Mt Sonder sunrise, NT
There’s a real sense of mountaineering adventure in waking at 3am and setting off to climb this stunning peak under torch light. Mount Sonder (1380m) is the Northern Territory’s fourth highest mountain and marks one end of the 223km Larapinta Trail, which traverses Tjoritja/West MacDonnell National Park. To the indigenous Arrernte people “Rutjupma” takes the form of a pregnant woman, lying down in the dessert, staring at the sky. Viewed from a distance you can really make it out.
So why start this climb so early? Sunrise. The climb starts steep, with steps cut into rock, before steading as it ascends a well-defined ridgeline. From the summit the ancient, spiny ridges of the “West Macs” are laid out below, draped in warm orange light as the sun climbs over the western horizon. Ever-changing textural shadows give the desert landscape an almost ethereal shape and form. It feels like the top of the world.
Be sure to pack fresh batteries for your torch, and be prepared to turn back if it gets too windy. Pack a warm jacket, plenty of water (it gets hot once the sun is up), snack food and maybe a Thermos of tea or coffee for the top. If you’re aiming for sunrise at the summit you’ll want to be on the trail by 4am at the latest. It’s a 16km return walk, so allow about six hours. There are toilets and a useful information board at the car park.
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Main Range Walk, Kosciuszko National Park, NSW
The ascent of Mount Kosciuszko is Australia’s most popular day-walk, but the track from the top of the Thredbo chairlift to the summit can sometimes feel like rush hour in the CBD. This 22km loop is the perfect way to experience walking across the “rooftop of Australia” while avoiding the crowds.
Starting from Charlotte Pass and travelling anti-clockwise, you’ll drop down to cross the iconic Snowy River before climbing past the pendant-like Blue Lake (worth a short detour). The track follows the undulating, glacier-carved landscape through wildflower meadows, passing the turnoff to Mount Townsend (Australia’s second highest mountain) and re-joining the “highway” to Kosciuszko not far from the summit. After knocking off “Kosci” – and getting your obligatory selfie at the summit cairn – it’s all downhill back to the carpark, via the historic Seaman’s Hut and Rawson’s Pass – where you’ll also find Australia’s highest public toilets.
Razorback Ridge Walk, VIC
Put this classic High Country walk on your bucket list. The Razorback Ridge Walk starts near Mount Hotham village (opposite Diamantina Hut) and follows a narrow ridgeline 11km north to Mount Feathertop, Victoria’s second highest mountain (and the state’s most “mountain-like” and picturesque peak).
Deep green valleys plunge off in all directions, snow gums and wildflowers colour the journey, and the views across the Victorian Alps and are immense. Mount Buffalo dominates the vista to the west, while the Bogong High Plains rule the east. On a clear day you can see as far Mount Kosciusko. This is the High Country at its finest.
The ridge is high and exposed, so don’t think about tackling this walk in bad weather or winter, when the windblown snow forms huge, hanging cornices on the summit of Mount Feathertop. It’s a gorgeous walk on a sunny day, though. Return the same way or drop down Bungalow Spur - passing Federation Hut - to Harrietville.
Dove Lake Circuit, TAS
Everything about this serene, 6km circuit – surely Tasmania’s premier short walk – is wonderous. The boardwalk track loops Dove Lake, traversing a myriad of enchanted landscape features: the mossy, myrtle-beech dominated “Ballroom Forest”, Pandanus palms, classic Tassie buttongrass, boutique beaches, fugus trees and King Billy pines, crystal-clear creeks and craggy rock faces. All the while the serrated edge of Cradle Mountain towers overhead, a stunning backdrop over the dark blue, glassy lake. It’s the kind of walk you don’t want to rush, so allow 2-3 hours and be sure to have the camera at the ready, there’s an Instagramable scene around every corner.
The walk starts from the Dove Lake carpark, within Cradle Mountain-Lake St Clair National Park, and a shuttle bus runs from the Cradle Mountain Visitor Centre. The weather is notoriously fickle, so pack warm clothes, or time your visit for a good forecast if you possibly can.
Kingfisher Bay to McKenzie’s Jetty, Fraser Island/K’gari, QLD
Fraser Island/K’gari is a fascinating place, steeped in both indigenous and colonial history. The island is home to rainforest trees that grow out of sand (it’s the largest sand island in the world), freshwater dune lakes and wild beaches. Walking is a great way to get oriented with the varied landscapes, and one of the best day walks starts from Kingfisher Bay, conveniently the drop off point for the barge from River Heads, near Harvey Bay.
The walk begins in the forest and leads south to a lookout point at North White Cliffs, where you can gaze across Great Sandy Strait towards the mainland. The remnants of a World War II commando training school make an interesting diversion, before the track deposits you out on the beach and at crumbling remains of McKenzie’s Jetty, once used to load ships with trees felled from the inland rainforests.
From here it’s an easy stroll along the sand back to Kingfisher Bay, passing mangrove trees swamped by the tide. Try to time your walk for sunset – always magical from the beach – and grab a celebratory drink from the pop-up bar on the wharf. The loop is about 7kms and should take between 3 -4 hours at a leisurely pace.
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