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View from top of Mt Milner

Port Davey in Tasmania is only visited by a select few each year due to its remote location but those who make the journey will never regret it. If you love nature and exploring the great outdoors, this remote wilderness area in the south-west corner of Tasmania will blow you away with its incredible natural beauty and superb wildlife spotting. Here is all you need to know about visiting Port Davey including how to get there, where to stay and what to see.

Sailing into Port Davey at sunrise
Sailing into Port Davey at sunrise

Where is Port Davey in Tasmania

Port Davey is located at bottom of the south west coast of Tasmania, between the Southern Ocean and Bathurst Harbour. It is part of Tasmania’s pristine Southwest National Park and the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area. Melaleuca is the central access point for visitors who arrive on foot, by plane or on a private boat.

View from Mt Milner
Walking group on the way to Mt Milner

How to get to Port Davey

The easiest way to access Port Davey is via light plane or on a private boat. Most people come here as part of an organised group tour. We visited on a Tasmania cruise with Coral Expeditions on their 72 passenger expedition ship, Coral Discoverer. All of the photos in this post were taken on our cruise. It was a superb experience and I highly recommend it if you want to visit Port Davey. 

Port Davey
Coral Expeditions’ Coral Discoverer at Bramble Bay

Par Avion operate from Cambridge, a 15 minute drive east of Hobart, and offer daily flights to Melaleuca. If you are a keen hiker, you can also walk from the Huon Campground by following the Port Davey Track which is 70kms long and very challenging. DO NOT attempt this walk unless you are an experienced bushwalker with the right gear to handle a minimum of four days in changeable and possibly harsh weather conditions.

Flying into Port Davey
Flying into Port Davey with Par Avion

Most people take between five and seven days to hike to Port Davey, one way. There is no accommodation and less than 250 people walk the track annually. Par Avion can pre-arrange a food drop if you’re visiting the area as part of a longer walk along the South Coast Track to Cockle Creek. If you do decide to hike to Port Davey, make sure you register your walk before commencement and hike with a buddy.

We experienced this at the height of summer so come prepared!

Port Davey Tasmania accommodation

Unlike some other Tasmania National Parks like Freycinet where you can stay at the luxurious Saffire lodge, you won’t find any hotels or resorts at Port Davey. Accommodation is limited to a tent that you carry yourself and pitch along the hiking trail, a cabin on Coral Expeditions’ Coral Discoverer or on a private boat, or a cabin at Southwest Wilderness Camp.

Boat at Port Davey
You can reach Port Davey on a private boat
Cocktail hour on Coral Discoverer
We met some great people on Coral Discoverer

Things to do at Port Davey

A visit to Port Davey is all about experiencing the region’s natural beauty and flora and fauna, but there are also some interesting historical things to explore in the area in and around Melaleuca.

Easy walk at Port Davey
Hiking at Melaleuca

Explore the Needwonnee Interpretative Walk

When the first Europeans arrived at Port Davey, the area was home to the Ninunee Aboriginal people and another nearby group, the Needwunnee whose name is often spelled Needwonnee. Both these groups lived in ‘villages’ alongside freshwater and built dome-shaped huts from bark and tea tree.

Needwonnee Walk
Exploring the Needwonnee Walk at Melaleuca

At Melaleuca, the beautifully presented 1.2km Needwonnee Interpretive Walk tells the story of the Needwonnee people using interpretive installations. The walk is easy and all of it is on a boardwalk, with spectacular scenery through the forest and button grass plains beside the Melaleuca lagoon.

Port Davey hiking
Melaleuca Lagoon

Explore the Deny King Heritage Museum

Whalers, sealers and timber cutters began visiting the area in the early 1800s. By the late 1800s, the whales and Huon pine were scarce and everyone moved on except for three long-term resident families: the Claytons, Kings and Willsons who were tin miners.

Deny King was a well-kn​own miner, bushman, naturalist and artist who discovered several rare plant species and was appointed as a Member of the Order of Australia for his community service in 1975. Visitors to Melaleuca can explore the Deny King Heritage Museum located near the airstrip which shows what life was like for the hardy pioneers who made a living and raised families at this remote location.

Deny King Heritage Museum
Deny King Heritage Museum at Melaleuca

See rare orange-bellied parrots

Port Davey is one of the few places in the world you can see rare and critically endangered orange-bellied parrots. These beautifully-coloured birds are on the brink of extinction, with studies suggesting there are less than a hundred in the wild. Melaleuca is their only breeding spot. While there’s a chance you could see them flying around, the best place to spot them is from the bird hide inside the Deny King Heritage Museum.

Orange bellied parrots
Spotting orange bellied parrots


There are loads of great walks to do in and around Port Davey once you arrive. If you’re not part of an organised group tour, you should definitely buy the official South West Walks map which is published by the Tasmanian Government. This map highlights Port Davey’s walking tracks and features tourist information, along with topographic detail to help you plan your daily adventures. 

When we visited Port Davey, Trevor and I hiked to the top of Mount Beattie on a group walk with Coral Expeditions. You’ll need hiking boots and a reasonable level of fitness for this three hour (return) hike. The views of Bathurst Channel and Bathurst Harbour are terrific and you can see Melaleuca and the Needwonnee Walk far below as well if the weather is good.

Hiking at Port Davey
Hiking up to the top of Mount Beattie

The following day we opted for a boat cruise around the Breaksea Islands while another group did the walk to the top of Mt Milner which took two hours or so (return). There are great views of Port Davey and the Breaksea Islands from the top of Mt Milner.

View from top of Mt Milner
View from the top of Mt Milner

Easier options include a one and a half hour return walk to the top of Balmoral Hill or a 20 minute return walk to the top of TV Hill, so called because this is where one of the local settlers put their TV antenna. There are also several pristine beaches to explore.

Spotting unique plants

Port Davey is home to some unique plants, especially when it comes to mosses, fungi and other plants which provide ground cover. Remember to look down while you’re out walking so you don’t miss these beautiful plants.

Flora at Port Davey
Port Davey has beautiful fauna

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If you’re doing an organised tour, check if it’s possible to go kayaking at Bathurst Harbour or another location around Port Davey. Paddling around these waters with nothing but the splash of your paddles disturbing the silence is an experience not to be missed.

Kayaking at Port Davey
Kayaking at Port Davey

Scenic cruise

We did several scenic cruises at Port Davey during our Coral Expeditions trip on Coral Discoverer. Along with a sunrise arrival into Bathurst Harbour which was one of many trip highlights, we cruised through the Bathurst Narrows waterways and also around Bathurst Harbour on the Xplorer tender.

Misty morning
Scenic cruising on a misty morning
Port Davey sunrise
Sunrise arrival into Port Davey
Scenic cruise at Port Davey
Celery Top Islands spotted on one of several scenic cruises

We also did a terrific circumnavigation of the Breaksea Islands, something which is only possible if the seas are very calm. If you are visiting Port Davey independently you can book a private scenic cruise but you will need to organise this in advance before you arrive.

Sailing around the Break Sea Islands
Sailing around the Breaksea Islands

Wildlife spotting

When you’re walking along Port Davey’s hiking trails, keep an eye out for wombats, wallabies, small marsupials, frogs and birds including rare orange-bellied parrots. When you’re cruising or kayaking around Bathurst Harbour, there’s a good chance you’ll spot at least a couple of dolphins and seals. 

Bird spotting
Bird spotting at Port Davey

Snorkelling and scuba diving

The waters in this area are part of the Port Davey Marine Reserve and have a layer of dark tannin freshwater that stops sunlight from penetrating more than a few metres below the water’s surface. This limits the growth of marine plants and provides a home for marine invertebrates, many of which are usually only found in very deep, ocean waters. Snorkellers and scuba divers can see sea pens, sea fans, sea whips, sponges, bryozoans, ascidians and delicate soft corals in and around Port Davey.

Melaleuca at Port Davey
Port Davey’s multi-layered waters are unique


It would NEVER be warm enough for this Queenslander to put on a pair of swimmers and take a dip at Port Davey but plenty of other people go swimming here in summer.

Disclosure: The writer visited Port Davey as a guest of Coral Expeditions.

Looking for some more information about Tasmania? We’ve written a Hobart travel guide and put together some tips for visiting Hobart in winter. We’ve also reviewed the Henry Jones Art Hotel in Hobart, Coral Expeditions’ Tasmania cruise, and Saffire Freycinet, and taken a day trip to Bruny Island.

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Dr Tiana Templeman is an award-winning food and travel journalist, travel author and media industry academic. She is the creator of The Travel Temple, writes for Australian and international media outlets and appears on radio talking about where to go, what to see and travel industry trends.