12 days hike in the Tasmania wilderness

A travel story about a 160 km hike through the Tasmanian wilderness world heritage area with mud, flies, heavy rain and harsh sun.

Words and images by Mervyn Ravitchandirane

It was time for a challenge: 

After having newly finished a year working in our research station in Antarctica, 4 colleagues and I needed some fresh air to breathe and nature to discover to progressively come back to civilization. As our boat dropped us in Tasmania, we decided to stay and enjoy all the wilderness this island has to offer. 

After having spent almost a month and a half on the island and covering more than 250 km on foot through the mountains, the fields and the beaches, especially in the south and the east, we were looking for something more; longer, more trying, and more isolated. 

An acquaintance told us about the famous South Coast track, along the wild Tasmanian coast on a path traced by the first settlers to arrive on the island and guided by aborigines. A hike of 6 to 8 days in autonomy of 85 km including boat crossing, river crossing and ascent of the Ironbound range (900m). Only downside: an arrival by plane at the start of the trail due to the isolation of the area. We had become much less enthusiastic about the idea of taking a plane to make a hike which led us to another solution. 

On the map a path named “Port Davey track” allowed us to join a road located further north from the Scotts peak dam, which meant we could arrive by car at the start of our trip. After

some research, it appeared that this path is much less known and frequented than the south coast track… and for good reason, the first review that we found told us: “Not a pleasant experience. Track extremely overgrown 50% of the time (trees down across track everywhere), tracks going everywhere, especially at creek crossings which make it VERY hard to find the right track. No markers. I’d consider this track actually dangerous in its lack of maintenance. Your feet will be wet from the get go each day, so make sure you have supplies to combat blisters from rubbing on wet shoes.” 

After reading this we knew that this track was our way to the South coast! 

The final itinerary was therefore a trip of 160km, 12 days, 6 584m of elevation gain, all in total autonomy. 


For the preparation of this hike, several points were under discussion. One in particular was the weight of the bags which needed to transport the equivalent of 12+1days (1 safety day more) of food, 39 meals (13×3 meals per day). This represents a considerable volume and mass, and this even using dehydrated food. 

For water, we had a filter pump to use the streams as supply points, which are never dry given the heavy rainfall falling in the west of the island. 

In order to lighten our bags, we used 3 tents for 5 people, which allowed us to distribute the meals between us. As far as equipment is concerned, we restricted ourselves to a minimum (little or no change of clothes, 1 stove for 5, etc.) and despite this we had bags weighing between 30 and 35 kg at the start. We knew the beginning would be difficult. Bringing some good waterproof clothes is also mandatory for this hike. Weather can change very quickly and switch from harsh sun to heavy rain in less than 30 minutes. Also for bedtime, it is better to have a good 3 season tent and synthetic sleeping bags in a high humidity environment. Wearing gaiters is also highly recommended due to the very muddy track. It was also important to keep in mind we were in Australia and the three species of snakes present in Tasmania are deadly.  Needless to say, high boots, sturdy pants and gaiters are not an option to leave behind.

We rented a distress beacon from the Tasmanian national park ranger office in Hobart. You can rent it for 40 Australian dollars per week, and it can be a life saver as there is no phone coverage in remote West Tasmania. 

The second main point under discussion was how to get there. We didn’t have a car to move through the island and we had managed to travel by bus or hitchhiking so far. But this time, the trip was quite long to get to the starting location of the Port Davey track. A local friend of ours had a car, but it was broken. Luckily, we had a mechanic in the group, so we decided to make a deal: we fix your car and then you bring us to the Scotts Peak dam. It was a deal, and the car was fixed that day.

Port Davey track: 

By midday, the car was loaded with 5 bags over 30kg each and 6 people (I was in the trunk) for a 3 hour drive to the Scotts peak dam near the track. Not a very pleasant trip, each pot hole reminded us that the car wasn’t built for that much load, but it, and we, made it! 

On the first afternoon of the walk we knew that the first days would be harsh: knee deep mud, poorly marked track and those damn heavy backpacks. At the first camp spot we met a guy who just finished another hike nearby the Western Arthurs traverse, an also very challenging hike through the mountains of the West. We chatted a little and he gave us some really good advice. For example, about the water, he told us that you don’t need to filter it! We were a bit skeptical at first because the water in the stream is clear but with a very brownish color. He explained that the water in this part of the island is filled with tannin, a substance found in the trees bark and roots, it’s harmless for us and even has antioxidant properties. 

On the second day we discovered the true beauty of the Tasmanian wilderness: Mountain ranges, huge treeless plains and the track clearing a thin path among those landscapes.  From time to time, we crossed some small streams that allowed us to refresh ourselves ( the temperature was around 26 degrees Celsius without wind and a clear blue sky). We also met our new friends on this trip called the March Flies.The March Fly frenzy prevails amidst the moorland heath as the peat begins to dry and release CO2, particularly during hot spells. They are known for their biting, bloodsucking, and disease carrying traits. They feed on cattle and other soft skin animals but also on crocodiles. If you untimely find yourself out on the island’s western plains, scrubs, and highlands when this frantic event occurs, you will have your tenacity and tolerance challenged. 

We also found out that the distances written on the map are completely different from reality, In a bad way. On the second day we were supposed to walk around 13km and we actually walked a good 21km in 9h45min.There are very few parts of the tracks that are dry without mud and we were constantly struggling with very deep mud patches that we wanted to avoid, but our walking speed is definitely impacted. It was a glorious moment to arrive at the campsite at the end of the day, a perfect spot under a small parcel of trees and crossed by a stream. After a long day, setting up all the camp, hanging the shoes and socks to dry, and dinner time is more than welcome. 

On the third morning, the small hiking routine could be felt in the group. Everybody has their own habits about food, the packing of the bags, and also on the tasks given to everyone about filling the water bladders, preparing the coffee, folding the tents, etc. That’s what makes the mornings more enjoyable – until you have to put back your wet socks and shoes

that didn’t dry at all during the night. Because the shoes are so caked in mud, it creates a kind of a protective crust around that makes it very difficult to dry. 

On this day we can feel that the track is starting to be more hilly with some great views at the top of each hill, and a deep wet forest with streams crossing at the very bottom of it. At times, the track is really difficult to find because of the density of trees, sometimes we even have to crawl on the ground to follow it. When walking we are also very aware about the possibility of meeting a snake, and we definitely want to avoid a bite by being careful where we are stepping and by making a bit of noise to scare them. 

Sometimes we think about the first people who crossed this area and created the track in 1898 and also named the area “the lost world plateau”. All the empty landscapes make us feel like we are on another planet and we can only agree about the naming of the area. 

When we arrived at Spring river at the end of the day we found a great campsite above and wanted to refresh ourselves in it. Sadly, the banks were so muddy that we had to skip our “shower” for this day. 

The fourth day was hard, really hard. A short day in distance of around 12 km, but with a lot of very steep ascents and descents where you even have to use your hand to climb, all of it in the jungle, the never ending mud and of course, the weight of our backpacks. This day was for us the most demanding of them all. We had to make breaks at almost every hilltop to take our breath and have some water. In the morning the weather was cloudy, but around 12 the thin layer of clouds went out to give space to a very harsh sun, which made the afternoon worse with the temperature topping off at 33 degrees Celsius. We also met 3 snakes on the tracks, with a particularly aggressive one that didn’t want to move off the track, it was hissing and attacking us. Not a very pleasant experience. 

We managed to arrive at the campsite quite early and it was a relief. After a long break and setting up camp, we talked about the day and everybody was in pain. But we are used to challenging experiences and it makes us very happy to share those moments together. It helps to keep an excellent sense of humor and mindset. 

That night the camp was located in Bathurst harbor, and the smell of salted water indicated to us that we were only two days away from the coast. 

On the fifth and final day on the Port Davey track, the stop for the night was located in Melaleuca, which is the starting point of the South Coast track. But before that, a new challenge for us: A boat crossing.

Facing Bathurst, the tide was running fast and we decided to wait for it to slow down before crossing it. When the current slowed down we had to make three trips to ensure that at least one boat was located on each side of the crossing. 

The rest of the day was very hot again but with a lot more flat terrain and we arrived at Melaleuca in the afternoon. Melaleuca is a tiny settlement tucked into the far South-West corner of Tasmania. Originally established for tin-mining by the King family, it can only be reached by light plane, boat or by multi-day walks on the South Coast or Port Davey Tracks. Melaleuca was home to Deny King, a well-known miner, bushman, naturalist and artist, from 1936 until his death in 1991. He also built most of the on-site accommodation by himself. 

In Melaleuca, since the start of the South Coast track is more known to the public and we could see some people freshly arriving at the location. Compared to them, we looked like some kind of dirty men lost in the wild and covered in mud. But this situation was a real windfall for us because those fresh hikers decided to give us some food and not just some basic snacks. They gave us handmade dehydrated meals like chili con carne or beef curry masala! On this night, we had the most fabulous dinner we’d had on the entire hike. After 5 days of struggling with the Port Davey tracks, we were very grateful to those Australian hikers for this meal. If one or more of you is reading this piece, thank you! 

South Coast Track: 

After a great night we woke up under the rain for the first time of the trip. It was very thin but intense and windy rain that soaked us very quickly. We were aware of the major precipitations in the area and until now, we had been spared. We started our sixth day of hike and very first day on the famous South Coast track under the rain but also on boardwalk! 5 days of walking in knee deep mud and now we can almost run on wooden planks above the swamp and the flooded plains of the west. What a pleasure. And for the first time, we are completely damp except for our feet. 

We are now walking at an impressive speed and the sea is getting closer as the rain decreases. We finally arrived at Point Eric with good weather and a lot of time to find a good camp spot and relax ourselves. We also had to find water and because of the rainy day the streams were filled with mud so we used our filtering pump for the first time. 

It was great to finally hear the waves and the seabirds of the southern ocean. On the coast, the nights are colder than the ones on the Port Davey Track, and it was a good feeling to not overheat all night.

That day’s mission: Leaving Point Eric for Louisa River.  17 km away. The first part of the day was along the beach and because we had the low tide with us, we had the chance to

walk on hard sand. The markers for the tracks are made in old fishing debris composed of nets, buoys and branches. 

At the end of the beach and approximately 4km walk through the bush the same obstacles can as in Port Davey: mud, flies, sun. The more we walked, the more we could see the highest point of the day named Red Point Hills. A good part of the track up Red Point Hills is steep, but the view at the top allowed us to see our starting point of the day and also our campsite for the night at Louisa Creeks. We could also see our next day challenge, the Ironbound Ranges. Before that, we had to cross some creeks that were kind of deep, but that could be waded with the help of a rope.

The campsite was a wonderful place under the trees with some clear areas letting the sun go through. The campsite was crossed by the Louisa River and for the first time in seven days, we washed ourselves with soap. Nothing is better than to feel clean after the intense days we had just experienced.

Day number 8: Ironbound Ranges, a 905m high summit between us and Little Deadman’s Bay, only 12 kms away. The approach to the base of the Ironbound was very easy with some boardwalk installed across the wetlands until the base of the range. After that, the ascent begins and the more you climb the steeper it gets, all of the 905m climb happens in a bit less than 5 kms and that’s for sure a descent incline. When we thought we were at the top, there was actually another hill, and another one, and again another one. A lot of up and down before the summit.

The top was astonishing, and the lunch break was more than welcome. Sadly, we had to be quick as a heavy rain was heading toward us, and we started the descent of the famous Ironbound Range. 

The first part of the day was on ascent with clear weather, dry path and treeless landscapes. But the descent was the total opposite. 7 km under the rain in a dense forest, clambering over trees, sliding down rocks and getting down on your hands and knees to crawl under fallen trees. The track was very rough, and seemed to take forever before we arrived at Little Deadman’s bay campsite where we set up camp on a flat land under the trees and a bit above the sea.

The track from Little Deadman’s Bay to Prion beach was quite flat but extremely muddy. We also had to cross streams that for us were increasing in size due to the heavy rain of the night. The landscapes are diverse on this day crossing beaches, rivers, forest and muddy

plains. We had time to enjoy the beaches at lunch because of the good cruising speed we had, the day was pleasant. The very last part of the day was concluded by a boat crossing which was a  less challenging one than the first boat crossing.

On the way to Granite beach, we also had time to enjoy the track,and took the time we needed to appreciate the walk. From the beginning, we were constantly challenging ourselves because of the heat, the track conditions, and the weight of our backpacks. But the hard parts were behind us. Sometimes, one of us had a hard time warming up in the morning, as we are all getting a bit tired. We walked most of the time on sandy beaches, but as far South we were going, the rockier the beaches were. The very last kilometers before Granite beach is a massive boulder field, which gave our ankles a hard time, until we discovered the campsite up on a cliff with an amazing view on the bay and a waterfall heading to the sea. Our second shower of the trip facing the sea. Probably one of the best campsites of the whole trip, we even found a parcel of short grass as soft as a mattress, allowing us to enjoy a huge dinner with a seaview.

We knew that we were getting closer to the end of this walk as we saw more and more people on the beaches and the track. We arrived at Lion rock pretty early and the area was again fabulous with a forest facing a very thin sand beach with a river following the curve of a cliff. I decided to make a really nice campsite by finding some logs to make some seats and by stretching our tarps to have some shade above the tent. Everybody found an activity for the afternoon, and we met another group of hikers and shared a great dinner altogether.

After 11 days in the World Heritage Area of the west part of Tasmania, we were on our last day of the hike. It was a very easy day so we are taking our time during breakfast, enjoying the sun on the beach. We chatted about the last 11 days, we laughed a lot about it and we’re feeling and became a bit wistful about this great trip. The last 7km were done in 2 hours, and we decided to have lunch on the last beach before the parking lot. It happened that a school class on a trip went to the beach too and came to us by giving us a massive amount of homemade pies, cakes and other fantastic meals!

As we walked out, we signed out the registration book to achieve our journey and we were now heading to the small town of Dover looking for accommodations to take a shower and have a good meal and beers before going back to Hobart.

The island in few numbers: 

Tasmania is an island state of Australia located in the roaring forties (40°38’26″S to 43° 38′ 37″S), 240km to the south of Australia mainland which covers an area of 68,401 km² which is almost the same as the area of Ireland ! Fun fact! 42% of its land area is protected. 

Around 11,700 years ago the island was adjoined to Australia, which allowed aboriginal people to populate the area. 

The island was discovered in 1642 by the Dutch explorer, Abel Tasman, and was named after him in 1856 (previously known as Van Diemen’s land). 

Average maximum temperatures in summer sit between 17 and 23 degrees Celsius. Winter maximum temperatures are between 3 and 11 degrees. On the west coast, an annual average of 2800 mm of precipitation can be found with an average of 242 rainy days per year. 

About Mervyn

Mervyn is a French outdoor enthusiast and photographer whose goal is to share what it feels and looks like to be in the remote and wild areas of the world. Working in the environment and the research fields, from the Antarctic deserts to the Finnish forests, passing the New Zealand mountains and the heat of the Indian Ocean.

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