Walking in Tasmania
While self-drive is the most popular visitor transport of choice around Van Diemen’s Land, as it was known until 1856, four wheels actually achieve little more than to cover the ground (of which there is considerably more than most visitors imagine) at the fastest possible speed, which varies considerably from one side of the island to the other, and sometimes from one winding, photo-stop-inducing mile to the next. Travelling by car leaves the island’s greatest treasures – secret lakes, vast waterfalls tumbling from jagged peaks, perfectly formed coves and platypus-filled streams - hidden away down unsealed tracks, down which your hire car is not permitted to drive. And never, ever should driving be attempted at dusk or dawn, when the roads will be liberally carpeted with marsupials including the desperately endangered Tasmanian Devil, which surely tops anyone’s must-see list on a visit to Tasmania. Hit one at yourperil, and if you do, for heaven’s sake check its pouch and call the Wildlife Rescue number. Better still, don’t drive at night.
Tasmania is Australia's walking state and in fact is probably one of the greatest walking destinations in the world with a climate, landscape and diversity that lends itself perfectly to exploration by foot.
Walking Tasmanian-style is a far cry from the images of soggy sandwiches, Kendall mint cake and leaky tents that most Brits associate with hardy attempts at braving the British countryside by foot. Think award-winning architect-styled eco lodges cantilevered from granite, orange lichen-stained cliffs or secreted in the sun-dappled bush tucked behind endless wild beaches pounded by turquoise seas, the playground for mega pods of dolphin, and the passage for whales on their trip north; imagine dining by candle and starlight in decadent standing camps protected by parrot-filled forest canopies, finished off with a night in a historic homestead with a roaring log fire, a warm bath the reward for a day’s hike; always, no matter how remote you seem to be, a convivial dinner of gourmet food washed down with some of the crispest, smoothest wines in the New World, made from grapes that have been allowed to ripen at their leisure in the long, balmy Tasmanian autumn.
With nearly fifty percent of the island protected by World Heritage or National Park status, vast swathes of land both impenetrable and uninhabited by people, the power of nature that dominates a land lying forty degrees south in the Great Southern Ocean is not to be understated, and of course unguided walkers need to keep their wits about them - which is why there has been such a proliferation of guided short and long walks developed in the last few years.
Don’t make the mistake of thinking that walking in Tassie is only for the young and super fit. Far from it. In recent decades the appeal of walking, particularly among the older generation has given birth to a new style of walking holiday that puts comfort, even luxury, and experience at equal first in the list of criteria.
There are a huge range of easily accessible short walks for those who are unwilling or unable to embark on a longer journey by foot. For those who want to experience all Tasmania's top walking spots under the guidance of an expert, Premier Travel Tasmania has the perfect solution - seven day guided walking tour that combines the comfort of travel by luxury vehicle and blissful accommodation with the very best day walks.
But for those who want to see the world from a different perspective, there are several world-class multi-day walks in Tasmania that take rambling to a new level of sophistication.
With always a minimum of two knowledgeable guides for every group of just eight of ten in a group, the pace is dictated by the slowest walker, with plenty of opportunity for the faster paced walkers to stretch themselves. Sometimes the walking can be less taxing than choosing which wine to have with your sautéed scallops. On Tasmania’s walks your soul will be as grateful as your taste buds. The simple process of putting one foot in front of the other will lead you on a path through magnificent scenery to extraordinary natural highs, both literally and figuratively. To say Tasmania’s walks can bring with them lif- changing experiences is honestly not an understatement.
One of Tasmania’s top walks, the Maria Island Walk, describes itself with justification as four days that last a lifetime. Another promises a life changing experience or your money back. What is guaranteed is that you will see and learn things that will change your view on the world forever, and it is highly likely that you will leave Tasmania having made friends for life. Walking is perhaps the world’s first social network. Best of all, in Tasmania, for the most part you are far more likely to come face to face with Tasmania’s weird and wonderful wildlife than another human being, apart from your fellow walkers.
So, for a true immersion into Tasmania’s magical wilderness, eschew the hire car, at least for a day or two, longer if you can, pack a pair of comfortable walking shoes or invest in a pair of Tasmania’s legendary ‘blunnies’ (Blundstone walking boots). Follow in the footsteps of the dinosaurs, delving deep into 60 million year old rainforests, along stunning sea cliffs and down to white sand deserted beaches, inaccessible other than by foot. You won’t regret a single step of the journey. Walk once in Tassie and you will almost certainly return to walk here again.
Tasmania’s walks range from a twenty minute stroll to an epic ten day odyssey through land that no one else ever sets foot in, and everything in between. Here is the best of the short and long walks that will take you to the very edge of the world.
Arguably the only way to explore the iconic Freycinet Peninsula, this three night walk covers the length of the peninsula and its national park on Tasmania’s East Coast, taking walkers into parts that no one else is permitted to enter. It culminates in one of Tasmania’s most remarkable vistas – Wineglass Bay - against a back drop of the Hazards Mountains. You walk out each day from your base, the art and antique filled Friendly Beaches Lodge, to return to the nightly luxury of comfortable beds and a sumptuous dinner by a log fire. The solar powered lodge is one of those rare gems, tucked away in the bush on one of the most stunning beaches you will ever set foot on.
'Art of Nature' is a new monthly journey from November 2013 to April 2014 that combines Tasmania's natural beauty with world class art, created by the Freycinet Experience and MONA. Please see City Art and Culture section for details.
One of Australia’s most decorated tourism experiences, this four-day walk explores the breathtaking landscape of the east coast island national park with its deep-etched convict history. Walk among the fecund wildlife with light packs, on gentle tracks, staying at two forest camps with comfortable beds, and outstanding food and wine, rewarded by a final night in the restored historic Bernacchi House. With rich aboriginal history, a penal settlement that predates Port Arthur and an extraordinary density of wildlife (including all Tasmania’s endemic birds) this is the walk for animal lovers. The recent release of wild Tasmanian devils has added a new dimension.
Explore the breathtaking coastline known as the Bay of Fires, so-named by the early sea-farers who saw the first settlers’ fires burning on the shore. Stay in the Bay of Fires Lodge, whose minimalist design probably put Tasmania’s walking on the grown-up map when it opened in 1998. Named by Lonely Planet as one of the world’s top 10 spots to visit in 2009, this remote landscape in Tasmania’s north east, littered with Aboriginal middens, is the passage from one world to another, a place unchanged by time. Two nights are spent in the Lodge, and one night is spent in the Forester Beach Camp.
This six day, 40 mile guided walk follows the iconic ten day Overland Track – possibly the world’s greatest multi day walk - through Tasmania’s glacial and mountainous World Heritage area from Cradle Mountain to Lake St Clair. The region, when it was inscribed onto the UNESCO list in 1983 after a massive environmental battle, complied with an unprecedented and still unbeaten record of seven out of ten criteria. The Cradle Huts guided walk enables those with moderate to good fitness to walk through land only usually accessible to the hardiest thanks to the most ecologically sustainable private huts, warm showers, good meals and an experience that makes the bucket list in spade loads.
Australia’s only rainforest walk runs through a remote part of North West Tasmania that has only been recognised in recent years, and is still the subject of bitter environmental controversy. This is the only haven left for healthy Tasmanian devils, and habitat to the world’s giant burrowing crayfish. You will journey through the largest cool temperate rainforest in the southern hemisphere. With no other visitors to the region, small groups travel through a pristine and remote ancient forest wilderness, fostering a genuinely profound and memorable walking experience.
The newest addition to Tasmania’s walking odyssey, this is more of a gourmet and wildlife extravaganza with a bit of walking thrown in – or at least enough to make you feel suitably active. Camps are of the highest standard, and the food and wine are what you would expect from an island located off an island that has its very own natural larder of wines, cheeses, oysters and a posse of makers poised to share it with you. Access to and from Bruny Island, a national park in its own right with some of the highest cliffs in the Southern Hemisphere is normally an hour’s drive from Hobart and a short ferry ride, but here you do it in style, with a catamaran trip down and a seaplane back to the city. This is perfect for time-strapped visitors who want to experience a touch of wilderness, but should also be on the consideration list for any one with a taste for the gourmand life and a yen to dust off the walking boots.
Seven day small group walking holiday with Premier Travel
This small group walking holiday allows you to experience Tasmania's national parks and UNESCO World Heritage area in comfort and style, combining lovely, classic accommodation with daytime walking adventures under the guidance of one of the island's most revered walking experts. You will travel by luxury vehicle and walk in the Cradle Mountain and Freycinet National Parks, before taking a little ferry to the Maria Island National Park to walk among its abundant wildlife and hopefully spot all twelve endemic bird species, and if you are lucky, come face to face with one of the wild population of healthy Tasmanian Devils. Then you will head down to the rugged Tasman Peninsula, soon to be home to one of Australia's greatest overland walks, and to Mount Field and the rainforests of Southern Tasmania. The tour includes seven nights's accommodation, breakfast and lunch daily, all entry and activity fees, national park passes and you expert walking guide. The walking duration lasts from one to six hours per day.
Guided Day Walks
Forest Walks Lodge is an absolute gem. Just a short drive from Launceston righ ton the edge of teh World Heritage Area near Deloraine. A three room, eco lodge run by hosts Rosemary and Sean, this is a haven of home cooked food, birds, wildilfe and walking. Best of all, Sean will take you on guided walks for anything from an hour to a day, completely customised to suit your interests, fitness and ability. See more under 'Where to Stay'.
Great Short Walks
Tasmania has hundreds of short walks dotted all around the state, most of which are usually accessible from main roads, making them an easy addition to any itinerary. Here is a selection not to be missed:
An hour from Hobart, the Mount Field National Park gives visitors a glimpse into Tasmania’s stunning rainforest wilderness. The 30 minute Tall Trees circuit takes you through a spectacular forest of the giant swamp gums, the highest flowering trees on earth, the largest of which were growing when Abel Tasman first sighted Tasmania in 1642. Towards the falls, the track is framed by impossibly picturesque tall tree ferns. Platypuses are common by day, and by night time glow worms can be seen among the vegetation.
An easy if steep 40 minute puff brings you to the much photographed Wineglass Bay Lookout on the Freycinet Peninsula. What seems like barely more than a skip and a hop down brings you to the talcum powder white sand of this stunning bay that is shaped like a wine glass but actually named after the colour of the water during Tasmania’s gruesome whaling years, thankfully now forgotten by the returning whales. Return by the same route or, if energetic, continue your hike around the Hazards Mountains for a three and a half hour highly rewarding circular walk. Expect to meet the odd wallaby, echidna, pademelon or Forester kangaroo on the way.
Start on the boardwalk that marks the commencement of the Overland Track around a quarter mile before the popular Dove Lake walk, and leaving the tourists behind you, climb steadily to Crater Lake. Stop to scoop up handfuls of crystal clear, pristine water. With your thirst quenched, continue upwards towards Cradle Mountain – carrying on to the summit if you are physically prepared, and if the mercurial weather allows – or take the path back down towards Dove Lake which you can still walk around if you have the energy and time before nightfall. Walk back to Wombat Pools and, if it is approaching dusk, stand on the boardwalk and marvel as the button grass hummocks turn into wombats, probably within touching distance, in the gloaming.