Known for its incredible coastline and rugged wilderness, we explored Tasmania just shy of one month. We packed our bags, picked up a rental car, and hit the mountains. With so many beautiful hikes and areas to explore, it was hard to narrow down on the top things to do in Tasmania. After a few days of warming up our legs on the Tasman Peninsula, we left for our main objective, exploring the Southwest National Park. Our ultimate goal was to hike the Western Arthurs, a 15 km range known for its gnarly peaks and extreme weather conditions. Our first stop was the visitor center at Mount Field National Park who services Southwest. After asking dozens of questions to the park ranger, she grabbed the lead park ranger at Mount Field, since he had hiked extensively in the region.
At first, our ambitions were too high. We thought it would be a good idea to hike the entire Western Arthur range and continue to the Eastern Arthur range to summit Federation Peak. On a map, it looks like such a small distance. Silly rabbits. The ranger actually did this exact route. It took him 16 days. That did not include a 3-day hike just to place food half-way on the hike for a food drop. We scrapped our plan. He gave us a great recommendation to hike the Mount Anne Circuit, a 3-day hike, followed by the Western Arthurs, a 7 to 10-day hike. It was early in the hiking season and no rangers had been out on these circuits since the winter. Just before heading out with maps and information from the ranger, he asked me a question after a slight pause. “Can you check the level of the drop toilets to make sure none are overflowing?” Great, now I was on poop duty.
Poop stop 1…Mount Anne. The Mount Anne Circuit is a 3-day hike of the tallest peak in Southwest. We set off on the first day intending to get to Shelf Camp. The weather was perfect, rare for Mount Anne, so we summited on day one. The summit itself was challenging with some very dicey sections. The second day was only 4 km, but took roughly 6-7 hours. We got through the “Notch” and zigzagged our way down the Lightning Ridge. The Notch was supposedly the toughest part of the hike, so we felt pretty good. The John Chapman guidebook said the third and final day had boardwalks and was an easy five hours out. We were stoked.
The high feeling didn’t last very long. After an hour into the final day, views of Mount Anne vanished and we descended down a ridge to Lake Judd. Within minutes, we were all spewing every curse word known to mankind. Overgrown shrubs and branches assaulted us. Our arms and legs were torn to shreds and bleeding from countless spots. We finally made it to flat ground and had a sigh of relief. Not for long… welcome to the mud pits! The next five hours was navigating through balls deep mud pools. It was the worst five hours of our lives. Welcome to hiking in Tasmania.
Poop stop 2…Western Arthur Traverse. With some insight on what hiking in Tasmania entails, we were mentally prepared to take on the more serious hike. We packed our bags with food the weight of a small child and hit the trail. The prior day on Mount Anne made us quite sluggish on the first day. Luckily for us, the hike in the Arthurs was not too bad. We caught one of the driest months in Tassie, and the hike in the Arthurs is more exposed, so a lot of the mud had dried up. Woohoo! For the next six days, we navigated through some of the toughest hiking we have ever done. The views were specky (spectacular in Australian) as we hiked around 22 peaks, summitted 14, while zigzagging around 20 stunning alpine lakes. Our memories of Tasmania are incredible, with some of the best remote bushwalking ever done. Our article on the top things to do in Tasmania will highlight the best hikes, including day walks and overnighters, as well as other main attractions on the island.
When to Go
The best time to go to Tassie is during the summer when the weather is great and mountain hikes are accessible. Australia’s summer months are between December and February. Average temperatures during that time range between 20 °C and 24 °C (68-75°F).
Tasmania is known for its harsh weather conditions, especially in the mountains. A beautiful sunshine filled day can quickly turn to a hail or snow storm, even in the dead of summer. Wind gusts and rainfall can be pretty serious. Most of the island consists of boggy land which creates torturous mud pools and very tough hiking conditions. Tassie weather is very unpredictable, but reliably gets a lot of rain. As a result, plans often need to be adjusted, and spending time exploring Tasmania, including hiking, has to be done in poor weather.
The cheapest way to get to Tasmania is to fly from Melbourne. Flights are daily and cost as low as $40 AUS. Flights from Sydney are around $70 AUS if booked in advance. Spirit of Tasmania sails between Melbourne and Devonport every evening. Between September and April, there are additional sailings. The journey takes between 9 to 11 hours. One-way tickets start at $110 AUS per person. Bringing a car on board costs around $100 AUS each way.
Renting a car is the best way to get around Tasmania. Getting around via public transportation is not easy. Reaching national parks can be very difficult. It is possible to go with shuttles but there are expensive. Car rentals from Hobart are $350 for a week. Campervan rental (2 berths) from $600 for a week.
Where to Stay
Hobert Backpackers – The main city in Tasmania has an abundance of options from hotels, backpackers, and AirBnBs. We enjoyed our stay at the Pickled Frog Hostel, dorm beds start at $25 AUD.
Hobart Budget Hotel – For a nice room at a budget price, check out the Blue Hills Motel. They have private double rooms for $70 USD.
Hobart High-End – For an adorable bed and breakfast, check out the Mill House Cottage for $145 USD per night.
Camping – Camping is a popular option especially within National Parks. Some campsites are free. However, more popular parks charge fees up to $30 AUD per night.
Airbnb – There are AirBnBs throughout Tasmania. Private rooms in Hobart start from $70 AUD. Use our link for $40 credit for first time users.
National Park Fees
The best places to visit in Tasmania are within the national park system. The national parks have hefty entry fees. If planning to visit more then two days it is best to get a national park pass. Passes are available from any Service Tasmania store or online. National park visitor centers located at Freycinet, Mount Field and Cradle Mountain sell passes as well. The park fees are as follows:
Cradle Mountain (24 hour daily fees)
$16.50 AUD per adult
$8.25 AUD per child (5-17)
$41.25 AUD family (2 adults, 3 children)
All National Parks except Cradle Mountain (24 hour daily fees)
$24 AUD per vehicle (up to 8 people)
$12 AUD per person
Holiday Park Pass (up to 8 weeks, includes Cradle Mountain)
$60 AUD per vehicle (up to 8 people)
$30 AUD per person
Hiking in Tasmania
Tasmanian wilderness is unlike anywhere else. We expected conditions and hiking to be very similar to New Zealand. While there are some similarities, Tasmanian peaks are typically surrounded by button grass plains. This sort of topography is prone to flooding, causing deep mud trenches. With the exception of Cradle Mountain, which has many boardwalks in place, expect to trek through ankle deep and at times knee deep mud. I couldn’t count on one hand the number of jokes we made about the status of the mud. Was it navigable? Knee deep? Or as Timon would like to say, balls deep? We constantly joke about the over/under amount of leeches we would find on ourselves. Having a good attitude is really the only way to get through some of these hikes.
John Chapman guides are the best for detailed hike descriptions, routes, and maps. They are worth buying (or finding someone with one) to have knowledge of each hike. Trails often do not have good maps (or none at all) and there is limited signage on any of the hikes outside of the Overland Track. We trusted good ‘ol Johnny on all of our multi-day hikes. His times can be fast, especially on the flat boggy sections through button grass plains. His times during ascents/descents were pretty accurate.
There are two excellent apps to download before heading to Australia. Campermate is a free app that provides information on campsites, things to see, petrol, and lots more. WikiCamps Australia is paid app that has tons of information and user comments. The comments can be downloaded and are available offline. WikiCamps is great for its extensive list of campsites and comments to help provide information and suggestions. It is a one-time cost of $7.99 AUD.
Top Places to Visit in Tasmania
Tasman National Park
The Tasman Peninsula is only 2 hours from Hobart in the southeast corner of Tassie. Home to stunning coastline and Australia’s tallest ocean cliffs. These three capes called Hauy, Raoul, and Pillar, can only be explored by foot. There are several day walks including some of our favorite in Tassie as well as the highly marketed and expensive Three Capes Track. We recommend walking in the park for free, which it is possible to visit all 3 capes on your own. However, if looking for a cush overnight hiking experience it is a good option. The huts are comfortable and the track conditions cannot be beat.
Freycinet National Park
Freycinet is home to the most famous beach in Tassie, Wineglass Bay. There are many gorgeous beaches and coves to explore. The emerald water is clear and resembles that of the South Pacific or the Indian Ocean. A 2-3 day circuit with campsites at Cooks Beach and Wineglass Bay is a popular option. Several day walks are also available including the Wineglass Bay overlook. Our favorite walk was Mount Amos.
Bay of Fires
Freycinet may be more popular, but Bay of Fires is even more stunning. This unique coastline is blanketed with orange colored rocks caused by lichen. The photography is amazing as well as stunning white sand beaches to explore. Binalong Bay is a great spot for photography which includes the lone shoak tree. The Gardens is another excellent area with massive orange colored boulders residing next to stunning white sand beaches. Further north near Eddystone Point is the scenic Picnic Rocks.
Home to Australia’s most recognizable mountain, Cradle Mountain is a must when visiting Tassie. Lake St Clair is a pretty lake, but the best views and time is spent at the northern part of the park at Cradle Mountain. Several day hikes explore the alpine lakes, glaciated valleys and summit the famous peak itself.
Maria Island is a natural wildlife sanctuary located off the east coast of Tasmania. The island is excellent for easy walks and cycling trips. The main highlights at Maria Island aside from all the wildlife as well as visits to the Painted Cliffs, Riedle Bay, and the Fossil Cliffs. Access to Maria island is by the Encounter Maria ferry from Triabunna and costs $50 return, including a 7 kg carry on luggage. Additional checked-in luggage up to 15 kg costs $10 per bag. Accommodation is available in the old penitentiary building at Darlington as well as free campsites at French’s Farm and Encampment Cove.
Mount Field National Park
This small national park is home to Mount Field, a single peak that is a ski field in the winter and waterfall wonderland the remainder of the year. Don’t miss Russell Falls and the quick detour beyond to the picturesque Horseshoe Falls. There are several short hikes that are easy for the entire family. The Lake Dobson circuit begins from the end of Lake Dobson road, with incredible views of Mount Field and Lake Dobson.
Best Day Hikes in Tasmania
Cradle Mountain has several day walks to explore the base of the mountain or to summit the mountain. The dove lake circuit is an easy 1-2 hour walk with spectacular views. The Cradle Mountain summit circuit takes a higher track around Dove Lake and an ascent up the boulders to the summit of Cradle Mountain. The entire circuit takes around 6 hours including a break at the summit.
Cape Hauy is home to the Three Capes Track. This track costs over $500, which covers overnight accommodation in high-end lodges. However, this coastal track is also accessible for day hiking, which does not require a permit and is free. Cape Hauy track begins at Fortescue Bay, where there is a large campsite for $8 per person. The walk is 8 km return and takes about 4 hours.
Coastal views at Cape Raoul may be the best in Tasmania with massive ocean cliffs and stunning rock formations caused by centuries of erosion. The cape is marketed as part of the Three Capes track, but that track does not actually hike to Cape Raoul (misleading right?). Their intention is to join the track to Cape Raoul one day. The walk is free beginning from Stormlea. The hike is 14 km return and takes 5 hours.
Stunning emerald bay at Freycinet National Park is best seen from the top of Mount Amos. This short 4 Km hike has sections that are very steep and slippery. The rock, especially when wet, can be difficult to navigate. The views from the top are panoramic and are worth the 2-hour hike.
Best Multi-Day Hikes in Tasmania
This 3-4 day hike is Tasmania’s recently received a major overhaul. For decades this track was a treacherous hike, with a boggy section known as the Loddon Plains. Only 2 km would take hours of navigating through waist-deep mud trenches. Thanks to Dick Smith, in 2008, a massive private investment, as well as the Government of Tasmania, they put together a 10-year plan to redo the track, build new huts, and reroute the track around the Loddon Plains. The track is nearly complete as of December 2017, and the new huts are expected to open later in 2018. Access to this hike is from the Lyell Highway (A10) 55km before Queenstown. Frenchmans Cap is incredibly scenic, but vulnerable to treacherous weather conditions. While the hike can be completed in 3 days, 4 days allow for a better chance to summit the mountain. The total distance of the circuit is 46 km.
This 3-day circuit is a beautiful hike that includes bush camping, the summit of Mount Anne, and the tricky descent down an extremely dodgy track. The first day is up an easy track to a plain and then to the summit of Mt. Anne. However, in many instances, the summit is inaccessible due to weather. The second day, navigating on the Lightning Ridge is known to be the hardest section of the hike. The impossible seeming Notch, can be tricky when wet and often includes pack hauling. The descent down Mount Anne on the third day was one of the roughest hiking days we have ever experienced. The overgrown shrubs literally drew blood and removed at least a few layers of all exposed skin. The knee-deep mud will be burned into our brains forever. While we still have several scars from our Mount Anne hike and nightmares of prickly scoparia this was our second favorite hike in Tasmania. The total circuit is 26 km. A day walk can be done to Mount Anne flats right before the summit and returning to the car park. For very fit hikers, Mount Anne can be summited in one day, but it would likely take around 10 hours.
The Overland Track
The Overland Track is the most popular track in Tassie and great for those looking to enjoy the beautiful scenery of Cradle Mountain National Park. With exceptions to Cradle Mountain and the Pine Valley, this track is exclusive to those with a permit. Comfortable huts are included in the cost of a permit, $200 AUD. This 5 to 8-day hike originates from Cradle Mountain and finishes at Lake St Clair. Booking in advance is required. If you do not obtain permits, but still want to explore the best sections of this track, there are day hikes to Cradle Mountain and multi-day hikes to the Pine Valley, all which do not require permits. The hiking (permit) season is from October 1 through May 31. The total length of the Overland Track is 65 km.
Accessed from Lake St Clair at the bottom of the Overland Track, the Pine Valley is known for beautiful alpine lakes and glaciated peaks. Unique spectacles of the Acropolis and the Labyrinth are day hikes from the Pine Valley Hut. Scenic views can be found at Lake Elysia and the Pond of Memories. Hikes can be tailored from 3 to 5 days and would typically include stays at either Echo Point or Narcissus Hut for a night as well as a couple nights at the Pine Valley Hut. A circuit to Pine Valley including stops at the Acropolis and the Labyrinth is a total distance of 52 km.
Western Arthur Traverse
For the ultimate hike in Australia head to the Western Arthurs. The range is only 15 km long but can take 10 days for the full traverse. With 22 peaks and 20 hanging alpine lakes, the Western Arthurs was the most demanding, curse-spewing and blood splattering hike we have ever been on. It also was one of the best. Hikes can range from 3 – 10 days depending on the route. The ultimate test is the full traverse that takes 7 – 10 days. A half circuit departs the range at Moraine K. This is typically a 5 to 7-day hike. For those who do not want to attempt the treacherous sections after Lake Oberon or deterred by bad weather, staying two nights at Lake Cygnus with a day trip to Lake Oberon is an easy alternative to see some of the Arthurs. For all sadomasochists out there, the half traverse is a total distance of 46 km and the full traverse is a total distance of 72 km. The circuit begins and ends at the Huon Campground at Scotts Peak Dam. A rope is recommended for the circuit route beyond Lake Oberon.
Suggested Itineraries for Tasmania
One Week: The Best of Tassie Short on Time
Hobart will be the first destination. Explore the art galleries, excellent food, and nightlife while staying one night.
The Tasman Peninsula is two hours from Hobart, come for the day and hike either the Cape Raoul Track or Cape Hauy Track (or both).
Freycinet is a three-hour drive from the Tasman Peninsula. Exploring the tropical beaches and coves including Wineglass Bay is a must when visiting Tasmania. Mount Amos has the best views in the national park, but it is a challenging hike, albeit a short one.
Bay of Fires is an incredibly unique thing to see, with orange colored rocks and white sand beaches. Seeing Binalong Bay, the Gardens and any of the dozens of beautiful beaches will make you not want to leave. Bay of Fires is an excellent place for camping with lots of free campsites.
Cradle Mountain is a highlight of Tassie and a perfect way for to immerse into nature. Take up a few of the day hikes around Cradle Mountain.
Two Weeks: Tassie’s Best Sights and Hiking Adventures
All of the one-week sights: Hobart, Tasman Peninsula, Freycinet, Bay of Fires, Cradle Mountain
Two night, three-day Maria Island trip
Exploring the waterfalls at Mount Field National Park
Pick one or two multi-day hikes: Frenchman’s Cap, Pine Valley, or Mount Anne
Three Weeks: All of Tassie’s Gem’s and Epic Hiking Trips
All of the two-week sights: Hobart, Tasman Peninsula, Freycinet, Bay of Fires, Cradle Mountain, Maria Island, and Mount Field
West coast waterfalls: Nelson Falls, Hogarth Falls, and Montezuma Falls
Four-day hike at Frenchman’s Cap
Three-day hike at Mount Anne
Test your hiking skills to Lake Oberon, or attempt the Western Arthur Traverse
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Visited in December 2017