Tasmania, the triangular chunk of land under the Australian continent, was once best known outside the country for being the home of the Tasmanian devil, a sharp-toothed marsupial that is much cuter than his Looney Toons depictions of old. But Tasmania also has some of the most diverse landscapes in Australia — including thundering waterfalls, beaches, and dramatic rocky outcrops that dot the coastline — and an astonishing 19 national parks.
Although Tasmania still gets the fewest visitors in Australia, it has been experiencing the country’s fastest growth in tourism. Yet while the new travelers come to appreciate its natural beauty, too few take advantage of its incredible hiking opportunities. With mountains, lakes, beaches, and pristine forests, Tasmania is in fact a hiker’s dream.
When to go and how to get there
You can hike in Tasmania year-round, even in the winter months of June to August — although there’ll be cooler temperatures and snow will fall on the highest peaks. Winter is also humpback whale migratory season, when thousands make the journey from Antarctica up the east coast of Australia to breed and play in warmer waters.
The spring months from September to November bring comfortable hiking temperatures; moreover, the flowers are in bloom and vineyards come back to life. Summer from December to February is peak season, when the days are warmer and the trails more traveled — but crowds are never excessive. The fall period from March to May is still warm, and Tasmania’s beloved Fagus tree turns forests all shades of red and yellow.
That said, Tasmania is known for its unpredictable climate. Even on the hottest of summer days, the threat of heavy rain is always looming. When hiking, be prepared for all weather and always make sure to let someone know of your hiking plans.
Flights from Melbourne to Tasmania’s towns of Hobart or Launceston are just over an hour and less than $100. From Sydney to Hobart takes less than two hours and can cost under $200. The 10-hour commuter ferry from Melbourne to Tasmania is not really worth the time and cost. While you could bring a car on the ferry, you can just as easily rent one in Tasmania.
You need a National Parks Pass to enter all of Tasmania’s parks, which can be booked online and range in price from AUS$24 (US$16) for a daily pass to AUS$123 (US$85) for a two-year pass. Below we outline our favorite national parks and the hikes you should do within them.
Wineglass Bay and Hazards Beach Circuit — Freycinet National Park
7 miles, 5 hours round-trip, moderate
If beaches are your thing you’ll want to head to this national park for the Wineglass Bay and Hazards Beach Circuit. From the trailhead at the parking lot, the climb begins on a paved track which quickly turns to a dry but dusty path through the Australian bush. You’ll be surrounded by tall green gum trees and rocky hills, but you’ll soon catch glimpses of nearby Coles Bay as the trail ascends and begins to get steeper.
As the elevation increases, the track turns into well-placed stone steps to Wineglass Bay Lookout, with views of Mount Freycinet as the backdrop, before continuing down a stepped path to Wineglass Beach, Tasmania’s most famous powder-soft beach.
It can get hot during the day, even in the winter, and the weather is forever changing be prepared for all kinds of weather. If you are feeling warm, Wineglass Bay, called such because of its resemblance of a wine glass from above, is the perfect spot to cool off.
From the bay you can follow the boardwalk track to Hazards Beach and back up to the start of the hike, stopping off to admire the ocean views from the numerous orange-rocked swimming coves along the way.
Other hikes in Freycinet National Park:
Mount Amos Track: A moderate hike covering 2.5 miles and taking three hours round-trip. This hike entails a little more scrambling over large boulders, but has fewer people on the trail. The views of Wineglass Bay are even better from higher up on Mount Amos, giving a wider view of the neighboring mountains and light blue coves that lap against them.
Cape Tourville Circuit: An easy three-mile hike that takes 20 minutes round-trip. This short but sweet boardwalk track takes you to along the granite coastline to the edge of Cape Tourville and the lighthouse built in 1971 that sits at the end.
Lady Barron Falls Circuit — Mount Field National Park
3.7 miles, 2 hours round-rip, easy
Despite being the island state’s first national park and a real treasured spot for locals, Mount Field National Park is one of Tasmania’s lesser-known parks for outsiders. Here you’ll find temperate rainforest brimming with the iconic eucalyptus tree and vast alpine moors side by side.
The lower altitude Lady Barron Falls Circuit is one of the easiest hikes to do in the area, with only an 860-foot elevation gain. It’s still one of the most rewarding in the park as it weaves through swamp gum and between three waterfalls: Lady Barron Falls, Horseshoe Falls, and Russell Falls. The nearby visitors center is a good place to start or end your hike to learn about the surrounding vegetation and unique Tasmanian wildlife.
Another hike in Mount Field National Park:
Pandani Grove Nature Walk: An easy hike covering just a single mile and taking an hour round-trip. Suitable for all ages and levels of fitness, this walk has no steep sections but can have dustings of snow and ice. It follows a path to Lake Dobson, passing by the subalpine plant after which it’s named, the pandani. The pandani is the world’s tallest heath, found only in Tasmania.
Overland Track — Cradle Mountain-Lake St Clair National Park
40 miles, 6 days, strenuous
Cradle Mountain sits over 5,000 feet above sea level and is a UNESCO World Heritage site. It is also one of the best places to see some of Australia’s quirkiest wildlife, including wombats, echidnas, and the Tasmanian devil. Cradle Mountain’s impressive jagged peaks provide the backdrop for a number of hikes, including the popular Overland Track.
The multi-day hike in Cradle Mountain-Lake St Clair National Park will take you to the summit of Cradle Mountain, across rivers and through pine forests, past flowering heath and rural towns, and to hilltop huts each night to rest, before ending at nearby Lake St Clair. Bear in mind you need a permit (AUS$200, or about US$140) to do the hike and the huts can fill up pretty quick, so book ahead to guarantee you can get your hike on. Even with reservations, always carry a tent in case weather prevents you from reaching the huts before nightfall.
Other hikes in Cradle Mountain-Lake St Clair National Park:
Dove Lake Circuit: An easy hike covering 3.7 miles and taking two hours round-trip. This hike with one short steep hill takes you through moss-laden trees and around to a much-photographed 1940s boathouse. Take your time to admire the spikes of Cradle Mountain reflecting in Dove Lake, which sits below.
Shadow Lake Circuit: A moderate hike covering 7.5 miles and taking four hours round-trip. This hike will take you through subalpine forests of pencil pines and snow gums to Shadow Lake, with views of Mount Hugel on a clear day.
Cape Huay, Cape Raoul, and Three Capes tracks — Tasman National Park
The scenery gets really exciting in Tasman National Park, with weird and wonderful sandstone and granite rock formations, sea caves, and dramatic cliffs on the Tasmanian peninsula. For views that pack a punch try the Cape Huay Track, a moderate five-mile hike that’ll take four hours, or the Cape Raoul Track, a moderate 8.5-mile hike that’ll take five hours; both wind through rugged wooded areas and end at wave-washed sea cliffs.
Another multi-day hike to add to your list is the Three Capes Track, a strenuous hike that covers 30 miles and will take four days. It begins and ends at the World Heritage-listed Port Arthur prison and settlement. Port Arthur was built in the 19th Century by inmates and is now an open-air museum and one of the best preserved convict sites in Australia.
From Port Arthur you’ll be ferried to the start of the track at Denmans Cove where you’ll hug the wild cliffs of Tasman National Park for uninterrupted views of open ocean, bays, and granite stacks. A maximum of 48 hikers are allowed per day, so book in advance to avoid missing out.
Another hike in Tasman National Park:
Tasman Coastal Track: A strenuous hike that covers 11 miles and takes eight hours one way. This easier and cheaper alternative to the Three Capes Track still offers incredible, rugged Tasmanian views — from cliffside archway Devil’s Kitchen down Eaglehawk Neck and into Fortescue Bay.
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