The Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area offers a wide variety of recreational opportunities ranging from extended walks through to half hour strolls. Arguably the best wild river rafting in Australia occurs on the Franklin River, while the many lakes in the WHA provide world-class angling.
Note: some of the main areas noted below are shown on a map of the World Heritage Area.
Walkers on the famous Overland Track
Want to go bushwalking? There are over 1,000 kilometres of bushwalking tracks and routes in the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area (WHA). Increasing numbers of bushwalkers visit the WHA every year. The area includes some of Australia's best known long distance walking tracks, like the Overland (five days), Frenchmans Cap (three days) and the South Coast (seven days) tracks. These are particularly popular over summer. Less used tracks are also becoming more popular.
When walking, please remember to follow the Leave No Trace guidelines - a set of guiding principles that help minimise our impact on the places we visit
Bushwalking (day walks)
Not everyone wants to take a backpack and camp overnight. The vast majority of walkers in the WHA are day walkers after a less arduous experience. Shorter trips ranging from 10 minutes to full day walks are located at major visitor service points such as Cradle Mountain
, Lake St Clair
, Hartz Mountains
and the Franklin River Nature trail
. Signs along many of these walks introduce visitors to the vegetation, landforms, animals or history of the area.
A number of campsites in and around the WHA allow camping for modest overnight fees. On some popular walks such as the Overland Track, huts are available to the public. However, it always wise to carry a tent when walking in the WHA in case of mishap or if a hut is full. Details of camping and costs are available at our Camping and Cabin Fee Information pages.
The angling is superb in the lakes of the WHA
After walking, fishing is the second biggest recreational use of the WHA. The Central Plateau area has been a famous trout fishery for over 100 years. The area is known as the land of a thousand lakes and has many alpine tarns formed by glacial action some 8,000 - 20,000 years ago. Major lakes in the area are stocked with trout by the Inland Fisheries Service - see their web site for details of the permits needed to fish in inland waters. Lake Pedder in the Southwest National Park, Lake St Clair, Macquarie Harbour and the Gordon River are also popular trout fishing areas.
Cruises on Macquarie Harbour and the Lower Gordon River are very popular. These trips form the mainstay of the economy of the small port of Strahan, an idyllic village which is known as the western gateway to the WHA. The wild and remote natural harbours of Port Davey and Bathurst Harbour in Southwest National Park are popular with sailors and the occasional intrepid sea kayaker. See our boating notes for further details.
Climbing & abseiling
Relatively few people undertake climbing in the WHA, primarily due to its remoteness from vehicle access. Despite being several days' bushwalk from the nearest road, the towering vertical cliffs of Frenchmans Cap are a major climbing destination in the WHA.
Rafting and kayaking
Rafting the famous Franklin River
Rafting and kayaking in the WHA mainly occurs on the Franklin river. The full trip down the river is a magnificent 12 day wilderness rafting experience through some of the most spectacular scenery in Australia.
The proposal to dam the river for hydro electric power was a pivotal conservation issue for Australia in the early 1980s. In 1981 the area was protected in the Franklin–Gordon Wild Rivers National Park and was given World Heritage status in 1982.
See our Franklin River rafting notes for further details.
Landing in the heart of the south-west
Flying over the WHA is a spectacular way to see the wilderness and has limited impact on the environment. Flights occur into Southwest National Park, by float plane into the upper reaches of the Gordon River and around Cradle Mountain. The Parks and Wildlife Service liaises with aircraft operators to determine flight paths which reduce the impact of aircraft noise for recreationalists on the ground.
The World Heritage Area contains some of Australia's deepest, longest and best decorated caves. Numerous other caves occur in the WHA, some containing archaeological sites of great significance dating back over 30,000 years. Due to the fragility of these environments and the potential dangers of exploration, access to many caves requires a permit and is limited to speleological club members. Marakoopa Cave and King Solomons Cave are open to the public. Regular guided tours are available over well-constructed paths within the caves.
Hunting of wallabies, rabbits and ducks is allowed in some small specified zones within the WHA where hunting occurred before World Heritage listing. The effects of hunting on wildlife are carefully monitored. A hunting licence and permit is required.
As over two-thirds of the WHA is managed as wilderness there are few recreational vehicle tracks. However the track to Adamsfield is a popular adventurous recreational vehicle route and other short scenic routes, such as the route to Bird River are regularly used. Some tracks are closed seasonally or can be difficult under certain conditions -- check with the local ranger station if you are planning a trip. Permits from the ranger are required for some tracks.
Roads and sightseeing
The Lake and Lyell highways traverse the WHA for 16 and 59 kilometres respectively and provide an excellent way to visit the WHA. Short interpreted walks and picnic facilities are avaiable at several points along the Lyell Highway -- an excellent way to experience the Wild Rivers National Park. The Gordon River and Scotts Peak roads into Southwest National Park also offer spectacular views of the rugged mountains of the WHA.
Mountain biking, bike riding
Bikes are allowed only on roads open to motorised vehicles, not walking tracks. Bicycle touring on the Lyell and Lake highways through the WHA is popular.
Horseriding is limited in the WHA to the Central Plateau Conservation Area and two small areas in Cradle Mountain–Lake St Clair National Park. You need to be an experienced rider with a horse used to travelling in rough country. Some areas require permits and have number limits. Ask ranger staff for details.
The WHA offers an excellent opportunity to observe firsthand the natural environment. Take the time to investigate closely the wide range of plants, invertebrates, birds and mammals, and their tracks and traces. For scientists, the region provides a rare chance to investigate the processes of nature across a variety of undisturbed ecosystems.
Whether at the end of a long day's walking, or in the comfort of a wilderness lodge, the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area provides the perfect environment to simply relax. For many people, the value of the WHA lies in the inspirational setting in which they can unwind from the pressures of an increasingly hurried and artificial world.