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Home  >  Our Sustainability Story

Our Sustainability Story

At the heart of the Great Walks of Australia is an unwavering commitment to share environmentally sound, conservation driven, socially responsible, sustainable walking experiences.

Good for you and good for the planet, a multi-day, eco-tourism walk is one of the best sustainable, low impact holiday choices you can make.

For our walk operators, hiking businesses and experiences must benefit and conserve the places they are privileged to walk through, as well as guests. We owe the natural environments we walk through a duty of care, and we take that duty very seriously.

The Great Walks of Australia are designed not only to tread lightly, but to also support and help conserve these special places and the many living beings that inhabit them.

Beyond being certified eco-friendly businesses, many of our members are achieving new industry standards to ensure that every aspect of their walk operates according to the highest sustainability standards.

From educating guests and the community on the terrain, plants and wildlife of these important natural places, to sharing stories of the Indigenous culture, undertaking meaningful national conservation initiatives and training the guiding community, to supporting national parks and conservation organisations, our members go above and beyond to share their passion for these places with meaningful, significant action to benefit all.

In sharing these remarkable wild places and our passion for them with others through guided walks, we increase the number of people that connect with these places, understand their global importance, and support the preservation of them for the future.

When you walk with the Great Walks of Australia, you can be confident that you are playing an active role in helping to protect these incredible areas of Australian nature for generations to come.

Here’s a snapshot of some of the sustainability commitments of our members.

Industry Leading Credentials

All Great Walks Of Australia members are either Advanced Eco Tourism Australia certified members at minimum, or hold a higher level of certification with a premier sustainable environmental organisation that recognises their exemplary activity in eco-tourism excellence.

This means every Great Walk meets a strict set of industry environmental standards, from minimising water wastage, to giving back to the local community in a significant way. But some of our members are going beyond that, leading the nation with their commitments to the environment and conservation.

In December 2020, Pinetrees Lodge – the family run owner/operators of Seven Peaks Walk on Lord Howe Island and your accommodation on the walk – became the first certified carbon neutral Hotel in Australia in December 2020, through the Australia Government’s Climate Active program .

Pinetrees Lodge wanted to demonstrate that with commitment and investment, small businesses like theirs could be leaders in environmental and social change.

That saw them commit to a rigorous certification period and a $5 million investment in renovations to reduce the lodge’s carbon footprint, including implementing solar passive design principles to installing 95% LED lights, a state-of-the-art Fuji wastewater system and off-setting carbon-emissions through reforestation programs in Australia and abroad.

Regenerating Land for The Future

Pinetrees Lodge/Seven Peaks Walk’s commitment to conservation doesn’t end there either; the team have invested $100,000 and their man power to restore the last critically endangered patch of Sallywood Swamp forest in the world.

The Pinetrees team, in conjunction with Lord Howe Island and with support from the NSW Government, have worked hard over the past two years to save the tree species – found only on Lord Howe Island – from extinction.

Through the extensive removal of invasive plants and weeds, and the planting of more than 6,000 trees and palms typically seen in the forest, two hectares of forest have now been restored, with another further 5,000 seedlings prepared for planting in years to come.

Also sharing leading credentials and an extraordinary commitment to conservation is The Arkaba Walk in South Australia – a 63,000-acre former sheep station turned private nature conservancy in South Australia’s outback, near the Flinders Ranges.

Walk owners Wild Bush Luxury’s commitment to the major environmental transformation of Arkaba Station has earned the property its place in The Long Run, one of the world’s leading sustainable business organisations.

For close to 10 years, Arkaba have had a key focus on eradication of feral foxes, cats and goats, reversing the effect of 150 years of livestock grazing on the land, and restoring bio-diversity through rewilding. They are proud to have achieved a significant return of native birds, mammals and reptile species to the property, especially the endemic and endangered Yellow-Footed Rock wallaby. These conservation outcomes have been funded almost entirely by the property’s tourism business.

In 2016, Arkaba was one of three international finalists in the Conserving The Natural World category of the National Geographic World Legacy Awards, recognising outstanding support for the preservation of nature, restoring natural habitat and protecting rare and endangered species.

Hikers on the Arkaba Walk not only learn about, but also financially support the team’s ongoing conservation work across the property when they choose this walk

Championing Wildlife Conservation

Similarly passionate about protecting land and helping to rehabilitate native endemic populations is Spicers, who operate the Scenic Rim Trail south-west of Brisbane.

Spicers has an extensive commitment to land and wildlife conservation, with over 67% of their property holdings preserved as nature refuges.

Protected in perpetuity, their 4,500+ hectare Hidden Vale nature refuge provides vital habitat for rare and threatened species, including the glossy black-cockatoo and the square-tailed kite, as well as koalas, providing a unique opportunity for a major conservation initiative.

In partnership with the University Of Queensland, the Turner Family Foundation (set up by Spicers Retreats founder Jude Turner and her family) opened a $5 million purpose-built wildlife research and education centre on the Old Hidden Vale property in 2017, allowing academics and students to use the centre and Spicers’ nature refuges to study a variety of wildlife and conservation strategies.

The property has a thriving koala population, 28 of which are being followed by researchers, with the view to grow the population and increase habitat in the region by working with farmers connecting through to the Liverpool Ranges.

World Wildlife Foundation Australia (WWF) are also an on-site partner, planting trees and building culverts to direct koalas and wildlife away from roads, so populations can reconnect with forests safely.

The health and wellbeing of native wildlife is also a key focus for the Tasmanian Walking Company (TWC), operator of the Cradle Mountain Signature WalkThree Capes Signature Walk, and Bay Of Fires Signature Walk.

As well as supporting Tasmania’s The Raptor Refuge and the Save The Tasmanian Devil appeal, TWC is also a supporter of Bonorong Wildlife Sanctuary – Tasmania’s largest 24 hour wildlife rescue service and hospital – donating to Bonorong’s efforts to rescue, heal and return wildlife to their natural habitat, and Conservation Volunteers Australia, restoring threatened ecological habitat.

Tasmanian Walking Company have also partnered with World Wildlife Foundation Australia (WWF) to give guests the chance to put their walk costs directly to wildlife conservation.

The inaugural Walk For Wild Series kicks off on October 9, 2022, with 100% of the total sales for TWC walks departing on that date (Three Capes Lodge Walk, Cradle Mountain Huts Walk, Bay Of Fires Lodge Walk, Twelve Apostles Lodge Walk) being donated to WWF Australia and their Regenerate Australia program, helping to restore the 19 million hectares of wilderness impacted during the 2019/20 bushfires.

Making Strides With Citizen Science

Wilderness-based citizen science also plays an important role on the Great Walks of Australia.

From 2015 – 2017, Seven Peaks Walks/Pinetrees Lodge partnered with Australian Geographic, the CSIRO and Lord Howe Island Board to host an annual expedition to survey, insects, seabirds, and fish, with the help of citizen scientists. With former UN ecologist and Seven Peaks Walk guide/owner Luke Hanson helping to lead, the expeditions successfully discovered new species of flies, wasps and bees, that are now in the Australian National Insect Collection.

Also of major importance is Tasmanian Walking Company’s partnership with the Royal Tasmanian Botanical Gardens, helping to accurately map and collect rare seeds from threatened species while walking the Overland Track on Cradle Mountain Signature Walk.

Guests are able to book these dedicated seed collection walks, and actively participate in saving the likes of the ancient Montane species of endemic and threatened native conifers (pencil pine), which only bears seed cones sporadically. Having guests assist to collect seed on dedicated walks in this remote and often difficult to reach alpine region has resulted in 316,027 viable seeds collected to date.

Further south, The Maria Island Walk supported Tasmanian Devil research for many years through the state’s Green Guardian program when it was in operation, with guests on select walks invited to collect scat samples for laboratory analysis. This contribution helped scientists to understand the deadly facial tumour disease that threatens the existence of this endangered native icon

Supporting Local Communities and Regional Economies

Known as the ‘halo-effect’, Great Walks Of Australia members collectively worked with and supported 634 local and regional businesses in 2020, including national parks, guides, farmers, tradespeople, transport operators, hospitality suppliers, artisans, charities and accommodation providers.

That means when guests walk with us, they not only support the walk operator, they also support and experience a far stretching network of Australian businesses and services.

Our walks also give back to their communities and support regional economies in direct ways.

In 2020, Tasmanian Walking Company set up its own not-for-profit foundation to centralise its charitable efforts and raise $1 million to support conservation projects by 2026. As well as assisting with ranger salaries and education in Tasmania’s National Parks (see below), TWC use the funds on innovative programs that restore balance to threatened ecosystems, protecting vulnerable native animals and working on revegetation projects.

The Maria Island Walk also provides important support to its community. One of the many highlights on the walk is the UNESCO World Heritage-listed convict precinct of Darlington. Maria Island Walk has a lease on historic Bernacchi House and has contributed some $450,000 to date, to support critical restoration and upkeep of this historical landmark so that it can continue to be enjoyed by future generations of locals and visitors.

Promoting & Respecting Indigenous Culture

As part of our ongoing commitment to the environment, we also partner with local Indigenous communities and organisations to ensure our understanding and experiences also reflect the knowledge and perspective of Australia’s First People.

The experiences our Indigenous leaders bring to our trips, such as cultural conversations, indigenous food samplings, and welcome to countries, allow clients to gain a deeper understanding of the need to conserve and respect Aboriginal cultures and their connection with the land.

Enhancing cultural experiences and working with local Indigenous leaders is a major feature on to Australian Walking Holidays (AWH), who run The Classic Larapinta Trek in Comfort, near Alice Springs, and partner with Arrernte, traditional owners of the West MacDonnell Ranges, on all their Larapinta walks.

Hikers on every walk have an elder escort their group into Standley Chasm, to educate on the food basket, medicinal herbs and spiritual significance of the site. Another highlight is a visit from Raylene, from Kunga Kitchen, who spends the evening at Nick’s Camp, talking about the hunting, gathering and foraging in the desert, an environment is rich in foods that have maintained traditional owners over the centuries.

First Nations communities are also engaged to ensure we sensitively and appropriately share the cultural significance of these sites, while also protecting them. Walks like the Freycinet Experience Walk, for example, takes hikers on private trails and past living sites (also known as middens) that were used by Palawa, (the traditional owners of Tasmania), with exclusive permission from the local community, respectfully keeping walkers at a safe distance from sites of importance.

Meanwhile, The Tasmanian Walking Company is also investing into creating jobs for Indigenous guides. In partnership with the Aboriginal Land Council Of Tasmania, TWC run the Aboriginal Guide Training Program, to train and support First Nations guides, facilitating a unique opportunity for future hikers to learn about Tasmania’s Aboriginal heritage from the Traditional Custodians of the lands you walk on.

Low-Impact, Ecologically-Sensitive Accommodation

With a wide array of accommodation on the Great Walks Of Australia – ranging from swags and safari style tents, to eco lodges – all on-trail accommodation on the Great Walks has been designed with industry leading wilderness best practice design and rigorous attention to minimise ecological disturbance and maintain balance.

Nearly all of our accommodation is off-grid in remote areas, so rainwater harvesting systems, solar and gas power, water-free composting toilets, environmentally safe biodegradable soaps, and manual rubbish removal are typically standard on those walks.

In fact, a number of our walks have won awards for their sustainable, minimalist design and usage, and have become leading examples for the industry.

An outstanding example is Friendly Beaches Lodge, featured on the Freycinet Experience Walk Tasmania – one of Australia’s first ever and premier eco-lodges. Known as the ‘invisible lodge’ for being totally off-grid and virtually unseen in the landscape, this award-winning lodge is the only building located on the coastal side of the Freycinet National Park, and situated among a private 130-hectare nature sanctuary.

Created by leading architect Ken Latona and Australian eco-tourism pioneer Joan Masterman, the lodge is considered an industry-leading example of holistically sustainable design. Built with a floating design on previously disturbed land (to prevent any degradation or impact to the sensitive setting, the series of low-rise timber pavilions sits lightly in the environment and operates on solar energy, gas and rain water, with composting toilets and a comprehensive waste minimisation program.

In the Northern Territory, our Classic Larapinta Trek in Comfort is both a triumph of outback odysseys and an ecologically sensitive, low-impact accommodation.

The walk’s award-winning, architect-designed semi-permanent wilderness tents are entirely dismantled and removed from site when not in use, allowing the land to recover during the off-season.

The campsites feature low-water showers, composting toilets, solar-powered lighting, robust recycling processes, and sustainably-sourced firewood, making for a rustic yet comfortable outback adventure gentle on the environment.

Investing In New Renewable Energy Technologies

On the energy front, removing the need for LPG gas or diesel generators at their off-grid camps has led the Scenic Rim Trail to launch a $2 million solar hydrogen renewable energy project in 2020, made possible with a $1 million Queensland Government grant.

Spicers’ Off-Grid Ecotourism Demonstration using Low Pressure Hydrogen Project uses renewable green hydrogen generated through solar arrays to help power the electricity needs for five remote eco camps.

Hydrogen is an energy source that creates only water vapor during its production and has the capacity to be stored in vessels with low pressure, akin to that of LPG Gas bottles used for cooking and hot water.

Reduce, Reuse, Recycle

Reducing water waste is an essential focus for our walks, particularly in wilderness areas where water is an especially precious and limited resource.

With most of our walks dependent on rainwater systems, water reduction initiatives employed across the walks range from composting toilets that utilise sustainably sourced wood chips, to basic timed, gravity-fed water containers for washing hands and bucket showers, through to state of the art waste and gray-water systems.

We are also pleased to say that single-use plastics have been entirely phased out OR are nearly entirely phased out on every Great Walk.

Stainless-steel drink bottles and reusable lunch containers are used on all walks, and while there remain some logistical challenges with a few food and operational items due to hygiene and storage issues, our walks remain committed to finding ways to minimising and eliminating plastic usage.

As part of our commitment to protecting the places we visit, Great Walks of Australia also follow the ‘leave no trace’ principles of bushwalking. That means everything we use and take with us on a walk, returns with us when we leave. Any rubbish the group produces on our walks is removed from the site, and you’ll often spot our guides collecting any odd trash found on any public tracks as well.

As such, our walks are true experts in rubbish minimisation… The team behind The Maria Island Walk pride themselves on generating less than one bag of rubbish throughout the four-day experience, which accommodates up to 12 people! Their on-site robust waste management system includes cleaning and sorting recyclable materials, and ensuring all organic waste is composted.

Sourcing and Showcasing Local, Sustainable Choices

High-quality food and wine is an important aspect of a Great Walk, and our walk operators ensure our supply chains are socially and environmentally sustainable to deliver that. Growing produce onsite when possible and sourcing locally allows us to support community farmers, wineries and artisans, while also keeping food mileage to a minimum.

Our Murray River Walk through South Australia’s Riverland (known as the food bowl of Australia) serves walkers gourmet meals showcasing regional and native ingredients, like Murray Cod for example, a locally farmed, sustainable fish choice with the tick of approval from Good Fish – Australia’s sustainable seafood guide.

Sustainable local seafood is also on the menu on the Freycinet Experience Walk; fresh oysters harvested that day from the Freycinet Marine Farm a few miles down the road are a much-loved treat. And on Tasmanian Walking Company hikes, hikers are can enjoy the company’s own locally grown biodynamic wines from Entally Estate, 20 minutes outside of Launceston.

Self-grown produce also plays a starring role. Guests on both the Seven Peaks Walk and Scenic Rim Trail can look forward to a number of the ingredients in their meals being organically grown and plucked fresh from on-site market style gardens to avoid food miles. Both teams are active gardeners and have impressive green waste and composting systems, as well as worm farms used to promote healthy eco-systems and quality produce.

Going Carbon Neutral

Australian Walking Holidays is a 100% carbon neutral business, so when you walk the Classic Larapinta Trek In Comfort, your walk will be fully carbon offset through renewable energy and reforestation projects in Australia and around the world.

Tasmanian Walking Company is also a 100% carbon neutral business, partnering with the organisation Carbon Neutral to support the Yarra Biodiversity Corridor – Australia’s largest revegetation project based on carbon capture and biodiversity.

In Western Australia, the Cape To Cape Walk is off-setting some of its emissions through reforestation plantings directly on the Cape To Cape Track, while also offering guests on all trips to contribute a voluntary carbon emission offset for their own personal travel.

Prioritising Education and Training

Knowledge is power, and it’s critical to our walks to invest in the education of staff and guests about the about the history, flora, fauna and culture of these wilderness areas, as well as what’s needed to protect them for the future.

On South Australia’s Murray River Walk, education is key.

Guides on the walk share their passion for the river’s conservation and research programs with hikers, including the Murray’s ‘environmental watering’. Even better, guests see this project in practice along the way, as well as the benefits of recreating natural flooding events in the river system.

The Murray River Walk team are not just supporters of the well-being and conservation of the Murray River, they are also reputable experts. The core Murray River Trails management team hold degrees in natural resource management and environmental stewardship, and have played a key role in wetland conservation in Australia, as well as internationally. Walk owner Tony Sharley is a well-known advocate for the Murray River, and speaks regularly at forums about environmental flows and establishing new conservation focused industries, such as eco-tourism, that do not extract water from Australia’s precious rivers.

Guides are an integral part of our walking experiences, and supporting guide training culture is essential to all of the Great Walks. Guides who are passionate educators share their knowledge of the area’s flora, fauna, geology and history with walkers, who invariably leave with a strong sense of ownership and custodianship of our wild places.

Tasmanian Walking Company are highly committed to making a difference with training programs in the conservation and cultural heritage of Tasmania, and invest significantly in their own guide training programs, work extensively with TAFE Tasmania on their guide training courses, and help to run Discovery Ranger Program – a partnership with Tasmanian Parks and Wildlife Services. This program champions local understanding and advocacy of conservation sites, through public events and education on sustainability, leave no trace principles and information on weeds, seeds and shorebird protection. The program also helps to fund ranger salaries in Tasmanian national parks and conservation areas.

TWC further provides an annual $10,000 scholarship to the University of Tasmania each year, to support a student to undertake their research thesis as part of the Master of Tourism, Environment and Cultural Heritage.

Eco Legends In Our Ranks

Great Walks of Australia is proud to work with a number of Australia’s eco-tourism pioneers and leaders, and to represent walking holiday experiences that have been recognised at state and national levels for their exceptional work in sustainability and eco-tourism.

Just a few notable awards our members have picked up include:

  • Joan Masterman – Freycinet Experience Walk and Cradle Mountain Huts Walk founder and Australian eco-tourism pioneer – was awarded an Order of Australia Medal (2020) for her lifelong contributions to Tasmania’s environment and conservation.
  • Classic Larapinta Trek in Comfort – Winner, Eco-Tourism, Northern Territory Tourism Brolga Awards (2016, 2017, 2019); Winner, Australian Institute of Architects (AIA) Northern Territory Awards for Small Project Architecture – Larapinta Camp Sites (2014)
  • Arkaba Walk – Finalist – Conserving The Natural World category, National Geographic World Legacy Awards (2017)
  • The Maria Island Walk – Gold, Eco-Tourism, Australian Tourism Awards (2019); Gold, Eco-Tourism, Tasmanian Tourism Awards (2019); Winner, Eco-Wilderness Experience, Aust Travel & Tourism Awards (2010), Gold, Eco-Tourism, Tasmanian Tourism Award (2010, 2008, 2007)
  • Murray River Walk – Triple Gold Winner, Eco-Tourism, South Australian Tourism Awards (2017, 2018, 2019); Hall Of Fame, Eco-Tourism, South Australian Tourism Awards (2019); Silver, Eco Tourism, Australian Tourism Awards (2017)
  • Freycinet Experience Walk – Tasmanian Architecture Award for Enduring Sustainable Architecture (2018)
  • Tasmanian Walking Company – Triple Gold Winner, Eco-Tourism, Australian Tourism Awards (2105, 2016 2017); Hall Of Fame, Eco-Tourism, Australian Tourism Awards; Silver, Sustainable Tourism, Australian Tourism Awards (2015)
  • Seven Peaks Walk – Pinetrees Lodge – First certified Carbon Neutral Hotel, Australia, Australian Government Climate Active Program (2020)