Kokoda Track trekking in Papua New Guinea
The Kokoda Track is a location of national significance to Australians. This trail through the jungles of Papua New Guinea was the site of much suffering during World War II. Each year, thousands of Australians make a commemorative trek at Kokoda. In doing so, they pay their respects to the bravery and suffering of those veterans who served there. The trek is extremely challenging. If you are considering the trip, it's important to be well prepared.
Significance of Kokoda
When Australians remember World War I, they often think of the Gallipoli Campaign. When they think of World War II, many think of the Kokoda Campaign. The campaigns in these places have captured the Australian imagination.
The Battle of Kokoda was a 4-month struggle that began with the Japanese landing in Papua in July 1942. The Japanese strategy was to take Port Moresby via a track over the Owen Stanley Range. Along this track, the Japanese and the Australians fought at:
- Templeton's Crossing
Each year, about 5000 Australians take up a personal challenge to walk the Kokoda Track.
About the track
The trail passes through Oro Province and Central Province, where the 2 main communities are the Orokaiva and Koiari peoples.
The track is challenging both mentally and physically. The Australian Government classifies Papua New Guinea as a travel destination that requires a high degree of caution.
You should consider many things before deciding to trek Kokoda.
If you're planning to travel to the Kokoda Track, subscribe to the latest travel advice for Papua New Guinea from the Australian Government Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.
Papua New Guinea has a monsoonal climate. The Kokoda Track could experience rain and mud at any time. The wet season occurs between December and March. Humidity is generally very high (80 to 95%).
Always check local sources on road conditions before you travel. Difficult terrain, extreme weather conditions, remote airfield conditions, floods and landslides can impact on your personal safety.
Infrastructure and security
Just as it was in 1942, along the Kokoda Track there is no electricity, no shops and very little infrastructure.
High levels of serious crime are common. Monitor local media, avoid large crowds and public gatherings, and follow the instructions of local authorities at all times.
Walking the Kokoda Track itself is a challenging task. The track is 96km long and has many:
- steep ascents and descents
- narrow tracks
- river crossings across slippery bridges
Progress is often very slow. Typically, each day consists of 6 to 8 hours of hard walking.
To prepare for the trek:
- train for 1 to 6 months before you go
- include long steep walks in your training
- train in the shoes you will wear on the trek
Permits and tour operators
Due to the track's conditions, you should use a licensed Kokoda Track tour operator.
All trekkers need to apply for a trekking permit.
Other ways to experience Kokoda
If you are concerned about your ability to complete the trek, consider other options.
A short flight away from Port Moresby is Popondetta on the north coast. Only 20km from Popondetta by road, you can visit old battle sites at:
These locations do not require any hill climbing, and they are usually accessible by vehicle.
Popondetta has a hotel, and basic accommodation can be found in Sanananda.
Owen Stanley Ridge walk
Another option is a 6-hour walk. This is a steep climb up from Kokoda into the Owen Stanley Range. An overnight stay in tents or huts can be arranged nearby.
Before you leave
- Subscribe to Smartraveller.gov.au updates for Papua New Guinea
- Purchase suitable travel insurance
- See your doctor or travel clinic for vaccinations and health advice
During your trip
Arrive early to allow your body to adjust to Papua New Guinea's high humidity. To ensure that your trip is safe and has a minimal impact on the local environment:
- check local conditions before you travel by road or air
- stay on the trail at all times
- don't leave rubbish behind
- make sure you extinguish fires
- don't tie tents to trees
- don't feed animals
- don't pollute rivers with detergents and shampoos
Be mindful of local customs and religious beliefs.
Most of the local people are Seventh Day Adventist. Daily prayers occur between 5 and 6pm. Wearing immodest clothing and drinking alcohol are not acceptable behaviours.