Overland Track – 5 nights or 6?

How many nights to spend hiking the Overland Track is a common question.

Do you take five, six or seven nights to walk from Cradle Mountain to Lake St Clair?

What are the best number of days to hike the Overland Track?

Michael, one of our readers, sent the following email that highlights a common problem when planning the walk :

Barn Bluff with pandani - Overland Track - Tasmania

Barn Bluff with pandani - Overland Track - Tasmania

I realise you are not a travel agent but I wondered if you might be prepared to make a suggestion for me.

I am booking the final details for my solo overland hike in two weeks and the question relates to booking a bus from Lake St Clair to Hobart. Tassielink offer only an 8:00 PM departure bus on the Friday that I planned on arriving at the end of the hike. Every other day they offer a late morning option – including the following day.

If it were you, would you stay the extra night (making it 6 nights on the track) leaving Saturday morning or leave on the Friday at 8:00 PM night (5 nights on the track).

I realise there many factors to consider but all things being equal for yourself, I wondered what you might do knowing what you know now and if it were your first time on the overland hike?

We had a chat about Michael’s question and the reply is below.

What we are really  interested in is your feedback. Many of you have hiked the Overland Track and used our eBook as a guide.

What advice do you have for Michael?

Frank & Sue’s response:

Ok, we are  not travel agents but have grappled with this problem before.

First of all, we cannot for the life of  us work out why they have changed the Friday night bus to 8pm at Lake St Clair. It means you get into Hobart about 10:30pm and then have to get to your accommodation.

We are  pretty confident the booking system for the bus is very flexible. Check with the company, BUT, from memory, if you prebook and pay your ticket is basically transferable to a different date. So, for example, if you are booked and paid on the Friday bus and come out Saturday, your ticket should be valid. They do have a check list but don’t seem to wait for people to arrive. (bushwalkers are notoriously unreliable)

We would go for the 6 nights on the track. BUT, it really (REALLY) depends on what weather you have, how many side trips you take, what sort of a hurry you are in , what people you meet and your frame of mind…..

There is an interesting thing that happens down there, it is sort of a herd mentality (particularly among the young overseas backpacker fraternity) They get a sniff of beer and chips and tend to sprint the last couple of days with the people they have met along the way. Sometimes there can be groups of up to 10 of them who do a forced march towards the nearest pub!  You need to be careful to avoid the herd or you may be swept up and popped out the end before your realise it!

We believe the Overland Track (and you) deserve the six nights. It takes the pressure off, means you can have a rest day or walk the length of Lake St Clair or just take your time and enjoy the environment. A side trip and night in Pine Valley also becomes an option.

I hope this has helped, as you say “there are many factors to consider”. Frank did it in 4 nights once and hated it, we both have done it in 5 several times and 6 or 7 a couple of times. The longer times were best!

Over to you dear readers, what advice do you have for Michael?

How many nights are best when walking the Overland Track?

Please leave us a comment below.

Addendum – Michael sent us another email in response:

I will see if I can find a bus company that leaves on the Saturday as Tassielink don’t have any buses on Saturday in their Winter timetable. They switch to their Winter timetable early April and massively lower their options. Here is the link to their winter timetable if you would like it for your readers

I will write something about my trip for your blog and take some photos. Meanwhile if you want to use me for a testimonial I would be most happy for you to do so. Feel free to use any photos off my website if that helps. I am telling everyone about your Ebook. “It is by far the best money I’ve spent since I took up hiking.” That’s the truth.


  1. says

    Thanks for this. I’ve yet to do a solo overnighter but had planned to do this once I had enough experience. I’m prone to rush it because I can and probably would have tried to do that with this walk. :-) I’m going to aim to do it next year and will do over 6 days.

  2. petra says

    I did the OT solo in march in splendid conditions. spent 5 nights on the track and did walk out along the lake to catch a late morning bus to hobart. this did mean that i had one really tough day, but apart from that i felt it went rather smoothly without a feeling of being rushed. but as already said it all is a very personal issue.

    For example, if you take the bus on friday night, you’d be able to visit the salamanca market on saturday morning (it is on a saturday, isn’t it?) One thing I can recommend is NOT to spend a night at the end in lake st. clair, i found this place pretty much of an anti-climax after having had such a wonderful time on the track.

    hope that helps a little

    • Michael says

      great Petra thanks I’ll take this on board – very helpful.

      Best regards,

      The Michael mentioned in the post

  3. Georgie says

    Hi Michael
    We did the track in 7 days, we went in on Saturday and got to Lake St Clair on Friday, then bus to Hobart. We got there late, but it meant we could spend the extra day on the track plus go to the market on the Saturday. Whatever you decide, I would recommend if possible you do a huge second last day and walk past Narcissus hut and on to Echo Point hut, which only sleeps eight but is much nicer than Narcissus. Georgie

  4. says

    I wouldn’t plan ahead, I would simply take food for up to 9-10 days and then see how it goes, it’s much more fun to be flexible rather than walking with a timetable. If the weather is great you might want to spend extra days there, doing side trips, Mt Oakleigh, Pine Valley etc. Then it would be sad if you have a booking that requires you to skip it. It’s unlikely the Tassielink bus is fully booked now that it’s the end of the season. When I walked the OT it was in season, I didn’t book ahead and the bus wasn’t even half full. And even if it would have been full, either hitchhiking to Hobart or camping at Lake St Clair is always possible.

  5. Greg says

    Yep, I agree with Matthias wholeheartedly. If you can afford to be flexible, you really should try to plan for maximum flexibility by not booking too much at the back end of the walk. We made the mistake of making rigid plans (buses, planes, hotels etc) to get home and when our walk went differently to the plans (weather, receiving bad advice along the track etc), we were left not able to use the bus fare we had paid for (non-refundable, of course), trying to renegotiate airfares on non-transferable fares, change hotels etc. When I hike in Tassie again, I think I will not book anything for the trip home and just book it when I get back into civilisation again. Yes, I know the fare will be more expensive than pre-booking before you leave, but when you you lose even some of your money like we did, it’s suddenly doesn’t look as cheap. Plus, you won’t have to leave the walk before you are ready or you can leave earlier if things are not going your way & you’ve had enough. Either way, you can put your efforts toward enjoying the walk rather than worrying about when you’ll catch the next deadline you’ve set yourself. In summary, book your cheap flight there and the bus to the start of the walk, tell work and the wife you’ll be gone for 2 weeks and work it out as you go. Just expect to pay extra for the hotel after & trip home (but know you won’t lose any extra that way). Oh, and get extra brownie points when you arrive at home and/or work earlier than they expect you!

    • Frank says

      Ouch Greg,
      A few of those things would have stung the wallet big time.

      I agree (in principal) that if you can, to leave the end of the walk as ‘loose and free” as you can BUT, as I am sure you know, many of us have created a very tight “slot” in our lives to walk the OT. This means you are sometimes stuck with rigid bookings and timelines….

      A couple of questions:
      – bus fare was non refundable – assume you did not / could not transfer it to a different bus because of timing?
      – what sort of bad weather did you get?
      – What bad advice did you receive on the track?

      (all for the sake of sharing your tips with our other readers)

      Our scenario is usually “fly in fly out” and we tend to always allow an “extra” day on the Track. It just takes the pressure off so much. (we recommend this in our Overland Track Book)

      When we were there is September I sprained my ankle just before Echo Point hut (we were heading out on the boat) I would hate to think what would have happened if at been up in the Ossa area and I still had a few days to walk.

      Thanks very much for the great feedback – hope you wallet has recovered!

  6. Greg says

    Hi Frank,
    As these things inevitably are, it’s a long story but, in the interest of brevity, I’ll try & spare the detail as much as possible.
    1. Yes, could not utilise another bus without (from memory) about a 36 hr wait, in the rain, at Lake St Clair. We ended up catching a lift with a bunch of guys who had their own minibus booked. They had spare seats and were happy to have us contribute to their fare!
    2. Weather not so bad really, just some rain but combined with bad advice (see point below) was a killer. We were geared up for bad weather (we left in a bushwalker’s alert and had 2 days of snow at the start and it was fantastic – few walkers on the track, magnificent snow-covered scenery, good waterfalls afterward etc etc. so alien to my other bushwalking experiences) so walking in some rain was not going to worry us much.
    3. At Bert Nicholls Hut, my walking companion & I had told the ranger the previous night we were planning on going to Pine Valley for an extra night then returning to the ferry the following day. He ensured we a) knew the weather was predicted to close in for some rain, which we did and b) were geared up for it, which we were and he then said it would still be worthwhile as The Parthenon is still nice to walk, even when wet, just not to bother with The Acropolis as we wouldn’t get the views. All the other hikers in the hut rose early (5am) to get to Narcissus and catch the early ferry and get on the last bus before the aforementioned large gap in service (refer point 1). We were in no such hurry so at 8am the next morning, we were having a leisurely breakfast watching the drizzle start over The Acropolis with the whole hut to ourselves when the ranger reappeared, commented that the weather had, indeed, started to come in as predicted and added, as an afterthought, “I hope that creek on the Pine Valley side track doesn’t rise with this rain and block you in the valley”. We were dumbfounded. “Isn’t that information you perhaps should’ve given us last night?” we quizzed the ranger. “Probably” came the answer and that was that. The rain didn’t appear heavy to us but faced with that piece of information from the one source of info on the track that you’d think you could rely on, we felt we would be crazy to ignore it and jeorpardise the troublesome, concrete travel arrangements that started this whole thread! In the end, we decided to skip Pine Valley, go straight to Narcissus and catch the next ferry, hoping to catch a lift to Hobart (as we had missed the bus earlier as mentioned). Narcissus was where we met the nice group of guys who agreed to let us on their minibus back to Hobart. They had come from Pine Valley that morning and looked very blankly at us when we mentioned the ranger’s advice and said they struggled to think of what creek crossing may have come close to locking someone in Pine Valley without a LOT of rain. By this stage, we really had the tom tits with it all and were not going to turn around and hoof it back to Pine Valley. We had our lift back to Hobart on the minibus now so we thought we would get back to civilisation and try our chances shifting flights/hotels etc. At worst, we would stay longer in Hobart but it all worked out in the end – we got home safely to our families with only one night in Hobart but with a hell of a lot of wrangling with airlines in the process plus extra cost.
    Overall, we still had a great walk. Two days of snow and then 3 of the most glorious Spring days you could ever hope to find anywhere, allowing us to climb a snow-covered Ossa in perfect sunshine, see well-fed waterfalls, see the sun set over Mt Oakleigh and then see it set over The Acropolis from Bert Nicholls Hut – it was just amazing. If only we had completed our planned side trip to Pine Valley! But anyway, if that’s the worst that happened to us, we did alright. Hope someone else can learn from our experiences too.
    ps Re-reading what I written, I don’t think I did leave much detail out!

    • Frank says

      Thanks for that Greg! It almost deserves a whole blog post on its own! (which I may add in the future so others can read it)

      There is a river that can flood between the OT and Pine Valley and I have heard of people getting stuck. I just can’t remember its name. I DO remember walking out of there one time in a foot of water!

      At least you had a great time on the track, the weather sounded great (most of the time)

  7. says

    In winter 2013,quotes for pick up at lake st claire back to car 300-400 Dollars,i person.
    Highway robbery in my book.
    I might change spirt return journey,and walk back along track to cradle mountain,and car.
    What do you think.
    Going ist week june 2013.

  8. Eve says

    hello all OT walkers! I hope there are still people here as the last post is ages ago!! I am all geared up for walking this famous track in the beginning of January next year. I realise this is a very busy time. I wanted to ask you about booking the ferry at the end of the track. I read everywhere that you MUST book ahead otherwise you may not get on it. So much for leaving it to the weather! Also: Do hikers here purify the water on the way?

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