During the months we spent in Australia I was actively preparing to walk the Camino de Santiago, in Spain, the following summer. The boots I’d invested in in New Zealand, for the mountain treks on the South Island, and with an eye toward Spain were in the process of being broken in and I was walking as many miles, over as many different terrains as possible.
Australia is a beautiful country to walk. The diversity in landscape and ecosystem is mind boggling and there is always something to explore. Being a country of outdoorsmen, there are trails virtually everywhere. A quick Google of the subject will turn up an exhaustive list of possibilities, from guided treks with posh accommodations and gourmet food, to endurance tests that are world renowned and truly off the grid and the beaten track.
“Walking is, in my opinion, the best way to engage with a place. “
I was lucky enough to walk in each of the states of Australia, from the Boranup State Forest, in Western Australia, beneath the giant karri trees, to the rainforest trails along the Great Ocean Road in Victoria. The dry, dusty loop around Uluru, that is best walked just as the sun rises and before the heat is oppressive, was an unforgettable morning. And the Bondi to Coogee Beach coastal walk in Sydney, which was how I battled the fatigue of jet lag. Finally, the paths within the tropical forests of Daintree National Park were among the last walks I took on the continent.
Walking is, in my opinion, the best way to engage with a place. It’s the slowest mode of travel. It forces interaction on a cellular level and connection through the souls of our feet and within every breath that we draw. When you walk within an environment, you have truly been there. It becomes part of your soul.
Here are five walks in Australia to inspire your wanderlust, deepen your bucket list, and help you get in touch with one of the most spectacularly diverse countries on the planet.
Go Big, or Go Home
The Bicentennial National Trail
is the mother of all walking trails in Australia. At a whopping 5330 kilometers through Victoria, New South Wales and Queensland, it takes and estimated one year to walk.
“If you have a year to burn, this is the ultimate walk to take.”
It is a non-motorized, self reliant trail that runs the length of the Great Dividing Range. It was originally developed for horses, but is now shared by walkers and bicyclists. It links 18 National Parks and accesses some of the most beautiful and remote country in Australia.
If you have a year to burn, this is the ultimate walk to take. It makes my Camino look like a child’s warm up.
Walk the Alps
Not the European Alps. This path will not pass through Austria or Switzerland. These are the Australian Alps
and they are located in Victoria and New South Wales. The Australian Alps trail is 655 kilometers long and the estimated time frame for walking is 5-8 weeks.
“You should be an experienced hiker and used to remote conditions to attempt this walk.”
This is a remote walk. The path passes through no towns. It is necessary to arrange food drops and maybe a support team before you attempt it. You should be an experienced hiker and used to remote conditions to attempt this walk. You must know how to use a compass and a map as there are wilderness sections of the trail that are not marked at all with arrows.
Numerous permits are required and should be looked into ahead of time.
The Edge of the World
The Great Ocean Walk
is, without question, on my bucket list. Sadly, I discovered it as we were leaving Victoria. I came across the signage when we were visiting the viewing point for the Twelve Apostles, a series of stunning rock formations that stand guard along the southern coast of Victoria. “I wonder where that goes?” I asked myself, as I noticed the path with an arrow turning off to the right.
“…for a total of 104 kilometers, the walk hugs the ocean and takes approximately 8 days to hike.”
Running along the spectacular coast of southern Victoria, between Apollo Bay and on past the Twelve Apostles, for a total of 104 kilometers, the walk hugs the ocean and takes approximately 8 days to hike. It passes through some spectacular country, beneath eucalyptus trees where we saw koalas hanging out in the afternoons, and along sea cliffs that are guaranteed to take your breath away. I’d be tempted to keep walking, right on to Warrnambool, until I got to the whales that winter in the bay with their calves.
Book your campsites in advance, especially if you’re walking in summer, and send me a postcard.
Not everyone has weeks, to a year, to devote to long haul walking. Not everyone is into carrying everything in a pack for hours and hours, day after day. Not everyone is interested in camping for a living. Some people just want to get out and take a quick walk, or have a weekend adventure.
Each of these tracks can be walked in portions, even an afternoon on any of these trails would be a lovely way to spend some time. If you’re looking for a small commitment of time and energy, or are looking to get your boots worn in as you plan for bigger things, the Six Foot Track is a great beginner’s choice.
“…the Six Foot Track is a great beginner’s choice.”
It’s only 44.3 kilometers in length. It runs from Katoomba, near Sydney, to the Jenolan Caves and passes through temperate rainforest along the Cox River, which you get to cross on a suspension bridge. It will take, at most, 3 days to make the hike and you’ll see things most people don’t.
If you happen to be in the area in March, don’t miss the Six Foot Track Marathon, a race that’s run on the path and has become one of the premiere long distance endurance events in the world. Personally, I’m not out to race. I’ll just walk.
A Posh Walk
Love the idea of walking, hate the idea of camping? Me too, sometimes. That was one of the best things about the Camino: a bed every night. There are loads of guided walks and comfortable experiences to be had in Australia. But if you’d like to branch out a bit, cover some of the path less traveled, then maybe you’d be interested in the Maria Island Walk.
Not many visitors to Australia make it to Tasmania. Fewer still make it to the islands off the coast of Tasmania. Maria Island is a UNESCO World Heritage site and is protected for it’s scenery and wildlife.
“Not many visitors to Australia make it to Tasmania. Fewer still make it to the islands off the coast of Tasmania. “
The Maria Island Walk is offered as fully supported by a number companies and includes comfortable accommodations, luxurious meals and a “pack free” option so that you can just enjoy your walk while someone else hauls the gear.
I’m actively planning another long walk. Maybe in Australia. I don’t know yet. Have you walked in Australia, or anywhere else? Please tweet this article and tag me @edventuremama with your recommendations on where else to take a long wander. I’d love to hear your recommendations!
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Photos by: urbancowboy , Konrad Mostert , Andres Ello, atiger , Henryk Sadura , mkphang