One of the most rugged, least explored and least visited states in Australia, Tasmania is a paradise for outdoor enthusiasts.
Located ten hours by ferry from Melbourne, this is Australia’s only island state. As one of the most “natural” states Down Under, it’s home to vast expanses of wilderness and remote nature reserves.
No less than 45% of Tasmania’s surface area is protected land, and with 19 national parks all over the state, Tasmania is the perfect choice for hiking, trekking, or any kind of outdoor adventure.
The best way to explore these stunning parks and lay eyes on some of Earth’s greatest landscapes is hiking (and camping) right through it. So grab a sturdy pair of boots, fill up your water bottle, throw a backpack over your shoulders and head out for an adventure on one (or more) of the best hiking trails in Tasmania.
1. For Beaches: Freycinet National Park
The crown jewel of Tasmania’s coastal parks, Freycinet National Park features some of the greatest coastal landscapes you’ll ever see. A long and narrow peninsula jutting out into the ocean on the island’s east coast, Freycinet can only be entered from the north—unless you have a boat.
The only car entrance in Freycinet National Park lies near Coles Bay, the area’s main town. It’s a popular backpackers’ hangout where you can conveniently stock up on food and other hiking and camping necessities. In preparation for your hike into Freycinet—or to catch your breath afterwards—you can stay at the local YHA in Coles Bay.
Most visitors hike up to the Wineglass Bay Lookout. This short hike is fairly steep but offers a view of one Tasmania’s most photographed spots.
While many people head back to their cars afterward, you should continue on toward Wineglass Bay Beach. This hike takes you over a saddle in the Hazards, the pink granite mountain range that dominates the Freycinet landscape. There’s a small basic campground on the other end of the beach where you can pitch a tent. Use this site as your base to explore the rest of Freycinet National Park.
This park is known for its abundant birdlife, bare mountain peaks, white sand and pebble beaches, and scenic secluded inlets. It’s one of the best national parks in Tasmania for hikers, especially if you’re after world-class beaches. There really is nothing like resting on a beach and watching the sunset after a challenging hike. If you want to, you can even sleep under the stars on Wineglass Bay Beach. It doesn’t get any better than that.
Wineglass Bay/Hazards Beach Circuit — 4-5 hours return, 6.5 mi (more info: Official / TasTrails)
2. For Dramatic Coastal Scenery: Tasman National Park
Located on the wild Tasman Peninsula in southeastern Tasmania, not too far from Hobart and near UNESCO World Heritage-listed Port Arthur, Tasman National Park is known for its dramatic coastal cliffs, forests and wildlife.
Hobart is the obvious place to use as a base when exploring this part of Tasmania. Filled with history and hosting fun events throughout the year, there is plenty to see and do there. It’s also the largest city on the island. If you’re planning a trip to Tasman National Park, Hobart is where you should start. Backpackers might want to consider staying at the Hobart Central YHA while planning—it’s a great place to meet travel companions as well.
The park protects some of the most beautiful coastal scenery in Australia, including cliffs that rise nearly 1,000 feet out of the wild waters below. It also encompasses a number of islands, such as Tasman Island and Hippolyte Rocks. Not surprisingly, rock formations are the star attractions in this corner of Tasmania. Highlights are Tasman Arch, the Blowhole, Remarkable Cave and Waterfall Bay.
Hiking is, of course, the very best way to experience it all. Trails vary from one-hour strolls to superb multi-day adventures. Tasman National Park also happens to be the setting of Tasmania’s newest long-distance hike—the four-day Three Capes Track. If you want to do this one, you have to reserve a spot. Only 48 hikers per day are allowed.
Before you get out on the trail, please, please make sure you have travel insurance from a good company. I never travel without it, and always recommend World Nomads. If you’re not from Australia and you’re traveling here, this is an absolute must, especially if you’re going to be hiking.
The oldest of the national parks in Tasmania, Mount Field National Park is also one of its least-known parks. At least it is to tourists—locals cherish it. The main drawcard of this park is its sheer variety of landscapes and biotopes.
In Mount Field (PDF), you will find everything from alpine lakes and vegetation to rainforests, thundering waterfalls, swamp gum forests and tall mountains. It’s one of the most biodiverse national parks in all of Australia. It’s also home to some of the world’s rarest plant species, including Tasmanian conifers, towering tree ferns and massive swamp gums, which are the tallest flowering plants and one of the tallest trees on Earth. Hiking in Mount Field National Park sometimes feels like stepping back in time and exploring a dinosaur-era landscape.
Wildlife is as diverse as flora. If you’re lucky, you’ll spot a wombat, Tasmanian devil, echidna or even a platypus.
Mount Field National Park has two visitor centers. The first one lies near the entrance and features picnic areas and easy access to spectacular Russell Falls, one of the park’s main attractions. It’s also the starting point for a number of trails running through some of the world’s tallest forests. The second visitor center is located at Lake Dobson, a bit deeper into the park, and is where longer hikes start. This is also where, in winter, you can go skiing and snowboarding.
4. For Long-Distance Hiking: Cradle Mountain – Lake St. Clair National Park
A part of the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area, this is one of Tasmania’s most iconic parks, home to arguably its most famous mountain. As its name implies, Cradle Mountain – Lake St. Clair National Park consists of two separate areas. Lake St. Clair lies near the southern edge of the park while Cradle Mountain dominates the park’s northern part. Both areas have visitor centers and their own specific hikes and attractions.
The main attraction in Cradle Mountain – Lake St. Clair National Park for hikers, however, is the magnificent world-famous Overland Track. Starting near Cradle Mountain, this six-day hike leads adventurers through some of the greatest mountain landscapes in the world. It ends at Lake St. Clair. There are no facilities along the trail, so hikers will need to bring everything needed to survive.
The Overland Track is one of the best hiking experiences you can have in Tasmania. If you have to pick one hike to do, let it be this one. (Keep in mind that you will need to get a permit to do this hike—it’s extremely popular and there’s a limit to the people allowed on the trail at any one time. Make sure to book way in advance.)
People who are looking for shorter hikes will have plenty of options, though. There are many other hikes in both areas of the park.
If you’re looking for a cheap place to stay near the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area, the YHA in Strahan is a good bet. It’s a popular place among backpackers, its accommodations consisting of charming and cozy wooden bungalows.
Suggested Hikes in the Cradle Mountain Area
Dove Lake Circuit — 2 hours, 3.75 mi (more info: Official)
Overland Track — 6 days, 40.5 mi (more info: Official)
Mount Rufus Circuit — 7 hours, 11 mi (more info: Official)
5. For Back-to-Nature Experiences: Walls of Jerusalem National Park
A neighbor of Cradle Mountain – Lake St. Clair National Park and also a part of the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area, Walls of Jerusalem National Park provides adventure-minded people with the experience of a lifetime. This is one of the remotest national parks in Tasmania for hikers. You have to hike in, as there are no roads in or out of the park. As a result, there are no visitor facilities whatsoever.
This is no park to visit if you don’t have wilderness experience. Navigational and survival skills are necessary here. First-aid knowledge is, too. Hikers are not just advised but required to be well-equipped. The weather can change drastically and quickly in this rugged region, so you really need to know what you’re doing when hiking in Walls of Jerusalem National Park.
If, however, you’re an experienced hiker and camper, this hike is the one you want. Its diversity in landscapes ranges from moraines and lakes to towering mountain peaks, alpine vegetation and dense conifer forests.
There is a hiking trail that leads into the park from the parking lot at Lake Rowallen. It continues to Dixons Kingdom where it more or less ends. Other trails in the park are basically non-existent. Hikers can wander as they please—hence the extreme importance of good navigational skills.
While this is merely a selection of the best national parks in Tasmania for hikers, they are where you should start when visiting Tassie for the very first time. These five Tasmanian national parks encompass basically all major natural highlights on the island.
From coastal scenery to rugged mountains and shimmering lakes, they also offer a wide variety of landscapes and, consequently, outdoor experiences. Depending on which kind of hiking you want to do, you’re sure to find what you’re looking for in one of these five.