Sometimes, a day out and about with your horse on the firebreaks isn’t quite enough. Australia abounds with special landscapes and scenery, and there is nothing quite like taking on a longer trek with your own horse. While many popular trails such as the Bibbulmun track run largely through National Parks and do not allow horses, there are still a few long distance horse trails in Australia where you and your trusty steed can venture undisturbed.
1. The Tasmanian Trail
Devonport to Dover, 480km
The Tasmanian Trail is the only long distance multi-use trail in Tasmania. In its bid to cater for equestrians, the Tasmanian Trail does not traverse National Parks. Instead, it relies on support from Forestry Tasmania and other land owners and managers for its pathways.
It often passes through or close to small towns, allowing travelers to visit local attractions while using as little or as much as they like and to take advantage of local accommodation, hospitality and specialist services.
The TT website notifies trekkers of the following :
“You are likely to be faced with sudden weather changes, water crossings, varying surface conditions and steep terrain. Drinking water may be difficult to find and access to phone reception will not always be available.”
Parts of the Trail are not for the inexperienced or faint-hearted as some difficult sections are experienced. The surface of the pathway is varied with most of the trail on some form of made up road but there are sections that may be difficult where they cross virgin bush, farm land and eroded stock routes. If attempting the whole trail two rivers need to be crossed and both can be impassable after rain.”
While the Tasmanian Trail has earned a reputation amongst hikers for being ‘not a proper hike’ due to the large proportion of ‘road bashing’ necessary, several horse riders have successfully completed and enjoyed this great long distance horse trail.
2. The Kidman Trail
Mount Lofty Ranges, South Australia, 269 kilometres
Named after Sir Sydney Kidman, a prominent horse breeder and pastoralist, The Kidman Trail is designated as multi-use and runs through forest tracks, private land, gazetted roads and along verges. The trail traverses the Fleurieu Peninsula, Adelaide Hills, Murraylands, Barossa and Clare Valley tourism regions.
A number of horse yards, campsites and float parking facilities have been provided. For further information on trekking the Kidman Trail or any other long distance horse trails, check out the excellent guide to riding the Kidman Trail, written by Pam Brookman.
3. The Canning Stock Route
North West Australia, 1850km
With a total distance of 1850km, the Canning Stock Route is the longest historic stock route in the world. The stock route was proposed as a way of breaking the monopoly that West Kimberly cattlemen had on the beef trade at the beginning of the 20th century.
The Canning Stock Route is now a popular four-wheel drive mecca, taking 10-20 days by vehicle to complete. A few adventurers have traversed the track on foot and by bicycles, but no modern day journeys on horseback have been recorded along the Canning Stock Route.
However, having been established as a stock route, the Canning would have seen many horses in its time. In 1911, it was reported that the first mob of cattle to traverse the entire length of the stock route had actually gained condition on the long drive. In the 50s, the stock route was used to drive horses north to replace those lost from ‘Walkabout Poison’ in the Kimberly. The last droving run was completed in 1959, and many of the wells the drovers relied upon so heavily have since fallen into disrepair and become unusable.
A modern day traverse of the Canning Stock Route by horseback would undoubtedly require a reliable support team, back-up vehicles to supply food and water, and a militant approach to planning.
4. The Holland Track
Broomehill to Coolgardie, 700 km
in 1893, John Holland carved a track through rugged bushland to create a shortcut to the Goldfields. Now popular with 4WD, The Holland Track was heavily used by prospectors; with horse and camel teams transporting supplies. The sandy, rugged 4WD section of the track commences east of Hyden (Wave Rock), and travels to the historic gold-mining town of Coolgardie.
Much like the Canning Stock Route, wells and watering points along the track are unreliable, and catering for the feed and water requirements of riding and pack animals would be challenging at best.
5. The Bicentennial National Trail
Melbourne to Cooktown, 5330 km
Why not save the best for last? The Bicentennial Trail is a 5330km long route between Victoria and far north Queensland, following the spine of the country along the Eastern seaboard and The Great Dividing Range.
Brought into fruition by legendary stockman R.M Williams, the Bicentennial National Trail was created the needs of horses in mind and is thus the ultimate long distance horse trail. Each camp is a comfortable day’s ride apart, and grass and water for stock are generally available at each of these.