Australia Backpacking

Overland Track Transport: How to Get There

Lake St Clair ferry at the end of the Overland Track

I actually found organizing transport to the Overland Track one of the most complicated parts of my hike. There are a few different options for getting to the start and getting back from the finish, and it can be hard to figure out which one makes the most sense for you. I ended up taking a private charter bus from Devonport, which ended up being really expensive. I definitely could have saved some money by doing some research on Overland Track transport options ahead of time and booking well in advance. So don’t make the same mistake I did! Here’s my complete guide on how to get to the Overland Track including buses, self-driving and ferries.

 

Hey there: Some of the links in this post are affiliate links, which means I earn a small commission at no extra cost to you if you make a purchase. Thanks for your support! -Taryn

 

Want more info about the Overland Track? Check out my Ultimate Guide to the Overland Track. It has a great overview of everything you need to know including how to book, what the weather is like, when to go, and how to stay safe.

Trying to figure out your plan for the Overland Track? Check out my section-by-section overview of the track and sample Overland Track Itineraries. They range for 4 to 12 days and there are ones for beginners, fast hikers, peak baggers and more.

Be sure to consider which side trips to take from the Overland Track. You can climb Tasmania’s highest peak, swim in a lake, visit a waterfall and more.

Need more info about where to sleep and what to bring? I’ve got a complete guide to every single hut or campground and a super-detailed packing list.

 

Where Does the Overland Track Start?

The Overland Track starts at Ronny Creek in Cradle Mountain National Park

The beginning of the Overland Track at Ronny Creek in Cradle Mountain National Park

The Overland Track starts at Ronny Creek inside Cradle Mountain National Park. Cradle Mountain Visitor Centre is a 1.5 hour drive from Devonport or a 2.5 hour drive from Launceston.

Cradle Mountain National Park is a remote mountain park that is not close to any cities or towns. There are hotels and lodges nearby, some with dining options, but there are no shops and no mobile phone reception. The visitor centre has a cafe and does sell souvenirs and some hiking supplies.

Once you get to Cradle Mountain Visitor Centre, you will need to check in with the rangers, then take a free park shuttle bus 7km to Ronny Creek to start the track. In the summer, the bus leaves very often (about every 10-15 minutes), but at other times of year it runs less often.

 

Where Does the Overland Track Finish?

The Overland Track ends at Cynthia Bay on Lake St Clair

The end of the Overland Track at Cynthia Bay and the Lake St Clair Lodge at Lake St Clair National Park

The Overland Track finishes at Cynthia Bay on Lake St Clair next to the Lake St Clair Lodge. Lake St Clair is in the central highlands of Tasmania. It’s 2.5 hours from Devonport, 2.5 hours from Launceston, and 2.5 hours from Hobart.

Lake St Clair is in a remote area and is not close to any cities or towns. The only businesses are the Lake St Clair Lodge next to the end of the track and the pub at the Derwent Bridge Hotel, 5km away. The Lake St Clair Lodge has a cafe called the Hungry Wombat that is popular with hungry hikers finishing the Overland Track.

 

Public Transport to the Overland Track

Until 2019, Tassielink had bus service to Cradle Mountain and Lake St Clair, but that service is discontinued. You may find older info online about people taking a public bus to the Overland Track. Unfortunately that is no longer possible.

 

Private Shuttle Buses to the Overland Track

Many private companies offer bus or van service to and from the Overland Track. Most of the companies leave from Hobart or Launceston but you can get buses from Devonport too. Service is more frequent in the summer. Cradle Mountain National Park maintains a list of all companies offering  transport to the Overland Track

Some companies have scheduled services during the summer months. All the companies offer on-demand charter service, but it can be much more expensive than scheduled service.

Shuttle buses are just one type of Overland Track transport to get to and from the trail.

Photo Credit: Overland Track Transport

Most bus companies require a minimum number of passengers to make the trip, but if you book well in advance, they will try to match you up with other groups to fill the bus. If they don’t have the minimum number of passengers booked on the day you want to go, you can pay the fare for the minimum number in order to make the trip to go ahead. On my trip we were the only walkers leaving for Devonport so we had to pay the minimum charge for 3 passengers, even though there were only 2 of us 🙁 

Launceston is the most popular place to get a bus, which makes it the least expensive since it is the easiest to fill a bus. For prices and schedules, contact the transport companies for a quote. In general, prices start at $75/person/each way and go up from there. If I had known how much extra my trip from Devonport was going to cost, I might have chosen to travel to Launceston and get a bus from there.

Private bus companies can also sell you stove fuel and other supplies if you arrange it ahead of time.

 

Self-Drive to the Overland Track

If your group has two vehicles, you can do a car shuffle, leaving one vehicle at each end of the Overland Track. However, driving between Lake St Clair and Cradle Mountain takes about 3 hours each way on winding mountain roads, so it’s time consuming.

If you have only one car you could leave it at Lake St Clair, then take a private bus to Cradle Mountain to start the Overland Track. However, private bus service between Lake St Clair and Cradle Mountain is not very common. Unless you have a large group and can arrange a charter, you will most likely have to take a scheduled private bus to Launceston, then transfer to another bus to Cradle Mountain. In most cases it’s cheaper to leave your car parked in Launceston and take the bus both ways.

 

Lake St Clair Ferry 

Many people choose to take the ferry across Lake St Clair instead of walking the final 17.5km along the side of the lake. The ferry is privately operated and runs three times a day in the summer. Service is less frequent at other times of year and may stop entirely in the winter.  The ferry runs between Narcissus River (near the Narcissus Hut) and Cynthia Bay near the Lake St Clair Lodge. See my section-by-section guide to the Overland Track and Overland Track Itineraries to decide if you want to take the ferry or walk.

The Lake St Clair ferry goes from Narcissus to Cynthia Bay at the end of the Overland Track

The Lake St Clair ferry arriving at Narcissus

Call ahead to book as it does fill up in busy season, especially the midday sailing. If you didn’t book ahead, you can call the Lake St Clair Lodge from the radio in the Narcissus Hut to ask about availability. As of 2019 the ferry costs $50/person for the 30 minute trip. 

When the ferry is not that busy, sailings for 6 passengers or more run at the regular rate of $50/person. But sailings of less than six passengers will incur the minimum charge of $300.

The ferry will also stop on request at Echo Point. It is best to arrange this in advance. But there is a sign you can raise at the Echo Point Jetty to signal to the operator that you want to be picked up.

You will have to put your packs in a pile at the front of the ferry and you won’t be able to access them during the ride. Make sure you grab your camera before getting on board. You may also want a jacket since it can be windy on the lake. The ferry is enclosed, but it isn’t very warm.

 

Where to Stay Near the Overland Track

Since the Overland Track starts and finishes in remote locations, you may want to stay overnight nearby before or after your trip. The first day of the track is difficult, so staying in Cradle Mountain the night before can help you get started nice and early. As well, it’s stressful to rush to meet your bus on the last day, so why not stay in a warm bed that night, then get the bus the next day.

Pepper's Cradle Mountain Lodge is a great place to stay before the Overland Track

Pepper’s Cradle Mountain Lodge by Roderick Eime on Flicker. Used under CC BY-ND 2.0.

There is no camping inside Cradle Mountain National Park. But you can camp at the Cradle Mountain Discovery Caravan Park right near the visitor centre. They have cute rustic cabins too. If you want to treat yourself, the famous Pepper’s Cradle Mountain Lodge is right at the entrance to the park.

At Lake St Clair, Overland Track walkers can stay in the very basic Fergy’s Paddock campground for no charge. If you’re tired of roughing it, the Lake St Clair Lodge is located right at end of the track. They have lodge rooms and cabins. Nearby Lake St Clair Tourist Park (operated by the lodge) has cheaper options with a caravan park and dorm-style bunkhouses.

 

I hope you’re reading this well in advance of your trip. Now that you know how to get to the Overland Track, make your booking ASAP. (So you don’t end up paying way too much money the way I did!)

 

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