Forget fad diets and vitamin supplements – the easiest way to give your body and mind a boost is to get yourself a good dose of fresh air. Oxygen helps every part of your body work better, from digestion to your immune system. The cleaner the air you breathe, the better your body will function. It’s not just your body, either. Your brain also needs plenty of oxygen in order to keep your moods balanced and your powers of concentration at their peak. So, if you’re feeling in need of a lift, head for one of Australia’s inviting outdoor playgrounds, where the clean air is just the beginning of your adventure.
Hit new heights in the
1. Flinders Ranges, South Australia
You could spend an entire day just gazing at the Flinders Ranges, watching them slowly change colour as the sun moves through the sky. That, however, would be a waste. There’s a lot more to the Flinders Ranges than just rock. Located 500 kilometres north of Adelaide, the Flinders is the outback at its loveliest, a place where you can stroll along riverbeds shaded by red gums or hike amid spinifex that find ways to anchor themselves even on steep slopes, and where you’re more likely to encounter a mob of red kangaroos or a group of emus than humans. Come after good rain and you’ll see another landscape entirely, with wildflowers springing up on the grasslands and otherwise- arid lakes drawing all sorts of birdlife to their waters. The area’s most famous feature is Ikara or Wilpena Pound, an extraordinary 17-kilometre-long by eight
kilometre-wide crater-like formation that is actually the eroded remains of a prehistoric mountain range. It’s great to explore on foot, but also when seen from a scenic flight. Other highlights for hikers include the 24,000-hectare Arkaba Conservancy, a luxury property that hosts just 10 guests at a time. There’s also the 20-kilometre Brachina Gorge Geological Trail, which opens up a window into eons of geological change, and the full-day trek up St Mary Peak, the highest point in the Flinders Ranges. Be aware that this site is sacred to the Adnyamathanha people, and that climbers are asked not to venture beyond the Tanderra Saddle. Be sure to sign up for a cultural tour with an Adnyamathanha elder to hear the stories behind this land.
Find out more: Wilpena Pound Resort offers a range of accommodation options, from basic camping and safari tent options to deluxe resort rooms. From $193 a night; wilpenapound.com.au. Arkaba Conservancy’s homestead package starts from $1070 a night, including meals and activities; arkabaconservancy.com
Hike your way around
2. Victoria's Deep South
There is something in the air at Wilson’s Promontory. Here on the southernmost tip of the mainland, the air is particularly invigorating, thanks to an intoxicating combination of tangy ocean breezes and air filtered through the vast swathes of bushland. It’s that combination of beach and bush that has made Victoria’s oldest national park a firm family favourite for generations – well, that and the fact that it’s a superb place for wildlife spotting, including wombats and emus. You don’t need to be travelling with kids to enjoy exploring the Prom, however. More than 80 kilometres of walking tracks wind their way through the park, giving you plenty of options when you feel like taking a hike. Among the favourites is the walk to Sealers Cove, a 19-kilometre round trip that showcases the Prom’s remarkable diversity – expect to wander past granite
outcrops and through tree-fern gullies before you reach the picture-perfect beach. Scenic stops along the way include the charming Ferny Glade, a dell watered by a small waterfall, where ferns and mosses thrive, and Sealers Swamp, home to ancient swamp paperbarks. Looking for something a bit less taxing? Then try the seven-kilometre round trip to the summit of Mt Oberon. A well-tended path helps ease your way; the most difficult section is the approach to the summit, where there are steep steps. Alternatively, check out The Big Drift, a collection of inland sand dunes, or head to Refuge Cove to watch for marine life such as dolphins, seals and whales, as well as birds including albatross, white-bellied sea eagles and little penguins. Find out more: At the Wilderness Retreats at Tidal River, glamping tents come equipped with queen size beds, en-suite bathrooms and generous decks, and there are also communal cooking facilities. From $324.90 a night; parks.vic.gov.au/ where-to-stay/wilderness-retreats
Get rugged at
3. Cradle Mountain, Tasmania
Now this is what wilderness should look like! With its dramatic mountains, crater lakes, ancient forests and icy streams, Tasmania’s Cradle Mountain-Lake St Clair National Park is the perfect destination when you’re ready to go a little wild. Where to start? The area’s signature hike is the 65-kilometre Overland Track, a six-day trek that offers complete immersion in the wilderness. Hikers carry their own gear and stay overnight in huts or tents. Keep an eye out for pademelons, possums and wombats, while echidnas, platypuses and Tassie devils are also occasionally spotted. If you love the idea of an adventure but don’t have a week to spare, then sign up for a day’s canyoning. Thrillseekers will love exploring Dove Canyon, complete with crossings of no fewer than six waterfalls. How do you get past a waterfall? By abseiling, jumping or – in the case of the natural formation dubbed the Laundry Chute – sliding down into a natural pool. Prefer a slightly more sedate approach? The area’s best half-day hikes include the picturesque Dove Lake Circuit, Shadow Lake Circuit and the Crater Lake Circuit, which takes you through sassafras forest to a secluded glacial lake ringed with 200-metre cliffs. The latter is particularly spectacular during the turning of the fagus. Also known as deciduous beech, this tree is descended
from the beech forests that once covered the ancient continent of Gondwana. Australia’s only cold-climate deciduous tree, the fagus puts on a brilliant autumnal show, its leaves turning magnificent shades of gold, flaming orange and rusty red. It’s an unforgettable sight. Find out more: Tasmanian Expeditions offers a range of guided adventures, including a three-day Cradle Mountain Short Escape and a six-day Overland Track experience. From $1295 per person; tasmanianexpeditions.com.au
Branch out in the
4. Daintree Rainforest, Queensland
Walking through the rainforest is a lot like diving to the bottom of the ocean. Here, things don’t just look different, they also feel and sound different. It’s the softness of the light, filtered through the dense tree canopy, and the way your footfalls are muffled by the leaf litter as you move through this unique eco-system. More than 3000 types of plants are found in Queensland’s Daintree Rainforest – one of the world’s oldest rainforests – alongside animals that are found nowhere else. Life bursts and blooms in all sorts of levels, from the forest floor to the dense canopy. Look up to see the splashes of brilliant blue on the Ulysses butterfly, and down to see the remarkable forest dragon, which maintains a cool body temperature to evade the heat-seeking python. Other inhabitants to keep an eye out for include saltwater crocodiles (see them out on a Daintree River cruise) and the giant cassowary, which can be seen around Mission Beach. One of the most-loved spots in the Daintree is Mossman Gorge, just 20 minutes north of Port Douglas, where cool, clear waters wash over granite boulders and tree-covered mountains shield the horizon. Take a tour with a member of the local Kuku Yalanji tribe to learn how they have lived in harmony with the forest for 50,000 years. Want more forest action? Take the car ferry across the Daintree River to explore the wilderness of Cape Tribulation, where the verdant rainforest is fringed by beautiful beaches. The full-day Mount Sorrow Ridge Trail is one of the area’s best hikes, with glorious views across the rainforest and the coast, but best tackled by experienced bushwalkers. Find out more: With just 15 treehouses nestled into the forest canopy, Daintree Ecolodge offers a secluded rainforest experience. The two-night Rainforest Roamer package includes breakfast, a picnic lunch and a Daintree River cruise. From $944 for two; daintree-ecolodge.com.au
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