Backpacking in Australia: TOP 5 Multi-Day Trails

Backpacking in Australia: A close-up of an ultralight backpacker's hand showcasing the beauty of the Australian landscape

In this post, we'll take a look at:

Backpacking in Australia offers immense variety for outdoor enthusiasts, from the iconic red sand dunes of the Outback to the tropical rainforests of Queensland, including popular destinations like the Great Ocean Road.

And that’s what this guide is all about – backpacking in Australia. We’ll provide tips to help you prepare for backpacking across this diverse country as well as showcase the TOP 5 multi-day trails in Australia.

From sun-baked deserts to misty eucalyptus forests, Australia’s dramatic landscapes provide spectacular backpacking opportunities. Whether you’re an experienced thru-hiker or new to backpacking in Australia, the trails highlighted here will inspire your next adventure in the Land Down Under.

Key Tips for Backpacking in Australia

  • What to expect: With an extensive selection of over 3200 trails, you can explore various environments, including lush rainforests and arid deserts.
  • Essential gear: It’s crucial to be well-prepared for varying weather conditions and, depending on the region, to carry sufficient water due to arid landscapes. In our experience, carrying a first aid kit and a insect head net is essential.
  • Wildlife: While there are deadly snakes, they pose minimal danger if you avoid tall grass. Spiders in some areas can be a problem, but they’re avoidable. Saltwater crocodiles are a big risk in the Top End and parts of Queensland and Western Australia, so stay away from water and heed warnings. Cassowaries, large birds, in Far North Queensland can also be dangerous if provoked, but encounters are rare.
  • Wild camping is generally not officially permitted in Australia, but it’s tolerated in certain regions. When embarking on multi-day hikes, it’s advisable to plan for camping by seeking out established campgrounds, potentially requiring reservations and fees. If you’re determined to go wild camping, don’t forget to take a look at our post on stealth camping.
  • Best times to go are generally fall during the southern hemisphere’s spring (September to November) and autumn (March to May). In the northern parts, such as Queensland and the Northern Territory, where it can get quite hot and humid, the cooler months from April to September are often preferred for backpacking. In the southern parts, like Victoria and New South Wales, spring and autumn provide pleasant temperatures for backpacking.

Top 5 Backpacking Trails in Australia

Top multi-day trips in Australia from our point of view and loved by many:

1. Overland Track

Cradle Mountain stands majestically above Dove Lake, which resembles a volcanic crater filled by milky turquoise waters and ringed by rugged dolerite peaks, as viewed from atop Hanson's Peak in Tasmania's Cradle Mountain-Lake St Clair National Park

Luke Zeme, CC BY-SA 2.0, via flickr

Length: 48.8 mi / 78.5 km
Type: Point to point
Difficulty: Hard
Elevation Gain: 7286 ft / 2221 m
Location: Cradle Mountain-Lake St Clair National Park (Tasmania)
Estimated Hiking Calorie Burn: 10 000 calories
More Details: See on AllTrails

The challenging 49 mile Overland Track is a premier Tasmanian wilderness trek from Cradle Mountain to Lake St. Clair. Traversing glacial valleys, ancient rainforests, and alpine meadows, the route ascends rugged peaks like Mt. Ossa within World Heritage protected lands. Requiring permits and bookings during peak season, the iconic track draws thousands yet delivers solitude amid pristine vistas. Despite changeable weather demanding cold-weather gear, the Overland Track remains a breathtaking, transformative adventure and bucket list quest for intrepid backpackers.

2. Cape to Cape Track

The Cape to Cape Track in Western Australia winds past the iconic Sugarloaf Rock between Cape Naturaliste and Cape Leeuwin

David Stanley, CC BY-SA 2.0, via flickr

Length: 78.6 mi / 126.5 km
Type: Point to point
Difficulty: Hard
Elevation Gain: 7598 ft / 2316 m
Location: Leeuwin-Naturaliste National Park (Western Australia)
Estimated Hiking Calorie Burn: 12 000 calories
More Details: See on AllTrails

Spanning 120 miles along the Leeuwin-Naturaliste Ridge from Cape Naturaliste to Cape Leeuwin, the demanding Cape to Cape Track is a breathtaking coastal odyssey. The route traverses wind-carved cliffs, granite headlands, secluded beaches and sheltered bays within Leeuwin-Naturaliste National Park. Offering magnificent scenery from start to finish, the multi-day trek challenges hikers with rocky terrain yet delivers immense rewards. Bucket-list walking for seasoned Aussie bushwalkers, the Cape to Cape Track is best completed over 5-8 days while camping at designated sites along the way. With proper fitness and preparation, this iconic coastal track promises a truly unforgettable wilderness experience.

3. Great Ocean Walk

A sweeping beach in the foreground leads to towering sea cliffs bathed in the glow of sunset at the Twelve Apostles along Australia's Great Ocean Road

Length: 60.3 mi / 97 km
Type: Point to point
Difficulty: Hard
Elevation Gain: 8904 ft / 2714 m
Location: Great Otway National Park (Victoria)
Estimated Hiking Calorie Burn: 10 800 calories
More Details: See on AllTrails

Stretching 60 miles along dramatic coastal scenery, the challenging Great Ocean Walk from Apollo Bay to the Twelve Apostles is a premier Australian trek. Traversing towering forests, rugged cliff tops and sandy beaches over 6-8 days, the route immerses hikers in the beauty of the Southern Ocean. With options for shorter day hikes, the trail rewards with views of koalas, diverse environments and spectacular lookouts like Johanna Beach. Despite some boggy sections and steep hills, completing the entire point-to-point journey or part of this scenic trail promises an unforgettable bucket list adventure along one of the world’s great coastal walks.

4. Larapinta Trail

The glowing sunrise catches the rocky spur of Mount Sonder along the Larapinta Trail in Australia's Northern Territory

Caroline Jones, CC BY-SA 2.0, via flickr

Length: 138.1 mi / 222.2 km
Type: Point to point
Difficulty: Hard
Elevation Gain: 23 838 ft / 7266 m
Location: Tjoritja / West MacDonnell National Park (Northen Territory)
Estimated Hiking Calorie Burn: 24 000 calories
More Details: See on AllTrails

The extremely challenging 138-mile Larapinta Trail traverses the rugged West MacDonnell Ranges from Alice Springs to Mount Sonder. Requiring careful planning and self-sufficiency, this iconic Australian trek immerses hikers in the beauty of the Red Centre’s ancient landscapes. Despite scorching summer heat, rocky and steep terrain, and the need to cache water, completing the multi-day journey along its twelve sections provides a deeply rewarding wilderness experience. With proper fitness, supplies, and precautions for this remote trail, hardy backpackers can embrace the magic of walking through time on the stunning Larapinta.

5. Great North Walk

Golden sunset light illuminates the Watagan Mountains as reflected in Ellalong Lagoon in New South Wales, Australia

Joey M Wilson, CC BY-SA 2.0, via flickr

Length: 168 mi / 270 km
Type: Point to point
Difficulty: Hard
Elevation Gain: 25 892 ft / 7892 m
Location: Lane Cove National Park (New South Wales)
Estimated Hiking Calorie Burn: 28 800 calories
More Details: See on AllTrails

Spanning 105 miles from Sydney to Newcastle, the challenging Great North Walk connects two major cities along over 150 miles of rugged yet captivating terrain. Traversing diverse natural landscapes from valleys to peaks, the route allows backpackers to immerse themselves in Aboriginal history while encountering native flora and fauna. The multi-day track can be done in sections or end-to-end, requiring planning and self-sufficiency. Despite tough conditions like heat, rain and mud at times, completing Australia’s longest marked footpath is a rewarding way to experience the beauty, culture and wilderness of New South Wales.

Annual Weather Averages

Keep in mind that Australia is a vast country with diverse climates, so the optimal time can vary based on the specific region you plan to explore:

  • Summer (December to February): Expect temperatures ranging from 70 to 100°F (21 to 38°C), with some northern areas experiencing higher humidity.
  • Autumn (March to May): Temperatures typically range from 50 to 80°F (10 to 27°C), offering milder and comfortable conditions for backpacking.
  • Winter (June to August): Winter brings temperatures ranging from 40 to 70°F (4 to 21°C) in the southern parts, while northern areas experience a dry season.
  • Spring (September to November): Spring sees temperatures gradually increasing, ranging from 50 to 80°F (10 to 27°C), making it a pleasant time for backpacking.

Before finalizing your gear choices, examine the historical yearly weather statistics for Australia:

High °F848482797572687275798284
Low °F687066635752485054596468
Rainy days1314151110877791011
High °F959390817266647384869195
Low °F727063554641394852596468
Rainy days664344333689
Note: These tables are approximate; weather can change with altitude.

Alternative Backpacking Destinations

Not sure if Australia is right for you?

Don’t forget to check out our backpacking guide for New Zealand.


Can I have a campfire while backpacking in Australia?

While backpacking in Australia, having a campfire requires extra planning due to wildfire risk. Fires are only permitted in dedicated fire pits at designated campgrounds, and never during total fire ban periods typically spanning summer and fall. Use only dead fallen wood and fully contain the fire. Fully extinguish all embers, ashes, and sticks using water until items are cold to the touch before departing the site. Bushfires pose a major threat, so adhere closely to fire safety precautions year-round.

What are some safety tips for backpacking in Australia?

When backpacking and bushwalking in Australia’s scenic nature, research trails and carry maps to avoid getting lost in the remote bush. Tell someone your planned route and check in regularly. Wear sun protection and carry plenty of water to prevent dehydration. Watch for wildlife like kangaroos while camping, and check shoes for spiders or snakes before putting them on. Swim only where signs permit to avoid crocodile danger. Exercise caution near cliffs and on rugged trails. Prepare for quickly changing weather and pack proper budget camping gear and travel tips. Following basic precautions will allow you to safely enjoy Australia’s natural beauty and outdoors.

How to deal with wildlife encounters while backpacking in Australia?

When hiking in Australia, be alert and make noise to avoid surprising wildlife. Give snakes, spiders, and other dangerous animals a wide berth. Do not try to touch or feed wild animals. Carry insect repellent to prevent mosquito bites that may carry disease. Wear closed shoes and long pants to prevent bites and stings. If confronted by aggressive wildlife, back away slowly and calmly without sudden movements. Seek medical attention promptly for any bites or stings. Exercising caution and respecting wildlife habitat is the best way to avoid dangerous encounters while enjoying Australia’s natural beauty.

Do U.S. citizens need a visa to visit Australia?

Unless you plan to study, work, or live in Australia, U.S. passport holders don’t need a visa for tourist visits up to 90 days. You must have an electronic travel authority (ETA) to fly into or transit through Australia. Apply for the ETA online before you go, which just requires your passport details. There’s a small service charge. The ETA lets you stay up to 3 months as a tourist. Some other visa rules apply if you have a criminal record or medical concerns.

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Leading the pack is our editor-in-chief, Alex Jardine – an ultralight evangelist who's hiked over 10,000 trail miles across the globe. He's basically a walking outdoor encyclopedia. This dude loves testing out the latest and greatest products, so you can trust his recommendations are always well-informed and reliable.

We treat all our suggestions like advice from close trail buddies. No fluff, just real insights from folks who live and breathe the outdoor life.

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