With a destination like Tasmania, it’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking about it in certain ways. It’s for this reason that I’m glad places like Narawntapu National Park exist on the island, as they showcase how diverse Tasmania is. Not that I fully appreciated the charms of Narawntapu the first time I visited. No, it’s taken me three visits to this national park in the north to see what makes it so special and why everyone should know its name.
What’s cool about Narawntapu National Park is that it’s so unlike most of the more popular nature destinations in northwest Tasmania. As much as I enjoy primeval rainforest and mountains, this coastal national park offers up something altogether different. It also happens to be a prime place for spotting Tasmanian wildlife, making it even harder to resist. Read on to learn why visiting Narawntapu National Park is definitely worth your time next time you’re in Tasmania.
Background to Narawntapu National Park
Because you’re probably not familiar with Narawntapu National Park already, allow me to provide a little of its background. Narawntapu National Park lies on the northern coast of Tasmania between Devonport and the Tamar Valley, covering mostly wetlands, grassland and sand dunes. The park covers over 40 km² and because of its extensive collection of local wildlife, some have given it the generous nickname of “Tasmania’s Serengeti”.
But the history of the national park is also quite interesting. The park originally opened in 1976 as “Asbestos Range National Park”, due to asbestos mining near the park (but not in it). It’s hard to imagine the park being very popular had it kept the name. In 1999, the government changed the park’s name to its original Aboriginal name, Narawntapu. According to the state park website, it was the first national park to revert to its Aboriginal name, a growing trend in Tasmania or lutruwita.
While the Serengeti comparison may be playfully exaggerated, there’s no doubt that the wildlife in Narawntapu National Park is its main appeal. Cradle Mountain may be the only other place I can think of in the north where you have high odds of spotting wildlife when you visit.
The main focus of wildlife here are kangaroos and wallabies, as the park is probably the easiest place to spot all three species of the animals found in Tasmania. Look through the undergrowth as you explore the trails here and you’re bound to see plenty of pademelons if you’re quiet.
These small wallabies are quite stocky and shy, and perhaps the most interesting as they’re not found in the mainland. Each time I visit I lose count of how many I see and those have all been in the middle of the day.
The other two are the large Forester kangaroos lounging out on the open area of Springlawn and the Bennett’s wallabies that like the scrub by the Point Vision Track. Additional creatures in the area include plenty of birds, as well as snakes.
Bakers Beach is the name of long stretch of beach that creates the northern border to the park. Like so many beaches in Tasmania you probably won’t spot another soul on it, even though it’s absolutely stunning. To reach this untouched beachfront you can either take the short trail from the main car park or use the Beach Access Road to get closer in.
Both options bring you to some reasonable sand dunes that run behind the beach. The dunes can be deceptively steep at points, but the walk is worth it for the beach views you get on top. It’s generally not recommended to swim at Bakers Beach due to rips. Instead, consider a nice long beach walk as there’s around 7km of uninterrupted beachfront to stroll along here.
Narawntapu Walking Trails
Speaking of walks, that’s really the main thing to do at Narawntapu National Park. It’s on these walks that you’ll see the local wildlife and visit the local attractions, few though they are. Still, this national park is one of my favourite places for nature walks in northern Tasmania because of how different it is to the typical walks you find.
There is a choice of several tracks and trails, but the most basic walk is the Bird Hide Walk. This trail follows a gentle sandy path through coastal scrub to the park’s bird hide, with a section or two of boardwalk through wetlands. To me, it’s these environments that make Narawntapu National Park different to the rainforest and highland spots I normally visit.
The Bird Hide Walk is only around one kilometre each way, so it’s a very easy option. What’s nice is that you can start with this walk and then continue on to other walks like the trail to Bakers Beach or further to Archers Knob. The longest of the walks, which I’ve yet to tackle, is the Point Vision Track. For information on the various walks, be sure to head into the visitor centre or take a look at the park information board by the toilets.
Lakeside Bird Hide
First time visitors to the park should definitely make sure that they visit the park’s bird hide while there. Propped up and sticking out over the water a little, this shelter is the perfect bird watching vantage point. The hide features information about the various birds that call the park home, such as black swans, musk ducks and blue-billed ducks.
But I think it’s also the nicest spot for enjoying views of this small lake and getting a sense of its setting. An added bonus is that you can look right across the water to the distant Springlawn field and spot loads of kangaroos lounging about. That said, you may need binoculars to properly see them at this distance.
Archers Knob Track
It wasn’t until my third visit to Narawntapu National Park that I finally had the chance to tackle the hike up the trail to the top of Archers Knob. The trail continues parallel to the beach from the Bird Hide Walk, past the lake and up the far side of the local hill. Once you reach the end of the lake, the hill of Archers Knob really comes into focus and you get a sense of its size. It’s not a massive mountain or anything, but it definitely stands out in the area.
Following the path you’ll start to find a few more inclines before you tackle the actual climb to the top. While it is up hill, the walk up Archers Knob isn’t too exerting, so I think everyone should try it. Walking at a leisurely pace, it took us an hour to reach the main viewpoint and bench.
Near the top of the hill the trail forms a small circuit loop, so that you can see the awesome views in the different directions. Not only do you get great views of the lake and Bakers Beach, but you can see right across to Port Sorell and the Dial Ranges to the west and to Badger Beach Lookout to the east.
When returning from the beach or Archers Knob, there’s an alternative route you can take to reach the visitor centre. Known as the Springlawn Loop, the maps make it out as a trail around the far side of the lake. In reality though, it’s more of an unguided ramble across open grassland as there’s really no clear path there.
This might seem like fun as it’s a chance to freely explore the park, but it has its downsides as I learned firsthand on my most recent park visit. Following several weeks of winter rain, the grassland was dotted with small streams and flooded areas that made navigating pretty tough.
After trudging through shallower streams heading vaguely towards the visitor centre, the way was blocked by trees and the lake. Eventually, me and my travel companions resorted to clambering through undergrowth and crossing a small creek to reach the next paddock over. It was there that we thankfully found the Point Vision Track to get back to the visitor centre.
Our route did bring us close to some local Bennett’s wallabies, but in no way resembled what the map showed. Make sure to wear hiking boots if you decide to try this route.
Tips for Visiting Narawntapu National Park
Now that you’ve seen what the national park has to offer, here are a few things worth knowing about Narawntapu. Regarding getting there, it’s definitely easiest to reach the park from northern cities like Launceston and Devonport. The park is 40 minutes from Devonport (and the Spirit of Tasmania dock) or 70 minutes from Launceston.
As for facilities, there’s really only the park visitor centre, toilets and campground there, so be sure to bring food with you. Minimum fees for the campground are $16 for a powered site and $13 for a non-powered site.
In terms of safety and activities, there are two main lessons I’ve learned here. First of all, when visiting in summer be sure to watch out for snakes as they’re definitely about. The other note is that you should check whether the Springlawn Loop is accessible if it has rained a lot recently. That way you can avoid our soggy experience trying to return through the water-logged grassland.
Had you heard of Narawntapu National Park in Tasmania before reading this article? Is the wildlife in Tasmania one of your main reasons for wanting to visit? Please share your thoughts in the comments below.