Did you know Australia offers hiking from historic hut to hut?

When you think of the hut-to-hut hikes, places like the U.S. Appalachian Trail, Switzerland and Ireland probably come to mind.

Add Australia to that list. The country offers several hut networks for hikers (and skiers).

Among Australia’s huts are some 200 historic huts, with some being more than 150 years old. Cattlemen, gold miners, lumberjacks, skiers and bushwalkers built the huts for shelter in often harsh and isolated conditions. Aboriginal Australians even used some huts as camp sites.

The historic huts, which have been restored and preserved, are for temporary use — to be slept in only during emergencies. But you can hang out, get warm and cook in the huts, which typically come with a set of rules and etiquette. (See some basic hut rules at the end of this post.) In Victoria, some huts are not available for public use.

Huts are typically made of wood or iron sheeting and always are unlocked and stocked with matches and some firewood. Here’s a sampling of Australia’s historic huts:

Inside Wallace Hut (Sheryl Jean)
Peek inside historic Wallace Hut to see the names of cattlemen and others who first used it burnt into the roof beams. (Sheryl Jean)

Wallace Hut, Alpine National Park, Victoria

Many huts have burned during wildfires, but Wallace Hut survived. Overall, Alpine National Park has 106 huts, including nearly 60 historic huts.

Wallace Hut is the oldest in Alpine National Park, which has 106 huts, including nearly 60 historic ones. Three brothers — Arthur, William and Stewart Wallace built Wallace Hut by hand from snow gum slabs in 1889. The Wallaces grazed their cattle on the High Plains from 1869 to 1914.

You can’t enter the cattleman’s hut, but you can peek through a window and see its rustic interior. (See photo above.)

The walking track to Wallace Hut starts along the Bogong High Plains Road. The walk to the hut is nearly 1 mile round trip. A longer, but pretty walk from Wallace Hut to Cope Hut — called Wallaces Heritage Trail — is 3.5 miles round trip.

Map of Wallaces Heritage Trail
Here’s a map, provided by Alpine National Park, of the Wallaces Heritage Trail and shorter options. (Sheryl Jean)

Cope Hut, Alpine National Park, Victoria

This historic hut offers panoramic views of the High Plains and the Great Dividing Range.

Cattlemen built most of the huts in the Victorian Alps for their use, but Cope Hut was the first hut built specifically for tourists on the Bogong High Plains. It was built in 1929, largely due to lobbying efforts by the Ski Club of Victoria to have skier accommodations on the High Plains.

It’s a short walk (15 minutes round trip) to Cope Hut from the car park on the Bogong High Plains Road. Near the car park are some lovely picnic spots with fantastic vistas of the High Plains and distant mountains.

Cope Hut, Alpine National Park, Australia
Cope Hut sits on a hillside, offering spectacular views of the High Plains in Alpine National Park. (Sheryl Jean)

Green Gully Track, New South Wales

This 40-mile, hut-to-hut hike is one of Australia’s best. The remote track in Oxley Wild Rivers National Park, which is about an eight-hour drive from Sydney, boasts the Apsley-Macleay gorges, one of Australia’s largest gorge systems, as well as mountain streams, forests and wildlife.

Hikers will stay in five restored stockman huts over four days: Cedar Creek Cottage, Birds Nest Hut, Green Gully Hut, Colwells Hut and Cedar Creek Lodge. The huts include fireplaces, cots, solar lights, non-flush toilets and cooking equipment facilities; one hut  has a solar-powered outdoor hot shower.

White’s River Hut, New South Wales

Surrounded by Snow Gum slopes, this cozy hut in the Kosciuszko’s Main Range has a fireplace, dining room, bunk rooms and toilet. The hut is accessible only by hiking, biking or skiing. The Kosciusko Alpine Club has run the hut since 1938 and restored it in 2011. It charges an overnight fee.

The Overland Track, Tasmania

This may be Australia’s most iconic alpine trek: 40 miles over six days through the stunning Cradle Mountain-Lake St. Clair National Park. Hikers will see moorlands, swamps, rainforests, eucalyptus forests and alpine meadows.

Anyone can stay overnight, cook and rest in six huts along the Overland Track. Each hut has sleeping platforms, tables and benches, coal or gas heaters, composting toilets and rainwater tanks, but the don’t have lighting or cooking facilities. Huts cannot be pre-booked, so still carry a tent and sleeping bags.

Three historic huts on the Overland Track — Du Cane, Kitchen and Old Pelion — can only be slept in during emergencies.

Kia Ora Hut on Tasmania's Overland Track
Hikers on Tasmania’s Overland Track can stay in the rustic Kia Ora Hut. (Tatters @ Flickr)

Basic hut rules

  • Leave the hut as you found it.
  • If you use the fireplace, make sure the fire is completely out when you leave.
  • Close all doors and windows.
  • Don’t leave food in the hut. It clutters it up and attracts possums or other animals.

More travelers want to be active on vacation: 5 free ways

What do you do on vacation?

Some people just want to lie on the beach and read a book while sipping a piña colada to decompress from their busy work lives.

But more people want to be active, explore and have a bit of an adventure. In fact, more than 90% of travelers participated in an activity during their last trip, according to travel research firm Phocuswright (see its tweet below).

Phocuswright defines “activities” as tours, attractions, events, activities (excluding dining and shopping) and transportation that travelers spend time and money on while traveling.

The global travel activities market represented 10% of the global travel market in 2016 — more than the rail, car rental and cruise segments, according to Phocuswright.

Phocuswright chart of activities share of travel

And the global travel activities market is growing fast — faster than the overall travel industry — and Phocuswright expects it to reach $183 billion in bookings by 2020.

Phocuswright global activities bookings

So, what do people most like to do when they travel?

Hiking is a top activity, according to the Adventure Travel Trade Association (ATTA). Travelers also like trips with an “environmentally sustainable” element and family or multigenerational travel. I wrote an article on multigenerational travel in January for The Dallas Morning News.

Being active on your vacation doesn’t have to cost a lot of money. Here are five free or inexpensive ways to explore and stay active:

Free tours: Many U.S. cities offer free walking tours — either guided or self-guided with brochures made available at a library or visitor center. Many organizations, such as San Francisco’s nonprofit City Guides, are led by volunteers who accept donations. FreeTour and Free Tours by Foot offer free or low-cost guided walking tours of many U.S. and European cities. These tours are a good way to meet locals of a new city or country as well as fellow travelers.

Universities: Many universities offer campus tours to the public, not just prospective students. Stanford University, for instance, offers a free 70-minute, volunteer-led walk daily at 11:30 a.m. and 3:30 p.m. In addition, some colleges have free offerings, such as campaniles, nature trails and art museums. I wrote a blog post “How to make college tours fun” last year about some of these offerings at California universities.

Mobile apps: Many apps will act as your tour guide just about anywhere. The free Field Trip app uses your phone’s GPS to find cool things wherever you are worldwide — from temples and museums to restaurants and shops. The Historypin app (all free) offers planned excursions and vintage photos of your location with information and an interactive map — all through crowdsourcing.

Bike share: Many cities offer bike (or scooter) share programs that are inexpensive. It’s an easy way to see a city, but stay active.

Airbnb Experiences: In addition to home rentals, Airbnb a few years ago began offering activities offered by locals of a destination. Recent top-rated experiences ranged from snorkeling in Merida, Mexico, for $41 per person to a traditional Thai Yantra tattoo in Chiang Mai, Thailand, for $82. Since 2016, Airbnb has expanded its Experiences to more than 1,000 destinations.