Located 240km south of Australia and separated by the Bass Strait, the island of Tasmania is known for its rugged nature, topped with wild rocky mountains and surrounded by pristine ocean. An island that’s ideal for hiking, mountain biking and rock climbing, Tasmania often gets overlooked by travellers due to its distance from mainland Australia; however its isolation means that it rarely gets crowded.
While it is the smallest state in Australia, the island has very distinct landscapes; the central and western areas of the island are mountainous forests (most of which are protected), the east coast is home to pristine beaches, the midlands and northern areas are used for agriculture while the majority of the population is centered around Hobart (southeast) and Launceston (north).
Cradle Mountain National Park
Cradle Mountain, which forms the northern part of the Cradle Mountain-Lake St. Clair National Park, is a wild landscape of jagged contours dotted with ancient forests and rolling grasslands. Icy streams flow from rugged mountains and their glacial lakes are surrounded by stands of ancient pines. This Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area provides a range of environments to explore, and remains one of Tasmania’s most popular
Wombats are plentiful throughout the park, especially along the boardwalks, and telltale signs include cube-shaped dungs. The best way to explore this area is on foot – there are numerous hiking tracks (ranging from 20 minutes to 6 days) that criss-cross the park, each with its own personality.
The Enchanted Walk is designed for hikers of all ages – the 20-minute walk passes cascading rivers, wombat burrows and dense rainforests. It starts off through the buttongrass moorland and then takes you into the cool rainforest along the edges of Pencil Pine Creek. The 2-hour Dove Lake Circuit is a boardwalk which takes you around the Dove Lake and below the tall steeple of Cradle Mountain itself. Glacial features like the Glacier Rock and Lake Wilks (a cirque lake) can be found along the track, and wildlife like echidnas can be spotted waddling around wooded areas. The route takes you into the cool Ballroom Forest, with ancient moss-draped myrtle beech trees that tower over a moss carpet.
For a challenging day-trip, the Cradle Mountain Summit Bush Walk (6-8 hours) starts off from Dove Lake and travels via Lake Lilla and Marion’s Lookout, taking you through Tasmania’s unique alpine vegetation and an assortment of dark, dolerite (volcanic rock millions of years old) boulders and columnar pillars. There is a considerable amount of scrambling over huge boulders near the summit, which should not be attempted in poor weather as it can get icy.
A number of descent options are available; the quickest route down is via Wombat Pool. One of the most iconic Australian hiking trails is the Overland Track, a 65km-long track that starts from Cradle Mountain and ends at Lake St. Clair. Taking about 6 days to complete, the route offers everything from dolerite peaks and rocky gorges to alpine lakes and grassy plains, with most hikers tackling a side trip to Mt. Ossa (1,617m), the tallest peak in Tasmania.
Ben Lomond National Park
For a major downhill mountain biking experience, Ben Lomond National Park offers riders a downhill track with a total vertical drop of 1,050m. With a distance of just over 20km, this trail has dramatic switchbacks, rocky rides and scenic forest singletracks. Ben Lomond, situated east of Launceston, is also Tasmania’s premier alpine ski location and a favourite for hikers all year round. Its precipitous cliffs are visible over much of the north midlands of Tasmania, and it’s the focus of downhill skiing in the state – hence when it’s not winter, the slopes are for downhill biking.
The trail starts off from the ski village of Legges Tor (1,450m) within the park, and travels down Jacob’s Ladder (a sharply winding, intestine-like and precipitous descent from the plateau) and later connects to a track which takes you through a eucalyptus forest. Bikers will also experience a single-track section which continues on fire trails (normally used for fire-fighting access) through the forest and other single tracks that lead to the end destination, Blessington Road, a tarmac road which connects to Launceston. Half-day downhill biking tours from Launceston are customisable for all levels of bikers (from AUD195).
Wellington Park is home to one of the most well-designed and maintained bike tracks in Tasmania – the 10.5km North South Track. Linking the Springs and Glenorchy Mountain Bike Park, it passes terrain ranging from lush, damp rainforest to rock scree sections and hard-packed dusty trails lined with scrub and native ferns. The trip down takes about an hour, with a 550m descent, providing a challenging route for experienced cross country riders.
The mostly single-track trail starts downhill from the Springs with a
sequence of twisting turns, great descents and a lot of fun. It takes you through an eucalyptus forest before reaching the Junction Cabin – a small cabin at the centre of several walking trails on Mt Wellington which is a place for both hikers and bikers to catch their breath before continuing on
their journey; this multi-use trail is accessible to both bikers and hikers. At Glenorchy MTB Park, bikers have the their pick of trails, including cross country, downhill, mountain cross and dirt jumps.
Tasman National Park
Tasman National Park is famous for its dolerite towers and cliffs that rise
dramatically from the ocean. Along the coastline, its main attractions include the sea stacks of Candlestick and Totem Pole, which are located north of Fortescue Bay (at Cape Hauy) and are popular for rock climbing and abseiling. There is no land access to either of the stacks – the bottom of these columns start from the ocean, and necessitate access via kayak or boat. At 130m high, the Candlestick is a multi-pitch rock split into 4 climbing portions, with a huge chimney at the second pitch and steep cracks on the higher portions.
The Totem Pole (at only 4m wide) rises 65m like a vertical needle above the Southern Ocean, and is thought to be one of the hardest rock climbing routes in Australia.
At 1,217m, Mt. Wellington is a nationally and internationally recognised rock climbing venue which makes it a hot spot for climbers in Tasmania. The mountain’s climbing routes are split into 2 major areas: Organ Pipes (the prominent upper portion of Mt. Wellington) and Lost World (on neighbouring Mt. Arthur). The Organ Pipes area is the most popular, with over 400 climbing routes (all types from trad to sport), while the Lost World is a quieter climbing area with around 50 routes. Climbing during summer will ensure less icy wind and snowfalls, but due to its mountainous location, sleet, snow and strong winds can be encountered at any time.