Six states; two territories; 24 adventures. Discover these exciting Australian walks to get the blood pumping and your jaw dropping, writes Grace Ellis.
Cape Le Grand Coastal Trail
Where: Cape Le Grand National Park
Time: Nine hours one way
Trekking across white-sand beaches and rolling heathlands, this 15km walk sweeps along idyllic coastlines of the Cape Le Grand National Park. Starting from Le Grand beach, a trek three hours through boundless granite outcrops, leads to Hellfire Bay, and the turquoise waters of the Great Australian Bight. After hiking a further two hours, the beautifully isolated Thistle Cove is the perfect shelter for a bite to eat. A wide variety of flora and fauna will distract you from your exhaustion — from kangaroos sunbathing at Lucky Bay to legless lizards and bandicoots at Rossiter Bay. This walk takes up to nine hours one way — complete the walks in sections over multiple days and make use of the campgrounds along the way.
Mt Augustus Summit Trail
Where: Mt Augustus National Park
Time: Eight hours return
Two and a half times bigger than Uluru (Ayers Rock) and rising 860m above the surrounding plains, Burringurrah, as it's known by the local Wadjari people, is 852km north of Perth. This tramp can take up to eight hours return, so head up just before daylight to witness the ever-changing colours of Mt Augustus. During spring, the surrounding flatland turns into a magnificent carpet of purple wildflowers. This is one just for experienced hikers and should be attempted only over the cooler months of April to October — but there are a variety of easier trails, lookouts, swimming holes and picnic spots in the park for those looking for something a bit more relaxed. With the nearest town an 11-hour drive away, the national park's detachment from the rest of the world only adds to its allure. Be sure to top up your supplies and unwind after your descent at the Mt Augustus Tourist Park.
WA easy option: The Pinnacles Desert View Trail takes less than an hour but gets you up close to unusual limestone formations that rise up from the ground like misshapen termite mounds.
Barrk Marlam Bushwalks
Where: Kakadu National Park
Time: Five hours return
Renowned for its bodies of water, Kakadu National Park offers a wide range of walks and sites, from historic Aboriginal rock art to mesmerising wetlands and waterfalls. The Barrk Marlam bushwalk takes you through enchanting monsoon forests for a breathtaking 2km before arriving below the cliffs of the colossal 200m Jim Jim waterfall. Although this first section may be a walk in the park for some, only the experienced bushwalker will be able to reap the rewards of the astonishing plateau above. Branching off into the rugged stone country of Arnhem Land Plateau, you'll endure steep and uneven terrain, but the views from above will undeniably be worth every calf-burning minute. Organise this one ahead of time however, as visitors require a permit to explore the surrounding Arnhem Land.
Kings Canyon Rim Walk
Where: Watarrka National Park
Time: Four hours return
Just three-hours drive from the infamous Uluru, the magnificent Kings Canyon Rim Walk features 300m-high sandstone walls and ascends 1000 steps up on to the cliffs of the canyon. Watarrka National Park has been home to the Luritja people for more than 30,000 years. As well as vast views across the Red Centre and into the abundant valley below, sites also include a peaceful waterhole known as the Garden of Eden. (Don't let temptation get the best of you — swimming is not allowed for cultural and environmental reasons.) The walk finally passes through Priscilla's Crack — famous for featuring in the 1994 movie, The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert.
NT easy option: Uluru Base Walk is a long, flat 10km trail that takes you around this famous monolith. Time your walk for sunrise to get the best perspective.
Deep Creek Circuit Hike
Where: Deep Creek Conservation Park
Time: Seven hours return
From a patchwork of green hills, to waterholes and beaches galore, Deep Creek Conservation Park provides an abundance of awe-inspiring views for both the beginner and experienced hiker. The most challenging trail in the park is the seven-hour Deep Creek Circuit hike. Meet your match by descending bluffs to Deep Creek Cove, scrambling over steep rocks and enduring river crossings and sharp inclines, before arriving at waterfalls and waterholes where you can relish in your own private swimming spot. With a diversity of ecosystems and a collection of thriving wildlife, such as the short-beaked echidna and the blue tongue lizard, this park is home to the largest remaining portion of natural vegetation on SA's Fleurieu Peninsula.
Hidden Gorge Hike
Where: Mambray Creek, Mt Remarkable National Park, Flinders Ranges
Time: Seven hours return
This seven-hour bush walk is nature in its finest form and although it may not be the most difficult of walks, its uneven ground can be hard on the feet. Explore the rugged beauty of this area by manoeuvring through dense native pine forest and feel like an ant as the towering red rock walls surround you within the narrow Hidden Gorge. Continue up the path to Battery Ridge to witness exquisite views of the Mt Remarkable Summit and pristine waters of the Spencer Gulf.
SA easy option: Morialta Conservation Park has a number of short walks and easy trails. The park is less than 5km from Penfolds Magill Estate's Cellar Door so you can toast your walk on your way back to the city.
Where: Springbrook National Park, Gold Coast Hinterland
Time: 5-6 hours return
You'll feel as if you're Alice in Wonderland with this ancient forest bearing all sorts of weird and wacky ecosystems. Climbing down into the deep canyon and mossy green depths of the Springbrook Mountain forest, the Warrie Circuit passes a multitude of cascading waterfalls, rivers and gullies, hugging the cliffs of Goomoolahra Falls. Warrie, an Aboriginal word for "rushing water", perfectly denotes the inspiring beauty of the canyon and its water features, with a swimming hole where the watercourses unite. Watch out for leeches though, they really suck.
Mt Barney South East Ridge Ascent
Where: Mt Barney National Park, 130km southwest of Brisbane
Time: 10 hours return
This 1354m-high giant provides a challenging but rewarding hike with rock scrambling, steep ascents and tricky ridge-lines dotted throughout the journey. The rugged peaks are the remains of a volcanic eruption 24 million years ago. Located in the Australian World Heritage Area of the protected Gondwana Rainforests, this lush landscape first heads up through gum woodlands and over rocky outcrops. Free climbing and map-reading skills are essential for this hike, with unmarked paths and narrow ridges at multiple points.
QLD easy option: An easy 1.6km, 30-minute walk in the Giraween National Park takes you through native forest and right through a natural, granite arch. Visit in spring to see an abundance of wildflowers.
NEW SOUTH WALES
Where: Lord Howe Island
Time: 8 hours return
If you're a hardened bushwalker, having to hire a guide to complete a hike may seem unnecessary. But to take on Mt Gower, you'll have to swallow your pride. Ranked as one of the world's best day walks, the iconic peak — 875m above sea level — takes a little more than eight hours to complete, with some of Lord Howe Island's rarest bird and plant life taking residence here. Discover mist forest of ferns, moss and orchids unique to this habitat. With rope holds and vertiginous cliffs, those scared of heights need not apply. But to the fearless hikers eager for an excursion, views out to the incredible 600m peak of Balls Pyramid and encounters with the rare Lord Howe Island woodhen — once on the brink of extinction — will convince you this is a trail you don't want to miss.
Ruined Castle Walk
Where: Blue Mountains
Time: Five hours return
If you're seeking off-the-grid solitude, the Ruined Castle Walk in the Blue Mountains World Heritage Area will provide the escape you crave. Located near the chief town of Katoomba, the Golden Staircase marks the starting point of the walk, descending into lush rainforest and refreshing natural shelter from the heat. With sensational views of endless coachwood treetops of Jamison Valley and the famous Three Sisters waving hello in the far distance, the Ruined Castle walk will rekindle your relationship with nature and have you craving further adventure.
NSW easy option: The Three Sisters walk in the Blue Mountains takes 30 minutes. Walk across Honeymoon Bridge for a close-up look at the first sister.
Werribee Gorge Circuit Walk
Where: Werribee Gorge State Park, an hour's drive northwest of Melbourne
Time: Six hours return
One for the real adventurer, the walk goes off-trail through native bush, river crossings, climbs hefty ascents and traverses cable-assisted rock climbs. Soaring eagles navigate the blue skies above the Falcon's Lookout, where you'll be blessed with incredible views of Werribee Gorge, formed more than 500 million years ago. Finally, you'll follow the Werribee River and back to the safety of the car park.
Where: Alpine National Park
Time: Eight hours return
Summiting Victoria's second-highest peak and extending 1922m into the sky, the Mt Feathertop Razorback hike is only for the knowledgeable hiker. From beginning to finish, mountaineers traverse the narrow spine of one of the most picturesque mountains in the high country and will be rewarded with 360-degree views of the remarkable Australian Alps. Although this hike can be completed year-round, you may want to avoid the winter months, when the walk can become exposed to weather changes and ice cornices.
VIC easy option: The Forest Ecotourism Walking Trail at Mt Macedon Regional Park is a flat, hour-long walk through native forests and around Sanatorium Lake. The area is home to more than 150 species of native birds and a variety of mammals.
Mt Rufus circuit
Where: Cradle Mountain-Lake St Clair National Park
Time: Seven hours return
This level-four hiking track will not only get the heart racing, but its utter beauty will capture your heart. The panoramic views at the summit, overlook the head of the Franklin River, Lake St Clair and Frenchmans Cap. Walk through alpine meadows to the sleeping waters of Lake St Clair, Australia's deepest freshwater lake, and encounter 300 million-year-old wind-sculpted sandstone formations on your descent. Located on the southern end of the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area, this trail holds an extensive history and an even more beautiful landscape.
TAS easy option: The 1.5-hour walk to the Wineglass Bay Lookout gives stunning scenery without the commitment of the full circuit. It culminates in picture-perfect views of this world-famous bay.
Wineglass Bay and Hazards Beach CIRCUIT
Where: Freycinet National Park
Time: Five hours return
Freycinet National Park is a conservation area that not only acts as a sanctuary to a variety of wildlife and vegetation but also holds a rich Aboriginal history. To make the most of your time and the sites on offer here, hike the six-hour loop from Wineglass Bay and Hazards Beach. Follow in the footsteps of the Tasmanian Aboriginal people who once lived here; along the way witness remnants of shell middens, stone artefacts and rock shelters. High cliffs and granite peaks mean some sections may leave you weak at the knees — but hey, the bigger the hike, the greater the reward.
Canberra Centenary Trail
Where: 145km loop trail around Canberra
Time: A seven-day walk, averaging about 20km per day.
This self-guided loop trail showcases Canberra's urban and rural environments. Following fire trails, walking tracks and shared paths, the trail is open to everyone and is suitable for all abilities, with the majority of it at less than 10 per cent gradient. Sights include Parliament House, the National Gallery and National Portrait Gallery, Mt Ainslie, Mt Majura, nature reserves, woodland sanctuaries and the Visitors Centre of the National Arboretum Canberra. Book accommodation well in advance.
Where: Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve, 40-minutes drive from the CBD
Time: There are six- or eight-hour versions of this walk, both rated as "hard"
There's a variety of walks available in this expansive reserve, some taking as little as 15-minutes. Those looking for a real challenge, however, should go for Camels Hump. Starting at the Visitors Centre, the walk allows you to experience a little bit of everything the reserve has to offer — wetlands, forests, grasslands and sub-alpine habitats, as well as wildlife including koalas, emus, reptiles and more. It's a hard climb up to one of the highest ridges in the ACT, but the stunning views from the top across the mountain wilderness will make it all worth while.
ACT easy option: The 1km Mt Aggie loop in the Namadgi National Park should take less than 45 minutes but will take you past beautiful Snow Gum woodlands and give views out to Kosciuszko National Park. Walk in spring/summer and you'll be surrounded by wildflowers in bloom.