The edge of Tasmania’s South Coast hides an epic 85km hike, stretching across beaches, buttongrass plains, and creek crossings. Primary access to the South Coast Track is via plane, making this Tasmanian classic much less visited than the likes of the Overland or Three Capes track.


We acknowledge that this adventure is located on the traditional Country of the Palawa people who have occupied and cared for the lands, waters, and their inhabitants for thousands of years. We pay our respects to them as the Traditional Custodians and recognise that sovereignty was never ceded.

Quick Overview

The South Coast Track is supposedly 85km long, however I clocked it as 98km on both my digital maps and GPS watch, so take that as you will! It’s a Grade 4 hike and isn’t for the faint of heart. Accessible from Cockle Creek – a two-hour drive from Nipaluna / Hobart and a thirty-minute flight back to Nipaluna / Hobart – this walk takes six to eight nights to complete.

About the South Coast Track

My friend Caity and I spent five nights on the South Coast Track. And let me be clear – I don’t recommend an itinerary this short. We didn’t give ourselves enough time to take in all that this area has to offer, kick up our feet at the end of the day, or properly take in our surroundings. With my flight out of Melaleuca already scheduled, and no reception along the track to adjust the date, we just had to keep lacing up our boots and walking.

With such a short timeline, we missed much of the essence of the South Coast Track, so don’t make the same mistake we did. Plan for a few extra nights – at least six to eight – and hope that you get a good weather window to take in the sunrises, sunsets, natural waterfalls, and stunning forest.

South Coast Track History

The South Coast Track was originally a trading route used by the Palawa people. Trade and rituals were held at a boundary – thought to be near Prion Beach – by two major language groups. The groups consisted of several hundred people that travelled up and down the coast. What’s known today as the South Coast Track may follow this original route.

European history is recorded from 1792 when D’Entrecasteaux sailed into Recherche Bay and encountered Aboriginal communities already occupying the land. The original friendliness turned to hostility as the European colony expanded and began pushing First Nations communities from their land. By the 1830s, Recherche Bay was popular for coal mining, sawmilling, and whaling, with the main town of Ramsgate supporting a population of almost 10,000 people. Some 40 years later the population had declined to just 100, with little to mark the existence of the once-thriving settlement left today.

How to Get to the South Coast Track

The track is a thru-hike that can be approached from either end. You can begin in Cockle Creek and end in Melaleuca (with a scenic flight back to nipaluna / Hobart via Par Avion), or fly in from nipaluna / Hobart to Melaleuca, and then walk out to Cockle Creek.

The majority of people we crossed paths with flew in, which I can see the beauty of, given that you can leave a car at Cockle Creek ahead of time and don’t have to rely on good weather at the airstrip on your final day. The flights will often get rescheduled if weather is too treacherous to fly, so whether this happens at the beginning of your trip (and pushes you a day back), or at the end, (and you have to hole up for a few days), it could definitely impact your experience.

Also, when flying in, you’ll need to organise stove fuel with Par Avion as it cannot be taken on the flight for safety reasons. You’ll need to pre-purchase your chosen fuel from the office prior to departure. If you’ve opted for Shellite or methylated spirits, don’t forget to bring an empty fuel bottle for it to be put in. If you’ve chosen butane, you’ll be given your 230g canister once you arrive in Melaleuca. Be sure to check with Par Avion for updated prices.

Another benefit of starting in Cockle Creek is being able to bring your fuel and then leave it in a shed at Melaleuca to be transferred out via boat.

Don’t forget to fill out a Trip Intention Form before heading out!


South Coast Track – 5 Days Hiking in Tassie’s Remote Southwest National Park, Alissa Ward, Tasmania, helicopter control panel, helicopter ride

Where to Stay Along the South Coast Track

By following the recommended itinerary of six to eight nights, you’ll have the time to explore side trips. When deciding on your route, having a copy of The South Coast Track by John Chapman will help you gain some clarity on general track notes and places to stay.

Main campgrounds if starting at Cockle Creek:

  • South Cape Rivulet
  • Granite Beach (most popular) or Surprise Bay
  • Osmiridium Beach
  • New River Lagoon
  • Little Deadmans
  • Louisa River or Louisa Creek
  • Louisa Bay
  • Point Eric


South Coast Track – 5 Days Hiking in Tassie’s Remote Southwest National Park, Alissa Ward, Tasmania, Hiking tent, campsite

Skill Level

Intermediate – Advanced

The South Coast Track is definitely more challenging than the Overland and Three Capes Track, with water crossings to navigate, deep mud to test you mentally and physically, one major mountain range to get over, no huts to provide shelter in bad weather, and the requirement to source your own water.

Walkers must be self-sufficient, but if you have a few overnight hikes under your belt and are confident in your gear to perform in potentially wet, windy, and exposed conditions this is a good track to level-up your hiking ability. Just be sure to choose a reasonable timeframe to complete the walk in as it’s not as well-maintained as others.

The South Coast Track is primarily coastal and not as mountainous as some of Tasmania’s other large walks.


South Coast Track – 5 Days Hiking in Tassie’s Remote Southwest National Park, Alissa Ward, Tasmania, sand hiking, hiker on sand, hiker wearing pack,

Distance/ Duration/ Elevation Gain of the South Coast Track

84km / 6-8 nights / 3467m (as tracked by my Garmin Fenix 6s)

Essential Gear for the South Coast Track

  • A Tasmanian National Parks pass
  • Tent
  • Sleeping mat
  • Sleeping bag
  • Camp stove
  • Food and all the snackssssss
  • One day’s worth of extra food
  • 3L of water storage (bladder or drink bottles)
  • Water treatment options (tablets or filter or boil all water on a running boil for three minutes) – always recommended in Tassie to avoid gastro
  • Warm clothing (thermal top and bottoms, insulating jacket, spare socks)
  • Waterproof jacket and pants
  • Rain cover for your pack
  • Hiking boots
  • Sandals / river-crossing shoes
  • Gaiters
  • First aid kit and any medications
  • PLB
  • Head torch and spare batteries
  • Toilet kit (trowel, toilet paper, hand sanitiser)
  • Hat
  • Sunscreen
  • Physical Map – TASMAP South Coast Walks
  • Digital Map – Avenza Maps (4219 Melaleuca, 4218 Cox, 4418 Louisa, 4618 Precipitous, 4617 Prion, 4817 Recherche)

What it’s Like to Hike the South Coast Track

Day 1 – Cockle Creek to South Cape Rivulet

Distance: 12km
Duration: 4.5 hours

This is a beautiful day of walking. If the swell is pumping, you might see a handful of surfers that carried in their boards to Lion Rock while you meander up and along the cliffs.

The campground at South Cape Rivulet is relatively sheltered and just before the first of many water crossings of the trip. We were wrecked from the 5am wake-up in nipaluna / Hobart, followed by the two-hour drive to Cockle Creek, and decided to call it a night here by mid-afternoon, despite being some 10km away from our intended campground for night one. Off to a great start for our planned shortened itinerary! We were absolutely not the happy chatty campers we usually are around camp, so apologies to everyone we met there…

Read more: Overnight Hike to the Edge of the World at South Cape Bay (TAS)


South Coast Track – 5 Days Hiking in Tassie’s Remote Southwest National Park, Alissa Ward, Tasmania, hiker with sign, happy hiker


Day 2 – South Cape Rivulet to Surprise Bay

Distance: 16km
Duration: 9 hours

I woke up to some critter eating the best part of my daily trail mix ration after having chewed through my tent. This wasn’t the best way to start the day, but after the cold creek crossing reset my body and I saw a young lyrebird in the forest, I started to shake the funk and get on with what I’d signed us up for.

This section gains 968m of elevation, but in a very manageable way. It’s just incredibly slow going through the muddy plains and was the stretch of the walk where we found the largest discrepancy between our GPS devices and the track notes.


South Coast Track – 5 Days Hiking in Tassie’s Remote Southwest National Park, Alissa Ward, Tasmania, View of mountain range, hiker enjoying view,


We hiked all the way to Surprise Bay, but the campsite at Granite Beach, 2-3km before it, would be a great place to settle for the night, with a waterfall directly onto the beach to rinse off in.


Day 3 – Surprise Bay to Deadmans Beach

Distance: 20.5km
Duration: 8 hours

This was the day we knew we needed to cover some decent ground, including the boat crossing – that I was well and truly completely unhelpful for (but Caity pretended I was) – across the lagoon. There are a total of three boats at the lagoon – two will always be located on one side and the remaining at the other. If you show up and there’s only one boat on your side, you’ll need to do the crossing three times. It’s kind of like a maths problem. First you’ll paddle the boat across the lagoon. You’ll then attach a boat to your boat and paddle back (so that you don’t leave all three boats on one side). Finally, you’ll take a single boat back across the lagoon – leaving things just how you started – with you on the other side!


South Coast Track – 5 Days Hiking in Tassie’s Remote Southwest National Park, Alissa Ward, Tasmania, rowboat, lake crossing, boat, tinnie,


After the lagoon crossing, we enjoyed a walk along Prion Beach, stopping often to take our boots off, feel the sand between our toes, and relieve our feet for a bit. Our goal was to camp at Little Granite Beach for the night, but I was pretty close to cracking it this evening (being hangry is a real buzzkill), so when we found the camp at Deadmans Beach (sans toilet) and had the place to ourselves, we decided to stop there instead. Despite the extra burden of waste disposal according to leave no trace principles, this campsite was well worth it to have the beach to ourselves.

Read more: How To Poo in The Bush


Day 4 – Deadmans Beach to Louisa River

Distance: 17.6km
Duration: 10.5 hours

This is the day that most people complain about when the South Coast Track comes up in conversation. Why? Because it’s the day of the dreaded Ironbounds. Due to the near 900m of elevation gain, the Ironbound Range is a particularly gruelling section. Despite the extra effort required, today was definitely more our style of hiking – slogging through roots and muddy forest rather than traversing coastal beaches.

Once we got through the forest and were standing at the top of the Ironbounds, we got to enjoy the view – the Southern, Western, and Eastern Arthurs Ranges on one side, and cliffs down to the ocean on the other. Uncharacteristically for the Southwest National Park, we had very clear skies and enjoyed our lunch while wearing T-shirts and shorts – incredible!

Read more: How To Hike in Hot Weather


South Coast Track – 5 Days Hiking in Tassie’s Remote Southwest National Park, Alissa Ward, Tasmania, ocean and mountains, view from cliff, overcast


That night, we camped at Louisa River – not to be confused with Louisa Creek or Louisa Bay, which I constantly confused them with! While out of service and unable to look it up, we were constantly wondering, ‘who is this Louisa lady and why is so much within such a small area named after her?!’. Anyway, Lousia River was creek crossing number who-knows-what of the trip; a refreshingly cold start that cooled off all of the mozzie bites I’d acquired so far.


Day 5 – Louisa River to Melaleuca

Distance: 32km
Duration: 12.5 hours

This was the absolute biggest day I’ve done in a loooong while: 32km. I repeat, I do not recommend this. Wandering past all of the Louisas, the track gained relatively little elevation, but was pretty exposed the entire way to Point Eric. This was such a stunning day because it combines mountains with coastal views. Once at Point Eric – 17km into our day and after my second leech bite of the trip – we jumped into the ocean for a quick dip to cool off from the 27°C heat, before pushing the final 13km to Malaleuca (which still looked and felt forever away with the tender soles of my feet).

Read more: Leeches: How To Remove, Avoid, and Appreciate Them

A final perk was the chance to spot, the infamous, critically endangered, Orange-bellied parrots around Melaleuca. When we saw a green parrot nearing the final 5km mark, Caity pointed it out and I very matter of factly said, ‘Aren’t they… orange?’. We laughed and dismissed the idea that we’d spotted the right bird.

When we finally rocked up to Melaleuca – I don’t even know how many hours later – and found signs picturing the Orange-bellied parrots, we confirmed they’re indeed green… with an orange belly. So I think we saw one of them on our trip! Our list of rare animal sightings increased by one, adding to the lyrebird and quoll we spotted on day two.

After our hike, Caity was continuing on to the Port Davey Track, so she had an 8kg food drop that we needed to carry an extra 500m to the campsite, yet it felt like an eternity. We had to get our tents set up before having dinner and the sun was already getting low, but I can confidently say, I’ve never set my tent up so slowly in my life! Every movement felt strenuous.

Caity, being the forward-thinking legend that she is, cleverly put Pringles, cheese, biscuits, and double-serve gin drinks in her food drop. So after setting up camp, we tucked into the gin while sitting on a dock taking in the final sunset of our trip together – and became immediately tipsy as we were well and truly wrecked from the previous five days.


South Coast Track – 5 Days Hiking in Tassie’s Remote Southwest National Park, Alissa Ward, Tasmania, cairn, rock cairn, sunset, rocky beach


I loved the way we walked the track, despite it being a bit rushed. We walked in the less-common direction which meant we met new groups of people each night. Having a flight to finish such a mentally and physically challenging hike, (because of the distances we covered daily) gave me the time I needed to reflect on the big days we had with the most unlikely and incredible weather I’ve experienced in Tassie.

Tips for Hiking the South Coast Track

  • Be mindful of water resources. You’ll have to source your own water along the way
  • Talk to walkers going the opposite direction to know what’s ahead of you. There’s definitely times where people were getting caught out, (particularly at the Prion Boat Crossing camp), unable to find a water source where the guidebooks had said there would be one. You’re better off getting information from other walkers so you know that you’re carrying enough water with you
  • Bring a towel and take your shoes off for the creek crossings, if you can keep your feet dry, you’ll be a significantly happier hiker
  • Explore Melaleuca itself and you might spot an Orange-bellied parrot


South Coast Track – 5 Days Hiking in Tassie’s Remote Southwest National Park, Alissa Ward, Tasmania, hammock, hiker relaxing, campsite

This hammock was just begging to be snoozed in

South Coast Track FAQs

How hard is the South Coast Track?

This is a hike for intermediate to advanced self-sufficient walkers. With multiple creek crossings, deep mud, and a decent amount of elevation, this is a challenging route and you may want to have a few other overnighters as experience, to give you the confidence and fitness to enjoy this track to its fullest. Without large rocky scrambles, it’s much less intense than the likes of the iconic Western Arthurs, or Mt Anne, but is more challenging than the Overland Track.

How long does it take to walk the South Coast Track?

Allow yourself six to eight nights to walk the South Coast Track. This’ll give you plenty of time to enjoy the side trips, go for beach swims at camp, and relax in the evenings before doing it all again the next day.

Do I need to book the South Coast Track?

As of the writing of this article, there’s no booking system through Parks Tasmania for the South Coast Track, despite many other Tasmania overnight walks having a registration system. The only thing you’ll need to book ahead of time is your flight into or out of Melaleuca with Par Avion, to either start or finish your trip from nipaluna / Hobart.

What is the best time of year to do the South Coast Track Tasmania?

November to March is typically the best weather window and ensures relatively long daylight hours, making it – in theory – the best time of year to walk the South Coast Track.

But then again, it’s Tasmania, and you really can get all four seasons in a day – especially in the Southwest National Park! Being mostly a coastal walk, having long days to enjoy the beaches at each campground in warm weather is such a treat!