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Tasmania’s South Coast Track

FROM CAPE TO CAPE


TASMANIA’S SOUTH COAST TRACK

$49.95

Wild, untouched and beautiful, Tasmania’s South Coast is almost an annual pilgrimage for photographer and adventurer Richard Bennett. In his stunning new book, he shares for the first time his intimate knowledge of this remote wilderness.  His photography and insights make the region accessible, and the journey one of comfort for both the body and the soul.
Including 192 pages of images and text.
Hardcover.
Scroll down to view a selection of pages from inside the book.
A selection of pages from Richard Bennetts 'From Cape to Cape'

Tasmania’s South Coast Track

At least once a year, I get the urge to walk Tasmania’s South Coast Track. I start thinking about how wonderful a night at Cox Bight would be, and a couple of nights at Louisa Bay.

The thing I love most about Tasmania’s South Coast Track is its spectacular scenery and beaches, and the sense of remote isolation. You can be a week’s walk from the nearest road and not see another living soul for the duration of the trip.

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Tasmania’s South Coast Track is truly breathtaking.
How hard is Tasmania’s South Coast Track?

The South Coast Track is a relatively easy walk. Because the track is coastal, the weather is moderated by the influence of the sea. Compared to an alpine walk, like the Western Arthurs, the weather is generally much more forgiving. Temperatures are higher and the only exposed section of the track, across the top of the Ironbound Range, can be traversed in half a day. Most of the route is relatively flat and the track is easy to follow.

Tasmania’s South Coast Track in 6 Days, 7, 8 or 9 days – How long will it take?

I have heard of people running the South Coast Track in as little as a day, but that is a different project all together.

The South Coast Track can be walked in 6 days, but I much prefer to take a bit longer. Even when I was young and fitter, I would allow 8 days to walk the South Coast Track. There are so many beautiful places to stop and enjoy, that I like to take my time and spend an afternoon by Louisa Creek, at Prion Lagoon and Surprise Bay. Having that extra time up your sleeve also allows you to stop for a day if the weather is inclement and still make up the time to finish the walk when you are scheduled to. Now that I’m 75, I walk the track in 9 days. I like to have three short days to build fitness before the Ironbound Range and I like to do the South Cape Range in two days instead of one, stopping at a little camp at the top of the range called ‘Track Cutters’. There is always a trade-off however, between time and the weight of your pack – extra days mean extra food, so this must be taken into account. 

Tasmania’s South Coast Track from Cockle Creek or Melaleuca?

Melaleuca - The South Coast Track can be walked in either direction – from Melaleuca to Cockle Creek or in the reserve. I have walked the track in both directions, but I prefer to start the journey from Melaleuca by flying in from the Cambridge Airport. This way, the prevailing weather is behind you and a strong south westerly wind at your back can be useful, particularly when climbing the Ironbound Ranges.

Tasmania’s South Coast Track Preparation Guide

Tasmania’s South Coast Track Weather:

The driest and most stable weather for walking in Southwest Tasmania usually occurs from late summer through the autumn months.

During the Tasmanian summer months, a series of high-pressure systems pass from west to east, often to our south, bringing stable weather for several days.

Spring weather is less predictable, sometimes with windy and wet conditions.

Water:

On some walks, water needs to be carried, but this is not the case along the South Coast track because water is abundant from the many creeks and streams. There are plenty of campsites along the track, so it is easy to have long or short days as you wish.

River Crossings:

A factor that needs to be considered is river crossings. The route crosses several creeks and the Louisa River. At times it may be necessary to wait for the water level to drop. Because it is so wet in Southwest Tasmania, river levels rise and fall quickly.

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Tasmania’s South Coast weather can be wild and unpredictable.

List of what to bring with you on Tasmania’s South Coast Track

Pack:

For years I have used a Macpac Cascade – a wonderful, strong and comfortable pack that is ideal for this walk. My latest pack is an Osprey 70. I would recommend trying on several packs until you find one with a comfortable harness.

Tips:

  • Remove unnecessary straps to save a bit more weight
  • Exterior pockets at the back and top are useful, avoid side pockets which will inevitably get caught in Southwest scrub.
  • When packing, keep the weight high. It is easier to carry this way.
  • Put the things you won’t need during the day at the bottom of the pack and things you will need closer to the top.

Tent:

It is important to stay safe and dry in camp. Make sure your tent has adequate storm guys and tie it down securely. I use an MSR Hubba Hubba.

The first thing I do when I get into camp is put my tent up. It is a good habit to be prepared for unexpected rain. I carry a ground sheet to protect the tub floor from abrasion.

Ground Sheet:

Protect the floor of your tent by placing the groundsheet underneath. Trim the groundsheet to the size of the tent floor to save weight. I place the ground sheet exactly where I want to sleep, pitch the tent over it, and then tuck the edges under the tent to prevent rain from running underneath.

Tent Fly:

I always carry one small tent fly, or a lightweight tarp. I suspend it from trees when needed to provide shelter from rain when cooking or sitting around the stove.

Sleeping Mat:

A self-inflating mat is the most compact and lightweight mattress. It only needs to be long enough to support the trunk of the body. I don’t carry a pillow – I use my sleeping bag cover and stuff my dry clothes inside.

Sleeping Bag:

My ultra-light sleeping bag contains 800gm of super-insulating goose down on the topside of the bag only. Underneath I have my sleeping mat but no down insulation, which makes it a lot lighter. I adjust my temperature with the use of my thermals, socks and balaclava.

Tips:

  • Make sure the zips open for heat control
  • Select the lightest weight
  • Make sure it is waterproof, breathable material you are comfortable with

Boots:

Waterproof boots are only waterproof to the top of the boot. When water floods into boots they become very heavy, as the water can’t drain out. Often walkers begin their South Coast Track experience by wading across the first bridge, which can be knee-deep in water. All of a sudden, the expensive boots you were advised to buy have become a liability in the bush. I like lightweight boots with ankle support, which are breathable and not too waterproof, so that when water comes in, it soon squelches out again. Your feet are going to get wet, the most important thing you can do to keep your feet comfortable and warm is to wear woollen socks, because wool remains warm when it’s wet. Many synthetics do not.

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Camped on the pineapple grass on the western slope of Pindars Peak, with Precipitous Bluff on the skyline.
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Consider the various stove options when choosing what would best suit your South Coast Track adventure.
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When walking Tasmania’s South Coast Track it is important to eat hearty, healthy meals.

Torch:

Take a lightweight but good-quality head-torch.

Stoves:

The Southwest Tasmania World Heritage Area is a fuel stove only area. Campfires are not permitted. Therefore, the selection of a fuel stove is an important consideration.

There are three popular types of fuel: methylated spirits, shellite and canister gas. My ideal stove combination for a trip is a Jetboil Sol (titanium) for boiling water quickly, plus a Whisperlite for cooking food.

Mug:

A lightweight enamel mug is my choice. I like the feel of the warm mug in my hands.

Cutlery:

I take a spoon instead of a fork as you don’t need both. Choose the lightest spoon you can find and one small sharp knife.

Water Bottle:

I use a Lipton Tea plastic bottle. It is super light and very strong.

Water Bucket:

Sea to Summit make a water bucket that folds up to the size of a matchbox – ideal.

First Aid Kit:

A first aid kit is essential – as are the skills to use it. I keep my first aid skills current with an advanced first aid course every three years and a refresher every twelve months.

The most commonly used items tend to relate to blisters – I carry a lot of Elastoplast.

EPIRB:

An Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon (EPIRB) is used to alert search and rescue services in the event of an emergency.

Camera:

My current preferred lightweight camera for bushwalking is the Fuji X series. It weighs just 600 gms, the 16 megapixel image quality is superb, and the lenses are world-class.

Clothing:

One set of clothes must remain dry at all times. You put your dry clothes on in camp at night, and wet clothes back on the following morning.

I pack the following:

  • Lightweight thermals (a long sleeve thermal top and pants)
  • Two pairs of socks
  • One change of underwear
  • One pair of lightweight trousers
  • One pair of shorts
  • One long sleeve shirt
  • One short sleeve shirt
  • A polartec jacket or down jacket
  • Waterproof jacket (long enough to cover your bum and long sleeves to cover your hands)
  • Balaclava
  • Sun hat

Food:

Breakfast - Porridge – quick oats, dried sultanas/dried blueberries, powdered milk and dark brown sugar.

Lunch - Salami, savoury biscuits, cheese and scroggin (mixed nuts, seeds, and a little dried fruit).

Dinner - Freeze-dried meals – lightweight, just add boiling water to the pouch and wait 10 minutes. We have now invested in a dehydrator and a machine to vacuum pack (cryovac) our own meals.

Weight:

You should work out exactly what is required for each item for the duration of the trip and take only that.

Tips:

  • I purchase a small tube of toothpaste and use most of it before the trip, leaving exactly enough in the tube to last me until the last day. Then I cut two centimetres off the of the toothbrush thereby saving ten percent of the weight of that item.
  • Plastic bottles are lighter than aluminium
  • If you can save ten percent of the weight of every item in your 18-kilo pack, your pack will be 1.8 kilos lighter.

Tasmania’s South Coast Track Walking Guide:

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Although many parties don’t allow for the extra day or are taking advantage of fine weather to press on over the Ironbound Ranges, a trip to Louisa Bay is unforgettable.

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Perhaps my all-time favourite riverside campsite on Tasmania’s South Coast Track is at Louisa River.
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Prion Beach is one of the great ocean beaches of Tasmania.
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Granite Beach. Winter storms have washed away the grey sand to reveal polished granite boulders.

Melaleuca to Cox Bight – The short half-day walk from Melaleuca to Cox Bight is pleasant walking down a button grass plain. It is a good track, with enough creeks along the way to have a drink when you stop for a break. The first creek, just a few minutes after walking across the airstrip and heading off on the South Coast Track, has a bridge, which in times of wet weather is often underwater, just enough water to be over the top of your boots.

At Cox Bight I like to camp near the creek where it flows out of Freney Lagoon.

Cox Bight to Louisa River – walking inland away from the sea, climbing steeply over the Red Point Hills you will see your first view of the expansive Louisa Plains.

This is an easy day, mostly level after the initial climb with a couple of creek crossings (wet feet again). Faraway Creek is the first, followed by Louisa Creek, a perfect spot for lunch. This place is a reasonable campsite but there are tree roots everywhere and the ground is hard, so it is best to move on.

Not far from the creek a track leads south across the button grass along the edge of the bank to Louisa Bay.

Louisa Bay to Louisa River – The walk from Louisa Bay to Louisa River across the once-boggy Louisa Plains has now become more manageable thanks to several kilometres of duckboards.

How to cross a river – The Louisa River is the largest river on the South Coast Track. When you arrive at the river it is the usual practice to cross before camping, in case it rains during the night and the river rises. If you doubt the ability of your party to cross safely, it is better to wait until the water level drops.

When the river is flowing swiftly, I use the following technique for a safe crossing:

We take our trousers and socks off because bare skin reduces friction with the water, reducing drag. We let the smallest person enter the water first (upstream) and place the strongest person next. The smaller person breaks the force of the current and the strongest member of the party links arms to hold that person in place. The other members of the party all link arms forming one strong group who take one step at a time (in step) and make their way across, keeping parallel with the water flow. If someone stumbles the others can help to support that person.

The Ironbound Range:

The Ironbound Range is not the formidable obstacle many people make it out to be.

The grade is not too steep – there is a clear track with good steps. Rest as required. There is water at the first rock buttress on the skyline.

This climb takes three hours of steady climbing, before flattening out to reveal a well-kept track and plenty of water sources. This is a good spot for lunch.

The four- or five-hour descent into Little Deadman’s Bay campsite is slow and you need to be careful navigating your footing.

Little Deadman’s Bay to Prion Beach:

From Little Deadman’s the route leads to Turua Beach at Deadman’s Bay, then continues through light forest along Menzies Bluff to the western end of Prion Beach. The walk to Prion Bay and New River Lagoon is a highlight of this 85-kilometre track. Prion Beach is one of the great ocean beaches of Tasmania.

At the lagoon crossing, there are dinghies that are provided at New River Lagoon. The campsite at Prion on the eastern side of the lagoon is a great campsite. Water here is sourced from a very dark tannin-stained creek a few hundred metres along the shore to the northwest of the camp.

The track continues to Milford Creek and then along high photogenic dunes, sculpted by the wind to the scrub line at the eastern end of the beach. From here the track leads through light forest on to the open button grass of Rocky Plains. Half a kilometre to the south is Osmiridium Beach where there is a large, sheltered campsite beside Tylers Creek. It is an easy half-day from here following ridges through rainforest before the descent to Surprise Bay, another beautiful beach.

Surprise Bay to Granite Beach:

The track from Surprise Bay climbs steeply over Shoemaker Point past beautiful celery top pines before descending to Granite Beach in Shoemaker Bay. The sheltered campsite is inland from the creek. Care needs to be taken here to protect food from the local rats that regularly eat their way into packs in search of food.

The South Cape Range:

From Granite Beach, with 31km to go to Recherche Bay, the track climbs almost 500 metres up the scrubby slopes of the South Cape Range. This is a long day, about eight hours to South Cape Rivulet. The last hour of this day is the most enjoyable, with a gentle downhill slope along a track through open eucalypt forest. The rivulet suddenly appears at the very edge of the forest. From here a pleasant walk remains along the coastal beaches of Australia’s most southern coastline.

South East Cape to Cockle Creek:

Instead of wading the next creek, you will find a wide bridge with a handrail. The Recherche Bay registration hut appears, and you stop to enter your names at Cockle Creek at the southern corner of Recherche Bay.

Heading Home:

When I approach Cockle Creek, I become aware of a switch in my thinking – it has changed from bushwalking mode to thoughts of a comfortable ride home.

Alternative routes along Tasmania’s South Coast Track

The South West Cape Circuit:

A memorable south coast walk is the South West Cape Circuit. This is a less frequented section of the South Coast Track, which heads west from Melaleuca. Most walkers fly to Melaleuca and instead of heading east via Cox Bight, they walk to New Harbour and then west to Hidden Bay, Ketchem Bay, and then on to Wilson Bight. This track features beautiful, sheltered campsites behind beautiful beaches with button grass plains, tannin-stained creeks and quartzite outcrops. It is a less trodden but very photogenic region, which then leads to South West Cape, one of the great capes of the southern hemisphere.

Southern Ranges:

The traditional and most straightforward way to walk the South Coast Track is to fly into Melaleuca and walk out to Recherche Bay. A more challenging variation is to approach the South Coast Track via the Southern Ranges, which are accessible from Lune River. This is the ultimate approach to join the South Coast Track half-way and is one of the most diversified and dramatic walks in Tasmania. This route climbs through forest to Moonlight Flat and over Hills One, Two, Three and Four to Pigsty Ponds and Reservoir Lakes. Pigsty Ponds and Reservoir Lakes offer sheltered campsites near open moorland beside beautiful lakes and tarns. The climb to Mt La Perouse is an easy half-day return trip.

FROM CAPE TO CAPE


TASMANIA’S SOUTH COAST TRACK

$49.95

Wild, untouched and beautiful, Tasmania’s South Coast is almost an annual pilgrimage for photographer and adventurer Richard Bennett. In his stunning new book, he shares for the first time his intimate knowledge of this remote wilderness.  His photography and insights make the region accessible, and the journey one of comfort for both the body and the soul.
Including 192 pages of images and text.
Hardcover.
Scroll down to view a selection of pages from inside the book.

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