A colleague at work is heading to Tasmania for a break and we were discussing options for short walks. They are following the classic touring route from Launceston to Hobart via the West Coast and taking in Bruny Island. Here are a selection of some of the best short or half-day walks I’ve done on that route.
1. Cataract Gorge, Launceston
Located centrally in Launceston, this walk is the perfect way to kick off any trip to Tasmania. The walk starts just near town off Basin Road and can be accessed on foot from the city centre. It follows the South Esk River which forms a spectacular gorge. The track is easy walking and can be broken down into walks of different length ranging from the short 2.7km circuit around the Gorge to the full 13.6km circuit including Trevallyn Dam.
The walk crosses the old Kings Bridge very close to Stillwater Restaurant – to this day probably the best degustation menu I’ve enjoyed, the night before I set off on the Overland Track.
2. Crater Lake Circuit, Cradle Mountain
Slightly more challenging for a half day walk, but well worth the effort. This has to be one of the best half-day walks in Australia. Starting out at the Ronny Creek Car Park where you can often see wombats, the walk follows the Overland Track for the first 4.5km, ascending to Marion’s Lookout. The first time I did this section of track was on the Overland Track – pouring rain and mist so thick you couldn’t even see Cradle Mountain sitting right in front of you. On a clear day, you get unrivalled views of Cradle Mountain and the entire northern section of the Cradle Mountain – Lake St Clair National Park.
The walk can be done as an out and back to Marion’s Lookout and if you are feeling tired turn around there – it is a relatively quick walk down hill walk back to the car park. But for a half day out I’d recommend continuing on to join the Horse Track and return via Crater Peak. The walk is slightly longer, but on a good day you can enjoy brilliant open walking and a stop for lunch without having to navigate back down the awkward climb to Marion’s Lookout.
The full circuit is 9.4km in total and can be comfortably completed in 5 hours. While the climb to Marion’s Lookout can be daunting, it is very accessible and a variety of steps, hand holds and chains makes it perfectly doable for walkers of all standards.
The perfect way to warm up for an afternoon enjoying the day spa at Cradle Mountain Lodge and a good bottle of wine from the walk in cellar at the lodge’s restaurant.
3. Echo Point to Cynthia Bay, Lake St Clair
After driving around the west coast you come to the small township of Derwent Bridge – the gateway to Lake St Clair and the southern end of the Overland Track. There are many short walks to be enjoyed in this area including the 40 minute stroll to Donaghys Hill off the Lyel Highway where you get a nice view of Frenchmans Cap and the wilderness of the South West.
For a walk of a few hours, Echo Point to Cynthia bay is the pick for me and has the added advantage that it can be combined with a ferry ride on Lake St Clair. Get the ferry from the wharf near the visitor centre at Lake St Clair – best to book in advance to make sure it is operating in off peak times. The boat ride gives you great views of the surrounding peaks including Mt Rufus (one of my favourite day walks in the area) and Mt Ida (pictured). You can get the ferry either to Narcissus Hut at the end of the lake or Echo Point Hut, about half way along. The track runs all the way along the western edge of the lake. From Echo Point Hut the walk back to the visitor centre is about 8km and can be comfortably completed in a couple of hours.
Depending on the time of day you can enjoy a coffee at the visitor centre afterwards or head back to the Derwent Bridge Hotel for a beer and pub meal in front of the fire. The Wall in the Wilderness wood carving is well worth a look on the way out of the area.
5. Fern Tree to Mt Wellington Summit, Hobart
Mt Wellington, right outside Hobart, is a mecca for adventure activities and is littered with walking routes that I have only begun to explore. My favourites so far are the Organ Pipes Track and the well known route from Fern Tree. Fern Tree is about half way up the mountain as you are driving. You can park your car there and head up the track immediately opposite. The track joins the Radfords Track, Pinnacle Track and then Zig Zag track providing great views to the north on the way up before opening up on the summit. The vegetation and rock formations along the way are varied and there are even some old ruined shelters to discover. The walk up is about 5.3km. You can do it out and back for a 10km, 4.5 hour walk, join it up with other tracks to make a longer circuit back to Fern Tree or arrange transport from the top back to Fern Tree which I did last time.
The best part is you are right near Hobart for easy access to a fabulous post-walk meal at one of Hobart’s many restaurants. The Henry Jones is brilliant for fine dining, Annapurnas in North Hobart for yummy Indian or Jackman and McRoss for a lighter lunch.
Just thinking about it makes you want to get down there again!