Sara Freeland of Freeland Hiking Co argues that before venturing elsewhere, Sydneysiders should look to their own backyard for Australia’s natural beauty. She reckons New South Wales has some of the most stunning hiking trails in the country, and she wants you to join her on the track.
That’s one of the reasons she created Freeland Hiking Co, a multi-day expedition-style hiking tour company that organises trips through some of NSW’s most beautiful wilderness, including the Royal National Park, the Blue Mountains and the Budawangs in the South Coast region.
The company has a selection of tours to suit all levels of experience and fitness, and provides tents, sleeping bags, food and transport as part of the package. Tour groups are small, ranging from four to eight people, so the experience is intimate and personalised.
And when Freeland says all levels of experience and fitness, she means it. “All the tours operate at a slow pace, with ample time for rest, sightseeing and learning,” she says. “It's certainly not some incredibly intense boot camp. If anything, people will be challenged by the significant amount of downtime because we are always so wired to keep moving.”
There’s a weekend trip to the Blue Mountains called Ruined Castle
Overnighter, which is aimed at people who don’t want to take leave to fit it in a tour.
Hikers meander through lush rainforest, climb up rocky mountains and skirt underneath cascading waterfalls.
The company also has the exclusive commercial license for the three-day Kanangra to Katoomba trail, also in the Blue Mountains, and there’s a longer, five-day circuit in the Budawang National Park, 270-kilometres south of Sydney.
Freeland Hiking Co is a minimal-impact operator, which means it focuses on ecological sustainability and minimising waste. From buying fair-trade products, to avoiding single-use plastic, and following the seven Leave No Trace Principles, the company wants to leave as small a footprint as possible so the trails are pristine for their next visitors.
This attention to detail is illustrative of Freeland’s passion for the beauty of our local wilderness (and perhaps also of a slight competitive streak). “I believe the Blue Mountains is a significantly underrated overnight hiking destination in Australia,” she says. “I wanted to ensure the majority of my offering was in the Blue Mountains, to potentially create the same level of awe and respect that somewhere like Tasmania has for overnight hikes.”
Freeland says her tours are just as much about understanding the environment as they are about conquering the trail. All her guides have extensive knowledge of the flora, fauna and history of the area, and are eager to share it with the group.
“To me, a good guided tour isn't just about someone waving a flag and showing you the way (we walk on pretty well-marked tracks),” says Freeland. “It's all about having an enhanced experience; I want my guests to leave feeling more connected to nature.”
Freeland Hiking Co is accepting bookings for early 2019 departures. There are several trips scheduled each month, starting from $600 per person.