Frenchmans Cap

Situated deep in Tasmania’s wild west, Frenchmans Cap is one of the most challenging and spectacular multi-day walks in Australia. This pristine environment forms part of Tasmania’s Wilderness World Heritage area and is home to wild rivers, remote rainforests and towering quartzite mountains which have seen relatively little disturbance since European settlement in the 19th century.

Renowned for its steep, muddy trail and relentless rainfall this walk is not one for the faint-hearted. The return journey takes in a 46km, 4 day return walk through the Franklin-Gordon Wild Rivers National Park. We visited in late October and were lucky enough to time our ascent to the summit with a short break in the weather.

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Setting out from the Lyell Highway, the trail crosses the magnificent Franklin River after around five minutes, a symbolic crossing into an area of wilderness thankfully still relatively intact after Tasmania’s mid 20th century dam building era. Within an hour, we were well into the steady climb over Mount Mullens, the first of two significant ascents on the 14km trip toward Lake Vera. We stopped for lunch by the Loddon River, a slow moving river notable for the dark, tannin-stained waters seeping from the buttongrass plains that characterise this part of Tasmania.

After lunch we set off across the Loddon Plains, once known for their waste deep mud but now a breeze to walk thanks to a significant donation from Dick Smith. This has alleviated some of the damaging track braiding which had been occurring as traffic increased in recent years, giving the plains a chance to recover. We arrived at Lake Vera Hut after a steady climb through some beautiful temperate rainforest - after six hours of walking it was nice to rest and share dinner before we embarked on the second day’s trip to the summit.

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The second day took us from Lake Vera to the Frenchmans Cap summit before heading back to stay the night at the new Lake Tahune Hut, a surprisingly luxurious retreat given the location deep in the mountains of Western Tasmania. Clocking in at around 11 hours walking for the day, this may be simultaneously the most challenging, yet most spectacular day of walking we’ve done in Tasmania to date. A steep 400m climb through dense rainforest up Barron Pass, on a track consisting of little more than tree roots is no walk in the park.

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From Barron Pass through to Lake Tahune, the walk is really slow going as the trail climbs and falls below Sharland’s Peak and across Artichoke Valley and its skeletons of old pine trees destroyed by a wayward campfire in the 1960s. Escaped campfires like this are the reason all of Tasmania’s Wilderness World Heritage area are fuel-stove only areas - only one small slip up by an individual can result in irreparable damage to this fragile landscape. Please, if you visit these areas, do not light fires!

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When we arrived at Lake Tahune, we feared the weather may have beaten us; we knew a change was forecast for later in the evening and clouds were setting in. Nevertheless, we knew this would be our only chance to reach the summit so set out on the 3km, 4 hour return trip. Almost immediately the track takes a steep turn and climbs relentlessly toward the most spectacular mountain in Western Tasmania.

At times the ascent toward the summit felt more like rock climbing than walking, with a couple of particularly challenging boulders to navigate, in addition to some deep snow drifts left over from the long winter. The effort was worth it as after all of this the clouds parted, revealing spectacular views of the wild and rugged landscapes below. After 23km it was impossible not to celebrate reaching this point, we took a few minutes to enjoy the views before beginning the journey back down toward Lake Tahune.

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Our third day was marked by heavy rainfall and strong wind as we retraced our steps back from Lake Tahune to Lake Vera - keeping our feet on the slippery track and strong winds was a difficult challenge at times, reminding us that the weather in these parts can be dangerous to even the most prepared.

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The weather cleared for our final day of walking, a trip which seemed to last forever once the possibility of a cold beer and hot food began to play on our minds. As we crossed Mount Muller we glanced one final view of the peak we had climbed two days earlier - reflecting on how wonderful it is that places like this still exist, wild and untamed, free from commercialisation. Something worth preserving.

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South Cape Bay

Hiking during winter in Tasmania is a totally different proposition than in the warmer summer months.  Short days, ferocious winds and cold temperatures can all be expected, and places take on a different character during this season.

Seeking a much needed dose of fresh air, I set out with my dad to South Cape Bay on a wild July afternoon recently. Facing rain, hail and strong winds was an enriching experience, and a reminder of the unforgiving, and at times unrelenting forces of nature.

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The South Cape Bay track is located within the vast Southwest National Park, and begins at the end of Australia's southernmost road at Cockle Creek. From here, it is a further eight kilometres walk one way. The trail itself is easy to follow and relatively flat for most of the walk, meandering between eucalypt forest and open valleys along the way.

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After around two hours we arrived at the moon-like cliffs overlooking the bay, which offer spectacular views toward the wild southern coastline. The southwesterly winds were blowing right into the bay, generating huge surf that blocked access to the beach below. 

In finer weather, Lion Rock at the opposite end of the beach offers a wonderful picnic spot, while South Coast Track campsites are located further around the headland for those who are looking to spend more than a day on this wild and remote coastline.

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Lake Belcher

What we thought would be an easy day walk turned into a real adventure earlier this week as we visited Lake Belcher in Mount Field National Park. I'd wanted to do this walk for a while now, and a midweek public holiday presented the perfect opportunity.

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Lake Belcher is a little off the beaten path when you consider 95% of visitors to Mount Field only see Russell Falls, and of the 5% that go beyond, only a fraction make the six hour return journey to this spectacular little lake.

After a steady walk across moorlands and a steep downhill descent, the track becomes extremely muddy and at times difficult to follow through thick buttongrass and scrub at the bottom of the valley.  Much to the disappointment of my legs, I had left my gaiters at home and really regretted this oversight as I stood almost knee deep in mud on more than one occasion!

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We made it to Lake Belcher for lunch and stopped to enjoy this beautiful, isolated place under the glare of the midday sun as we shared the valley with noone other than a couple of fishermen and a few birds in a nearby tree.

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Need to Know:
Time: 6 hours return
Distance: 12 km
Difficulty: Moderate - Hard
Tip: Don't forget gaiters - mud is unavoidable on this trail!

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The Overland Track

The Overland Track is a pilgrimage for many Australian walkers, and is widely recognised as one of the best multi-day walks in the country.  The track starts at Cradle Mountain and traverses 65km of remarkable wilderness through rugged mountains, alpine plains and dense rainforest to Lake St Clair, Australia's deepest lake. The trail is well formed and easy to follow for the majority of the walk, with basic huts and campsites spread along the trail. Most people choose to complete the walk in six days, which allows time to take in the magnificent surrounds and explore some of the many side trails along the way. As many of you know, there is nothing I enjoy more than spending time in nature, so this year for my birthday, Madeleine and I set out on the overland track with our families. 

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Things you should know:

  • You will get wet. On average, it rains about 200 days of the year on the Overland Track, so invest in quality rain gear before you go, and make sure to keep a dry change of camp clothes.

  • Pack light but sensibly. The weather can be extreme at any time of year - we walked in February, and encountered sleet, strong wind and heavy rain - snow had also fallen in the days before we left. A full packing list can be found on the Overland Track Website.

  • Bring a tent. There are cabins on the track, but they aren't big enough to sleep everyone comfortably. You will also need a tent in case of emergency, as the weather can change fast.

  • There is no phone service. To me, this is part of the appeal of a walk like this - you will be cut off from modern life and unable to contact anyone while you're on the trail.

  • Leave no trace. Familiarise yourself with the seven leave no trace principles to help protect this remarkable environment.

  • Plan your transport. The walk is a one-way trail, and it's a 3.5 hour drive to get back to the start - options are available to help with logistics, such as Overland Track Transport.

  • A $200 booking fee applies during the walking season (October - May). This fee pays for maintenance of the track and huts, and helps minimise your environmental impact. You will also need a parks pass in order to access Tasmania's National Parks.

Day 1 - Escape from it all

Ronny Creek to Waterfall Valley: 11km / 6 Hours

We stayed at Cradle Mountain the night before setting out so that we could make an early start. The first day is one of the longer days on the walk, and we wanted to allow ourselves ample time to stop and enjoy the scenery along the way.  We set out from Ronny Creek on a moody grey morning and slowly made our way uphill through beautiful rainforest and across open plains toward Kitchen Hut for lunch.

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As the fog lifted throughout the morning, we were treated to incredible views of rugged dolerite mountains, glacial lakes and deep gorges. This is one of the higher sections of the main trail and the views of the surrounding landscape make for an incredibly rewarding experience after the constant climb during the morning. We continued walking around the western side of Cradle Mountain past Fury Gorge through ancient pine forests and open alpine plains before descending into Waterfall Valley where we set up camp in the shadow of Barn Bluff and spent the afternoon relaxing and playing card games.

Day 2 - Wide Open Spaces

Waterfall Valley to Lake Windermere 8km / 3 Hours

Day two of the Overland Track is by far the shortest section, covering less than 8km across relatively flat and easy terrain. We awoke to light drizzle and Barn Bluff was no longer visible from camp, so delayed our start a little to let the weather pass before setting out.

There is a short side-trip on this section of the walk to Lake Will, so we made a detour there for morning tea on a small secluded beach bordered by ancient King Billy Pines - some of the oldest living things on the planet at over 2,000 years old. Being in the presence of these ancient trees is always a humbling experience, and a reminder of the fleetingness of our own time here.

By the time we finished our cup of tea, the rain was becoming heavier so we made a dash back to the main trail to get our packs and walk to Windermere Hut for lunch and a swim.

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Day 3 - Solitude and Awe

Lake Windermere to New Pelion Hut - 17km / 6 Hours

The third day on the Overland Track was a highlight for me, waking early to catch the sunrise by Lake Windermere as the weather cleared from the previous day. It was so refreshing waking early and feeling the crunch of frost beneath my feet as I wandered to the lake shore around five minutes from our camp. Spending time alone in the wilderness like this is a wonderful experience and after two days of walking, all of the little worries and anxieties that come with modern life had disappeared.

The trip between Lake Windermere and New Pelion Hut is the longest on the Overland Track, and covers an incredibly diverse landscape including the wide open plains of Pine Forest Moor and densely forested slopes of Mount Pelion West. There is a beautiful lunch stop at the Forth River, which was a welcome respite on what turned out to be the warmest day on the trail. Word of warning though, beware of the mosquitoes if you stop too long!

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After around six hours of walking we arrived at New Pelion Hut, by far the largest and most luxurious hut on the Overland Track (it can sleep up to 60 people in bad weather!). We settled in and had a cup of tea before heading to the Old Pelion Hut and a swim in an icy creek nearby - the cold water was so refreshing and helped heal a few sore bodies in our group. The bushland around New Pelion Hut was teeming with wildlife - we saw Wombats, Pademelons and an Echidna fossicking around for a feed during the early evening.

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Day 4: Mountains and Wild Weather

New Pelion Hut to Kia Ora Hut - 9km / 3.5 Hours

We awoke to a gusty, overcast morning and the weather forecast for rain was looking like being correct, which dashed our hopes of scaling Mount Ossa. We decided to opt for head-to-toe rain gear sensing what was to come.  This turned out to be a wise move, as within minutes of leaving we found ourselves caught in a large thunderstorm - it was a surreal experience as we climbed through the ancient rainforest with heavy rain falling and thunder echoing around the valley.

By the time we reached Pelion Gap the thunderstorm had passed, but a cold change followed bringing sleet and strong winds that blew me off track a couple of times - we later found out that parts of Tasmania had recorded 146kmh wind gusts (equivalent of a Category 2 Cyclone) that day! After the morning's weather, everybody was looking for a place in the hut that night, and places to hang clothes were at a premium - we ended up using tent ropes to hang wet clothes between the ceiling beams of the hut.

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Day 5: Waterfalls and Rainforest

Kia Ora Hut to Windy Ridge - 9km / 4 Hours

Day five of the Overland Track meanders almost entirely through thick rainforest, with a few spectacular waterfalls a short walk from the main trail on the Mersey River. Much of the track consists of tree roots and other natural surfaces, so requires a little more concentration than previous days.

Our walking clothes had only partially dried in the hut overnight, so we set out in damp clothes reminding ourselves we would have been wet again within minutes anyway given the continuing rain. After around an hour of walking, we arrived at the historic Du Cane Hut, built in 1910 by a local trapper. The hut is very basic and should be used only in emergency, but we stopped for a drink and brief respite from the rain before continuing.

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After another 30 minutes or so of walking we arrived at the first of two side-trails which lead to some spectacular waterfalls on the Mersey River. The first trail leads to D'Alton and Fergusson Falls and is a short 30-minute return walk from the Overland Track. Not much further along the main trail is the turnoff to Hartnett Falls, one of the most spectacular waterfalls in Tasmania. I'd highly recommend these side-trails, even more so in the kind of wet weather that we were blessed with. 

From the waterfalls, it's around another 90 minutes to Bert Nichols Hut at Windy Ridge - much of this is a steady climb to Du Cane Gap, before a short, steep descent to the hut.

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Day 6: Back to Reality

Windy Ridge to Narcissus River - 9km / 3 Hours

Our group had chosen to take the afternoon ferry from Narcissus Hut rather than walk the length of Lake St Clair, so we were able to take it easy in the morning and spent some time around camp.  There was a ranger at Bert Nichols Hut who was incredibly knowledgeable about the area, and Tasmania in general - it was nice to chat and learn about the history of the Overland Track, and ongoing challenges in preserving the value of wild places in Tasmania. 

The walk is pretty much all downhill from Windy Ridge to Narcissus, so the 9km felt like a breeze compared to previous days. It was our third straight day of rain, getting wet by now was no longer a worry and it was wonderful listening to the sounds of the eucalypt forest as we made our way down the valley. Even though it felt like we were walking at a leisurely pace, it took us less than three hours to complete this leg before reaching Narcissus, where we radioed the ferry to take us back to the Lake St Clair Visitor Centre for a well-earned meal.

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In Summary...

The Overland Track is an incredible experience. The facilities are great for a multi-day walk and the track is suitable for anyone with a moderate level of fitness. It's a great walk to do with family or friends - our group ranged from late teens to early sixties, and there were younger families on the trail when we walked. If you have some bushwalking experience already, this is a wonderful way to fully immerse yourself in the Tasmanian Wilderness. If you prepare well, the Overland Track is almost guaranteed to be an experience you will remember for a long time.

All photos were taken by Madeleine or myself. For more photos, continue below or join me on instagram

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Wildflowers, Lush Forests and Ocean Views at Mount Fortescue

Tasman National Park is home to towering sea cliffs, beautiful wildflowers, lush rainforest and an array of trails waiting to be explored. With the holiday season in full swing, I recently walked the Mount Fortescue circuit with family.

This 17km, six hour circuit walk is a great way to experience the Tasman National Park and get a small taste of the world-renowned Three Capes Track experience without the cost.

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The Mount Fortescue circuit is a relatively easy walk considering the distance, as over half of the circuit follows the Three Capes Track.

The walk commences around 200m from the Fortescue Bay car park and follows the old Cape Pillar track gently uphill through forest and heathlands with an amazing array of wildflowers until meeting the Three Capes Track near Retakunna Hut. 

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From the hut, it is a steady uphill climb to the 482m summit of Mount Fortescue. This is a beautiful area with lush tree ferns and towering eucalypts shrouded in mist, more characteristic of the state's west. 

When the cloud and sea fog lifted, it revealed some of the most spectacular ocean views I've ever seen - the towering dolerite cliffs of this area are genuinely spectacular, and are made even more so by the lush vegetation that frames these vistas.

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The trail continues along the coastline, passing the junction to Cape Hauy before meandering toward Fortescue Bay, a sheltered inlet home to one of the best little beaches in Tasmania, and the place we started the circuit six hours earlier.

This is one of the best day walks on the Tasman Peninsula, and I would recommend it alongside Cape Raoul to anyone looking for a longer day walk with some variety. 

Note: The circuit must be walked anti-clockwise, as it follows a one-way section of the Three Capes Track.

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Mount Field West

Mount Field National Park is a favourite place of mine, somewhere I've been going my entire life yet always find new places to explore.  We saw the weather forecast was looking good last Sunday so decided to set out on the long day walk to Mount Field West, a walk that has been on our to-do list for some time now.

After leaving Hobart early we were on the trail by 8:00am to soak up what remained of the crisp morning atmosphere. The days are long at this time of year, so it's a good time to attempt a walk like this, but it also means starting early to avoid the daytime sun.

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The walk starts out at Lake Dobson, a small tarn 16km from the park entrance. This is a wonderful place to get a taster of Tasmanian alpine landscapes if you're not keen on some of the longer, more remote walks in the area.

It was perfectly calm as we set out around the shoreline, before climbing through a beautiful section of forest toward the Lake Seal lookout.

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Lake Seal was carved by one of many glaciers that covered Tasmania during ice ages throughout its history, a glacier that also formed the Broad River Valley that flows to the north. This is one of my favourite views in the entire park, and is missed by the vast majority of visitors to Mount Field who only visit Russell Falls and the lower section of the park.

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From the lookout and ski huts, we climbed further up the Rodway Range where the trail becomes a rock scramble for most of the distance to K Col hut, a small emergency shelter located around halfway to Mount Field West.

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The views looking north up the Hayes Valley from K Col saddle were a highlight of the trip as we made our way closer to the summit. During summer months, the finer details are just as spectacular though - there are a huge variety of wildflowers that call this area home and it's not an understatement to say they blanket the dolerite rocks in some areas.

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After a final, flat stretch of track we finally reached the summit. It took a little longer than expected at almost five hours, but we hadn't been travelling particularly fast and had made time to take photos and enjoy the views along the way.

From the summit, the views over Southwest Tasmania are stunning - a panorama of mountains and wilderness makes for a rewarding view.

We turned and made our way back home in much shorter time, the lure of shade from the now scorching Tasmanian sun enough to focus our minds on the mission ahead.

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Mt Field West
Time: 9 hours return
Distance: 17 km
Difficulty: Moderate - Hard
Tip: The long, mild days in summer are great for a walk like this, but bring extra water and sunscreen - there are few places to find shelter from the elements.

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Sunset at Hartz Peak

It's getting toward that crazy time of year again where all of our weekends seem to be filled by some kind of commitments or activities close to home, so finding time to get out into the outdoors requires a little more creativity than usual.

Luckily, daylight hours are also long so we took the opportunity to climb Hartz Peak late one Saturday afternoon. Hartz Mountains National Park is an accessible yet quiet place to experience the Tasmanian wilderness.  We arrived around 90 minutes after leaving Hobart, and set out on the four hour return walk to the summit.

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It was a warm, clear afternoon and the last traces of winter snow had given way to the first wildflowers of the season. The views were spectacular as we climbed toward the summit - the trail passes two small lakes before reaching Hartz Pass, offering the first glimpse into the wild southwest wilderness.

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We were afforded remarkable views upon reaching the top. Tasmanian weather can be unpredictable at any time of year and Hartz Peak is no different - this was the fourth time we had been here, and have been treated to wind, rain and heavy fog on past visits. To get perfect weather was a real bonus.

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On a clear day, the summit offers views deep into the Southwest wilderness with Federation Peak and Precipitous Bluff visible in the distance. The light and colours over the landscape this late in the afternoon were incredibly beautiful. With the park to ourselves it was a great opportunity to really savour the moment. 

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We could have stayed at the summit for hours, but could see a thunderstorm had formed in the distance and was slowly heading our way. We slowly made our way down the mountain, stopping at Lake Esperance along the way - the forest was almost perfectly reflected in the lake. It was a perfect moment to cap off a wonderful evening escape.

Hartz Peak
Time: 4 hours return
Distance: 8 km
Difficulty: Moderate
Tip: If the weather is fine in Hobart, it isn't always fine at Hartz Peak. Come prepared for any weather just in case!

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Walls of Jerusalem National Park

Walls of Jerusalem is a remote and wild national park in Tasmania's central highlands renowned for its ancient pencil pine forests, alpine lakes and dolerite peaks.  The park is an exposed and isolated wilderness area only accessible via an overnight walk - you won't find any roads, cars or crowds in this part of Tasmania.

We spent three days in the park recently, walking the 26km return trip to Mount Jerusalem, in addition to a few small side trails along the way.

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The last remnants of winter remained visible as a few snow flurries covered shadowy slopes, but it was enough to prevent us climbing some of the higher peaks such as Solomons Throne so we stuck to the main trails as we explored the central walls on a moody Thursday afternoon, catching the last light on the distant Mount Jerusalem.

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We set up camp and settled in relatively early so we could catch sunrise over some of the tarns the next morning. The days are getting longer in Tasmania at this time of year so we were up at 5:00am for an early breakfast before hitting the trail to reach the Pool of Bethesda for sunrise.

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It was a beautiful start to the day as the clouds cleared and made way for the crisp morning light to bathe the West Wall. After around an hour of walking we reached the Pool of Bethesda, a small alpine tarn surrounded by ancient Pencil Pines, possibly over 1,000 years old.

Tasmanian Pencil Pines are a rare sight - a relic of past ice ages and unable to recover from fire, they are now only isolated to cold mountainous areas that offer relative protection from wildfires that ravage other parts of the state.

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The Pool of Bethesda is such a peaceful place. Madeleine and I were the only people in sight as we sat and watched the morning light change in front of us while listening to what sounded like hundreds of frogs in the surrounding pools and creeks.

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Soon enough, we continued our six hour return walk to Mount Jerusalem. We climbed through the Damascus Gate, which offers spectacular views back toward Lake Salome and the central walls before making our way downhill through the magical Dixons Kingdom Pine Forest.

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Dixons Kingdom is one of the prettiest places I've been in Tasmania. The ancient pencil pines have so much character and are unlike any other forest in Australia. From Damascus Gate, the trail meanders through this unique landscape for around 30 minutes before arriving at the Dixons Kingdom hut, an old trappers camp from the 19th century.

We paused for some morning tea before continuing to the top of Mount Jerusalem. It's a relatively easy climb from Dixons Kingdom, and as the highest peak in the area the views are stunning. Thousands of lakes were visible on the central plateau, which seems to stretch on forever with little sign of any civilisation. Mount Ossa, Tasmania's highest peak was also visible to the west with a thick blanket of snow.

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After freezing at the top for a while in the strong breeze it was time to retrace our steps back to camp, where we spent a relaxing afternoon before the rain set in for the night.

There are a number of other remote trails in Walls of Jerusalem, including the Lake Adelaide circuit which we are keen to explore on our next visit. If you've been to Walls of Jerusalem before and have any tips for our next visit, leave a comment below.

Need to know:

Mount Jerusalem
Time: 2-3 days return
Distance: 26 km
Difficulty: Moderate
Tips: Walls of Jerusalem is an isolated, remote wilderness area so be prepared for all kinds of weather. Wild Dog Creek campground offers the best facilities with a water supply and toilet nearby.

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A Guide to Climbing Stacks Bluff

A few weekends ago Madeleine and I met up with our friends Jack and Lauren to climb Stacks Bluff at the southern end of Ben Lomond National Park. This is one of the more impressive walks we've done in the eastern half of Tasmania, so I am sharing a few photos and tips about the walk.

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Ben Lomond National Park is located in northeastern Tasmania, around one hour drive from Launceston, or two and a half hours from Hobart. It's home to Tasmania's premier ski field, but outside of the winter months it offers a number of interesting bushwalking routes, including Stacks Bluff, Tasmania's ninth-highest summit at 1527 metres.

The Stacks Bluff walk commences near the old tin mining village of Story's Creek, which we were told is home to just one resident these days. The trailhead is rather difficult to find, around 3km out of town on a very rough, rocky single lane track. While it is manageable in a 2WD vehicle, it is not for the faint-hearted!

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The first section of the walk climbs steadily through open dry forests typical of Tasmania's north east. The track is not as well defined as more popular trails in Tasmania, so it pays to keep an eye out for markers on trees. After around an hour of walking, the trail enters a large and impressive scree field before climbing sharply to reach the Ben Lomond Plateau.

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I quite enjoy navigating these boulder fields, as they require complete concentration and single-mindedness to avoid stumbling. After around an hour of scrambling, the track levels out at the plateau, and offers a wonderful view looking back over the boulder field and Tranquil Tarn. The plateau is a welcome respite, and walking is relatively easy for another 30 minutes to the summit.

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From the summit of Stacks Bluff, the views are nothing short of spectacular and a huge portion of Tasmania is visible on a clear day. We were able to see as far as the Freycinet Peninsula and Maria Island to the east, and kunanyi/Mount Wellington to the south.

Most impressive of all though were some local Wedge-Tailed Eagles taking advantage of the updrafts around the towering dolerite cliffs. The Tasmanian subspecies is endangered with only around 350 breeding pairs remaining in the wild, so it is unusual to see four in the same area at once. We felt extremely lucky to see so many up close like this and stayed watching them at the summit for over an hour before heading home via the same trail.

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Need to know:

Stacks Bluff Summit
Time: 6-8 hours return
Distance: 13 km
Climb: 700m
Difficulty: Moderate-Hard
Tips: Bring extra water, as there are no large creeks or waterholes along the trail. Allow for extra time at the summit to enjoy the breathtaking views.

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A Weekend on the West Coast

Friday:

The week was drawing to a close as we packed up the car for another weekend away. We knew snow was forecast and the weather would be setting in as we approached Lake St Clair in the evening for a quick stopover on the way to the west coast. No matter how many times I travel across the state, there's always a sense of excitement about what might be in store as we explore the ever-changing Tasmanian landscape.

We arrived at Lake St Clair in the dark - our plan was to meet our friends Jack and Lauren early on Saturday before embarking on a few walks on Tasmania's west coast. There had been light snow falling as we travelled through the highlands, and although it was not enough to slow us down, we were not sure what the morning might have in store as we continued our journey.

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Saturday:

We awoke to a light dusting of snow and a beautiful sunrise over Australia's deepest lake.  It was freezing cold (-3 according to the nearest temperature gauge) but aside from the icy ground crunching beneath our feet, we barely noticed the cold as we stood awestruck by the spectacular views around the lake and Mount Olympus a few kilometres to the north.

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Before long we set out on the next leg of the drive to meet Jack and Lauren at Nelson Falls. The drive is usually an hour or so from Lake St Clair, but we took our time as the higher sections of road were covered by a thin blanket of snow. The drive through the Franklin-Gordon Wild Rivers national park is spectacular at the best of times, but it takes on a whole new character after snowfall.

Nelson Falls

We arrived at Nelson Falls and stretched our legs on the short 20 minute return walk. The waterfall was in full flow after recent rain and heavy snowfall, the wind and spray made for a very refreshing break before we continued on to Lake Burbury for a quick stopover on our way through to Strahan, a beautiful seaside village on Macquarie Harbour.

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After arriving at Strahan, we spent the afternoon exploring the nearby coastline. The open landscapes really lend themselves to relaxation - it was easy to forget the passage of time as we wandered around the Henty Dunes watching storms crawl along the coastline as the daylight softened and gave way to twilight.

Before long it was time to retire to our cabin for wine and cheese before Sunday morning's walk to Tasmania's highest waterfall.

Henty Dunes
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Sunday:

It was an early start as we set out on the drive to Montezuma Falls, around an hour north of Strahan.  The walk is relatively flat along a good trail, taking around 3 hours return as it follows a contour around some deep, heavily forested valleys. 

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After around 90 minutes the trail opened up a little, allowing views of the surrounding mist-covered hills and rainforest.  We could hear the sound of fast-moving water as we approached a long swing bridge over the valley, little did we know this would be our first glimpse of the towering waterfall cascading down into the rainforest below.

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Like many trails in Tasmania, we had it all to ourselves so stopped for a while to take it all in and fill our lungs with the cold, fresh air. All in all, a fitting end to a weekend well spent.

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How to get there:

The 4.5 hour drive from Hobart to Strahan is one of the best road trips in the country, with a number of incredible stops along the way. Although there's a multitude of hiking, kayaking and adventure options on the west coast, a rewarding visit can be achieved with a tight three day itinerary as we did. 

Keep in touch - join me on Instagram @brodieemery and be sure to say hi to @madeleinetbecker @laurenlcooper and @jackrsutton while you're there!

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Swingbridge
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Tall Trees & Waterfalls: Exploring Mount Field National Park

Mount Field is Tasmania's oldest National Park, a magnet for nature lovers for over a century. Located only 60 minutes drive from downtown Hobart, it's a wonderful day trip option featuring an array of landscapes and experiences.

The park is home to a more diverse range of landscapes than almost any other in Australia, with Alpine plateaus, glacier-carved lakes, abundant wildlife and some of the world's tallest trees.

Above all else, the park is renowned for its stunning waterfalls. Most people come to see Russell Falls, a 98m high series of cascades in thick rainforest only 20 minutes walk from the main visitor centre, but this isn't the only great waterfall in this part of the park.

Russell Falls

All visitors should take the time to explore a little further - a two hour circuit passes by Horseshoe Falls and Lady Barron Falls, two lesser-visited waterfalls.

After a short, steep climb to Horsehoe Falls, the trail is easy to follow and passes through some of the most spectacular rainforest in the country. We visited on a cool winters day and had the trail virtually to ourselves, seeing a number of pademelons, wallabies and birds along the way. Platypus are also seen often in the creeks and rivers in this part of the park.

Horsehoe Falls

After walking for another 45 minutes surrounded by some of the tallest trees on Earth, the trail arrives at the Lady Barron Falls, the third and most secluded waterfall on this accessible walk in the lower section of the park.  From here, the trail follows a small river through an enchanting rainforest back to the park visitor centre.

Lady Barron Falls

Need to know:

Tall Trees & Lady Barron Falls Circuit
Time: 2 Hours
Distance: 6 km
Difficulty: Easy
Tip: Tread quietly and you may see a platypus in one of the streams. If you don't feel like a lot of climbing, do the walk clockwise and finish at Russell Falls.

Explore More:
Marriott Falls is another stunning waterfall that sits just outside the national park - drive a further 10 minutes along the road and turn right at the small township of Tyenna. The carpark is signposted and Marriott Falls is around a two hour return walk.

Join me Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/brodieemery/

Cradle Mountain Winter Wonderland

Cradle Mountain is one of Australia's most famous natural landmarks, renowned for its rugged dolerite columns, glacier sculpted landscape and alpine moorlands.

We recently made the trip north from Hobart to spend a weekend at Cradle Mountain with our friends Jack and Lauren. After a quick stopover in Devonport on Friday evening, we made our way to Cradle Mountain early, a little nervous after hearing of snowfall to low levels closing some roads overnight.

Despite a fresh layer of snow, the road remained open and we made it to Cradle Mountain just in time to jump on the 4WD shuttle bus to Dove Lake.

It was snowing lightly as we set off to explore the area surrounding Dove Lake before making the trek to Crater Lake, with high hopes the weather might clear and allow us onto the Cradle Plateau. 

We passed a series of small lakes and tarns including Wombat Pool, which looked incredible with the fresh snowfall. This is not your typical Australian landscape but the atmospheric weather made for a memorable view.

Tasmania's highlands can be incredibly harsh and downright dangerous in winter weather so we decided after reaching Crater Lake to opt for lower altitudes when the weather refused to co-operate. 

Heading down the mountain was a great choice - we stopped by an old boat shed on Crater Lake and traversed through a magical, snow-covered rainforest passing by icy waterfalls along the way.  

After four hours of walking through the snow and enjoying the quiet solitude that goes with it, we arrived back at the Waldheim huts and took the bus back to our campsite to sit by the fire for the afternoon.

You can see more photos from our trip over on Instagram:

@brodieemery
@madeleinetbecker
@jackrsutton
@laurenlcooper

Tasman Island Cruise

Last weekend was a long time coming. With lots happening around Hobart for the long weekend we decided to stay close to home and take a trip to Tasman Island with Pennicotts Wilderness Journeys. 

It was an amazing way to spend our morning - the tour travels from Port Arthur to Eaglehawk Neck around some of Australia's most spectacular coastlines, including the towering cliffs of Cape Pillar, the historic Tasman island and a number of sea caves carved into the harsh coastline.

Setting off from Port Arthur, we quickly left the shelter of the bay and travelled south east toward Cape Pillar.  This was a relatively calm day for the area with swells at 2-3 metres, allowing us to see the wild coastline up close.

Cape Pillar is arguably the most spectacular coastline anywhere in Australia and is a big drawcard for bushwalkers on the nearby Three Capes Track - it was a real treat to see it from this perspective, especially from the more sheltered waters as we neared Tasman Island.

Situated about 1km to the south of Cape Pillar is Tasman Island - a small but rugged island completely surrounded by Dolerite cliffs that is home to Australia's Highest lighthouse.

The Tasman Island lighthouse is situated 280m above sea level - back in the early days of its operation it was extremely unpopular with lighthouse keepers due to its isolation. The only way to access the lighthouse was via a flying fox and tramway up the side of the sheer cliffs - remnants of which are still visible today.

The coastline is home to an abundance of wildlife including Seals, Albatross, Dolphins and migrating Whales - some of the locals were quite curious about our presence!

We continued along the coastline, passing a number of sea caves as we rounded Cape Hauy and Waterfall Bay on our way to Eaglehawk Neck.

It's an understatement to say that this part of Tasmania is quickly becoming an iconic Australian destination with its wild coastlines, spectacular bushwalking and the nearby Port Arthur Historic site offering an array of things to do.  If you're in the region I'd highly recommend taking a cruise around the coastline to get a different perspective on this amazing area.

Five Great Tarkine Experiences

The Tarkine is one of Australia's greatest yet least well known wild places. Home to some of the world's oldest rainforest, huge sand dunes and rugged coastlines shaped by the unforgiving Southern Ocean, the Tarkine is also a safe haven for over 60 species of rare and endangered species including the Tasmanian Devil and Giant Freshwater Crayfish.

This remote and windswept part of Tasmania is often overlooked by travellers in favour of more famous landmarks such as Cradle Mountain, but in recent years the Tarkine has been gaining more attention as the campaign to protect this vast wilderness gathers momentum.

Despite being remotely located there are a surprising number of ways to explore the region, as Madeleine and I discovered during our Easter stay at Corinna - here are five of our favourites:

1. Spend the morning Kayaking on the Pieman River

The Pieman River is one of the largest rivers on Tasmania's west coast and marks the southern end of the Tarkine. Kayaking is the best way to experience this stunningly beautiful river and its tributaries, and we were blessed with a perfectly still morning - it was so quiet that we could actually hear the sound of the ocean 18km downstream!

It is hard to believe this stretch of river was almost dammed in the 1980's - while there was much publicity surrounding the Franklin river to the south, the Pieman was largely forgotten. It was only due to the unstable geology of the area surrounding the proposed dam that the Pieman remains one of the most intact large rivers in Tasmania.

While drifting down the river, it was nice to reflect and find solace that places like this still exist despite the ongoing threats posed to unprotected landscapes such as the Tarkine.

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2. Climb to the top of Mount Donaldson

Mount Donaldson is a prominent peak in the southern Tarkine offering sublime views of the surrounding wilderness. This is a relatively easy 8.6km, 3-4 hour walk that climbs from the Savage River, only 10 minutes from Corinna.

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The summit is 408m above sea level and offers sweeping views of the expansive Tarkine wilderness from the coast in the west to the beautiful Pieman River in the south.

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3. Enjoy the peace and quiet at Whyte River

The Whyte River is located close to Corinna and can be reached easily via a one-hour loop walk from the village.  This beautiful path tracks through lush rainforest along the banks of the Pieman and Whyte rivers and offers a feeling of remoteness unlike most other short walks. If you are lucky you might even see a Platypus along the shoreline.

4. Breathe fresh air in Australia's largest rainforest

The Tarkine is home to some extraordinary forests, including the world's second-largest temperate rainforest and the largest in-tact rainforest remaining in Australia.

This rare and unique landscape is the perfect place to wander and cleanse the mind while breathing the world's freshest air. It feels so removed from city life and world events and visiting these forests was a memorable experience.  There are a number of walks located throughout the region and the Tarkine Trails guide book is a great resource if you are visiting.

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5. Go Chasing Waterfalls

The Philosopher Falls are a spectacular set of cascades located close to the town of Waratah. They are easily accessible via a magnificent 90 minute walk along a historic water race.

There are hundreds of little known waterfalls dotted around the Tarkine - some are well off the beaten track and can only be accessed by Kayak or multi-day hike, but many including the Philosopher Falls can easily be visited as part of a self-drive tour through the region. Other larger and easily accessible waterfalls in the region include the Dip Falls and Wes Beckett Falls.

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How to Get There

The Tarkine is a relatively remote part of Tasmania bounded by the West Coast, Pieman River in the south, Murchison Highway in the east, and Arthur River in the north.

Corinna is located on the banks of the Pieman River at the southern end of the Tarkine, and is a 4 hour drive from Launceston or 5.5 hours from Hobart. Arthur River is located on the coast at the northern edge of the Tarkine and is 4 hours from Launceston.

There are also a number of wonderful walking companies and tourism operators who provide small group tour options to experience this wild and untouched landscape.

Conservation

Unlike many other parts of the Tasmanian wilderness, the Tarkine is largerly unprotected despite being recognised as an area eligible for world heritage status. Less than 5% of the area is currently protected in National Parks, and as a result much of this vast wilderness remains threatened. You can read more about the campaign to protect the Tarkine here.

Useful Links

Corinna Wilderness Experience: http://corinna.com.au
Tarkine Wilderness Lodge: http://www.tarkinelodge.com/
Tasmanian Safaris: https://tasmaniansafaris.com
Tasmanias North West: http://tasmaniasnorthwest.com.au
Save the Tarkine: www.tarkine.org
Bob Brown Foundation: http://www.bobbrown.org.au/

The Needles - Southwest National Park

Tasmania's largest national park is also one of its wildest, encompassing over 600,000 hectares of rugged mountains, wild rivers, towering rainforest and untouched beaches that take days to reach on foot.

The Needles track is one of the easiest ways to experience this grand wilderness, only 90 minutes from Hobart - the short, steep and at times muddy climb takes around two to three hours return and offers incredible views of Mount Field, the Florentine and Lake Pedder from the summit.

Gordon River Road

The track begins at the highest point of Gordon River Road, one of only two main access roads into this enormous national park. It can be a little difficult to find at first - keep an eye out for the cairns opposite the car park to find your way.

The track is quite overgrown and can be slippery after rain (most days of the year in these parts!) so be prepared to get a little wet - we were saturated by the time we made it out of the dense bush around the lower slopes!

The effort is worth it though - the rocky outcrops that make up the Needles are quite impressive in their grandeur, and the rugged landscape provides inspirational views at every angle as the track continues to climb through some more exposed grassland toward the summit.

Make sure to allow time at the summit to take in the surrounds. At 1020m above sea level, the views are magnificent, but for me the most memorable part is the sound - of running water, birdsong and a gentle breeze floating up from deep valleys below.

Need to Know

Time: 2-3 Hours
Distance: 3 km
Difficulty: Moderate
Tip: Tread lightly - the terrain here is sensitive, difficult and slippery at times.

Exploring Tasmania's Labyrinth: A Mythical Mountain Landscape

Mountains, glaciated valleys, pristine lakes and beautiful rainforests far from civilisation - that's my idea of a weekend well-spent. We recently spent a long weekend exploring the Labyrinth and Lake St Clair, a relatively remote part of Tasmania that is home to some of the most breathtaking scenery in Australia.

Being a relatively unknown and unregulated set of trails compared to others such as the Three Capes or Overland Track, there is a lot of freedom when planning your itinerary - we chose to do it in 2 nights and 3 days, over a total distance of 40km.

Acropolis

Day 1 - Narcissus Hut to the Labyrinth

We left early in the morning and caught the 9am Ferry from the Lake St Clair Visitor Centre to Narcissus Hut. We had a big day planned and wanted to allow plenty of time to take in the scenery as we made our way into the wilderness.

Despite being the middle of summer, Tasmania's weather can throw up anything. Most of the peaks around Lake St Clair were shrouded in thick cloud for most of the morning as we made the three and a half hour journey to Pine Valley Hut.

We arrived at Pine Valley a little after 1pm and set up camp. The hut is set by a large creek in thick rainforest, offering shelter from the variable weather in this part of Tasmania.

With lots of time remaining in the day we set off on the 5 hour return walk to the Labyrinth. The track takes a steep uphill course through the rainforest. It was quite muddy and slippery as a result of the rain. We took our time and eventually reached the Parthenon, a high plateau 1100m above sea level.

Pencil Pines

Despite our high hopes, the weather was still very unsettled and varied between drizzle and heavy rain so the views were limited, although rain tends to add a degree of beauty to the spectacular alpine plant communities unique to these parts of Tasmania.

Geryon Pencil Pine

Breaks in the weather were few and far between, but clearer patches revealed a stunning landscape dominated by the towering Mount Geryon (1516m) and The Acropolis (1481m). These are such dramatic mountains, and like much of central western Tasmania were shaped over thousands of years by the forces of glaciation.

Spending time in this area made for a really inspiring afternoon, this beautiful and wild landscape leaves a strong impression and a return trip to spend more time here is high on our list.

Day 2 - Pine Valley to Echo Point

After returning to Pine Valley the previous evening, we woke to rays of sunshine filtering through the forest and set out on the 13km walk from Pine Valley to Echo Point. Much of this route follows the Overland Track, although we had it almost all to ourselves as most walkers choose to take the return ferry from Narcissus Hut.

Mount Olympus

After we retraced our Day 1 walk back to Narcissus, we continued on to Echo Point, a further 5km down Lake St Clair. We had magnificent views of Mount Olympus as we traversed the plains around the top of the lake.

After around 30 minutes, we entered yet another beautiful rainforest. The track is not well maintained in this area so it meant very slow going through some very muddy patches, taking us two hours to cover around 4km. It didn't really feel like long though, the forest was so peaceful and we saw so many unique and beautiful old trees, streams and waterfalls along the way.

Old Growth

We eventually made it to Echo Point in the late afternoon and set up camp by the shore of Lake St Clair. 

This is one of the most beautiful campsites I've stayed at in Tasmania - watching the changing colours at sunset as we cooked dinner by Australia's deepest lake was a highlight of the trip.

Lake St Clair Sunset

Day 3 - Echo Point to Cynthia Bay

We awoke to find the lake and surrounding hills shrouded in fog, which is seemingly common weather in these parts. With a delicious cooked lunch in mind, it was onwards to the visitor centre at Cynthia Bay. The walk continues along the lake, meandering gently through a surprisingly varied array of forest landscapes.

Echo Point Hut
Echo Point Jetty

We were surprised at how easy this section of the trail was compared with the previous day and completed it in a little under three hours. It was a relaxing way to finish the walk and we made our way back to Hobart feeling tired but refreshed after this great little escape.

Watersmeet

Need to Know

Time: 3 Days
Distance: 40 km
Difficulty: Moderate - Hard
Tip: Take the ferry one or both ways, pack light but factor in all weather.

Routeburn Day Walk: Ancient Forests & Mountain Vistas

We started our 2017 with a visit to Queenstown to see family and unwind for a few days away from the usual day-to-day grind. While we were there, we managed to squeeze in a couple of microadventures, including one that would see us traverse part of the Routeburn Track, one of New Zealand's Great Walks.

Routeburn Track Humboldt Mountains

New Zealand is known around the world for it's epic landscapes and exceptional natural beauty. One of the best ways to see the country is on foot, with a number of well maintained great walks encompassing some of the most remote and beautiful parts of the country.

The Routeburn Track is one of these great walks, stretching 32km across Mount Aspiring and Fiordland National Parks. The end-to-end walk usually takes three days, passing through deep, forested valleys and crossing exposed mountain passes in New Zealand's wild south. 

Routeburn Track Waterfall

For people like us with less time at hand (or looking for something a little less adventurous), there is a single day option to experience this wonderful area, so we jumped at the opportunity to explore!

We left Queenstown early for the one hour drive past Glenorchy to the Routeburn Shelter which marks the start of the trail. From here, it's a 14km return walk to Routeburn Flats Hut. 

Routeburn Forest

We set out on the walk and were immediately surrounded by enchanted beech forests as the trail meandered along the turquoise Routeburn River.  The valley is quite sheltered so there was minimal wind and all we could hear was overwhelmingly beautiful birdsong, interrupted only by the occasional thundering waterfall.

Routeburn River

Along its path the trail crosses a number of suspension bridges, which open up a whole different perspective of the valley as we emerged from the forest.  The views of the river and surrounding mountains were truly magical.

Routeburn Forest
Routeburn Flats Hut

After almost two hours of walking at a relaxing pace, the landscape opened up as we approached Routeburn Flats Hut. The hut is set at the edge of the beech forest below some impressive mountains and made for a beautiful lunch spot.

Routeburn Flats

We weren't quite ready to turn around and go home though - we decided to walk a further 20 minutes along the trail to a place called The Slip, where a major landslide occurred in 1994.

The track became much steeper as we climbed from the flats but this was entirely worth it, as the view of the Humboldt Mountains we were treated to on arrival was out-of-this world. We spent quite a bit of time here taking in the scenery before setting off on our journey home.

Routeburn Track
Humboldt Mountains Routeburn Track

Need to Know

Time: 4-5 Hours
Distance: 14km
Difficulty: Easy
Tip: Don't just stop at Routeburn Flats - walk the extra 20 minutes uphill for beautiful views!

My Top 5 Tasmanian Walks in 2016

Over the past few days I've been reflecting a lot on this year - one of massive change and upheaval as we moved home to Tasmania after six years living in Melbourne. Our weekends have gone from being about eating out, live music and city life to simpler pleasures - spending time outside, inhaling crisp fresh air and admiring Tasmania's wild places. So for my first blog post, I've decided to list my favourite five walks from the year. I can't wait to get out to explore more of this wonderful, wild island in the new year, and look forward to sharing here with you!

1 - Overland Track

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In March this year I was lucky enough to walk Tasmania's Overland Track with family. Spending six days in the Tasmanian Wilderness was a soul-cleansing, life-affirming experience I will never forget. This part of the world is really special, with seemingly endless expanses of untouched wilderness, abundant wildlife, and ancient forests topped off by incredible sunsets to end the day.

This walk is justifiably regarded as one of the world's great multi-day walks, and it's impossible to condense the experience into a couple of short paragraphs - I'll be putting up a more detailed post early in the new year, so stay tuned!

Need to Know

Time: 6-7 Days
Distance: 65km
Difficulty: Moderate
Tip: Go in late Summer or early Autumn for clear nights, sunny days and great walking conditions.

2 - Cape Hauy

Cape Hauy was easily my favourite coastal walk this year, and the top day walk on my list. The walk is great at any time of year, and is often overlooked by visitors to the nearby Port Arthur Historic site, but is one of the top natural attractions on the Tasman Peninsula with its extensive dolerite cliffs towering above the wild seas below.

We enjoyed this walk so much that we visited twice this year, in May and October - the second time around we were treated to a show by a group of Humpback Whales not too far off shore.

Need to Know

Time: 4 hours return
Distance: 9km return
Difficulty: Easy-Moderate
Tip: While this walk is great at any time of year, October offers the chance to see whales as they migrate south for Summer!

3 - Lake Rodway

In November we paid a visit to Cradle Mountain - our first since moving back to Tasmania. To avoid the early summer crowds, we decided to pack the camping gear and hike to Lake Rodway for the night. This often forgotten part of the park is really magical, and offers an entirely different perspective of Tasmania's most well known mountain. The walk was admittedly more challenging than others on this list, but scaling Hanson's Peak along the way was a highlight.

The return walk can be achieved in a day, but camping really allowed us to take in the surrounds and enjoy a night away from modern life.

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Need to Know

Time: 2 Days
Distance: 14km return
Difficulty: Moderate-Hard
Tip: Leave early as camping sites are limited. Scott-Kilvert hut is ample in size to accommodate walkers if you miss out on a good tent site.

4 - The Needles

The Needles is a relatively unknown walk in Southwest National Park that offers sensational views of the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area. Despite being a relatively short, overgrown and very muddy walk, this one really exceeded our expectations. From the 1020m summit, we were rewarded with uninterrupted views in every direction. A foggy morning in the valleys below added to the extraordinary beauty of the area.

Need to Know

Time: 2 Hours
Distance: 3km return
Difficulty: Moderate
Tip: Wear good boots - the track is quite muddy and uneven in parts and you will get wet feet!

5 - Mount Rufus Circuit

This was the first day walk we attempted after moving back to Tasmania.  The Mount Rufus Circuit has it all, and is the best introduction to the Tasmanian Wilderness I can think of - from ancient rainforests to wind-sculpted alpine environments and a mountain climb, this is a fantastic taster for anyone short on time, or considering longer walks such as the Overland Track.

We were treated to a crisp Autumn Day when walking Mt Rufus, which made for pleasant walking despite a tough climb and relatively unfit bodies at the time. The listing of this hike among Tasmania's 60 great short walks is a little deceptive - at 19km and almost 7 hours, we were running short on daylight by the end and were a little unprepared for darkness!

Need to Know

Time: 6-7 Hours
Distance: 19km circuit
Difficulty: Moderate
Tip: Leave early and pack a good lunch - daylight hours in Autumn and Winter are shorter than you realise!

These are just a tiny sample of the great hiking and outdoor activities we've experienced in Tasmania this year, and there is still such a long to-do list for 2017 and I can't wait to get outside again and embark on more adventures.