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!