Southwest National Park

The magnificent Southwest National Park encompasses over six hundred thousand hectares of wild, inspiring country and forms part of the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area.

 

The park, the largest in Tasmania, epitomises the granduer and spirit of wilderness in its truest sense. Much of the park is remote and far removed from the hustle and bustle of the modern world. For many, just the fact that such a place still exists brings solace. For others, the region offers the challenge to explore areas that retain the same wildness that once characterised new frontiers. For yet others, the area offers the chance to view magnificent scenery from the comfort of their car.

 

The Gordon River and Scotts Peak roads wind through forest, scrub and moorland, sometimes opening out onto breathtaking views of rugged mountains like the Saw Back, Anne, Western Arthur and Frankland ranges. This is wilderness at its best, and it is equally accessible to those who enjoy the comfort of driving as it is to those who wish to walk in some of the most spectacular country in Australia.

 

In the southeast, the park is accessible from Cockle Creek - the most southerly point able to be reached by road in Australia. From Cockle Creek, the magnificent south coast is able to be reached along a walking track. From the coast, the South Coast Track continues to Melaleuca, a 7 day walk along some of the wildest coastline in Australia.

 

Melaleuca itself is accessible by air or boat only. Here, in the far southwest of Tasmania, lies the spectacular Port Davey and Bathurst Harbour.

 

Access

 

The Southwest National Park encompasses much of the southwest wilderness region of Tasmania. It can be accessed by road in two ways:

 

via Maydena
Allow 2 1/2 to 3 hours from Hobart to reach the northern boundary of the Southwest National Park. From the Lyell Highway (A10) at New Norfolk take route B62 past Mt Field National Park to Maydena. The Gordon River Road (B61) continues to Strathgordon and the Gordon Dam. At Frodsham Pass on the Gordon River Road, a winding gravel road turns off to Scotts Peak and the Huon Campground. Fuel is not available past Maydena.

 

via Cockle Creek
Cockle Creek is about 2 hours drive south from Hobart. It is reached via the Huon Highway (A6) through Geeveston. Take the C635 past the Hastings Caves turn off then follow the C636 gravel road through Lune River to Cockle Creek. The last stages of the road are fairly rough but can be negotiated by 2 wheel drive vehicles.

 

If driving between dusk and dawn, please be aware that you are sharing the road with wildlife.

 

Flights to Melaleuca
In the far southwest, Melaleuca is accessible only by light plane, or boat. The airstrip is close to walkers huts, and is the usual starting point for walkers on the South Coast Track.

 

Facilities

 

Day visitor facilities

 

Along the Gordon River Road
Picnic facilities, toilets and rubbish recycling centres are located at The Needles (managed by Forestry Tasmania), Wedge River (managed by Forestry Tasmania), Teds Beach (managed by Parks and Wildlife), Edgar Campground (managed by Hydro) and Huon Campground (managed by Parks and Wildlife). Shelters are also provided at these sites. Fireplaces and firewood are provided at all but Teds Beach (which has electric barbecues.) No fires are permitted at Teds Beach.

 

Firewood is difficult to supply and visitors are asked to use fuel stoves for cooking. Firewood, when available, is provided in the barbecue areas. Please don't collect wood from the bush. Fallen wood is part of nature's cycle.

 

At Cockle Creek
Pit toilets are available at Recherche Bay Nature Recreation Area before the Cockle Creek bridge, and at the camping ground at Cockle Creek.

 

Once over the Cockle Creek bridge, you enter the Southwest National Park and park entry fees apply. During business hours, park passes are available at Hobart, the Parks District Office at 22 Main St, Huonville, Geeveston Heritage Centre or Hastings Caves. Day Passes available from self-registration booth at Cockle Creek.

 

Melaleuca
There is a small shelter at the airstrip at Melaleuca. Composting toilets and two walkers huts are also available.

 

From the airstrip, a short path leads to the Deny King Memorial Hide, which offers visitors the opportunity to see the highly endangered orange-bellied parrot during the summer months. The hide has plenty of information on this and other birds in the area.

 

Camping
Along the Gordon River Road
Campsites are located along both the Gordon River Road and Scotts Peak Road. These vary from very basic sites with no facilities to sites with toilets and tank water. Teds Beach (managed by Parks and Wildlife) has toilets and electric barbeques (open fires are not allowed). Edgar Campground (managed by Hydro) has toilets and fireplaces and firewood is provided. The Huon Campground (managed by Parks and Wildlife) has a shelter, composting toilets and fireplaces - firewood is provided. There are no charges and bookings are not taken.

 

Mt Field National Park, which you pass as you drive along the Gordon River Road, has the most developed campground facilities, including showers and powered sites.

 

Around Cockle Creek
Recherche Bay State Recreation Area has campsites with toilets but without firewood or water at Gilhams Beach, Finns Beach and Catamaran River. Water is available nearby at Fords Green or from the D'Entrecastreaux River. Dogs and generators are permitted in the Recherche bay State Recreation Area.

 

Cockle Creek has a large camping area around Rocky Bay. Past the Cockle Creek bridge, you are in the national park and, of course, dogs, and generators, are not allowed. There is no rubbish collection. The nearest waste transfer station is at Dover. Firewood is not provided so you must bring your own. However the use of fuel and gas stoves is recommended. Composting toilets are available. Tank water is usually available but should not be relied upon in summer, and must be boiled or treated before drinking. There are no charges and bookings are not taken. See Camping and Cabin Fees for further details.

 

The closest shops are Hastings Caves Cafe and Southport Tavern about 20km north. Food, accommodation, petrol and postal services are available at Dover 35 km to the north.

 

Melaleuca
There are two walkers huts at Melaleuca, as well as pit toilets and water. There are no other huts along either the Port Davey or the South Coast tracks.

 

Activities

 

Southwest National Park is unlike any other in Australia, offering everything from quick picnics and brief strolls, to extended wilderness walks, all in an area of outstanding beauty.

 

High rainfall, ice and wind often lash this area, yet even in cloudy weather there are often unexpected views in a light ideal for sightseeing and photography. The south-west is truely one of Australia's wildest places. The wild weather that shapes the land is just as much a part of experiencing the south-west as is the landscape. People venturing into this area must be prepared for extremes of weather.

 

Day Walks
Eliza Plateau - 5 to 6 hours return - Standing alongside the towering Mt Anne, Eliza Plateau offers spectacular views over nearby ranges and lakes. Start from Condominium Creek car-park about 21 km south along the Scotts Peak Road. A long steep climb up an exposed ridge follows a well-defined, sometimes muddy track. A small shelter and toilet are found just before the plateau. Mt Eliza is reached after a steep scramble over large boulders. This walk should only be attempted by those with a reasonable degree of fitness.

 

Lake Judd - 8 hours return - Lake Judd is a deep, ice-carved lake surrounded by precipitous mountains. Start at Red Tape Creek 29 km south along the Scotts Peak Road. Follow the foot track to the Anne River cable crossing, then across very muddy buttongrass plains for another 2-3 km to an unmarked junction. Take the left fork, wading across the river on the way to the lake. This walk should only be attempted by those with some bushwalking experience.

 

Overnight Walks
This area contains some of the finest overnight and extended walks anywhere in Australia. Walkers should NOT venture into this wilderness without careful preparation and suitable equipment, including tent, sleeping bag, fuel stove, map, compass and waterproof and cold weather clothing. Contact the park office at Mt Field for advice about track conditions and any special equipment that may be needed. The South Coast Walks map and notes is an excellent guide for walking the Port Davey and South Coast tracks.

 

Scenic drives (Please note that fuel is not available past Maydena.)
The Gordon River and Scotts Peak roads take you through part of Tasmania's World Heritage Area. The roads were built in the late 1960s and early 1970s as part of the controversial Middle Gordon hydro-electric power scheme which flooded the original Lake Pedder. Sections of the road pass through areas that are managed by forestry and power generation authorities as well as by Parks and Wildlife.

 

The routes are lined with native vegetation including rainforest species such as myrtle, sassafras and celery top pine. In season you will also see wildflowers and berries including silver wattle, leatherwood, Tasmanian waratah and snow berries. Bird life that is readily seen includes green rosellas, yellow-throated honeyeaters and black currawongs (with their scavenging habits and loud carolling call). A stop at the picnic areas might allow you to see some smaller birds such as scarlet and flame robins, thornbills, scrubwrens and crescent honeyeaters (with their distinctive call of "egypt".) Lookouts and viewing bays are located along both roads and are indicated by signs. Take the time to absorb the grandeur of the mountains.

 

Gordon River Road - From the Maydena gate it is 70 km (1 to 1/2 hours) to the township of Strathgordon, which was the main construction village for the development of the Middle Gordon power scheme. Facilities include the Lake Pedder Motor Inn which has hotel/motel services but no fuel. From Strathgordon it is a further 12 km to the Hydro-electric Commission visitor reception centre and Gordon power station. The road is sealed for its entire length. However it is often steep and winding, is subject to ice and snow, and in places passes quite close to deep water. For these reasons a speed limit of 60 km per hour is recommended, except where signs or road conditions indicate otherwise.

 

Scotts Peak Road - Turn off the Gordon River Road at Frodshams Pass, 28 km from the Maydena gate. On a fine day the views from this road are superb. These include the dark dolerite mass of Mt Anne - the highest peak in the southwest - which contrasts with the grey quartzite of the surrounding ranges and the sombre green of the forested slopes. The road winds about 36 km to the Huon Campground and is unsealed for its entire length. Maydena to the Huon Campground takes 1 to 1 1/2 hours. At times it is steep, rough and corrugated, and can be subject to snow and ice. Drive with care.

 

Picnicking
There are numerous picnic spots. Refer to the map for their locations. Two of the best are:

 

Huon Campground - Located at the end of the Scotts Peak Road, this is an attractive site with secluded picnic and camping alcoves set amongst the forest. Walking tracks towards the Arthur Plains and Port Davey begin here. An easy walk from near the campground will give the flavour of these longer trips, as well as offering fine views towards the Western Arthur Range.

 

Wedge River - About 49 km beyond the Maydena gate and tucked beneath the dramatic Sentinel Range. Picnic facilities are located near the river.

 

Fishing
Some of the best fishing in Tasmania is found within the Southwest National Park. Trout fishing, using artificial lures only, is permitted in Lakes Gordon and Pedder all year but a current Inland Fisheries Commission angling licence is required. Fishing is not permitted in any river or stream leading into Lakes Pedder or Gordon.

 

One popular fishing site is Teds Beach, about 4 km before Strathgordon. It has a boat launching area. Another open site popular with anglers is the Edgar Dam area, 30 km along the Scotts Peak Road, just before Scotts Peak.

 

Boating
Both of the lakes provide good opportunities for boating. Boating registration booths are located at most launching sites. As a safety precaution, please use them to register the areas in which you intend to use a boat. All boating must comply with Marine and Safety Tasmania (MAST) regulations. N.B. Always check the weather before you set out. Conditions here can change rapidly.

 

Highlights

 

The Southwest National Park is the largest in Tasmania. A region of wild rivers and jagged montain ranges, rolling buttongrass plains and silent and green rainforests, it encompasses some of the finest wilderness country in Australia.

 

The drive along the Gordon River Road to Strathgordon is one of the most spectacular drives anywhere. The greatest asset of this national park is the sheer scale of its wilderness regions. On a fine day, a drive along this road will be a memorable experience.

 

Some of the best fishing in Australia can be found in the Southwest National Park, while bushwalkers will find some of Australia's premier wilderness walks, including the South Coast and Port Davey Tracks. There is also a range of less demanding walks, including the popular Creep Crawly Trail.

 

The Bathurst Harbour - Port Davey region is an excellent example of a drowned river valley. Beneath the waters of Bathurst Channel lives a range of fascinating marine species, such as sea pens. These animals are usually found in much deeper water. In the Channel, the dark, tannin-stained water allows the sea pens to thrive in very shallow water.

 

The area is also the sole breeding grounds of the highly endangered orange-bellied parrot. Visitors to Melaleuca can see these beautifully coloured parrots at the Bird Hide.

 

Southwest National Park
(for entrance via Maydena)
66 Lake Dobson Road
National Park TAS 7140
Phone:03 6288 1283

 

Information for this National Park has been supplied courtesy of Parks and Wildlife Service Tasmania

 

 

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