Whether you’re a seasoned ultra runner or just getting into running, it’s time to scan Australia’s full ‘landscape’ of top-level trail events.
Australia’s unique landscape has and continues to be the setting for some of the best runs and trail events in the world. Ultra athletes come from all over the globe to get a little closer to our unique flora, tackle altitudes down under and test the battery life of the Garmin watch they got for Christmas.
A Sydney-based running group that call themselves the Vibers have been quietly ticking off some of the more insane trail events right around the country. And now they share their experience, so other budding ultras can too.
Here are some of Australia’s bucket list trail events, ordered chronologically — the time of year the event is organised.
Australia’s top trail events
Australia boasts some of the most vast, iconic, intimidating and rewarding scenery on the planet, in seemingly endless supply. That means there are tonnes of great trail events happening annually, right around the country. Here are 15 of the best.
Surf Coast Century, Great Ocean Road (Victoria)
Time of year: September
Next event date: September 16, 2023
Runs: 100km solo, 100km team relay, 50km
The Great Ocean Road is a bucket list tourist destination and what’s better than driving it? Running it. This is a good event for the less experienced ultra runners; it’s a fast course. Prepare to be overwhelmed by Victoria’s special beaches and stunning cliffs. It starts and finishes in the coastal town of Anglesea.
Blackall100, Sunshine Coast
Time of year: October
Next event date: October 14, 2023
Runs: 100km, 50km, 21km
Most Blackall100 runs sell out, speaking to this event’s popularity. There’s no limit to how much time and energy worth spending in the Sunshine Coast’s hinterland; you’ll come out a new person. And that’s what makes the Blackall100 right up there for best trail events in this country.
GNW Ultras, Great North Walk (NSW)
Time of year: October
Next event date: October 28-29, 2023
Runs: 10km, 30km, 50km, 50m (80km), 100km, 100m (162km)
This event follows much of the trail between Sydney and Newcastle; a rugged and beautiful trail better suited to the more seasoned campaigners and runners capable of navigating their way along in tricky parts. Challenge accepted.
Stromlo Running Festival, Canberra
Time of year: November
Next event date: November 18-19, 2023
Runs: SRF 50km, SRF 30km, SRF 15km, SRF 10km, SRF 5km, SRF 2.5km kids
Co-founded by Aussie running great Robert de Castella; ‘Deek’ and other running pros did a tonne of training through the 80s and 90s in Canberra’s Stromlo Forest. The area was ravaged in the 2003 bushfires, leading to an initiative of replacing what had been lost to leave a legacy. The festival held on the purpose-built Stromlo Cross Country Course.
Ultra-Trail Kosciuszko, Thredbo (NSW)
Time of year: December
Next event date: December 7-9, 2023
Runs: The ‘Miler’ (164km), 100km, 50km, 27km
Tame the iconic Kosciusko, Australia’s highest peaking mountain.
By UTMB, this is Oceana’s newest Ultra-Trail event, featuring breathtaking views through the alpine region. All four races start in Thredbo and even though Mount Kosciuszko sounds incredibly intimidating, the trails are fairly runnable and not overly technical. A great choice for trail runners starting to catch the bug and tick something else off their growing list.
The Delirious West, Western Australia
Time of year: February
Next event date: February 7-11, 2024
Runs: 100 miler, 200 miler
The Delirious West flagship race, the 200 miler, is labelled one of the top 10 hardest 200 milers in the world — a must-do for the most accomplished ultra trail runners down under.
It’s located on the Bibbulman Track, between Northcliffe and Albany.
Gone Nuts, Tasmania
Time of year: Early March
Next event date: March 2, 2024
Runs: 25km, 50km, 101km
This one’s certainly for the adventurous types and not for the feint-hearted. But if you need something in the ‘distance’ – so to speak – to keep you motivated and on the ‘straight and narrow’ over the festive season, this is the trail event to look into.
Six Foot Track Marathon, Blue Mountains (NSW)
Time of year: March
Next event date: March 9, 2024
This race follows the full length of the iconic Six Foot Track across the Blue Mountains. Around 850 runners compete each year and all profits are donated to the Blue Mountains Rural Fire Service, making it one of the most rewarding and wholesome trail events in the country.
Buffalo Stampede Festival, North East Victoria
Time of Year: March
Next event date: March 22-24, 2024
Runs: 152km grand slam, 100km solo, 100km team relay, 72km grand slam, 42km, 20km, 10km, 5km family, 2km junior
It’s organised by Single Track Events and with an abundance of race options, the Buffalo Stampede Festival is for everyone. Located in North East Victoria’s alpine region – more specifically, at the iconic regional town of Bright – the jaw-dropping scenery will have you questioning how it took this long to visit the area.
Mt Solitary Ultra, Blue Mountains (NSW)
Time of year: April
Next event date: April 7, 2024
Starting and finishing at Wentworth Falls in the Blue Mountains, this is a smaller scale event but greatly rewarding. It’s a testing trail with spectacular scenery.
The Running Wild Trail Association is in charge of this one; a non-profit organisation that specialises in putting on low-cost trail events. Only a couple of hundred can enter this one each year.
Margaret River Ultra Marathon, Western Australia
Time of year: May
Next event date: May 10-12, 2024
Runs: 80km solo, 80km relay, Sunday Kids Run
This WA-based event through the stunning Margaret River region can be tackled either individually, or with teams of two-to-five runners. The event happens between Cape Naturaliste and Cape Leeuwin; runners take in everything from its wine region to world famous surf beaches.
Rapid Ascent is the organiser and this event is one of three organised by the company; the Margaret River Ultra Marathon is one of three trails events that form the Rapid Ascent Ultra Running Triple-Crown.
Ultra-Trail Australia (UTA), Blue Mountains (NSW)
Time of year: May
Next event date: May 16-19, 2024
Runs: 100km, 50km, 22km, 11km
Organised by Ironman, UTA is one of the most popular nation-wide trail events; its accessibility and iconic scenery makes it a winner for many. Just a short trip in from Sydney, the Blue Mountains offers some of the most breathtaking landscape in the country. The result is an event with four trail distances that generally always sells out.
West Macs Monster, Northern Territory
Time of year: May
Next event date: May 17-19, 2024
Runs: 231km, 128km, 65km, 25km
While the UTA is happening, so is the West Macs Monster up in the NT.
The iconic Larapinta Trail is a popular trekking location in the Northern Territory and incredibly intimidating trail course. The 231km Sonder Monster race is bucket list stuff, for those willing to dedicate years of preparation.
Brisbane Ultra Trail, Queensland
Time of year: Late June
Next event date: June 28-30, 2024
Runs: 10km, 20km, 30km, 60km, 110km
The Brisbane Ultra Trail is the self-proclaimed most prestigious trail event in Queensland. But to be fair, it’s an incredibly picturesque event. Runners will get a taste of the city’s surrounding rainforest, along with sections of the famous Brisbane River.
It’s the only Australian-based event that can boast it’s a part of the Spartan Trail World Championship series.
Elephant Trail Race, Port Macquarie
Time of year: July
Next event date: July 19-21, 2024
Runs: 217km, 160km, 100km Solo, 100km Staged Race, 50km, 25km, 13km, 5km, 2.5km Kids
‘ETR’ is the personal favourite of one of the most seasoned runners in the club that’s ticked off a bunch of trail events. It’s organised by a husband and wife team with huge vision. It’s a rugged and rocky, multi-loop course that packs a punch.