Bicentennial National Trail

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Introduction

The Bicentennial national trail is an extremely long 5330 km track running along most of the eastern side of Australia. It has been designed primarily as a horse riding trail.

This is the longest trail in Australia and claims to be designed for walking (as well as horseriding). When you look at the track in detail, you find most of the campsites are 30 to 40km apart and the trail was sited to provide good grass and plenty of water (stated in the guide books). It also avoids Wilderness Areas, follows a lot of roads and has many days of 30 to 40km in length. I find 30km in hilly country a tough days walk and cannot do multiple 30 to 40km days in a row. I also do not eat grass. In my opinion, much of this trail is not suitable and was never intended for walking. Walkers prefer to not walk on roads, they want to visit Wilderness Areas and require campsites at about 15 to 25 km intervals or less. It is clear this track was planned and designed by horse riders for horse riding. It would also make an excellent mountain bike ride. Currently, the managers of the track for the Queenskland section are realigning the track and creating more campsites to make it more suitable for walkers - this will be a welcome change.

Why is this track on this web site? Well, some walkers might find references to it as a major walking track and spend time trying to research the track or even plan walks along it. By including it here, I hope I have made it clear what it the relationship of this track to bushwalkers.

There are parts of this track that are attractive for walkers - if you don't mind sharing with horses and bikes. Some sections are also good to use as part of a much longer walk where there are no nearby better bush tracks. When Barry Higgins and Steve Tremont followed the watershed of the Great Divide from western Victoria to Cape York (6,700 km), they used parts of this trail in regions where there are few national parks. If you are planning a similar walk, then you might find parts of this track useful as well. There are also some sections (particularly in Queensland) where the trail is the only track in the area and hence - without other alternatives - provides reasonable walking.

History

The trail was initiated and planned by the Australian Trail Horse Riders Association. They spent many years planning and negotiating a route. Horses are banned from all Wilderness Areas and many national park areas so they had to avoid these. For a long time, creation of the trail looked doubtful. When it was accepted as a bicentennial project in 1985, finance and official approval followed and by 1988 the trail was a reality. The trail has a large following amongst the horse riding community and has been very beneficial to them.

Location

The track starts at Healesville on the outskirts of Melbourne in Victoria. It follows the mountain ranges along the eastern side of Australia through New South Wales to end at Cooktown in northern Queensland. The total length is 5330 km and would take most of 1 year to walk.

Access

A huge number of access points exist. Indeed, much of the trail follows public roads. Access by public transport exists where the trail crosses major highways - generally these are spaced at about one month walking intervals. Walkers usually chose to pre-place food at one to two week intervals and private transport must be used to do this.

Maps and Track Notes

A series of 12 guidebooks have been published for the trail. These use sketch maps to show the trails location - these maps are good for planning. It is also advised to obtain detailed contour maps as the sketch maps are inadequate for navigation. The guides contain very brief notes and are of limited help with planning a walk as most of the general advice is about horses - selecting them, feeding them, holding them etc.

Permits

Not needed. Local restrictions on camping and camp fires apply in some areas and in some seasons.

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John Chapman, PO Box 5042, Laburnum, 3130, Australia<br>
Photographs and text are copyright 1999-2008 John Chapman.<br>
Last updated : August 10th 2008