People have traversed the world’s biggest island on foot for more than 40,000 years, following traditional trade routes and ancient songlines. So bushwalking in Australia has a fabulously rich cultural history. Laying that over landscapes dating back to prehistoric continental breakups gives you a hiking destination without equal.
Step off the highways and byways and you can leave footprints in the sandy bed of one of the world’s oldest rivers, venerate ancient Antarctic beech trees dripping with moss, and tread alpine moors unrolled beneath huge skies; the choices are endless.
A chunk of the Gondwana super-continent that also produced South America, Africa, Antarctica, and the Indian subcontinent, mainland Australia – governance also extends to thousands of islands – reaches south from the tropics to the realm of the Roaring Forties and is a natural barrage between the Pacific and Indian oceans.
More than 30,000km of beaches and sea cliffs lasso a vast patchwork of virgin forests and farmland, sprawling metropolises and tiny towns, and expanses of unforgiving outback that early explorers wrote off as barren but which erupts with wildflowers after rains; a collage of ecosystems and geologies subject to floods and bushfires.
Australia is scored with ancient rivers and timeworn mountains with compelling Aboriginal creation stories and fantastic geological histories. And there is no better way – in some instances no other way – to explore and appreciate Australia’s story lines than on foot.
Check out my state-by-state itineraries which include lots of specific walks:
Australia’s headline bushwalking destinations are New South Wales, home to the country’s oldest national park and famous Blue Mountains; Victoria, where you can walk in desert and rainforest and venture to the southernmost point of the mainland; and the island state of Tasmania, about a fifth of which is World Heritage-listed wilderness. There are however wonderful walks in all eight states and territories.
Watch the wildflower season unfurl southwards from the rugged, gorge-riven Kimberley region to towering timber forests in Western Australia. Follow trails through verdant vine forests to showy waterfalls and traverse islands fashioned from rock and sand in Queensland. Scale the spectacularly layered and buckled Flinders Ranges, in South Australia’s north, get up close with wildlife on Kangaroo Island, down south, and tread between the two on the Heysen Trail, one of four epic Australian walking tracks. In the Northern Territory you can experience a little of the mystery and mythology of the country’s most famous rock on a walk around Uluru.
Fascinated by wildflowers and fungi? Love hugging trees? Enjoy bird watching? Some basic bushwalking safety and appropriate footwear, maybe some walking poles and a bit of technology, will see you on your way – and safely home again.
And if life’s too short to plan your own trip, or you just can’t be bothered hefting a full pack, join a guided or self-guided camping and accommodated walking holiday.
Pack your lunch, lace up your boots, open my book Top Walks in Australia, and prepare to be inspired by Australia’s multitude of hiking tracks.