The 5 best hiking trails to see Tasmania

Looking to reconnect with the great outdoors? Tasmania’s hiking is second to none.

Man taking a picture of a woman at the top of the mountain
  • Mark Daffey
  • June 2018

Tasmania is Australia’s prettiest state, and it’s fair to say that’s no fluke. Close to half the island is protected under World Heritage, marine or forest reserve and national park classification. Its skies can be illuminated by the Aurora Australis like nowhere else, it contains the southern hemisphere’s largest untouched temperate rainforest and its plants and animals are survivors from the ancient Gondwana supercontinent.

Australia’s most southern state also has the nation’s best-preserved colonial history, plus a growing reputation for quality fresh produce and cool-climate wines. The Museum of Old and New Art (MONA), a privately-owned museum complex in Hobart, single-handedly lures visitors from afar and world-class golfing, fly-fishing and luxury lodges attract their share of attention.

Tasmania’s 2000km of walking tracks go from routes along coastal paths, to rainforest waterfalls, isolated mountains and rolling farmlands.

Here are five of the best hiking trails in Tasmania, from simple day hikes to week-long expeditions.

Sunset view at Cradle Mountain in Tasmania
Arriving at Cradle Mountain in Tasmania

1. Overland Track

There’s never a dull moment on Australia’s most iconic multi-day walk. The trail through the heart of the Cradle Mountain-Lake St Clair National Park is packed with breathtaking scenery from Ronny Creek to Cynthia Bay.

Stick to the track and there’s no section that’s overly difficult; you’re hiking through glacier-carved valleys and across buttongrass moorlands for much of the time. The exceptions are the climbs to Marion’s Lookout, the steepest section on the trail, and over Pelion Gap and Du Cane Gap.

To really appreciate this national park, add two or three extra days to your itinerary and squeeze in side trips to waterfalls and summit plateaus. The hike to the top of Cradle Mountain will reward you with spectacular views over Barn Bluff and Dove Lake. You can climb Tasmania’s highest peak, Mt Ossa. Or hike to The Acropolis for views over spectacular dolerite needles.

If you really want to up the ante, try tackling this trail in winter. Not only can you walk it in the reverse direction at this time (hikers must walk from north to south between 1 October and 31 May), but it’s also free. Alternatively, sign up for a guided tour with Cradle Mountain Huts and be spoilt by toasty accommodation, first-class meals and drying rooms for your sodden gear.

Length: 65km
Days: 6
Level: Not for first-timers
Best Time: March-April
Highlight: Approaching the solitary, volcanic Barn Bluff
Tip: Come prepared for poor weather
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Airport: Launceston

Bingalong red rocks in the Bay of Fires, Tasmania
Bingalong red rocks in the Bay of Fires, Tasmania

2. Bay of Fires

Walk along the powder-fine sands stretching along Tasmania’s north-eastern frontier and you’ll wonder what it must be like to live here and have these beaches to yourself.

Why we don’t see and hear more about the stretch of coast from Musselroe Point to Binalong Bay, near St Helens, is a mystery. If it was in Queensland, photographs of its sun-kissed beaches would be plastered all over billboards and magazines. Best of all, there are oodles of free campsites.

Most of the hike is on sand – some firm, some soft – and that makes it hard going at times. Start at Stumpys Bay and head south to the pink granite lighthouse at Eddystone Point. Continue to Purdon Bay, where surfers chase peaky waves, then finish at a headland called The Gardens.

Aromatic kunzea flowers perfume inland detours as you weave between peppermint gums and sheoaks. Keep an eye out for Bennetts wallabies, endemic Forester kangaroos and yellow-tailed black cockatoos.

Length: 43km
Days: 3
Level: Intermediate
Best Time: November-March
Highlight: Watching the sunrise across the ocean
Tip: Bring a hand line. This is one of Tasmania’s best regions for fishing
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Airport: Launceston

View of Wine Glass Bay from above
View of Wine Glass Bay from above

3. Wineglass Bay

If overnight hikes aren’t your scene, or you don’t have the right gear, the day hike to Wineglass Bay will fill the void.

Park outside the Freycinet Visitor Centre, where the track zigzags up to a saddle connecting Mounts Amos and Mayson – two-fifths of the Hazards Range you’ll be crossing. A short sidetrack leads to a lookout offering postcard-perfect views over Wineglass Bay.

Push on and you’ll descend through shady yellow-gum trees to the bay. Dip your toes in some of the clearest ocean water imaginable before crossing the narrow isthmus to Hazard’s Beach. Here, you’ll find evidence of Aboriginal shell middens in the dunes.

That’s one-third of the three-day, 30km Freycinet Peninsula Circuit that bears remarkable similarities to Victoria’s Wilson’s Promontory. Think granite boulders covered in orange lichen, quartzite sand beaches, a flowering coastal heath and aquamarine bays.

Length: 11km
Days: 1
Level: Beginner
Best Time: December-April
Highlight: The Wineglass Bay lookout
Tip: Bring your bathers
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Airport: Hobart

Sea cliffs of Cape Hauy in Tasmania
Sea cliffs of Cape Hauy in Tasmania

4. Three Capes Track

You could be forgiven for thinking you’d reached world’s end as the southern hemisphere’s highest sea cliffs plunge underfoot.

Despite some AUD $25 million spent readying the new kid on the block for its December 2015 opening, the Three Capes Track is an anomaly. So far the track only connects two capes – Pillar and Hauy – and it may remain that way unless fresh funds surface to develop the track to the third cape, Raoul. An hour-long scenic cruise across water from Port Arthur deposits you at Denman’s Cove. From this point, you’ll hike along velvety paths.

Feel the forces of nature as you skirt Tornado Ridge and traverse Hurricane Heath before standing at the edge of the abyss at Cape Pillar. Then it’s on to Cape Hauy, where rock climbers scale a slender dolerite column known as the Totem Pole, before finishing in Fortescue Bay – surely one of the country’s finest beaches.

Length: 46km
Days: 4
Level: An ideal introductory multi-day hike
Best Time: January-March
Highlight: Standing 300m above ocean at Cape Pillar
Tip: Charge devices via USB ports inside the track’s hut accommodation
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Airport: Hobart

Southwest National Park, Tasmania
Southwest National Park, Tasmania

5. South Coast Track

Forget about Facebook. Ignore Pokémon GO. Escape the Kardashians. This is hard-core trekking at its rawest, deep inside the vast expanses of the Southwest National Park. Access to this track starts with a flight from Hobart to a hand-made airstrip at Melaleuca. Then it’s 84km on foot over two mountain ranges, following Aboriginal trade and migration routes that doubled as escape paths for shipwrecked sailors, back to Cockle Creek – literally, the end of the road.

Camp by beaches, ford rushing creeks, plough through muddy bogs, row across wind-whipped lagoons, scramble over tree roots and pick off blood-sucking leeches while polar winds and the Roaring Forties batter you to tears. What’s not to like?

Length: 84km
Days: 7-9
Level: Challenging
Best Time: December-March
Hightlight: Crossing the Ironbound Range near the track’s midpoint
Tip: Fly into Melaleuca to avoid weather-related flight delays
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Airport: Hobart