Sunday, 24 April 2011

Overland Track Transport

Just some notes about the transport to and from the Overland Track.

When I first did this walk (2000), my wife picked me up at Lake St Clair where I'd deposited a car, and we drove around to Cradle Mountain and spent the night there with the kids. The next time (2004), I dropped the car at Lake St Clair and caught the bus round to Cradle via Queenstown, where I managed to start the track by about 3pm on the same day I'd left the car at the other end. (Walked down to Scott-Kilvert that afternoon, and there weren't any track passes required, nor anyone busying themselves too much about your precise walking plans.) I do like to have a car available at the end of the walk, as it saves all that hurrying to make sure you catch boats or buses, and you can leave clean clothes in it. Anyway, it's become more complicated, and you just can't do what I did in 2004 any more.

First I tried to get to Cradle Mountain via Queenstown. Tassielink are the bus company, but you can't do it in a day. Rather you have to stay in Queenstown or Strahan overnight, the former being cheaper, but the latter perhaps being more enjoyable if you get the right accommodation and dining in Strahan. Note that you can't always do it in two days like this either. Some days there's a whole day in between the Hobart to Strahan service and the Strahan to Launceston service. At any time of the year, the Tassielink schedule will need some careful perusal to make sure you understand which bus goes where on which day. This applied to me on my chosen days. I could get from Lake St Clair to Strahan on Thursday, but couldn't get to Cradle until Saturday. Back to the drawing board, I had to get to Launceston instead.

This can be done, but you catch a bus back to Hobart from Lake St Clair, then from Hobart to Launceston, and then after an overnight stay, through to Cradle. All seemed to be going well until the lady realised that on my chosen days Tassielink's "in-season" service would have ceased, and they didn't run a bus from Launceston to Cradle until Saturday either. Gaaaaa! She was helpful though, and put me onto McDermott's coaches, who DO run a Friday service to Cradle.

I rang them immediately, and they duly booked me on their Friday bus. The bus picked me up at the salubrious Batman Fawkner, and tripped around collecting the rest of the load from their hotels too. It arrived earlier at Cradle than the Tassielink buses do, and went direct from Launceston to Cradle without a pickup in Devonport. The bus driver was a really cheerful and helpful bloke named Kerry. The service included waiting while we got our track passes and other purchases from the visitor centre, then Kerry running us all up to Ronny Creek and getting us underway without our having to use the Cradle shuttle bus service and undergo additional inquisitions and lectures from the rangers. I think this service makes it worth trying to use McDermotts if their schedule suits.

The shuttle buses run regularly however, and allow you to travel easily from the visitor centre to Ronny Creek. Kerry warned us that you are best not to try to catch the bus from the ranger station/Lodge as they are generally full up before they get there when it's busy. It certainly looked busy there 10 days ago, the car park was pretty full.

Anyway, it was a somewhat expensive business getting to do the Overland Track, but given the weather I got, it was well worthwhile. Oh, and it didn't cost me anything like as much as all those mainlanders and overseas visitors pay. For interstate and overseas visitors, the transport arrangements are canvassed in more detail in Frank and Sue's Overland Track book. You can also find Tassielink's and McDermott's schedules online. Just be careful that you're looking at the schedule for the right season with Tassielink. Check the fine print to see if the schedule stopped applying some time ago - the one I wanted to use on 15th April ran out on the 10th, two days before I rang them but it was still on their website. This timetable appears to contain the winter Cradle service.


Frank and Sue said...

I always imagined living in Tassie would make things easier and hadn't really thought through the logistics of getting to and from. We flew from Melb to Launceston on Thursday at 1:00, did some shopping (fuel, fresh food), stayed at The Centennial Hotel (over the road from a supermarket), got picked up by McDemott's and delivered to Ronny Creek. Walked the OT and got the bus to Hobart. Clean clothes and toiletries had been posted to our accommodation in Hobart, prior to leaving. All good, except for Tassielinks going onto a winter timetable before the season ends. Why? Anyway,I would use McDermott's in the future as the service was great.
Caught up with a friend in Hobart yesterday and mentioned your blog. Grant said he met you at Hartz Peak, once. Coincidences in Tassie abound.

Mark said...

Well, it would be easier for me too if I didn't want to have the car waiting for me at the end of the walk. Still, I have to get from home to Cradle Mountain first which is still annoying.

Anonymous said...

Hi Mark, Thanks for your Blog. We also want to have a car waiting at LSClair, because we are going to do a 6 day road trip after the walk - from Strahan right around the coast and back to Hobart.

Our solution is to have hired a car ($500 for 12 days Avis) in Hobart, drive to LSC and (thanks to Frank & Sue's advice) use Tasmanian Tour Co for a LSC to Cradle transfer for $340.

We figure that the $600 price difference between this arrangement and 2x $130 bus fares is worth the 2 days' travel time gained and having a car ready at the end.

Once again, thanks for your input about OT transport.

Mark said...

Interesting approach. I certainly wouldn't go to that much expense, but I suppose it can make sense if you can afford it.