Douglas Apsley National Park… that’s worth a visit. So said Debbie, our host at Bicheno Ocean View Retreat. Apparently, locals head there to swim in the waterhole during summer. Hearing that made me a little sceptical. With the magnificent east coast beaches laid out on their doorstep, why would they bother? But we thought we’d better investigate, just to make sure.
Douglas Apsley National Park Walks
As it turns out, swimming is not the number one attraction at Douglas Apsley National Park. I knew it! Dolerite cliffs, rivers, waterfalls, gorges, tranquil pools, and an extensive range of walking tracks to choose from. Select a quick jaunt from the carpark to the lookout or waterhole; or embark on an overnight camping trip to tackle the Heritage Falls Rainforest Circuit.
If you’re really keen on bush-walking you can even tackle the Leeaberra Track. Taking up to three days of solid walking, it starts from the northern entrance to the park and weaves south to Apsley Waterhole. Classified as a moderate to difficult walk, it contains some very steep sections. As fascinating and challenging as that sounds, the track is clearly only for experienced, well-equipped walkers. What a shame; I’ll have to save that for another time!
Okay, so I only walked from the carpark to the waterhole and back. I would’ve climbed to the lookout too, especially as the views are supposed to be breathtaking. But it was closed for maintenance. Oh well. Next time.
Park Pass: Douglas Apsley National Park and Others
Douglas Apsley National Park, as the name would suggest, requires visitors to purchase a Tasmanian national parks pass. We have an annual pass that allows entry into all Tasmanian national parks, but visitors can purchase a daily or holiday pass. The funds raised from the sale of the park passes go towards maintenance of tracks, information booths and visitor facilities. Yes, that compost toilet by the carpark!
Some of the longer walks obviously contain challenging and steep sections, but the track to Apsley Waterhole was wide and stable. Perfect for amateurs, the elderly, families with young children and lazy people like me. There’s plenty of signage along the way, describing the dry sclerophyll and eucalypt forest plants that you’ll encounter.
Birdwatching enthusiasts are drawn to the region, and the park’s diverse vegetation includes wildflowers and native orchids. And there’s wombats, too! We didn’t actually see one, but we saw the evidence of at least one. Square poo, which we now know belongs to the wombat. It’s a long story!
The area was originally used for grazing and trapping animals. It was also subject to some small scale coal mining and timber felling. The 16,000 hectare park was spared from industrial logging by the combined efforts of local activists, and Douglas Apsley was declared a national park in 1989.
Unsealed roads lead to Douglas Apsley National Park from the Tasman Highway, between Bicheno and St Marys. The turnoff for the nearest access to Apsley Waterhole is just south of East Coast Natureworld wildlife park.
And for the record: Debbie was right. It is worth a visit. It’s one of those magnificent Tasmanian places the camera just cannot do justice to. Well, not in my hands, anyway. Dipping your toes into the cool, clear water of Apsley Waterhole on a hot day… just a magical thing to do! Maybe not quite as famous as other east coast icons like the Bay of Fires, Freycinet National Park or Maria Island; but Douglas Apsley National Park is worthy of a mention, all the same.