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Everything To See & Do In Franklin-Gordon Wild Rivers National Park

From exploring the rivers by boat to both short and longer walks, there’s much to see and do in the ruggedly beautiful Franklin-Gordon Wild Rivers National Park.

Lake Rhona (Image Credit: Hamish Lockett)
Lake Rhona (Image Credit: Hamish Lockett)

Tasmania is a nature lover’s paradise, with 19 national parks and countless wilderness areas to explore. Some are bustling with tourists – like Cradle Mountain and Freycinet – while others are more unsung heroes. Franklin-Gordon Wild Rivers National Park leans into the latter category; no less beautiful than the others but more remote and untouched.

Located in the west of Tasmania around 2.5 hours north-west of Hobart and just over two hours south-west of Launceston, Franklin-Gordon Wild Rivers National Park is just that – wild, rugged, and downright stunning. 

With powerful rivers, waterfalls, and creeks, there’s plenty of water activities to keep visitors busy and some of Tasmania’s best hikes are found right here in the heart of this Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area.

While you could easily spend months exploring this place, we’ve rounded up the best things to see and do in Franklin-Gordon Wild Rivers National Park for your next intrepid weekend or week-long adventure.

Frenchmans Cap (Photo credit: Tasmania Parks And Wildlife Service)
Frenchmans Cap (Photo credit: Tasmania Parks And Wildlife Service)

Hike to the summit of Frenchmans Cap

Experienced bushwalkers will know this hike and be keen to tackle it – at 54km return, it takes three to five days to complete and you need to register for the Frenchmans Cap walk beforehand to avoid congestion. 

While it’s not for the faint-hearted, the payoff is majestic – hiking to the top of the quartzite peak will reward you with sweeping views of Macquarie Harbour, the peaks of the Overland Track, glimpses of the Southwest Wilderness Area and the Franklin River snaking towards the Southern Ocean.

Frenchmans Cap, Franklin-Gordon Wild Rivers National Park

Gordon Dam (Image Credit: Discover Tasmania)
Gordon Dam (Image Credit: Discover Tasmania)

Check out Gordon Dam

On the border of Franklin-Gordon Wild Rivers National Park and Southwest National Park is this massive feat of engineering, built in the 1970s as part of the hydro-electric scheme. Visually astounding and a fantastic photo opportunity to boot, at 198 metres long and 140 metres high it’s the tallest dam in Tasmania and the fifth-tallest in the country; for context, the Gordon Dam is taller than the Sydney Harbour Bridge and holds back more water than the entirety of Sydney Harbour. 

While it’s incredible just to look at this unique double-walled juggernaut, adrenaline junkies tend to experience it first-hand by abseiling down the 140-metre drop and then hiking all the way back up.

Gordon River Road, Strathgordon 

Nelson Falls (Image Credit: Craig Vertigan)
Nelson Falls (Image Credit: Craig Vertigan)

Visit Nelson Falls

It’s not a trip to Tasmania unless you’ve trekked out to see a waterfall, and Franklin-Gordon Wild Rivers National Park offers an easy short walk to see one of the prettiest – Nelson Falls.

The delightful 20-minute stroll takes you from the Lyell Highway along the burbling Nelson River via boardwalk to the stunning set of falls. You’ll be treated to mossy rainforest and plentiful ferns on the way, and the walk is easily accessible for those with prams or wheelchairs.

Lyell Highway, Queenstown, Tasmania

Gordon River (Image Credit: Gordon River Cruises)
Gordon River (Image Credit: Gordon River Cruises)

Cruise into Macquarie Harbour

A great way to enter the Franklin-Gordon Wild Rivers National Park is via the Gordon River itself. Several local operators run cruises into the park which begin in beautiful Macquarie Harbour and take in sights like the Hells Gates (the treacherous narrow entrance to the Southern Ocean), the Sarah Island historic convict site, the lighthouse and Heritage Landing before delving into the National Park itself, where you'll see the vast wilderness reflected in the still waters of the river. It’s a breathtaking way to explore the wild beauty of this park from a different point of view.

To truly immerse yourself in Tasmania's western wilderness, we highly recommend stepping aboard Gordon River Cruises - Spirit of the Wild, where you'll experience the untouched landscapes, rugged history and fascinating characters of Tasmania's mystical west coast. 

Gordon River Cruises, 24 Esplanade, Strahan

Lake Rhona (Image Credit: Tasmania Parks And Wildlife Service)
Lake Rhona (Image Credit: Tasmania Parks And Wildlife Service)

Find Lake Rhona

If you’re craving your own private beach in the middle of Franklin-Gordon Wild Rivers National Park, then you might want to venture out to find Lake Rhona, a glacial lake tucked into the midst of the Denison Ranges. 

An interesting overnight hike that requires registration, it’s recommended for experienced walkers as you’ll need to either balance on a log to cross the Gordon River or wade across it slightly upstream. From there you’ll traverse buttongrass plains and hike a 400m rise before reaching the hidden oasis of the tannin-stained Lake Rhona with its pink granite sand shore.

Southwest, Tasmania

Gordon River (Image Credit: Matty Eaton)
Gordon River (Image Credit: Matty Eaton)

Kayak or raft on the river

Since water is abundant in Franklin-Gordon Wild Rivers National Park, it seems amiss not to dip your toe in, so to speak. Several local operators run kayaking and white water rafting experiences on the rivers, including Roaring 40's, and it’s a truly exhilarating way to experience the beauty of this wilderness. 

As the park’s name suggests, the waters can get rough and wild in these parts, so it’s best to stick to a guided tour if you’re not experienced at rafting or kayaking. If you’ve got the time, sign up for a longer rafting tour and spend over a week discovering the area by water – you’ll feel like an actual explorer.

Southwest, Tasmania

Donaghys Hill Lookout (Image Credit: Hobart & Beyond)
Donaghys Hill Lookout (Image Credit: Hobart & Beyond)

Trek up to Donaghys Hill Lookout

Rated one of Tasmania’s Best Short Walks, this 2.2-kilometre, 40 minute return walk is short on distance but big on payoff. Located on the Lyell Highway between the towns of Derwent Bridge and Queenstown (both well worth visiting themselves), you’ll want to take your camera and manifest a clear day for this one. 

The uphill track will take you up from the carpark through forest scrub and up to an observation deck, where you’ll be gifted with expansive views across the Franklin River valley and all the way out to Frenchmans Cap and Sharlands Peak.

Donaghys Hill Nature Trail, Southwest, Tasmania

Franklin River Nature Trail (Image Credit: Stu Gibson)
Franklin River Nature Trail (Image Credit: Stu Gibson)

Stroll the Franklin Nature Trail

If you are looking for a calmer experience in the Franklin-Gordon Wild Rivers National Park, the beloved and family-friendly Franklin Nature Trail walk is a must-do. At 25 minutes return, it’s an easy yet rewarding stroll into an untouched rainforest that was once at risk.

The Franklin River was the site of one of the most famous environmental campaigns in Australia’s history when a dam was proposed for the area in the late 70s. The ensuing protest – given the dam would have negatively impacted the Gordon River and its wilderness area – actually worked, and the project was cancelled. When you walk along this stunning Nature Trail and take in the tranquil beauty of the area, you’ll see why it was so fiercely protected by Tasmanians.

Southwest, Tasmania 

Now that you're primed and ready to book in a once-in-a-lifetime trip to Franklin Gordon Wild Rivers National Park, you'll need to start planning ahead. There's no better way to do that than by checking out our guide to best Australian activewear brands and the this gift guide for adventure seekers

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