From red deserts to rugged coastlines and lush forests, Australia is blessed with natural beauty. Without venturing more than a couple of hours’ drive from our major cities, beginners and seasoned adventurers alike can explore walking trails that put it on display.
Our picks below range from a couple of hours to full-day hikes, and all have an idyllic spot where you can relax after the walk, lay out a spread of food and drinks, and stay a while. Put your walking shoes on, pack a picnic (don’t forget the wine) and start planning your getaway.
Cathedral Range Northern Circuit, Victoria
The jagged stretch of Cathedral Range’s sharp sedimentary rock on Taungurung land is less than two hours’ drive from Melbourne. And while there are more than a dozen walks through the park, it’s the northern circuit that claims the supreme vista and panoramic views. The 12.5-kilometre track loops around from the Cooks Mill camping area (your ideal picnic spot to start or finish), taking hikers through narrow rocky passes, high ridgelines and lush gullies. While the six-hour walk is challenging at times, the view from the peak that sweeps across the Acheron Valley below makes it worth your while.
Tomaree Head Summit Walk, NSW
Just over an hour’s drive north of Newcastle you’ll find Tomaree National Park, which juts out into the clear blue waters of Port Stephens Bay. The park, on Worimi Country, attracts visitors for its spring wildflowers, whale-watching and the WWII-era Fort Tomaree – none of which overshadow the unbeatable view at the top of Tomaree Head. The summit walk is deceptively short at just 2.2 kilometres return, but your legs will know all about it as the track rises 161 metres above the bay. The lookout at the top offers a stunning view of Port Stephens Bay and the sandy coastline, while you can recharge at the picnic table before trekking back down.
Kondalilla Falls Circuit, Queensland
A local favourite, the Kondalilla Falls Circuit is a breezy 4.7-kilometre stroll that’s definitely a little easier on the legs than some of the other walks in the area. The name Kondalilla means “rushing waters” in the language of the land’s custodians, the Kabi Kabi, and this walk is all about it. From the awe-inspiring views at the top of the falls, the trail goes down an escarpment to a picnic area, rock pools and a swimming hole that’ll save your bacon on a hot day. For those looking to up the degree of difficulty (and stretch their legs for a full day), the nearby Baroon Pocket Dam to Kondalilla National Park walk is a 20-kilometre loop through more streams, falls and gorges.
Palm Terrace Walk, WA
The hills surrounding Perth are spectacular year-round, but local walkers know spring is the best time to visit. When the wildflowers are in bloom (and, honestly, even when they’re not), head just 30 minutes’ drive from the city to Forrestfield for the Palm Terrace Walk, a 5.5-kilometre loop that’s gentle enough to accommodate most levels of walking experience. The track includes panoramic views of Perth, a quick detour to the spectacular Lesmurdie Falls and those blooming wildflowers from August to November. Take a load off at the picnic area at Lesmurdie Falls car park when you’re done.
Aaron Creek Circuit Hike, SA
The Fleurieu Peninsula is a walker’s dream, with a maze of trails all along the stunning coastline. The Aaron Creek circuit isn't necessarily easy (for that, the Kaiki Walk on Granite Island is a better option), but it’s well within our reward-for-effort tolerance. Start out from the Aaron Creek picnic area and wind along the rugged coast with the Southern Ocean roaring below. At 5.5 kilometres, this circuit should take about three hours all up, leaving plenty of time to relax with a picnic on your return.
This article is produced by Broadsheet in partnership with Cold Snap Wines. Always drink responsibly.