In early May 2016, I completed the Overland Track for the third time in as many years. Quite a few people asked me why I keep wanting to do the Overland Track, so I thought I would write an article about why I can’t stop going back.
Located in the north-west region of Australia’s island state of Tasmania, the Overland Track is a 65km walk through the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area from Cradle Mountain to Lake St Clair. It winds through dolerite mountains, alpine buttongrass plains, and temperate rainforest. The track takes 5–6 days to complete, and takes in some of Tasmania’s most iconic scenery. Time on the track can also be extended by taking one or more of the various side trips on the track.
Each day of walking is approximately 10km, and at the end of each day is a hut. The first two times I did the track was as an independent walker, staying in all of the public huts and completing some of the side tracks as well, such as Barn Bluff summit, the Labyrinth and Mount Pelion East. The third time I did the track was with the Tasmanian Walking Company on their Cradle Mountain Huts Walk, which was quite a different experience, and one I enjoyed immensely. I’ll discuss that experience a little further on.
As I’m a big fan of lists, I thought the easiest way to explain why the Overland Track has left such an impression on me is to list the top 10 things I love about the track. I also put some imagery to these points which I hope will leave you scrambling to add the Overland Track to your bucket list!
1. The Overland Track pushes you out of your comfort zone
After a lot of research, I purchased all of my gear, flew down to Tasmania, and completed the track. Since that first trip I have completed many multi-day trips, with my Overland experience giving me the confidence to tackle bigger, tougher walks like the walk into Lake Oberon in the Western Arthurs. I can credit my first experience of doing the Overland Track for beginning my passion for wilderness photography, camping, multi-day hiking, and general passion for the amazing state of Tasmania.
2. It is a digital detox
Ever feel like you are always on your phone? Always on social media? The Overland Track winds across some pretty remote areas of Tasmania. These areas are so remote that even mobile phone reception does not reach them, which seems to be an ever-reducing phenomenon in this day and age! When you are on the track you are forced to switch off the phone (or put it in flight mode to conserve battery) and enjoy what is around you. It is peaceful, and it is wonderful not to have notifications buzzing in your pocket every 5 minutes. With the absence of technological distractions, you are free to talk to other hikers on the track, leading to laughs and new friendships.
Switching off from the world around you for 6 days and being immersed in nature is very good for the soul. It helps you to realise there is a fascinating world around you, one that isn’t confined to the retina screen of an electronic device.
3. You reconnect with nature
Being disconnected from the world, being immersed in some of the most pristine alpine and rainforest environments in the world, and breathing in some of the cleanest air in the world, these things have a profound effect on you. A recent article by a student from Stamford University suggests there is evidence that being in nature changes your brain, providing a meaningful improvement in mental health.
On a guided walk with the Tasmanian Walking Company, the guides go out of their way to teach you about the flora and fauna of that special part of Tasmania. I can now identify distinctive Tasmanian trees like the Pencil Pines from King Billy Pines. We saw hybrids as well, a cross between a Pencil Pine and King Billy Pine, as well as a cross between Richea scoparia and Richea pandanifolia. Getting to know nature is fascinating, and the more that you know about it, the more you realise there is to know!
4. The mountains are absolutely stunning
On the Overland Track, there are mountains around you at every turn. The area was subject to glacial action many thousands of years ago, with the glacier carving out the dolerite faces of the mountains that we see today. Whilst these mountains may not have the immense scale that those in New Zealand may have, they certainly make up for it in rugged beauty and character. If the beauty and character weren’t already enough some old chaps came though back in the day and gave the mountains epic-sounding Greek names like Mount Geryon, Mount Olympus, and Mount Pelion. It has been great to get to know all of the names of the mountains as I spend more time in the area, and learn about the history of its formation.
5. The creeks, rivers, and waterfalls are beautiful
It’s true that the Overland Track gets a lot of rainfall. So whilst walking in the rain may not be your cup of tea, there is a very nice side-effect — it makes the creeks and waterfalls look amazing. On the recent trip I did with Tasmanian Walking Company we got some rather heavy rainfall and even some snow just before we commenced the hike. With the snow melting the waterfalls were really pumping and putting on a show of nature’s awe-inspiring power.
6. You can do it your way
There are a few different options for you in order to get the most out of the Overland Track experience. The most common way is as an independent walker using public huts.
With this style, you take everything you need for cooking and camping with you in your pack, including all of your food. You can stay each night in a public hut (if there is room) or you can camp out on the designated campsites. This option costs $200 for the Overland Track Fee, and an additional fee for the National Parks Pass. Both these fees are paid to the Tasmanian Parks and Wildlife Service. The numbers of independent departures leaving on the track each day is capped to 34 walkers, meaning that you will need to book your walk-in advance to secure your spot.
Another way of doing the track is via the Tasmanian Walking Company, the operator the Cradle Mountain Huts Walk. This walk uses a series of private huts along the track, meaning that only your group will use the same hut each day. If you like the sound of having a hot shower after a day of walking, followed by some freshly baked muffins and a glass of Tasmanian Pinot then this is definitely for you. The other huge advantage of doing the Overland Track this way is you don’t need to carry your own food, sleeping bag, mattress, tent, or cooking equipment. This enables the pack weight you leave with on the first day to be under 10kg, whereas if you hike independently you will be doing very well to have a pack weight below 20kg! We had a couple that was in their late 60’s on our private huts walk, it makes it so much more achievable when you don’t have to carry so much weight. Tasmanian Walking company will also provide you with a rucksack and a tough Goretex jacket. Whilst this option is not inexpensive, you do have a lot included for the price!
7. You meet great people
Spending a reasonable chunk of time on the Overland Track without a lot of stimulation from the outside world leaves you to focus on what is around you. As there are generally several groups of people starting the Overland Track on any given day it is inevitable that you will meet some people. If you’re doing the walk with Tasmanian Walking Company then you will be spending all six days with the same group you left with. This gives you a lot of time to get to know one another and you can even form some close friendships within this time. I’ve generally found people doing the track to be on a similar page to myself and have had many great conversations getting to know fellow walkers on the track.
8. It’s always different
The weather on the Overland Track can be quite variable so you never quite know what conditions you will get when you head out. In early May 2016 when I started the track with Tasmanian Walking Company we were greeted with snow on the first day which was a magical experience. Other seasonal events to look out for on the track is: turning of the Fagus — deciduous beech tree leaves changing colour in Late April, fungi in April, and the wildflowers are amazing in November and early December.
9. You get even fitter
If you haven’t done a lot of hiking before it’s always good to make sure that you are physically prepared for the hike. This is especially true if your body isn’t used to carrying weight on your back. Walking for 5-6 days across Tasmania’s World Heritage area for 65km with over 20kg on your back can be rather tough if you are not experienced. So having a big hike like this one in your calendar gives you a great fitness goal.
Once you’re on the track the physical challenge of hiking 10km each day can seem quite a grind at times. However, once you’ve completed the track you will almost certainly feel fitter and have more energy. In the several times I have completed the track I have lost between 2–5kg each time. It’s quite fulfilling to enjoy nature and improve your fitness at the same time!
10. You get a great sense of achievement
After hiking for 65km and being in the bush for 5-6 days, it’s pretty exhilarating to reach the end of the track at Narcissus ferry wharf and wait for your ferry to arrive to take you back to civilisation at Cynthia Bay. Being able to sit on the wharf and contemplate the trip, all the people you met, and all the things that were achieved is certainly one of the parts I like most about the track. Once it’s all finished, a burger and a beer at Cynthia Bay tastes pretty good too!
Well, that’s the end of my list of reasons why the Overland Track is a must-do. If you have any questions about the Overland Track feel free to contact me and I’d be happy to help!
Here are some more images of the stunning scenery along the Overland Track