Both hardcore trampers and weekend warriors are in agreement: There’s something truly magical about hiking through a landscape that would be otherwise inaccessible. The only way it gets better is when there’s a hot meal and a soft bed at the end of the day.
If you’re ready for an unforgettable island adventure, lace up your tramping boots and check out one of these multi-day island hiking adventures.
South Catalina Island, California
Situated off the coast of southern California, walking is the preferred mode of transportation on South Catalina Island, where only the 4000 locals are permitted to own cars. As a result, tramping is the only way to explore the mountainous interior of the island, with the 62km Trans-Catalina Trail spanning its entire length.
It takes between three and five days to complete, staying in designated campsites along the way. Hikers can also opt to stay in lodging in one of the island’s two towns or let local outfitter Catalina Backcountry deal with the logistics.
With its deep canyons and stunning coastal outlooks (there are about 3000m of elevation gain, often to stunning lookouts) the scenery is fantastic, but it’s the stories you won’t soon forget. Catalina has a long history of human habitation; archaeological evidence indicates that the Tongva people first arrived 7000 years ago and throughout the 20th century it’s been the setting for dozens of Hollywood films.
Living proof of the latter is a 100-strong herd of wild bison you’re likely to encounter — they’re rumoured to be the decedents of a small herd brought to the island by a silent movie company in 1924.
Outer Hebrides, Scotland
Connected to the mainland by a bridge, the Isle of Skye may be Scotland’s most renowned hiking (and whisky-drinking) destination — but this is a story about places that can’t be easily accessed by car. So, we encourage you to look just beyond the Isle of Skye, quite literally, to the boat-access-only Islands of the Outer Hebrides.
Just off the northwest coast of Scotland, this is one of the most remote destinations in the United Kingdom and one of the only places where Scottish Gaelic is a first language.
You can experience 10 of these islands along the Hebridean Way, a 252km journey that explores deserted white sand beaches, rolling green hills, and archaeological sites. There are also plenty of wildlife viewing opportunities along the way, including red deer and golden eagles.
If you don’t have time to hike the full trail or the wherewithal to organise it yourself, the answer is Wilderness Scotland’s guided “High Points of the Outer Hebrides” tour.
Over eight days, you’ll ascend both Mealaisbhal and Clisham (the highest points on the islands of Lewis and Harris respectively), explore the Gearrannan Blackhouse village (a settlement dating back to the 17th century) and stay at a wilderness lodge set on a 500-acre private estate.
Waitukubuli National Trail, Dominica
Holidays to the Caribbean are often synonymous with pristine beaches, warm turquoise waters, and lazy days drinking cocktails at all-inclusive resorts. And while all of those things are possible in the mountainous island nation of Dominica (not to be confused with the Dominican Republic, roughly 1000 kilometres to its northwest), it’s also home to the longest hiking route in the Caribbean.
Meaning “long is her body” the 185km Waitukubuli National Trail runs the length of the island and is the region’s only long-distance trail. It takes 14 days to complete in its entirety, traversing rainforest environments, World Heritage sites, dramatic gorges, and historic plantations.
However, it’s possible to hike sections of the trail, including to the peak of the highest mountain, Morne Diablotin, and the Syndicate Nature Trail, which journeys through a sanctuary where endemic parrots thrive. Both sections are accessible from luxury resort Secret Bay, where you can get a post-hike massage at the cliffside Gommier Spa. World Expeditions also offers an 11-day guided itinerary on the trail.
Hinchinbrook Island, Queensland
We’re going to be honest; Queensland Park’s designated “Great Walks” are good, but they tend to pale in comparison to NZ’s Great Walks in terms of amenities. (For example, the campsites usually include little more than a drop toilet, a tent platform, and a water tank.) As a result, it’s often incredibly easy to lock in your desired dates; even last-minute school holiday bookings aren’t out of the question.
That’s not the case with Hinchinbrook Island’s 32km Thorsborne Trail. Located on Australia’s largest island national park, the challenging tramp is often booked out up to nine months in advance — even though it’s not technically considered a “Great Walk.”
What makes a spot on this four-day tramp so sought-after? First off, the island — which is the largest on the Great Barrier Reef — is completely uninhabited. By foot is the only way to explore its shores and unique ecology.
To protect its biodiversity, only 40 people are permitted to camp in its seven campsites at any one time, making encounters with its epic mountainous terrain and stunning waterfalls truly intimate.