Leave your pack behind and let someone else do all the hard work on Great Walks of Australia’s deeply immersive, and utterly incredible, collection of multi-day guided hikes around the country. Words by Natasha Dragun.
Hiking in Tasmania
There’s an early morning moment, as the sun begins to colour the sea, where it feels like I am the only person left in the world. There are no other footprints on the sand of the aptly named the Friendly Beaches. There are no streetlights, no cars, no buildings in sight. It’s just me and the ridiculously graceful sea eagle catching the breeze overhead.
Wild, wide and wonderful, the east coast of Tasmania is everything that I’ve been craving over the last two years. It’s nature writ large, and a true tonic for the soul. And in the absence of infrastructure, the best way to see it is on foot.
I’m here on the four-day Freycinet Experience. A guided hike up mountains perfumed by silvery eucalypts, through cool valleys laced with fish ferns and across sun-scorched plains pierced with the long stamen of ancient Xanthorrhoea (grass trees). Some days we cruise to blindingly blue coves like Wineglass Bay, where the brave take a dip in water best described as invigorating.
Others, we walk barefoot on the sand to reach our lodge which is completely off-grid. It still has niceties like deep tubs for end-of-day soaks, an open fire to gather around for wine and cheese, and staff who prepare meals hero-ing veggies and proteins from Tassie purveyors.
Sunrise, walk, wine, dine… it’s a hypnotic routine to fall into. And one made all the more comfortable by the fact we leave our suitcases behind and just carry day packs when exploring the postcard-perfect peninsula.
What are the Great Walks of Australia?
The Freycinet Experience is just one of 12 in the seasonal Great Walks of Australia collection, connecting hikers with the country’s most iconic landscapes and remote wilderness, while enjoying a few welcomed creature comforts along the way. And while they span the country and its many diverse, unique terrains, they all share common philosophies.
These multi-day guided walks reveal Australia’s spectacular landscapes in a deeply immersive way; each walk is led by experienced guides, sharing their encyclopaedic knowledge of the native flora, fauna, history and interpretations of the land as you walk through them. Each walk is also developed around and lead by a strict sustainable ethos, working to conserve these precious lands and environments, while minimising impact and ensuring a light footprint.
Guests stay in exclusive off-grid eco-accommodation, ranging from architect-designed lodges and minimalists cabins to safari-style tents and glam swags, while enjoying locally sourced gourmet food and wine to top off a big day of walking.
Most importantly though, the walks tap into that need we all have right now – to disconnect from our busy lives, and reconnect with the land, nature and our selves.
Tasmania’s Great Walks
Tasmania may be small, but it packs a lot into its borders. Aside from the Freycinet Experience, the state is home to four other Great Walks of Australia, each offering insights into varied landscapes.
Like the blazing lichen-covered boulders that carve the coast on the Bay of Fires Lodge Walk, a four-day trek at the edge of Mt William National Park in north-eastern Tasmania. By day there are long walks along vast beaches and into coastal coves, with a kayaking expedition down Ansons River to break up your amble. By night, you’re cocooned at either Forresters Beach camp or the award-winning Bay Of Fires Lodge, where you can also indulge in a little pampering at the spa or with a soak in a divine outdoor bath.
The Three Capes Lodge Walk takes in end-of-Earth landscapes over four days, exploring the dramatic Tasman Peninsula with the wild Southern Ocean as your backdrop… until you reach exclusive eco-lodges each afternoon, nestled in the forest on clifftops, with Tassie’s finest eats and drinks ready for you to refuel. With Three Capes Track just named as one of Lonely Planet’s 20 Best Travel Experiences, the Lodge Walk is the perfect way to beat any crowds and feel like you have the place to yourself.
Off the east coast, the Maria Island Walk traverses a carless island national park, and is the gateway to a fascinating blend of abundant rare wildlife. As as well as a thriving population of Tasmanian devils, wombats and unique birds, there are UNESCO heritage settlement sites, unpeopled beaches, ancient eucalypt forests and staggering geology. The island’s rock formations are an endlessly impressive too, ranging from the Painted Cliffs to jaw-dropping mountains and rocky outcrops like Bishop & Clerk. You can also see the Milky Way so bright it looks like someone has doused the sky with glitter.
Tassie’s final trek is one of its most popular, taking you inland on the legendary and world famous Overland Track. The six-day Cradle Mountain Huts Walk traverses the 72 kilometre trail through the World Heritage wilderness area in Cradle Mountain/Lake St Clair National Park, with views around every bend that you’d expect to see on postcards. Even better, guests will enjoy exclusive accommodation, sleeping in eco-lodges that are the only private accommodation on the trail, and freshly cooked dinners and wine each night
South Australia’s Great Walks
The Ikara-Flinders Ranges are 450km north of Adelaide. It is all red peaks, gorges and valleys, a place where striated rock formations create an enormous natural amphitheatre. The Arkaba Walk unfolds across this ancient landscape and the private Arkaba Nature Conservancy. It takes you on an adventure through this 63,000 square kilometre former sheep station, while revealing the immense efforts expended to re-wild the landscape and return it to its former (pre-colonial) glory. It’s a remarkable conservation story, and one that you’ll not only hear while hiking but also when in your lodge or beside the campfire. The Arkaba Walk even gives you the opportunity to sleep in glam ‘star beds’ under the Milky Way – an unforgettable experience not to be missed.
A completely different outback landscape unfolds on the Murray River Walk. You’ll explore Australia’s longest waterway and it’s surrounds on foot and by boat. The experience is set within the internationally recognised Riverland Ramsar Wetland, which is a natural magnet for wildlife, on land, in the water and overhead. You’re also on the Murray, so it’s only fitting that your accommodation is a plush houseboat. There’s nothing quite like drifting off to sleep lulled by the hypnotic sound of water or walking up to watch a stunning sunrise with a coffee across its mirror like waters.
Queensland’s Great Walks
In the foothills of southeast Queensland’s Main Range National Park – a beguiling union of mountains, escarpments, ancient rainforest and volcanic plateaus – the Scenic Rim Trail takes walkers through 30,000 hectares of nature refuges, states forests and national parks. Well, some of it.
You’ll be in awe of the UNESCO World Heritage-listed Gondwana Rainforest, and find yourself atop ridges to enjoy blazing sunrises and sunsets – and perhaps glimpse koalas, kangaroos and goannas.
Bed down in purpose-built, sustainably-focused lodges and cabins en route, with all meals taken care of. The only thing you have to worry about is having comfortable hiking boots and which epic view to look at first.
Victoria’s Great Walks
All 250 National Heritage-listed kilometres of Victoria’s Great Ocean Road are spectacular. It is a place where the rainforest meets the sea – where national parkland tumbles toward sandy coves and then the wild waters of Bass Strait and the Southern Ocean. Hiking trails here lead to thundering waterfalls and clifftop lookouts.
The Twelve Apostles Lodge Walk brings this natural drama along the ‘shipwreck coast’ into firm focus. Over four days you will hike through Great Otway National Park and the Port Campbell National Park. Both are home to fur seals, koalas, wallabies and abundant coastal birdlife.
The impressive outlook doesn’t end when you take off your shoes – your lodge is set in a forest tucked behind Johanna Beach, a dreamy cove that is the epitome of this fabled part of the state.
Western Australia’s Great Walks
The Cape to Cape Walk in WA’s Margaret River region is the kind of trek that gourmet dreams are made of. With the turquoise Indian Ocean as your constant, you’ll hike along the whitest of sand beaches, limestone cliffs and into towering karri forest of this trail, while stopping at famed wineries for refuelling along the way. Don’t forget to look down – wildflowers are all around.
Your base during the experience is blissful Injidup Spa Retreat. Ocean-front villas, massages and indulgent meals all await at the end of the day.
The Northern Territory’s Great Walks
The razorback ridges of the Larapinta trail span 223 kilometres through the Red Centre, from Alice Springs in the east to Mount Sonder in the west. You can walk it end-to-end, but it’s a serious 18- to 20-day experience that will test mental strength as much as physical ability.
You can also choose to trek one, or a couple, of its 12 distinct sections through the West MacDonnell Ranges. Which is what the Classic Larapinta Trek in Comfort offers. From the top of Mt Sonder, to Standley Chasm and Ormiston Pound, hiking these unique and ancient landscapes in the Red Centre is a powerful and life-affirming experience for those who choose to explore them on foot.
The splendid isolation of this six-day, 72-kilometre outback adventure sees you bed down in semi-permanent eco tents, with experienced guides leading the way and visits from local First Nations Elders to share and inspire. All you need to do is pick up your daypack and prepare to be dazzled.
New South Wales’ Great Walks
Lord Howe Island – a crescent-shaped drop of land in the Tasman Sea, 600 kilometres east of Sydney – is nature writ large. The volcanic soils in this mini-Eden covet enormous groves of kentia palms, ancient banyan trees and soaring screw pines. In fact, 105 floral species thrive here uniquely in the world. Jurassic cliffs tower over them and powdery stretches of sand, where terns and shearwaters nestle in to breed during season. This is one of Australia’s most important bird habitats. It is also a haven for the Lord Howe Island woodhen, endemic and saved from extinction by local conservation efforts.
This is your backdrop on the Seven Peaks Walk, a guided experience based out of Pinetrees Lodge over five days and 45 kilometres of trails. It’s a truly spectacular way to explore a UNESCO World Heritage listed island.
This article was produced in partnership with Great Walks of Australia.
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