Whether you’re looking for a short walk to a swimming hole or a longer woodland hike to a gorge, Douglas-Apsley National Park has you covered. While it is a 5.6-kilometer round trip hike to Apsley Gorge, you’ll discover Apsley Waterhole just 600 meters from the car park. Combine Apsley Waterhole with Lookout Track for a 1.4-kilometer (0.9-mile) loop with 30 meters (100 feet) of elevation gain, adding a forest walk and views over the Apsley River to your outing. Douglas-Apsley National Park is located midway up the east coast of Tasmania, north of Bicheno and Freycinet National Park.
Get going from the Apsley Waterhole Car Park, located a short distance off the Tasman Highway, which runs up the scenic east coast of the island state of Tasmania. Spot a sign for Apsley River Waterhole and Gorge, one of Tasmania’s 60 Great Short Walks, and start walking up the trail. A few meters in, there will be a kiosk with a clever map of the area that looks like it may have been a fun school project. The map depicts the paths of the trail and the Apsley River, and points out the location of panels along the trail that describing the area’s trees. Lookout Track is a short loop that can help you identify common Tasmanian trees like white and blue gum (eucalyptus trees), silver and black wattle, and native cherry.
The level trail crosses through a eucalyptus forest. Yellow dogwoods border the trail, growing below the tall eucalyptus trees in the same way that dogwoods in California’s Sierra Nevada Mountains prosper below giant sequoias.
After a quarter mile, you will come to a split in the trail. The fork to the left ventures 0.3 kilometers out to the site of an overlook before proceeding toward Apsley Waterhole. If you’d like to hike down to the waterhole first, stay to the right on the more direct route to Apsley Waterhole.
As you descend toward the river, you will pass a path on the right to a bush campground. Step off the trail here if you are looking for a place to camp for the night. There are campfire pits and several places to put up a tent. While fires are permitted here year round, the use of fuel stoves is recommended to preserve decaying wood and prevent wildfires.
Back on the trail, you will soon arrive at the next junction, 0.45 kilometers from the start. There is another trail kiosk here, marking the spot where you must leave Lookout Track to reach the Apsley River. Bear right and walk a hundred meters down to the waterhole. A few wooden steps will take you out of the forest and down to a boulder-strewn shore below the waterhole.
Apsley Waterhole is a wide, deep, and peaceful section of the Apsley River. The wooded banks and cliffs to the left reflect like a mirror off the almost-still waters. While it might not look particularly alluring on a cloudy day, Apsley Waterhole is a popular swimming hole on a hot Tasmanian afternoon. If you go into the water, the park asks that you do not add any soap, shampoo, sunscreen, or urine to the river.
Apsley Waterhole does not have a sandy beach, so find a good boulder to sit on along the rocky shore. If Apsley Waterhole isn’t crowded, you can enjoy some tranquility at the water’s edge. To continue hiking toward Apsley Gorge, rock hop across the river where the trail carries on. A fun loop to attempt when water levels are low is to hike up the trail to Apsley Gorge and return by rock hoping down the river on a 5-kilometer circuit.
When you are ready to leave Apsley Gorge, backtrack to the junction with Lookout Trail and turn right, continuing with the loop. As you ascend a switchback on the slope above the waterhole, you will come to a junction with a spur out to an overlook above the Apsley River. Unfortunately, the overlook may be closed for construction (As it was in April, 2014). Stay to the left to carry on with the loop, crossing over a rise in the gum tree forest.
A national park entrance fee is required to visit Douglas-Apsley National Park. A single day pass will cost $24 or you may purchase an 8-week pass good for all of Tasmania’s National Parks for $60 (all prices in Australian Dollars as of September, 2014).
Bikes may be wheeled to the camping area, but not ridden on trails. There are toilets at the car park. Dogs are not welcome. Other than the entry pass, no permit is required to hike to Apsley Waterhole, so get out and enjoy!
Directions: From Bechino, drive north on Tasman Highway (A3) for 4 kilometers and turn left on Rosedale Road. The road will become narrow and unpaved as you drive 7 kilometers to the large parking area at the road end. The walking track starts from the far end of the loop in the car park.
Trailhead address: Rosedale Road, Douglas-Apsley National Park, Bicheno, TAS 7215, Australia
Trailhead coordinates: -41.865414, 148.190469 (41° 51′ 55.49″S 148° 11′ 25.68″E)
You may also view a regional map of surrounding Australian trails, campgrounds, and lodging.
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