Australia is home to some of the most incredible hiking destinations in the world. The only way of reaching many of Australia’s wonders is by foot, which means hikes in Australia can make for some incredible experiences. From sandy coastlines to top trails and clifftop waterfalls, there is a lot to explore in Australia. Let’s start with a few important things and tips for safe hiking in the land of wilderness.
Things to Consider and Essential Hiking Tips
Hikers need to plan properly and gear up before leaving for Australia’s wildernesses. This helps them avoid becoming a rescue mission or a news story. Australia is full of hiking trails for hikers of all experience levels, so hikers need to be very careful in picking a trail. Although hikes in Australia are no trouble for the most part, you still need to be prepared. Here are some important tips to consider to ensure your safety and a trouble-free hike.
Australia is a particularly bad country to get lost in while hiking. Cell phone reception is limited in many wilderness spots across Australia, so you need to be prepared to communicate with rescuers if something goes wrong. Emergency Position Indicating Response Beacon (EPIRBs) or PLBs (Personal Location Beacons) can be rented or borrowed for free from National Park Offices and police stations in popular bushwalking areas such as Kosciuszko National Park and Blue Mountains National Park.
That’s why most national parks in Australia require you to register your hike because even the most experienced hikers might end up needing help. However, hikers should use PLBs as a last resort and use their cell phone first if network coverage is available. Having a PLB also does not mean that you can go out in the wilderness without gearing up properly (more on essential wilderness survival skills here).
Plan Well Ahead and Be Prepared
Most trails in Australia require hikers to register well before leaving. You need to make sure to inform someone about your travel itinerary and keep them updated wherever you can find cell phone coverage.
We have already covered backpacking essentials and important gear for hiking adventures in dedicated posts. In addition to gearing up properly, you also need to be physically fit for the trail you are about to hike. Some trails are easy and can be completed by almost anyone, while others are harder and require some experience and a certain degree of fitness level. You can learn more about how to get in shape for hiking here.
- Choose trails that match your fitness and experience level. Hiking is not just about ‘walking’
- Avoid hiking alone if you are new to the terrain or hiking. Group hikes or guided tours are a much better and safer option for beginners
- Choose clothing and shoes appropriately and pack all the essential gear
- Keep some extra pairs of hiking socks designed specifically for the purpose like Silverlight socks
- Make an informed decision about choosing between hiking boots vs. trail runners
- Temperature in the Alpine areas can drop dramatically at night, so be prepared if you plan on visiting regions such as Victoria, Tasmania and New South Wales
- Keep a first aid kit, even a basic one and learn to use it properly
- Pay special attention to your feet and learn how to prevent and manage blisters
- Pick the right socks for your hiking adventures and wear shoes that fit properly
- Know how to find your way in the wilderness using outdoor navigation devices
- Dress for the weather and make sure to keep an eye on the weather forecast
- Be aware of trail etiquettes and leave no trace
- When hiking trails that are known to have snakes, walk loudly so snakes can feel the vibration or use trekking poles to create some vibration. Back away slowly if you encounter one
- Make sure to check fire status before leaving. Most Australian National Park official websites provide up-to-date information about fire alerts, while you can also download apps such as Fires Near Me
- Be realistic and avoid overestimating your fitness level and abilities
- Consider investing in ultralight backpacking gear
- Watch out for spiders and other crawlies and check your boots and other stuff. Cover the tops if you have to leave your shoes outside the tent
- Ticks and leeches can be found almost anywhere in Australia, so you should be prepared to encounter them on your hikes
The Best Hikes in Australia
Near Sydney: Bondi to Coogee Coastal walk
The coastal trek starts with beautiful vistas of Bondi Icebergs and winds around stunning beaches and eastern suburb headlands. The trek leads you through stunning landscapes including ocean baths, clifftops and golden sand beaches. A total length of around 3.7 miles (6 km) is suitable for everyone and can be completed in about two hours.
However, you need more time than that to stop and enjoy the beautiful beaches along the way, including Tamarama & Bronte. If you plan your trip around the world’s biggest public sculpture exhibition Sculpture by Sea (free for all), you might also be able to see some large sculptures that dot the coast.
Near Melbourne: Great Ocean Walk
The Great Ocean Walk is foot-equivalent of Australia’s famous road trip the Great Ocean Road and starts at Victoria’s fishing village Apollo. The 62 miles (100 Km) trek requires a lot of preparation and planning, but the incredible breezy beaches and coastal cliffs are worth the effort. Although there are many places where the trek runs parallel to the Road, it also takes you to places where the road does not, including across unique rock shelves and low forest.
The 12 Apostles is one of the most beautiful destinations of the whole region. Under the sun these limestone spires change color and look magnificent in daylight. It’s recommended to hike the Great Ocean Walk in a group because of its length and time required to complete it.
Near Canberra: Australian Alps Walking Track
Australia’s best long-distance trail weaves through the Australian Capital Territory and Victoria (New South Wales). The 404-miles (650 KM) trail is ideal for thru-hikers, but hikers can also hike short sections in the national parks, including Namadgi and Kosciuszko. Thru-hiking has its own challenges and requires special preparation, and there are a lot of extra costs involved with it, which hikers need to consider.
Depending on where you begin the hike, you’ll explore native forests, traverse exposed high plains, ascend rocky peaks and experience rugged Australian landscapes. Just make sure to be well prepared for the weather that can change without any kind of warning and get pretty wet and windy.
Near Darwin: Larapinta and Jatbula Trails
The 139-mile (223 KM) trail takes between 12-20 days to complete and is considered to be one of the most outback treks in Australia. It passes in the Northern Territory through West MacDonnell Ranges steep terrain, towering red rock formations and refreshing waterholes. The trail also provides hikers with the opportunity to visit the sacred Aboriginal sites. Hikers can opt for shorter sections of the trail, including Counts Point Walk, which is a one-day hike. Expert guided tours and other amenities are also available for a more comfortable and enjoyable experience.
The Jatbula Trail passes through Nitmiluk National Park and offers a stunning nature hike in the Northern Territory. It leads through thunderous waterfalls to sandstone cliffs and monsoon forest, and provides a rare opportunity to swim in refreshing water holes along the way. Hikers interested in the trail should ideally have bushwalking experience. Although most hikers prefer to hike the trail on their own, the option of guided tours is also available.
Near Hobart: Overland and Three Capes Track
The Overland Track is one of Tasmania’s most iconic hiking trails that offers secluded nature and passes through peaks, towering bluffs and grassy plains. The 40 miles (60 KM) trail takes around six days to complete, so you need to pack properly and plan well ahead.
The trail ends at Lake St. Clair. You can complete the hike on your own, in a group or opt for staying in exclusive accommodation with breathtaking surroundings. You need to be prepared for the cold and wet weather, which can change very quickly. You also need to book in advance for the trip via online booking.
Three Capes Track is the last piece of land in far south-east Australia. The four-day-track passes through remote locations and clifftop coastline. Only the waves below can break the silence, which makes this track a perfect choice for those who want some time alone.
Inexperienced hikers can complete the track with an expert guide who can guide them through the unique landscape, stark sea cliffs, towering dolerite spires and along the blue ocean. Limited walk numbers mean you need to book well in advance, while for accommodation and a guided journey you might want to learn more about the Three Capes Lodge Walk.
Near Perth: Bibbulmun & Cape to Cape Track
The Bibbulmun is considered to be one of the greatest trails in Australia and stretches over 621 miles (around 1,000 KM). It passes western Australia’s heart through karri tree forests, soft sand dunes, the wild Southern Ocean and coastal lookouts. The long trail spoils hikers for choice, who can pick any day hike from the towns situated along the trail or embark on around a eight-week hike to finish the trail.
Cape to Cape track
The track offers a unique mix of cave networks, coastal cliffs, sandy beaches and breezy forests. The 76-mile (123 KM) track starts within Leeuwin-Naturaliste National Park at Cape Naturaliste Lighthouse and traverses the Western Australia coast. The hike is guaranteed to bring a true sense of freedom and adventure, thanks to the windy foreshore and a dynamic landscape. A Four-day guided tour with Walk into Luxury allows you to hike in a small group while offering gourmet food and villa accommodation.
Near Brisbane: Fraser Island Great Walk
The track stretches more than 55 miles (90 KM) across the largest sand island in the world. The track takes hikers through golden sand dunes, tall forests and breath-taking blue lakes. It starts from Dilli Village and reaches freshwater deep lakes while going through sand flats and eucalypt forest.
The crystal-clear waters of Lake McKenzie is something you would not want to miss, which is easily recognizable by the bright white shoreline. The trail takes around eight days, but hikers can also opt for shorter sections like the Lake Wabby Walk. However, you need to bring all the required gear, water and food as the trail is far away from civilization.
Near Adelaide: Heysen and Kangaroo Island Wilderness Trail
The Heysen Trail is the longest and wildest dedicated trail (745-mile/1,200 KM) in Australia and suitable for hikers who are looking for a true adventure. From South Australian landscapes to wine regions, craggy peaks, coastal plains, bushland and historic towns, the trail is very dramatic and provides a chance to see surprising wildlife, which includes kangaroos, echidnas and wallabies.
Hiking the entire trail is something only meant for experienced hikers. Beginners can choose between many short day-hikes as well as multi-day hikes according to their fitness level and equipment they have. There are plenty of huts and campsites along the trail, but many find a guided expedition a better option, which includes accommodation and food.
As the name suggests, the Kangaroo Island Wilderness trail is a windswept coastline that’s full of native wildlife species. That’s what makes the hiking destination so intriguing as it allows hikers to explore dense eucalypt woodland, limestone cliffs and native wild animals. Campsites are located at the end of a day’s walk, making the trail a great option for self-guided hikes.
Guided tours and scheduled accommodation are also available off the trail. It takes around five days to hike the trail, which itself is a memorable experience that allows hikers to reconnect with nature. Hikers are required to book a hike in advance, so make sure the paperwork is complete before leaving for this incredible trail.
Australia is home to some of the most incredible hiking destinations in the world. But the wilderness can also be harsh and requires hikers to be prepared for an adventure. The length and difficulty of the trail should match your own experience, preparedness and equipment choices. Most of the lost hikers’ stories root back to trying to do more than their capability allows. Hiking is about having fun and getting closer to nature and not about trying to do too much too soon.