Hut Hiking in Australia – Everything You Need to Know

10 July 2020
  • We knew hut hiking was a big thing in other parts of the world, but have heard of more explorers hut hiking in Australia. So we asked Ellie Keft from We Are Explorersfor her guide to getting out and discovering the hut network in our own backyard.

    Craig’s Hut, Victoria || Photo credit: Rob Embury, Pale Blue Dot Photography||@rob_palebluedotphotography

    So… what IS hut hiking?

    Although Australia isn’t known for its hut hiking, we do have a number of hut systems that will provide you with a wilderness experience which is very different to standard multi-day hiking.

    Trying to define hut hiking is almost impossible; it’s different in every country and many individuals will have differing opinions on what “genuine” hut hiking should include.

    In some cases, you’ll rock up to inn-like getups, that provide beds and meals. In others, you’ll need to lug in everything you’d need for multi-day trekking (including a tent for emergencies).

    In Australia, the latter is most common and the former is nonexistent (bar a couple of private high-end companies).

    Photo credit: Benny Littlejohn

    There’s an electrifying sense of freedom when you go hut hiking. Less weight restrictions can mean gourmet culinary inventions with fresh veggies, bottles of wine and the holy grail of hiking… dessert.

    Sitting on a rustic little verandah with a hot tea in hand, cocooned in nature and a few days walk from vehicle access… this is honestly when I experience my Buddha moments; it’s as close to knowing the meaning of life as I think I’ll probably get.

    All huts were not created equal

    Wilderness huts come in a variety of breeds, from multi-story behemoths with kettles, hot showers and flushing toilets, to three-sided timber shelters (glorified tents?) where the wind will whistle in one ear and out the other. All. Night. Long…

    Rules and etiquette differ as well, and it’s good to do your research before you go to make sure you’re not stepping on any toes.

    To get you started, see below a quick run-down of the type of hut varieties you can expect:

    Emergency Shelters

    These tend to be like a permanent tent, with a raised wooden platform and a tin roof and often with one wall. They’re useful in a pinch but you’ll probably be warmer and comfier in your tent!

    Historic Huts

    Many of the huts in Australia are indeed restored and preserved historic landmarks, and are only for short day use and emergencies. Make sure you understand and respect the rules as they’re very fragile structures with a long and storied history – don’t be that person who ruins it for everyone!

    Generally sleeping in these huts is not allowed, but you can hang out by the fire, do your cooking and play a game of cards before scampering off into your canvas castle (actually probably siliconised nylon) for the night. Seems like a pretty rad little set-up to me.

    Hut-To-Hut Lodgings

    True hut-to-hut hikes are very slick operations, where the route has been carefully planned so that you will literally stay in a hut every night. Sometimes they can be pretty basic structures, sometimes with sleeping platforms and sleeping mattresses. Others are literally just a roof over your head. In my experience, many have quaint little fireplaces and pots, some with a gas stove for you to cook with.

    When executed well, these kind of hut systems are actually a really effective way of minimising the environmental impact of hikers. Instead of traipsing all over the area, moving logs and crushing biodiversity with your tents, everything is contained in one location.

    Not to mention, all the gross stuff is usually contained to one compostable toilet as well, meaning that poor poo management by camping novices is less likely.

    For me, hut-to-hut setups are my happy place. The sweet spot for me is when you still feel remote and removed from society, but your pack is that much lighter without tents and sleeping mats. Oh, and effectively drying clothes out of the wet weather is an actual dream.

    Luxury Huts / Lodges

    These are found in the more touristic areas and allow for the everyday city slicker to access beautiful wilderness locations in comfort. I personally have never experienced this but I’ve heard tales…

    Hut Hikes in Australia

    Cosy shelter from the storm at White’s River Hut, Victoria || Photo credit: Benny Littlejohn

    NEW SOUTH WALES

    Green Gully Track

    This hut-to-hut hike is to my knowledge, the most well maintained and organised operation of its kind in Australia. About 8 hours drive from Sydney, the Green Gully Track in Oxley Wild Rivers National Park links 5 restored Stockman Huts for a top shelf multi-day hiking experience. The huts include fireplaces, camp stretchers, cooking facilities (including an espresso percolator!) and one hut even has a solar-powered outdoor hot shower. I mean, if that isn’t heaven, then I don’t know what is.

    Key facts:

    8 hours from Sydney.

    Accessible year round.

    Extremely advanced booking essential (super popular and limited capacity).

    Don’t pack tents, sleeping mats or cooking stoves (unless you want tea on the track).

    One full day will be spent wading through a magical creek, so pack spare clothes and shoes that can get wet!

    Don’t underestimate the hills – bring walking poles.

    Learn from others’ lessons.

    Green Gully hut with a tired hiker || Photo credit: Ellie Keft || @ellielouhere

    Green Gully Track || Photo credit: Benny Littlejohn

    The Moab 2 in action on the Green Gully Track || Photo credit: James Rowlinson

    White’s River Hut

    White’s River Hut will be your dearest friend whilst out exploring the stunning alpine playground that is Kosciuszko’s Main Range, in any season. Restored in 2011, this cozy little hut is fitted out with fireplace, dining room, bunk rooms and toilet, but you’ll have to make sure you’re completely self-sufficient when staying there.

    The hut is only accessible by hiking, biking or skiing (in winter!), so this trip will need some prior planning. For the ultimate historic experience, why not check out Schlink Hut Walk, which passes right by White’s River Hut (well I lie, you’ll have to cop a 5 minute detour). You’ll have the opportunity to check out the Snowy Mountains Hydro Electric Scheme’s very first power station, Guthega Power Station (Munyang), an extremely important piece of Australian history.

    When heading there in winter, you’ll need to choose your trusty steeds carefully, but whether you choose cross country skis or splitboards, you’re going to have one cracker of an adventure out there.

    Key facts:

    Booking and fees apply, so be organised.

    Kozi winters can be brutal; always check conditions and weather forecast with Snowy Region Visitor Information Centre on (02) 6450 5600 before heading out.

    Be a good dude and always replace firestocks when you leave (where possible), and leave a box of matches for those coming after you (you could save a life).

    White’s River Hut || Photo credit: Benny Littlejohn

    VICTORIA

    Alpine National Park

    As mentioned above, the rules are pretty clear with many alpine huts; only use as accommodation for emergencies. That being said, no one seems to have a problem with using them for a food prep and pre-bed hangs shelter, and with nearly 60 huts in the Bogong area of Alpine National Park alone, you’d be mad not to check them out if you’re in the area.

    One hut that it is alright to stay in though, is Johnston’s Hut. Not far from the hustle and bustle of Falls Creek’s slopes, this quaint little alpine hut is surrounded by friendly snowgums and endless backcountry ski runs. Fitting up to 10 people, it’s a perfect base camp for winter activities, with all the basics; a kitchenette, lights, an oven and a fireplace. If you get a good season, you’ll enjoy some of the freshest powpow in the region… probably all to yourself.

    Key facts:

    Booking essential, $75 per night.

    All gas and firewood has to last the season, so be conscious and go easy!

    It’s fun to check out in any season. Check out the range of hikes you can get stuck into.

    Make sure you’re fully equipped to camp out in tough alpine conditions and your navigation skills are top notch.

    Johnston’s Hut || Photo credit: Lachie Thomas (@_lachiet)

    Other huts to check out in the region include:

    Cleve Cole Hut – built to honour the memory of a Victorian skiing pioneer who was trapped on Mount Bogong back in 1936.

    Bivouac Hut/ Staircase Hut – this one has an interesting history of fire arson. I mean… if you’re interested.

    Michell Hut – located on the Eskdale Spur of Mount Bogong.

    Federation HutTraverse the Razorback and stop over at this pearler of a hut.

    TASMANIA

    The Overland Track

    You’ve almost certainly heard of this one; it’s arguably the most iconic Australian hike that exists (I’m not trying to start an argument guys…). Hike 65km over 6 days and experience a broad range of weather systems and terrains, from buttongrass moorlands and swamps, to European-style pine forest and lofty alpine mountain climates.

    Thanks to some stellar environmental management by the Tassie Parks and Wildlife Service, the Overland Track maintains a beautiful sense of isolation despite the large number of hikers every year. Boardwalks and simple huts keep all our clumsy human feet in line, making sure we don’t trample the spectacular biodiversity of The Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area.

    Make sure you check out the Pine Valley Hut too, which is a cheeky little side trip. If you stay overnight in the hut you’ll give yourself time to explore The Labyrinth or The Acropolis as well. Spoiler: it’s 100% worth it.

    Key facts:

    Booking and fees are essential.

    Transport at beginning and end are essential.

    You’ll need a track pass and a National Park Pass.

    Don’t underestimate Tassie’s weather; it can change in a second so be prepared for everything.

    Many reckon that OLT is a borderline ‘hut hike’. Hut spacing is super limited, so carrying a tent and being fully rigged is a non-negotiable.

    The Overland Track || Photo credit: Sarah and Jo Barlow || @sezbarlow

    Three Capes Track

    This is an interesting (and controversial) one, with many believing that construction is making wilderness areas too accessible for people with little to no bushwalking experience. Regardless of enviro-politics, there’s no question that the Tasman Peninsula is one of the most beautiful regions in Tasmania.

    The Three Capes Track, which has been constructed in stages and has only recently been declared complete, provides a genuine hut-to-hut hiking experience. The full shebang will take you 4 days, and you will be provided with literally everything you need; sleeping mattress, cooking facilities, chairs and tables, toilets, showers (in one hut), electricity and wait for it… charging stations.

    About Ellie

    Ellie Keft is an explorer; she’s hiked her way around Australia and the world, completing some of Australia and New Zealand’s most iconic multi-day hikes, as well as climbing Mount Kilimanjaro, trekking the Himalayas and later on this year she’s heading to complete the Larapinta Trail, end-to-end.

    In her role with We Are Explorers, Ellie has worked and travelled all over the world; most recently the United States, India and Indonesia, as a Social Media and Digital Marketing Strategist. These days, Ellie works full time at the Fred Hollows Foundation, but hasn’t forgotten how to adventure! Any chance she gets, she’ll be chucking on her hiking boots, grabbing a mate and heading out bush.

    Follow her journey @ellielouhere

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