The Lesser Known National Park Guide To Tasmania

11 February 2015

Did you know Tasmania has a staggering 19 national parks? If you're not there for the wine, the food or the culture, then it's likely you've set your sights on the island's natural splendour. Move over Freycinet and Cradle Mountain, here's our guide to six of Tassie's lesser known, but equally impressive national parks.

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Tasman National Park

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From the trails, sea or highway, Tasman National Park looks good from any angle.

On Tasmania's eastern coast, just 90 minutes' drive from Hobart, is an incredible landscape of soaring sea cliffs and mammoth rock features. Tasman National Park protects a vast natural sprawl across Cape Surville, Waterfall and Fortescue Bays, Cape Hauy, Cape Pillar (the Southern Hemisphere's highest vertical sea cliff) and Cape Raoul. Not to mention Fossil Island, Hippolyte Rocks and Tasman Island.

 Views of The Blade, Tasman Passage and Tasman Island from the Cape Pillar Track (credit: Tourism Tasmania and Sarajayne Lada)

Things to do:

  • Take to the high seas for close-up views of the sea cliffs, while spotting seals, sea birds and even migrating whales on an unforgettable wildlife cruise with Pennicott Wilderness Journeys.
  • Hit one of the many easy walking tracks and teeter over the edge of the cliffs to view deep chasms and intense aquamarine sea.
  • No need to venture too far from the car. There's a bounty of natural formations along the coastline including the ever popular Tasman Arch and The Blowhole.
  • Hang gliders can launch off at Pirates Bay.

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Franklin-Gordon Wild Rivers National Park

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Wild by name, wild by nature, Franklin-Gordon Wild Rivers National Park was shaped by ancient glaciers.

This National Park nestles in the heart of the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area off the western coast. You may be familiar with a certain environmental campaign back in the 1980s to stop the controversial Franklin Dam project. The movement won, and today we continue to enjoy the natural spoils of spectacular gorges, ragged mountain peaks and some incredible waterways.

 Marvel at the natural tannin-stained waters of Franklin River  (credit: Tourism Tasmania and Sarajayne Lada)

Things to do:

  • Lyell Highway cuts through the national park, with plenty of picnicking spots and walking trails to stop at along the way.
  • King William Saddle awards jaw-dropping views of Mt Rufus, Frenchmans Gap and the dramatic change in geology from Tassie's west to east landscapes.
  • See a thundering waterfall along the Nelson Falls Nature Trail.
  • Embark on a cruise from Strahan through the dense forest banks of the Gordon River or visit Sarah Island, the former convict settlement.
  • The crimson-hued tannin-stained water of the Franklin River is a sight to behold.

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Maria Island National Park

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Easily accessible by ferry, pint-sized and pristine Maria Island is entrenched in unique heritage and offers a bevy of activities off the eastern coast. Whether you're a history buff, adventure seeker, wildlife warrior or beach babe, the wonders of Maria Island deliver the goods. Leave the car keys and spending money at home; you won't find any vehicles or stores here. Just Mother Nature at her absolute best.

 Say hey to these little guys on Maria Island (credit: Tourism Tasmania and Kathryn Leahy)

Things to do:

  • Spot 11 of the state's 12 widespread bird species and Cape Barren goose.
  • A bounty of wildlife can be seen around the island including pademelons and wombats.
  • Enjoy stretches of white sand beaches to yourself.
  • Maria Island's crystal clear water is home to incredibly diverse marine life making it a prime scuba diving and snorkelling spot.
  • Cycle through the ruins of Darlington. Once a convict station, today a ghost town.
  • Wander The Reservoir Circuit through woodlands and a eucalypt forest.
  • Set off on a three- or five-hour walk along the coastline, through grasslands and past towering cliffs to reach the summits of Bishop and Clerk, the island's tallest peaks.

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Narawntapu National Park

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Narawntapu National Park isn't regarded as the 'Serengeti' of Tasmania for nothing. It's said this northern national park is the best place in the state to spot wildlife thanks to a comprehensive landscape of inlets, wetlands, dunes, lagoons and vast plains that stretch from the low coastal ranges to Bass Straight beaches.

Here's a fun fact: the park was formerly known as Asbestos Range National Park due to the small quantities of asbestos and other minerals farmed beyond the range, but never actually in the range itself, despite its original name.

 Roos at sunset at Narawntapu National Park (credit: Tourism Australia and Pauly Vella)

Things to do:

  • Wildlife spotting! Animals make appearances in the evening so get out those binoculars to catch a glimpse of Forester kangaroos, Bennetts wallabies, wombats and even elusive Tasmanian Devils grazing on the grasslands.
  • Birdwatchers rejoice! A number of species reside in the park including honeyeaters and black cockatoos. Narawntapu is also the feeding ground of the endangered wedge-tailed eagle.
  • Unearth Narawntapu's rich Aboriginal heritage.
  • Set up camp at Springlawn, the horse yards, Bakers Point or Koybaa.
  • Swim or go fishing at Bakers Beach and Badger Beach.
  • Discovery Rangers hold a variety of outdoor activities for both kids and adults during the summer holidays.

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Ben Lomond National Park

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Ben Lomond National Park is where Taswegians come to get their snow fix in the Southern Hemisphere winter. Up at the summit is a fully fledged alpine village with ski lifts, a ski school, retail outlet and cafe.

Often the journey is just as memorable as your destination, and the leisurely 70-minute drive to Ben Lomond from Launceston culminates in spectacular fashion with a zigzag road to the top known as Jacob's Ladder.

Pack your skis, snowboards or toboggans; in Ben Lomond, the powder's fresh.

 Powdery tracks at Ben Lomond (credit: Tourism Tasmania and Thomas Carpenter)

Things to do:

  • Ski, snowboard or toboggan.
  • Strap on some snow shoes and enjoy a leisurely walk in the snow at your own pace.
  • There are several two-hour walks for hikers including Carr Villa to Alpine Village and Alpine Vilalge to Little Hell.

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Mt Field National Park

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Mt Field holds the title of Tasmania's first national park, and it's a diverse one at that. Think incredible vistas, lush vegetation, wildlife and even skiing facilities. Mt Field National Park is an easy 60-minute commute from Hobart.

Another fun fact: Russell Falls, Mt Field's incredible tiered-cascade waterfall was featured on Australia's first stamp.

 The famous Russell Falls at Mt Field National Park (credit: Tourism Tasmania and Catherine Forge)

Things to do:

  • Lace up those walking shoes and enjoy the short stroll (wheelchair accessible) to Mt Field's famous Russel Falls.
  • Caving – most are suited only to experienced cavers but Junee Cave is accessible to the public.
  • Downhill ski operations exist at Mt Mawson, 89 kilometres west of Hobart, serviced by three lifts.
  • Cross-country skiing operates on the higher plateau.
  • Discover Lady Barron Falls and Horseshoe Falls on the way to the summit of Mt Field.
  • There's no shortage of walking trails, both short and longer hikes, taking in an abundance of native flora, views and glacial streams.

Anna Howard

Give me street food over Michelin stars, cellar doors over wine bars and small towns and wide open spaces over big cities any day. Travel for me means ticking off the 'to eat and drink' list one regional flavour and wine bottle at a time.