Narcissus Hut, Lake St Clair

The hike from Narcissus Hut to Cynthia Bay along Lake St Clair (also referred to the Lakeside Walk) is the last – or first! – section of the Overland Track, and also makes a pleasant day walk.

We’re staying at Lake St Clair for a few days on a family holiday, so one of my day walks has to include the track from Narcissus Hut back to Cynthia Bay and Lake St Clair Lodge. The walk starts with with a ferry ride to the far end of the Lake St Clair – not a bad way to start a walk. In peak season the ferry operates at least three times a day, and picks up hikers who are finishing the Overland Track. Saves them from hiking this last section. Lazy buggers 🙂

The ferry takes just over half an hour, with a stop at the deepest point of the lake – the  maximum depth of 160m makes Lake St Clair Australia’s deepest lake. There’s also great views of some of the peaks in the Walls of Jerusalem National Park, which borders the lake on the north-eastern side. (You can also disembark at Echo Point, which reduces the walk by about 7km. The walk from Echo Point to Cynthia Bay is one of Tasmania’s “60 Great Short Walks” – although I found the section from Narcissus Hut to Echo Point a bit more varied and interesting.) We set off from Narcissus Hut at 10am – both the kids have decided to join me on the walk.

Soon after the hut there’s a junction with a track leading to Lake Marion – I had considered this walk, but was warned by one of the Park rangers it was very overgrown (the start of the Lake Marion Track looked OK, though). There are nice views of the Olympus Range, which tower above the surrounding plains and Lake St Clair, as we cross the Hamilton Plains.

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Somewhat surprisingly – seeing as the track follows Lake St Clair for most of its length – that it’s rarely within sight of the water. After a couple of kilometres the track (very) gently rises out of the low swampy areas and the vegetation changes to rainforest, with some huge gum-topped stringybarks…

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…and patches of thick ferns. While there are some occassional muddy bits (and it might be a slightly muddier experience after heavy rain) the track is pretty good with many sections of boardwalk. (Contrary to what Parks staff said, the sections before and after Echo Hut were both of similar quality and neither had any significant muddy sections.)

We reach Echo Point Hut after about two hours, where we stop for lunch. Or, to be more precise, a large packet of chips.  It’s a nice spot, with some benches in a rainforest setting, only a few metres from the shore of Lake St Clair. On the opposite side of the lake is Mt Ida (which is fairly easily climbed if you happen to have a kayak handy to cross the lake)!

The track immediately dives back into the rainforest after Echo Hut, as we continue to follow the invisible shoreline of Lake St Clair.

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The walk continues through temperate rainforest, with tall stands of beech trees and a few tree ferns that look like they’ve been around for a lot longer than I have!

It’s not an unpleasant walk – but it’s also pretty monotonous. There’s not a lot to see, other than an occassionally impressive patch of ferns or huge rainforest trees.

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Towards the southern end of Lake St Clair the track emerges temporarily from the rainforest and passes by a rocky bay. From here we can see our destination in the distance, at the very end of the lake.

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There’s a last section through rainforest and ferms before, the track rises slightly and the rainforest abruptly becomes eucalypt forest with low heath.

Near the top of this slight incline there’s a junction: continue straight ahead on the Overland Track, or turn left and take a slightly longer route via Platypus Bay. (The walk from the Visitor Centre to Platypus Bay and back is another of the Tasmanian “60 Great Short Walks” in the Lake St Clair area). We take the Platypus Bay Track, which descends steeply down to Platypus Bay. It’s a nice beach, with the wreckage of a old barge right in the middle of it. The barge was used in the 1930s to build the pump house on the opposite side of Lake St Clair, and dragged ashore in the 1950s after a large storm tore it from its moorings.

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The track closelt followed the edge of the lake, and bit furher there’s a long platypus “hide”, with lot of interpretative signage. It’s tbe wrong time for platypus-spotting as it’s mid-afternoon (dawn and dusk are best), so we continue without trying to look for the elusive monotreme!

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We’re nearly at the end of our walk… less than a kilometre further, and we’re at the bridge over the Hugel River and junction with the Larmairremener tabelti (Aboriginal) cultural walk.

The last stretch of track is wide and flat, taking us the last kilometre or so back to the Visitor Centre.

Just to complete the “circuit” (ferry + walk) we continue past Cynthia Bay and finish at the Lake St Clair jetty. It’s been 19km from the Narcissus Hut jetty at the far end of the lake – a bit more than the 16.5km that’s stated on the TasParks signage. I’m glad to have done the walk, but it hasn’t been a particularly interesting walk. Definitely not as enjoyable as the day walks at the Cradle Mountain end of the Overland Track: if you’ve got limited time, you’d want to do the Shadow Lake circuit or Mt Rufus tracks instead!

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 0.0km Start at Narcissus Hut jetty
 7.1km Echo Point Hut and jetty
16.6km Junction with Platypus Bay track
16.8km Platypus Bay
17.4km Junction with Larmairremener tabelti cultural walk
18.6km Visitor Centre
19.0km Lake St Clair Jetty
Location Starts/finishes at Lake St Clair Lodge (Cynthia Bay) and Narcissus Jetty via ferry service
Distance 19km (including Platypus Bay detour)
Grade Easy.  Total 184m ascent (no steep sections). 5-7 hours.
Season/s All year. Might be icy in winter and ferry operates less frequently
Map 4234 Olympus 1:25K (north end of lake)
4233 Rufus 1:25K (south end of lake)
TASMAP Lake St Clair Day Walk Map (print & digital options)
GPS Route Routie GPS trail – view route and export to GPX format.
Resources
lakestclair
Map of day walks from Lake St Clair. Source: Tas Parks “Lake St Clair Lakeside Walk”

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