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Getting to the Overland

Getting to the Overland

We’re off to the airport! Our bags are packed and the dehydrator has finally churned through our final batch of kiwis, so we’ll be on our way once I hit the “publish” button. We arrive in Launceston just before 5pm today, and will have a bit of time to catch up on sleep before our coach picks us up tomorrow morning. The trip to Cradle Mountain takes roughly 3h so we are hoping to be registered and on the Overland Track by a little after midday. After that, the real fun begins.

Transport logistics for the Overland Track can be quite tricky. To give you a sense of geography, the Cradle Mountain – Lake St Clair National Park is roughly halfway between Launceston and Hobart, the two main cities in Tasmania with airports. Unless you hire a car and drive there (which means that you will still be paying for car hire during your time out on the track), your only choice is to find a bus operator that suits your needs.

Launceston - Hobart (via Cradle Mountain and Lake St Clair)

A - Launceston, B - Cradle Mountain, C - Lake St Clair, D - Hobart

There are several options on that front, with the simplest being the packages aimed specifically at people who do the Overland Track. Some are fully-guided tours, which means that a guide will be with you for the entire hike, but there are also transport-only packages run by both tour operators and bus companies. These typically involve picking you up from one of the larger cities and dropping you off at Cradle Mountain, then picking you up at Lake St Clair some days later to transfer you back to civilisation. In many cases, this imposes some limitations on your travel dates and the number of days you can spend on trail unless you opt for a more costly custom package.

Alternatively, there are bus companies who run regular or chartered services. The biggest name is Tassielink, but there are quite a few out there if you do a Google search. The main challenge with the regular services – which are by far cheaper, averaging around $60 per person one-way from either Hobart or Launceston – is that they don’t run every day, even during the summer months. If you really need to start or finish on set dates, you may end up requiring a chartered service, which is typically dependent on the number of travellers. For a group of two, that can be very expensive unless you happen to register for the same day as some other people. The price point is still usually around $100 or more per person one-way.

The other complicating factor is that the track is not a circuit. It starts from Ronny Creek on the Cradle Mountain side of the national park and finishes on the Lake St Clair side, so even if you had a car, you would still be reliant on bus services to get you from one end of the track to the other (either before or after the hike) – which leads you back to all of the logistical factors above. You can see from the map above (Point B to Point C) that the journey by car is not direct at all, whereas the walking route between those points – the Overland Track – is much shorter.

In other words, unless you are willing to pay an arm and a leg, it’s much easier to try to schedule your trip around regular bus services than vice versa.

In our case, we weren’t really able to do that because we wanted to spend Christmas with my family, which meant that we could either finish the Overland shortly before Christmas or begin shortly afterwards. The former made more sense because it lets us hike as much as we want during the family leg of the trip without needing to conserve anything for the Overland (which we would have done if the Overland was still to come). To maximise our time on the track, we scheduled the pick-up of our campervans on the 24th (before the public holidays), which is a day without regular services. We therefore needed alternative options.

After some research, we ended up opting for one of McDermott’s regular runs from Launceston to Cradle Mountain, which cost $103 one-way for both of us. I read on some forums that the driver will do a drop-off at the visitor’s centre, wait for everyone to go through the registration process, then do a drop off at Ronny Creek. We’ll see if that is the case – I’m certainly hoping so. Otherwise, there are free shuttle buses which run from the visitor’s centre to Ronny, but it tends to be quite full by the visitor’s centre stop so I hear it can take a few runs for a free spot to open. I guess we will see.

For the outbound trip, the family will be stepping in to save the day. They are flying down to Tasmania at the end of next week, spending a couple of days in Hobart then driving to Lake St Clair, where we booked them a room at the Lake St Clair Lodge. We’ll meet up with them after we finish the hike and catch a lift back to Hobart the next day so we can all pick up our campervans. The three days of car hire for them cost $112, so it was quite a good option financially.

Only after arranging all of that back in July did we actually register for the Overland Track, which costs over $200 per person. It isn’t a fee I begrudge because it contributes directly to the maintenance of the National Park, but it’s still enough of a sum that we wanted to make sure we had the right dates first. It’s not that changes aren’t possible, but there’s an amendment fee and the risk that the sixty available places on the revised date would already be taken. (That happened to us a few years ago before we realised just how popular this track was.) Once the track was sorted out, we were finally able to book flights and all of the other aspects of the trip.

Anyway, it’s time to hit the road. Follow our Facebook for new and photo updates!

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