The Overland Track, can you afford to hike it?

What does it cost to hike the Overland Track in Tasmania?

How much should you budget for this world famous wilderness hike from Cradle Mountain to Lake St Clair?

Is hiking the Overland Track, in season, becoming an elitist adventure?

We have been reviewing our  Hiking the Overland track eBook ready for an update  (to the look, not content) and started to add up what it  costs to do the hike. This piece analyses the financial cost for someone travelling to Tasmania for the hike.

The numbers are stunning.

Barn Bluff in snow Overland Track Tasmania
Barn Bluff in snow Overland Track Tasmania

Let’s start with the “must pay’s”

For this exercise we will assume only adults are hiking and it is “in season” i.e. from 1 November – 30 April.

Overland Track Fee – $160 each

The fee is $160 AUD per adult, including GST. The fee for children (aged 17 and under), seniors and pension concessionaires is $128.

Parks Pass – $30 per adult

Current park passes must be purchased for entry to Tasmania’s National Parks.  The recommended pass for bushwalking is the Holiday pass and it is valid for 8 weeks.

Cost per adult: $180


Optional cost but very handy

Information Pack – $48.50 if mailed within Australia, or $56.50 if mailed overseas.

This includes:

  • The Overland Track map
  • The Overland Track:one walk, many journeys book (an interpretive  guide for the walk by Parks)
  • The Overland Track – by John and Monica Chapman
  • Other “helpful documents” suggesting what to carry, safety, accommodation at both ends of the track, etc.

It is recommended that each “group” purchase this pack.  Lets assume 4 in the group and the costs are split.

Cost per adult: $12.00

Frog Flats - Overland Track Tasmania - Clare and the "No Dams" tree

Frog Flats - Overland Track Tasmania - Clare and the "No Dams" tree

Check out our Overland Track eBook
Getting to Cradle Mountain and back

Public Transport
A bus ticket with Tigerline from Launceston to Cradle Mountain and then Lake St Clair  to Hobart.

Cost: $100 per person

Private Operator
Launceston to Cradle Mountain is around $330 for 1-4 people plus $80 per additional person.

Cost $155 (approx)

The return trip to Launceston or Devonport from Lake St Clair costs approx $280 for 1-4 people plus $70 each additional passenger. We don’t have the prices for Lake St Clair to Hobart.

Narcissus Hut to Cynthia Bay – Boat trip on Lake St Clair

Many people chose to take the boat at the end of the Overland Track. Let’s assume this group makes that decision.

Cost: $28.00

Transport to Tasmania (and home)

Flights
We are very lucky and live in Victoria and can pick up cheap flights to Tasmania.  We usually plan our trips well in advance and fly at cheaper times (like mid week or early morning) The average price we pay is around $90.00 each way

Cost: $180 per person (average return)

Spirit of Tasmania
Taking the ferry used to be seen as a economic option compred to flying. The big advantages are there is no weight restriction on your pack and you can take you vehicle if you plan to do other activities in Tasmania. The disadvantage of this price is that is is for the “Ocean View Recliner”, NOT a cabin.

Cost: $260 per person (average return)

Ice on the Overland Track Tasmania

Ice on the Overland Track Tasmania

Accommodation
Most people need to spend a night in Tasmania before the walk. This has the advantage of allowing time to purchase fresh food, make the bus pickup in time and generally be “set” for the walk. We usually stay in “backpacker” type accommodation in Launceston.

Cost: $30-50 per person (depending on how many in the room)

At the end of the Track it is great to spend a few days in Tasmania. We generally head to Hobart and treat ourselves to a bit of “luxury”. Keeping it mean and lean, a basic backpackers in Hobart would do the deed!

Cost: $30-50 per person (depending on how many in the room)

Incidentals

This would include some or all of the following.

  • Fresh food purchased for the trip
  • Meals before and after while staying in Tasmania
  • Coffee’s , drinks, alcohol
  • Fuel for stoves
  • Taxi fares
  • Sightseeing

Cost: $130 ea (conservative estimate)

So there we have it! Our Hiking Blog’s , rough estimate on the minimum cost per hiker to “Do the Overland Track”

And the cost is? $700 per person

Expensive? Yes!

Good for the Tasmanian economy?  Hell yes!

Elitist?  Maybe!

Worth doing? Absolutely YES, no question!

Sue and Frank have hiked the Overland Track many times travelling from interstate to Tasmania. We have written a book with a huge amount of tips, trick and ideas on how to organise the walk. Check out more information here, Hiking the Overland Track – eBook and download the free sample.

Comments

  1. Matt says

    Quite an interesting post.

    The transport cost (just to turn up) that you outlined is say ~$540. It’s not really fair to “blame” Tasmania that such beautiful hiking is so damn far from where you happen to live. :) That’s not an “elitist” issue, more of a geographic disadvantage. What’s next, the Himalayas are too far away to justify the expense?? :)

    The $180 of park fees and permits is another issue.

    I think the question your post should be addressing is whether the $180 that each hiker spends on these permits is being genuinely reinvested back into maintaining and improving the park for future visitors.

    Clearly there is a high demand to walk the park and you can’t have the tracks overrun by thousands every year with no visitor control management in place. If they can maximise revenue from this increased demand, then good luck to management of the park.

    As long as those funds are not being wasted and are being put to good use, then that’s all we can wish for. What ways can we find out if that is the case?

    • Frank says

      Great to hear from you Matt,
      When I was writing the post (Frank here) I kept on thinking of all the different angles / issues and considering what I should include or “ignore”.

      In the end, I decided to look at it purely as a costing exercise for someone who is thinking of heading to Tassie from interstate or overseas to walk the Overland Track.

      I absolutely agree the “transport costs” are definitely not Tasmania’s fault and they certainly don’t reap all the $$. I do love the fact that a fair proportion of it goes to Tasmanian businesses that provide services for bushwalkers and tourists alike. It is much better to have job growth in tourism than some short term spike (like building a new pulp mill or in wood chipping)

      As regards the track fees. They ARE steep. You CAN see evidence of infrastructure spending on the Track. I know it is very expensive to do anything down there. Just question Park’s priorities at times e.g. Bert Nicols Hut.

      The other “hidden” issue are the people who walk in season and try and avoid the fees (and take Park’s resources to police them), the demand on other “free” tracks in the Cradle Mountain area that will need maintenance (e.g.Walls of Jerusalem) and demand on other Tasmanian Tracks such as the South Coast Track (which is very muddy and widening daily in spots)

      All I can say is I am happy not to be a policy maker, it is a complicated issue and raises a lot of passion in the Tasmanian Bushwalking community!

      Thanks again for a great comment.

  2. Bernie Sunderhauf says

    Hi Guys,

    Nice post. One critisism though…..you forgot to include the cost of food for the actual trek. Maybe some people can get away with 2-minute noodles every day, but if you are considering nutrition, and minimum weight, this can add quite a few dollars. You wont get much change out of $100 per person if you are properly balancing your food intake using minimum weights (ie no “wet” foods). For our 8 day trip in Jan – OT plus Pine Valley and side trips – we have prepared food for 4 people at a cost of $600.

    • Frank says

      You are right Bernie. The original thought on the post was the cash injection to the Tasmanian economy the Overland Track provides. We purchase (and dry) most of our food before the trip so the $$ stay at home.
      Totally agree on the $100 per person. We nearly spend that on junk food we take!
      It is an expensive exercise (but a hell of a lot cheaper than staying in a ***** hotel!

  3. Robert says

    What a lot of rubbish!
    Hiking has become ONLY an elitist adventure and its nothing to do with money!

    I have been hiking for 30 years and have noticed sadly that the vast majority of people I now meet are how should I word this, not “working class” .This is reflected by the things that are sold at Paddy Palin or Snow Gum $75.oo T-Shirts, $800 Goretex etc.

    It used to be you borrowed someones pack & tent and went bush now its an image thing. I find it a great pity but the joys of hard walking, camping and the bush are FREE but it takes a certain thinking to appreciate that. If you don’t agree do your own survey next time your are bush camping

  4. Bernie Sunderhauf says

    I’m with you on this one Robert. I agree that there are a great many “Oh look how wonderful I am in my expensive new rain jacket and very latest top-of-the-range backpack” type of people doing walks such as the OT (or Milford Track in NZ), but these are just the “tourists” that are only doing the walk so that they can impress their friends when they get back home. Sadly you will find them anywhere that is “safe”. I doubt whether you would run into the same tourists on the South Coast Track for example.
    But all is not lost!! We too are “the real deal” and you will come accross many others (identified by the faded backpacks and mud on their face instead of foundation). Although I do have a few high end items, I hike with gear that I have accumulated over many years. The only things that I have that would be regarded as costly are my boots and light-weight tent – and this I can surely justify. Like you, everything else has been acquired on-the-cheap, and does me just fine. For the first time trekkers, yes I would also recommend borrowing as much as you can. But if anyone decides to take up multi-day trekking as a regular ativity, an investment of some degree is to be expected – but second hand is always the best place to start looking. Generic brands can also do the same job. I bought a “cheaper” brand rain jacket 4 years ago for the Thorsborne Trail. $64 and it’s still as dry as the day I bought it. A couple that came with us spent $360 each, just for the trip, and were soaked after the first heavy shower. LOL.

    • Frank says

      Hi Bernie,
      Excellent points. We are always looking for gear on sale or stuff that serves multiple purposes and only really replace worn out stuff as required.

      I think I covered a few of your other points in the reply above!
      Frank

  5. Graeme says

    I agree that the gear can be expensive. I’m doing my research into gear at the moment. There seems to be reasonably priced gear if you shop around on the web. The “club” specials at some of the bigger camping stores seem to be good value too.

    I think the trick is to also watch out for the sales and deals as pointed out by Frank and Sue on this blog. I’m following my preferred suppliers on Twitter or signing up for e-mail newsletters. It helps with the research before I am ready to buy.

  6. Oliver says

    Robert expensive gear isn’t about the flash, it’s about comfort. If you can afford to go for a good Goretex that is breathable and durable and will make your trip more comfortable as if you wouldn’t do it?

    Those who invest in comfort items usually have a better time walking and see more of the track, rather than complaining about how miserable the weather is.

    I believe there is a small group of walkers that do not know what they are wearing and only have it because its expensive, but I resent your statement that track walking is elitest.

    Isn’t it good that more people are walking? Travelling to Tasmania to experience wilderness?

    • j says

      As an almost 50 year old female and my first hiking adventure.. i have recently done the overlander,and had a ball, but I had some good gear having planned the trip for 2 years bought things on sale ect, I had some good gear like lightweight mat, tent,hiking boots, good quality breathable gaiters and a gortex coat because I wanted to enjoy the journey as much as possible. I finished it unlike my walking male buddy who was 10 years younger and an experienced hiker he took 2nd rate shoes that fell apart on the trip and skimped on his gear which most likely led to having to leave the trail early.

  7. craig says

    Hi Robert, You must not talk to many hikers out and about.This was my first ever hike and i work 3 jobs and struggled to fund it and would have paid the park more to do it,i left triathlon due to old school people just like you thinking that people who overcome difficulties to achieve anything are frowned upon and tagged, bit like city folk who buy a farm and try for a new life.At some point old mate you were new to hiking and should just be thankful that people are having a go even if they have comfortable cloths on.The view i had from the acropolis and the feeling i had getting to the summit will be just like yours no matter if i happened to sleep in a hut and have dry boots and warm cloths.

  8. Jez says

    In 1980 the Overland track was already suffering from the boots of trekkers especially at the cradle mountain -Barn Bluff end and the mud holes were knee deep and the cushion plants were getting trammelled.It was obvious that leaving only foot prints was not a good enough ethic to protect the area as the heavy rains channelled along the foot tracks and eroded the path.

    In those days Ozzie Ellis was doing work to minimize track damage.

    It was free to trek back then and sometimes,after the summer season, many hours could be spent without seeing another walker, a hut could be yours to yourself and there was an incredible sense of freedom in the air. One could also free camp anywhere and there was a back door entrance via the Forth river Wolfram mine onto the Pelion Plains.
    I knew then it couldn’t last but I can not describe how truly blessed it was to be alone in that great wild place and know no one was making a buck out of you.
    My gear was borderline and I guess inadequate for the worst of weather conditions that could be thrown at you. I was unemployed and had hitch hiked around Australia for a year. I had done this for 10 months for less than your estimate cost for one trek on today’s overland track.
    Times change….. in the 1930’s old timers like George Bott would take pack horses up to the Pelion area and make a hut with axe and saw and catch the animals in their winter coats. When the Park was made these old timers were cut out of the picture. I guess the higher the fees go..the more people will get cut out of the picture too.
    Maybe a trekkers lottery would be fairer than allowing the highest bidding elite to take over the track……… just a thought!

  9. says

    “Sadly you will find them anywhere that is “safe”. I doubt whether you would run into the same tourists on the South Coast Track for example.”

    Hello Bernie,

    I’m sorry but I’m going to have to disagree with you here. Why does it matter whether you find these hikers you call ‘tourists’ at places that are safe? Are you suggesting that people do walks that are out of their ability? That is pretty dangerous, isn’t it?

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