Hiking the South Coast Track
Some people consider the South Coast Track as the second best hike in Tasmania behind the Overland Track. In my opinion hiking the South Coast Track in combination with the Port Davey Track makes a much more scenic and remote trail. Bushwalking these two trails combine some of the best hiking in Tasmania.
The South Coast Track is an 85km long hike that most bushwalkers complete in 5-8 days. The exact time and distance will depend on hiking experience, fitness, side trails and the weather.
Getting to and from the South Coast Track
Most people fly to the start of the South Coast Track using a flight to Melaleuca airstrip by the airline, Par Avion. They fly this route and can supply Fuel or Gas canisters to hikers (they are not allowed on the plane).
The end of the South Coast Track is at Cockle Creek. Most people use one of the several Hiking Transport companies to transport them to Hobart. I have hiked the South Coast Track a couple of times over the years. I have used pre arranged transport from the bushwalking bus companies, I have hitch hiked and I have met friends who have given me a lift. If hitch hiking be aware that this part of Tasmania does not see a lot of transport, however, you might be able to pay for a spare seat on one of the bus companies that are picking up other hikers.
Another option is to start or finish your hike at Scotts Peak Dam via the Port Davey Track. I have used this option and consider it the best option. The Port Davey Track is fairly easy and makes a great introduction to South West Tasmania. A food and fuel drop can be organised for Melaleuca Airstrip with Par Avion. The cost of the food and fuel drop (March 2018) is $5.50 per kg, fuel costs $6 per liter and gas canisters cost $15.
South Coast Track – Day 1
There is a free hut at Melaleuca Airstrip that I used on the first night of this hike. I arrived with my hiking buddy Valerie after we hiked the Port Davey Track. Our resupply box with food and fuel was waiting for us when we arrived.
After spending the night at the free hut Valerie and I started bushwalking the South Coast Track with clear skies and ridiculously hot temperatures. The trail out of the airstrip is easy and mostly very flat. Most people aim to make it to Point Eric for their first nights camp. We decided on a detour from the normal track and headed to New Harbour for the first night which is part of the South West Cape Track.
We had heard it was a great beach so we decided to see if the rumours were true. It was a short detour off the South Coast Track and set us up for a stunning climb over the Harbour Ranges the following day.
There was little wind, blue skies and silky white sand on the beach. A long dead seal greeted us on the far end of the beach. With such great weather we made the decision to set up camp on the beach and enjoy the rest of the afternoon. With clear night skies we left the fly off the tent at night with the hope of seeing the rare Aurora Australis also known as the Southern Lights, but it did not show itself.
12km in 3 hours including all rest breaks etc
South Coast Track Day 2
We again woke to good weather and decided to take a short cut back to the South Coast Track by climbing over the Harbour Ranges. There were no tracks but the day before I noted that there was not too much vegetation on the range and it looked like the climb would not be too tough or too much of a bush bash. So off we went. It took about 2.5 hours to reach the summit of the range at 556m. Great views over the coastal cliffs and beaches and inland through the valleys and high mountains.
Despite the cold and sometimes intense wind we lingered at the top for a very long time. We didn’t want to leave until it appeared that some bad weather may be coming. It only took an hour to descend back down to the South Coast track right next to the beach on Cox Bight. From there it was a nice easy stroll along the beach to our camp for the night at Point Eric.
9km in 5.5 hours including all rest stops, photo breaks, lunch breaks etc
South Coast Track Day 3
A not so early start as we were one of the last to leave. A commercial tour group being the last ones there. The day started with low fog migrating out of the valley from Bathurst Harbour, through Melaleuca and out to sea. A stunning sight, however, when it burnt off the temperatures again soared and it was quite hot. By the time we exited the beach and climbed the Red Point Ranges I was consuming around 1 litre of water an hour and sweating profusely. It felt somewhat tropical. Come prepared for anything in the far South of Tassie.
While bushwalking we flushed several Ground Parrots from the side of the track. They are so well camouflaged. After many attempts one of the Ground Parrots stayed still long enough for a photo opportunity.
By late afternoon we reached the boardwalks over the sodden plains near Louisa River campsite. There was a Tiger Snake under the boardwalk. I had to jump over it, I couldn’t see its head and had to guess as I jumped. I didn’t feel like I was in any danger but I’m not wanting to argue with a Tiger Snake. While walking on the boardwalk sections my line of vision tends to take in the scenery more than my footsteps!
When I first hiked the South Coast Track 20 years ago there were few sections of boardwalk and many sections of knee deep mud. Although there are still many muddy sections it is a vast improvement which makes for much easier and quicker hiking.
Just as we reached the campsite there was a crack of thunder and rain started to fall. We crossed the river and set up camp quickly. Within 5 minutes the rain had stopped and blue sky appeared. You just can’t pick what the weather will do down here.
17km in 6 hours including all rest breaks, lunch stops, photo sessions etc
South Coast Track Day 4
Sleep was lacking during last night thanks to the near constant rain overnight. When it was not raining, the drops of water from the trees above constantly bombarded the tent, even earplugs didn’t really help. I cooked the morning breakfast in the vestibule of the tent and sheltered from the rain. Right when we were ready to start hiking the rain cleared and we set off to clearing skies.
The Ironbound Ranges have a reputation as being the hardest section of the South Coast Track. Its not so much that there is a 900 meter climb that was the issue, but the transition from sub-alpine scenery to rainforest on the descent that promised to test most hikers.
The first hour of the climb we made good time and then the drizzle and wind started. Not a problem as I have all the right equipment and was prepared for any weather that Tassie could throw at me. The drizzle didn’t last long but the cold wind did. We reached the top in under 3 hours and planned to stop and have an early lunch but instead decided to have a light snack, we only lasted 10 minutes as there was no place to shelter from the wind and cold.
It was probably 5 degrees at the top, but with the 40km/h winds it felt much colder. When we discussed the climb days earlier we wanted to go past the summit saddle to the summit of the Ironbound Ranges another couple of kilometers further on, but the weather was not cooperating with us today.
The decent through the rainforest was a struggle for some going down. The slippery rocks and exposed tree roots caused a lot of problems. There were little in the way of a views from within the rainforest. We made it to Little Deadmans Bay in good time. It was still quite cold so we relaxed with a cup of tea while staring at the distant dolphins playing out in the ocean.
12km in 7 hours including all rest breaks, lunch stops, slips on the muddy tree roots etc
South Coast Track Day 5
We set off from the campsite alone. All the other hikers that crossed the Ironbound Range with us on the previous day were having a rest day to fish, dive for crayfish and Abalone and drink tea. There were some muddy sections on the trail early. The worst of the mud was knee deep. Most of the time trying to avoid the mudholes. I just plowed right on into them. Why destroy the trail more by making other trails or making it wider in search of a dry line.
By mid morning we were walking on Prion Beach. This is the longest beach walk for the whole bushwalk. It’s amazing to walk on a deserted beach with no other footprints. All the previous days footprints were either blown away by the wind or erased by the tides. Every so often I had to turn around to take in the view from behind. Most of the time the Ironbound Ranges were cloud covered. Near the end of the beach we had to cross the New River Lagoon by row boat. It is a 200 meter crossing. This is not an easy crossing in strong wind. We struggled to get across. Keep that in mind if crossing New River Lagoon in high wind.
We had lunch at the campsite and continued to a little visited beach campsite called Osmiridium Beach. The water in the creek was only just flowing and was the colour of a strong cup of tea. It tasted fine and we didn’t get sick. The campsite was littered with rubbish from hikers too lazy to carry out there used wrappers or bottles. It was seriously disappointing to see it. When I went to the toilet, which incidentally has not only a great view but great for birdwatching, I looked into the pit and noticed that people started to use it a rubbish bin. Once again disappointed. Please practice leave no trace when hiking. If you carry it in, then carry it out.
We walked to the beach for a swim in the afternoon but a combination of cold water and strong seas meant a short dip was all that we did.
13km in 6 hours including all rest breaks, lunch breaks, photo stops and rowing backwards and blaming the wind!!
South Coast Track Day 6
The plan was a short, somewhat lazy day of hiking to Granite Beach. First stop was Surprise Bay. Valerie knows why it got it’s name. She was ‘Surprised‘ twice by incoming waves. She was not paying attention. Although it was hilarious at the time, if the tide and seas were angry it could have been much worse that wet shoes, socks, gaiters, shorts and shirts. First while crossing between two rocky outcrops she was busy filming with the GoPro when she was caught by waves. The second time at the other end of the beach where there is a rivulet she was caught again. Once you’re wet you’re wet.
The campsite at Surprise Bay was great, overlooking the beach, headlands and Ocean. We stayed and made a cup of tea over and long slow lunch then wandered towards Granite Beach. It took us 45 minutes to get to the beach. Almost as soon as we entered the beach we saw what we thought was either a beached Whale or a dead Seal. It wasn’t until we were right next to it that we noticed that it was a very alive female Southern Elephant Seal, which doesn’t seem to make it to Tassie very often. She was angry at our intrusion and after the photo session we left her in peace and continued along Granite Beach to the campsite. A Spotted Quoll which sometimes goes by the name of Tiger Quoll frequented the campground, I love seeing wildlife and have been so blessed on this trip so far.
8km in 4 hours including all rest breaks, tea brewing breaks, wildlife viewing breaks and getting swamped by the sea breaks to dry wet boots!!
South Coast Track Day 7
It promised to be another slog day today. Lots of mud, tree roots and general slow travel. Valerie and I had light backpacks by now and made quite easy work of the track. By the time we made it to South Cape Rivulet it was lunch time. We traveled fast over the mud holes and tree roots on this day.
Some people take 10 hours to hike from Granite Bay to South Cape Rivulet. When we arrived it was early and we still had tonnes of energy. We decided to push on and see if we could walk to the end of the track at Cockle Creek. By the time we were at the last beach and past Lion Rock it started to drizzle. As soon as my rain gear was on the rain stopped. We made it to Cockle Creek by 5pm.
20km in 9.5 hours including all rest breaks, lunch breaks, photo stops and needlessly stopping to put on rain gear stops.
So ended our 166km Journey from Scotts Peak Dam, the Port Davey Track and the South Coast Track.
End of the Trail
While walking to the free campsites at the end of the walk I saw a familiar looking VW Campervan. It belonged to Laurence and Jen. We had walked the Overland Track with them a couple of weeks ago. I knew they would be in the area and they knew we were in the area, but not sure when or if we would meet. The greetings were warm and so was the hospitality as we were feed with copious amounts of food and drinks. We camped with them for the rain soaked night and as public transport was days away they gave us a lift to Dover from where we hitched a lift to Huonville and took the local bus to Hobart.
The South Coast Track was part of an 11 day / 166km hike that started at Scotts Peak Dam and a hike on the Port Davey Track before linking up with the South Coast Track. We both lost about 3kg in weight over the 11 days. We ate all the food that we bought with us except the last meal at Cockle Creek. Laurence and Jen were kind enough to feed us. We were never hungry (although I craved a fresh foods).
The weather on the trip was exceptional The rain was short and never enough to make us regret being outdoors, if anything there were times it was very hot and water consumption was high. Highly recommended walk.
Have You Hiked the South Coast Trail? Got a Question about hiking the trail? Leave me a message in the comments section below.
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