Overland Track Tasmania

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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 the 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. These Overland track huts provide comfortable accommodation for trekkers willing to tackle the five-night hike.

Overland Track Itinerary

Day 1 – Overland Track hiking to Barn Bluff Hut

overland track huts
The Overland Track huts provide cosy shelter for trekkers on the five-night trek.

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, the first of the Overland track huts, we find tea and coffee ready.

Later, people get to know each other over a hearty meal prepared by the guides.

Day 2 – Lake Will and Lake Windermere

overland track hiking
Overland track hiking allows us to see footprints that belong to the quoll, a nocturnal Australian marsupial.

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 of Overland track hiking 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.

Day 3 – Lunch at Old Pelion Hut

walking the overland track
Finding fossils while walking the Overland Track.

The morning of the third day walking the Overland track 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.

cradle mountain walks
The Overland Track is the most famous of the Cradle Mountain Walks.

Day 4 – Mount Ossa

From the verandah of our bush hut, I watch the changing colours of sunrise. Then after another hearty breakfast, it’s packed on and the boots are tramping the Overland Track 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 Overland 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.

overland track huts
Overland track huts

Day 5 – Ferguson Falls and Hartnett Falls

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.

overland track
Photos: Bruce Holmes

Day 6

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.

Discover Tasmania

Getting there: Virgin Australia, Qantas and Jetstar fly daily from Sydney and Melbourne to Launceston.

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.

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.

2- The Freycinet Experience Walk covers the entire length of the Freycinet Peninsula on Tasmania’s East Coast, including the iconic Wineglass Bay, over four days with guides.

3- The Bay of Fires Lodge Walk traverses sandy beaches and secluded coves during a four-day walk.

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.

Discover Tasmania

Hiking in remote places is a good way to see the Southern Lights in Tasmania. For more hiking holidays in Tasmania see Best of Tasmania. Combine your hike with a food and wine trail in northern Tasmania. Here’s a 5 day Tasmania itinerary for food lovers.

For more ideas on things to do in Tasmania see Tourism Tasmania’s website.

Overland Track Tasmania

Overland Track Tasmania

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bruce holmes
It’s always my intention in writing and photographing to capture not only the places I’ve visited but the experiences of the traveller. With a Bachelor of Arts degree from Sydney University, I taught secondary English and spent many a vacation departing for foreign climes, eventually deciding that after all that time reading other people's words, I should be writing a few of my own. My work has appeared in a broad range of publications worldwide, including newspapers the Sun-Herald, New Zealand Herald, Dallas Morning News and South China Morning Post, magazines Australian Traveller, Get Up and Go and Great Walks and online at CNN Travel and ninemsn.