17 Best Marathons in Australia: From The Outback to the Gold Coast

If you find yourself deown unda and are looking for a good time (and your idea of a good time is bloodied feet and aching bones), then you’re in luck! We’ve got the 18 best marathons in Australia to test your mettle.

From the scorching heat of the Outback to the wistful winds of the Gold Coast, this continent-sized “island” has plenty to offer runners, veterans, and beginners alike. For every entry on our list, we’ll give you a good idea of what to expect on the course and information on what types of events are available and how much it costs to enter. 

Indeed, cultivating this list was almost as tough as running the marathons themselves. Almost. But we’ll leave that bit up to you, dear reader, so put on your running shoes and apply a heavy layer of sunscreen as we look at some of the best marathons the Lucky Country offers.

17 Best Marathons in Australia

Best Australian Marathons

Tie those laces and get ready to box with a kangaroo as we jump right into the best marathon options in Australia.

NOTE: Prices are in Australian Dollars.

1. Australian Outback Marathon

Running in the Australian Outback, it quickly becomes clear that the entirety of this near post-apocalyptic hellscape is out to get you. And, for reasons known only to the gods above, this is exactly why so many people travel from all over the world to visit Australia.

Whether you’re still finding your running feet or are an experienced, fleet-footed marathoner, the Australian Outback Marathon is the perfect way to experience all the wonders (see also: horrors) that this country has to offer. The course takes you across mostly flat plains with red sand and graded bushes as your primary obstacles. However, around Lasseter Highway, you’ll have to face off against some nasty dunes which are sure to test your mettle.

What makes this particular race so great for runners of all skill levels is that you don’t have to commit to the full race if you don’t want to. Runners can sign up for a half marathon or the 11km and 6km tracks. 

There’s no doubt why the Australian Outback Marathon is the country’s most popular running event, which is precisely why we’ve placed it first on our list. It’s not just a marathon though. This is a full-fledged holiday package, hence the pricing!

Starting Location: Uluru, Northern Territory

Events Available: 6km, 11km, Half Marathon, Marathon

Price of Participation: $925 without accommodation

2. Canberra Times Marathon Festival

Every year in April, the capital city of Canberra erupts into festivity, probably because – for once – it isn’t being overshadowed by Sydney. This is when the Canberra Times Marathon Festival begins, an all-inclusive collection of marathons masquerading as a celebration. 

Indeed, this particular marathon is no less inclusive than the previous two entries on our list. However, more experienced runners and marathon veterans may have more to sink their teeth into here for one reason: the 50km ultramarathon.

The ultramarathon will take you through and around the entire city of Canberra, passing both Parliament House and Lake Burley Griffin before ending right in front of the Old Parliament House on the West Lawns. 

Naturally, a circuit of this length won’t be for everyone, but you’re welcome to participate in some of the smaller events, such as the 10km run and half marathon. 

The Canberra Times Marathon Festival has been going strong for nearly 50 years since 1976, making it among Australia’s oldest and most popular race events. 

Starting Location: Canberra

Events Available: 5km, 10km, Half Marathon, Marathon, Ultramarathon (50km)

Price of Participation: $145 early bird special, $165 standard fee, $175 latecomer

3. Tassie Trail Fest Marathon

We’re fully aware that most people reading this list are probably already seasoned veterans of the marathon world. Of course, that term is also synonymous with “deranged” and “unhinged,” so this next pick is for those who need something a little crazier to get your blood pumping.

Billed as Australia’s sexiest and silkiest trail, the Tassie Trail Fest Marathon may seem like a fairly peaceful and scenic stroll through the mountains. Understand that this is nothing but a facade, a crude veneer masking a terrible truth – the Tassie Trail is a relentless gauntlet that will pull on the frayed ends of your sanity until you unravel completely.

Sure, like the other entries on this list, the Tassie Trail boasts several options for beginner and intermediate runners. But we’re not going to bother with that. Instead, we recommend you try out the ridiculous multi-day ultramarathon that will see you running along the dam wall in the Frome Forest Reserve and climbing a stupid 1313 miles worth of elevation, including the appropriately-named Heartbreak Hill. 

Indeed, the Tassie Trail Fest Marathon shouldn’t be taken lightly, but we have a feeling that the most insane runners reading this probably won’t be daunted by its credentials.

Starting Location: Derby, Tasmania

Events Available: 2km, 44km Marathon, Multi-Day Ultramarathon

Price of Participation: To be announced

4. Six Foot Track Marathon

We wanted to give one more recommendation for the hardiest and craziest of marathon runners out there. While the Tassie Trail is already a worthy challenge, the Six Foot Track Marathon may have the edge here. 

Some people consider it Australia’s toughest marathon course – others consider it one of the toughest in the world. While there’s no scientific method of measuring the difficulty of a race course, we think that the blood left in the wake of the runners gives a pretty good idea of how grueling this course is.

The marathon begins at the “Marked Tree” in Katoomba and takes you across the whole of the Blue Mountain range, all the way to the Jenolan Caves, some 45km away. Roughly only 850 runners take part each year, making this one of Australia’s most “elite” marathons as well. 

Honestly, we think it’s worth a try if you’ve got some experience under your belt, but you’ll forgive us if we sit this one out.

Starting Location: Katoomba, New South Wales

Events Available: Marathon

Price of Participation: $205

5. Great Ocean Road Marathon

Okay, so maybe we were a little unfair in our assessment of Australia as a nightmare country where burnt horizons scorch the plains and spark a rage within its wildlife. Can you blame us? We really like Mad Max, okay?

As you’ll find out throughout this list, however, the country has plenty of glorious sights to offer, a far cry from the wasteland most of the world is familiar with. In fact, our next pick – the Great Ocean Road Marathon – is one of the world’s most scenic and peaceful marathons.

Between Lorne and Apollo Bay, runners of all skill levels will get to experience the fabulous sights of the Otways on their right and a postcard-worthy ocean panorama on their left. With six events to choose from – from wheelchair-friendly fun runs to full-fledged ultramarathons – everyone is welcome to soak in one of Australia’s most glorious sights.

Starting Location: Great Ocean Road, Victoria

Events Available: 1.5km, 5km, 6km, 10km, 12km, 14km, Half Marathon (23km), Marathon (44km), Ultramarathon (60km)

Price of Participation: $20 to $145

6. Snowy Mountains Trail Run

We said that the courses we cover here are all very beautiful in their own right, but we didn’t say they won’t still be challenging. 

When you think of Australia, the image of snow-capped peaks and frosted trails probably isn’t the first thing that comes to mind. But don’t worry, you’re not running in the snow, just in the Snowy Mountains.

Taking full advantage of the unique scenery (and environmental hazards) on offer, the Snowy Mountains race will test your limits and make you love it simultaneously. To say that it’s a beautiful course would be an understatement. What cannot be understated, however, is the necessity of bringing along a pair of spiked runners to avoid slipping and sliding your way through the valley.

Additionally, brushing up on your acrobatics before you enter the race may not be a bad idea. You’ll have to duck, dodge, and vault over plenty of “natural hurdles” before you reach the finish line.

Starting Location: Snowy Mountains, New South Wales

Events Available: 5km, 11km, Half Marathon, Marathon, Ultramarathon (70km)

Price of Participation: $25 to $300

7. Perth City2Surf

If there’s one stereotype that even Australians don’t mind playing into, it’s their absolute love of the surf. Of course, you’d have a hard time finding any surfers on a marathon trail, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t do your part to partake in the local customs!

Across the country, several City2Surf events are held (you may even see a few of them on this list!), but none of them really compare to the one held in Perth. While Sydney’s City2Surf is a more popular event, Perth’s will challenge you. Participating in it instead of the one in Sydney also instantly awards you an intangible medal for being a contrarian. You’re just built differently, aren’t you?

Anyway, the course stretches 42.2km and takes you past the beautiful Swan River and the Old Swan Brewery before taking you through King’s Park and the University of Western Australia. It’s a gorgeous trail, and even though it’s not as popular as the one in Sydney, the event still attracts a ridiculous number of people every year. 

Starting Location: Perth, Western Australia

Events Available: Marathon

Price of Participation: To be confirmed

8. Melbourne Marathon

Melbourne Marathon Race Day
Melbourne Marathon Race Day, image courtesy of their website

Aside from Sydney, Melbourne is probably the most well-recognized city in Australia. Despite the seeds of industry taking root long ago, the city still retains some of the region’s natural splendor. 

And what better way to experience said splendor than with a 42.2km marathon?

The creatively-named Melbourne Marathon is one of Australia’s most popular, drawing huge numbers of people every year, including a few famous international athletes. While you’re unlikely to brush shoulders with running royalty (because they run so damn fast), it’s nice knowing you’re in good company.

The marathon will take you through the Botanic Gardens and past the iconic Melbourne Cricket Ground, where you’re welcome to pause your race and whack a few wickets. (Don’t do that). Despite the minimal elevation, you’ll have to keep your stamina up and be ready for some sharp turns. 

Kenyan runner Dominic Ondoro set the record for men back in 2013, completing the race in 2 hours and 10 minutes, but we’re confident you can beat his record while we cheer you on from the sidelines!

Starting Location: Melbourne, Victoria

Events Available: 3km, 5km, 10km, Half Marathon, Marathon

Price of Participation: $35 to $160

9. Rottnest Running Festival

Feel free to disagree with us here, but Rottnest is a really terrible name for an island. It conjures up images of vultures and rotting carcasses and might be more appropriate for a dungeon in Skyrim than a gorgeous paradise off the coast of Western Australia.

And yet, that’s just what Rottnest is. Think craggy, crystalline white cliffs and shimmering blue waters – that’s Rottnest for you. 

Indeed, the Rottnest Running Festival highlights the island’s splendor perfectly. Since 1994, it’s been the island’s main attraction, drawing plenty of runners from the mainland who want to experience something more exotic and less, erm, hostile. The race is far from the most challenging of courses, but once you set your eyes on Little Armstrong Bay, you probably won’t mind. 

Just in case you forgot that Australians are insane, the morning of the events is heralded by bagpipes. We… have no words.

Starting Location: Rottnest Island

Events Available: 5km, 10km run, Half Marathon, Marathon

Price of Participation: $15 to $115

10. Brisbane Marathon Festival

The more we cultivate this list, the more we appreciate just how important events like these are for the tourism industry. It’s quite a genius strategy, really – people from all over the world pay to run across postcard-worthy landscapes. You’re paying to be advertised to while exhausting yourself in the process, leaving your weary mind more prone to suggestion. That’s genius.

Before we discuss the trappings of capitalism and the predatory nature of the tourism industry, let’s switch off our brains and look at yet another fun marathon for the whole family to enjoy!

The Brisbane Marathon Festival – surprisingly – takes place in the city of Brisbane in Queensland, squatting in the shadow of Mount Coot-Tha. The Botanic Gardens is the festival’s central hub, and the marathon takes you from the city center to the Kangaroo Point Cliffs.

This particular marathon festival is one of the liveliest, and most people are more interested in having a good time than setting a world record. 

Starting Location: Brisbane, Queensland

Events Available: 2km, 5km, 10km, Half Marathon, Marathon

Price of Participation: $30 to $180

11. Cairns Marathon Festival

Another thing we’ve noticed while compiling this list is that marathon events like these have a way of bringing people together. While some of the more extreme courses – like the Six Foot Track and Tassie Trail – seem only to attract the most experienced runners, the marathons held in the cities do their best to include everyone.

The Cairns Marathon Festival is no different. It’s like the Brisbane Marathon Festival but in Cairns. Runners of all ages and experience levels are welcome here. The 2km mini marathon is a great way to get kids involved, while the 42.2km marathon – which cuts right through the city – is perfect for more experienced runners.

It can be tough to decide which festival – Brisbane or Cairns – is more worth your time. Both are located in Queensland, and both feature an urban trail. However, Cairns is a much smaller city in terms of population, so if you’re looking for something quieter and more family-friendly, this one’s for you.

Starting Location: Cairns, Queensland

Events Available: 2km, 5km, 10km, Half Marathon, Marathon

Price of Participation: $30 to $180

12. Gold Coast Marathon

Australia’s Gold Coast is one of the most beautiful coastlines in the world, objectively speaking. The entire region attracts people from all over the world, but if beauty and splendor aren’t enough to convince you to visit, then maybe the Gold Coast Marathon will.

While far from being the most challenging marathon on our list with its fast, flat route, it’s probably one of the most scenic, right up there with the Great Ocean Road Marathon. After nearly 43 years, it’s also one of Australia’s oldest marathon events. 

The conditions are also terrific. Held in winter each year, you’ll experience very little in the way of wind and humidity. (No one gave them the memo that winters are supposed to be cold). The fair conditions and obstacle-free course also makes the Gold Coast Marathon a perfect way to set a new personal record or to qualify for the Boston Marathon. Professional runners often use this event as a stepping stone to greater things, and you can too!

Starting Location: Gold Coast, Queensland

Events Available: 2km, 4km, 5km, 10km, Half Marathon, Marathon

Price of Participation: $30 to $200

13. Buffalo Stampede Marathon

While we appreciate the inclusivity of many of the running events in Australia, it seems like it’s been ages since we talked about something extreme. And, truth be told, we need a break from all the “Marathon Festivals.”

The Buffalo Stampede Sky Marathon is perfect if you, too, are hungry for something challenging. While the event is still open to runners of all ages and skill levels, you’re unlikely to find many first-timers attempting the Stampede. 

The course really doesn’t mess around when it comes to testing how well you handle elevation. Just as you’ve started to get comfortable with the flat terrain, it begins to rise again, with the main attraction being the climb all the way to the Mount Buffalo Chalet. 

Another great thing about this particular marathon is its rural backdrop. Getting to experience the city is nice and all, but nature is way cooler, and the Buffalo Stampede shows it off proudly. Its unique rock formations and impressive mountains make it the perfect event to partake in if you’re fed up with all those festivals and city fun runs. 

Starting Location: Bright

Events Available: 2km, 5km, 10km, 20km, Marathon, Ultramarathon (100km)

Price of Participation: $10 to $170

14. Wangaratta Marathon and Fun Runs

If you just read our previous entry and want to reconnect with nature without breaking your legs, this pick is for you. The Wangaratta Marathon is a fun name to say and a fun race to partake in. 

With a closed marathon course and the ability to choose your own pace, the Wangaratta Marathon is a great way to ease yourself back into the thrill of the race. It begins near the Magpies Football Clubrooms and takes you across two laps to the Showgrounds. You’re encouraged to take it easy and enjoy the sights and sounds while you can. There aren’t any hills and very little in the way of undulations, so this is a no-stress event perfect for those looking to get away from the hustle and bustle of the festivals held in the cities. It’s also one of the cheaper options on our list!

Of course, if you’ve got a lot of pent-up energy, you’re free to hoof it as fast as you like, but you’ll be missing out on some of the natural splendor Wangaratta has to offer.

Starting Location: Wangaratta, Victoria

Events Available: 2km, 5km, 10km, Half Marathon, Marathon

Price of Participation: $10 to $120

15. Sydney Running Festival

Now, did you really think we were going to talk about Australia without dedicating a full entry to Sydney? Based on the setting for Finding Nemo (2003), Sydney is home to the iconic Sydney Opera House and a truly awesome urban coastline. If the Outback seems like hell to outsiders, then Sydney is heaven. 

Like those held in Cairns, Brisbane, and Melbourne, the Sydney Running Festival is one of the country’s biggest running events, attracting hundreds of runners from around the world every year. It began its life as the “Host City Marathon” as a test for the 2000 Sydney Olympic Games, but it’s become a much larger event in its own right.

The course is designed to get you acquainted with all of the city’s most recognizable and iconic landmarks, from the Harbor Bridge to the Opera House. The marathon is so popular, in fact, that it’s the only running event in the entire country to broadcast live every year. 

Starting Location: Sydney, New South Wales

Events Available: 3.5km, 10km, Half Marathon, Marathon

Price of Participation: $35 to $225

16. Winery Running Festival

When you think of Australia as a whole, you probably don’t immediately picture vast vineyards and wineries. But it’s important to remember that Australians love alcohol just as much as we do, and if you’re keen on sampling some of the country’s richest exports (while bleeding from your feet), then you’re in luck.

The aptly-titled Winery Running Festival is Australia’s premier winery marathon. It also might be its only one. Still, despite its niche appeal – (how many hardcore runners are also wine connoisseurs?) – it boasts a lengthy trail that’ll see you traipsing across the vast vineyards and rolling hills in the iconic Hunter Valley.

And the best part? The Winery Running Festival is still kid-friendly! That’s right – even the little ones will experience fine wining – erm, running.

Starting Location: Wandin, Hunter Valley, New South Wales

Events Available: 2km, 5km, 10.5km, Half Marathon, Marathon

Price of Participation: $30 to $110

17. Traralgon Running Festival

Our last entry is a return to simpler times when running festivals weren’t so corporate, and the joy lay within the act of running itself. Oh, and the food on offer, of course!

The Traralgon Running Festival may have “festival” in the name, but it’s a much more humble affair than those in big cities. The track charts a fairly gentle course through and around the town of Traralgon. There’s a bit of a hill at the start, but after that, it’s flat and fast, allowing you to take your time in soaking up that delicious rustic air. 

Really though, the main event here is the food spread they lay out once the race is done. There’s nothing better than filling your belly after your stomach has done cartwheels during a marathon.

Starting Location: Traralgon, Victoria

Events Available: 10km, Half Marathon, Marathon

Price of Participation: $25 to $100

How To Prepare For A Marathon

Aussie Marathons

If you’ve never run a marathon before, you may not be ready for what the experience has in store. While running is pretty simple mechanically speaking (you just put one foot in front of the other, fast), doing so across some 42.2km isn’t easy. 

To this end, you must mentally and physically prepare yourself before signing up for a marathon. 

Depending on your fitness levels and your running experience, the time you need to prepare could be anything from eight weeks to 6 months. You’ll have to dedicate yourself to running every day across varying distances and terrains while still being careful not to overexert yourself. A good training regimen is mandatory for your success. 

No matter how fast and hard you run, however, there’s a good chance you’ll still be unprepared for the mental toll a marathon can take on you. Running a marathon is as much about how motivated you are as it is about how fit you are. There will be times when you’ll feel like giving up, so you must find a good source of motivation to keep going.

Whether setting a new personal record or trying to impress your crush, the right motivator can keep you going even when those 42.2km start to feel like 100. 

Oh, and another word of advice: rest stops are never guaranteed for every marathon. The best bit of preparation you can do is to thoroughly empty your bowels before taking off.

Author Profile

Michael Paulson

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Michael is a frequent contributor, which is a miracle to us as he quite literally runs for days with the rest of his time. An ultra marathon specialist, Mike is the kind of guy who posts a 30K Morning Run on Strava before we’ve had our breakfast and prefixes it with the smart-assery: “Guess I wasn’t feeling it today.” He runs like he writes: slow with bits flying everywhere.
Michael Paulson

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