The morning is clear, the wilderness is waiting and ten walkers are keen to go. After a few gear adjustments we’re off, striding out along Tasmania’s Overland Track, which will see us cover 65km over six days through a magnificent World Heritage-listed landscape. Our trek is with Cradle Mountain Huts, the only company licensed to operate private eco-huts in this pristine environment.
Day 1 – Overland Track
After crossing a plain, we tackle the steepest section of the main track before a stop at the glacially-carved Crater Lake. Ah, the taste of clear mountain water.
Then it’s onward and upward, traversing one section with a chain rail, before emerging at Marion’s Lookout. The sun is shining (something you can’t count on) and there are wonderful views of Dove Lake below and Cradle Mountain opposite, so named because the dip in the middle resembles a baby’s cradle.
After lunch at Plateau Creek, we hike for four hours across exposed alpine plateau toward the towering rock formation Barn Bluff. Our guide shows us Mountain Pepper Berry, used by aboriginal people as “bush tucker.” I chew on a leaf that’s quite spicy.
Reaching Barn Bluff Hut, our first track lodging, we find tea and coffee ready. Later, people get to know each other over a hearty meal prepared by the guides.
Next morning we set out across Pine Forest Moor, through an eerie mist. Thankfully boardwalk has been installed here, across what was once a notoriously muddy section.
Reaching a side-track, we leave our packs at the junction, standard safety procedure so our rear guide will know where we’ve gone. Thirty minutes takes us to Lake Will, where our guide Will takes a swim as the mist rises. Truly, the names have not been altered.
An alpine landscape of button grass and small tarns makes for a beautiful morning walk. We examine footprints which Will believes belong to the quoll, a nocturnal Australian marsupial. The peace of the Enchanted Forest follows, before a stop at Lake Windermere for lunch. Our guides boil the billy (a traditional Australian metal water boiler) on a methylated spirit cooker.
The afternoon includes the spectacular Forth Valley Lookout before we head to Pine Forest Moor Hut.
The morning of the third day sees us skirting the base of Mount Pelion West down to the Forth River. The trail meanders through forest, where we’re encouraged to walk alone to sense the solitude.
I stand still, realising I’m being watched, but the small wallaby holds his ground and after taking his photo I move on.
Lunch is at historic Old Pelion Hut, now used only for emergencies, before a short detour to Fossil Creek, where we find, naturally enough, small fossils.
We reach the hut early, while some in the group have taken the long side-trip up Mount Oakleigh with the other guide. Joining us late for dinner, they share tales of a track where they were up to their chests in mud.
From the verandah of our bush hut I watch the changing colours of sunrise. Then after another hearty breakfast, it’s packs on and the boots are tramping again.
We pause at Douglas Creek with its small cascades, inspect a hybrid King Billy Pine-Pencil Pine, one of only three known on the track, before leaving our packs at the junction and heading to Mount Doris for lunch.
Then it’s decision time. Two rocky pinnacles form part of Mount Ossa, the guides calling them “The Gates of Mordor,” after that dread place in the film “Lord of the Rings.”
This time I’m game, as several of us go with one guide up the rocky slope. The five-hour detour sees us edge our way forward, each hand and foot placed carefully, best not to look back down too often. It’s as steep as one can manage without climbing gear.
There’s a sense of achievement standing atop Tasmania’s highest mountain. We look out across other peaks covered in darkening clouds and it does indeed seem like the eerie world of Mordor. This time at dinner it’s we who have stories to tell.
The fifth day sees us hiking through more forest, in the dappled light of early morning, stepping around fallen trees covered in moss, before emerging into an open clearing at Du Cane Hut.
Now used only for emergencies, this hut was built with King Billy pine shingles by trapper Paddy Hartnett in 1910.
Through the forest we go, taking a side-track down to three beautiful waterfalls. D’Alton Falls we view from across the river, before making our way up to Ferguson Falls, named after the park’s first ranger.
We have lunch by the creek near Hartnett Falls, a peaceful spot where some go swimming. Then it’s a short afternoon’s hike to Windy Ridge Hut for the evening.
Our last day is only a short walk of nine kilometres and three hours. The forest opens up, the path is flatter and birds plentiful. One highlight is crossing a swing bridge – don’t we just love that swaying feeling!
Reaching Narcissus at the northern end of Lake St Clair, Australia’s deepest natural lake, it’s time for a swim before lunch.
The walking over, even we who’d declined before decide now to take the plunge from the jetty.
It’s summer, how cold could the lake be? Whoa!
The Idaclair boat then takes us across the lake, a spectacular 17 kilometres to Cynthia Bay, where we relax awhile before the return trip to Quamby Estate.
Getting there: Virgin Australia, Qantas and Jetstar fly daily from Sydney and Melbourne to Launceston, Tasmania.
The walk: With Cradle Mountain Huts departs from and returns to Quamby Estate, 25 minutes’ drive from Launceston airport. Walk duration: 6 days, 5 nights. For dates, prices and transfer options.
Accommodation before and after: Quamby Estate or The Sebel, Launceston (special walkers’ rate)
More Tasmanian walks
1-The Maria Island Walk is a four-day guided walk around an island off Tasmania’s east coast, which in its entirety is a World Heritage listed national park.
4-The Walls of Jerusalem Experience uses a comfortable base camp to facilitate day walks with light packs into the heart of this spectacular mountain region of Tasmania. Four days.
5-The Tarkine Rainforest Track accesses the heart of Australia’s largest tract of cool temperate rainforest. Six days, wilderness camping, full packs.
6-The South Coast Track traverses unspoiled wilderness, remote beaches, rugged mountain ranges, pristine rivers and towering rainforests. It’s a challenging hike over 9 days with full packs and camping in the wilderness.
Can you recommend a walking holiday in Tasmania?