Nelson Falls

Start - Off Lyell Highway

Length - 1.4km (Return)

Grade - Green

Terrain - Single Track, Boardwalk

Vertical Climb - 37m

Time - 30 Mins

Signed - Yes

Cost - National Park Fees Apply

Date Hiked - 13th April 2021

Best Time - All Year Round

Traditional Custodians - Lairmairrener People

Directions - Located about three hours north west of Hobart, take the Brooker Hwy north and follow the signs for New Norfolk. Cross the River Derwent at New Norfolk and then follow the Lyell Highway north west all the way to Derwent Bridge. Nelson Falls is located just under an hour west along the highway with ample parking available. 

The Hike - With our journey today taking us from Lake St Clair to Strahan, I'd lined up a series of stops along the way to experience what this World Heritage Area had to offer. In my previous post for Donaghys Hill I had referred to the series of trails along the Lyell Highway as a bit of a degustation and we were about to get a taste of the waterfall course for the day. Unfortunately when we arrived the car park was already overflowing and this seemed to be a popular school holiday spot compared to the other stops we'd made this morning. 

Finding a relatively safe spot on the edge of the highway, we gathered up our things and being a waterfall, I grabbed out the tripod to get some long exposure shots. As with most of these hikes that start along the edge of a road, the entrance spot into the forest doesn't look very appealing with a small grassed area and a toilet block carved into the landscape. Once you cross the bridge and pass the information board then it all changes and you enter a world of temperate rainforest, babbling brooks and fabulous fungi. With so many cars in the car park, I was slightly worried about having people in every shot and then having no space at the end for my tripod but for the most part I was lucky to have the trail relatively free from oddly clothed humans and could just concentrate on the scenery. It's a gentle uphill all the way to the main falls but it just feels like a flat path as you make your way along the edge of the Nelson River. To the right I was interested in the shapes and look of some mallee style vegetation that provided a mess of thin trunks against a bright backdrop.


Not far into the hike there is a side quest down some stairs and along a boardwalk where you get some of the best views looking up and down the river. With cloudy conditions continuing into the middle of the day, the rainforest lining the edge of the river was looking stunning thanks to a mix of deep brown, tannin stained water, giant green ferns and the mossy rocks scattered around. It was one of those breathe it all in moments where you just stand still and appreciate where you are and how lucky you are to be there. Although the main spectacle further along is what most people come here to see, it's the small things like these views that I really like on these hikes. Moving on from the picture perfect river scenes, I caught up with Caris and Candy as they were reading one of the many information boards strewn throughout the walk that tell you of the forces that shaped this area and also the flora that thrives here. Reaching another bridge, you cross over to the western side of the river (ignore the map above, it is wrong with regards to the position of the track and the river) and it allows you to stop and admire the gentle flow that is in stark contrast to what you'll see shortly. 

Up until this point, I hadn't come across many fungi, just a few clinging to the mossy trunks of trees so it was nice to see a few on rotting logs and on the side of the trail. Just after the bridge the canopy opens up a little and you get a brighter section filled with many types of ferns and some more views of the river before reaching a small loop section. Wanting to catch everyone up, I hurried through here a little and could soon hear the roar of the waterfall ahead. I joined everyone on the wooden platform where there was quite a crowd gathered to get the money shot with their phones. I got out my tripod and immediately realised I'd made an error. I had left the allen key that is used to take off my Peak Design Camera Clip base so I couldn't then attach the base of my tripod. Annoyed at myself for forgetting this, I asked Caris nicely if she wouldn't mind staying with my camera gear while I ran back to the car and retrieved it. At least I got to experience the trail twice but it's not as much fun when you're running at speed and dodging people. Candy and Hal had decided they weren't waiting around so I said my goodbyes as I passed them on the way back to the platform and would see them in Strahan later that day. 

Arriving back at the viewing area a little puffed, the crowds had not dispersed so I tried to get into a good position and figure out what filter to use in the dark light. Calming myself down, I had a few attempts at the long exposure shots with varying success but it was difficult thanks to people moving around on the wooden platform and causing the camera to shake. While waiting for the shutter to close, it was a nice time to take in the immense size and flow of Nelson Falls. It's truly an impressive sight in person and I can see why it's so popular (the easy walk in also helps). Another photographer had setup here but instead of using the platform, he was in the river with his tripod. If I was alone then I'd probably be right next to him but with my misadventure with the allen key, I was wary that Caris didn't want to stand around waiting for my long exposure shots for too much longer. Happy with what I had shot already, it was simply a case of heading back to the car and enjoying all the things that I had missed on the walk/run.

Final Thoughts - Tasmania is not short of stunning waterfalls thanks to an abundance of rainfall and some very hilly terrain but not all of them are easily accessed. 

Nelson Falls is fortunately one that can be seen by most people with the trail being wheelchair friendly and mostly flat. While that also means it can get crowded during peak times, the scenery is worth having to put up with a few people if you're like me and enjoy a solitary experience.


Some may view the walk trail as a means to an end but for me it was a quality walk from start to finish thanks to some stunning variety of flora, an enclosed feel to the rainforest and a close connection to the Nelson River. 


Easily one of the best stops along the Lyell Highway, if you only have time for one of these trails then Nelson Falls is a good one to pick.  

Get out there and experience it!

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