This is known as one of the worlds great wilderness walks and this reputation is justified. It is an 84 km walking track along the southern coastline of Tasmania. The track crosses the southern edge of one of the largest temperate wilderness areas of the world and is a magnificent 5 to 9 day walk.
The track has been extensively repaired in recent years and is no longer considered to be muddy by experienced Tasmanian walkers. Visitors need to be aware though that there is still plenty of mud and most are very surprised by how much there is and how deep it can be. After rain, the muddy sections are still several km's long with the mud being often over knee deep. This is the result of poor soils and high rainfall and is part of the experience of Tasmania. If you walk much in Tasmania you will experience mud and eventually come to accept it.
The track itself has no services along it apart from some toilets at the major campsites. There are no huts or shelters, no roads or side tracks, no radios or ranger stations - in fact no signs of civilization apart from some track work to reduce the mud. There are many campsites along the track and walks vary from 5 to 9 days in length. Taking 7 to 9 days is suggested.
Experienced tasmanian walkers regard this as an easy track and in fact use it as an access to get into some untracked rugged areas north of the coast. For the first time visitor, I strongly advise against attempting these untracked routes as most find the South Coast Track itself difficult enough for the first visit.Some walkers have complained to me that the South Coast is not easy - I agree but for the region it is the 'easiest' walk - all the other walks in the park except the southern half of South West Cape are considerably harder. If I graded the South Coast Track as say Medium-Hard then how would other routes in the south-west be rated, say Hard or even Extremely Hard would not describe how much more difficult some routes are, perhaps Desperate would be correct for the inexperienced but that would be a ridiculous grade for experienced walkers who can handle the difficulties. Like most places, grades are relative to other nearby walks and have little relevance to walks in other parts of the world as conditions elsewhere are so different. An example woud be a 2500m one day climb in the himalayas on a good track would be considered by most as Hard, however the skills needed to do that climb have no relevance to a Hard day in the south-west where you might be pushing through dense scrub all day to walk 2km or climb up and down cliffs all day to walk only 4km..
The track follows the wild southern coastline of Tasmania. It crosses two mountain ranges to avoid sections of impassable coastline and also crosses long sections of open plains behind the coastline. It only follows the coast itself where there are beaches.
Following the coastline or just inland means there are many streams to cross. There are no bridges over most streams and many of these are normally a knee deep wade. The streams do sometimes flood after heavy rain but normally drop quickly and if a flood happens it is advised to wait before crossing.
The track starts at Cockle Creek, 130 km south of Hobart. This is a tiny settlement that is at the end of the most southern road in Australia. There is no public transport, some charter a bus or taxi - minimum charges apply. Another option is to take the daily all year round bus service to Dover then take a taxi from there to Cockle Creek. In reverse, there is a public telephone at Cockle Creek and a taxi can be ordered from Dover.
The other end of the track is at Melalueca, there is nothing
except for an airstrip and some huts. This is deep within
the South West National Park and the only access by transport
is by boat or light airplane. Most get there by chartering a light
airplane from Hobart and services run most days during summer
if there are bookings and weather permits. As the weather sometimes
results in flights being cancelled, I suggest you fly into to
Melaleuca and walk out to Cockle Creek. This will prevent you
being stranded at Melaleuca with little food for several days. Note
that you are not permitted to take fuel on the airplane - the airline
has fuel stocks at Melalueca and this can be ordered when making a
plane booking. After landing, the pilot unlocks the fuel store and gives you your fuel.
An alternative access to Melalueca, is to walk the Port Davey Track. This starts at the end of the road at Scotts Peak Dam and takes an extra 3 to 5 days to walk.
Australian walkers will understand what there is – nothing between both ends of the track. Overseas visitors – particularly from Europe – have trouble with the concept of wilderness in Australia. First – there are no huts or people living along the track – you will need a tent. There are no fires allowed along most of the coast – you will need to carry your own fuel stove-the local airline can supply fuel. Lastly and most important – there are no food resupply points at either end or along the track. You must carry all your own food for the entire trip and also carry out your rubbish. There are no huts, no hut wardens, no hot meals in lodges etc such as are found in Europe. Over the years. I have received many emails from overseas walkers which in most cases ask the above questions.
Track notes are in South Coast Track by John & Monica Chapman or less detailed maps and notes in South West Tasmania by John Chapman.
A special 1:100,000 map 'South Coast Walks' by TASMAP covers the entire track with adequate detail. If you want more map detail (not really necessary) then obtain the TASMAP 1:25,000 Recherche, Prion, Precipitous, Louisa, Cox and Melaleuca. These cover almost all of the track except for a tiny section near Lousy Bay.
airstrip to Point Eric at Cox Bight, 13km, 4 hours
Louisa River, 17km, 6 hours
Deadmans Bay over the Ironbound Range, 12km, 8 hours
Prion Beach boat Crossing, 9km, 4 hours
Granite Beach, 12km, 5 hours
South Cape Rivulet, 9km, 6 hours
Cockle Creek, 12km, 3.5 hours