Great Australian Walks

This article features a selection of Australia’s most iconic multi-day walks. Self-guided walking and camping with a backpack is a satisfying and inexpensive way to experience some of Australia’s most pristine environments.

Bicentennial National Trail (BNT)

The Bicentennial National Trail stretches 5,330 km from Cooktown in North Queensland, to Healesville in Victoria. The trail follows historic coach and stock routes, old pack horse trails, and country roads. It links 18 National Parks with spectacular scenery. It passes through tropical rainforests, mountains, valleys, gorges, dry plains, alpine meadows, snowfields and wilderness.

The BNT is suitable for horse riders, walkers and mountain bike riders. Trekking with pack animals is part of the experience, but other animals such as dogs and cats are not permitted. No motorised transport such as 4WD vehicles or trail bikes are allowed on the trail as it passes through areas of private property and government reserves that do not allow vehicular access.

In NSW many campsites are in Travelling Stock Reserves (TSRs) and a camping permit must be obtained via the BNT office before trekking, even if you have no animals. Contact with the relevant Rural Lands Protection Board is a condition of the permit.

The trail may take one year or more to complete depending on your level of fitness, your mode of travel and the extra time you spend to absorb the wonders of Australia.

See the offical BNT website for more details

Bibbulmun Track

The Bibbulmun Track is a network of walking trails stretching nearly 1000 km from Kalamunda in the Perth Hills to Albany on the south coast of Western Australia. It goes through the heart of the scenic South West and traverses beautiful bush, forests and beaches.

One of the most unique aspects to this multi-day hike is that it is designed purely for walkers. Vehicles, trail bikes, mountain bikes, horses, dogs and pack animals are not permitted on the Bibbulmun Track or at any campsite.

You’ll need 6-8 weeks to complete the whole walk but many people choose to walk on the Track for much shorter periods. The walk is designed in sections so that you can decide to do a straight through walk from one point to another (by doing a car shuffle using two cars) or a return walk.

There are 49 campsites along the track, each spaced a day's walk apart. Each campsite has a three-sided timber shelter which sleeps between 8-15 people, tent sites, bush toilet (bring toilet paper), rainwater tank, picnic tables and a fireplace. No camping is permitted in water catchment areas - ie most of the Track between Kalamunda and Collie, and south of the Blackwood River.
The trail passes through the towns of Kalamunda, Mundaring, Dwellingup, Collie, Balingup, Donnelly River Village, Pemberton, Northcliffe, Walpole, Peaceful Bay, Denmark and Albany. This enables walkers to exit the bush for supplies, sleep in a bed, meet up with a support crew, obtain medical aid etc. A couple of towns are spaced more than a day’s walk apart so those walkers not carrying camping equipment will need to plan to only do the day walk sections of the track.

When choosing your start/end points, you must use only designated access points so check the official Bibbulmun Track maps and guidebooks for this critical information, which is strictly enforced.

Campfires may be lit only at approved campsites. The Blackwood and Yourdamung campsites and all the campsites between Albany and the Shannon River are designated as no fire zones all year round. They do not have fireplaces, and in these campsites, fuel stoves only must be used.

The best time to do the walk is during the cooler months between April and early November. Expect to see wildflowers in the northern end about August, although September and October tend to be the peak times for experiencing the best wildflowers along the track as you head south.

The best place to plan your Bubbulmun Track walk is on their very comprehensive website.

The Australian Alps Walking Track

The Australian Alps Walking Track is 650km long and traverses the high country of Victoria, New South Wales and the ACT through remote alpine national parks. The track follows ridges and exposed high plains and passes through magnificent tall forests and stunted snow gum woodlands. It is a difficult walk that should only be attempted by experienced, self-reliant hikers that are competent with map and compass navigation.

The entire walk will take ten weeks (or 45-60 days including rest days) but many people choose to walk shorter sections, joining the track at many places between Walhalla and Canberra, where the trail intersects popular walking tracks in the Baw Baw Plateau, the Bogon High Plains and in the Jagungal Wilderness Area.

Download this pdf brochure/walking guide directly from the Australian Alps website for more information.

Overland Track

The Overland Track in Tasmania is a 65km, 6-day hike through the heart of the Cradle Mountain-Lake St Clair National Park, which makes up part of the Tasmania Wilderness World Heritage area. Walking this route is a significant undertaking and you should avoid walking alone.

Overland Track weather is notoriously unpredictable and changes rapidly. Most walkers experience a bit of everything during their journey, regardless of the time of year: sunshine, rain, wind and snow. Whilst more stable and warmer weather patterns occur from November to April, snow and sleet may still occur in the middle of summer.

For these reasons, there is a peak walking season from 1 October – 31 May that is managed by the Tasmanian Parks & Wildlife service. All walkers that wish to access the track within this timeframe must make a booking which will confirm your departure date. The online booking system is designed to manage up to 60 departures per day during the peak period.

During the booking season the Overland Track must be walked from the north-south, with walkers commencing at Cradle Mountain and finishing at Lake St Clair. Bookings open July 1 each year for the coming season. If you plan to walk between 1 June and 30 September, you can walk the track in either direction, and you only need to pay the Park Entry fee, not the Overland Track fee.

Walkers may make use of the huts and campsites located at regular intervals on the Overland Track. Accommodation nodes are found at Waterfall Valley, Windermere, Pelion, Kia Ora, Windy Ridge and Narcissus. However, even if you intend to sleep in the huts, you must still carry a tent, bedding, food, water, cooking utensils, & fuel stoves along with all your personal supplies & safety equipment, especially as huts may be full when you arrive, or you may become stranded by inclement weather and unable to reach a hut.

By walking this track you’ll experience spectacular valleys carved by glaciers, pristine rainforests, forests of eucalypt, golden buttongrass moorlands and alpine meadows. Worthwhile opportunities for side-trips also enable walkers to access waterfalls and mountain summits, including Mt Ossa, Tasmania’s highest peak. The southern end of the trail features Australia’s deepest lake, Lake St Clair.

See the Tasmanian Parks & Wildlife website for all the necessary information for planning your trek along the Overland Track.

Larapinta Trail

The Larapinta Trail is located within the West MacDonnell Range in Central Australia, within easy reach of Alice Springs. The West MacDonnell National Park is one of Central Australia’s most spectacular destinations. Being easily accessible by 2WD via the Larapinta Drive and Namatjira Road, there are 3 main visitation points in the national park (Simpsons Gap, Ellery Creek, & Ormiston Gorge), where walkers will encounter mass tourists in buses and cars, however these can be used as drop off and pick up points on multi-section, or multi-day walks.

The full trail is a distance of 223km and would take 16-20 days to complete (including rest days) however there are no towns along the way, so walkers need to prepare food drops if attempting the full journey. There are 4 locations where a limited range of food and drink can be purchased, being; Telegraph Station, Standley Chasm, and Glen Helen Resort. The use of purpose-built food storage rooms at Ormiston Gorge, Ellery Creek, and Serpentine Gorge are provided for your support crew to drop off your food. Food caching along the trail is also acceptable.

There are 12 trailheads. The longest is section 9, Serpentine Chalet Dam to Ormiston Gorge, which is a 12 hour walk of 28.6km. The shortest section is Section 10, from Ormiston Gorge to Finke River, being a 4 hour walk of 9.1km. Non-vehicle based trail campgrounds are located at each of the trailheads. All have water tanks with limited water, and all but two have toilets.

The best time to walk the trail is June and August, but anytime between April – September is suitable. You should avoid the extreme desert temperatures of summer (October – Feb). See the Larapinta Trail website for more information.

Heysen Trail

The Heysen Trail is a dedicated walking track in South Australia stretching 1200km from Cape Jervis on the southern tip of the Fleurieu Peninsula to the Northern Flinders Ranges. Walking the entire trail would take 50-60 days, however many people chose to do short walks along sections of the trail.

The route passes through some of South Australia's most diverse and breathtaking landscapes, traversing coastal areas, native bushland, rugged gorges, pine forests and vineyards, as well as rich farmland and historic towns. The viability of the Heysen Trail is dependent on the continuing co-operation of private landholders, so a summer trail closure must be obeyed at all times. The sections of the Heysen Trail that are on public roads or vacant land, in forests, national parks or reserves remain open year-round, except on days of a Broadcast Fire Ban. The summer closure season is generally November to April. Dogs, horses and motorised vehicles are not allowed on the track, except for where the trail passes through towns.

The southern section, from Cape Jervis to Spalding in the Mid North, is ideal for beginners and those with children, following the Mount Lofty Ranges. The northern section, from Spalding to Parachilna Gorge, is isolated and at time rugged, but provides rewarding challenges for experienced walkers.

The route of the Heysen Trail takes it past many towns with excellent overnight accommodation options available. However, numerous campsites and shelters, varying from either stone or timber settler's cottages and old public buildings to modern shelters are shattered along the trail and can be used by walkers for overnight camping. Tents are permitted only in these areas. Most of these facilities are very basic offering only a small sleeping shelter with a rainwater tank. Walkers should aim to be totally self-reliant. These huts incorporate facilities such as a rainwater tank, simple bunks, toilet, fireplace, tables and seats.

The Heysen Trail can be attributed to Mr C Warren Bonython, who proposed the concept of a long distance walking trail from the Fleurieu Peninsula to the Northern Flinders Ranges in 1969. The trail is named after German born Sir Hans Heysen (1877-1968), a well-known Australian artist, particularly recognised for his watercolours of the Australian bush and his strong associations with both the Mount Lofty and Flinders Ranges.

General tips for multi-day hiking

Water Collection

Few places on Earth have water as pristine as the Tasmanian wilderness, however even there some people prefer to treat their water to be sure. The effects of modern life has affected nearly all parts of the world so walkers everywhere should treat collected water before drinking, (e.g. boil for 3 minutes, use iodine tablets, or water filters).

Use water tanks whereever possible, but if collecting from watercourses along a track, only source drinking water from deep lakes or fast flowing streams. Collect water upstream of any places where people are swimming.

Waste Management

Where rubbish bins are not provided, you must either consume or carry out all the items you commenced with. This is not just limited to food, and includes unwanted jackets, clothing, broken footwear etc. Always check campsites and rest areas for rubbish and spilled food. Please don't leave unwanted food and clothing in huts, toilets or at campgrounds.

Regarding toilets, if available - use it! Otherwise bury all faecal waste and toilet paper in holes 15-20cm deep at least 100m from water, camps and tracks. Cover and disguise the hole when finished. Carry out any sanitary pads, tampons and condoms – do not place these into a compositing toilet, or bury them.

Wash up using hot water, but avoid using soap or detergent. Dispose of washing-up water and wash your body at least 50m away from water sources or use the H2No towels.

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