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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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.

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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.