The world's best outdoor adventures for 2017

BEST NEW WALK 

Seven Peaks Walk, Lord Howe Island

One of the newest Great Walks of Australia, this five-day hike is also a new way to experience Australia's favourite little World Heritage-listed island. It's a week of natural highs, taking you to spots off-limits to most visitors and culminating in the summit of the 875-metre Mount Gower, with plenty of time for marine activities, sunset drinks and four-course dinners at Pinetrees Lodge, voted best hotel in Australia by TripAdvisor earlier this year. See pinetrees.com.au

BEST FIORDS

Scoresby Sund, East Greenland

Bigger is not always better but in the case of the world's largest fiord system it really is. Explore its enormous arms and elbows from the water or on foot to see calving glaciers, high-rise sized icebergs, Uluru-like cliffs, vast tundra meadows, awesome peaks and arctic wildlife. Meet the local people of Ittoqqortoormiit (pop 467), Scoresby Sund's only permanent settlement, who consider their world "the edge of life". See hurtigruten.com; bentours.com.au

Scoresby Sund, Greenland.

Scoresby Sund, Greenland. Photo: Shutterstock

BEST MARINE LIFE EXPERIENCE

Stingrays New Zealand 

Clamber into waders and, with the help of a steadying bamboo pole, inch out into the ocean's shallows  and have stingray's velvety back glide past you at Tatapouri Bay near Gisborne on New Zealand's North Island. Barracuda chunks entice the eagle rays and short-tail stingrays to cruise onto a rock ledge near your feet. See divetatapouri.com 

BEST E-BIKE TOUR

Mauritius 

Forget lazing about your Mauritian resort. Hop on an electric bike to cruise the island's southern villages, kite-surfing beaches, backroads and more with Electro Bike Discovery. Guide Laurent Marrier d'Unienville can also show you the commemorative sculpture of explorer Matthew Flinders, held captive on the island for more than six years. See electrobikemauritius.com

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BEST GLAMPING EXPERIENCE

Sal Salis, Western Australia 

Sal Salis is the only accommodation set inside the UNESCO-protected Cape Range National Park, clasped between the crystalline waters of Ningaloo Reef and the rusty outback beyond. So it feels as though you have the park to yourself, as you lounge in your glamping tent watching roos bounce along the dunes, or sip rosé on the private beach. Sunrise gorge hikes put you face-to-face with wallaroos, while reef boat trips see you swimming alongside whale sharks. See salsalis.com.au

Sal Salis eco-retreat. Ningaloo Reef, Western Australia.

Sal Salis eco-retreat. Ningaloo Reef, Western Australia.

BEST ADVENTURE HUB

Bend, Oregon

This adventure lover's paradise near the Cascade mountain range has 480 kilometres of mountain bike trails, 1500 hectares of skiing and snowboarding terrain and 1000-plus climbing routes. Oh, and it gets 300 days of sunshine a year. Throw in 26 breweries, four wineries and a dining scene that rivals many major US cities and it's easy to see why it's become one of America's fastest growing towns. See visitbend.com

BEST HOT SPRING EXPERIENCE

Jordan 

Picture this: you're inside a canyon at 400 metres below sea level, having all your worldly concerns washed away by mineral-rich hot spring waterfalls. When you're done soaking you head to the spa: massage, scrub, or facial? Post-pamper, you watch the sun set over the starkly beautiful canyon, and eat a decadent dinner accompanied by live Jordanian music. Days at Ma'In Hot Springs Resort, just 20 minutes from the Dead Sea, really are this magical. See visitjordan.com

BEST CONSERVATION EXPERIENCE

Libaran Island, Borneo 

 A 40-minute boat ride from Sandakan in Malaysian Borneo sits Libaran Island, home to a turtle hatchery and eco-camp that's attempting to raise numbers of Green and Hawksbill turtles. After a day spent swimming and chatting with local villagers on this mangrove-fringed island (which was covered in rubbish until being reclaimed in 2011), visitors can watch baby turtles hatch at dusk, then release them into the ocean. Afterwards, dinner and low-fi glamping await. See gadventures.com.au/borneo

BEST HIKE

Bay of Fundy Footpath, New Brunswick, Canada

This spectacular wilderness trail begins at the suspension bridge at salmon river, meandering 41 kilometres through a series of dense woodland switchbacks and alongside the stunning coastline skirting the boundaries of Fundy National Park, home to the world's highest tides. Though fairly strenuous, this is an utterly rewarding three to five-day hike. It's best tackled between June and September. See fundytrailparkway.com

BEST MOTORHOME FOR TOURING AUSTRALIA 

Apollo Euro Slider 

The Apollo Euro slider is like a your favourite pair of stretch pants – when required, the mid-section expands to provide an extra 30 per cent girth. The first slide-out motorhome ever launched on the Australian market the vehicle sleeps four (a private double bedroom with separate toilet and shower, and another double bed above cab) and comes with TV, iPod docking station, airconditioning, linen, pillows, towels and fully equipped kitchenette. See apollocamper.com 

BEST UNDERWATER EXPERIENCE

Diving with manta rays, Lady Elliot Island

There's little that can compare, in the underwater world at least, with the feeling of finning through the warm ocean that surrounds Lady Elliot Island, peering into the watery distance and spotting the shape of a huge manta ray gliding towards you. These huge, majestic creatures visit Lady Elliot, off the central Queensland coast, year-round, meaning there's always a chance of enjoying this awe-inspiring experience.See ladyelliot.com.au

BEST DRIVE

Carretera Austral, Chile

The 1200km stretch of highway that runs from Puerto Montt in southern Chile to Villa O'Higgins in Patagonia is not a highway as you know it: many of the sections of this spectacular road remain unpaved, merely dirt tracks that wind their way through some of the most remote and beautiful sections of northern Patagonia. A drive on the Carretera Austral will take you through forests, fjords, glaciers, lakes and mountains. It's an unforgettable journey. See chile.travel/en

Cyclist admiring the landscape in the southern most end of Carretera Austral, Chile.

Cyclist admiring the landscape in the southern most end of Carretera Austral, Chile. Photo: Alamy

BEST CYCLING TOUR

Intrepid's Cycle Japan

Japan is so busy, so fast, so hectic, that it's natural that you would want to slow down here, to take it all in at a leisurely pace. And that's what's so great about Intrepid Travel's new "Cycle Japan" tour: this 14-day bike trip through the Osaka, Kyoto, Ishikawa and Tokyo prefectures forces you to relax and appreciate the little things, the countryside, the coastline, the food and the people. It's a unique and beautiful way to experience Japan. See intrepidtravel.com

BEST UNFENCED BIG GAME EXPERIENCE 

Urikaruus Wilderness Camp, Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park 

Shaded by camel thorns and overlooking a waterhole rich with lion and cheetah, Urikaruus is a tiny gem in the great, red-duned thirstland of the World Heritage-listed Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park, tucked between South Africa, Botswana and Namibia. Urikaruus, unfenced and inexpensive, has only five stilted chalets connected by a wooden walkway. Best for intrepid travellers, it provides front row seats to Africa in all her wondrous wildness. See sanparks.org  

BEST WILDERNESS CAMP SITE 

Tapotupotu Bay, New Zealand 

Wake to the sound of surf at Tapotupotu, New Zealand's northernmost unpowered wilderness campsite, close to Te Rerenga Wairua - Cape Reinga, the great "leaping place" for Maori spirits beginning their final journey. The Department of Conservation campsite is unpowered, surrounded by lush forest, surf and lagoon, shaded by New Zealand Christmas trees with their scarlet plumage. Surf, fish, scuba dive or swim at the beach or hike the four-day Te Paki Coastal Track. See doc.govt.nz 

BEST CAMINO EXPERIENCE 

Botafumeiro, Santiago de Compostela

It's unusual, satisfying and mystical – to witness the swinging of the Botafumeiro in the Santiago de Compostela Cathedral at the completion of your Camino. This one extravagant event is a crystallisation of endeavour. Used since the Middle Ages, the 1.5-metre-high botafumeiro is operated by eight "tiraboleiros", who launch it into its precise 65-metre-long, 68 kilometre-an-hour arched trajectory. Used as part of the liturgy, it purifies the air and carries pilgrims' prayers to the heavens. See catedraldesantiago.es

BEST HORSEBACK SAFARI

Dartmoor Horse Riding Holiday, UK 

Liberty Trails offers multi-day horseback adventures in Dartmoor National Park, England's largest and least inhabited natural wilderness. Aimed at experienced riders, the tours explore the park's brooding valleys, marshy peat bogs and exposed granite hilltops. Accommodation options range from the atmospheric Arundell Arms, a 300-year-old coaching inn, to Bovey Castle, a stunning Grade II listed Jacobean mansion. Other activities available include fly-fishing, falconry and hiking. See liberty-trails.com

BEST GEOTHERMAL HIKE

Laugavegur, Iceland 

Bright green moss grows in the black volcanic soil, fumaroles expel steam into the cold mountain air, thermal creeks staining the earth white and orange disappear under snow fields. Temperature, colour and texture – at ground level and subterranean – change with every step of the Laugavegur. A guided five-day or seven-day trek of the trail with hut accommodation is the warmest of introductions to this Nordic land of fire and ice. See utracks.com

BEST NEW EUROPEAN ROAD TRIP ROUTE

Grand Tour, Switzerland

This is top-class old-school so crank the music or get into deep conversation without fear of GPS interruption as you follow the brown, white and red signs for a 1600-kilometre scenic loop. The carefully plotted route takes in everything you'd want in a multiday road trip of this landlocked beauty from wiggly lakeside roads, mountain passes and historic tunnels to famous cities, town squares and hilltop villages with longstanding international reputations for cheese. See myswitzerland.com

Switzerland's Grand Tour.

Switzerland's Grand Tour. Photo: Stephan Schacher


CONTRIBUTORS: Keith Austin, Andrea Black, Elspeth Callender, Ben Groundwater, Brian Johnston, Nina Karnikowski, Katrina Lobley, Sally Macmillan, Rob McFarland, Sheriden Rhodes, Louise Southerden, Alison Stewart, Kerry van der Jagt, Guy Wilkinson

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