After exploring the mainland, a trip across the Bass Strait to Tasmania seems like a visit to another country. This island is the most distinctive of Australia's states, with the relatively unspoiled envirornnent that permits its self-proclaimed status as 'The Natural State'.
Those who wish to underline Tasmania's eco-credentials – and prove their own advanced self-sufficiency qualifications – should undertake the marathon hike along the connecting South Coast and Port Davey Tracks in the vast Southwest National Park. This is an epic wilderness adventure often described as 'the hardest trek in Australia', so it isn't for the faint of heart or weak of leg.
The easy part is getting there, with regular shuttles from Hobart servicing each end of the route. The heaviest part is the pack, which must contain everything needed for two unsupported weeks. That includes food and camping gear (there are basic campgrounds at regular intervals), plus a selection of all-weather clothing. It is essential to get a Backpacker Pass in advance and sign the registration book before starting (and after finishing).
Any hike in Tasmania involves battling against mud. The 84 km (52 mi) South Coast Track has plenty of it, plus two mountain ranges to cross where the coast is impassable and shoreline sections where the waves can be dangerous. The route is Cockle Creek, South Cape Rivulet, Granite Beach, New River Lagoon, Deadmans Bay, Louisa River, Cox Bight and Melaleuca. The demanding 80-km (50-mi) Port Davey Track begins at Melaleuca and goes inland via Spring River, Watershed Camp and Junction Creek to Scott’s Peak, offering serious tests like bottomless mud and leech-infested swamps. Those who crack can be airlifted out from the mining camp at Melaleuca, but otherwise the only way out of the spectacular but dangerous wilderness is on two feet - or feet first!
WHEN TO GO
December to March are the best months but can still produce cold winds and heavy rain - even snow flurries on the high tops!
TIME IT TAKES
Eleven days if tramping the recommended daily sections.
Two rowboat crossings during the great trek - at New River Lagoon and Bathurst Narrows.
The beautiful Osmiridium Beach - check the map and look for a small path from the South coast Track.
Staying in one of the hikers huts at Melaleuca - they may be primitive, but seem like the height of luxury after days of hard trekking.
A chance to see the rare and endangered orange-bellied parrot from the Deny King Memorial Hide near the airstrip at Melaleuca.
YOU SHOULD KNOW
Some of the deadliest snakes on the planet lurk along the way - they tend to be shy but carry anti-venom in the First Aid kit, just in case!