Walks - city walks, bushwalking and rogaining
Bushwalking at Umbrawarra Gorge, Katherine, Northern Territory. Photograph courtesy of Tourism NT.
Before the colonisation of Australia, Indigenous Aborigines walked the land as hunters and gatherers. In the early years of colonisation, putting 'one foot in front of the other' was simply a means of transport. Over the years, however, walking has evolved into a recreational activity and today it is a popular way for people to enjoy the outdoors and Australia's unique bushland, flora and fauna.
During the 1930s there was a world-wide surge of interest in hiking, and it was at this time in Australia that walking clubs began to be established. This was the beginning of what is now a well established tradition of bushwalking:
The word 'bushwalking' is derived from the title of the first hiking club in Sydney which was open to both genders. This club, formed in the late 1920's, was originally called the Waratah Walking Club, but then changed its name to 'Bush Walkers'. Later the name of the club was changed to Sydney Bush Walkers (SBW). 'Bush' is just an Australian term for our unique combination of Eucalypt forests, wildflowers and scrub.
Today there are a wide range of walks on offer. Walks range from an easy stroll of an hour or two to a week long hike. Locations range from remote rugged bushland to city streetscapes.
In recent years, the popularity of guided and self guided walks of Australia's cities and towns has increased. Tourist information centres, local councils and tourism operators promote city walks as a great way to see the sights while you learn a little of the history and heritage of a metropolitan centre.
The City of Melbourne provides a range of brochures on Melbourne walks which you can download from the website. The brochures includes six popular walks ranging from 'Arcades and Lanes' to 'On the Waterfront'. Public art, walking tours and art trails explore Melbourne as a source of inspiration for artists. Heritage walks and tours in Melbourne offer a range of guided and self guided tours including the Golden Mile Heritage Trail, and the National Trust conducts walking tours of the city which 'take you down the hidden laneways and tell the stories of the influential people who shaped the city'.
To showcase the beauty of Sydney Harbour, the Sydney Ferries has mapped out some walks, all easily accessible by ferry. The Bondi to Bronte Coast Walk offers a combination of beaches, parks and spectacular views. Riverside Walk, at Parramatta, has vibrant Indigenous artwork covering the path which runs upstream from the Charles Street Ferry Wharf to the Parramatta Heritage Centre. The artwork follows the history of the region and its people from an Aboriginal perspective.
Kings Park Walk, Perth. File photograph.
A trail of Noongar heritage sites has been created on Perth's central foreshore to showcase Perth's Indigenous history. The ENRICH Walk Trail is a collaborative project between the WA Department of Indigenous Affairs and the Noongar community. Perth Guided Walks include the 'Boom or Bust Trail' which highlights the boom created by gold and the resultant surge of growth, wealth and prosperity in Western Australia, and 'Art City' which is a tour of Perth's art in public places. Walks in Kings Park offer extensive city and river views.
In Brisbane, take a free guided tour through Roma Street Parkland and learn about the history, plants and public art on display. Walks take about an hour at a leisurely pace, and provide a relaxed way to learn about the local environment in the world's largest urban sub-tropical garden. Brisbane's RiverWalk connects more than 20 kilometres of pathways, roads, bridges and riverside parks along the Brisbane River. There is also a Self guided walking tour of wartime Brisbane and Walking tours of Brisbane City Botanic Gardens.
Adelaide can be explored through the Adelaide City Council Historic and Cultural Walking Trails. Discover the secrets of Adelaide's famous faces and places through self-guided walks such as 'From Hercules to Heaven' which features significant statues and buildings, and 'Famous Faces and Commemorative Places' which starts on North Terrace and provides an insight into the people who have made Adelaide the city that it is today. The Torrens Trail follows the River Torrens from the beach side suburb of Henley Beach to the city's north-eastern suburbs, passing through the city centre.
The National Trust offer a two and a half hour walking tour of historic Battery Point in Hobart which includes The Royal Tennis Court, St David's Park, and morning tea at St Georges Church. Hobart City Council provides maps for self-guided walks through the historic parks and precincts of the city and along the rivulets that sustained settlement in the early days.
The National Capital Authority offers a range of self-guided walking tours that reveal aspects of Canberra's history and heritage. The self-guided walking tour brochures provide an opportunity to find out more about the national capital, including the popular Parliamentary Triangle, and the memorials along Anzac Parade. You can take in Commonwealth Place and Reconciliation Place as you follow the Lakeside Walk, or start from the National Capital Exhibition and see the sights on the way to historic Blundell's Cottage.
Walkers in the Blue Mountains, New South Wales. Photo by Steve Babka. Image courtesy of River Deep Mountain High.
Bushwalking, also known as hiking, tramping or rambling, offers walkers the opportunity to experience the unique Australian landscape at close quarters. There are bushwalking clubs in all states and territories, and the activity is becoming organised on a national level with through Bushwalking Australia.
Australia's national parks, which include coastal parks, desert parks, alpine parks, and wetland parks such as Kakadu, provide walkers with a wide range of guided and self guided walks. Walks cover a diverse range of landscapes and include everything from short, easy walks, to extremely challenging walks.
There are a growing number of long distance walking tracks offering bushwalkers the opportunity to walk anything from one half-day section of a long track, to challenging themselves over an extended period by attempting the entire track. At 1144 km, the Heysen Trail in South Australia is the longest dedicated walking track. The Bicentennial National Trail is far longer - 5330 km - but it is primarily a horse riding trail.
Well-known long distance walking tracks include:
The Great Ocean Walk takes in 91 km of Victoria's spectacular west coast, beginning in the resort town of Apollo Bay and ending at Glenample Homestead which is near the giant rock stacks known as the Twelve Apostles. The walk has been designed so that walkers can 'step on and step off' the trail at a number of places, completing short, day or overnight hikes. The Great South-West Walk is a 250 km well maintained walking track which begins and ends in Portland. The walk encompasses many naturally occurring land formations, sea seascapes and places of profound beauty.
New South Wales
This 440 km Hume and Hovell Walking Track crosses southern New South Wales from Yass to the inland town of Albury on the border between New South Wales and Victoria. The track commemorates the1824-25 overland journey of explorers Hamilton Hume and William Hovell in 1824-25 from the settlement in New South Wales to sea in Victoria at Port Phillip. It can be done as day walks, weekend walks or a total walk of about 24 days. The Great North Walk is a 250 km track which links Sydney with the Hunter Valley and the city of Newcastle. It allows walkers to enjoy Sydney Harbour, Berowra Valley, the Hawkesbury River, Lake Macquarie and the Newcastle coastline.
Walkers, South Australia. Image courtesy of South Australian Office for Recreation and Sport.
The Cape Naturaliste to Cape Leeuwin Walk follows a 124 km marked coastal track from Cape Naturaliste (northern end) to Cape Leeuwin (southern end). The walk will take approximately seven days to complete, however it is also easy to do shorter sections of the track. The Bibbulmun Track stretches nearly 1000 km from Kalamunda (Perth Hills) to Albany ( South Coast ) through the heart of the scenic south west.
The Yurrebilla Trail, an interpretative bushwalking trail through the Adelaide Hills, provides a link between national and conservation parks in the central Mount Lofty Ranges. It is 54 km long and is divided into one full-day and four half-day sections. The total walk can be completed in three days. Named after the artist Hans Heysen, the Heysen Trail is a 1,200 km walking trail that extends from Cape Jervis to Parachilna Gorge in the Flinders Ranges.
Fraser Island, the world's largest sand island, can be experienced on foot through the Fraser Island Great Walk, The walk is 90 km long and takes between 6 and 8 days to complete. It can also be enjoyed through short, easy strolls and half and full day walks. The Wet Tropics Great Walk extends 110km from Wallaman Falls to Blencoe Falls. It traverses the Wet Tropics World Heritage Area highlighting the natural and cultural features of this unique area.
The Overland Track is a true wilderness walk through the heart of the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area from Cradle Mountain to Lake St Clair. The 65 km walk takes six days along a well-maintained and clearly marked track, but is quite steep in sections and not considered an easy walk. The Tasman Coastal Trail follows along the cliffs along the coast-line from Waterfall Bay through to Fortescue Beach, out to Cape Hauy and on to Cape Pillar.
The Larapinta Trail extends over 223 km along the backbone of the West MacDonnell Ranges in Central Australia. The trail is divided into 12 sections, each a 1-2 day walk, and encompasses some of the main attractions of the area, including Simpsons Gap, Ellery Creek Big Hole, Ormiston Gorge and Glen Helen. Table Top Track through Litchfield National Park is a 39 km circuit suitable for experienced bushwalkers. The walk includes woodlands, creeks, scenic waterfalls and pools.
Rogaining: an Australian invention
Rogaining is the sport of long distance cross-country navigation, and one of the few sports which can claim to be an Australian 'invention'.
Rogaining involves teams of 2 - 5 people navigating between checkpoints using a compass and a map. Teams normally select their own order of visiting checkpoints, and the terrain can vary from open countryside to hilly forest. .Although there are shorter events, the championship rogaine is of twenty four hours duration.
The origins of the sport began in 1947 when five members of the Melbourne University Mountaineering Club went on a 24-hour walk through mountain ranges north-east of Melbourne. They enjoyed the experience, and the idea of a 'long walk' providing both a mental and physical challenge caught on, and the number participating grew.
In the mid-1970s, Rod, Gail and Neil Phillips formed an association in Victoria which provided the catalyst for the acceptance of rogaining throughout Australia and in other places around the world.
Enid Greenacre (Rigby) ca. 1927. First shorts and shirt for bushwalking (after walking in a silk dress and high heels). Image courtesy of the National Library of Australia: an10626927-8.
- Public art, walking tours and art trails in Melbourne
- City of Melbourne self-guided walks
- Heritage walks and tours in Melbourne
- Melbourne City Heritage Walking Tours - National Trust
- Brisbane’s Best Walks
- Roma Street Parkland - Brisbane
- RiverWalk - Brisbane
- Self guided walking tour of wartime Brisbane
- Walking tours of Brisbane City Botanic Gardens
Associations and clubs
- Bushwalking Australia
- Confederation of Bushwalking Clubs NSW Inc
- Bushwalking Queensland
- Federation of Victorian Walking Clubs
- Bushwalking SA
- The Federation of Western Australian Bushwalkers (Inc)
- Canberra Bushwalking Club
- Bushwalking clubs - a Brief History, John Chapman
- Australian Rogaining Association
National Parks in states and territories
- Parks Victoria
- New South Wales National Parks and Wildlife Service
- Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service
- Tasmania Parks and Wildlife Service
- Northern Territory Parks and Wildlife Commission
- National Parks and Wildlife South Australia
- Western Australia's Department of Conservation and Land Management
- ACT Department of Territory and Municipal Services
Long distance walking trails
- Australian Alps Walking Track
- Great Ocean Walk
- Hume and Hovell Walking Track
- Cape Naturaliste to Cape Leeuwin Walk
- Yurrebilla Trail
- Fraser Island Great Walk
- Overland Track
- Larapinta Trail
- Great North Walk
- Great South-West Walk
- Wet Tropics Great Walk
- Heysen Trail
- The Bibbulmun Track
- Tasman Coastal Trail
- Table Top Track
Other walking links
- Royal National Park walking information
- Parks Victoria
- Bushwalking in Tasmania's National Parks and Reserves
- Great Walks of Queensland
- South Australian Trails
- 60 Great Short Walks - Tasmania
- Self Guided Walking Tours
Note: Inclusion of a particular tourism operator or service provider, or non-inclusion of another in the 'Guided walks' links section does not constitute endorsement or non-endorsement of a product or service provider or tourism operator.
Last updated: 14th April 2008