In the middle of winter 2018, Red Bull endurance athlete and dual Olympian, Courtney Atkinson, set out to once again on a crazy running adventure around Australia. ‘In just SEVEN days’ the goal to race over the best EIGHT running trails in Australia. One for each state and territory in the country.
AN AUSTRALIAN RUNNING ADVENTURE
Deserts, beaches, rainforests, snow…
Are these the best running trails to see in Australia?
“Trying to get around to these remote points in Australia in just 7 Days; the running is easy, the months of preparation is the hard part.”
DAY 1 // KINGS CANYON // NORTHERN TERRITORY
Why This Trail? “The landscape around Alice Springs is one of my favourite places in Australia. I’d already run throughout the region a fair bit including the Larapinta trail. But hadn’t been out to Kings Canyon before. Known as one of the best outback attractions we have.
Rate it? “Yes. Australia’s little grand canyon. Running through similar terrain to a small version of the Bungle Bungles. I can now see why it’s such an tourist hotspot.”
Location: In the heart of the Northern Territory between Uluru (Ayers Rock) and Alice Springs in the Watarrka National Park.
Access: 4-hour drive out of Alice Springs. Carpark at Trail Head entry to Kings Canyon.
Sleep: Outback resort (cabins) and campsite 5mins drive away at Kings Canyon Resort
Terrain: Semi-Technical rock running. The loop starts with lactic burning few-hundred steps. Worth seeing at sunrise.
DAY 2 // WILPENA POUND, FLINDERS RANGES // SOUTH AUSTRALIA
Why this trail? “It’s come up in conversations a few times with well-travelled hikers as their favourite area to go to in Australia. This particular aerial photo made me want to see what all the fuss was about.”
Rate it? “The view at the top over the pound is epic, but the run home was maybe one of my favourite sections of trail EVER!”
Location: A natural amphitheatre of mountains in the heart of the Flinders Ranges National Park, South Australia.
Access: 5hr drive from Adelaide. St Mary Peak Trail loop starts 200m away from the Wilpena Pound Resort.
Sleep: Range of accommodation options at Wilpena Pound Resort
Terrain: Good fire roads through the valley tracks then steeper rocky ground to get up over the saddle next to St Mary Peak. Trail markings a bit hit and miss. Worth taking a phone or GPS for navigation.
DAY 3 // CAPE TO CAPE // WESTERN AUSTRALIA
Why this trail? “An iconic great walk of Australia along the blue azure waters of the Indian Ocean. Each year it’s also the location for major MTB and trail run races in the region”.
Rate it? “A REAL RUNNERS’ run along the surf breaks from the Cape Naturaliste lighthouse start point to the town of Yallingup. Leave the rest to hiking with a backpack.”
Location: Southwestern region of Western Australia at the western edge of the Geographe Bay
Access: 3hr highway drive south of Perth. The trail starts here at Cape Naturaliste Lighthouse.
Sleep: Seashells Yallingup is where we stayed, but there are a range of accommodation options all along the coastal tourist towns.
Terrain: Starts with a few kilometres on concrete track before getting into the excellent running single track along the top of dunes next to famous surf breaks. Once you start hitting some of the beaches stretches the sand is SOFT! Tough going and then the trails turn more into sandy 4×4 tracks. Reasonably well signed throughout. Although navigation on and off the beach access points get a bit tricky at times, but you work it out.
DAY 4 // 12 APOSTLES // VIC
Why this trail? Finishes at the signature landmark of Victoria
Rate it? Another unique part of Australia. Iconic Finish. Worth a run if you’re in the area. Head for the mountains otherwise.
Location: Track follows the route of the Great Ocean Road in Victoria
Access: Multiple points to make it up to 100km. I started in the little town of Princetown as had limited time in the area.
Sleep: Made it a day trip from Melbourne Airport
Terrain: Easy to follow single track trail all the way to the top. Good running trail underfoot with some nice views.
DAY 5 // WINEGLASS BAY // TAS
Why this trail? I ran in the mountains over the Overland Track to Mt Ossa last year so picked an iconic coastline spot in 2018.
Rate it? Bad weather didn’t show me the best of the area but was an authentic taste of tassie trails in a beautiful region. White Bays, technical tramping style climbs and southern Australian forests.
Access: Fly into Launceston and drive out 2.30hrs out to the east coast.
Sleep: Rustic modern cabins at Freycinet Lodge
Terrain: Diverse run over graded trails, white beaches and some tramping style trails up to Mt Graham for the views of Coles Bay and Wineglass. If I were to rerun it, I’d recommend just doing the Hazard circuit which is 11km instead of 30km and would be a good run to see everything you need to.
“I get joy out of running in these environments and the faster I go through them the more that internal smile comes out.”
DAY 5 // LAKE BURLEY GRIFFIN // ACT
Why this trail? “Only had the time to run at night. Sightseeing the best of Australian’s Capital in 5km in the dark. The loop of Australia’s Olympians over the years.”
Rate it? “Canberra all lite up a night is a sight to behold. If I had to run anywhere in the ACT for scenery, this is still my pick.”
Location: The Lake Burley Griffin Central Loop, also known as the “Bridge to Bridge”, is 5km between the two bridges that go over the lake in front of Parliment House in Australia’s Capital Territory. See if you can spot the prime minister out for a morning walk?
Access: Nothing is too far in Canberra. 10mins from the airport. City centre. Start point at
Sleep: Just a kilometre out of the centre of town comfortable and new Mantra MacArthur Hotel
Terrain: Running in concrete footpath / wooden decking. Fast and flat alongside the lake with a rise at each end to cross the bridges.
DAY 6 // MT KOSCIUSZKO // NSW
Why this trail? “Running to the top of Australia. I wanted to experience running the Australian backcountry in the middle of winter.”
Rate it? “Amazing feeling running across the large white valleys as far as you can see. A different Australian experience. Hard going in the shin-deep powder though.”
Location: I used the Mt Kosciuszko Summit Walk Route from Eagles Nest starting at the top of Thredbo Ski Resort (Longer route starting out at Charlottes Pass which I ran last year without the snow)
Access: Easiest to fly to Canberra, grab a rental car and drive 2.5hrs to Thredbo via Cooma (There is a $25 park entrance fee paid at booths at the bottom of the mountain). Grab a single lift pass and head up to Eagles Nest.
Terrain: No track when under snow, so you need to have a navigation option (and a backup if that breaks)
***NOTE – if thinking of doing this PLEASE make sure you take the right survival gear, Epirb, know conditions and forecasts or better still get a mountain guide.
DAY 7 // THORSBORNE TRAIL – HINCHINBROOK ISLAND // QUEENSLAND
Why this trail? “One of the truly untouched environments of Australia… and the planet. Only 40 people can multi-day hike the trail at one time, and it’s one place I’d never been in Queensland.”
Rate it? “Unbelievable. True Queensland trails, isolated beaches, rainforest, headlands. You feel lost on an island in the middle of the ocean, but in reality, you’re 7km away from the mainland.”
Location: Trail is on the eastern side of Hinchinbrook Island the tropical paradise of Australia’s largest island national park. 2hrs north of Townsville off the Queensland Coast.
Sleep: We stayed right across the road from Boat Ramp in Lucinda at Hinchinbrook Resorts Lucinda.
Terrain: Rocky headlands, elevated tramped rainforest tracks, creek crossings and long-isolated beach stretches. Queensland at it’s very best.