The Southwest National Park is Tasmania’s largest national park, sprawling across 600,000 hectares. Discover some of the most remote, unspoiled scenery in all of Australia—a landscape photographer’s dream. The southwest has a rich history and exploring the World Heritage Wilderness Area offers a glimpse back in time.
We’ve put together some tips on different ways to experience the Southwest National Park, as well as highlights to appreciate during your visit. Remember that a Parks Pass is required for entry into all of the national parks in Tasmania.
Disclaimer: This blog focuses on access via the Southern Edge, rather than through the Western Wilds.
How to get there
There are no roads within the park, so embrace the adventure and go forth on foot, by boat, or in a light plane (or experience a combination).
For hikers, the main southeast entry point is Cockle Creek, the paradise at the end of Australia’s southern-most road (just a 2-hour drive south from Hobart). The South Cape Bay track (15.4 km / 4 hours return) is a great introduction to the park, with incredible views of the rugged southern coastline. Keen surfers sometimes carry their boards in on foot to catch the big swells at South Cape Bay. Take your lunch and make a day of it.
The walk is also the eastern end of the epic South Coast Track to Port Davey, a seven-day walk along some of the wildest coastline in Australia. This one is for very experienced, well-prepared hikers only, with challenging inclines (rewarding with stunning views) and all kinds of weather on the cards.
There are some alternate entry points in Tasmania’s Far South, with walks including: the challenging hike to Adamsons Peak (15 km / 7–10 hours return) near Dover; the Mystery Creek Cave Track (4 km / 2 hours return) near Ida By; and the three-day Moonlight Ridge to Mt La Perouse track from Lune River. In the Huon Valley, the track to Lake Skinner (6.5 km / 4–5 hours return) is accessible via Judbury.
On the water
Port Davey is a Marine Reserve and forms part of Tasmania’s Wilderness World Heritage Area. Discover pristine coastal wilderness, extensive waterways and quartzite peaks. Chartering a boat is a great way to explore the area while enjoying a touch of luxury (keep an eye out for dolphins, seals, birdlife, and migrating whales around the coastline). Our tips include:
- Hobart Yachts offer dream sailing charters from Hobart into Port Davey, with a stop over at beautiful Recherche Bay. The trips are usually for 7 days / 6 nights, but can be customised to suit your requirements.
- Tasmanian Boat Charters offer an all-inclusive, guided expedition at Port Davey (fly into Melaleuca). Relax on board the Odalisque, a boutique floating hotel complete with hot showers, soft beds, skipper, chef, and expert guide.
- Join SailTas on their Catalina 42′ yacht for a tailored ecotourism adventure into Port Davey. The yacht features a swim platform and is stocked with fresh Tasmanian food and beverages.
- Yukon Tours also offers a range of sailing options on the traditional danish build sailing ketch (from 2-days to 7-days) into Port Davey.
Alternatively, fly into Melaleuca to join Roaring 40s Kayaking for an unforgettable seven-day expedition exploring the wild waterways of Bathurst Harbour and Port Davey by sea kayak (there is also time for optional short walks or relaxing on the beach).
In the air
Take in the breathtaking scenery from the air with Par Avion Wilderness Tours. Treat yourself to their Southwest Wilderness Experience, which includes return scenic flights from Hobart to Melaleuca, lunch, wine, and refreshments (Tasmanian produce), a scenic cruise, and a guided ground tour. You can also fly into Melaleuca one way if you are planning to walk the South Coast Track back out to Cockle Creek.
This epic chunk of wilderness at the bottom of Australia is special for many reasons. Highlights include the park’s remote and varied scenery, ancient flora and fauna, and rich cultural values.
The Southwest National Park is home to some of the finest wilderness in Australia. Discover jagged mountain ranges, wild rivers, buttongrass plains, and towering rainforests. Port Davey and Bathurst Harbour are spectacular, with glass-like reflections and dramatic peaks.
Flora & fauna
The park is home to a myriad of plant and animal species, including strands of rare Huon pine and some of the last remaining temperate wilderness areas on Earth. Keep an eye out for a range of Tasmanian wildlife, including wombats, pademelons, and quolls.
The area around Melaleuca is the sole breeding grounds of the highly endangered orange-bellied parrot. During the summer months, take the short path from the airstrip to the Deny King Memorial Hide for your chance to see these rare birds in the wild. The hide offers plenty of information about the orange-bellied parrot as well as other birds in the area.
The Bathurst Harbour – Port Davey region is a drowned river valley that supports a variety of interesting marine species. The dark, tannin-stained water in the Channel allows delicate sea pens to thrive in very shallow water (they are usually found much deeper).
Culture & history
The Southwest National Park has a rich history and important cultural value. Discover a living, changing Aboriginal interpretive experience on the Needwonnee Walk at Melaleuca. Sculptural installations along the walk interpret some of the stories of the Needwonnee people. The 1.2 km boardwalk weaves through the moorland, forest and edge of the lagoon. As you walk, ponder the long history and rich culture of the Tasmanian Aboriginal people, including their connection to the land.
- Read Tasmania Parks & Wildlife Service’s Essential Bushwalking Guide and watch the informative short video.
- Areas of the park were affected by the early-2019 bushfires, so please check information on track, campsite and reserve closures and reopenings.
- Check the current conditions and adequately prepare.
- Drive to conditions and watch out for wildlife.
- Follow all signs and safety advice and don’t take unnecessary risks.
- Respect the environment and wildlife by sticking to pathways, taking only photos, and leaving no trace.
- Download the Huon Valley app: it’s your own pocket-sized travel guide.
- Browse things to do, where to stay, eat and drink, the events calendar and our blog.
We love it when you share your adventures with us! Share your snaps by tagging @hobartandbeyond and using #HobartandBeyond on Instagram and Facebook – we’ll share our favourite pics on social media and in the blog.
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This post originally featured on Southern Trove Tasmania.