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Australia's Walking Tracks

The Long and Short of Hiking Adventures

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Walking tracks in Australia are part of the bushwalking network that covers most of the country. Bushwalking is a fairly general term in Australia that takes in hiking through dense forests and often rough terrain on mountains and cliffsides as well as along and across waterways.

There are walking tracks all over Australia, some of which are adventuresome and challenging and large numbers more suited to the occasional and leisurely walker.

You will find these tracks almost anywhere in Australia, particularly in national parks and state forests. In every case more walking track information should be readily available in the numerous visitor centres throughout the country. Here are some of the better-known walking tracks in the states and mainland territories of Australia.

1. Australian Capital Territory

Bushwalking at Tidbinbilla © Australian Capital Tourism
Bushwalking at Tidbinbilla © Australian Capital Tourism

Despite being Australia's smallest mainland territory, the Australian Capital Territory features a large number of walking tracks including those in Canberra city itself as well as in the rest of the territory as in Tidbinbilla on the fringe of Canberra's only national park, Namadgi. In the national park itself are some 170 kilometres of walking tracks including the Yankee Hat Art Walking Track leading to ancient Aboriginal rock art.

In Tidbinbilla, home of the Canberra Deep Space Communication Complex, various walking trails provide insights into the natural environment, indigenous art and heritage, the area's history, and native fauna.

2. New South Wales

Jibbon Head Trail at Royal National Park © James Pipino / Destination NSW
Jibbon Head Trail at Royal National Park © James Pipino / Destination NSW

Large numbers of Sydney visitors as well as Sydney locals are probably unaware that there is a Sydney Great Coastal Walk from the Barrenjoey Peninsula in the north to the Royal National Park in the south. In sections covering about five hours daily, the whole route — taking in Avalon, Narrabeen Lakes, Manly, North Head and South Head, Clovelly, La Perouse and Cronulla — the Great Coastal Walk takes a whole week to complete.

The Bondi to Tamarama section of the coastal walk is particularly popular in late spring during Sculpture by the Sea when the two-kilometre walk becomes a temporary sculpture park featuring more than 100 sculptures by artists from Australia and overseas.

For walking tracks of various distances and grades of difficulty, the Sydney visitor interested in shorter walks should probably first consider Royal National Park at the southern edge of the greater Sydney area. Not only is the park within relatively easy driving distance from the city centre but it has walking tracks that take as short as a fraction of an hour, but also as long as two days, to complete.

You will find walking tracks in national parks in and around Sydney and elsewhere in New South Wales.

In the Blue Mountains west of the city, the Six Foot Track is 42 kilometres from Katoomba to Jenolan Caves and may take three days to complete. Visit the visitor centres in Glenbrook or Echo Point, Katoomba, for bushwalking information.

3. Northern Territory

Razorback Ridge on the Larapinta Trail © Tourism NT
Razorback Ridge on the Larapinta Trail © Tourism NT

One of Australia's most challenging walking tracks is the 223km Larapinta Trail in the Northern Territory which starts at Alice Springs and heads west into the MacDonnell Ranges through mountains, gorges and valleys, ending at one of the Northern Territory's highest peaks, Mount Sonder. In summer, temperatures on the track exceed 45°C and most people walk the trail only in winter.

There are 12 sections of the Larapinta Trail with kilometre posts marking distances to campsites and the total distance yet to be traveled. No fires are allowed along the walk.

As elsewhere in Australia, various walking tracks are to be found in the Northern Territory national parks.

4. Queensland

Bushwalking track at Lamington National Park © Tourism Queensland
Bushwalking track at Lamington National Park © Tourism Queensland

Rainforests, geological formations and cultural artefacts are some of the features to be discovered along Queensland's Great Walks which include tracks in the World Heritage areas of the Gondwana Rainforests, Wet Tropics and Fraser Island. Some of these areas are accessible from the Gold Coast and Sunshine Coast with Fraser Island reached by ferry from the Queensland coast.

Queensland national parks would each feature a number and variety of walking tracks.

5. South Australia

Heysen Trail on the Fleurieu Peninsula © SATC / Peter Fisher
Heysen Trail on the Fleurieu Peninsula © SATC / Peter Fisher

Australia's longest dedicated walking track, the Heysen Trail, starts at Cape Jervis at the southwestern tip of South Australia's Fleurieu Peninsula, meandering northeast and north through the peninsula and Mount Lofty Ranges before ending at Parachilna Gorge north of Adelaide and Port Augusta. The Heysen Trail is 1200 kilometres long.

It normally takes a 30-day hike to cover the distance from Cape Jervis to Parachilna but shorter sections of the track can be covered over shorter periods.

6. Tasmania

Walking Tasmania's Overland Track © Tourism Tasmania and Don Fuchs
Walking Tasmania's Overland Track © Tourism Tasmania and Don Fuchs

Arguably Australia's most famous walking track is Tasmania's 65km Overland Track through World Heritage areas from Cradle Mountain to Lake St Clair. The trek through the wilderness heart of Tasmania takes from five to six days but there are sidetracks to explore which add to the distance and travel time.

As well as the lengthy Overland Track, there are also shorter day walks available at Cradle Valley and the Cynthia Bay region at the southern end of Lake St Clair.

In development is Tasmania's Three Capes Track which is a coastal walk taking in the sea cliffs of the Tasman Peninsula including Cape Raoul, Cape Pillar and Cape Hauy. It is expected to be opened in stages with the complete track finished by 2015. Some opposition to the track's impact on the environment may eventually result into its becoming a "Two Capes" Track.

The first 4.7km section of the Three Capes Track — the Cape Hauy Track from Fortescue Bay to the cape — has now opened to walkers.

Most Tasmanian walking tracks are to be found in the state's national parks such as Cradle Mountain-Lake St Clair National Park and Freycinet National Park.

Even for the experienced walker, exploring parts of the southwestern Tasmanian Wilderness area can be a daunting adventure.

7. Victoria

Bounding along the Great Ocean Walk © Tourism Victoria
Bounding along the Great Ocean Walk © Tourism Victoria

Victoria's Great Ocean Walk is one of the more popular coastal walks taking in a 104km route from Apollo Bay to the Twelve Apostles. Guided walks take around eight days with stops at several pre-booked campsites.

Sections of the Great Ocean Walk — such as the Shelly Beach Circuit, Lighthouse Cemetery and Lookout Walk, the Gables Lookout Walk and Wreck Beach Walk — may be taken as short walks with shuttle service available at various points of the Great Ocean Walk.

8. Western Australia

Along the Bibbulmun Track © Tourism Westrn Australia
Along the Bibbulmun Track © Tourism Westrn Australia

Possibly Australia's second longest walking track, Western Australia's Bibbulmun Track is close to 1000 kilometres long and runs from the Perth suburb of Kalamunda all the way through the state's southwest region to the historic town of Albany.

Bibbulmun Track takes walkers through karri and tingle forests, wildflowers in the spring, valleys, giant boulders, and coastal heathlands. Walkers can camp along the track or stay the night in nearby towns.

Temperatures may be high in summer and walking the Bibbulmun Track may only be feasible in areas where forest trees shade the way.

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