Starting at the epochal Cradle Mountain, the Overland Track in Tasmania journeys through some of the most spectacular scenery Australia has to offer. Traversing the Cradle Mountain-Lake St Clair National Park, a Unesco World Heritage Area, the 65 km trail takes you through Tasmania’s wild heartland before finishing at the head of Lake St Clair, Australia’s deepest lake. This lake is one of the 11 best places in Australia to take a dip, although its chilly waters are not for the faint hearted! From here a ferry takes hikers to the visitor centre at Cynthia Bay and back to reality, or an extra days walking around the lake to the centre is a popular option, taking the trail’s length to 82km.
The track is noted for its untamed beauty and ever-changing pristine scenery. Tasmania is known as ‘The Natural State’, a fitting label when you learn that more than a third of this island is protected by national parks and other conservation reserves. Passing through deep valleys gauged out by glaciers, over pristine alpine meadows and through myrtle forests with ancient beech trees, there is no wonder that this trail is a pilgrimage for hikers. It is physically demanding however; over half of it is above 1000m and is often in remote and exposed areas, so hikers need to have a good level of physical fitness. Tasmanian weather is also known to be unpredictable; be prepared for all weather. As this is a wilderness trail you have to carry all the food you require for the whole trail and any equipment. Hikers either camp at camping sites or use the maintained huts which are along the track, but these are very basic, they contain just sleeping boards and common cooking areas, no mattresses, bedding or cooking facilities. Good preparation for this trail therefore is vital; while a lighter pack makes a more enjoyable walk you need to take certain equipment to be able to complete it.
In the summer months the trail can get a little crowded so you have to reserve in advance and permits are required between October and May. During this period the trail has to be completed from North to South to help ease the flow. Taking on average six days to complete, there are some side tracks which can be added on, like a walk to the summit of Mount Ossa, the tallest mountain in Tasmania at 1617m or a visit to the Labyrinth, a group of mountain tarns. These flat, mirrored lakes make an excellent backdrop to see the Aurora Australis, the Southern Lights. Visible in Tasmania all year round, May to August is usually the best time to see this celestial wonder. Other wonders are the wildlife; wallabies, wombats and possums are all here, as well as the elusive Tasmanian devil and the weird but cute echidna. Wedge-tailed eagles and peregrine falcons may also be seen, soaring high up, just imagine what a sublime view they must have of this unique and precious place.