Queensland Great Walks

Tips for the trail: how to do Queensland Great Walks

A journey of a thousand miles begins with one step – and some careful planning.

Queensland’s wild heart is best explored on the hiking trail. But there are hiking trails, and then there are Great Walks.

Let’s be clear: Queensland Great Walks are more than just really long, overnight hikes. They take you far from the normal tourist tracks and deep into our national parks.

These tips will put you on the right path and show you how to plan your hike.

1. Pick one of your favourite Queensland Great Walks

Thorsborne Trail, Hinchinbrook Island - Queensland Great Walks

Choosing the Great Walk you want to do can be hard, with trails ready to challenge you from one end of Queensland to the other.

Step into Jurassic Park on a tropical island barely anyone has heard of. Take a three day trek through waterfall-laden rainforest in South-East Queensland. Traverse the world’s largest sand island.

Not sure where to begin? Start with this list of 10 Great Walks worth lacing your boots up for.

2. Build your foundations

Great Walk Carnarvon Gorge

Map out your Great Walk here but make sure you pick up a hard copy too (essential to not getting lost). These maps show you the distances between campsites – aka the distances you need to be able to make each day.

Your feet are your mode of transport so treat them nicely with good quality boots. Avoid the $20 specials and opt for waterproof or quick drying boots – more expensive, but you get what you pay for.

Being able to walk for extended periods of time is the name of the game.

To train, start off with 20-minute walks, and build your distance slowly. Once you feel comfortable, ramp it up on the weekends to a couple of hours at a time. Consistency is key here – your ultimate goal is to be able to walk for eight hours and have enough energy left over to build camp. Spending 10 to 15 minutes stretching before snuggling into your sleeping bag is great practice as well.

Be extra ready for your Great Walk and train with a heavy pack – you’ll be carrying quite a load if you’re on the trail for days at a time!

3. Pack those bags

Cooloola Great Walk in Carlo Sand Blow - Queensland Great Walks

This is where things can get as complicated or as simple as you want. Bear Grylls would have you believe all you need is a good knife (and decades of training and an endless supply of money and cameramen) to survive.

In real life, you want to do more than just survive. You want the walk to be enjoyable. So bring along these essentials to make your life much easier and more glamorous than Man Vs Wild.

  • A buddy or two (up to 12). Hiking alone can be scary. Plus, your buddy carries half the stuff.
  • Drinking water. As much as you think you’ll need (and a bit more).
  • Food. Outdoor stores sell plenty of dehydrated meal options that are light and pretty tasty. Pack an extra meal than what you’ve planned as backup in case you have an unexpected extra night on the trail.
  • Waterproof backpack and clothing (inc. thermals if it’ll get cold at night)
  • A pair of gardening gloves (Queensland might not have bears but there are some mean plants and bush critters).
  • Torch/flashlight with extra batteries.
  • Hat, sunscreen and mossie spray.
  • Your map! Laminated or in a waterproof container.
  • Compass (and know how to use it).
  • Firestarting kit and a lighter (note: these are two separate things).
  • Hiking stove with gas.
  • Kitchen bag (bowl, fork, spoon etc).
  • Swag or tent (preferably a tent just in case it rains).
  • Sleeping bag and mat.
  • Personal Locator Beacon (never EVER leave without one, you can even borrow them for free from some local police stations and national parks offices).
  • Something to boil water with (an aluminium pot is lightweight and does the trick).
  • Toothpaste, hand sanitiser and toilet paper (the rest of the camp will appreciate it).
  • A GPS
  • Swiss Army Knife or a good bush knife.
  • A notepad and pencil (for emergencies, or poetry, make sure you keep them dry).
  • Whistle
  • Your camera

Remember, the lighter your pack the more comfortable you will be, so share your gear with your hiking buddies.

4. Get the word out

Great Walk this way

Before you set off on your trip, make sure someone knows about it. Tell them where you’re starting and when and where you plan on finishing. If you’re not there at the end, someone will come looking for you.

It’s also a great idea to check in with the national park ranger station before you set off.

5. Know the rules of the road

Thorsborne Trail, Hinchinbrook Island

Rule #1: Be on time!

It’s important to stick to your plan to ensure you make it to camp every night – and you’re not left stuck in the bush glaring at whoever was late as they borrow your toilet paper.

Which brings us to the second rule: don’t mooch. Bring your own stuff. Nothing is sexier on the trail than self-reliance. Also, whatever you bring into the bush you should take out.

Queensland’s National Parks Department has some helpful guides on keeping safe and leaving things as you found them. The website also includes all the information you need about camping and trail conditions.

With beautiful national parks all over the Sunshine State, now is the perfect time to start planning your next Queensland Great Walks adventure.

This post was written in 2015 and updated November 2019.