Go Wild – The Best Day Hikes Around Australia

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Mar 13, 2018

by BRIDGET DE MAINE, Online Writer

Think you’ve seen your own backyard? Think again: Australia has more than 28 million hectares dedicated to national parkland, making it a boundless playground for lovers of outdoor activities. Try one of these hikes that will (happily) take your legs the better part of the day. 

Near Sydney

Bouddi Coastal Walk

Where to find it: Bouddi National Park, half an hour from Gosford

Approximate distance: 8.5 kilometres, one-way

Approximate time: 3.5-4.5 hours

Meandering from Macmasters Beach to Putty Beach on the Central Coast of New South Wales, this 8.5-kilometre track includes all manner of outdoor delights. Following the curves of cliff-edged coastline, wanderers are just as likely to be greeted by migrating whales (Gerrin Point Lookout is the best place for spotting). Just look for the spritz of sea spray while taking the Grade 3 path. 

Pulpit Walking Track

Where to find it: Blue Mountains National Park, an hour from Sydney

Approximate distance: 7km return

Approximate time: 2-3 hours

Two major lookout points are looped into this Grade 3 track: the stunning Pulpit Rock, reveals the true splendour of the area's bluegums and Govetts Leap, where Grose Valley unfolds beneath you. The latter is your starting point, leading through heathlands and swamps, as well as past flowing waterfalls and through eucalypt forests. These are the types of views visitors travel over oceans to experience.

Grand Canyon Loop

Where to find it: Blue Mountains National Park

Approximate distance: 6.3 kilometres, loop

Approximate time: 3-4 hours

Weaving under the cool shade of enormous sandstone structures and around bubbling creeks, this atmospheric Blue Mountains track takes visitors beyond the favourite lookouts of the heritage-listed area. Although the track does include the requisite vista over the renowned valley, it offers a more intimate journey into the lowlands, with waterfalls and wildlife competing for your attention as you pass. 

Jerusalem Bay Track

Where to find it: Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park, an hour north of Sydney

Approximate distance: 11 kilometres, one-way

Approximate time: 4.5–5.5 hours

If you’re not averse to breaking a sweat, this challenging section of the Great North Walk is an adventuress choice. Reaching the coast at Brooklyn from the dense bushland of Cowan, the Jerusalem Bay Track demands hikers tackle a few ridge ascents, which compensate with views of the waters hugging the inlets surrounding Cowan.

Near Melbourne

Point Nepean

Where to find it: Point Nepean National Park, near Portsea

Approximate distance: 14.5 kilometres, loop

Approximate time: 3 hours

Hordes may huddle at the edges of the Great Ocean Road but the sleepy Mornington Peninsula to Melbourne’s east has its own secret stash of stunning coastal vistas. This circular track leads walkers through windswept bush and sand-dusted scrub, culminating at the edge of Point Nepean, where views of both Port Phillip Bay and the Bass Strait are generously served.

Keppel Lookout Trail

Where to find it: Marysville, two hours north of Melbourne

Approximate distance: 11 kilometres, loop

Approximate time: 4 hours

Cutting through atmospheric mountain ash and stringybark forests, this walk also whisks you past the base of the Steavenson Falls. The lookout is, unsurprisingly, the highlight: it’s a steep ascent in places but the view it affords the resilient is awe-inspiring, with the soft pillows of the Yarra Ranges rising into the horizon once you reach Keppel Lookout. 

Werribee Gorge State Park Circuit Walk

Where to find it: Werribee Gorge State Park, an hour west of Melbourne

Approximate distance: 9.3 kilometres, one-way

Approximate time: 3.5 hours

This gorge-grazing ramble requires a little more work than your average stroll –there’s rock and river scrambling included. Once you reach the peak of Western Viewpoint however, you can happily peer over the impressive gorge of interlocking spurs as it snakes away into the distance and pat yourself on the back for your efforts. 

Near Brisbane

Coomera Circuit

Where to find it: Lamington National Park, an hour west of the Gold Coast

Approximate distance: 17.4 kilometres, one-way

Approximate time: 7 hours

Delving deep into rainforest and subtropical surrounds, this track skirts the lush edges of Coomera Gorge, pushing wanderers to hop from rock to rock while crossing the free-flowing Coomera River (it’s not advisable to take this track following heavy rain). The gorge plunges 160 metres down, with temperate flora immersing you in tropical, otherworldly backdrops.

Warrie Circuit

Where to find it: Springbrook National Park, an hour southwest from the Gold Coast

Approximate distance: 17 kilometres, loop

Approximate time: 5-6 hours

Thanks to the abundant waterfalls and sheer cliffs in this sheltered area of Springbrook National Park, good shoes and careful planning are a must. Once you have the basics though, you’ll be treated to a lush, shaded rainforest dotted with running streams and rivers, the highlight of which is the “Meeting of the Waters”, a perfect picnic spot where all waters draining into the canyon meet.

Northbrook Gorges

Where to find it: D'Aguilar National Park, an hour and 15 minutes north of Brisbane

Approximate distance: 6 kilometres, one-way

Approximate time: 3 hours

This is a walk that requires a little more than putting one foot in front of the other. Littered with rock pools, a journey into this gorge could be better tackled by swimming the length of it rather than hiking. When the creeks are as clear as glass however, it’s hardly a sacrifice. At the very least, you’ll need to get your feet wet.

Near Canberra

Gibraltar Peak

Where to find it: Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve, an hour south of Canberra

Approximate distance: 8.2 kilometres, return

Approximate time: 2-3 hours

Don’t get us wrong: the summit of this 1040-metre peak has its merits but it’s the fascinating journey through the 400-million-year-old monoliths near the top that really sets Gibraltar Peak apart. In the final 200 metres of your ascent, weaving and dodging these stately stones is half the fun (apart from taking a break on the quirky wooden picnic table on your way to the top).

Mount Ainslie Summit Trail

Where to find it: Mount Ainslie Nature Reserve, on the outskirts of Canberra

Approximate distance: 4 kilometres, return

Approximate time: 1.5 hours

Canberra’s central peak Mount Ainslie stands at 843 metres so you can be certain views from the top will impress. Beginning from Remembrance Park behind the Australian War Memorial, the trail – also known as the Kokoda Memorial Track and populated with commemorative plaques along the way – is popular with local fitness fanatics.

Image: Andrew Harvey (CC BY 2.0)

Near Perth

Scarborough-Trigg Heritage Walk

Where to find it: Scarborough Beach, fifteens minutes west of Perth CBD

Approximate distance: 7.3 kilometres, loop

Approximate time: 2.5 hours

Covering the two sandy stretches of Scarborough and Trigg beaches as well as the sea-salted scrub of nearby Trigg Bushland Reserve, this looped track displays an array of nature you wouldn’t expect to find just 15 kilometres from Perth’s city centre. There’s plenty to catch your eye beyond coastal views – wildlife and unique wildflowers are among the residents worth spotting.

Bibbulmun Track

Where to find it: Albany Highway, Mount Cooke, an hour east of Perth

Approximate distance: 16.3 kilometres

Approximate time: 5.5-6.5 hours

Although the full Bibbulmun trail curves around almost 1000 kilometres of Western Australia’s southwest, some shorter portions are manageable on your weekend. The track from Sullivan Rock to Monadnocks campsite isn’t for the faint-footed but the incentive for the hard work is tempting. As it takes on two mountains - Vincent and Cuthbert – on the same trail, there’s the chance to drink in views nearby Youraling State Forest and Monadnocks Conservation Park. 

Gabbi Karniny Bidi

Where to find it: Rottnest Island

Approximate distance: 9.7 kilometres, loop

Approximate time: 3-4 hours

Rottnest Island’s major drawcard may be its impossibly blue waters (and the ever-friendly quokka) but the expanding network of trails that snake across the island known as Wadjemup Bidi is bringing visitors to new corners of this protected nature reserve. One trail, the Gabbi Karniny Bidi, is notable for its exploration of various landscapes – starting from The Settlement, it winds around coastal headlands, inland salt lakes and wetlands brimming with wildlife. 

Near Hobart

Hartz Peak

Where to find it: Hartz Mountains National Park, an hour and a half south of Hobart

Approximate distance: 8 kilometres, loop

Approximate time: 3-5 hours

Hitting the peak of the Hartz Mountains doesn’t come easy. Ascending to a stunning 1254 metres above sea level, the final scramble to the top over scattered rock scree may test your resolve (and inconsistent weather will threaten your panorama) but persist: a clear day will put almost the whole of southwest Tasmania on superb display. 

Wineglass Bay and Hazards Beach Circuit

Where to find it: Freycinet National Park, two hours south east of Launceston

Approximate distance: 11 kilometres, loop

Approximate time: 4–5 hours

Sure, the starting point is a little further afield for the average Hobart resident but like the occasionally trying track itself, the destination is the journey. Skimming the sand of two spectacular Tasmania beaches – Wineglass and Hazards – this circuit loops a large portion of the Freycinet National Park, ensuring trekkers will take in some of Australia’s most scenic parkland.

Cape Hauy

Where to find it: Tasman National Park, an hour and a half east from Hobart

Approximate distance: 4.4 kilometres, one-way

Approximate time: 4 hours

Working its way to the north-east tip of the Tasman National Park, the Cape Hauy track spectacularly skirts the sea, taking hikers along some of the country’s most rugged coastline. As somewhat of an Apple Isle answer to the Great Ocean Road, razor-edged rock formations add to the treks’ drama – and to the excitement of rock climbers looking for a new scarp to scale.

Near Darwin

Walker Creek Walk

Where to find it: Litchfield National Park, an hour and a half south of Darwin

Approximate distance: 3.5 kilometres, return

Approximate time: 2 hours

Water isn’t always welcoming in the Northern Territory – there are a few wayward creatures that don’t take so kindly to fellow swimmers (saltwater crocs, we’re looking at you). No need to check over your shoulder while walking the Walker Creek walk, which skims a crystal clear creek – your cool-down dip will be stress-free. Though the walk, is short, factor in the 1.5 to 2 hours it takes to drive from the Darwin city centre to the trail mouth.

Exploring Bathurst Island

Where to find it: Tiwi Islands, two and a half hours from Darwin

Approximate time: Full day

The Tiwi Islands, two oft-forgotten paradises just a two-and-a-half hour ferry from Darwin, might not have mountains and valleys to traverse but the ‘Land of Smiles’ has plenty of culture to explore on foot. Learning the culture, history and strong art traditions of the Tiwi people with a guide from the Wurrumiyanga community, a full-day tour to Bathurst Island with a company like Diverse Travel will provide you with more than just a few landscape photo ops.

Near Adelaide

Waitpinga Cliffs to Kings Beach, 15 minutes from Victor Harbour

Where to find it: Newland Head Conservation Park

Approximate distance: 11.5 kilometres, one-way

Approximate time: 6 hours

Following the sloping cliffs of Waitpinga, this seaside track running through the Newland Head Conservation Park boasts stunning views of the ocean and all its lively inhabitants. Devotees of this walk often spot dolphins, seals and whales making their way past.

Image: Royston Rascals (CC BY-NC 2.0)

Sturt Gorge Recreation Park River Trail

Where to find it: Sturt Gorge Recreation Park, 30 minutes south of Adelaide

Approximate distance: 9.8 kilometres, one-way

Approximate time: 4-5 hours

Sure, there are shorter, easier trails in Sturt Gorge Recreation Park but any of those would miss the creeks, waterfalls and rivers that course through this route. There are no fewer than nine river crossings (only proper shoes will cut it here) so heavy rain won’t bode well for some sections but if it’s dry, it’s not difficult to appreciate the rugged allure of the gorge.

Shiraz Trail

Where to find it: McLaren Vale

Approximate distance: 14 kilometres, return

Approximate time: 6 hours

Winding walkers through some of South Australia’s most revered vineyards, this mostly flat trail follows an old train track through the wine country of McLaren Vale to the charming town of Willunga. Lined with vines that extend right up to the walking path, this is Shiraz country and if you work up a thirst, stopping into any one of the abundant cellar doors is an easy – and delicious – diversion.

Top Image: Bibbulmun Track Affandy J (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

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