These island destinations are famed for having some of the world’s best island hiking trails, boasting fascinating scenery, abundant wildlife, and unparalleled raw beauty. After booking a flight, pack sturdy shoes, a water bottle, hiking poles, some layered clothing, and get ready for an adventure. Also be sure to check in with the local visitor’s centre or national park before setting out on the trail. From the Australian island of Tasmania to Vancouver Island hiking trails, here’s our guide to some beautiful hikes around the globe.
Ben Nevis Mountain Track (Glen Nevis, Scotland)
John Keats was so inspired by his trek up Ben Nevis – the highest mountain in the British Isles – that he wrote a sonnet about his experience. The summit yields a glorious 360-degree view that extends for over 160 kilometres, and on a clear day, Northern Ireland. Afterwards, reward yourself with some hearty food, a pint (or two) and live music at the old stone pub at the foot of the mountain. This area is also a popular spot for filmmaking: parts of Braveheart and the Harry Potter movies were shot there.
Island Hiking Trails: Abel Tasman Coastal Track (New Zealand)
This is arguably New Zealand’s most beautiful Great Walk. At the tip of the South Island, hikers can explore golden beaches, impressive rock formations, and wildlife in Abel Tasman National Park. Because of its easy accessibility for boats, there’s the option to walk a portion of the trail for a day or the entire length over 3-5 days, or to kayak along the coast. Wilsons Abel Tasman offers guided group treks and designs customized itineraries to suit varying fitness levels, interests, and travel budgets.
Vancouver Island Hiking Trails: The West Coast Trail
If Cheryl Strayed’s Wild inspired you, try hiking the West Coast Trail, which is a stunning 75-kilometre backpacking trail along the southwestern edge of Vancouver Island in Canada. This challenging trek is one of the many beautiful Vancouver Island hiking trails. The scenic route follows ancient paths and paddling routes used by the Indigenous communities. Today, it’s part of the Pacific Rim National Park Reserve and has been rated one of the world’s top hiking trails for its pristine beaches, wildlife, and rugged beauty.
Know before you go: hikers must reserve a spot on the trail, get a permit and attend an introductory workshop beforehand. Beware that the hike is not for amateurs – it’s 5-7 days in the backcountry, traversing rough, uneven ground and as many as 70 ladders, 130 bridges and four cable cars. To find out what else to do and see in Victoria and the rest of Vancouver Island, see Skyscanner’s guide here.
Crater Walking in the Azores (Portugal)
On these nine lonely islands off the coast of Portugal, you can hike the outer rim of a volcano. There’s plenty of hiking across the Azores, but Faial Island’s 7km Crater Walk is easy and spectacular. Along the way, you’ll see the villages on the north coast, rare flora blooming, and if it’s clear, the volcano’s chimney poking out of the crater. Bring a picnic lunch and enjoy the views half-way through your trek!
Dragon’s Back Trail (Hong Kong)
For a walk on Hong Kong’s wilder side, take a short bus ride from the city to the Dragon’s Back Trail – a day trek along the South China Sea that’s considered “Best Urban Hike in Asia” by Time Magazine. Trekking this 8.5km-long coastal hike offers dramatic vistas of ocean and offshore islands, as well as paragliders hurling themselves off the ridge. Finish at Shek O village or Big Wave Bay for some beach time or a seafood feast. Hong Kong has lots more hiking routes to check out, so don’t stop there!
The Cliffs of Moher Coastal Walk (Doolin, Ireland)
Most tourists view Ireland’s iconic Cliffs of Moher from the lookout at the Visitor’s Centre. But there’s a new, alternative route leading to Ireland’s most visited natural attraction: a 20km trail along the ridge of the cliffs. It’s a spectacular route with amazing photo spots and historic sites along the way, such as remains of a village destroyed by the Potato Famine.
A fair level of fitness is needed for this walk. The path starts at the Cliffs of Moher Visitor Centre, but morphs into a steep, wild trail with no barriers, handrails or seaward fencing and some unstable portions that require dexterity. It can be a bit daunting at certain points, but there’s something special about seeing the cliffs away from swarms of tourists. Plus, the trail ends in Doolin – a tiny coastal town renowned for its lively pubs and Celtic music.
Haleakalā Volcano National Park (Maui, USA)
Staring up at the base, it’s easy to feel like a speck next to Haleakalā, a massive volcano that dominates the Hawaiian island of Maui. Meaning “House of the Sun,” it takes 64 kilometres of zig-zagging road to reach the top at 3055 metres, but it’s well worth the trek. The summit area of Haleakalā National Park is a hiker’s haven, with over 48 kilometres of hiking trails ranging from 10 minutes to multi-day overnight trips.
One of the most memorable walks is Sliding Sands, a challenging hike that starts at the southern side of the volcano and leads to the bottom of the crater. The path falls away into a vast and silent valley, surrounded by lava fields, volcanic chimneys and black boulders. If you’re in a time crunch, just walk 15 minutes along the cinder-strewn trail to absorb the amazing views.
For ambitious hikers, the full trail spans several days and is quite strenuous. Book one of the park’s coveted wilderness cabins, and be sure to bring both ample water and warm, layered clothing – the summit is chilly during the day and can be freezing at night.
If you’re day hiking, stick around to enjoy the sublime sunset from the top of Haleakalā: at over 3,000 metres high, you’ll feel like a bird soaring above the clouds.
Freycinet Coastal Walk (Tasmania, Australia)
For a real stunner, sign up for the guided Freycinet Experience Walk in Australia’s island state of Tasmania. Over four days in Tasmania’s Freycinet National Park, you can hike more than 30 kilometres across desolate, white sand beaches and climb craggy mountains, spot Aussie wildlife, and swim in turquoise waters along the way. For many, the highlight of this island hike is trekking to Wineglass Bay, arguably one of the world’s best beaches. At night, relax inside a beachside eco-resort, while a private chef prepares a multi-course feast using local Tassie flare.
Need more hiking inspiration? Check out our latest guide on hiking trails in and around Montreal.