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15 epic hikes in Australia and New Zealand among volcanoes, rainforests and more

Australia, New Zealand, and their stunning coastlines are adventurers’ playgrounds. The new Lonely Planet book, Epic Hikes of Australia & New Zealand,…

By Chan , in Travel , at December 13, 2023

Australia, New Zealand, and their stunning coastlines are adventurers’ playgrounds.

The new Lonely Planet book, Epic Hikes of Australia & New Zealand, celebrates this region as one of the best hiking destinations in the world. The new guidebook highlights the wide variety of terrains, climates, and landscapes that are found in both countries. Here are a few highlights to inspire you to travel down under.

Mt Taranaki: North Island, New Zealand

This 2518m (8260ft) mountain is New Zealand’s highest peak. The simple fact that this is a long day of hiking hides the difficulty. The climb from the visitor center to the top is almost 1600m (5,249ft). This volcano hasn’t erupted since 1854. The promotion is steep, and the section is called “The Puffer” for a good reason. There will be snow and possibly ice in the crater. But the view across the Tasman Sea to the Tongariro Volcanoes and inland is spectacular.

Maunga Kakaramea/Rainbow Mountain: North Island, New Zealand

Rotorua has a long history of geothermal activity, and Rainbow Mountain, named for its colorful volcanic underbelly, is a great example of this. The 743m high mountain is located on State Highway 5, about 16 miles south of Rotorua. A simple trail leads up to the Crater Lakes, two bright blue lakes at the base of colorful cliffs. The climb continues past the cliffs and up to the summit. From there, you can see some of Rotorua’s other geothermal highlights: Mt Tarawera, which erupted violently in 1886, the deep incisions of Waimangu Volcanic Valley, and the furiously steamed Wai-o-tapu Thermal Wonderland. You may want to soak your muscles after the walk. Just 9km (5.5 miles) away, you’ll find the Waikite Thermal Pools.

Mt Tibrogargan, Queensland, Australia

The Glass House Mountains are located an hour north of Brisbane. They consist of 11 craggy mountains that rise from the macadamia, pineapple, and other crops. It is one of the most surreal places in Queensland. The peaks of these mountains are the remains of volcanic plugs, solidified magma that was once inside the necks and throats of volcanoes. Many of the peaks can be reached by foot. Mt Tibrogargan (aka the Gorilla) is the highest and most impressive of these peaks. It is also the hardest but most spectacular to climb. A gentle 4-kilometer (2.5-mile) trail can take you around the 364m (1,194ft) rock ball. Or, you can choose a more adventurous route. The route involves a lot of scrambling, and a good gorilla grip is required. But the view from the top to the Sunshine Coast or Pacific Ocean is worth it. Mt Beerburrum, Mt Ngungun, and other Glass House Mountains provide more accessible summits.


These are the best long-distance hikes.

Old Ghost Road, South Island of New Zealand


Old Ghost Road is a winding and weaving road located further up the West Coast from the Paparoa Track. It’s near Westport. It would seem that the trail is a well-established one, but it was only opened in 2015. A thin book, Spirit to the Stone, tells the story of the creation. Copies are located in five huts that are strategically placed along the trail. It is a must-read for anyone who has an interest in trail building and courses. It covers the story of landslides and proposed hydro dams that could flood its route. The graded path flows over mountaintops, clinging to sheer gorge walls. The trail was designed with mountain biking enthusiasts in mind. However, it’s a beautiful piece of art that hikers will enjoy as well.

Light to Light Walk in New South Wales (Australia)

This beautiful coastal walk will delight anyone who enjoys exercising with stunning clifftops and a sparkling beach. The trail ends with celebrations of the maritime heritage of this gem on the far South Coast of New South Wales. This section of the coast is also popular with sea kayakers. However, Bass Strait, which is just around the bend, can make it a dangerous place. Paddlers take refuge in the protected bays of Mowarry and Bittangabee. The Black Summer bushfires 2019/20 affected the South Coast and the walk. The Australian bush is resilient, and despite its blackened limbs, life is slowly returning. As part of the recovery process, the Light to Light Walk will be redeveloped to include both camping and hut experience.

Wangetti Trail: Queensland, Australia

The Australian landscape is dotted with epic, purpose-built hiking trails. This includes the far north of Queensland. The Wangetti Trail explores the tropical hinterland and coast between Palm Cove and Port Douglas. Hikers and cyclists can explore the Wet Tropics World Heritage Area, Macalister Range National Park, and other areas. They should also be on the lookout to see everything from cassowaries to crocodiles. The trail was built in phases. The 33km (20 mile) section between Palm Cove and Wangetti opened first, with the rest of the course, including camping areas, expected to be completed in 2023.

These top hikes will help you discover the richness of the rainforest.

Twin Falls Circuit: Springbrook, Australia

This beautiful hike offers a taste of the Gondwana Rainforests in a short amount of time. You can enjoy the best experience by walking the trail anti-clockwise, either from the Tallanbana Trailhead or the Canyon Lookout. It’s an easy walk that is well-signposted. You will pass behind two beautiful waterfalls and ancient brushbox trees. Want more? This trail is part of the Warrie Circuit. It’s a 14km (8.7 miles) trek that takes between five and six hours. Both courses are best suited to sturdy footwear, as they can be slippery, even if they appear dry, behind the waterfalls.

Coomera Circuit: Lamington, Australia

The Coomera Circumference offers a spectacular day hike with stunning scenery. It includes rainforest-covered cliffs and verdant forests, as well as some breathtaking cascades. These include the Coomera & Yarrabilgong Falls, which plunge into a 160m deep (525ft) gorge. This is one of the most beautiful walks in southeast Queensland’s Lamington National Park’s Binna Burra area. It’s best to start from the Binna Burra Upper Day-Use Area and follow the trail anti-clockwise. After 1.9km (1.25 miles), you’ll ascend the Coomera Gorge to leave the Border Track. Keep your eyes open as you follow the Coomera River. You may see the blue and white Lamington spiny crab. The Border Track will take you back to the trailhead after a few river crossings.

Brindle Creek Walking Track, Border Ranges National Park in Australia

Bring your swimwear along for this lovely walk in the highlands of northern NSW. There are many places to dip, including Evan Falls. Brindle Creek Walking Track is a misty rainforest creek that follows the line of a stream. It’s a highlight reel of the most spectacular landscapes of the Border Ranges National Park. You will pass by ancient, looming Antarctic Beech trees, massive hoop Pines, and the lovely Helmholtzia Lilies, which thrive in the moist, damp air. Please bring a picnic and enjoy it at the Antarctic Beech Picnic Area. You might even see bandicoots or pademelons. Retrace your steps back to the Brindle Creek picnic area.

National parks: Epic trails

O’Shannassy Aqueduct Trail: Yarra Ranges National Park, Australia

This trail is a great alternative if you do not want to climb Mt Donna Buang in Victoria’s Yarra Ranges National Park, which is the highest point. It’s even more impressive because it has a lookout at the top. The trail runs 35km (22 miles) from East Warburton, just northeast of Melbourne, to Don Valley. The trail follows the path of the aqueduct, which was built in 1914 as a way to bring fresh water into the city. It is an incredible feat of engineering. It’s mostly flat, but there are a few steep sections. You can also ride or run it if you want. It gives you a taste of the temperate rainforest of the Ranges. Ferns are spread far above your head, and the mountain ash tree canopy is above. This is a walk with giants.

Djagany Walk (Goanna): Girringun National Park in Australia

The Djagany Walk (also known as the Goanna Walk) is part of the 110km epic Wet Tropics Great Walk that links two of Townsville’s most stunning waterfalls, Wallaman Falls and Blencoe Falls. It takes about ten days to complete the entire trek. Wallaman Falls, Australia’s tallest single-drop falls, is the first stop on this old forestry trail that takes you through different forest types in the Unesco-listed Wet Tropics World Heritage Area. You can spot brilliant blue Ulysses butterflies fluttering in the rainforest. The tranquil creek crossings provide a welcome relief from the midday sun. You’ll sleep to the sounds and sights of the Australian bush on your first two days.

New England Wilderness Walk, New England National Park in Australia

This multi-day trek takes experienced bushwalkers through one of NSW’s most diverse wilderness areas. It descends over 1000m (3280ft) to reach the Bellinger River’s headwaters from the edge of New England Tableland east of Armidale. First, 1.7km (one mile) takes you through cool, lush, temperate forest to Wright Lookout. From here, you can get a panoramic view of New England National Park. This park is part of the Unesco-listed Gondwana Rainforests. The trail then continues down to the valley floor, along the Snowy Range. As you descend, take in the ever-changing environment. You’ll walk along an old farm path over the grassy river flats to reach the valley bottom, passing historic stockyards and farmhouses.

The best trails to waterfalls

Meander Falls, Great Western Tiers Conversation Area in Tasmania

A Tassie waterfall walk is available just an hour’s drive from Launceston in the heartland of the Great Western Tiers Conservation Area. The out-and-back trail climbs uphill through lush wet forest to reach the base of Tasmania’s most impressive waterfall, which drops 130m (427ft). The course is not for everyone, as it has some steep, rocky, and muddy sections. Winter months can bring snow and ice, but this can also be an advantage if you get to see the spectacle of icicles on the falls. Winter or summer, you’ll need sturdy shoes and layers of warm clothing.

Warrie Circuit, Springbrook National Park in Australia

The well-marked, moderately challenging circuit follows the base of the Canyon cliffs to a  (look out for the giant spear). The well-marked, rather difficult course descends into the lush green forest before reaching Goomoolahra Falls. The track crosses several creeks and gullies before reaching the ‘Meeting of the Waters,’ where all the watercourses draining The Canyon come together. It is essential to wear hiking boots, especially after rain, as the trail can become quite muddy.

Wheel of Fire Track in Eungella National Park (Australia)

The Wheel of Fire Track, named for the orange flowers that grow in the rainforest trees surrounding it, is a scenic hike located in the Finch Hatton Gorge area of Eungella National Park west of Mackay. It features several waterfall swimming areas. The path splits after a kilometer on the well-maintained forest trail. This is a shaded trail for the majority of the time. You can take the short walk to the Araluen Cascades. But it is worth the effort to continue uphill between granite boulders. The views of Finch Hatton Creek rushing through the gorge are spectacular. There’s also a waterfall pool at the top, which is usually cooler than the Araluen Cascades swimming area.