Douglas-Apsley National Park
From its deep river gorges and waterfalls to its dolerite capped plateau; from dry eucalypt forest and colourful heathlands to pockets of rainforest, Douglas-Apsley National Park is a place of surprising contrasts. This park is one of the few that conserve the diverse wealth of dry sclerophyll forest plants found on the east coast of Tasmania. The crystal clear waters that run through the park are a welcome sight on a hot summer's day.
Whether you want a quick picnic by a tranquil stream, a rugged walk through forest and gorge, or a place to study rare plants and animals, Douglas-Apsley can provide it for you.
Douglas-Apsley National Park is mid-way up the east coast of Tasmania, about 2 1/4 hours from Launceston and slightly longer from Hobart.
The Apsley Waterhole, at the southern end of the the park, is reached by taking the Rosedale Road of the Tasman Highway (A3) about 3km north of Bicheno. Thompsons Marshes, at the northern end of the park, are reached by turning west off the Tasman Highway about 24km north of Bicheno. Take the gravel Forestry 'E' Road for 4 1/2km to a sign-posted junction, taking the left fork. Continue just over 1 km on the E4 road, take the right fork and travel 500m to the carpark.
Please be aware that when driving between sunset and sunrise you are sharing the road with wildlife.
Day visitor facilities
At the Apsley Waterhole end of the park there is a carpark and signposted walk to the waterhole and lookout. A small information booth near the waterhole gives further information about the local area. Nearby there is a composting toilet. Water can be obtained from the Apsley River. Other than a rough carpark, the northern end of the park has no facilities as yet.
There is a small bush camping area near the Apsley Waterhole, ten minutes walk from the carpark off Rosedale Road. For those walking the Leeaberra Track there are remote bush campsites near Heritage Falls and Tevelein Falls, both on the Douglas River. There is no charge for camping.
Outside the park there is commercial camping at Bicheno and at Lagoons Beach. Other accommodation is plentiful along the east coast.
Fires and firewood
This park is very sensitive to fire. It is largely made up of dry forest, much of it in remote and rugged country, which makes escaped fires very difficult to fight. For these reasons it is a Fuel Stove Only Area between October 1 and April 30. During this period open fires are not permitted.
Although fires are allowed at the Apsley Waterhole campsite outside the prohibited period, fuel stoves are recommended all year round. They keep the risk of fire to a minimum and reduce campsite degradation and the loss of dead wood (an important habitat for insects and lizards).
Walks within this park range from short, easy strolls to quite demanding overnight walks. Some of the tracks are only partly constructed and sign-posting is incomplete.
It is recommended that walking boots or strong shoes be worn on all walks, due to the rough terrain. For longer walks previous bush navigation experience and the use of the Douglas-Apsley Map and Notes are recommended.
Walks from Apsley Waterhole
Access is via Rosedale Road, off the Tasman Highway about 4 km north of Bicheno on the east coast of Tasmania. Follow the Rosedale Rd for 7 km to the new carpark. A short walk leads to the area's main attractions.
Lookout Track (10 - 15 minutes return) - An easy stroll from the carpark leads through open forest to the lookout platform above the Apsley Waterhole. There are good views both up and downstream, and the track is an easy grade. Return the same way or descend steeply to the Waterhole via the campground. (Please minimise erosion by keeping to the track.)
Apsley Gorge Circuit (3 - 4 hours return) - A medium grade walk to the picturesque Apsley Gorge, with its tranquil pools and undisturbed river scenes. NB This walk should only be attempted in dry weather and when water levels are low. From the Waterhole cross to the northern bank of the Apsley River and ascend the ridge. Follow the track, which is marked by yellow markers, for about 1 hour. The track then descends to the river near the gorge, where sheer dolerite cliffs line both sides of the river. Scramble down to the gorge, then follow the river downstream for about 10 minutes till the valley opens out. A rough track leads back to the Waterhole via the stream bed. In places it is necessary to scramble up and down the sloping banks.
Walks from Thompsons Marshes
Walks in this section of the park require a detailed map. You are strongly advised to obtain a copy of the Douglas-Apsley Map and Notes from the Land Information Bureau (Tasmap) in Hobart or Launceston, or from selected camping stores.
Access is via the forestry 'E' road, west off the Tasman Highway between Bicheno and Chain of Lagoons. Look for a yellow sign about 20m off the highway. (It is easy to miss. )
Follow the 'E' road to a turnoff clearly marked "Douglas-Apsley National Park". The road becomes steeper and rougher, and a vehicle with high clearance may be needed for the last 2 km. You reach locked gates near the Thompsons Marshes carpark.
Heritage & Leeaberra Falls (5 - 7 hours return) - A walk full of variety, that leads from wildflower-rich marshland through open forest and wetter gullies to deep gorges with surprising and spectacular waterfalls.
From the carpark follow orange markers for about 2 hours to the Heritage Falls campsite. From there follow yellow markers downstream to the top of Heritage Falls. A steep and difficult scramble leads to the bottom of the falls and the top of Leeaberra Falls. Both falls are set deep in a eucalypt clad gorge and are at their most spectacular after rain. Return the same way (or see below for a longer alternative return route.)
Heritage Falls/Rainforest Circuit (7 - 9 hours return. Overnight trip recommended.) - This walk adds the Rainforest Shelf and high coastal ridges to the above walk, making a long and interesting circuit walk. Follow orange markers to the Heritage Falls campsite (about 2 hours). This makes an ideal overnight camping spot.
Be sure to carry water for the return trip. From the campsite follow orange markers steeply up to the Lookout Hill track junction. (A 1 km return detour takes you to the top of 640 m Lookout Hill, from which there are spectacular views to the coast.) Follow the signs and yellow markers down to the Rainforest Shelf and back onto the Leeaberra Track to return to Thompsons Marshes.
Leeaberra Track (2 1/2 days one way to Apsley Waterhole.) - A fascinating and varied walk that traverses the park from north to south. It is a moderate to difficult grade with some long, steep sections and is recommended for experienced walkers only. For details of the walk obtain a copy of the Douglas-Apsley Map and Notes from the Land Information Bureau (Tasmap) in Hobart or Launceston, or from selected camping stores. A Fact Sheet entitled 'The Leeaberra Track' is also available from the Parks and Wildlife Service.
A Walk in the west of the park
Access is via the restricted access 'MG logging road'. From St Marys travel east toward Elephant Pass on the Tasman Highway for 4 km. Turn south onto the gravel MG road (not sign-posted). Continue south for about 30 km to the Apsley Myrtle Forest carpark. The 'MG' road can also be reached via the Old Coach Road at Cranbrook, or via the 'O' road at Cherry Tree Hill from the Tasman Highway. Beware of log trucks on these roads.
Apsley Myrtle Rainforest Walk (30 minutes plus) - A wonderful place to spend half an hour or half a day. From the carpark take the marked track down to Myrtle Creek. The track follows the creek through enchanting rainforest. Retrace your steps to return to the carpark.
A Different Kind of Beauty
When the history of Tasmania's natural heritage comes to be written, the 1980's will stand out as a decade of controversy. During that time attention focussed on wilderness rivers like the Franklin and Gordon, and native wet forests such as the Lemonthyme and Southern forests. It would have been easy to miss a quieter campaign that by 1989 had achieved the preservation of a different kind of beauty in the east of the state.
The area now known as Douglas-Apsley National Park was never able to present itself as a pristine wilderness. Although rugged and hard to access, it was still criss-crossed with mining tracks from the mid-1800s on. Coal was extracted from the area for over 100 years. Farmers and trappers also used parts of the area for much of that time, although loggers had only limited access.
Trappers used fire to bring on new growth and attract animals. This type of land-use favoured the drier eucalypt forest that is now so typical of the area. Eucalypts and the complex of plants associated with them are good at recovering from all but very hot fires.
As a result of its history, Douglas-Apsley is one of the few largely uncleared dry forests in Tasmania. Although superficially like other dry sclerophyll forests of the south-east mainland, the Douglas-Apsley area is virtually unique in the diversity of plants and animals that it still harbours. Here rare and endangered species, some of which are extinct elsewhere, continue in relative security in an area whose beauty is more than skin-deep. In a world of shrinking diversity, Douglas-Apsley is a beautiful exception.
Douglas-Apsley National Park
via Freycinet National Park
Freycinet National Park Office
Bicheno TAS 7215
Phone:03 6256 7000
Fax:03 6256 7090
Information for this National Park has been supplied courtesy of Parks and Wildlife Service Tasmania