Sometimes a landscape doesn’t just pique your interest, or simply whisper to your adventurous heart. Rather, it shouts at it: get here NOW! (And bring the adventure kit). So where are Australia’s Top Ten most inspiring adventure destinations; that are just too hard to ignore? Here’s our pick of place and matching adventure activity.
Blue Mountains, NSW – canyoning
Canyoning is an adventure pursuit more often connected to European mountains than Australian, yet in New South Wale’s hinterland hides a veritable library of canyoning experiences that will blow your mind. The terrain that once held back the early explorers is dramatic in its drop offs. Escarpments and fissures define the mountains, creating other world oasis of waterfalls, gullies, caverns, caves and underground streams all ripe for the following. Of course canyoning is not for the faint of heart nor the inexperienced – either choose easily accessed and safer options or go with fully qualified guides. For those wanting a big thrill, try Kanangra Main, a Grade 6 rated drop that is simply giant and takes a very long day to descend, before a big climb back out. Of course, if rope-work isn’t your thing, the Blue Mountains also hosts a plethora of trail walking and running opportunities, with great bush camping.
Whitsundays, Queensland – sea kayaking
Known as a sailing and cocktail-swilling haven, the calm waters of the Whitsunday Islands off the coast of Queensland also offer quality sea kayaking experiences. Enough so that there is an official kayaking trail – the Ngaro Sea Trail – that links some of the islands and the mainland into a paddling circuit. There’s some walking matched to the boating, with trails enjoyed at each white sand berth across Whitsunday, South Molle and Hook islands. Walk through open forests, grasslands and rainforest. Climb rugged peaks or stroll along winding pathways. Then grab the paddle again and float over the crystalline waters, catching glimpses of plenty of sea life and perhaps plunging in for a refreshing swim after each paddle leg. The main route loops from Sandy Bay on South Molle, linking north to Hook Island and then all the way around Whitsunday, with an offshoot route tracking down the west coast of the latter. Camping is the accommodation of choice here.
South West Tasmania – trekking
Tasmania’s South West National Park is recognised as the most remote bush and mountain wilderness in Australia, and hosts some of the most beautiful, if challenging multiday walks. Choose from the South West, Port Davey, Federation Peak, the Western Arthurs or any number of shorter but no less impressive walking trails. Be prepared for slow going and to be self-sufficient – this is a no hosted hut-to-hut experience, a la the Overland Trail to the north. And weather can be unpredictable year round. However, the reward for effort is a true sense of being in an isolated wilderness, with big views from atop stunning ridgelines, and a sense of being amid a giant landscape that will leave you impressed.
Munda Biddi Trail, WA – multi-day mountain biking
This is a world-class multi-day riding experience like no other. The Munda Biddi trail (which means ‘path through the forest’ in the Noongar Aboriginal language) is a 1,000km ride through the south west region of Western Australia. Riders journey through towering eucalyptus forests and unspoiled bushland, enjoying gentle terrain joining the dots between huts and villages en route. The trail starts at Mundaring, to the east of Perth, and travels south, through the world famous Margaret River wine region, before hooking east to finish in the southern seaside town of Albany. Best thing is, this region’s mild climate means it offers a year-round experience suitable for riders of all levels of experience – the trail has many access points and can be tackled in one go or in parts with a range of accommodation on offer from camping sites to off-trail luxury B&Bs.
Gippsland River, Victoria – paddling
Paddle Australia’s online listing describes the Mitta Mitta River in Gippsland, East Victoria, as a classic snow fed river: “Rising quickly with the onset of spring the river’s flow depends largely on that season’s snow pack.”
The river is a paddler’s favourite, used by guiding companies as an entry-level trip – you need to do this one comfortably (without screaming) before taking on some of the bigger rapid rivers (although the Mitta can get fairly gnarly itself). Those floating down the Mitta will be nonplussed at the sight of the Mitta gorge walls, rising steeply up on either side, a soaring and precarious formation of rock columns dubbed the ‘Faulty Towers’ marking the start of the serious rapids. There are fifty in all on the most popular run. Of course, the Mitta is only one of many rivers in East Gippsland: there’s the Cobungra, Avon, Mitchell, Dargo, Genoa, Snowy…the list goes on bearing out why whitewater paddlers regard the region as the only place in the state worth launching a boat. It boasts the highest percentage of national and state park wilderness areas of anywhere in the state, most of it blanketing steep high country, meaning options are endless no matter what grade a paddler seeks – including the odd first descent.
Mount Buller, Victoria – mountain biking
It’s the mountain biking mecca not just of Victoria, but Australia, as the only temple of singletrack sweetness that has been granted the International Mountain Biking Association’s (IMBA) prestigious ‘Ride Centre’ accreditation (the only one of its kind in Australia), meaning it epitomises IMBA’s high-quality standards for large-scale mountain bike facilities that offer something for every rider.
More than 100km of singletrack weaves across the flanks of Mount Buller and Mt Stirling Resorts and with the recent addition of the 40km Australian Alpine Epic Trail – the only IMBA accredited ‘Epic’ trail outside of North America – there are now more grades and gradients to satisfy beginner through experienced on everything from fast cross country and hardcore downhill trails. Trails involve a range of technical features and obstacles, varying in altitude from 600 to 1,700m and guarantee incredible views, an amazing alpine environment – and best of all, they’re free to use.
Sapphire Coast, NSW – adventure all sorts
The south coast of New South Wales is an unheralded gem for multi-pursuit ‘soft’ adventuring. Too far from Melbourne and Sydney for weekenders, it benefits from the backwater relaxed vibe but packs more natural fun than most regions. Choose from mountain biking (the trails at Tathra are simply awesome), trekking (Ben Boyd Light to Light trek is one of the nation’s best coastal trails), sea kayaking or coasteering (the pristine inlets, bays and coves are simply stunning), kayaking (try Lake Brogo), surfing (take your pick of many excellent breaks), stand up paddle boarding (Bega river), 4WDing (the inland national parks such as Wadbilliga, Biamanga, Nadgee and Deua), or just stop, prop, camp and enjoy!
Alice Springs, NT – walk and ride
A desert experience is a must in adventure circles and this is one of the best in terms of choice and sheer grandeur of scenery. Stretching west from Alice Springs is the Larapinta Trail, world famous for its ancient landscapes and undulating challenge as walkers (and runners) travel along the West MacDonnell and Chewing Ranges. Adventurers alternate between expansive vistas enjoyed from atop knife-edge ridgelines and peaks, and the cool respite of chasms, gorges and hidden oases. Choose to tackle the trail independently, in either direction west to east (into Alice Springs) or east to west (with Mt Sonder as the final highlight), or with a guided tour. World Expeditions offers luxe ‘glamping’ at its permanent tented sites, while Tour de Trails pushes the pace a little with its trail running tours, which also take advantage of the kitchens and hot showers at the camps. Larapinta has numerous trailheads and easy to access attractions along its length (Standley Chasm, Ormiston Gorge to name two), meaning independent travellers can also arrange their own itinerary. For two wheel adventurers, Alice Springs hosts some of the best singletrack riding in Australia, believe it or not, courtesy of a lot of time and effort by the local mountain biking club in developing trails. Indeed, one of Australia’s best multiday mountain bike stage races is based in Alice Springs.
Jatbula Trail, NT – trekking
The Jatbula Trail, located in the Nitmiluk National Park, Northern Territory, is a fantastic trek that takes you along a 66km route, following the western edge of the Arnhem Land Escarpment and traversing sandstone plateau scrub, woodlands, open forest, sandstone monsoon forest and riverine landscapes. Walkers journey through Katherine Gorge, past magnificent waterfalls and stunning views of the Seventeen Mile Valley. The trail follows an ancient Song Line or Dreaming Trail used by the Jawoyn people, linking it to the Dreamtime creators. The trail is usually done in five days, and you can expect to cover around 10 to 17km per day. The walk is not as heavily signed, as many others around Australia, so be prepared with the best maps or use a guided tour option.
Grampians, Victoria – rock climbing
The Arapiles in Victoria or the Blue Mountains in NSW are the focus of much climber community attention and tend to be considered the cultural heartlands of rock climbing, but listen to those at the top of the pitch, and you’ll more often than not be told that the Grampians, also in Victoria, is actually the place to harness up. According to the experts, the granite region offers more choice of routes than any other place in Australia, spread out over a vast but easily accessible National Park. The mountain ranges and rock faces found within their dramatic confines are spectacular places to climb. Popular climbs include The Gallery, Van Diemen’s Land and the ever-popular Summer Day Valley. Or try Taipan Wall if you’re nailing the big climbs. Independent climbers will need a car to get around, and there are plenty of camping spots to base yourself from if wanting to get out of the central village of Halls Gap or you can hook up with one of the local climbing guides.
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