May 10, 2023
9 mins Read
Journey with our writers as they take you into Australia’s top emerging trails from our 100 Emerging Destinations and Experiences series.
Travelling with: Carla Grossetti
Abandoned railway tracks around Australia continue to be reimagined as recreational trails for cyclists. And riding along these corridors is one of the most popular ways to enjoy a join-the-dots jaunt through the countryside. NSW’s first true rail trail on an ex-government rail corridor sealed the deal for the small townships of Tumbarumba and Rosewood, when the first section of the pioneering Riverina Highlands Rail Trail opened in 2020.
The rail trail has put the Snowy Valleys region on the map, providing visitors with yet another excuse to hit the high country and explore this stunning subalpine region when it’s not dusted in snow. The trail is about 21 kilometres each way and includes interpretive signage about the history of the rail route and the region. There are also ample opportunities to cycle to cellar doors such as the award-winning Courabyra Wines, which is part of the Snowy Valleys Sculpture Trail.
A disused train line in South Gippsland has also increased opportunities for walkers and cyclists to explore southeastern Victoria. The Nyora to Leongatha route extends the Great Southern Rail Trail by 36 kilometres and includes plenty of inspired places to stop. According to Will Owens, Rail Trails Australia’s southern NSW representative, the trend to reimagine disused railway lines is gaining momentum in the state, led by demand from domestic and international visitors who are looking to see the landscape up close.
Riders looking for new routes should also check out the newly opened first stage of the Northern Rivers Rail Trail, which connects Murwillumbah with Crabbes Creek in NSW. There are also plans to connect Yarra Glen and Healesville to the Lilydale-Warburton rail trail as part of the multi-stage Yarra Valley Trail in country Victoria.
Travelling with: Taylah Darnell
Climb aboard the restored sleeper Aurora Australis and venture from Sydney into the heart of Australia’s food bowl. Vintage Rail Journeys’ Riverina Rail Tour is a four-night passage through rural NSW that features off-train adventures to Coolamon Cheese, Piccolo Family Farm and even Emeri De Bortoli’s private garden.
With a contemplative stretch that traces the Canola Trail – its fields of gold rolling by your window come springtime – this is a chance to knock off two trends in one: slow food and slow travel. Oenophiles embarking on Vintage Rail Journeys’ Golden West Rail Tour will take in the vineyards of the Hunter Valley and Orange.
Travelling with: Taylah Darnell
Let Tasmanian Walking Company guide you into extraordinary landscapes with its Special Interest Walks, which offer rare experiences that go beyond the company’s already idiosyncratic soft adventure tours in Tassie.
One such adventure is the four-day Three Capes Lodge Spring Pilates Walk, focusing on letting go and moving forward with trained Pilates practitioner and owner of Noosa Flow, Claire Toone. Or refresh your mind with the Bay of Fires Lodge Wim Hof Method Walk, a four-day journey of cold-water swims and breathwork with Level 2 Wim Hof Method instructor Piet Blokker. Both walks include private accommodation and cooked meals.
Travelling with: Megan Arkinstall
NSW is on track – no pun intended – to become Australia’s bushwalking mecca with its developing network of 13 ‘Great Walks’. The network, which comprises new tracks that connect with existing ones, covers more than 630 kilometres, tracing beach laden coast, climbing high peaks and weaving through ancient rainforest. Six of the walks are already in operation, while the remaining are in development, with a range of levels to suit everyone from leisurely walkers to hardcore hikers.
The 20-kilometre Grand Cliff Top Walk is ready for explorers to pound its 100-year-old sandstone pavements in the Blue Mountains between Wentworth Falls and Katoomba. The track traces sheer escarpment through to Scenic World via eucalypt forests and past panoramic lookouts, where you can soak up the beauty of this World Heritage-listed area.
Newly launched in April of this year, the Murramarang South Coast Walk connects forest and ocean between Ulladulla and Batemans Bay. The track weaves through 34 kilometres of terrain including groves of spotted gum and burrawangs (Australian cycads) and secluded bays and coves. It also adjoins Murramarang Aboriginal Area, which has one of the largest Indigenous sites on the NSW coast with middens and artefacts dating back 12,000 years.
The Tomaree Coastal Walk in Port Stephens is set to open mid-year within the Worimi Aboriginal cultural landscape. The spectacular 20-kilometre trail threads through Tomaree National Park and comprises ancient volcanic peaks, rich Second World War heritage and spectacular coastal scenery. It will be a prime whale-watching spot during winter and a picturesque place to see the land carpeted in wildflowers come spring.
Have your hiking boots at the ready if reaching ‘The Roof of Australia’ is on your to-do list. The first stage of the Snowies Alpine Walk, running from Guthega to Charlotte Pass, is now open with the completed track set to launch in 2024. The walk culminates in the climb to the 2228-metre summit of Mt Kosciuszko. This epic 55-kilometre walk through alpine and subalpine environments in Kosciuszko National Park also traces the Snowy River, along high-country plains and snow-capped mountains.
Travelling with: Fleur Bainger
It’s not a stretch to say that most Western Australians didn’t know where Wellington National Park was until the world’s largest dam mural was spray-painted there. The yawning artwork stretches across 8000 square metres of the Wellington Dam wall – that’s most of the 367-metre-wide and 34-metre-high embankment.
The curving concrete canvas, found a two-hour drive south-east of Perth, is by globally renowned artist Guido Van Helten, who dutifully dangled from floating platforms and abseil ropes to complete it in 2021. It has, seemingly single-handedly, shed light on the scenic road trips through the Ferguson Valley region.
The full-day, self-guided Discovery Tour passes state forest, family-run cellar doors, tiny restaurants with big views, natural pool-side camping grounds, a street art trail (inspired by the mural) and the quirky Gnomesville, where thousands upon thousands of garden gnomes have been placed by mystery passers-by.
Travelling with: Emily Murphy
The little-known Wimmera Mallee Silo Art Trail in Victoria’s wheatbelt is the largest outdoor gallery in Australia, stretching more than 700 kilometres. Head to the heart of the Mallee and base yourself in the town of Sea Lake. You’ll need a few days to properly admire the evolving art project, celebrate the region and explore iconic Lake Tyrrell, the state’s largest salt lake.
A team of renowned artists from across the globe visited the Wimmera Mallee region, immersed themselves in the community and transformed each grain silo into an epic work of art that tells a unique story about the host town. Extend the drive to see the Big Mallee Fowl sculptures in nearby Patchewollock.
Travelling with: Elizabeth Whitehead
The Goulburn Valley may call to mind bottled fruit juice – but that’s not all there is to this Victorian food bowl. Tapping into its top-quality produce, artisanal products and fresh flavours deftly combined by local talent, Seasoned is the region’s new tasting trail. It allows visitors to get acquainted with the Goulburn Valley via their tastebuds, from farm gates to wineries and a bustling restaurant scene.
Follow any road radiating from Shepparton, and you’re bound to find the makers, bakers and culinary movers and shakers shaping its evolving reputation as a foodie enclave. There’s something to explore in every season, too. Enjoy a slow-cooked meal of ethically produced local meat in the winter or stop by in the summertime, when fruit sheds are chock-full.
Travelling with: Fleur Bainger
The upside of WA’s Pilbara region suffering a mine-sized reputation as a place of big holes and empty stretches is that its epic, 2480-kilometre road trip remains delightfully under the radar. The Warlu Way echoes the route – or Aboriginal songline – fabled into the land by a Dreamtime sea serpent known as a warlu.
The pristine, smooth bitumen is the least of its attributes, with stop-and-stare sights ranging from the deep gorges and pancake-stack formations of Karijini National Park to the ancient rock engravings of Murujuga National Park and the iconic Red Dog statue.
In between are vast, iron-rich red plains interrupted by caterpillar-like ranges spiked with spinifex and pockmarked with rock pools. The isles dotting the coast off Dampier and Onslow are also worthy of a diversion: a trip to the far-flung Mackerel Islands will make you feel like the last human on Earth.
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