The Overland Track is regularly quoted as the best multi-day hike in Australia. After my 8 days on the trail who am I to argue. It’s crowded at times, the weather can be questionable if not dangerous and there’s lots of boardwalks.
The Overland Track is quite regulated. There is a quota system of bookings and an expensive permit to buy. I organised all of these weeks before hand when I planned to hike the trail with a friend, Valerie. We met in Darwin last year when she cycled from Adelaide to Darwin via the Oodnadatta Track. I planted the seed in her mind about the great hiking opportunities in Tasmania. Valerie was traveling with her friend Sonia who traveled from France just to travel and hike in Tasmania. The group was formed.
Day 1 Overland Track
Due to the poor public transport in Tasmania I arrived at the start of the hike at around 1pm after registration and gaining my permit. I took the supplied transport to the shores of Dove lake for lunch in the form of a subway sandwich. The weather was crisp but clear and I was looking forward to the hike.
I took the steep ascent to Marions lookout and kept going till I made it to Kitchen Hut. While there I met Valerie and Sonia, they arrived a day earlier than me and set off in the morning to climb Cradle Mountain at a more leisurely pace. After greetings I stored my 20kg backpack in the hut to prevent the cunning Currawongs from raiding my food stores. They have learned that all backpacks have food and they have become skilled at opening zippers.
The climb to Cradle mountain didn’t take too long and I was greeted with a 360 degree views. I will let the photos below replace the thousand words that I could use to describe the views of the highlands. After time of self reflection and a start to the trip that promised only good things I descended and made it to the Waterfall Valley Hut, my first camp for the night. Although I carried a tent I chose to stay in the hut and socialise with the others.
Day 2 Overland Track
After a rather sleepless night due in part to my lack of earplugs we set off early to climb the dominating Barn Bluff which towers above the campsite and was a 7km round trip. The weather forecast for the next couple of days dictated that there was a low pressure trough approaching in a day or two and any side trips to the peaks would have to happen now while the weather was calm and still.
Myself, Valerie, Sofie, Doug and Keiren (I think) from Broome, Jennifer and Lawrence from New South Wales, Doug the Canadian and the 3 other backpackers set off. The other 25 or so people decided to keep walking the track and not take this deviation.So off we went. The climb was not so difficult, over broken boulders near the summit, but a little easier than the climb to Cradle Mountain in my opinion, but others had a different opinion. Once again the views were stunning over the alpine region with many lakes visible.
By lunch we were back in the hut for a quick feed and drink before setting off to our overnight destination of Windermere Hut which we reached just before 3pm. Its located next to Windermere Lake, so after dinner we walked around the lake area looking for Platypus or Wombats but nothing but Wallabies and a couple of noisy Green Parrots. 15km in 8 hours including all stops for rests / photos / lunch etc.
Day 3 Overland Track
The weather today started to take a turn with drizzle and a bit of wind, not too bad, just Tasmania telling us that good weather doesn’t last too long. It was a walk across the alpine regions with sections of soggy moorlands, damp rainforest and dryer forested areas. Valerie heard a noise in the bushes, it was an echidna. It disappeared in the thickly wooded scrub before we could get close to photograph it.
I am so impressed with the contrasting changes of the scenery on the hike. Our hut for the night is the large and spacious New Pelion Hut, which afforded great views over the buttongrass plains to Mount Oakley. As the weather was holding off, just, we went for a walk to the Old Pelion Hut for a look. Some brave soles went swimming in the nearby river, I wet my feet only and they felt like they were going to fall off, I’m not acclimatised to the cold yet! 19km hiking including side trips to Old Pelion Hut in 5 hours 30 mins including all stops for rests / photos / lunch etc.
Day 4 Overland Track
The weather was crap. No other way to describe it. Crap, crap, crap. Rain, low cloud, wind, cold. The promised low pressure trough had arrived on time and as promised. We set of with all the best intention of climbing Mt Ossa, the highest mountain in Tasmania.
When myself, Valerie and Sofie arrived the wind, cold and low cloud were saying keep walking to the nearest shelter but I wanted to stay and wait for a while and see if there was any chance of a change in the weather. Due to Sofie needing to catch a flight to France she would have to keep moving and not take the detour so I bid farewell to both Valerie and Sofie. After about 15 minutes of waiting I decided that I would walk up the trail towards the summit and keep re-assessing the weather and turn back if or when it was beyond my comfort zone.
Climbing Mt Ossa
Canadian Doug, Ellie and Lachie from Melbourne also joined me. 30 minutes came and gone. While the weather was crap I was not feeling cold or uncomfortable so kept climbing, so did the others. I was wearing thermals, fleece and gortex, along with by beanie and gloves. I was more worried about overheating and sweating too much which would make the cold worse.
After an hour we reached a gap between Mt Dorris and Mt Ossa. It acted as a wind tunnel with winds around 80km/h gusting through, which bought stinging rain to my face. Once through the gap the walk was sheltered from the wind and the climb began. At this point it was Doug and I as Ellie and Lochie turned back. The broken boulder field had slippery rocks but we managed to pass then and make it onto the summit plateau. Visibility was non-existent when Doug and I made it to the summit. I guess we only kept going because we deemed it safe and that we were only going to the top because we were already so close.
Would have been great to see the view, but we were greeted with rain, wind and cloud. We raced back to Pelion Gap and then raced down to the nearby Kia Ora Hut, which was small, cosy and full with cold wet hikers. After dinner and when I was just getting into bed there was commotion as a fuel stove was knocked over with flames now on parts of the bench and floor, not a great sight in a wooden hut. I was standing next to the fire blanket and grabbed it and with help from the others the fire was smothered. Ah relief. 15km in 6 hours 30 minutes including all stops for rests / photos / lunch etc.
Day 5 Overland Track
It was still raining in the morning after a very windy night, although the day had all the promises of the four seasons in one day type weather that is known to occur in Tassie. The views of Cathedral Mountain and the Du Cain range were sporadic.
Made a short stop at the historic Du Cains Hut and then a side trip to Hartnett falls which provided a glimpse of a pumping waterfall, which Doug and I teamed up to visit. Shortly after crossing the Du Cain Gap I was stunned when I almost stepped on a Wombat. Out in the middle of the day, they are normally nocturnal and not only on the middle of the walking trail but more interested in feeding than in me. I was within a meter of him and he didn’t seem fazed.
Within 20 minutes of the wombat we were at Bert Nichols Hut (also known as Windy Ridge Hut). A large hut that had views of nearby mountains such as The Acropolis which I hoped to climb. 11km in 4 hours 30 minutes including all stops for rests / photos / lunch etc.
Day 6 Overland Track
The weather was still not the best. I hoped to make another detour off the track to the area known as Pine Valley. As I set off I let myself wait until the turn off to make the decisions and when I made it to the turn off there was the sun to greet me, decision made I was going to head up Pine Valley an so it was. I reached the hut at 12pm with Doug and the Broome Mob. An earlier conversation with a ranger on the trail advised that the weather was clearing and would be good in the afternoon then a couple of days of fine weather.
Climbing the Acropolis
Doug and the Broome Mob were keen to give the summit of The Acropolis a crack so I joined them. Even though it was a late start we made a cracking pace up the initial steep track to the fairly flat ridge line. When we reached the area above the tree line the weather was clear and the summit was in view, things were looking good for us.
As we neared the last section it became quite a scramble and climb, unlike the other 3 climbs I had done in the previous couple of days, still not too difficult, although a couple of other people we passed as we were heading up failed to make it past the difficult sections. In the late afternoon we were all standing at the summit, with 3 others that headed out before us. The views were the best out of all the summits I had been on during the last week.
Also, as had occurred on all the previous summits, out came the mobile phones. I had reception on all the summits. I was able to check the weather forecast, sent / received SMS messages and book bus tickets for the end of the hike. Back to the Pine Valley Hut for what promised a great sleep, except the others in the hut had ideas of talking and laughing the night away, had I known I would have stayed in my tent for the night. Overnight karma had most of there backpacks raided by mice, my backpack was spared. 16km in 8 hours including all stops for rests / photos / lunch etc.
Day 7 Overland Track
I planned for a lazy day to Nacissus Hut, about 8-9km away. I reached the hut quite early and after a reunion with Jennifer and Lawrence who I hadn’t seen since Pelion Hut I kept hiking. Earlier in the day I was advised that 2 hikers died during the bad weather while I was climbing Mt Ossa. The numbers could have been higher as other hikers struggled with the bad weather and hypothermia.
By early afternoon I saw my first Tiger Snake of the trip and by mid afternoon I was camping on a beach next to Echo Point Hut on the banks of Lake St Clair. I even went for a swim in the far from tropical waters, although I did feel better for the dip I am in no rush to do it again. I spent afternoon reading and socialising on the waters edge, with a platypus coming for an evening visit. Best campsite of the hike. 16km in 5 hours including all stops for rests / photos / lunch etc.
Day 8 Overland Track
A slow morning with the promise of a Hamburger lunch at the Lodge at the end of the hike. I set off with a little goal of walking the whole distance of 11km without a rest stop, why not, I can run that so why not walk it. I carried 8 days worth of food with 1 spare breakfast and one spare dinner. My food weighed 8kg in total which was on the heavy side. I think I put on weight during the trip and add to that another 1kg for fuel for the stove.
So for the last day my pack was about 11kg, very light in my opinion. (EDIT : My base weight is now down to about 6kg, click here for a review of my current gear list) With the exception of a brief stop for a photo or two of wildlife such as wallabies and echidnas or rainforest plants I completed the walk and rewarded myself with an Overland Burger with the lot! I camped in the nearby campground while I waited for the bus the following day.
Hike # 2 for this journey completed. All distances and times are approximate and the times vary due to some extended lunches I had and playing with the camera trying to take good photos.
Would I recommend the hike on the overland track?
Yes, absolutely. Be prepared for the wind, rain, snow, sun, sunburn. The National Parks Centre at the start of the hike they had a good selection of suitable clothing at reasonable prices. Gloves, beanies, thermal tops and pants, socks, fleece jackets, rain jackets. So no excuses.
Transport both to and from the hike is annoying. I started and ended my journey in Devonport which meant a bus ride to the start of the hike which arrived at 12pm, which does not leave everyday, luckily the day I booked to start the hike there was a bus. To get back to Devonport was more annoying. I had two choices, catch a bus to Hobart. Stay overnight then a bus to Launceston and another bus to Devonport. The other option which I chose was the bus to Strahan ans stay overnight. The following morning take the bus to Devonport.
Transport cost me about $145 in total. Another $200 for the park fees. And about $150 in food including the hamburger and beers. Quite an expensive 8 day hike! I hope to not spend son much money on hiking for the rest of the trip! With all the wildlife sightings, side trips to mountain tops and great company I am so glad to have done the trip and have cool photos and memories…… So Yes, the Overland Track is possibly the best multi day hike in Australia. Oh and click on any of the photos for an enlarged version. Enjoy, I am.
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