The Coast Track, Australia
7 days of isolation on the Southern Coast of Tasmania
The adventure begins with a chartered flight to a tiny dirt landing strip in the heart of Tasmania’s South West National Park – 85km from the nearest road! We flew with Par Avion who were able to arrange a pickup from the other end meaning we left the car at the airport.
The flight was rough with turbulent weather rattling around our 4 person aircraft. You cover a lot of the ground to be walked and can look out the trail below, particularly the Ironbound Ranges – the brutal, exposed climb half way into the walk.
The landing strip was minimalist with nothing in sight but a shed to supply you with fuel for your stove before you set off toward the beach through the low shrubbery that will soon disappear into rugged bush and later magical rainforest.
Words of Warning – not to scare you off:
- This is an extremely isolated walk – you must be self sufficient with adequate water treatment equipment as well as clothing for all weather. We had Rain, Hail, Snow and sunshine all in one day in December. Check the weather but plan for all scenarios!
- Do not expect any conventional communication means to work, equally you may not see anyone for a full 7 or 8 days. Carry a first aid kit and EPIRB (rent them from National Parks service – these days i own a SPOT device) and be familiar with treatment of a snake bite because tiger snakes are around.
- When crossing water be sure to unclip waist/chest straps on your pack, observe the current and temperature before crossing. Cross one at a time.
- The trail is mostly well marked however occasional detours and changes in access due to weather or tides necessitate bringing a map and compass – you should be familiar with how to use them.
The first few hours seemed a little bland – but once you hit the first beach at the coast (and save for the weather) you will be well rewarded.
The next week flitters along the coast ducking inland to cross headlands between beaches with one major detour in to cross the ironbound ranges (don’t underestimate it) and the second being the the major river crossing at New River Lagoon that requires the use of boats whereby one is paddled across, and used to tow a second boat back to enable future walkers to cross. This crossing should not be taken fro granted. the river is fast flowing, extremely wide and in windy conditions can be very exhausting.
As simple as the inland detours may see it is very easy to find yourself walking in circles in the thick bush if you miss the partially formed trail head at each beach. It seems to be common practice to leave any rubbish you find on the beach (washed up timber, buoys etc) at the trail head to make it more visible.
Walkers will also find that the route after the Ironbound ranges to be considerably wetter under foot with areas of thick Knee to thigh deep mud making for slow going and calling for careful clothes management to stop getting mud everywhere!
There are a a number of well established spots to camp that break the walk up into sensible days. I would definitely recommend studying a map and the possible spots but being flexible as some days will be far slower owing to weather or additional time taken crossing rivers – especially if they are cold!
We planned for 8 days but completed the walk in 7 days having a short day to the base of the ironbound ranges and camping immediately after the boat crossing due to exhaustion and poor wether.
The terrain over the last couple of days is more akin to rainforest with a dense canopy casting shade over a moist walking environment. This was a drastic but welcome change to the first few days of walking and a great way to close out the walk.
The return journey felt long (4 hours?) to get back to the airport at Hobart. We arranged a pickup through Par Avion who flew us to the start and fortunately we had phone reception two hours from the end of the trail to call and arrange our pickup for the day earlier (we had told them we would be 8 days).
For more info see:
National Parks Tasmania Page – they will sort you out a national parks pass that you need for the walk.
South Coast Track Blog – great resource and very detailed.