With its vast open spaces of untouched nature, Northern Australia is known as a hiker’s paradise. Northern Australia makes up half of the country (and continent) but only contains a quarter of Australia’s population. Take that low population density along with its varied geography, from jagged mountain ranges to vast deserts to tropical jungles, and you have the potential for hundreds of hours of hiking enjoyment.
This 250km (155 mile) trail stretches from Alice Springs in the center of Australia to Mount Sonder. The trail follows the scenic MacDonnell Ranges through semi-arid desert. Some adventurous souls take on the entire trail, which is divided into 12 sections that take 1-2 days each to hike. Others choose part of the trail or take side trips on one of the many trails that link up with it and explore more of the West MacDonnell National Park. There are many highlights along the route, including Ellery Creek Big Hole, Finke River, Ochre Pits, Palm Valley, Serpentine Gorge, Glen Helen, and Simpson’s Gap.
You will find some of the most beautiful sites in Australia at Kakadu, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, at the northern-most point of the Northern Territory. You can hike through wetlands or untouched bushland and you will find an astonishing variety of wildlife. There are day and night hikes available where you can also see ancient aboriginal rock art and marvel at natural wonders like Jim Jim Falls, Nourlangie Rock, and Mamukala Wetlands. But be careful of the rivers; this is crocodile country.
If you would rather something more tropical, the Whitsunday Islands offer gorgeous hiking opportunities. Their proximity to the Great Barrier Reef makes it a popular destination for sunbathing and snorkeling, but many of the subtropical islands have attractive hiking options. The island of South Molle, for example, has a peak you can climb, offering breathtaking views of the island.