THE SOUTH COAST Track has everything the Apple Isle is famous for – untamed bushland, rugged beaches and unpredictable weather. Winding through the 6052sq.km Southwest National Park, the 84km track is one of Tasmania’s seven “Great Walks”. It takes eight or nine days and links Cockle Creek and Melaleuca, a remote hamlet in the state’s south-west only accessible by plane, boat or on foot.
Expect wind-beaten beaches, challenging river crossings, dense rainforest, mud-laden moors and steep ascents of exposed mountain ranges. While there are campsites along the track, there are no huts for overnight stays, which means walkers must be self-sufficient and well-equipped, unless they’re joining a guided trip. The track is renowned as one of Tassie’s toughest multi-day treks; so much so that it’s suggested you factor a rest day into your itinerary.
Justin Walker, AG Outdoor’s editor, did the trek over eight days with Tasmanian Expeditions in February 2011. He experienced the South Coast in all its wet, boggy glory. Gaiters are essential gear on the track, but nevertheless, even with these, a misplaced step often resulted in saturated socks and wrinkly feet. “The mud is something that could wear you down mentally, if you let it,” Justin says.
Boardwalk sections keep trekkers off fragile vegetation. (Image: Justin Walker)
However, trekkers will find the ever-changing landscape and pristine beauty of this isolated pocket of Tasmania will be enough to distract them from the hard slog. “On most multi-day treks there are invariably a couple of ‘slow days’,” says Justin. “The South Coast Track manages to turn that assumption on its head, however, with the continual change in terrain each day.” And, when you’re not rock-hopping in attempt to avoid the mud, be sure to watch out for wildlife, including wombats, pademelons, quolls and the stunning orange-bellied parrot.
Camp-outs by deserted beaches, under big, starry skies temper the long, arduous days on the track. The tough times were, however, the highlight of Justin’s South Coast experience. The challenging but exhilarating climb up the 1000m Ironbound Range, near the trek’s midway mark, was an unforgettable experience, he says. “Apparently, in fine weather the view is sublime, but we were met with heavy conditions – horizontal hail, sleet, rain and gale-force winds – that produced a near white-out. It was awesome.”
Getting there: Qantas, Virgin Australia and Jetstar fly daily from the mainland to Hobart. Schedule a light plane from Cambridge Airport (near Hobart Airport) to Melaleuca with Par-Avon tours. Buses occasionally run between Hobart and Cockle Creek and can be organised for the homeward journey.
Walking track: If you’re a fit, experienced and well-prepared trekker, the South Coast Track can be walked independently. For extra support, join a guided trek and enjoy the local knowledge and expertise of an experienced guide.
What you need: Due to the nature of the environment and the lack of facilities along the track, you will need to pack carefully. Gaiters, thermal layers, a good waterproof jacket, worn-in leather boots, a warm sleeping bag and a three-season tent are a must. An emergency beacon will ensure you can make contact if need be.
More info: Learn about track conditions, the route, how to get there and where to buy maps at www.parks.tas.gov.au and www.greatwalkstasmania.com/destinations/south-coast-track. To book a guided walk, visit www.tasmanianexpeditions.com.au