Hiking the Overland Track in Tasmania
The Overland Track Tasmania – all you need to know before you go!
Where many people these days have a bucket list for their travel wishes, I have one for my multi-day hikes I still want to do one day. Hiking the Overland Track was on my wishlist for many years and having heard many good stories about it, I decided to start planning way ahead as a journey to Tasmania is quite a trip from Europe. After I received an agreement to take four weeks off my back-then office job, I booked a plane ticket and started my preparations for the Overland Track. It turned out to become one big adventure and definitely one of the best hikes in the world. It climbs mountains, walks on plains, takes you through thick bushes and makes you meet wallabies and kangaroos. I hope you’ll enjoy this Overland Track blog and will find all you need to know!
Hiking the Overland Track – know before you go!
Walking the Overland Track is not to be taken lightly. It’s a track in an alpine area, without cellphone service and very isolated from the rest of the world. Previous trekking experience is a must if you plan to do the Overland Track self guided, which is actually the most common way to do it. Weather can be a pain as well as carrying a large pack with a tent and food for up to eight days of trekking. In addition, you’ll have to deal with very venomous snakes that are all around you. Go here to read more about the snakes in Tasmania.
Parks & Wildlife Service writes on their website it’s recommended to hike with a group of at least three. However I hiked it with my back then partner and this proved to be fine enough. They also mention you should rent a PLB (personal locator beacon) for extra security especially when you are hiking by yourself.
The Overland Track itinerary
The official Overland Track itinerary is 7 days of hiking, however you may opt to take less or more time, depending on your level of fitness and the number of stops along the way. The overview below is the suggested itinerary by Parks & Wildlife Service which we ended up following more or less, also because this matched with our transportation, which I’ll tell you more about later in this blog. With the suggested side trips you may even stay a bit longer in some huts. Or as some days are quite short, you may as well combine two days into one really long day. It’s all up to you really and my suggestion would be to book transport ahead and see what the conditions are once on the track, and then decide your exact itinerary. The total Overland Track distance is 65 kilometers.
Day 1: Ronny Creek to Waterfall Valley – 10.7 km and 4-6 hrs
After arriving in Cradle Mountain National Park the afternoon before the start of my hike, I was super excited to finally get started. After opening up our tent the morning at the start of the hike, I noticed it was wet and cold. And a little misty as well. Quite a shame as the day before it had been a beautiful day. However, you can never be sure of good weather on the Overland Track and so you just gotta deal with it.
The first part of our Overland Track hiking trip was easy and mostly on boardwalks through the moorland. Later you’ll get to the steepest section of the whole trail (just get it over and done with ; -) to Marions Lookout at 1.250 meters above sealevel. Now you’re at the base of Cradle Mountain, which you can climb along the way. This will take your some extra 2/3 hours.
Unfortunately, Cradle Mountain is fully in the clouds once we get to the base and don’t see the point of attempting to climb it as it’s said to be quite dangerous in wet conditions. And since there will not be a view anyway, we decide to just hike onwards to Waterfall Valley for the day.
Day 2: Waterfall Valley to Lake Windermere – 7.8 km and 2.5 – 3 hrs
Today is a short day but it doesn’t matter. We wake up in a thick fog and realize this is not going to be our lucky day. The promised awesome views in the brochure are not there and basically, we are just happy that we make it to the next hut without problems. From here, we hiked the next part as well so made two shorter days into a really long one. However, I’ll just stick with the suggested itinerary below as these long days (9+ hrs of hiking) may not be for everyone!
Day 3: Lake Windermere to Pelion – 16.8 km and 5-7 hrs
After getting some food near Lake Windermere, we decide to push on to Pelion as we arrive quite early in the morning still. And somehow the weather gods are in our favor in the afternoon as the sunshine appears and all of a sudden we do have some views into the distance.
The major part of this section is on buttongrass plains, mostly on boardwalks. Also make sure to make the short side trip to Forth Valley Lookout which will give you an impression of the wilderness you are in.
After a long stretch onwards to Pelion, we finally reach the hut in the evening, settling in for the night and feeling lucky that we have at least seen a little of the mountains today.
Day 4: Pelion to Kia Ora – 8.6 km and 3-4 hours
Today is mountain day, although that was the plan! On this day you can optionally climb Mount Ossa, the highest peak in Tasmania. As written in the track information, it’s strongly advised not to climb it when it’s raining and guess what … we have rain. We still attempt a climb but not far below the summit, we decide to head down again as it has become too slippery and there’s no view anyway.
Day 5: Kia Ora to Windy Ridge – 9.6 km and 3.5-4.5 hours
Today we mostly spend in the forest. The first stop of interest is the Old Du Cane Hut. Next up is the side trip to Ferguson Falls (+ 1 hr return) and Harnet Falls (+1 hr return). Both are stunning in their own way. After passing Du Cane Gap we descend a little and arrive at Bert Nicholls hut, definitely one of the best Overland Track huts.
Day 6: Windy Ridge to Narcissus – 9 km and 3-4 hours
From here it’s mostly downhill towards Lake St. Clair, the other end of your Overland Track hiking adventure. The walk is pretty easy and mostly through the bush. Once at Narcissus you can decide whether to hike onwards to the trail end or do as we did and catch a boat ride back across the lake to Cynthia Bay, the official end of the trail. We decided to catch the boat as we heard that the hike along the lake isn’t that gorgeous. If you decide to walk, the distance will be another 17.5 kms and 5-6 hours of walking time. The boat must be booked and paid for in advance and reconfirmed once you are at Narcissus Hut. More details can be found here.
Overland Track weather
As you’ve probably noticed from my day-to-day itinerary, the weather can be quite bad at some days. In the worst case scenario you will have rain the entire track. We eventually had three days of rain and three days of good weather, which makes it a good average I think. However keep in mind that Tasmania is very wet and can be extremely cold, even in the summer. Be prepared for the worst and you may be pleasantly surprised!
How to get to and from the Overland Track hike
As The Overland Track is a linear hike, you’ll need to arrange transportation in advance. Arrival by car is not common since it’ll take you two days to get back to Cradle Mountain from Lake St. Clair by public transport. The best option is to catch the bus from Launceston to Cradle Mountain in and the bus from Lake St. Clair to Hobart or Launceston out. Note that the latter one doesn’t operate on a daily base, at least not from what I could find.
Overland Track booking
There’s a limited number of people that can start the Overland Track hike each day and you must book your permit well in advance if you are hiking between 01 November – 31 May. In this season you can only hike north to south. The current fee is AUD 200 per person and you may add an info pack with a map and booklet that will be shipped to you. You’ll also need to buy an Tasmanian National Parks Pass, prices can be found here. Included in your info pack will also be a detailed Overland Track map which you can use for navigation.
Overland Track gear list
Note that even though you may wish to stay in the huts, the Overland Track walk booking does not guarantee a spot in the huts. You are there for required to carry a tent as well in case the huts are full. We never had issues getting a spot in the hut as many people prefer to camp near the hut (you cannot camp just anywhere and must stick to the areas near the huts) instead of sleeping inside.
The Overland Track huts provide mattresses and have running water, but that’s about it. This means you’ll need to bring your own food for all days, as well as cooking utensils, a headlight, first aid kit and hiking clothes. Make sure to bring good raingear as it’s unlikely you’ll have a completely dry hike. Additionally, don’t forget to pack sunscreen, sunglasses, a pocketknife, your sleeping bag and a set of shoes to wear in the hut as you must leave your boots outside. There’s no shops, electricity or showers along the way!
Will I see snakes on the Overland Track?
Well you would think so but fortunately, we didn’t run into one, although we’ve heard people talk of seeing them nearby. We only saw a small tail crawling away from the boardwalks at some point, but luckily that was about as close as we got. If you wish to avoid snakes, the best option is to use your trekking poles for making noise on the boardwalks. Board walks are among the favorite spots for snakes to hang out, especially on a sunny day. If you bump the point of your poles onto the boardwalk, this will alarm them people are coming and they will usually move away. You are more likely to encounter a snake on a sunny day by the way, when they come out of the bush to warm up in the sunshine.
How about other wildlife on the Overland Track
Other than snakes and lizards you will definitely encounter wallabies, most likely around the huts where they will be looking for food. Please don’t feed them! We witnessed a wallaby licking someones toothpaste spit from the ground which is bad for them so make sure to not leave anything but footprints. If you are lucky you may see a wombat, Australia’s cutest fluffy animals if you ask me. They can usually be spotted around dawn nearby huts. Inquire with hut wardens where you’ll have the biggest chance of seeing them. If you don’t see any wombats, make sure to head over to Maria Island after your trek as you will definitely see them there!
Is the Overland Track hard?
In my humble opinion it’s not a very difficult hike, yet note that I’m an experienced hiker and have done multiple alpine hikes all over the world (Nepal, Patagonia, Europe, Alaska). The Overland Track is not a technical hike and only has a few minor tricky parts but none of them are really difficult. If you stick to the main trail that is, the side options are generally more difficult and weather dependent.
The most challenging part for me definitely was the poor weather. At least … the fact that climbing the mountains was more difficult and that the tracks were slippery in some points. It got quite cold sometimes even though we were in the middle of summer. The weather on the Overland Track is probably your biggest challenge.
Having said this, note once again that it’s not an easy hike and that previous hiking and backcountry experience is a must.
Conclusion and disclaimer
I hope you’ve enjoyed this post about hiking the Overland Track. Despite the weather it was quite a memorable experience and the trail definitely is one of a kind. I’d happily do it again one day and it was one of the best hikes in Tasmania for sure.