The Overland Track in Tasmania, stretching from Cradle Mountain to Lake St. Clare, is probably Australia’s smallest state’s best known walking track. In fact, it was named the best adventure holiday destination in Australia by Australian Traveller Magazine’s Reader’s Choice Awards. The problem is that this track can take up to 7 days to complete. That, as well as the fact that permits to walk it cost $180 in the peak season (which incidentally might be the only time you might WANT to walk it) make it unattainable for most.
I spent three months travelling Tasmania and, when I wasn’t picking apples, I used a pamphlet called 60 Great Short Walks in Tasmania as my travel guide. Having completed over thirty of the sixty walks, I will share with you my favourites.
This walk is a challenge but don’t let that discourage you…it’s first on my list for a reason. While I was on it, there were a half dozen crews updating and improving all aspects of the track. They were hand building steps out of stones that were airlifted in by helicopter. The trail was a pleasure to walk because of the improvements.
The Cape Hauy track begins at the beach at Fortescue Bay in the Tasman National Park. It rises and dips for two hours until you reach the furthest point on the track. Here, the trail drops away to the ocean below but reveals views of such trail highlights as “The Monument”, “The Candlestick”, and “Totem Pole”. I was out there completely on my own and thoroughly enjoyed hanging off the cliff’s edge to get photos. I also felt a little uneasy about the sheer cliffs and the high wind but that didn’t take away from the pleasure.
The trail offers beautiful views of the bay and one of the highlights for me was watching the fog roll across the hills and cliffs in the distance. At one point, I merely sat down and took in the beautiful view as I called my sister back in Canada. It was like I was calling her from the edge of the earth and I wanted to share my experience with her.
The walk back to Fortescue Bay is equally as challenging as the walk up but arriving back at the campground (and showers) at the beach make the return trip feel just as rewarding.
Hartz Mountain is located west of Geeveston in Tasmania’s south. The walk to the peak starts out very gently along boardwalks through alpine wetlands. It leads to Lake Esperance (another of Tasmania’s Great 60 Short Walks – so two birds with one stone) and then beyond, eventually rising 400 metres from the parking lot to the peak at 1254 metres.
The last section of the walk is challenging and not recommended in bad weather. The way to the top involves some steep sections and clambering up over some sizable boulders. The view from the top is spectacular! The coast 20 km away is visible as well as forest covered mountains, untouched wilderness, distant peaks, and mountain lakes. There’s something so peaceful about being alone in such a vast wilderness setting.
There are plenty of other walks available to do within this park so if Hartz peak isn’t enough for you or the weather isn’t great, there are always other options.
Here, you can also get two birds with one stone: first by walking to the Wineglass Bay lookout and secondly by continuing down to the beach itself and looping back to the parking lot on the Hazards Beach Circuit.
I am ranking this walk higher than my gut is telling me merely because the only day I had available to visit this area was…well…it wasn’t a nice day. Wineglass Bay, in the Freycinet National Park on Tasmania’s east coast has been ranked one of the best beaches in the world. I’ve seen photos and I just wish I could have experienced it the way it looks in those photos.
The walk to the lookout is relatively easy (I did it in flip-flops) with steps built out of rock and gravel covering the flat sections. The lookout gives you a beautiful view over the bay and the pure white sandy beach. I did not venture down to the beach itself but when I return to Tasmania, it is number one on my to-do list.
South Cape Bay
This walk begins at the end of Australia’s most southerly road. It weaves its way through the forest complete with distant mountain views and opens up to reveal a single boardwalk track through an untouched valley. The solitude you feel while walking this boardwalk is second to none. Small skinks move swiftly across the boards to escape your footsteps as eagles soar above, looking for their next meal.
The trail then re-enters the forest and distant ocean waves become audible. You eventually arrive at the headland from which you can make your way down to the beach. The Great Walks pamphlet recommends bringing a lunch and making a day of it and I fully support the idea. You can wander the beach for hours, go for a swim (although it can be dangerous and cold), climb some rocks, build sand castles, or merely sit down and take it all in. This was the first of many walks I’ve done solo in Tasmania and it was an incredible experience.
This walk passes through native rainforest in the state’s western wilderness along an old mining tramway (Montezuma was actually the name of the mining company that accidentally came across the falls while prospecting) and ends right at the base of the 104 metre falls. From there, you have a couple viewing options: up close and personal from a viewing platform at the base or from a suspension bridge which gives the viewer a better understanding of just how tall these falls are. The walk is supposed to take 3 hours return but both times I’ve done it, it has taken one hour each way, giving you ample time for waterfall viewing if you do take the full three hours.
Besides the added bonus of a suspension bridge, close to the falls there is another surprise. As I’ve already mentioned, this route was once used for mining, and because of this, there is actually a very small tunnel you can go into. The tunnel only goes into the rock about 10 metres before fence prevents you from going any further but it is still a pretty neat stop along the way. Just keep in mind if you do this walk, wear footwear that you don’t mind getting wet…it IS through a rain forest.
I was originally going to make this a top-5 list but then decided there was no way I could exclude Tasmania’s fifth highest peak and my most epic full day walk on the island.
Cradle Mountain is probably the most well known mountain in Tasmania and the views from its peak are nothing short of spectacular. There are a few options on how to get to the summit and back down again. Myself and two American friends decided to challenge ourselves so we took the steep route up.
The first stop is at Marion’s Lookout which provides great views of both Dove Lake below and Cradle Mountain to the south. A bit further along, you get to a plateau which weaves through wetlands before taking you to an emergency shelter complete with an outhouse. From there, the trail starts to get more vertical. It eventually leads you through some scree and massive boulders before turning into a full-on scramble to the summit.
From the summit, you can see a vast plateau with the Overland Track disappearing into the distance, mountain peaks, deep valleys, pristine lakes, and so much more that you’ve simply got to experience for yourself. I spent over an hour at the top before heading back down and enjoyed every moment.
On the way down, we took the Face Trail which leads you below the face of Cradle Mountain. We then traversed across to Hanson’s Peak before heading down to Dove Lake and back to the parking lot.
All in, this ended up being a 7 hour hike for us including the hour at the summit. It’s definitely not for the unmotivated. However, there is a very beautiful walk all the way around Dove Lake which is easier and provides some magnificent views as well.
If Tasmania is on your To-Do List for Australia (which it should be!), I highly recommend taking in some of the 60 Great Short Walks. It’ll help you discover places you might never have thought of and you’ll come away with some great memories and photos!