Our search for Australia’s Greatest Hikes took us to Maria Island, the Blue Mountains, Lord Howe Island, Lamington National Park, and the Great Ocean Road. Maria Island is a small remote island off the coast of an island, off the coast of an even bigger island. With no inhabitants other than a parks staff, the island is a peaceful, serene island with beautiful scenery and wildlife. Most single day tourists only have time to explore the northern end of the island, so head south if you want to feel the island’s true remoteness.
About 2 hours from Sydney, the Blue Mountains are a popular weekend getaway for city dwellers. To really get away from it all, hike along the 45km Six Foot Track. It typically takes three days, with the Six Foot Track Eco Lodge and Black Range campsite are the best places to stay overnight.
Lord Howe Island is an 11km long island about a 2-hour flight from Sydney. With only 350 people living on the island and a cap of 400 tourists at a time, the island is a slice of paradise. The island’s remoteness provides a great home to many endemic species, and is also why no one inhabited the island before European settlement.
In 1937, a Stinson airline crashed in Lamington National Park on its way from Brisbane to Sydney. After search parties were called off and nine days later, local bushman Bernard O’Reilly found the 2 remaining survivors. A hike to the Stinson Crash site is a tough hike through dense bush and should only be done with an experienced guide.
We realise it’s not a hike, buy cycling the Great Ocean Road is one of the best ways to experience this beautiful landscape. It’s best to start from Lorne and head south, as the road, in this direction, is more downhill than up. The road hugs the coastline, heads inland through the Otway National Park (look up and you’ll see some koalas), and back out to the more treacherous coastline. Take a walk along Wreck’s Breach at low tide, and you’ll understand why this area is also called the Shipwreck Coast.
When To Go:
With good weather all year long, anytime is good time to go to Lord Howe Island. The best time to go to Maria Island and the Blue Mountains is from November to March.
You can hike in Lamington National Park year round, but it is safest to go when you get a few dry days.
What to Wear:
Bring a good pair of high top hiking boots. Long sleeves and long trousers will help protect you from bush walking in the Blue Mountains, Lamington National Park, and the Great Ocean Road area.
Lord Howe Island is only served by Qantas Link, which departs from Sydney daily, Brisbane on weekends, and Port Macquarie from February to June, and September to December. These flights have a very strict baggage allowance of one checked bag weighing no more than 14kg and one carry-on weighing no more than 4kg. Once you arrive, your accommodation will provide transport from the airport.
Maria Island is a small island off an island (Tasmania) off a much bigger island (Australia). If you are going on a guided Maria Island walk, a pick-up can usually be arranged in Hobart. TassieLink buses (http://www.tassielink.com.au/) stop at Triabunna on their Hobart-Swansea service. Once in Triabunna, East Coast cruises directly serves Maria Island by boat in the morning and early evening.
The Stinson Walk in Lamington National Parks is only accessible by car, which is about a 2-hour drive from Brisbane.
Katoomba in the Blue Mountains is about a 2 hour drive or train ride from Sydney. Once there, you can hire a taxi to take you to the start of the Six Foot Track.
The start of the Great Ocean Road is most accessible by car or bus from Melbourne.
On Maria Island and Lord Howe Island, you can walk or rent bicycles to get around the small islands.
The only way to get around the Blue Mountains’ Six Foot Track and Lamington National Park’s Stinson Walk is by hiking.
Don’t Forget To Pack:
3. Mosquito repellent and anti-itch cream
4. Salt – to get rid of leeches
5. Blister pads
6. Waterproof bag
7. High Top Hiking Boots
8. Several pairs of high top hiking socks
1. Hike to the summit of Mount Gower, Lord Howe Island
2. See the dolerite columns at the summit of Mt. Bishop and Clerk, Maria Island
3. Go on a guided hike along the Six Foot Track with Life’s an Adventure guide Dan in the Blue Mountains.
4. Camp overnight on Maria Island
5. Stay at the Six Foot Track Eco Lodge and swim in the Cox’s River
6. Hike or Cycle the Great Ocean Road and see the 12 Apostles, the Grotto and Loch Ard
7. Feed the fish fishfood at Ned’s Beach on Lord Howe Island
8. Hike to the Stinson Crash in Lamington National Park
Globe Trekker Itinerary
We began our 3-day Maria Island trip on the southern end of the island and headed north with wombats and wallabies greeting us along the way. After a night in the old Darlington penitentiary, we summited the dolerite columns of Mt. Bishop and Clerk. We were soon on to Lamington National Park where we followed the footsteps of Bernard O’Reilly to the Stinson Crash site. We were joined by the Tim O’Reilly, who retold the story of his great uncle’s heroic search for the survivors of a 1937 plane crash.
From Brisbane, we hopped on a tiny plane to Lord Howe Island to discovery endemic fauna and fearless petrels along the rope assisted, grade 10 hike up Mt. Gower. The stunning scenery, endemic species, and the fearless petrels made the 10-hour challenge absolutely worth it.
Next up, was the 3-day, 45km hike along the Six Foot Track in the Blue Mountains with Aboriginal guide Daniel Keaton.
Our journey ended at Australia’s southern end, cycling through rainforests and along the coastlines of the Great Ocean Road.
Places to Stay
PINETREES LODGE (http://www.pinetrees.com.au/)
O’Reilly’s Guesthouse http://www.oreillys.com.au/)
From $163 (single) to $520/night
Six Foot Track Eco Lodge (http://www.6fttracklodge.com/)
Great Ocean Eco Lodge (http://www.greatoceanecolodge.com/)
Established by the Conservation Ecology Centre, this Eco Lodge is about as peaceful as you can get. On the higher end of the price scale, the mobs of Kangaroos grazing at night, locally sourced meals, nature walks, chats with kind hearted owners Lizzie and Shayne will make it an unforgettable experience.
$350+ / night
1. Visit Victoria (http://www.visitvictoria.com/)
2. Lord Howe Island Tourism Association (http://www.lordhoweisland.info/)
3. Maria Island (http://www.parks.tas.gov.au/index.aspx?base=3495 )
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