Stunning Bass Strait beaches, wetland walks, an historic farm and some of the best opportunities to see native wildlife up close makes Narawntapu National Park one of the must-visit attractions on the North-West Coast.
Only about a 35-minute drive from Devonport, and roughly one hour from Launceston, the national park stretches from Bakers Beach to Greens Beach on the mouth of the Tamar River. Originally called the Asbestos Ranges National Park in 1976, it became the first park to revert to an Aboriginal name in 2000. Narawntapu is the Aboriginal name for the Badger Head and West Head area within the park.
Story of the park’s past
Narawntapu is rich in Aboriginal heritage, with many shell middens and artefacts that can be seen on walking trails across the park. Aborigines, particularly those of the Northern Midlands Tribe, adapted their lives to use the resources of the area and also brought about changes of their own, using fire to promote grasses and attract game.
European settlement bought about overwhelming change to the area. In 1833 the eastern side of Port Sorell was settled by George Hall, who drained some of the marshy land around what is now Springlawn and helped cut the first track across the range. It was the next owner, Edwin Baker, who gave his name to the 7km-long beach. While his original homestead was gutted by fire the weatherboard house that replaced it still stands and some farm outbuildings and exotic trees also remain.
The farm changed hands several times until 1974 when it was purchased to form the park because of its unique coastal heathlands, its importance as a habitat for native animals and its recreational value. The cleared and grazed area of the farm now offers similar conditions for wildlife to those created by the Aborigines – some changes have gone full circle.
Planning your visit
The visitor centre at Springlawn has interpretive displays, park office, picnic facilities, kiosk and toilets. Picnic facilities, including tables, are also found at Bakers Point and Badger Head. Toilets are available at Griffiths Point and Bakers Point.
Within the park camping is allowed at Springlawn, the horse yards, Bakers Point and Koybaa. A self-registration system for campers operates from the visitor centre. Most campsites have tables and hybrid toilets. Fires are permitted at Bakers Point and Horse Yards campgrounds in the designated fire places (unless restrictions are in place during summer). Users will need to provide their own wood or purchase it from the visitor centre. At Springlawn there are septic toilets, a shower block (there is a small fee for 4 minute tokens, available from the visitor centre), powered sites and electric barbecues.
Water is available from tanks and bores at various locations around the park, including Springlawn, the Horse Yards, Bakers Point and Koybaa campsites. The water varies in quality but, except where otherwise marked, it is drinkable. Bring a container for carrying water and be aware that there is no drinking water at either Badger Beach or West Head.
Alternatively, plenty of other accommodation options are available nearby in Hawley Beach, Shearwater, Port Sorell and surrounding areas.
Bakers Beach and Badger Beach are generally safe for swimming and are also popular for line fishing. Swimmers should take care near the rocks at Griffiths Point and in the Port Sorell estuary, particularly when the tide is going out. A section of Springlawn Beach is reserved for water-craft entering and exiting the water via the boat ramp at Bakers Point – no swimming is allowed there.
For horse-riding, holding yards and a 26km return trail are provided. A permit is needed to bring horses into the park and bookings must be made for use of the yards at least 48 hours in advance.
Narawntapu has been dubbed the “Serengeti of Tasmania” for good reason – it is one of the best places to view free-ranging wildlife in the state. The park boasts a rich array of easily observed animals that come out around dusk to graze on the grasslands of the park, especially around Springlawn, including Forester kangaroos, Bennetts wallabies, pademelons and wombats. If you are lucky you may also see Tasmanian devils, eastern and spotted-tail quolls, platypuses and echidnas. Though still wild, most animals are used to the presence of humans, and can be approached quietly for observation and photography. But please do not feed them – wallabies and other animals can get a severe disease called lumpy jaw if fed processed food.
Many species of birds call the park home, including honeyeaters, green rosellas and black cockatoos. Water birds flourish on the shores and lagoons at Springlawn. More than seven different species of ducks as well as herons, swans, cormorants, coots, bitterns, grebes and many others have been observed. A bird hide at the lagoon offers an ideal spot for birdwatching and photography. For closer viewing don’t forget to bring along your binoculars. The beaches nearby provide habitat for a variety of coastal birds including oystercatchers, gulls and terns. The park is also the feeding ground for the endangered Tasmanian wedge-tailed eagle and white-bellied sea eagles are often seen gliding overhead.
Get out and explore
Whether you prefer a leisurely short walk or are keen for full-day treks, Narawntapu offers visitors a wide diversity of habitats to explore. But no matter how far you are going, be sure to check the weather forecast and equip yourself with a good map, clothing for any conditions, boots and gaiters.
The Bird Hide Walk offers a gentle introduction to the park. Beginning from the Springlawn Visitor Centre, this easy walk takes you through the Paperbark swamp and over a board walk to the lagoon bird hide. It is a relaxed half hour return stroll.
The Springlawn Lagoon Circuit Walk follows the first part of the Point Vision track, and then meanders around the back of the lagoon where the Forester kangaroos congregate and wombats graze. It intersects the Archers Knob track near the base of Archers Knob and returns via the Bird Hide. It is a wonderful introduction to park’s mammals and birdlife in a two-hour walk.
Archers Knob is reached by a track between the lagoon and Bakers Beach, or by a track from the Visitor Centre. Towards the eastern end of the beach a track climbs steadily through coastal trees to the top of 114m-high Archers Knob. From the summit there are fine views over Bakers Beach, Badger Head and beyond. An easy return walk via Bakers Beach makes a pleasant two-hour round trip.
The Copper Cove/Badger Head walk is a six to eight-hour return trip from Springlawn. This interesting seaside walk features superb coastal views, a variety of wildflowers, and fascinating changes in landscape. From the eastern end of Bakers Beach a marked track zig zags up to Little Badger Head before descending to Copper Cove where there is a good picnic spot with fresh water from Windred Creek. From the cove the track continues around the headland to the tiny settlement of Badger Head.
The Point Vision Track is a six to eight-hour return trip. The highest parts of the range reach nearly 400m at Mt Asbestos. The most accessible summit is Point Vision (370m), reached via a rough track from Springlawn. This stays on the southern side of the lagoon and Archers Knob before climbing into the lightly forested hills. It is mostly open and fairly easy walking in fine weather. Return the same way.
For the Coastal Traverse you will need to allow seven to nine hours one way. A magnificent coastal traverse of the park is possible between Bakers Beach and Greens Beach. Walking from west to east, follow the above directions for the Badger Head walk then follow Badger Beach towards West Head. The detour to the top of West Head leads to a fine new platform atop the cliffs. Follow the cliff-top track around West Head till you pick up the unsealed road that leads past Pebbly Beach on to Greens Beach township. If a car is left at each end, the walk can easily be done one-way as a day walk.