Sunday, 17 Jan 2021

Liffey Falls. Launceston Region

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Liffey Falls
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“Top Walks in Tasmania”

Melanie Ball

Liffey Falls. Launceston Region

Liffey Falls. Asked to nominate their state’s prettiest waterfall, most Tasmanians would name Liffey Falls or Russell Falls (in Mt Field National Park – see Lady Barron Falls), a fine duo in a state blessed with gorgeous cascades. Liffey Falls cascades over three broad, fractured sandstone steps dripping with ferns. Stroll upstream through verdant myrtle beech forest to one of Tasmania’s most reliable and spectacular waterfalls.

Liffey Falls. Launceston Region - photo 1

Liffey Falls


8.5km out-and-back

Time required:

3–4 hours

Best time:

Any time – the falls flow year-round but are most spectacular in late winter


Easy but with a few short climbs


Riparian rainforest, plunging waterfall, mountain creek

Best map:

This one


Pit toilets in the lower and upper Liffey Falls car parks


The closest food is in Deloraine, 30 minutes’ drive north, where there are a pub, cafes, bakeries and huge, plump local cherries in summer.


Take your time; look at the fabulous assortment of fungi, ferns and moss and enjoy the walk to the falls as much as the cascade.

Liffey Falls. Launceston Region - photo 2

Liffey Falls

         The namesake of Liffey Falls State Reserve, included in the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area in 1989, rainforest-wrapped Liffey Falls tumble down sandstone steps at the northeast foot of the Great Western Tiers. When 1.4 hectares of forest enfolding Liffey Falls were marketed for sale in 1990 as ‘ideal for woodchipping’, politician and local resident Bob Brown bought the block at huge personal financial risk. His actions saved the forest – and Bush Heritage Australia, to which Bob left the property, was born of the fundraising campaign to cover his debts. Bush Heritage now protects more than 6 million hectares across Australia.

If seeing Liffey Falls is your sole objective, a 2km return walk from the upper picnic area puts you in touch with the spray, but then you miss the beautiful approach up the Meander River – a slow and gentle build-up to the main event.

Liffey Falls. The longer option starts from the southern end of the Lower Liffey campground and Gulf Road picnic area, 45 minutes’ drive from Launceston. Head south out of the city towards Carrick on Highway 1 and continue south on the C511 (Oaks Road). From Bracknell, dogleg south-west on the C513 (Bracknell Rd and then narrow gravel Gulf Road). The camping area but not the falls are signed at the turnoff, on a sharp left bend. The main road beyond here to the Upper Falls picnic area is narrow and winding, and used by log trucks, so is unsuitable for buses and caravans.

Liffey Falls. Launceston Region - photo 3

Liffey Falls

     Access to the treed Lower Liffey camping area (with pit toilets) crosses the Meander River. You can hear but not see the river as you step out on a metre-wide compacted gravel track through pine trees festooned with lichen and into cool temperate rainforest. Some of the tree ferns within cooee of the parking area have gained many metres in height and most of the myrtle beech, sassafras and leatherwood drip with chandelier-like epiphytes.

Traversing a slope above the Meander River, the track cuts through long-fallen logs colonised by mosses and passes tree stumps punctured with holes for the planks from which timber cutters wielded axes and saws. By the end of World War II there were two sawmills active in this area and logging continued in the proximity of Liffey Falls until the 1960s. Sections of this walking track follow an old timber tramway route.

The now-luxurious, moist regrowth forest abounds with mosses that steam when the sun strikes them through the canopy. Conditions are perfect for fungi too, and bushwalkers interested in the mushroom family risk taking considerably longer than a few hours. Damp means mud and leeches as well, although most of the track is in excellent condition and boardwalks keep boots off particularly soft or vulnerable ground.

Liffey Falls. Launceston Region - photo 4

Liffey Falls

     The now extinct thylacine, or Tasmanian tiger, once roamed this forest (although some believe it roams here still) and nocturnal marsupials such as quolls and bandicoots leave evidence of their after-dark perambulations in soft ground. By day, you might see pink robins and superb fairy-wrens.

The track skirts a rocky outcrop green with ferns and moss on the river flats and passes gentle rapids (see point 1 on map). About 1.5km into the walk, stop and look up into the leafy canopy of an especially beautiful tree (among many beautiful trees) draped with moss and epiphytes. Liffey Falls.

The track now pulls away from the river and zigzags uphill, passing a massive fallen tree, skirting a root ball ripped from the soft soil and briefly entering drier forest before starting down again. Old tree ferns with thickly padded trunks, wearing grass skirts of dead fronds beneath green tops, populate this section. The ridgelines of surrounding hills show through the trees and to the right you’ll see the august head of Quamby Bluff (see point 2 on map).

Liffey Falls. Launceston Region - photo 5

Liffey Falls

     Back by the river, cross a new timber footbridge with the river rushing through rocks below. (Sections of this track were repaired and rerouted after record-breaking mid-2016 rain and flooding across Tasmania.) Across the bridge, new track ascends among massed tree ferns and re-crosses the river beneath a parasol-spread of fronds.

On reaching a junction, turn right for Liffey Falls – the Upper Cascades (left) are worth seeing after the main event – and step down into a rocky gully. Close to the water’s edge, walk upriver to the falls, which cascade over three broad, fractured sandstone steps dripping with ferns (see point 3 on map).

Back at the junction, head uphill and walk as far as you want along good track, stopping at platforms overlooking the smaller cascades above the main fall. It’s so beautiful here it is understandable why some people opt for just this short walk to the falls.

Liffey Falls. It’s an easy 1km to the top parking and picnic area for a loo stop or you could just visit a couple of the lookout platforms before turning around and heading back to your car.

Liffey Falls. Launceston Region - photo 6

Liffey Falls

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