Murray to Mountains Rail Trail, Victoria's High Country, Victoria © Ride High Country
Australia's best active holidays
Who needs a gym when you can get outside and push your body to the limit in some of Australia’s most sublime holiday spots.
By Lee Atkinson
If your idea of the perfect holiday is all about getting active, testing your limits and coming home fitter – or at the very least burning off the extra holiday calories you consume in some of the country’s most beautiful places – you’re in luck. Australia is home to some amazing destinations where you can work out and be blown away by the scenery at the same time. The best part? Regardless of how much or how little you do, you’re guaranteed to come home feeling better than when you left.
Make Lord Howe Island your own private gym
Where: Lord Howe Island, a two-hour flight east from Sydney.
We’re not sure if it is the world’s biggest outdoor gym, but Lord Howe Island, a subtropical island paradise, has got to be the world’s most beautiful. With hardly any cars on the island, the best way to explore is by bicycle or on foot. Climb Mt Gower – one of the best one-day walks in the country – for the ultimate Stairmaster, or ramp up your daily step count on the five-day guided Seven Peaks Walk. As for laps, what can be better than swimming around the island with one of Australia’s most famous Ironmen, Trevor Hendy, during one of Lord Howe’s popular Ocean Swim Weeks? (Although, you’ll have to share the water with more than 90 species of coral and 500 species of fish and lots of turtles.) Sound better than your neighbourhood gym?
How to experience it: Stay at the luxurious Pinetrees Lodge, which operates Ocean Swim Weeks, the Seven Peaks Walk and Wellness Weeks.
Walk one of the world’s greatest desert trails
Where: The Larapinta Trail, a five-minute drive north of Alice Springs.
The Larapinta Trail in central Australia is an epic hike, no matter which way you look at it. Snaking 223 kilometres (138 miles) westward from just outside Alice Springs towards Kings Canyon along the spine of the West MacDonnell Ranges, the walking trail takes in some of the Red Centre’s most memorable and iconic gorges and waterholes. A highlight is watching the sunrise from the summit of Mount Sonder, one of the Northern Territory’s highest peaks.
Split up into 12 sections with bush camps at the end of each one, it takes at least 12 days to hike the Larapinta end to end (although ideally you’ll take 18-20 days to do the entire trail). Or you can step out in style on a six-day guided walking holiday that takes in all the must-see sights with overnight stays in three luxury safari camps, complete with hot showers and camp cooks who whip up tasty three-course meals while you relax. Walking an average of four to seven hours each day, this is one trip where you’ll be able to have your cake – or campfire pudding – and eat it, too.
How to experience it: Hike the highlights of the Larapinta Trail in comfort on a luxury guided tour.
Hit Victoria’s High Country on two wheels
Where: The High Country, four-hour drive north-east of Melbourne.
A cycling holiday ticks all the boxes Eco-friendly: check. Family-friendly: another tick. Wallet-friendly: tick that too. Great way to get fit: you bet. Fun: absolutely. And when it comes to cycling destinations, Victoria is up there with the best of them. The High Country around Bright and Mansfield is famous for its mountain bike trails, with more than 250 kilometres (135 miles) of tracks, trails and scenic road riding.
This region of Victoria is also home to some of Australia’s longest rail trails – decommissioned railway lines that are now dedicated sealed (or gravel) cycling paths. With gentle inclines and no road traffic, they are great for families and recreational riders. Hire an e-bike and it’s even easier.
How to experience it: Take a guilt-free gourmet escape to Victoria’s High Country by joining a Pedal to Produce cycling tour.