In 2016, my daughter Zaydee and I spent just over a year travelling the Bicentennial National Trail. “But what IS the Bicentennial National Trail? How long is it? How many months does it take to do the BNT? And where does it go?” were some of the more common questions I was asked.
So, what is the Bicentennial National Trail? Well, according to the BNT website, The Bicentennial National Trail is one of the longest multi-use, non-motorised, self-reliant trails in the world, spanning 5330 kilometres from Healesville, Victoria, to Cooktown in Far North Queensland.
In order to provide for horse riding along the Bicentennial National Trail, a route that encounters plenty of water and grass was necessitated. This means that unlike other long distance trails of a similar length ( ie the PCT or AT), the Bicentennial National Trail does not pass through wilderness areas in its entirety , but a variety of different terrain and countryside.
The trail follows the foothills of the Great Dividing Range and the Eastern Escarpment, winding along Australia’s eastern seaboard and linking eighteen national parks.
How was the Bicentennial National Trail built?
Rather than being a purpose-built trail, the Bicentennial National Trail uses existing tracks and rights-of-way, so in many areas the trail is shared with motor vehicles. It follows old coach routes, stock routes brumby pads, rivers, 4WD tracks, fire trails, country roads, and in some short stretches, even highways!
It follows old coach routes, stock routes brumby pads, rivers, 4WD tracks, fire trails, country roads, and in some short stretches, even highways!
Much of the trail also traverses private property, access to which is often an arduous process of negotiation. Each section of trail has its own coordinator, and trekkers are advised to make contact with these volunteers. Coordinators are the backbone of the BNT and are often kind and helpful souls who often really add a whole other dimension as well as local knowledge to the BNT experience.
Campsites may be public TSRs, showgrounds in small towns along the way, a grassy flat beside a creek, or if you are lucky, a friendly local’s back paddock. Most campsites are not developed or maintained and toilets or purpose-built huts should not be expected.
Bicentennial National Trail- Quick Facts
Length: 5330km ( 3311.91mi)
Location: Victoria, New South Wales, ACT, Queensland
Known as: BNT, Bicentennial National Trail, National Horse Trail
Use: Horse riding, Cycling, Walking, donkey packing, camel trekking, goat packing (yes, its been done before!)
Factors of awesomeness:
- Horse and pack animal friendly
- Sees relatively little use
- Great way to see some of the wildest and inaccessible parts of Australia
- Steeped in history
- Veers away from large cities and highly populated areas (with the exception of Canberra)
Highest Point: 15 Mile Ridge, Cabrumurra, NSW (+/-1700m)
Lowest point: Mossman, QLD (4m)
Half-way point : Murphy’s Creek, South East Queensland
The route was identified and the trail opened in 1988. The Bicentennial National Trail was largely developed by a committee led by legendary bushman R.M. Williams, and coordinated and planned by Brian Taylor in cooperation with ATHRA (Australian Trail Horse Riders Association).
Traversing four states/ territories, the BNT is divided into 12 sections, each approximately 400-500 kilometres in length and with a corresponding guidebook and maps. Despite easy access to trailheads, the BNT sees relatively little use when compared to other long distance trails, with less than 50 individuals having completed the trail in its entirety.
Section 1: Cooktown to Gunnawarra (Queensland)
Section 2: Gunnawarra to Collinsville (Queensland)
Section 3: Collinsville to Kabra (Queensland)
Section 4: Kabra to Biggenden (Queensland)
Section 5: Biggenden to Blackbutt (Queensland)
Section 6: Blackbutt to Killarney (Queensland border)
Section 7: Killarney to Ebor (NSW)
Section 8: Ebor to Aberdeen (NSW)
Section 9: Aberdeen to Jenolan Caves (NSW)
Section 10: Jenolan Caves to Kosciusko (NSW/ACT)
Section 11: Yaouk to Omeo (VIC)
Section 12: Omeo to Healesville (VIC)
To order guidebooks, maps, or for more information on Australia’s Bicentennial National Trail, visit the official website or call 1300 138 724.