Whether temperate rainforest or alpine meadows, snaking rivers or glimmering lakes, one thing remains a constant in the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area – there’s barely another soul in sight. 

The World Heritage Area covers an enormous 6,100 sq mile chunk of Tasmania – around a quarter of Australia’s island state. It contains seven national parks that protect the largely untouched, glacier-carved and water-swathed landscapes. 

The Tasmanian Wilderness is undeveloped, natural and more than a little bit special. It meets seven of Unesco’s 10 classification criteria for World Heritage status – only one other place on earth, China’s Mount Taishan, meets as many criteria.

But being relatively untouched doesn’t mean the Tasmania Wilderness World Heritage Area is inaccessible. Visitors can immerse themselves in it in several ways, all designed for low impact and maximum enjoyment. 

The national parks can be explored through cruising, caving and climbing. Multi-day hikes combine with kayaking and rafting. There’s always a sense of adventure, but it can be tailored to meet your own levels of ambition, fitness and comfort.

Variety, too, is key – and each national park can be tackled in a different way. 

A whisper-mode cruise

Where: Franklin-Gordon Wild Rivers National Park

A Gordon River Cruise, Tasmania

Smooth sailing: experience the wilderness from the water on a Gordon River Cruise

Credit: Tourism Australia

The Spirit of the Wild’s quiet electric motors help Gordon River Cruise’s day-long adventure through lush forests blend seamlessly into the glorious natural environment. With a chef-prepared lunch and commentary packed with historic stories, the cruise isn’t only about the wilderness – but the natural attractions have the wow factor. Key moments include Hells Gates, where Macquarie Harbour meets the fierce Southern Ocean, the rainforest boardwalk at Heritage Landing and former penal colony Sarah Island.

For an altogether more energetic adventure, Franklin River Rafting’s eight- or 10-day white-water expeditions mix pristine scenery, adrenaline bursts and a feeling of true exploration.

Chasing waterfalls

Where: Mount Field National Park

Russell Falls at Mount Field National Park, Tasmania

Step right up: the three-tiered Russell Falls are a highlight of Mount Field National Park

Credit: Jason Charles Hill

One of Tasmania’s oldest national parks, this is known for the trio of waterfalls on its lower slopes, including the three-tiered Russell Falls, beloved of photographers. The cascades gush down the slope and splash into a pool surrounded by rainforest. See it by taking the easy trail of just under a mile from the visitor centre, passing under massive trees and shady vegetation – it’s one of Tasmania’s 60 Great Short Walks. If you take the trail in the evening, you might be lucky enough to spot the tiny blue glimmering lights of glow-worms as the daylight fades. Walk up the steps beside the waterfall to find Horseshoe Falls a little way upstream, and then through the Tall Trees Walk to the third waterfall, Lady Barron Falls.

For those with more time (and energy) the Tarn Shelf Circuit – allow five to seven hours – traverses Mount Field’s alpine areas and follows a chain of lakes across the Tarn Shelf. The autumn colours of the fagus – Tasmania’s only native winter deciduous species – are stunning in gold, orange and red. A trip to view the blazing foliage is an autumn must-see for many residents.

Kayaking on a mountain lake

Where: Cradle Mountain – Lake St Clair National Park

Dove Lake kayaking, Tasmania

Paddle power: marvel at Cradle Mountain from a hand-crafted kayak

Credit: Tourism Tasmania

The paddle glides through the pure waters of glacier-carved Dove Lake, as Cradle Mountain looms overhead. Gently moving from island to rock formation to photogenic beach, Cradle Mountain Canyons’ kayak tour brings a sense of serenity.

The hand-crafted kayaks belong to the wilderness – built from King Billy pine harvested from the west coast in the 1960s and prized by shipbuilders for its versatility. These striking trees are still found in the Cradle Mountain area today. A day of paddling is a good taster for a longer sojourn in the national park. The full feast is the Overland Track, Tasmania’s legendary 40-mile, six-day Alpine adventure – one of Australia’s great walks.

Cave tours

Where? Mole Creek Karst National Park

Cavers on a Wild Cave Tour, Tasmania

Twinkle, twinkle: glow worms light up the roof of Marakoopa Cave

Credit: Tourism Australia

The twinkling effect is like a night sky slowly brightening with stars. But there’s no sky to be seen. Inside Marakoopa Cave, the light show is provided not by distant suns, but by an army of glow worms. 

Part of Mole Creek Karst National Park, Marakoopa Cave is as much about the sounds as the sights. Two streams flow through the ancient limestone karst, providing a constant soundtrack of running water. Meanwhile, the acoustics of the main cavern – the Great Cathedral – will make a song reverberate with absolute clarity.

Elsewhere in the national park, King Solomon’s Cave is all about the decorations. Lavish shawl formations line the walls, with stalactites and stalagmites jutting from ceiling and floor.

Scaling Hartz Peak

Where? Hartz Mountains National Park

Hartz Peak Walk, Hartz Mountains National Park, Tasmania

Stunning vistas: 360-degree panoramas await at Hartz Mountains National Park

Credit: Stu Gibson

It’s hard not to be awe-struck by the view from the top of Hartz Peak, stretching way beyond Hartz Mountains National Park, with a 360-degree panorama of distant mountain summits and, to the east, Bruny Island.

The three-to-five-hour return track to Hartz Peak is one of Tasmania’s 60 Great Short Walks and passes through eucalypt forest and heathland. On the way, the varied landscape shows off dolerite formations, scree slopes, fractured boulders and the siren-like blue of Hartz Lake.

A three-day hike

Where: Walls of Jerusalem National Park

Walking in Jerusalem National Park, Tasmania

Get on board: explore the diverse landscape of Jerusalem National Park

Credit: O&M St John Photography

Groves of pencil pines have been growing here since long before Europeans arrived in Tasmania. The snow gums have been twisted over the decades by the winds. Fields are dominated by the candle-like flowers of scoparia plants.

The three-day Central Walls Circuit walk through the national park allows plenty of time to take in this glacier-cut landscape. The trek is regularly punctuated by lakes and babbling streams, as imposing dolerite peaks rise in all directions. And, at night, the stars shine clear above the campsites.

An expedition cruise

Where: Southwest National Park

A cruise boat in Tasmania

Comfort in nature: see the wilderness in style on a luxury cruise

Credit: Tim Grey

There’s a feeling of privileged exclusivity aboard the Odalisque. This newly launched luxury expedition vessel has room for just 12 guests, and sails into parts of Tasmania’s remote south-west that roads don’t reach.

The four- or six-night Port Davey Escape involves guided wilderness walks, picnics on empty Bathurst Harbour beaches, conquering mountain summits and lavish, locally sourced on-board gourmet cuisine.

If a truncated taster suits you better, Par Avion runs day tours from Hobart, with a scenic flight to Bathurst Harbour, walks and a boat trip.

Australia’s island state

Tasmania is almost as big as Scotland, but the island still feels like Australia’s little secret. Savvy holidaymakers are fast becoming fans of Tasmania’s many charms – and not just because of the warm welcome from the locals. With some of the planet’s purest air, cleanest water, most glorious beaches and an abundance of unspoiled wilderness and wildlife, this corner of Australia is a must-do for travellers keen to step off the beaten track.

Audley Travel is a tour operator with more than 25 years’ experience in creating meaningful travel experiences. They understand that what motivates you to explore is deeply personal. A trip to Australia with Audley is created completely around you, from the experiences you have to the places you stay.

Audley’s award-winning Australia specialists have a deep connection to Australia that can only have come from living or travelling there extensively, so you can rely on them as the dedicated experts who’ll craft your plans into the Australia trip you’re imagining. They won’t just ask you how you want to explore, they’ll ask you how you want to feel and create experiences that will stay with you long after you return home.

Start planning at audleytravel.com

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