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Australia is home to some of the best scenic drives in the world, but sometimes it’s when you step out of the car that the real excitement begins.

Across the country, walking tracks head onto mountains, along coasts and even through desert areas that vehicles simply can’t reach. But with thousands of walking choices out there, which tracks are the best? Walk this way…

From Cradle Mountain to Lake St Clair
How far: 65 kilometres
Why: Tasmania’s craggy mountains are the most spectacular in Australia, and the country’s most famous bushwalk journeys past the highest of them. Beyond the Lego-like summits of the World Heritage area, there are also alpine moors, waterfalls, primeval rainforest and Australia’s deepest lake. Little wonder it’s become so popular that a booking system operates between November and April.
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From Alice Springs Telegraph Station to Mt Sonder
How far: 223 kilometres
Why: Experience the desert without deprivation, walking through a red land beneath invariably blue skies. This trail, which takes about two weeks to complete, traverses the length of the West MacDonnell Ranges, climbing to knife-edged ridges and dipping into ice-cold gorges. Camp sites, with water sources, are liberally dotted along its path and it’s a chance to see some of the Red Centre’s star natural assets – Standley Chasm, Glen Helen Gorge, Simpsons Gap – at slow pace.
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From Ramsay Bay to George Point, Hinchinbrook Island
How far: 32 kilometres
Why: For tropical delights with minimal effort, this walk along the east coast of Hinchinbrook Island (Australia’s largest island national park) may well be the most civilised in the country. Despite its short distance, most walkers stretch the trail out across four days, lapping up the Robinson Crusoe beaches, the waterfalls and the viewpoints. The island took a smashing from Cyclone Yasi, so the trail is currently closed until at least June 30, but it’s a walk worth waiting for.
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Circuit from Tidal River
How far: 60 kilometres
Why: Victoria’s most beloved bushwalk hops between beaches near the mainland’s southernmost tip. The beaches range from the wild – Oberon Bay – to the mild – Refuge Cove. In between are great vantage points like Kersop Peak. For a ‘camp’ with a difference there’s the chance to extend the traditional circuit and walk south to the lighthouse and its cottages staring out over Bass Strait.
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From Apollo Bay to Glenample Homestead
How far: 104 kilometres
Why? If the road is great, the walk is even better. Pinched between the Great Ocean Road and one of Australia’s wildest coastlines – they don’t call it the Shipwreck Coast just for laughs – the Great Ocean Walk reveals parts of the coast the road doesn’t touch. Hidden secrets include Milanesia Beach, set beneath slanting limestone cliffs; Gable Lookout, atop some of the country’s highest sea cliffs; and the anchors of two wrecked ships on Wreck Beach.
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Circuit from Charlotte Pass
How far: 30 kilometres
Why? Stand atop the very pinnacle of Australia, picking off the three highest peaks in the country as you loop through the Snowy Mountains. From Charlotte Pass the Summit Rd leads you quickly up to Mt Kosciuszko, Australia’s highest mountain. The real delights, however, are beyond. Rounding the headwaters of Wilkinsons Creek you can climb to Mt Townsend, 19 metres lower than Kozzie but, with its rocky crown, infinitely more dramatic. Continue north and you can also ascend the broad summit of Mt Twynam – the third highest peak – before returning to Charlotte Pass.
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From Cape Naturaliste to Cape Leeuwin
How far: 133 kilometres
Why? Waves, whales and walking… spend a week on foot on WA’s premier coastal bushwalk and you’ll experience plenty of all of them.  Between June and December, either humpback or southern right whales are cruising past this coast, providing you with company as you amble across clifftops, along isolated beaches and beneath WA’s signature, sky-scraping karri trees. Bookended by lighthouses, this track doesn’t have the coastal walking fame of the Great Ocean Walk or Wilsons Prom, but it should.
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Circuit from Harrietville
How far: 36 kilometres
Why? The Razorback’s name pretty much says it all, with the alpine ridge between Mt Feathertop and Mt Hotham rising to a sharp point that’s long been a siren call to bushwalkers. From Harrietville the track ascends almost 1500 metres, rising through snow gums to the summit of Mt Feathertop. Standing aloof amid a sea of surrounding mountains, it’s arguably the High Country’s most impressive mountain. From here the Razorback ridge points north, towering high above deep valleys and affording ridiculously wide views.
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From Cockle Creek to Melaleuca
How far: 86 kilometres
Why? If the Overland Track is the ultimate showcase of Tasmania’s mountains, the South Coast Track is its coastal equivalent. Passing through remote beaches, buttongrass plains and rainforest, if skirts the island’s southernmost shores – next stop, Antarctica – burrowing deep into the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area. Though it sticks to the coast, it never lets you forget that Tassie is a mountainous place: the climb over the Ironbound Range tests most walkers, and there are good views to the inland mountains.
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