|Parks of the Tasmanian Wilderness|
Cradle Mountain-Lake St Clair • Franklin-Gordon Wild Rivers • Hartz Mountains • Mole Creek Karst • Mount Field • Southwest • Walls of Jerusalem
Southwest National Park is a Tasmanian national park accounting for 10% of Tasmania. It takes up all of the southwest of the state and is one of the many parks that make up the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Site.
The park is known for many things, including its rugged untouched wilderness, glacial lakes, a landscape that looks more like that of southern Canada rather than Australia, and one of the best spots in Tasmania to see the Southern Lights.
Southwest National Park is a very large area in the southwestern part of the island of Tasmania which has been designated a national park. The climate is considered too inhospitable for human settlement, but offers instead a near pristine natural setting.
There is only two settlements in the entire park, 1 Melaleuca, with a permanent population of around 5 people, and the township of 2 Strathgordon that was built for the hydro-electric dam. Neither of these have visitor facilities, and the former does not even have road access.
The land that now makes up Southwest National Park has been traditionally inhabited by the Needwonnee people, and this area was never settled by Europeans.
The park was created in 1955 and as Lake Pedder National Park, it was expanded over the subsequent 35 years to the large area seen today. In 1968, it was renamed to Southwest National Park by the Tasmanian government and it was declared by the United Nations Biosphere Program in 1977 as a Biosphere Reserve.
The rugged landscape is covered by Buttongrass moorland and wet Eucalypt forest.
Flora and fauna
Southwest NP contains a good twenty percent of Tasmania’s flora, of which around 118 are endemic to Tasmania. The King’s lomatia (Lomatia tasmanica) is listed as endangered while others such as the blown grass (Agrostis aequata), Spring peppercress (Lepidium flexicaule) and Dune buttercup (Ranunculus acaulis) are considered rare.
The wilderness is uniquely rich in biodiversity in terms of the variety of fauna species of mammals, birds, reptiles, frogs species, freshwater fish and marine fish that are endemic here. The park is an important habitat to the Orange-bellied Parrot (Neophema Chrysogaster) and freshwater fish Pedder Galaxia (Galaxias pedderensis), that are listed as critically endangered.
The park is renowned for its adverse, often inhospitable conditions across all seasons of the year. It has a high annual rainfall of over 2000mm with very strong to cyclonic westerly or south westerly winds, low temperatures, frosts and frequent cloud cover.
Fees and permits
To enter any national park in Tasmania, you'll need to have a valid parks pass to enter the park, which can be found here at the Parks Tasmania website. There are numerous passes available, depending on your needs. The fees are up-to-date as of February 2023.
A daily parks pass is usually valid for 24 hours, and is usable in all parks although it does not include access to Cradle Mountain. This is particularly useful if you're going to numerous nearby parks. A pass for your vehicle covers up to 8 occupants, you only need the per person pass if you arrive without a vehicle.
- Per vehicle: $41.20
- Per person: $20.60
If you're staying in Tasmania for a few weeks and want to go numerous national parks, there's the Holiday Pass, which is valid for up to two months. This also includes Cradle Mountain.
- Per vehicle: $82.40
- Per person (≥5): $41.20
There is also the Annual Park Pass, which is valid in all parks, including Cradle Mountain.
- $91.35 in general
- $73.10 for concession holders
- $36.55 for seniors
If you only plan to repeatedly visit one park again for 12 months, it's $46.70 in general, or $37.35 for concession holders. This excludes Cradle Mountain.
Passes can either be purchased through passes.parks.tas.gov.au, in any national park visitor centre, some travel information centres, onboard Spirit of Tasmania vessels, and Service Tasmania centres. There are no fees for using the camping facilities.
There are roads through the park, but fuel is not available in the park itself.
- Eliza Plateau.
- 1 The Gordon River Road to Strathgordon. Spectacular views driving to the centre of the park.
- 2 Gordon Dam, Gordon River Rd, Strathgordon, ☏ .
- 3 Knob Hill Lookout, Gordon River Rd, Southwest.
- 4 Melaleuca. A very remote settlement which today remains only accessible by plane. It is the starting point of many hiking trails and was the home of Deny King – a miner and naturalist in which there is a museum where one can learn about what it is like living in such remoteness. For birdwatchers, Melaleuca is one of the last remaining homes of the orange-bellied parrot, a very brightly coloured parrot which is critically endangered.
- 5 Port Davey. It is one of Australia's only two fjords, but that itself is quite unusual for Australia and is quite a scenic sight. There are boat tours which are done by Tasmanian Boat Charters.
- 6 Red Knoll Lookout, Scott's Peak Rd (end of C607). A small lookout overlooking the vast and beautiful Lake Peddler. While it may not be a fjord as it is a lake, but the views of the lookout quite resemble a view of what you would find in a fjord.
- 7 South-East Mutton Bird Islet. This islet is one of the eight islands that comprise the Mutton Bird Islands Group and part of the Port Davey Islands Important Bird Area, which has been identified by BirdLife International because of its importance for breeding seabirds. Some of the seabird species that can be found include the short-tailed shearwater, fairy prion, black-faced cormorant or the silver gull.
- 8 Whale Lookout, Fishers Point Track, Recherche. A coastal bayside lookout which has a statue of a whale. If you come during the winter months between June and August, you're very likely to see mountains full of snow and ice. At other times of the year, you'll still see the beautiful mountains, just without the snow.
- The 1 South Coast Track is an 85-kilometre (53 mi) trail traversing Tasmania's south coast. It usually takes between six and eight days one way.
There is almost nothing to buy in the park itself. Make sure you come prepared.
Eat and drink
The only place to get food is in the Lake Pedder Lodge, but otherwise there are no independent restaurants, cafes, or any place to buy food in the park. Campfires are banned within the park (except in designated campgrounds), and only fuel stoves are allowed.
The aurora is visible during parts of winter. You might need to do a bit of a hike, but it is well worth the effort.
- 1 Lake Pedder Lodge, Gordon River Rd (in Strathgordon / Southwest), ☏ , email@example.com. Provides excellent accommodation for travellers wishing to explore the area.
There are a few campgrounds around the park, with varying levels of facilities.
- 2 Huon Campground, Port Davey Track, Southwest, ☏ . Located near the Scots Peak Dam side of Lake Peddler, this campground is perhaps the southernmost that one could find without having to hike too much, and still be nestled in the wilderness. The campground includes 10 sheltered campsites, toilets, fireplaces and caravans are permitted.
- 3 Teds Beach Campground (near Strathgordon or Southwest). Has toilets and electric barbecues.
|END ←||W E||→ Maydena → becomes at Bushy Park → New Norfolk|