Australia’s top 10 treetop walks
AUSTRALIA’S ANCIENT landscape is host to some of the world’s tallest and longest-lived trees. Among them are Western Australia’s karri and red tingle – hardwood giants rearing higher than 20-storey buildings. In Tasmania there’s the long-lived Huon pine, and the mountain ash (Eucalyptus regnans), the second-tallest tree species in the world, reaching up to nearly 100m.
But what happens far above us in the rustling boughs of these temperate-zone giants?
Or in the wet tangle of lush rainforest canopies? You don’t have to wait to find out – canopy walks have been built all over the nation so that the curious can get up there to explore.
1. Jungle Surfing Canopy Tour
Cape Tribulation, QLD
At Cape Tribulation you can whiz from tree to tree on a 400m-long zipline hanging almost 20m off the ground. The operators have had to work without mains power in this protected area, and so a huge wheel in which visitors can walk helps winch harnesses along the line.
2. Daintree Discovery Centre Aerial Walkway
Cape Tribulation, QLD
A two-hour drive north of Cairns, this canopy walk will lead you through the mid-level of this biologically diverse rainforest. It ends at a tower 23m above the forest floor in the heart of the 180-million-year-old Daintree. The tower has five levels so you can examine the canopy’s richly layered life. Audio tours and educational guides on conservation help you understand what you are seeing.
3. Mamu Tropical Skywalk
Found on the traditional lands of the Ma Mu people in Wooroonooran National Park, this walk takes you on a journey through the largest remaining stands of complex vine forest in the Wet Tropics. Among the species living amid this endangered dense vegetation type are Lumholtz’s tree-kangaroos, hanging basket ferns and lawyer vines, so named for the hooked spines on the canes that ‘won’t let go’ once they’ve snagged the unwary.
4. O’Reilly’s Treetop Walk
Lamington National Park, QLD
Lamington National Park claims to have the first treetop walk in Australia, which was built in 1988. The 180m-long walkway is suspended 15m up amid rainforest canopy, and boasts nine suspension bridges. Two observation decks climb to views nearly 10-storeys up. Keep your eyes peeled; 160 species of subtropical bird such as Albert’s lyrebird, Wompoo fruit-pigeon and topknot pigeon can be spied from here.
Skywalk lookout is a heart-stopping 70m-high boardwalk in Dorrigo National Park, in northern New South Wales. It soars over the edge of an escarpment some 21m above the rainforest canopy. Take in views of McGraths Hump’s double peak, also known as Old Man Dreaming. In Gumbaynggirr legend, the mountain is the profile of Ngali, whose job it was to protect the pregnant women of the Bellinger Valley.
6. Illawarra Fly
Knights Hill, NSW
See the rainforest trees and eucalypts typical of the Sydney Basin on the spectacular Illawarra escarpment, just north east of Morton National Park. Steel walkways 30m above the ground take visitors to two swaying cantilevers and a 50m-high spiral tower. From here, 710m above sea level, breathtaking vistas stretch all the way to the south coast of NSW. There’s also a zipline.
7. Otway Fly Treetop Walk and Zipline
Great Ocean Road, VIC
The up to 25m-high Otway Fly Treetop Walk is nestled in the temperate rainforest of the magnificent Otway Ranges. The world’s longest and highest steel canopy walk, it is almost 2km long – with a 600m-long steel walkway – and reaches a 45m-high tower for a bird’s-eye view above the trees. For an extra thrill you can also sway in the wind on the cantilever that juts out above picturesque Youngs Creek, or take a zipline tour.
8. Tahune airwalk
Huon Valley, TAS
Suspended 20–30m above the ground in the Tahune Forest Reserve, this walk over mossy sassafras and tall Huon pine canopy features sweeping views of mist-laced valleys and two suspension bridges across the wild Huon and Picton rivers. The walk culminates in an impressive 24m-long cantilever, which takes you 50m out above the rush of the Huon.
9. Valley of the Giants Tree Top Walk
Courtesy Walpole Wilderness Discovery Centre
The Valley of the Giants is found in the Walpole Wilderness, where you follow a swaying 620m loop, 40m above the ground. Here the giants are red tingle trees, and many of these colossi have passed their 400th birthday. The tallest, ‘King Tingle’, is more than 65m high, but these huge eucalypts have a uniquely shallow root structure. To compensate, tingles have enormous gnarled bases, up to 15m in diameter, which help hold them upright.
10. Climb the big trees of Pemberton, WA
Climbing the Gloucester Tree. (Credit: Amanda Slater/flickr)
Timber-getters constructed fire lookouts in WA’s karri forest from the 1930s to the 1950s. Spotters watched for fires that were obscured at ground level by the towering karris. Although the tallest trees have gone, 75m-high specimens remain. You can climb to three lookouts: the Gloucester Tree, Dave Evans Bicentennial Tree and Diamond Tree all have closely spaced pegs spiralling round their trunks, making for a dizzying climb.