Words by Bec Conroy, photos by Sean Conroy
Readying yourself for a trip into the great outdoors, or just dabbling with the idea of finally putting your Patagonia gear to use?
Whatever the reason you’ve stumbled across this read, welcome. These five hikes that we’ve come across in our years of trail hunting around Australia have a little something for everyone, from short walks to magical multi-day hikes. As I sit in the back of our converted VW home, sweating my ass off and jotting down tips for some of my favourite Aussie hikes, the irony isn’t lost on me that at this very moment we were meant to be hiking the Northern Territory’s Jatbula Trail—a 62-kilometre hike through Nitmiluk National Park. But thanks to catastrophic fire danger, the trail has been closed and it feels smarter to be writing about hiking, rather than doing it.
Thorsborne Trail, QLD
First up we’ve got the Thorsborne Trail on Hinchinbrook Island, off the coast of tropical North Queensland. If a multi-day adventure, complete with stunning waterholes and epic waterfalls (and if the threat of saltwater crocodiles is your thing, then you can’t miss this one). The Thorsborne Trail is 32km long and is usually completed over four days and three nights, making each day a cruisy 7 to 11km walk. The trail runs part of the length of Hinchinbrook Island, just off the coast of Cardwell which sits between Townsville and Cairns. Oh, and two of the three main campsites on the island are within a stone’s throw of some of the most beautiful waterfalls and swimming pools you’ll see in Australia. If that isn’t enough, I guess it’s worth mentioning there is a natural infinity pool at the top of Zoe Falls. The island is limited to 40 hikers per day, so you’ll need to book it pretty far in advance via the QLD Parks website—this bad boy can book out months ahead, so a little pre-planning and preparation are required, but I promise you it’ll be worth it.
Mount Feathertop, VIC
Next we’ve got views for days and a waltz to the top of Victoria’s second-highest peak, Mount Feathertop. This trail cruises along a ridgeline aptly named Razorback Ridge. The 22km return trail can be completed in one big day with lots of snacks, or you can break it up and camp near the summit at Mt Feathertop. The sunrise and sunset from up here is pretty unreal, so whether you do it in one day or two, you’re going to have a good time. The trail begins on the road leading from Harrietville to the Mount Hotham Ski Village and traverses the ridgeline all the way to the summit of Mount Feathertop. There are views either side of you for the entirety of the trail, so you’re not going to get bored. Hot Tip: this hike should be completed outside of the ski season, as it’s completely above the snow line in winter. Make sure to check the weather forecast before starting out as things can change quickly in the high country, even in summer.
Breadknife and Grand High Tops Hike, NSW
The Warrumbungles are a series of rocky outcrops in central-western New South Wales. The park’s most famous hike takes in the views of these rock monoliths, and it may just be the best place I’ve ever eaten a peanut butter sandwich. I won’t beat around the bush, this hike is steep, but the ones with the most rewarding views always are. There are a variety of routes that can be taken on the return from this hike (making the distance anywhere upwards of 14km), so choose your own adventure like a Goosebumps novel.
Grand Canyon, NSW
Next up we’ve got the Grand Canyon in Blue Mountains National Park, New South Wales. And no, you probably didn’t stumble upon this one when you went to see the Three Sisters. This loop trail is up near Blackheath and starts at Evans Lookout. The 6km trail descends into a lush green canyon with high sandstone walls, where you’ll find waterfalls and fern-fringed stepping stone paths. It’s short, it’s our favourite Blue Mountains trail, and it’s really pretty.
Valley of the Winds, NT
Last but not least is the Valley of The Winds in the Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park in the Northern Territory, a 7km loop trail weaves through the awe-inspiring Kata Tjuta rock formations. Plan to start this one at the crack of dawn, as you’ll enjoy it far more when the temperatures are below the mid-thirties. Another reason to start early is that the hike can be shut by park rangers in the mid-morning when high temperatures are forecast, which is unsurprisingly often in the Red Centre.
So, there should be enough there to get your creative hike juices flowing. Before you head out, remember: always inform someone of your hike plans and your expected time back, and take plenty of water and snacks. A snake bandage doesn’t hurt when exploring Australia either… Those little buggers get around. None of us ever think we’ll be the ones huddled under a space blanket, lost in the bush, but hey, it happens, and it’s good to do what you can to minimise the risk of it being you. And with that final ray of sunshine, I bid you happy hiking.