Hiking Tasmania one for the bucket list

Take in the views on the Cradle Mountain Huts walk. Picture: Supplied
Take in the views on the Cradle Mountain Huts walk. Picture: Supplied

Some 40 per cent of Tasmania is protected national parks and reserves, so lace up your walking shoes or you'll miss some of Australia's best scenery, writes Jessica Palmer.

When National Geographic named its 25 best trips to take in 2020, some people were surprised to find Tasmania on the list. They shouldn't have been.

Here's what the influential journal had to say: "Once considered a backwater, Tasmania is now one of Australia's fastest-growing tourism destinations. Key to the appeal of Australia's southernmost state is its raw natural beauty, which it owes largely to a combination of its remoteness ... and the enduring green spirit of its half million or so residents.

"Swathed in 2000-year-old trees and home to real-life devils (and even "tigers", if you believe the rumours that the officially extinct thylacine lives on), it's the stuff outdoor adventures are made of."

With an area of 1.5 million hectares classified as Wilderness World Heritage, it is small wonder Tasmania is one of Australia's most popular outdoor destinations. And one activity is particularly popular: hiking.

From the raw and remote to the natural beauty of towering forests, the Apple Isle offers a huge diversity of experiences you can access on your own two feet.

And thanks to some major investment in infrastructure, you don't have to be Bear Grylls to do it. In Tasmania, walking holidays are accessible to nearly every city slicker looking for an off-grid break away from the cares of the modern world.

There are 2800 kilometres of managed walking tracks, with shorter trails for those just starting out, through to both luxury guided and independent multi-day hikes for those who are more confident. Wildlife spotting is the rule rather than the exception.

Here's our pick of Tassie's trails.

Overnight adventures on Tasmania's trails

Bruny Island Long Weekend Walk

The Bruny Island Long Weekend Walk covers 35 kilometres over three days of extraordinary surrounds. Run by the Tasmanian Walking Company, walkers are treated to off-grid luxury camping and meals created directly from the source.

Highlights include shucking oysters in crystal clear waters, admiring headland views where the next stop is Antarctica, photographing Bruny Island's rugged south coast, climbing through an ancient Gondwana rainforest to Mt Mangana and viewing the night sky without light pollution. A lucky few may even see the aurora australis.

The walk is moderate in difficulty and walkers should be in good health. As there are two guides on each trip, the small group can be split for those who wish to take their time.

The Bruny Island Long Weekend Walk departs from Hobart on a private boat transfer from the waterfront.

Maria Island Walk

The Maria Island Walk is a four-day guided trek - a fantastic combination of wilderness glamping on the beachfront, stunning scenery, history and wildlife. Walking with Great Walks of Australia, walkers can also opt for a "pack free'' experience covering a minimum of 25 kilometres.

Highlights include tramping through tall eucalypt forests, traversing five beautiful beaches, viewing dolphins swimming offshore, venturing inland to see giant Tasmanian blue gums, exploring the dramatic sea cliffs at Fossil Bay and walking around the northern tip of Maria Island through woodlands full of wildlife.

The walk is classed as easy to moderate with bush trails, beaches and sandy terrain. Walkers meet in Hobart for transfers to the east coast town of Triabunna, where it's a short scoot across the water to Maria Island.

Great walks for daytime explorers

Cape Hauy Track

One of Tasmania's 60 Great Short Walks, the Cape Hauy Track is a 9.4-kilometre return hike with unforgettable views.

The scenery is the highlight, with spectacular visuals both towards and from the rolling slopes of Cape Hauy. Expect to see awe-inspiring dolerite columns that plunge dramatically into the sea, woodlands, wildlife and wildflowers. If the season is right, passing whales can often be spotted.

A moderate level of fitness is required for the walk's rough surfaces and many steps. It takes about four hours but it's nicer to take your time and enjoy the views.

The trailhead begins at beautiful Fortescue Bay in the Tasman National Park, about a 90-minute drive south-east of Hobart. If you have more time, explore Port Arthur, only a 30-minute drive away.

Apsley River Waterhole and Gorge Walk

The Apsley River Waterhole and Gorge Walk is not widely known but it's a delight for nature lovers. With dolerite cliff walls, huge boulders and waterholes just waiting to be discovered, it feels you have found an untouched paradise in this pristine part of the world.

Highlights include the Apsley Waterhole, the wildlife and the magical moment as you near the Apsley River Gorge and the dry forest begins to sound like a rainforest with trickling water and bird trills.

In dry weather, it's possible to walk as a five-hour circuit by boulder hopping and scrambling along the semi-dry riverbed. If not, feel free to return the way you came, allowing two to three hours for the return walk. The compacted surface of the track is suitable for most ability levels, and rocks serve as makeshift steps on the steep sections.

The Douglas-Apsley National Park is located midway of the east coast, about 2.5 hours' drive from Launceston or three hours' drive from Hobart.

Dove Lake Circuit Walk

The six-kilometre Dove Lake Circuit Walk is one of Tasmania's premier walks and there is a boardwalk for much of the way. The clockwise track skirts around Dove Lake and beneath the towering spires of Cradle Mountain.

Highlights include mountain views, Glacial Rock, the Ballroom Forest, serene views of the lake and the much-photographed old boat shed.

It's not a difficult walk and takes about two to three hours. There is a steep but short section with steps and some rough surfaces, but otherwise, it's well maintained. The track is difficult to navigate if covered in snow.

The circuit starts from the Dove Lake car park. Take the free shuttle service to the lake from the visitor centre at the northern entrance of the Cradle Mountain-Lake St Clair National Park.

The park is a 2.5-hour drive from Launceston via Sheffield. Most people stay and explore the area for a few days.

Must-haves for hiking in Tasmania

  • Tasmania's weather is unpredictable, swinging from summer sun to shivering in a short space of time. All-weather clothes are a necessity.
  • Quality hiking shoes are a given, but it's a bonus if they are also waterproof. Expect to walk through a few puddles and flowing streams at some point.
  • Woollen or bamboo socks do a great job of regulating temperature and not "ponging" as much as synthetic materials. They also seem to last longer than regular socks.
  • A heavy-duty plastic bag inside your daypack will keep your phone, camera and other electronics dry if the weather turns bad.
  • Don't forget essentials such as water, snacks, sunscreen and a first-aid kit.
  • For multi-day hiking, your guide company will provide you with a list of required gear.

Where to stay

Hobart: Try MACq 01 for premium rooms and hosted luxury suites, each inspired by a Tasmanian character. The Old Woodstore Apartment Hotel is known for spacious rooms and friendly hospitality within its heritage-listed facade.

Launceston: Stay at the historic Cornwall Hotel, which is believed to be the oldest brick building in Tasmania. Or try the heritage-listed Leisure Inn Penny Royal for its old world charm and excellent location near Cataract Gorge.

Cradle Mountain: Stay at Cradle Mountain Lodge for luxury in the wilderness. Or for something more wallet-friendly Discovery Parks Cradle Mountain has a great community atmosphere.

Port Arthur: Stay at Stewarts Bay Lodge for its peaceful location on the shores of the bay.

Fly: Daily flights to Hobart and Launceston depart from Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane.

Explore more: Visit Bruny Island Long Weekend Walk at taswalkingco.com.au; Maria Island Walk; and 60 Great Short Walks

Must have: A Tasmania Parks & Wildlife Service permit. Get yours at passes.parks.tas.gov.au.