Some places just beg to be explored on foot. You may not think this is true for a country as vast as Australia—but a walking holiday transforms slow travel into an express pass to understanding the Land Down Under. Its landscapes, indigenous history, and wildlife are best experienced up close. As you trek below towering karri trees, past 30,000-year-old Aboriginal rock art, and to the crescendo of the Indian Ocean, you’ll gain a perspective even some locals go their whole lives without. Here are seven epic hikes to conquer from Great Walks of Australia, a collection of the country’s premium guided hikes—which are especially great if you loathe the thought of logistics and lugging a heavy backpack.
Great Ocean Walk, Victoria
Most people make a mad dash from Melbourne to see Victoria’s iconic 12 Apostles, those rugged sandstone outcrops standing sentinel just offshore (although, these days, there are actually only eight). But put foot to trail along the Great Ocean Walk—a 60-mile journey that’s the pedestrian complement to the Great Ocean Road drive—and you’ll escape the selfie stick–toting tourists and have time to absorb the saltbrush-coated dunes, spot hiding wallabies and kangaroos, and access beaches with nothing but the littered remains of shipwrecks. You can DIY and camp at designated spots or go luxe and enjoy the highlights reel with Twelve Apostles Lodge Walk on a four-day, three-night trek. You’ll be guided, fed like royalty, and returned each night to foot baths, wine, and an excuse to have another helping of dessert based on a glowing Fitbit review.
Cape to Cape Walk, Margaret River
Walking becomes a lot more attractive when it includes Margaret River’s wine, spa treatments, and private plunge pools. Added to the Great Walks of Australia portfolio in 2016, the Cape to Cape walk is like a gateway drug into a full-blown love affair with hiking. Drop all baggage—physical and otherwise—and unpack once at Injidup Spa Retreat ready to immerse yourself in the four-day hike along western Australia’s underrated coastline. The most you’ll walk in one day is 8.7 miles, through karri and pine forests, and beneath limestone cliffs. The multi-course feasts with paired wines each night are a pretty sweet reward, too.
Seven Peaks Walk, Lord Howe Island
Welcome to Lord Howe Island, a blip in the ocean and the place that Sir David Attenborough called “so extraordinary it is almost unbelievable.” A two-hour flight from Sydney, this isle has Jurassic twin peaks, Mount Lidgbird and Mount Gower, rising sharply from the ocean. And, mercifully, it has no dangerous creatures—no venomous spiders, no snakes, no sharks. Just thousands of shearwaters and providence petrels that nest on this UNESCO World Heritage–listed paradise. The six-night, five-day Seven Peaks guided walk is consistently sold out—might have something to do with its accommodation, Pinetrees Lodge, which continues to top travelers’ wanderlists.
The Larapinta Trail, Alice Springs
The Larapinta is an experience that is stirring in both its landscape and its stories. Running a rocky red line between Alice Springs and Mount Sonder, and along the West MacDonnell Ranges, the trail follows challenging ridges and sprawling plains in the backyard of the Arrente people. The traditional residents have walked this land for 40,000 years and given their blessing for you to pass through.
You can walk the entire 143.5-mile trail independently over 12 days or opt for a guided experience, like Australian Walking Holidays’ Classic Larapinta Trail in Comfort, walking up to 44 miles in six days with fancy bush fare served along the way (think wattle seed damper [traditional Australian bread], kangaroo fillet, and bush dukkuh). You’ll lose yourself in the deep russet of the corrugated ground, walk through the oasis of Ormiston Pound, stumble upon spiritual waterholes, and reach the summit of Mount Sonder in time for sunrise, looking back at how far you’ve come (on more levels than one).
Cradle Mountain Huts Walk, Tasmania
As far as famous trails around the world go, Tasmania’s Overland Track is up there on most hikers’ bucket list. You’ll be walking through a World Heritage area like nowhere else on Earth. The Australian island-state is full of creatures such as wombats and echidnas—and trekkers should keep their eyes open for the rare Tasmanian devil. It’s the “pinch me, am I in Australia?” feeling in this vast expanse of nature where the density of the forests is overwhelming. Cradle Mountain Huts Walk, run by Tasmanian Walking Company, puts you up in private huts over six days and five nights.
Scenic Rim Trail, Queensland
A short drive from Brisbane or the Gold Coast lies an ancient volcanic landscape and a ring of mountain ranges known as the Scenic Rim. This is a land of misty mornings, cloud-enshrouded mountains, golden grasses, and camouflaged kangaroos. A little-known trail runs through a 6,919-acre private nature reserve owned by Spicers Retreats, with the five-day, five-night Scenic Rim Trail hike starting at Spicers Hidden Vale Retreat. By Day 3, you’ll be within the World Heritage–listed Gondwana Rainforests of Australia—the most extensive stretch of sub-tropical rain forests in the world—and bedding down in Italian linen at night.
Three Capes Lodge Walk, Tasmania
Tasmania’s vertiginous Three Capes Track was one of its most luxe when it comes to hikers’ huts—mattresses, heating, and panoramic decks, oh my!—but now with the Three Capes Lodge Walk guided by Tasmania Walking Company, you can experience luxury lodges within the national park. Walking this line of cliff-hugging wilderness, with nothing between you and Antarctica, is nothing short of exhilarating. The trail slowly reveals migrating whales, fur seals, and a rewarding two nights in the luxurious Crescent Lodge and Cape Pillar Lodge. Limits on this track ensure that you only share the path with a a few dozen other souls at any one time.
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This article was originally published December 4, 2017, and updated on February 3, 2021, to include new information.