As one of the geographically oldest continents, Australia’s mountains are relatively old and have worn away through erosion. Mount Kosciuszko – Australia’s tallest peak – was formed of granitic rocks in the Ordovician to Lower Devonian periods (355-490 million years ago), while Mount Everest is about 60 million years old. The tallest mountain in Australia would be considered a hill in many other continents – you could even drive a car to the just below the summit of Kosciuszko until the mid 1970s.
However, while Australia’s mountains are not particularly tall – there are still plenty of peaks to climb. Peakery.com lists over 14,000 peaks, from Mount Kosciuszko in NSW at 2,228m to the ironically named Mount Monster in SA at 86m above sea level. The below lists the “State8” – the highest peak in each state.
|State||Highest Peak||No. Peaks||No. Peaks > 1000m|
|ACT||Bimberi Peak (1,913m)||114||68|
|NSW||Mount Kosciuszko (2,228m)||3,496||951|
|NT||Mount Zeil (1,530m)||1,293||41|
|QLD||Mount Bartle Frere (1,622m)||3,751||145|
|SA||Mount Woodroffe (1,434m)||2,915||34|
|TAS||Mount Ossa (1,616m)||1,520||475|
|VIC||Mount Bogong (1,985m)||1,385||423|
|WA||Mount Meharry (1,249m)||3,624||26|
Referred to as The Percys, after local pioneering surveyor Percy Sheaffe, these are mountain peaks in the ACT which are over over 1,000m in elevation. There are 68 peaks on the ACT list, with the highest one being Bimberi Peak (1,913m) in the Brindabella Ranges – it has no marked trail, but can be reached via the Australian Alps Walking Track (AAWT). The ACT offers many challenging peaks within 1-2 hours drive of Canberra, almost all of which can be done in a day.
While NSW has the most number of peaks, they are scattered around the state. The majority are along the Great Dividing Range in the Blue Mountains and Snowy Mountains. There are also a number of peaks over 1,000m in height in the Barrington Tops area, Nandewar Range, New England Tableland, Liverpool Range and the Warrumbungles – as well as in a few more regions.
There’s no formal list of NSW peaks over a certain height, but you can summit the the ten highest peaks in Australia as a 2-3 day walk from Thredbo, which would give you bragging rights for the Aussie10:
- Mount Kosciuszko (2228m)
- Mount Townsend (2209m)
- Mount Twynam (2195m)
- Rams Head (2190m)
- Unnamed peak on Etheridge Ridge (2180m)
- Rams Head North (2177m)
- Alice Rawson Peak (2160m)
- Abbott Peak (2145m)
- Carruthers Peak (2145m)
- Mt Northcote (2131m)
Northern Territory (NT)
The Northern Territory is known more for waterfalls and rainforest to the north, and desert to the south… but it does have over 1,200 peaks which are scattered all over the territory. Mount Zeil (1,530m) in the western MacDonnell Ranges (part of the Central Australia Ranges) is both the highest peak in the Northern Territory, and the highest peak on the Australian mainland west of the Great Dividing Range. There are over ten peaks greater than 1000m in the Central Australia Ranges
Like many of the other states, Queensland has many (over 3000+) named mountains, and while almost all of them are along the coast, they stretch from the NSW/QLD border all the way up to Cape York. Some of the tallest peaks – including the Mountle Bartle Frere at 1,622m which is the highest peak in Queensland – are on the tropical north coast along the Great Dividing Range. Near Brisbane in the south, the Scenic Rim (which includes Lamington National Park and Barney National Park) offers over fifty peaks, most possible as a day-walk (although not all have a trail).
Also near Brisbane, the Glasshouse Mountains on the Sunshine Coast offers eleven peaks, most of which have a trail – if you’re super-fit and/or slightly mad, you could even try the 7 Peaks Challenge.
- Peakvisor – Queensland peaks
- Zen and the Art of Climbing – The Ultimate Scenic Rim Peak Bagging Checklist
South Australia (SA)
South Australia has almost 3,000 named mountains, with the highest concentration in the north-west around Wilpena Pound, and to the south. The highest peak – Mount Woodroffe or Ngarutjaranya (1,434m) – is in the north-west, and access is limited with a permit required to enter the Anangu Pitjantjatjara lands. Saint Mary Peak (1,171m) in Wilpena Pound is the thirteenth-highest peak in the state, but has the highest prominence (1,027m). Wilpena Pound and the Flinders Ranges is arguaby the best destination for peaks with the best views!
- Peakvisor – South Australia peaks
Tasmania is the only state (as the ACT is a territory) to have an official “peak pagging list” – the Abels are mountains higher than 1,100m above sea level, which are separated from other mountains by a drop of at least 150m. There are 158 of them on the official list. Based on Scotland’s famed Munros, Tasmania’s Abels were conceived in 1994 by a group of local Tasmanian bushwalkers and published The Abels: A Comprehensive Guide to Tasmania’s Mountains over 1100m High: Volume One and Volume 2. They vary from Mount Wellington (1,270m) which you can drive up, to the multi-day Federation Peak (1,224) and of course Mount Ossa (1,616m) which is the highest peak in Tasmania.
- The Abel Mountains
- Peakbagger.com – Abels List
- BBC – Tasmania’s greatest mountain quest
- TasTracks – Peak Baggers Central (lists of Tasmanian Peaks)
Western Australia (WA)
The 20 highest peaks in WA are all in the Hamersley Range, which is in the Pilbara region. The highest peak in Western Australia is Mount Meharry (1253m) in the Hamersley Range, which also has the second-highest prominence. The peak with the highest prominence is Bluff Knoll (1,099m), which is also the highest peak in the Stirling Range in the Great Southern region.