly rich in aboriginal art and sacred sites.
While excellent, single-day hiking is available all year around, it’s also well set up for camping if you want to take your time or are looking for a multi-day trek.
While there are plenty of campgrounds, each has different restrictions and most of them are exclusively for tents rather than campervans or anything else.
Camping in certain areas is prohibited for much of the year, so you’ll need to do some planning ahead. You cannot camp in the park for more than five consecutive days, and the national park visitor area is only open for camping during winter and spring school holidays. The Big Bend camping area, reachable by an approximately 20km return walk, is open all year around and ideal for two-way weekend hiking trips.
Carnarvon Gorge holds some of the most unforgettable landscapes in Australia, but you should check the camping regulations and park rules (at the official park website here) before planning to stay overnight.
Northern Territory hiking trails
With trails that take in some of Australia’s most majestic and sweeping landscapes near the heart of the country, the Northern Territory is home to some of the most famous trails in the country and in the world.
This immense trek runs 223km end to end and is best hiked over the course of weeks, rather than days. The eastern end starts at Alice Springs and the western tip ends at Mount Sonder, one of the highest mountains in the territory.
It runs along the West MacDonnell ranges and takes in both climbs and descents, rewarding hikers with plenty of variety on mountain ranges and the plains below.
Despite its sheer size, the trek isn’t particularly difficult and remains well marked along the entire way.
As long as you have the stamina, and the inclination, to keep up, it remains widely accessible for a lot of people. It’s a very rich walk, holding particular significance for the traditional aboriginal landowners. It also has a large amount of more recent history and you might enjoy the walk even more in the company of a tour guide if you’re after a more social and informative trip.
While it’s easy enough to sort out for yourself, even as a beginner trekker, you can also just leave it to the tour guides. If this sounds like your kind of trip, there are some top tours on TourRadar. If you’re more pressed for time, or if the whole trail sounds like more than you’re after, you can also get 4WD access to each separate section of the trail to take in any section you want.
The trail has a reputation as one of the country’s best extended treks, according to the NT tourism authority at least, and keen trekkers should certainly add this one to their bucket list.
Kakadu National Park hiking
Everyone can find a trail that seems like it was made for them in Kakadu National Park, mostly because you can often create your own.
The visitor’s bureau specifies 25 set trails, most of which are relatively short day trips where you can take in specific features and sights.
There’s so much to see and do in Kakadu that you can even spend a holiday there without setting foot on a trail, but you’ll certainly be missing out.
If you don’t feel like roughing it, there are plenty of accommodation options which let you access the set trails for day trips, but its multi-day treks are where it really shines, especially if you want more of a challenge and like a bit of clambering and climbing on your treks.
If you want to find your own path and create your own trek then you’ll need to plan ahead and lodge your plan with the Kakadu Park HQ for approval.
You can expect to hear back about a week after your application. Your application needs to include a clearly marked trek plan. You generally aren’t permitted to do it alone and solid navigation skills are a must.
Depending on your plan, a satellite phone might be your only means of communication with the outside world.
Guided tours are understandably a popular choice for multi-day treks in Kakadu, and you can pick tours with different focuses, including combined 4WD and walking tours for hitting the must-sees more quickly, full on walking tours, or wildlife-focused safari-style expeditions.
You can check out these examples to get a good idea of what’s available. Once you’re in the area, you will find one of Australia’s most outstanding wildlife regions.
Just remember, this means crocodiles too, so if there’s a sign saying don’t swim, you shouldn’t swim.
Tasmania hiking trails
Australia’s island state is tightly packed with unforgettable walking trails. Despite its small size, it’s home to over 2,800km of managed walking track and 880 separate national park trails, most of which are conveniently located near Hobart or other city centres.
If you’re looking for a taste of luxury on your trek, Tasmania might be the perfect choice. Just like it has more than its fair share of hiking trails, it’s also home to more world-class wineries and gourmet restaurants than its size would have you believe, many of which are integrated into the walks and found at the end of hiking paths.
Walls of Jerusalem
This region is as remote as anywhere on Tasmania. It’s 144km from Hobart and near the centre of the island. You can cross the track on skis in winter or on foot at other times as long as you’re well prepared. It’s possible to take shorter hikes in the area, but it takes several days to see its finest wonders which lie beyond any marked paths.
Make it that far, and you’ll find yourself in true alpine country.
You will be able to see for yourself why the park’s vistas inspired a religious experience in explorers. The views are world class, and on a clear day you can see a significant portion of the entire state as well as the Overland Track on Cradle Mountain further down.
The trek itself isn’t hugely physically demanding and can be done by anyone with a moderate level of fitness. The main challenges instead may come from the isolation of the area, the ever-present chance of extreme weather changes and navigation difficulties.
The state park authority advises all walkers to bring tents, warm sleeping bags, waterproof and cold weather clothing and fuel stoves. Open fires aren’t permitted in the park, so you have to have a camping stove.
You’ll also need a good map and compass, although the ironstone deposits in the mountains have been known to affect readings. It’s no surprise that a lot of people go with tours, if it’s their first time in the area or if they’re not an experienced trekker.
Gear up well before heading off, and you can find an unforgettable experience in this park.
Overland Track on Cradle Mountain
The famous Overland Track is a 65km hike through Tasmania’s parks, typically taking around six days to cover the whole thing.
It’s earned a reputation as a serious undertaking that needs plenty of preparation ahead of time, but still remains one of the world’s most popular wilderness treks.
There are also day trips available if you want a healthy dose of scenery without committing to the full trek. Go all the way though, and you’ll get to take in some of the wildest country Tasmania has to offer, ascending from forests to alpine grasslands and seeing the land change around you as you climb. Cascades, pine stands and mountain lakes give the area an ancient feel, and despite the trail’s popularity it’s hard not to feel like you’re one of the first people to ever set foot there.
There are plenty of side trips too, and you can detour to waterfalls, rivers and nearby summits to get the perfect trek. The exciting terrain means it’s a diverse region, so experienced local guides might be able to help you find gems hidden in the mountains.
It’s a difficult climb, and you’ll need to be well equipped and in good physical shape to ascend each summit on the way.You can find more details on guided trips on TourRadar and a bit more information on what to expect.
Western Australia hiking trails
Australia’s most expansive state is naturally home to plenty of unforgettable walking paths, while its full coast-to-coast reach has plenty of hidden wonders, ranging from secluded beaches to cliffs to everything in between.
The state’s hiking trails and walking paths artfully take in the full range of terrain as well as many of the state’s vineyards and historical sites.
Cape to Cape Track
One of Australia’s Great Walks, the Cape to Cape Track reaches 135km, depending on your route, and usually takes around eight days from end to end.
If you’re looking for a long and varied trip that lets you get close to nature, this track might be perfect for you. The sheer variety of terrain is one of its most defining features, taking you through bushland, across beaches, across grown-over vehicle tracks and into narrow, rocky corridors.
It’s an exceptional walk all year around and develops a unique character each season as the landscape around it changes. Because it’s so varied, going with a guide who knows the trail can lead you to sights you might have just walked past otherwise, but it’s a thoroughly signposted trail with plenty of camping facilities en route, making it perfect for those looking to get their feet wet (literally, as you cool off on the beaches) on their first Great Australian Walk.
Western Australia’s longest trek is also one of Australia’s longest, spanning more than 1,000km in total.
One end is in Kalamunda, near Perth, while the other is much farther south, near Albany, WA.
The full trek can take six to eight weeks end to end and is broken up into sections of about a day each, so you can do it a segment at a time as well. It takes in a full range of terrain, ranging from the forests to the seaside as well as the Murray River Valley and some of the state’s best wildlife watching.
When you reach the south coast in particular, keen-eyed hikers can spot seals, dolphins and whales off the coastline. TourRadar, is a particularly popular one for this reason, and it is a segment often done in about 7 days.
A number of different tour companies operate along the trail, but the sheer length means you’re unlikely to find one that can take you all the way.
South Australia hiking trails
South Australia lets you pick your perfect hike, whether it's wildlife, natural wonders or history, or a combination of all three. Trails across the state can welcome everyone, while the state's reputation for great campgrounds means you'll never be at a loss.
Kangaroo Island Wilderness Trail
There are a lot of different ways to do Kangaroo Island. Its position near Adelaide means you can make day trips out there, while the wealth of accommodation options on the isle itself means there are also plenty of longer-term options. Similarly, you can take to it by bicycle, quad bike, car, camel or horseback, or on foot.
Nature lovers should definitely find their way to Kangaroo Island's hiking trails at some point, and might find themselves particularly drawn to the Kangaroo Island Wilderness Trail in Flinders Chase national park. This 60+km trail won't pose much of a challenge, but despite the relatively short length is still best done at leisure, over the course of about 5 days. It's extremely rich in diversions, from platypus holes to whale watching to caves and simply majestic views. It also takes you past some of Australia's best known natural formations, such as Admiral's Arch, and should probably be one of the must-do's on any keen hiker's list.
Flinders Ranges Arkaba Walk
If you're after more open spaces, and a heartier pace, then Arkaba Walk in South Australia's Flinders Ranges might be up your alley. This trail sees you crossing about 10-15km a day, taking in some exceptionally unique and varied landscapes. Amateur (and professional) geologists will definitely find a lot to love, with the walk encompassing some of the most geographically telling regions of Australia, encompassing craggy sandstone bluffs, dry river beds and 600 million years of history that have risen to the surface in Flinders Ranges.
Overseas visitors will definitely get a lot from this expedition, with expected sights including red and grey kangaroos, emus, wallaroos and more. You don't have to rough it either, with available walking tours and accommodation packages allowing for unforgettable experiences like comfy beds beneath the stars, and SA wine sampling while overlooking some of the most spectacular views in Australia.
What to know before you go
Preparation is the difference between having a struggle and having the time of your life.
Tick off the gear list and other preparations before you go. In all cases, it’s a good idea to do the following:
- Get a weather forecast. You should prepare for all eventualities anyway, but the typical weather for an area and the forecast for your trip are important considerations when working out what to bring and whether something is a must or if you might be able to do without it.
- Get your gear sorted out. One of the most common hiking mistakes is to pick a bag and then try to fit all the gear inside it. Do it the other way around instead. Sort your gear out first and then make sure you have a bag to suit. Doing it any other way means you’re either skipping important items or packing things you don’t need.
You might amend the checklist, but as a general rule you don’t want to set off on a trek without these.
How to get the most out of your gear
There’s nothing quite like enjoying the perfect match of form and function, so it’s worth taking some time to make sure you know how to get the most out of your gear and maybe considering a few alternatives.
- Runners instead of hiking boots. You generally won’t run into super-cold weather in Australia, so runners might be more preferable than hiking boots, depending on the terrain. If you’ll be getting your feet wet, then a pair of quick-drying runners with thin socks might be the superior choice. Just make sure you have appropriate grip, and that you’re fine giving up the protection and support of boots.
- Prevent chafing. Consider your undergarments as carefully as everything else. If you’re not a regular trekker, then you might not even own the right type and almost certainly won’t regret preparing a bit ahead of time. Specially designed synthetics are ideal as you’ll generally want something to whisk sweat and moisture away from the skin rather than absorb moisture.
- Waterproof your gear. Don’t have a bag with a fancy internal waterproofing system? No problem. Garbage bags do in a pinch. Basically, put everything in your bag inside a garbage bag and wrap it tightly. Double bag it for more security and take a roll of garbage bags with you for spare waterproofing and to carry your trash.
- Prevent tent condensation. You wake up in the morning and your tent is practically soaking. No time to let it dry though, so you pack it up and lug the waterlogged thing along. The main trick is to simply let it ventilate more by leaving it as open as much as you reasonably can or setting it up so the wind can blow through it more easily. Try leaving a gap between the inner and outer tent layers as well. Avoid keeping wet clothes inside the tent overnight if possible and try to find an opportunity to let it dry out where possible. This might mean airing it a bit before setting it up or in the morning as you pack up everything else.
- How to travel light. Cut down on bulky items and weight. Consider removing excess packaging from food before departure or packing things in your own lightweight containers. Some meal prep before departure, in the form of dehydrated meals, can also help you travel more lightly as long as you don’t mind foregoing the full camp cooking experience. Think about what substitutions you can make and whether you might be happy just alternating your clothes on a two-day rotation by letting them air overnight rather than packing more.
Preparing for emergencies, and what to know about search and rescue, and trekker’s insurance
Every year hikers get lost in Australia. If they’re lucky, they eventually find their way back or search and rescue picks them up. Unfortunately, many of the less lucky ones are still out there.
- Tell someone where you’re going and when you expect to be back. Let someone know what you plan and when you expect to be back. It’s nice to know someone back at home will miss you if you don’t return, but remember that it’s not uncommon for trips to take an extra day.
- Check in regularly if possible. Daily check-ins are a great way of letting people know you’re all right. Set up calls with someone at home if possible. However, depending on where you’re going your mobile phone might not do the trick.
- Have some form of communication. Satellite phones are highly regarded by those who venture into more remote places as a sometimes-essential lifeline. If you get bitten by a snake, break your leg or otherwise need to call for help, then carrying a reliable satellite phone can be a lifesaver.
Assembling your first aid kit
With space and weight at a premium, you might not necessarily want to load up with the full contents of a first aid kit.
Everyone has their own opinion about what constitutes a necessity, but there are some things that you probably don’t want to do without.
It can be useful to remember that for serious injuries, you’ll most likely be staying put and waiting for a rescue, so a lot of the essentials might be for the more minor situations, like antihistamines for mild allergic reactions. What to bring also depends on the nature of your trip.
This list is not a comprehensive one and you will need to decide what to bring based on your own needs and your destination.
- Pressure bandage. This is essential for snake bites to buy more time while you wait for emergency evac as well as many other situations. Depending on where you’re going, you might want a full snake bite kit.
- Bandages. Naturally, you will need some of these.
- Duct tape. A small, compact roll can go a long way and find uses in plenty of situations.
- Antihistamines. This is very useful for mild allergic reactions.
- Burn gel. Bring this along with other anti-inflammatories if necessary.
- Antiseptic wipes or gel. You will need something to clean wounds on the go.
Safety pins, tweezers, scissors, sealed and sterile gauze or bandages, an emergency blanket, antibiotic ointments and other items are also likely to find their way into your kit.
When you assemble your kit, think about how it will handle life on the road and make sure it will be quickly accessible and in good order if you have to get at it fast. Some extra waterproofing, in the form of a strong ziplock bag, is a good idea.
Last minute do’s and don’ts
- Check all your gear before leaving and test it if needed.
- Make sure you know what to expect from the weather.
- Try to stay dry. Waterproofing your boots and other gear before going is a good idea.
- Make sure to avoid dehydration.
- Know how to use everything you bring with you.
- Set up your tent underneath trees. Falling branches can be fatal.
- Underestimate the strength of fast-flowing water, even when shallow.
- Underestimate how quickly you dehydrate in heat.
- Underestimate the importance of good socks.
- Over-extend yourself. It’s better to be late than to push yourself too hard.
Frequently asked questions about hiking and trekking
Feature image: Shutterstock
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