As it’s mostly flat, in Australia we don’t need an ice axe and crampons to get a spectacular view and some exercise. With spring not far away, we’ve collected five achievable summits with spectacular payoffs. It’s time to dust off the walking shoes, head for the hills and, as Hillary himself said, “knock the bastard off!”
Mount Warning, New South Wales
Well known as the first location in Australia to see sunrise, Mount Warning dominates the landscape between Byron Bay and the Queensland border. This striking remnant of a long-gone volcano makes for a stunning climb at any time of day, but to get full value try a pre-dawn ascent in time to watch the sun’s first rays spread across the Byron Bay hinterland to the east, and gradually light up the lush rainforest canopy below you to the west. In the north you’ll see the glistening high-rises of the Gold Coast, so it really is a snapshot of the country. It’s a two-to-three hour climb that steepens towards the top. In the final section, a series of chains attached to the rock give you something to hold on to as you reach the summit. If doing the climb during the day in summer, remember to take enough water and don’t overdress – it gets sweltering.
The Pinnacle, Victoria
It looks daunting from down below, but The Pinnacle in Victoria’s Grampians is a straight-forward climb. A four-kilometre track from the Sundial Car park near the attractive town of Halls Gap ascends to a lookout atop a weathered, sandstone precipice. Its pointed shape, wrinkled rock and prudent safety rail give it the look of the bow of a sunken ship rusting at the bottom of the sea.
With views down to Lake Bellfield and across the valley to Halls Gap, it’s a great vantage point for getting your bearings in one the state’s most geologically fascinating areas. If you’re feeling bold and have enough time you can walk back to Halls Gap from the summit, comfortable in the knowledge it’s all downhill.
The Coast Track, New South Wales
Views that don’t require a massive climb definitely have their advantages. This 26-kilometre, two-day walk along the eastern edge of the Royal National Park from Bundeena to Otford is all the more remarkable for being on the outskirts of Sydney, but still feeling like the wild. From its high points on dramatic escarpments you’ll gaze down on rugged coastline as the Tasman Sea crashes into vertical cliffs and carves out inviting bays. The track also drops down to pristine beaches, with Garie Beach near the southern end being the pick of them.
There’s a simple but comfortable camping area at North Era, eight kilometres from Otford. In winter you’ll probably want to leave the swimmers at home, but there’s a good chance you’ll be rewarded with a whale sighting. The track is well served by public transport at both ends so you can leave the car at home.
Mount Tibrogargan or Mount Beerwah, Queensland
You’ll know you’re somewhere special as you approach the other-worldly columns of volcanic rock that constitute the famous Glass House Mountains of Queensland’s Sunshine Coast. According to Aboriginal Dreaming the mountains are all one family; Mount Tibrogargan is the father and Mount Beerwah the mother.
Both these peaks are serious undertakings and should not be attempted unless you have a head for heights and a good knack for scrambling up near-vertical rock and finding foot and hand holds. Many people have fallen or have become stuck, requiring rescue, so if you’d like to avoid ending up on the six-o’clock news, there are lower tracks around the mountains.
For those feeling up to the challenge, reaching the top is exhilarating. From the summits you get the best view of the other mountains dotted randomly around you, looking as if they just fell out of the sky.
Eagle’s View Trail, Western Australia
Only 25 kilometres from Perth, the Eagle’s View Trail is a beautiful and not-too-difficult hike that rewards with views across the Swan Coastal Plain to the high-rise buildings of Perth in the distance. You might even spot a majestic wedge tail eagle – for which the track is named – soaring above.
The 15-kilometre loop walk should take you three-to-five hours, depending on your speed, and the landscape is continually varied; creeks, interesting granite rock formations, woodland and colourful wild flowers, such as yellow wattle and pink peaflower. It’s well signposted and suitable for just about any fitness level, which means it can get very popular. Choose late afternoon – it will provide the best light for bringing out the colours, and you’ll avoid the heat of the day and the crowds. With Perth Airport not far away, it’s also a walk for the plane spotters.
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