Four ways to hike your way to heaven in NSW
There are few better ways to escape your busy life and disconnect from the world than hiking. These stunning NSW walks will help to set your body and soul free.
With more than 225 national parks and even more wilderness reserves, NSW offers hikers endless opportunities to break free and become immersed in nature at its most sublime. You can explore ancient rainforest; scale clifftop lookouts to spot whales then drop to deserted beaches; marvel at extinct volcanoes and their remnant jagged rock formations; and discover glorious native plants and animals on the country’s highest peak.
And the beauty of having so many options? You’ll likely have some of these wild open spaces all to yourself – feeling like the only person on earth surrounded by such beauty is about as good as it gets. Whether you have an hour or a few days, these four hike-your-way-to-freedom experiences are ready to be conquered.
Revel in rainforest
The Waterfall Way is one of Australia’s most epic road trips, traversing 210km inland from Coffs Harbour to Armidale. Your route begins by the sea 530km north of Sydney, then cuts through Dorrigo National Park, part of the UNESCO World Heritage-listed Gondwana Rainforests of Australia and the most extensive strip of diverse rainforest on the planet.
Visit the to gain perspective from the cantilevered Skywalk lookout, then map any of dozens of treks through the vast valleys below. The hour-long Lyrebird Link track offers the chance to spot its eponymous noisemakers, plus king parrots and rose-crowned fruit doves; or extend your outing with the Wonga Walk (three hours), allowing you to cool off at Tristania and Crystal Shower falls.
Feel the sand between your toes
NSW boasts 900 beaches, and some of the finest can only be accessed on coastal hikes. Many beaches lie on the 90min White Sands Walk, looping from powder-white Hyams Beach through Jervis Bay National Park to the town of Vincentia on the state’s South Coast, 190km south of Sydney.
Be sure to bring your swimsuit, as you’ll pass Chinamans Beach en route; the sand here is just as blinding as at Hyams, but the crowds are thinner, and often you’ll have the stretch all to yourself. Depart the coast and return to Hyams via the Scribbly Gum Track, snaking through the woodland home of possums, gliders and wallabies.
Bottlenose dolphins somersault offshore year-round, then from May to November, they’re joined by migrating whales seeking warmer Pacific waters to feed and nurture newborns. Whales are also a common sight on hiking trails through Booderee National Park, set on a peninsula near the southern reaches of Jervis Bay Marine Park.
Closer to Sydney is the Royal National Park – the oldest in Australia – where beaches, rainforest, waterfalls and rockpools patchwork 15,000 hectares of wilderness. This is nature writ large, and it’s all yours for 26km between Bundeena and Otford on The Coast Track.
Have an outback adventure
Want a deeper sense of escapism? Then try remote . Some 500km north-west of Sydney, this National Heritage-listed wilderness area is far from big city lights and highways, making it a natural destination for NSW’s only Dark Sky Park. The dazzling night skies are rivalled only by an ancient volcanic landscape of jagged sandstone peaks and pinnacles, all swathed in dense forest. It’s the perfect place to disconnect from the world.
The most distinctive feature here is The Breadknife, a 90m volcanic dyke cleaving the countryside. You’ll need a full day to explore it on the Breadknife and Grand High Tops; less stamina is required for the 2km Burbie Canyon track through a sandstone gorge frequented by wallabies and koalas.
The end-of-earth landscapes continue in the far south-west of the state, close to where the Murray River etches the border with Victoria. Here – a 2hr drive (140km) from Mildura airport – you’ll discover Mungo National Park, a place as humbling for its heart-stopping vistas as for its ancient human history. This World Heritage-listed expanse shows evidence of Aboriginal communities dating back more than 50,000 years.
Reach your peak
The Snowy Mountains region is the go-to destination for alpine adventures at any time of year. The towns of Jindabyne, Talbingo, Cooma and Adaminaby are ideal bases for explorations into the vast Kosciuszko National Park, with a web of hiking trails in every direction.
Have your head in the clouds and feel totally liberated on the day trek to the summit of Mt Kosciuszko (2,228m), the country’s loftiest peak. Take a ride on the Kosciuszko Express Chairlift from Thredbo, transporting you to the start of a 13km walkway leading to the mountain’s summit and back. In winter, this is a white wonderland with snow and ice glistening in the high-altitude sun (snowshoes essential); in warmer weather, the rooftop of Australia is blanketed in alpine wildflowers.
Only 100km west from Sydney lies 11,400 square kilometres of World Heritage-listed wilderness in the Blue Mountains. This is paradise for outdoor enthusiasts, its hiking bounty ranging from full-day rambles along remote clifftops to scenic strolls among dramatic rock formations. On the outskirts of Katoomba, the area’s largest town, a 45min hike to the Three Sisters reveals the drama of the Jamison Valley, with spectacular views of its soaring sandstone turrets up close, extending all the way to Mt Solitary in the distance.