For those of us who dedicate a portion of our lives to establishing ourselves as accomplished pedestrians, there are a few places in Australia and New Zealand particularly, that exude a magnetising force, luring us in with their wildness and lack of traffic.
These locations are not destinations, they are journeys for the most dedicated and intrepid (or masochistic). These voyages are reserved only for those enticed by passionate reminders that our oh-so-lovely Earth, is oh-so-not flat.
1. Freycinet Circuit, Tasmania
Tasmania has done an excellent job at promoting its heralded multi-day walk on the Overland track. As a result, visitors to Tasmania usually arrive with a preconceived notion that there aren’t any other competitive candidates for long walks besides MONA in Hobart.
The circuit around Freycinet Peninsula, however, is potentially the most unique intersection of mountains and sea in all of Oceania. Meandering across beaches, through dense bush, and across scree fields atop the Hazards Mountain Range, the flora and fauna is so lush that it provides ample accommodation for the spry wallabies and orchestra of birdlife that inhabit it.
Even more is the marine wildlife that occasionally breaks the surface – whales, dolphins, and seals surprise fortunate onlookers on what seems to be a routine basis, not to mention naked backpackers sunbathing and cooling off in the water!
Scattered across the quartz sand sections of the walk, you will also encounter spectacular granite boulders that serve as centres of growth for the infamous species of lichen that gives the east coast of Tasmania its distinctively orange appearance. These vibrant hues of warm colour are a stunning contrast to the aqua tones of the sea and verdant shades of green provided by the gum-forest.
There are viable camping spots throughout the 30km circuit, but two established flats to pitch a tent are also available at the southern ends of Hazard Beach and Wineglass Bay, though exposure to the elements should be factored into campsite location (especially the inevitable Southerly winds).
From December to April, the days are longest and most conducive to both hiking and naked sunbathing in Tasmania, and while neither is impossible in the winter, you’re in for an exercise in mental fortitude and dangerously sharp nipples!
Park fees must be paid and walkers registered at the visitor centre near the entry gate to Freycinet Peninsula. There is limited water available along the circuit, so hydration preparations should be made accordingly.
2. Mueller Hut, New Zealand
New Zealand boasts some of the most stunning multi-day walks in the world, showcasing landscapes ranging across an unrivaled variety of climates. Due to this wealth of natural beauty, the New Zealand Department of Conservation has identified a collection of nine Great Walks that attract resilient outdoor enthusiasts from all over the globe. However, the most pristine spots are left less developed, and so remain less tread upon.
One of these resides in Aoraki National Park and leads to a tastefully placed hut named Mueller. Nestled almost 1800 meters above the Hooker Valley floor, Muller Hut rests on a ridge across from the tallest peak in New Zealand: Mt. Cook. No humble shanty itself, the facility is cosy and comfortable enough to make a fine abode for the evening even if it weren’t overlooking the entire Sealy Range, which surrounds the centrepiece of Mt. Cook’s mesmerising features. Complete with a wood stove, kitchen, and beds, about the only thing it doesn’t come with is a lumberjack and wifi.
The scene is strikingly beautiful, adorned with massive glaciers and placid tarns (alpine ponds), and is among the most worthy overnight walks that exist. The mission begins at the Visitor Centre, zig-zagging up steep switchbacks for 5.2 km. Although that may sound like a relatively short distance, the grade of the terrain gives cause for frequent pit-stops to take in the view behind you, catch your breath, and Snapchat your homies.
Reaching the summit makes all the endurance well-warranted, rewarding the persistent few with magnificence beyond imagination. If you get tired, just imagine the view from the top and make your momma proud!
Between November and April, Mueller Hut must be booked online prior to embarking on this test of determination.
3. Jatbula Trail, Northern Territory
The Australian Outback ranks in as the least forgiving and most uninhabitable portion of Oceania. Littered with a wide array of spiked, barbed, and prickly non-edible vegetables, the vegetation gives rise to an equally unfriendly populace of creepers and crawlers.
On solid ground, both snakes and spiders seem to loom in every nook and cranny, and you’re even more unwelcome in the water! Any river that meets the sea absolutely contains crocodiles, creatures misunderstood due to their poor communication skills and struggle with peaceful conflict resolution, and who are much more likely to lash out at you than ask you to get out of their river.
We promise you they won’t care how beautiful your butterfly stroke is or how epic it would look on Instagram, a meal is a meal when you’re a reptilian dinosaur.
Coupled with the extreme heat and dryness of the land, these ingredients create a potentially lethal combination that adventurers should be wary of.
Some of us though, are drawn to the rigours of such an uninviting environment. Nitmiluk National Park sets the stage for such a saunter along the Jatbula Trail, through arguably the most uninviting portion of Australia.
Many also maintain that it is some of the most remarkable country, with impressive gorges towering above the rivers of the region. Providing next to no shade, only seasonal water supply and the aforementioned dangers, the Jatbula Trail is a six-day tale of both treachery and self-pity to match at times.
If it weren’t enough of a challenge already, you’ll also need to make transport arrangements from Leliyn back to the carpark over an hour drive away once you complete the trail, unless of course you have enough supplies and will-power remaining to walk another 62 km back to the car.
The coolest months from June to August still reach the high 30’s, but they are the driest months with the least risk of monsoonal flooding. Proceed with caution, and kids- don’t try this at home.
4. Great Ocean Walk, Victoria
The southern coastline of Australia features sea cliffs of incredible magnitude and artistic erosion patterns and has thus become one of the most traversed tourist drives in the country.
I’m sure you’re an outstanding driver (10 and 2 mate, 10 and 2), and there are numerous points of interest along the drive, but the coastal stretch contains so much more beauty than can be beheld from a car-seat or lookout.
The Great Ocean Walk offers a chance to fully delve into the depth of its scenery, with marine sanctuary views nearly every step of the way, and new sandstone formations around every bend.
After the minimum wage paying labours of the sculptor, the least you can do is admire her carvings, although she also accepts gratuity in the form of shared news of her work. Mother Nature is an artist, and she has certainly not left the Great Ocean Walk a blank canvas!
The barrage of waves brought in by the Southern swell relentlessly pound the coastline with tremendous force, producing both chiseled monoliths and awe-inspiring breaks with unbelievable splash diameter. Weaving along the ocean’s edge from Apollo Bay all the way to the Twelve Apostles, the 104 km trek is full of campsites and water supply and is absolutely the best way to bear witness to the Southern Coast’s splendour.
5. Piccaninny Gorge, Western Australia
Purnululu National Park is situated in the furthest reaches of interior Western Australia, on the border of Northern Territory. Deep in its bowels dwells the Bungle Bungle Mountain Range, and even further into its reaches lies Piccaninny Creek.
The gorge it has cut allows entry into an intricate series of crevices cut into the domed hills of the area. It is a 7 km walk to the start of the gorge, at which point there is no further trail- the track is completely unmarked. If you’re inexperienced at navigating, you might wanna sit this one out buddy.
Negotiating through the loose rock and boulder fields is extremely daunting, and even more intimidating due to the limited aid available if something were to go awry. There is so little established civilisation, in fact, that the nearest emergency response team would have to commute all the way from Darwin to respond to an EPIRB/ PLB signal if an injury were incurred. Unless you’re a really talented one-legged hopper, you’re shit out of luck if you break a leg.
There is no definitive trail length, as it depends on your pattern of weaving through the landscape, and hikers spend anywhere between 4-12 days in the gorge depending how far they work their way into it.
The water in the area contains a brain-eating bacteria, so you might want to pack your own unless you’re a gamblin’ man (non-gender specific man, of course.)