Issue addressed Although pole walking (PW) has the potential to be a useful health-enhancing physical activity (PA), little is known about by whom or how it is being practised. The aims of this study were to describe (1) the characteristics of PW leaders, pole walkers and PW programs in Australia, and (2) participants' perceptions of PW and their reasons for participation. Methods In 2012, PW leaders (n≤31) and walkers (n≤107) completed self-administered surveys that included questions about participants' sociodemographic and health characteristics, PW programs and perceptions of PW. Data were analysed using SPSS. Results Leaders and walkers were generally born in Australia (leaders, 71%; walkers, 83%), older (leaders, 55 years [s.d. 11.5]; walkers, 65 years [s.d. 10.6]) and female (leaders, 77%; walkers, 79%). Most walkers (82%) walked regularly in groups, approximately once per week for about an hour, at light to moderate intensity. The program's aims most strongly endorsed by PW leaders were to increase participant enjoyment (90%), increase PA levels (81%), provide a positive social experience (77%) and increase PA confidence (71%). The most strongly endorsed motivations for PW among walkers were to remain physically active (63%), improve fitness (62%) and personal and social enjoyment (60%). Conclusions In Australia, PW is being practised by a health conscious, older population. It is perceived as an enjoyable and health-enhancing outdoor activity. So what? Health and exercise practitioners may find that PW is a beneficial form of PA for older Australians.