South Coast Track – mud, leeches and lots more!

We tackled the South Coast Track a few years back and found it extremely challenging.

Returning a few years later, Sue got some bad blisters after a couple of days. Deciding they were only going to get worse we left our party to continue on, camped at Louisa Bay for a few days,  and then returned to Melaleuca and flew back to Hobart.

Both trips were fantastic. This area of Tasmania is highly recommended for someone who wants to get off the beaten track and explore some isolated places. It is no where like the Overland Track, much more isolated, the tracks are very muddy and you need to be experienced and well prepared. You need to allow about 5-7 days. That’s a lot of food to carry!

A screen shot from the video, a section of mud on the South Coast Track

A screen shot from the video, a section of mud on the South Coast Track

What is the South Coast Track?

Located in the Southwest National Park, Tasmania, Australia the 82 km track roughly follows the coast between Cockle Creek and Melaleuca. Most people fly into Melaleuca and walk out to Cockle Creek. This is usually to avoid being trapped at Melaleuca in bad weather without food. There are only three ways to get to Melaleuca, by boat, walk in or fly. There is no road access.

If the weather is poor, the planes don’t fly and you may be waiting for a few days to be picked up. Well worth noting in your planning!

In 2010 David Murphy created a  video of his adventures on the South Coast Track.

As he notes on You Tube:

December 2010 trek from Melaleuca to Cockle Creek in Tasmania’s South Coast National Park. Irish Dave and Bundy attempt their first ever multi day hike in bad weather conditions.

The video is quite long but well worth a look. All the good bits (mud, leeches, blood, rivers and rain) are in the second half…..

Have you hiked the South Coast Track?

Have you struggled through mud like David and his friend did?

We would love to hear about your experiences. Shoot us a comment below.

Comments

  1. Robin says

    Hi Frank,
    The South Coast Track has been on my Bucket List for such a long time now that the bottom of the bucket has rusted out!
    There are quite a few “Videos” on the track on YouTube – and then there is the “SlideShow” that you linked to.
    Always worth a look – thanks for the Link.
    Cheers,
    Robin.

  2. Grahame says

    I was all booked and paid for flights etc to do The South Coast Track last January. Unfortunately in the weeks preceding it, while in Vietnam/Cambodia, I came down with a very bad cold (which felt some fatal Asian fever!) and had to make the very difficult decision; do I go and risk ill health on the track? or do I cancel and lose the money and the possibly only chance to do it with a wonderful group of walking friends?

    I probably made the right decision by not going since my friends reported it as being quite demanding throughout – not much fun if you’re still sick. They also said it was fantastic, with great weather and not too much mud – that just made me feel worse.

    Perhaps I can convince them to do it again after the memories of sore knees and aching muscles have faded.

    Grahame

  3. Sarina says

    Ah the memories. What an amazing but extremely difficult hike. The mud! It’s so hard to be obedient and walk on the path when you know you will likely be sunk to your knees in mud – each step is soooo hard. At Little Deadman’s a quoll tore through one of our tents and ate a good portion of our friend’s snack foods – devastating. We met some very angry Frenchman who were finding the going very tough and railed that “in Europe this would never be called a track”. One night we were attacked by a swarm of mozzies so thick you could hardly see each other. All six of us climbed into one tent to get away from them. Each day my sister and I would ask each other “if a boat came along today and offered to “rescue” you would you go?” as a measure of how we were coping. We had fantastic weather 90% of the time and allowed two rest days. Those rest days were amazing – the location is unbeatable. But we use the South Coast Track as our benchmark for difficulty – ie is it as hard as the South Coast? No? Good, I can do it.

  4. Neil says

    Yes it is tough, yes it is remote and fantastic.
    My advise is:
    Take your time in days. We took 9 days and could have taken 10 or 11.
    The defining day is crossing the ironbound. We were prepared for a tough long day however, ten hours and arriving at deadmans in the dark was crazy. The part i hadnt factored in was the descent. Remember reaching the top of ironbound is less than half the effort. The descent is steep, slippery, muddy. You have to think EVERY step. And its long. Even when you think you have made the descent there is a long time to camp along a dense forest floor. I can understand why some would stay overnight at one of the smaller, higher camps to break up this day.
    Have fun

    • Frank says

      You are spot on Neil. The longer you allow the better.

      That descent down from the Ironbounds is a killer. Slow, hard, slippery and large steps. I think we got into camp about 8pm (after leaving at dawn, say 6am) It was pitch black dark and we walked with our headlights….

      Luckily our walking companions were already there (actually one of them walked out and met us 30 minutes from camp) We were exhausted to say the least.

      It IS a huge achievement but much tougher than walks like the Overland Track.

  5. felicity nolle says

    Great video.Shows it can be done despite trials and tribulations! Where is the next adventure?

    • Frank says

      Hi Felicity,
      Glad you liked the video/ slide show. It really showcased what the South Coast Track is like…..

      Next? Off to do the Overland track in June. We are taking our middle daughter Hannah, she is the only one who has not walked the track. She is looking forward to it (as we are!)

      Cheers
      Frank

  6. Martin says

    This track was one of the best things I’ve done. A friend and I did the track in April/May 2013, and we walked in/flew out on the advice of a friend. We planned in two days contingency and got a food drop to Melaleuca.

    It was very quiet at that time of year; we met only 4 walkers coming the other way in the entire trip, somehow missed another group of three on the way – assuming they were off on one of the beaches. The last person logged as walking in our direction to Melaleuca was two weeks prior.
    A tremendous sense of isolation.

    Our biggest adventure was getting delayed a day at South Cape Rivulet, which was in flood. I went in over my head testing for a way across, and that put us back a day (making those built-in contingency days very handy)….. Considering that the next day was the South Cape Range and making up for distance with a full pack it was pretty disheartening, but things improved after that.

    The other challenging bit was crossing Black a Cliffs at half tide. We climbed around the headland with waves breaking at our feet. This is one obstacle that is very tide dependent – though it appeared that there might be a bypass over the headland.

    The one bit of critical advice I would offer, irrespective of season, is to take a list of all of the tide times. You will need consider your creek crossings, and time your waking accordingly.

    The other consideration for us was the limited amount of daylight in April/May; 10.5 hours per day. This meant some pre-dawn departures to make first light creek crossings. Summer would be easier, giving you a bit more leeway and hopefully the opportunity to laze around on the beach for a while.

    Reaching our food drop at Melaleuca was glorious; chocolate, red wine and cheese and smoked salmon. Fresh clothes (7kg in all). The plane was a bit late to get in and pick us up due to cloud, but it did make it.

  7. Alison Small says

    I was one of three middle-aged women who did the track last February. 2014. We certainly needed all the daylight hours of summer and called the estimated time to walk in the ‘walk notes’ as lies. We took 9 days of walking plus a rest day at Granite Beach. I look at my photos often to re-live the whole experience. We had a full page article in the April Aust Scout magazine and Susan’s husband did the utube video of some of our pics.- Kim Loane. If you want the links just holler. As being members of the Scouting community with a motto of ‘Be Prepared”, there was certainly heaps of it, including tide charts. Happy hiking

    • Frank says

      Thanks for dropping by Alison,
      We agree, those estimated times are lies!! It is a hard walk but very satisfying and fantastically isolated.

      Would love the link to the video and articles. If you could shoot them by email or add them here it would be great.

      Cheers
      Frank

  8. Steve says

    The South Coast is certainly a hard walk but the isolation and the scenery make it worthwhile. My wife completed the walk 18 years ago and this year we decided I too should have the South Coast experience. It wasn’t meant too be. It was just too hot. My past experiences in Tasmania have always involved lots of rain and nice cool/cold walking conditions. Not this time. With the Ironbounds looming and the temerature around 29 we decided it wasn’t fun anymore.

    We back-tracked to Melaleuca with the thought of doing a bit of exploring around the area and waiting for the next plane out. We had plenty of food and fuel for the Trangia. As it happened a plane was waiting on the strip with room for us so we took the lift while we could. By evening we were all ‘clean and presentable’ and eating the best fish abd chips on the dock at Muirs in Hobart. It was hard to believe we had started the day camped on Cox Bight. We don’t give up easily so I’m sure we’ll make a return visit to the South Coast Track.

  9. Jackee Turner says

    My husband and I did the track over Christmas 2013 and allowed ourselves 8 days to complete it. We were suppose to leave at 9am on Monday but due to bad weather our flight didn’t leave until after 2pm. We left Melaleuca about 4pm on a Monday and arrived in Cockle Creek at noon on Saturday (5 days later). Our boots were under water within 15 minutes of leaving Melaleuca but we had good weather for the most part of the walk. It was hard work with all the mud and the worst part was the walk down the Ironbound Range (steep and slippery).

    Our worst days were the 2 in Cockle Creek waiting for the Monday bus. It was so wet and windy and we were confined to the tent the whole time. Other campers were leaving during the night because their tents and annexes were blown down. It’s a pity the bus doesn’t run every day.

    All in all a good challenging hike with lots of beautiful scenery and great views which I’m glad I did, but I probably wouldn’t do it again.

    • Frank says

      Hi Jackee,
      Thanks for your great comment!

      We really hated that down hill section after the Ironbound ranges. Sue had a fall and almost broke her arm. The bruise was huge!

      You did it is great time although the last couple of days in Cockle Creek sound a bit average….

      You are right, it is great scenery but the mud makes it tough!

      Cheers
      Frank

  10. Steffen Boessl says

    Hi there,

    i am a german guy who did the walk 6 weeks ago as a “starter” of a 3 1/2 weeks bushwalking-trip through Tasmania.
    I often asked myself during my 7-day trip, why am i doing this “Piece of Mud”?
    Everything came together, less food (my fault), bad weather (maybe 6h of sunshine during the hole week), heaps of mud ( at least for me as a european hiker) and not to forget the loneliness. When i said Goodbay to the Ranger at Melaleuca on Monday 11am, i did not expect to meet the next Person 6days later, 1h before the end of the track. But it is an experience, i can say!!

    The toughest for me by far was the descent from the Ironbound-Range to Little Deadmans Bay. For 3hours i was screaming into the Forest, because i hated it so much, you had to be focused every single second not to slip, the drizzle came down, uuuaahhh…

    To be honest, i didn’t liked the SCT that much, the scenery was nice but not overwhelming and the Mud killed all the fun. Probably i had just bad luck, and 1 or 2 sunny days would have improved my mood a bit, but well, after all im glad i did it one time (but not for a second, i am pretty sure).

    But not to be misunderstood, i love Tasmania and for me it is one of the most wonderful places in the world. And the trips i did after SCT (Overland, Frenchmans, Mt.Anne, Maria Island, all in pretty good weather) made me feel that i had to do the SCT first,to deserve the rest…

    Regards from snowy Germany

    Steffen

  11. Christian says

    I hiked the Southcoast Track with 2 friends right after Christmas of 2005. One of the best things I ever did. This is more than 9 years ago, but I still cherish the memories, and can’t wait to go back.

    We flew out to Melaleuca on an overcast day. Had pancakes and fresh coffee provided by “Peripatetic Pancakes” at Cox’s Bight. We were so lucky with the weather, and the mud was “OK”, I guess, so we just kept hiking and did 85% of the trail in 3.5 days. Then it started raining, and we spent one day “staying put”, before we finished the hike. Had a huge hole bitten into our tent floor by a Tasmanian devil one night.

    Still getting chills when thinking of the views from the Ironbound Range. What an elated feeling.

    I wish that I can take my boys one day (two and four years old right now) and hike the Track with them.

  12. Caitie says

    Hi Frank!
    I just stumbled across this article and remembered I never did send you our trip report from the Port Davey and South Coast adventure! I’ll chase it up if you’re still interested.
    Four girls started the trek in Spring 2011 (I think?!) a time when even the rangers don’t venture in (bad researching Caitie!!) two were flown out at Malleleuca and two carried on.
    Tough does not even come close to describing those two weeks… but one of my greatest adventures so far. My darling Dad also got to share some of it – dropping us off and hiking in for the first night, then arriving at the end with a big cuddle.

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