Top 10 Trails in Australia (Tasmania)

Explore Australia’s huge open spaces on trekking routes that penetrate every corner of the country to reveal surprisingly diverse snapshots of the island-continent’s landscape and nature

Story by Andrew Bain

Overland Track

Where Tasmania

When October to May

How long 65km

How tough
Moderate. No major climbs, but unpredictable and often fierce weather.

What’s great about it
Hike through the heart of Australia’s most distinctive mountain range.

Unquestionably the most famous hike in Australia, the Overland Track threads between some of the country’s most striking and rugged mountains as it traverses the length of Cradle Mountain-Lake St Clair National Park.

The six-day hike offers a varied experience, from the bare bones of the island across the alpine Cradle Plateau at the northern end, to rainforest and a trio of thundering waterfalls in the south, before ending on the shores of Australia’s deepest lake.

The track begins beneath Tasmania’s signature peak, Cradle Mountain, with the most sustained climb of the entire hike, before levelling out across the usually wind-blasted plateau. The Overland remains exposed for most of its length as it passes beneath many of Tasmania’s highest mountains but there are few other climbs as it doesn’t ascend any of the peaks. Side trails do veer away to the likes of Mt Ossa (Tasmania’s highest peak), Cradle Mountain and Barn Bluff though, any of which can be built into the hiking days.

The Overland Track is dotted with huts, but hikers are required to carry a tent in case of emergency (or just to escape the snoring in often packed shelters). Hiker numbers are limited to 36 each day through the permit season – October to May – when the track can only be walked from north to south (Cradle Mountain to Lake St Clair). Make your booking at www.parks.tas.gov.au/?base=7771 starting from July 1. Get in early to avoid disappointment as this is a popular trek.

Through winter the track remains accessible (no permits apply), and provides a very different experience, being uncrowded and often snow-covered, but rarely impassable.

Three Capes Track

Where Tasmania

When October to May

How long 46km

How tough
A well-groomed trail and minimal climbing make this an easy hike.

What’s great about it
Vertiginous views from the top of 300-m sea cliffs.

Opened only last Christmas, the Three Capes Track offers an accessible glimpse of the highest sea cliffs in the southern hemisphere, with uncustomary comforts along the way.

The track begins with a boat ride from the former convict station at Port Arthur to Denmans Cove and then follows a well-groomed trail – part boardwalk, part hard-rolled earth – to the heights of Cape Pillar and the well-named Blade, a sharp sliver of rock rearing above lighthouse-topped Tasman Island and a sea lion colony.

The track is a new breed of Australian hike, with each night spent in stylish, specially designed huts featuring large common areas, gas stoves, mattresses, deck chairs, yoga mats and USB phone chargers. Strategically placed along the track are art installations and benches, where hikers can sit and read the national parks-produced Three Capes Track guidebook to learn about the natural and human history of the area.

For all the pampering, however, the stars of this hike are the cliffs. Over Arthurs Peak, atop Cape Pillar and approaching Cape Hauy, the track overlooks one of the wildest sections of coastline in all of Oz. Columns of dolerite rise up 300m from the fury of the Southern Ocean, and snakes, wallabies and echidnas are likely hiking companions.

On the final day, the trail climbs to Cape Hauy, where you can peer over the cliff edge to look down on the slender dolerite sea stack known as the Totem Pole, one of the world’s most revered and photogenic rock-climbing routes.

The four-day walk comes at a price (AUS$500 per person), but it provides maximum views for minimum effort. Bookings can be made through the track’s official website, www.threecapestrack.com.au