Known to Tassie locals as simply ‘National Park’, Mount Field is one of those places that has everything a nature lover could wish for.
Just before Christmas, I ventured south to Tasmania to visit my family (for the first time in over a year as state borders had been closed for most of 2020!). After being stuck in our small apartment for months on end during COVID lockdowns, Rob and I were both craving some leafy smells and fresh air.
Mount Field was truly the perfect place to get it. An escape from the city to see mountains with alpine lakes, flowing waterfalls, dense rainforest and local wildlife provided some much needed quiet time to ground ourselves and refresh our minds.
If you’re looking to explore some of Tasmania’s incredible landscapes, I guarantee that this national park itinerary will be one worth travelling for! Here’s all the details on planning a Mount Field road trip from Hobart.
When to go to Mount Field National Park:
You may not believe it, but most of the photos in this post were taken during a summer visit to Mount Field National Park. The environment is alpine, so the weather is susceptible to changing constantly year-round. Visiting in the summer months will mean warmer temperatures, though there is some risk of bushfire from October to March.
The shoulder seasons are a great time to go, and during the winter is also a possibility – you may even get to see snow in the higher areas of the national park! Just keep in mind that the road to Lake Dobson from the visitor center may be closed depending on the weather conditions.
How to get to Mount Field National Park:
Mount Field National Park is easiest to access from Hobart, Tasmania’s capital. The drive takes just over an hour. The roads that lead to the visitor center at Mount Field is suitable for all vehicles, but the gravel road from the visitor center to Lake Dobson is unsuitable for caravans and campervans.
If you’d prefer not to drive, there are day tours from Hobart to Mount Field that also stop at a few other interesting destinations like Bonorong Wildlife Sanctuary and Mt. Wellington. This will be a fast-paced option with not a lot of time in the national park, but if you’re on a tight schedule, it would be a great way to see this area.
What to bring:
Because of the changing weather conditions, it’s best to wear layers that you can pull off/on when needed. A rain jacket and/or umbrella is essential, even if it’s not raining in Hobart, as the weather can be unpredictable in the highlands.
Take water resistant shoes, preferably hiking boots if you’re planning on doing some nature walks. The hiking paths involve some paved areas and boardwalks, but also have gravel and dirt in some areas. I wore sneakers on the hike but my Mum said that it was much muddier last time she went there. I borrowed her Blundstone boots for the second day and was very glad to have something to keep the water out as it was raining steadily!
You need to take warm clothes, even in summer! This means a beannie, scarf, gloves, and coat. Sun protection is also necessary, so pop a hat and sunscreen into your bag, even in winter!
Mount Field map guide:
1 – Hobart
2 – Westerway (Raspberry Farm, cafe, accommodation)
3 – Mount Field (visitor centre, Russell Falls)
4 – Lake Dobson (Tarn Shelf walk)
5 – Plenty (Salmon Ponds)
Mount Field itinerary (day one):
On your way to Mount Field, stop in at the Westerway Raspberry Farm. This berry farm and shop is open during the summer growing season in December-January. If you have appropriate footwear for traipsing around a farm, you can go inside the gates to pick your own berries! We did this option and I have to say, eating raspberries fresh picked from the tree with my own two hands was extremely satisfying (and delicious). If you’re feeling lazy, you can forego the picking and just taste the produce and berry products in the farm gate shop.
Afterwards, stop in at The Possum Shed cafe for lunch. Unfortunately it was closed for our visit as we were there on a Monday/Tuesday, but I’ve heard that it has some great food options for hungry visitors.
When you first enter Mount Field National Park, you’ll need to stop at the visitor centre to grab a parks pass for your car. A day pass, which grants the vehicle entry into the national park for 24 hours, costs $40 AUD. If you buy this in the afternoon then you can come back in to the park tomorrow morning without having to purchase another pass.
After you’ve purchased the pass, you have free access to the national park. Start by walking from the visitor centre to Russell Falls. This waterfall is about a 10-15 min walk away through gorgeous fern-covered rainforest and extremely tall trees that are hundreds of years old. It was raining lightly while we did this walk, but that didn’t bother us at all. We even spotted a Tasmanian Pademelon foraging beside the path as we walked back to the visitor centre. Pretty cool!
If you’re up for a bigger walk, you can continue on to Horseshoe Falls before turning back, or keep walking along the Tall Trees Walk until you reach the gravel road before walking along the road to get back to the visitor centre.
Drive back to your accommodation to relax and recover some energy for tomorrow’s activities. Rob and I took along a bottle of wine and some microwave meals along to our accommodation as there aren’t many dinner options in the area and the pub was closed when we were there (booooo), but if you’re visiting on Thursday-Sunday, you can stop in at the National Park Hotel for a meal and a beer.
Where to stay at Mount Field National Park:
We stayed overnight at Platypus Playground Cottage in the nearby town of Westerway. My parents booked the accommodation on Airbnb as an experience gift for Christmas and we really enjoyed our stay in the historic cottage, especially using the fireplace to keep warm in the evening!
Apparently you can sometimes spot platypuses foraging in the river next to the house (hence the name). Rob and I weren’t lucky enough to see one this time around, though we have seen one of these creatures at the Salmon Ponds – more on that later!
Mount Field itinerary (day two):
If you want to include a proper hike on your parks pass from yesterday, be sure to head out fairly early in the day. The Tarn Shelf track from Lake Dobson is truly a gem at Mount Field! My parents suggested that we do a family hike here, and I’d say it was suitable for beginner-intermediate hikers. My 6-year-old nephew managed a large portion of the hike, as did my mother (who will surely kill me if I reveal her age).
The initial walk uphill from Lake Dobson to the Mount Mawson ski field is nice though not particularly exciting. It’s when you get to the top and start trekking along the boardwalk that covers the alpine environment that it gets really awesome.
The rocky shelf has amazing views out over the mountains and lakes. The tarns (which are kind of like large pools of water) are worth visiting for the serene scenery and sound of birdsong floating through the air. The return hike from Lake Dobson to the tarns and back took us approximately 3 hours. There is a public toilet and water bottle refill station at the ski area, which is about 45 minutes into the hike.
If you want to do a bush walk but aren’t keen for anything too long or difficult, you can just walk around Lake Dobson at the base of this hike. It’s a pretty spot!
On the drive back to Hobart, stop at the Salmon Ponds. This large garden has numerous man-made ponds filled with salmon. The cost to enter the gardens is $8 AUD. They are really lovely to walk around, especially in autumn when the leaves are changing colour. There’s also a mini-museum and you can feed the fish to see them jumping about in the water.
The previous time that Rob and I were at the Salmon Ponds (which was back in 2015) we were also fortunate enough to see a platypus swimming in the ponds with the fish! These little Australian animals are super cute and are a rare sight!
On this most recent visit we also tried out the on-site pancake cafe. It seems like an odd place for it, but they do make good pancakes! We shared the banana maple option and left very satisfied.