Take a look at a map of Tasmania and your eye is drawn to the southwest corner where a large swath of green is interrupted by patches of blue. This massive area is Tasmania's largest national park and contains some of Australia's most rugged and wild lands. Much of the park is remote and cannot be accessed by vehicle, but there is a scenic drive that takes you to some of the most breathtaking views the park has to offer.
This massive protected area contains button grass planes, silent rainforests, snow-capped mountains, wild rivers and flooded valleys. It's also surrounded by some of the most spectacular coastal wilderness found in all of Tasmania. Take a few days to drive the scenic Gordon River Road or challenge yourself by flying to the south end of the park to start a 7-day walk through its remote regions.
The northern part of the park can be accessed by vehicle via the Gordon River and Scotts Peak Roads. These roads provide one of Tasmania's most spectacular drives that takes you through Sassafras, Myrtle and celery-top pine forests, between two of Tasmania's largest lakes and to the base of the towering Mount Anne. Stop at one of the many lookouts to gauge the scale of this massive park.
Gordon River and Scotts Peak Roads are a little over an hour west of Hobart. The drive will take you 3.5 hours from Launceston and over 4 hours from Devonport.
Southern access to the park is much more difficult. You'll need to arrange transportation via a wilderness plane or a boat. They will drop you off at an outpost known as Melaleuca where you'll find the trailhead to one of Australia's best nature walks. The 84-kilometre Port Davey track starts at Cockle Creek, brings you through the entirety of the park and take 7 days to complete.
Southwest National Park consumes over 600,000 hectares of Tasmanian wilderness. That's nearly 6200 km². Much of the park is inaccessible to vehicles and remains wild; as wild as the days Tasmania was founded by European explorers. The challenge of this untouched wilderness draws nature lovers from all over the world.
Many make the trip to Southwest National Park for its stunning Gordon River and Scotts Peak drives. This is the easiest way to access this incredibly rugged land and there's plenty to enjoy. Pull off at one of the many picnic areas or walk one of the short nature trails along the road. If you're lucky, you'll be greeted by beautiful local birds like the Scarlet, Flame Robin, Honeyeater, Wren or Thornbill.
Southwest National Park offers up some of the best trout fishing in all of Tasmania. Only artificial lures are permitted at Gordon and Pedder Lakes and you'll need a current Inland Fisheries Commission license. Fishing is not permitted in any waterway leading up to the two giant lakes crowning the Gordon River Road.
Boating is permitted in Southwest National Park's two massive lakes as well as in the ocean around the rugged outskirts of the park. All boats must comply with Marine and Safety Tasmania Regulations and you must use the registration booths located at the launch sites. A boat suitable for the ocean can be navigated to Bathurst Harbour and Port Davy. There you'll find the small walker's station of Melaleuca.
Nature walks are popular in the park. You'll find plenty of them on Gordon River Road and Scotts Peak Road. These roadside walks are generally easy to moderate and will not consume your entire day, but they will give you incredible views and insight into the massive scale of this Park. If you really want to challenge yourself, arrange a flight or boat to Melaleuca in the southern reaches of the park. You'll find a small airstrip, composting toilets, two walker's huts and the beginning of the park's most intrepid hike -- a 7-day, 84-kilometer track that takes you throughout the entire park.
You can also access this impressive nature walk with a vehicle. Drive to Cockle Creek, park your car and walk 7 kilometres along the South Coast Track to Melaleuca and the stunning Bathurst Harbour.
You don't have to make the intrepid week-long hike to enjoy Melaleuca. Take a plane or boat to this incredibly remote reach of the park to enjoy world-class birdwatching as well as an Aboriginal interpretive experience. The Deny King Memorial Hide will allow you to see the endangered Orange-bellied Parrot during summertime. The 1.2- kilometre Needwonnee Boardwalk brings you to the edge of a Lagoon where you'll see sculpture installations and an interpretive story of the aboriginal Needwonnee people.
Geological Features, Environment and Climate
It's difficult to sum up the geographical features of this massive national park. Taking up so much land, you'll find towering dolerite mountains, pristine rivers, button grass plains, ancient rainforests, massive lakes, coastal heathlands and scrublands. If you're lucky, you'll find colonies of rare Huon Pine Trees.
This area of Tasmania is marked by ice, wind and rainfall. Erosion from battering weather has carved much of this landscape and is a big part of the park's personality. And while temperatures in the park remain relatively comfortable and cool all year round, visitors must always be prepared for the fickle weather. Those taking the massive nature walk starting in Melaleuca must be self-sufficient with an all-weather tent, warm sleeping bags and clothing that is water repellent.
Wildlife and Birds
This massive Park contains nearly every creature Tasmania has to offer, but it is well known for its incredible bird species. In the remote Melaleuca, you can peer at the endangered Orange-bellied Parrot. On the drive in the northern reaches of the park, you'll experience the songs of the Scarlet, Flame Robin, Thornbill, Wren and Honeyeater.
There is an unusual sea creature that lives near Melaleuca at Bathurst Harbour. The delicate Sea Pen usually lives in deeper water but you'll find the rare creature in this drowned river valley. Tannin stains from the drowned valley keep the water here dark enough for the Sea Pen to thrive.
Facilities and Camping
The Gordon River and Scotts Peak Roads in the northern edge of the park are dotted with different campsites. You'll find sites ranging from basic clearings for a tent with no facilities to sites with pit toilets and tank water. You'll find toilets, fireplaces and firewood at both the Edgar Campground and the Huon Campground. Teds Beach offers up toilets and electric barbecues. No fires are permitted at Teds Beach.
First-come, first serve camping is available at Cockle Creek. You'll find pit toilets and tank water at this campsite, but do not rely on the availability of tank water during the summer. All tank water must be treated or boiled before consumption. Dogs are not allowed this campground and firewood is not available.
Melaleuca provides two walker's huts, pit toilets and tank water. These are the last amenities you'll find as you venture along the Port Davey or South Cross Tracks.
In 1995, the park was declared and named Lake Pedder National Park. The conservation area continued to grow over the next 35 years until it reached its current massive size in 1990. In 1977, the United Nations recognized this area for its importance to endangered species like the Orange-bellied Parrot. The park was also listed as a World Heritage Site in 1982. These accolades helped the park expand to its current size before being renamed Southwestern National Park.