If you want to get away from it all for a day or two and enjoy the unspoiled wilderness of southwestern Tasmania, the Hartz Mountains National Park is the perfect option, since you don’t have to drive for days to get here.
The park covers an area of 6,400 ha just over 80 km to the southwest of Hobart. The easiest route to this part of the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area is along the Southern Outlet, also known as the A6, via Huonville to Geeveston. From Geeveston, you then continue onto Arve Road, or C631, which is the same road you take to get to the Tahune AirWalk. About 13 km from Geeveston you’ll find the turn-off for the C632, which takes you to the Hartz Mountains National Park’s entrance. The last section of this steep and winding road through the forests is unsealed and may be closed due to snow, so it’s best to check road and weather conditions before your trip. You also need to watch out for wildlife crossing the road, especially at sunrise and sunset.
The Hartz Mountains probably formed part of the Mellukerdee people’s territory before European colonisation. The Mellukerdee lived in the Huon Valley area and it’s likely that they moved inland from time to time in search of wallabies and edible plants.
In the early days of European settlement, timber-getters explored the area as they looked for Huon pine. By the 1840s, several families had settled in this part of Tasmania, among them the Geeves family. It was the Geeves family who not only founded Geeveston but cut the first track from this new town to the Hartz Mountains, creating a popular bushwalking destination.
By the early 1900s, the Hartz Mountains were an important centre for the eucalyptus-oil industry but people kept coming here for the scenery too, so in 1939, a scenic reserve was set aside. In 1990 this reserve became the Hartz Mountains National Park.
As you enter the park, the landscape is dominated by wet eucalypt forests but you’ll also find mixed forests, rainforests and alpine communities here. Higher up the mountains, the vegetation changes to shrubs and heath. Among the plants to look for is the pincushion-like Tasmanian waratah, the plant that is depicted in the park’s logo. Animals include a variety of birds as well as echidnas, Bennets wallabies, brushtail possums and pademelons and if you’re lucky, you may spot platypus in the streams running through the park too. The moss froglet was first discovered here in the Hartz Mountains in 1992.
Since many of the area’s animals are nocturnal, you may want to spend the night. The park allows camping, even though there aren’t any camping facilities. However, you’ll find basic picnic facilities, water and toilets near the start of the Waratah Lookout track.
The Waratah Lookout track is the shortest and one of the easiest walking tracks in the park. It’s an especially beautiful walk in December and January, when the waratahs are in flower. Other easy walks include the tracks to the Arve Falls and to Lake Osborne. If you prefer something a little more challenging, you may want to try the longer walks to Lake Esperance, the Hartz Pass or to the summit of Hartz Peak.
When you decide to go walking in the park, you need to register at the registration booth, which is located next to the car park. This is important, since weather conditions can change very quickly and hikers can become trapped. This message is brought home along the Lake Esperance track, where you’ll see a memorial to the cousins Sidney and Arthur Geeves. They were part of an 1897 prospecting party which also included Arthur’s father and two brothers. As they were returning to the Hartz Hut, which was located near where the car park is today, they were overtaken by a blizzard and the two cousins died from the cold. This happened in late November, which tells you that even in the height of summer you’ll need to bring something warm when visiting the park. In fact, snow is not uncommon here even in the warmer months.
To visit the park, you need to have a valid Parks Pass, which you can buy online or at a National Park Visitor Centre, a Service Tasmania shop or a Tasmanian Visitor Information Centre, all of which have branches in Huonville as well as in Hobart. You can also buy your Parks Pass on board the Spirit of Tasmania ferry.