One of the best hikes in the world
Warwick Sprawson: According to a 2008 Tasmanian Parks and Wildlife Service report, 40% of hikers rated the Overland Track as ‘one of the best things they have ever done in their lives’.
This is the best & most famous walk in Australia.
AT A GLANCE
- surreal, unique Tasmanian vistas
- pretty lakes, tarns and waterfalls
- exiting by ferry it’s minimum 62km (38.5mi) carrying a pack plus many possible sidetrips without a pack.
- 8000-9000 walkers / year
- access by public transportation
- easy-moderate hiking IF the weather cooperates
- add challenging sidetrip peak scrambles if the weather is good
- Nov – early May best months
- possible to hike year round (snow travel during the winter)
- 7-nights recommended. Start Ronny Creek. Finish Cynthia Bay.
Gorgeous graphic via Warwick Sprawson – OverlandGuide.com
Why We Like This Hike
The Overland has it’s own dedicated website and a clear management plan.
- Cradle Mountain-Lake St Clair National Park, part of a World Heritage Site
- Tasmania is 40%+ protected wilderness
- quota system keeps the Track from getting overrun: 50-60 hikers / day (about 34 independent, 13 guided ‘group’ hikers, 13 private hut hikers)
- well signed, well maintained trails & huts
- ever-changing landscape, rainforest and alpine
- convenient sidetrip climb of Cradle Mountain
- convenient sidetrip climb of Mt Ossa, Tasmania’s tallest mountain
- groups of mixed ability are happy: energetic hikers do the sidetrips and meet the group back at the hut for the evening
- recommended sidetrip to Pine Valley (extra 1-2 days) to scramble The Acropolis & possibly visit The Labyrinth
- other good scrambles: Barn Bluff and Oakleigh. Even Mt. Olympus is tempting.
- optional boat trip exit on Lake St Clair, Australia’s deepest lake
- see Wallabies, Echidnas, and possibly Quoll, Wombat, Devils or Platypus
- cute lizards and skinks are your boon companions
- see the beech trees turn golden end of April / early May
- excellent solar composting toilets
- many kms of board walk. …Thank God!
- drinking water is easy to find. And sometimes good for swimming. Treat all H20, just to be safe.
- Track often fully booked Dec/Jan and during Easter holidays
- did we mention mud?
- you can choose whether to tent or sleep in huts, space permitting. (We prefer tenting.)
- Tasmania is latitude 40°S, directly in the path of the “Roaring Forties” winds. Hikers have turned back due to wind.
- pack for cold, wet, miserable weather
- they say Cradle Mountain has “only 32 clear days / year”
- plenty of snow falls on the highlands during the winter
- waterproof everything!
- hypothermia is a real danger
- no fires allowed
- bring a cook stove as none of the huts have them
- store your food securely or animals — especially possums — may chew holes in your tent. Mice and the like may get into your food.
- currawongs and ravens can open zips, clips and Velcro. Bring a pack cover to protect against birds.
- emergency position indicator radio beacons (EPIRBs) can be hired from the Cradle Mt and Lake St Clair Visitor Centres, though you don’t really need one during peak season
- biting insects (mosquitoes, wasps, flies, ants, etc.) pester hikers. Take the usual precautions — and bring salt solution to remove leeches.
- you might see snakes sunning on the trail. Wear sturdy boots and thick gaiters if this worries you. Surprisingly, not many hikers are bitten. Surprising since all Tassie snakes are venomous. We saw many.
- some huts have no good place to wash-up
- unfortunately Tasmania is known for the Port Arthur massacre when a mentally deficient young man went on a killing spree claiming 35 lives. We know Tasmania as one of the best destinations in the world for hikers.
- if relying on public buses for transport, be aware that many Overland hikers have ended up stranded overnight. They miss buses. They get schedules wrong. One driver forgot me at a rest stop, driving away with my pack! 😦
For the 2012/13 peak season (1 October – 31 May), the Overland Track Pass was A$200 for adults, A$160 for under age-16 and and pensioners.
All year round Overland hikers need a National Parks Pass. You can pick those up at Cradle Mountain or Lake St Clair Visitor Centres. Cost A$30-60 or more, depending on which option you choose.
If you want a guided adventure, budget about A$2000 for the week.
from Oct 1st 30 – May 31st 30th your are required to:
• walk north to south
• book in advance
• buy an Overland Track Pass
• buy a National Parks Pass
Off-peak hikers can:
• walk either direction
• don’t need to book
• only require a National Parks Pass
An “easy” recommended itinerary (north to south) of campgounds with huts for 7 nights:
- Waterfall Valley
- Lake Windemere
- Kia Ora
- Windy Ridge
- Pine — recommended sidetrip
Exit at Narcissus to catch a boat across Lake St Clair. (Or add an extra day by walking out 15.8km to Lake St Clair trailhead.)
The best strategy is to start the hike with enough food for at least 7 nights, then decide your exact route as you go based on the weather. If the sky is clear, add more sidetrip peak scrambles. If the weather is poor, march on as far as you are able each day.
You must start on the day designated by your Overland Pass, but are not committed to where you stay during the walk.
You might take 8 days. You might take only 5 or 6 days.
One important consideration is transport out. You need time your exit with the ferry at Narcissus hut and / or the Tassielink bus at Lake St Clair if you choose to use them. Times are posted in the huts.
Many hikers finishing earlier than expected stay at Lake St Clair for a night or two taking advantage of hot showers (guests only) and restaurant. Accommodation options include campground, dorm beds and cabins. Just 5km from the end of the Track is a pub and hotel.
Of course there are many variations and more challenging itineraries if you know the lay of the land. John Chapman, author of Cradle Mountain Lake St. Clair suggests a number of alternative options for experienced hikers including:
- add Walls of Jerusalem (2-4 days)
- hike Walls of Jerusalem to Overland Track (6-8 days total)
- Cradle Mountain Huts – guided hikes, private hut accommodation
- Tasmanian Expeditions – guided hikes
- Tasmanian Wilderness Experiences
- Tarkine Trails
- Wilderness Expeditions Overland Track options
This is a serious hike. Signing on with a guide is a good idea for many walkers. When we were there (hiking independently) the Cradle Mountain Huts hikers seemed very happy.
If you sign on with a guided trip, logistics will be organized for you. This section is for independent hikers.
- most hikers travel from the mainland by air: Qantas and its subsidiary JetStar, or Virgin Blue
- Tassielink Coaches offers convenient bus transport / luggage storage for Overland Track hikers. There are other transport options (McDermott’s Coaches and Redline) but most use Tassie Link. Look for their ‘Overland Track Package’..
- the most convenient jumping off city for the north trailhead at Cradle Mountain is Devonport, especially for those travellers arriving by ferry from the mainland.
- Launceston is a good jumping off point, as well, since an early morning Tassielink bus departure still gets you to the start of the Track early enough to have a shot at climbing Cradle mountain the same day.
- many hikers travel to Hobart at the end of the Overland as the bus connection is convenient. (In fact, many serious hikers do, as we did, the Overland en route to the South Coast Track which is accessed out of Hobart.)
- there are other public transport options to Cradle Valley but most hikers use Tassielink.
- the small town of Cradle Valley offers hotels, cabins, campgrounds and hostels are available if you want to overnight. In fact, a surprisingly good selection of hiking gear is available in Cradle if there is something you forgot to bring. But buy your food in one of the bigger cities.
- from Cradle, a free shuttle bus takes you to the Visitor’s Centre (where you will likely collect your Overland Track Pass) & on to the trailhead
- you may hear there is no rush the first day — that you can start mid-afternoon on the standard route. Not so. Start by noon latest to be safe. (Starting early is always a good rule for hiking. We’ve been dangerously stuck at nightfall too many times.)
- last day exit by ferry on Lake St Clair is recommended — though a surprising number of hikers opt to walk out with the ferry carrying only their pack
- a range of accommodation is offered near Lake St Clair
- public transport out is available again by Tassielink
- check the Tassielink website for up-to-date bus timetable and prices
- OverlandTrack.com.au – official website
Best Trekking Guidebooks
- The Overland Track: Cradle Mountain to Lake St Clair – by Warwick Sprawson, 2010, 280g. $19.99 through the website. Best coverage of mammals, birds, plants, geology and history. Updated online.
- Cradle Mountain Lake St Clair and Walls of Jerusalem National Parks – John & Monica Chapman, John Siseman, 2006. Includes Overland Track & more in the same region with on-line updates.
- Overland Track – John & Monica Chapman, 2006. A 64-page lightweight text specific to this hike excerpted from the previous book.
- The Overland Track – downloadable eBook – Frank & Sue Wall, 2011. PDF $A14.50
Chapman’s are two of the best guidebooks for any hike, anywhere in the world. We love the format. Sprawson’s is newer & includes flora and fauna. Get both, if you can.
On the other hand, carrying your guidebook as a PDF on a mobile device is even lighter. 🙂
- The Overland Track: A Walkers Notebook – Parks & Wildlife booklet (get the most recent edition)
- Bushwalking In Australia 4th edition – John & Monica Chapman, 2003. On-line updates.
- Lonely Planet Walking in Australia – Sandra Bardwell, 2001
- A Walk in the Wilderness – Nic Haygarth, 1999. Entertaining commentary on the Overland.
Check these on-line resources, as well:
Best Travel Guidebooks
- Lonely Planet Tasmania, 2011
- Tasmania, Australia’s Island Wilderness: Exploring Australia’s Best Kept Travel Secret, 2014
- Lonely Planet Australia, 2015
- Eyewitness Australia – DK Publishing, 2003
Other Recommended Books
- In Tasmania – Nicholas Shakespeare, 2006
- Secret Tasmania – Philip & Mary Blake, 2003
- The Tasmanian Tramp – journal of the Hobart Walking Club (available in Tasmania)
We read the excellent Shakespeare book while on the Track in 2007. (The story of the convict who died of snakebite was unnerving.)
- TASMAP Cradle Mountain-Lake St Clair National Park – 1: 100,000
Many hikers carry the TASMAP as well as (or instead of) a guidebook. Each hut has the TASMAP posted, however.
Best Web Pages
- Overland Track – Discover Tasmania
- Our Hiking Blog – Archive for the ‘Overland Track’
- Tassielink – bus transport
- Cradle Mountain-Lake St Clair National Park – Wikipedia
- Overland Track – Wikipedia
- Tasmania – Wikipedia
- Tasmania – Bushwalking – John Chapman
- Weather and Warnings – Bureau of Meteorology
- Spirit of Tasmania ferry
- Tiger Wilderness Tours – transport for hikers
- Outdoor Tasmania – transport for hikers
Best Trip Reports
- Overland Track (again) – Patrick Melon, 2013
- 10 lessons from hiking the Overland Track in winter, 2014
- Overland photos – Rick McCharles (besthike editor), 2007
- Lake St Clair to Cradle Mountain via 7 peaks – Andrew Purdam, 2000
- This Hiking Life 1996
- Trip Advisor trip reports
- Our Hiking Blog – Sue Wall’s solo trip report
- OVERLAND TRACK FROM SOUTH TO NORTH – TONY & MATTHEW WATTON, 2010
- Overland photos – Tom Lun, 2005
- Overland photos – the Steel Rat
- Overland photos – John Williams, 2003
- Overland Track in Winter – Stuart Edwards
- Overland photos – Jay Fraser, wildtiger.biz
- Overland photos – Tim Hester, winter 2004, wildtiger.biz
- Overland Track – Silke, in German
- Overland Track – photos posted on flickr.com
Discover Tasmania calls this the best Overland video they’ve ever seen. Kids, rain, mud, snow … and plenty of FUN on a family adventure. 🙂
Click PLAY or watch it on Vimeo.
Click PLAY or watch an official Parks intro on YouTube.