Pandani Grove Nature Walk
Mount Field National Park
Directions - Located 90 minutes west of Hobart, take Brooker Highway north and follow the signs for New Norfolk. Pass through the town and follow the signs for Westerway and then Mount Field National Park. Pass the visitor centre and drive up the winding Lake Dobson Road all the way to the car park at Lake Dobson. The Pandani Grover Nature Walk starts near the day-use hut.
The Hike - Having visiting Tasmania a couple of times over the past few years, the time had come once again to return to the Apple Isle and indulge in a little hiking holiday. The plan this time was to join my partner's Aunt and Uncle on a two and a half week self drive holiday, exploring the western side of the island and the wonderful wilderness areas that are found there. After spending a couple of nights in Hobart (where it reached 32C!!! on Easter Saturday), the first stop on the road trip was Mount Field National Park. Having visited previously in 2018, I was familiar with the area but was keen to return and complete a few walks I had not done the first time around.
One of those walks was the Pandani Grove Nature Walk, a track I had visited and completed half of when hiking the Tarn Shelf Circuit but for whatever reason, didn't feel the need to do for the website. Perhaps I thought it was too short and beneath me at the time but I was here now and it's a really pretty walk to experience. This was the first full day we would have in Mount Field after spending the previous day driving out from Hobart, stopping at cool towns like New Norfolk and Westerway before completing the Lady Barron Falls Circuit in the afternoon. My plan was to take in the Pandani Grove Nature Walk as a warm-up for the day and then tackle a hike I'd been looking forward to completing ever since my first visit, Mount Field West. Caris, Candy and Hal would be joining me for this hike and up until the Rodway Hut on the Mount Field West hike as I wanted them to see the start of the Tarn Shelf Circuit and some of the alpine country. After making our way up the slopes of the mountains on the winding roads, we arrived at the car park at Lake Dobson ready to go. It was a little bit chilly being 1000m ASL and the wind wasn't helping matters. We were all sufficiently rugged up and before setting off on the short loop I signed us into the walks register (please do this as it helps with visitor numbers and funding).
After checking out the day use hut, we made our way down to the start to begin our walk. There is a little viewing platform to the right of the track after you head down the first hill that takes you down to the water's edge and is a really good spot to get wide vistas of Lake Dobson. Once you've soaked in the views of the lake, the track skirts the edge of the water and past a magnificent example of a Pencil Pine that is sloped over the lake. These Gondwanan relics live above 800m ASL and do not like fire at all so with a changing climate and more bushfire risk because of it, they will likely see a greater threat to their existence going forward. Despite the short length of the walk, there is a lot to see early on with the narrow path taking you past some great flora. The native berries of Tasmania are something I always look out for and early on it was nice to see some Cheeseberry and Snow Berry lining the track. The Snow Berry in particular was looking amazing with the reds of the inside contrasting well with the crisp white exterior. Beard lichen is common here and always a good sign that the air is super fresh as they are very sensitive to air pollution. This wouldn't be an issue in the fresh alpine air and it was a nice feeling to breath it in.
Passing the Wellington Ski and Outdoor Club building, we made out way into the depths of the Pandani Grove with the first section a nice introduction to these cool looking plants. The world's tallest heath plant, I've remarked before about how they look very similar to WA's Xanthorrhoea (Grass Tree) and Pineapple Bush. They are an icon of Tasmania and on the edges of Lake Dobson they grow in great numbers and to great heights. Where to look on this walk is a bit of a conundrum as you get nice views of the lake, some fantastic scenes looking up into the Snow Gums and Pandanis plus the incredibly detailed world of moss, fungi and lichens that seem to grow out of every gap. Stopping a lot to inspect all the details, we were all pretty amazed by the variety and beauty of this spot. I was lagging behind a bit as I was taking plenty of photos but was with the group long enough to get them all admiring the views from one of the platforms overlooking the lake. From there you enter the best part of the walk with a thick grove of Pandanis really making you feel lost in another world. The colour palette changes from the deep greens of the Pandani tops and forest to a dark orange thanks to some much taller examples shedding their thick leaves. I found a couple of flowering Pandanis and their red spikes were pretty cool to see as it's not something I'd come across before.
Passing a very large rock deposited at the end of the thickest section of Pandanis provided a nice photo opportunity and I soon joined the others as they were stopped on the edge of Eagle Tarn. With the skies clearing somewhat, Eagle Tarn that lies to the north of Lake Dobson was looking a treat. Mount Field is well known for it's alpine lakes (tarns) and this is just a taster of what to expect from the Tarn Shelf Circuit and Mount Field West. Just past Eagle Tarn, the single track ends and you join the vehicle track that links the Lake Dobson Car Park with the Mount Mawson Ski Field. With the warm conditions of recent weeks, there was no chance of snow but it pays to be careful along here just in case vehicles do come along. This is the less exciting section of the track but it gives a good opportunity to admire the surrounding forest. Closer to the car park the views open up and you see the slopes leading up to the ski field and Tarn Shelf Circuit along with views looking down at Lake Dobson. Pleased that the misty conditions had cleared somewhat, I was looking forward to heading up to the Rodway Hut and showing everyone the spectacular scenery that is found up there. The car park marks the end of the Pandani Grove Nature Walk and it had been every bit as pleasant as I remember it.