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South Coast Track is a 85km, grade 5 One Way hike located in Southwest National Park Tasmania. The hike should take approximately 6-8 days to complete.
The South Coast Track lies entirely within the Southwest National Park and takes you through the heart of over 600 000 hectares of wild, inspiring country. The track is more remote than some other walks in Tasmania, such as the Overland Track. It is recommended that you gain experience on other Tasmanian walking tracks before attempting the South Coast, as you will be a long way from help should you need it.
The 85km South Coast Track runs between Melaleuca and Cockle Creek. There are no roads to Melaleuca, so walkers must either fly, sail or walk in and out.
Most people take about 6 to 8 days to complete the South Coast Track, depending upon time spent enjoying the beaches. Walkers should note that the track surface may be rough and muddy over extended sections.
When to walk
Please note: The South Coast Track is a challenging walk in a region of Tasmania exposed to harsh weather conditions. There are no huts along the track. Track conditions are often difficult. Walkers must be fully self-sufficient, well-equipped and experienced.
Most people walk during the warmer months from December to March, but walkers must be prepared for cold winds and heavy rain at any time of year. Check the latest weather forecast before starting your trip.
It’s possible (but not advisable) to walk the track in winter, or alone, as long as you have good equipment, thorough experience and are well prepared. However, walking in winter and alone is definitely not advised.
What to bring
It’s essential to have a good tent, large waterproof raincoat, warm sleeping bag, sleeping mat, fuel stove (the whole area is a Fuel Stove Only area), thermal top & leggings, a fleecy or woollen jumper, warm hat, broad-brimmed sunhat, map, water bottle, large strong plastic bag to waterproof the inside of your pack, gaiters and worn-in boots. It’s also essential to carry a trowel, for digging a toilet hole for faecal waste only.
A full gear check list can be found in our Essential Bushwalking Guide.
The double-sided 1:100,000 scale map called ‘South Coast Walks’ is the best for the South Coast Track. It shows all tracks, huts, landing strips, plus text on walking notes, heritage and safety information. You can get the map from outdoor gear shops, and online at our Parks Shop.
The most comprehensive and up to date walking guide is John Chapman’s South West Tasmania, 1998.
Accommodation near the start of the track
There is no formal accommodation at Cockle Creek, Melaleuca or Scotts Peak. Walkers must be self sufficient and able to camp at the start of the track. There is a camping ground at Cockle Creek.
Facilities at Melaleuca include two bushwalkers huts, a toilet and a rainwater tank. There is a small shelter at the airstrip at Melaleuca. 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.
Because plane flights are weather dependent, most people walk west to east (Melaleuca to Cockle Creek). Plane companies operate flights to Melaleuca by light plane, to/from Cambridge Airport near Hobart Airport:
Par Avion, www.paravion.com.au, ph (03) 6248 5390
Private vehicles may be left at Scotts Peak or at Cockle Creek. Walkers are warned, however, that some vehicles parked in remote locations have been robbed or vandalised.
From Hobart, buses occassionally travel to and from Cockle Creek. Visitors wishing to use public transport or tours to access the walking track should visit our web page on Access to Tasmania’s National Parks, Reserves and Walking Tracks.
Fees and permits
You are required to pay a fee and have a pass before entering a National Park (e.g. before flying to Melaleuca). The most convenient pass for these walks is the Backpacker Pass. This pass is valid for all National Parks for a period of two months.
If you are unable to purchase this pass in person from park centres and selected retail outlets such as Service Tasmania, please purchase a pass online. Information on park entry fees can be found online.
There is no permit or booking system for the Southcoast Track.
For your safety please record your trip intentions in the logbook (near the start of your walk). Your entry may save your life should you become lost or overdue. There are booths with log books at Cockle Creek and Melaleuca. Accurate log book information also provides the statistical basis for proper management of the area. Please remember to sign out at the end of your walk.
The books are not checked regularly and a search will only be mounted if someone else reports you as being overdue. So, leave details of your trip with a reliable friend or relative. Be sure to advise this person when you have completed your trip.
Huts and camping
The Southwest National Park is a wilderness area. There are no walkers huts along the South Coast Track. The only huts are at Melaleuca. Very basic accommodation for 20 people is provided in the two huts at Melaleuca. Water and mattresses are available but there are no cooking facilities. A fuel stove is essential.
The recommended campsites for the South Coast Track are Cockle Creek, South Cape Rivulet, Granite Beach (east), Surprise Bay, New River Lagoon Boat Crossing, Deadmans Bay, Louisa River, Point Eric and Melaleuca.
Walk times given are what the average walker would expect to travel in good conditions. If you are new to bushwalking or the weather conditions deteriorate you can expect to travel for longer times.
Melaleuca to Cox Bight – 4 hours
Cox Bight to Louisa River – 6 hours
Louisa River to Deadmans Bay – 10 hours
Deadmans Bay to New River Lagoon – 4 hours
New River Lagoo to Granite Beach- 5 hours
Granite Beach to South Cape Rivulet- 7 hours
South Cape Rivulet to Cockle Creek- 4 hours
When crossing the Ironbound Range, note in one day the track goes from sea level to 1000 m above sea level, and back down again. It’s a very full day. Start from the campsite right at the base of the Ironbounds. The South Cape Range is half as high as the Ironbound Range, but equally difficult. It’s a rough and muddy track. Start from the nearest campsite and expect a full day. Note that there’s no creeks for most of the Ironbound Range and the South Cape Range.
There is no reliable fresh water at the campsite at New River Lagoon crossing. Most other creeks marked on the map are big enough to be flowing even in the driest time of summer.
If you want to visit Osmiridium Beach, be aware that the turnoff is not obvious and many people walk past it. Look for a little path meeting the track.
At South Cape Bay, there’s no track down to South East Cape (the southernmost point of the continent.) There’s no point leaving the South Coast Track to reach it as it’s an impassable coastline. When walking along narrow or rocky beaches at high tide, beware of large wave swells.
There is a water crossing that requires walkers to use small boats at New River Lagoon. Extreme caution is needed when making crossings, particularly in windy weather. You should carry a couple of days extra food to allow for delays.
When you row across New River Lagoon you will find a boat on each side. Please leave a boat secured on each side, with oars, for the next person. If you’re alone, you may find the passage difficult as the boats are quite heavy for one person to drag across the sand to secure to the cables. If alone, consider waiting till high tide so there’s less distance to drag the boats.
Be aware that the outlet of New River Lagoon may not be as the map shows, as the river shifts its course across the shifting sand dunes. There may be temporary signs to show you a new route.
Few places on Earth have water as pristine as in the Tasmanian wilderness. Of course, the water within our national parks is not treated and all natural water sources are subject to local habitat contamination and may not meet health authority guidelines for drinking water. Although the risks to your health are low, authorities suggest it should be treated. Always treat water (e.g. boil for three minutes) where water flow is low and visitor use is high.
Beware that what appears to be freshwater on a map may turn out to be brackish if close to the sea. Take special care to keep water supplies clean, particularly around the campsites. Always wash 50 m away from streams and lakes and avoid using soaps and detergents. Don’t throw food scraps into streams or estuaries.
There is a composting at Melaleuca. To ensure efficient operation please follow the instructions provided. All other recommended campsites on the South Coast have pit toilets. In areas away from toilets, faecal waste must be buried 100 m away from any watercourses or campsites. Carry a lightweight trowel in your pack, dig a hole 15 cm deep and bury your waste and toilet paper. Cover it well so that animals will not dig it up.
Fuel stove only area
Wildfires have damaged parts of the Southwest National Park. Please carry and use a fuel stove. A Fuel Stove Only Area has been declared over the whole of the Ironbound Range due to the sensitive alpine vegetation and along the section of track from Cockle Creek to South Cape Rivulet. Fines can be imposed for lighting fires in these areas.
Most campsites in the southwest are on peat soils. A campfire lit on peat can burn down into the soil and remain smouldering for months. The next hot weather can cause a flare up. It is illegal to light fires on peat anywhere in the state.
Max elevation: 900 m
Min elevation: 1 m
Total climbing: 3078 m
Total descent: -3078 m