Nelson Falls

Franklin-Gordon Wild Rivers National Park / Queenstown, Tasmania, Australia

About Nelson Falls


Hiking Distance: 1.2km round trip
Suggested Time: 30-45 minutes

Date first visited: 2006-11-29
Date last visited: 2017-11-29

Waterfall Latitude: -42.10042
Waterfall Longitude: 145.73731

Nelson Falls was a gorgeous 30m high wall of water shaped like an inverted wine glass.

In addition to the waterfall itself, the short walk took us through a temperate rainforest that was probably amidst the healthiest ecosystem we had encountered in both of our visits to this part of Tasmania.

Nelson_Falls_005_11282006 - Nelson Falls
Nelson Falls

Not only were the ferns and mossy trees dripping with dew and displaying a vibrant green, but the flow of the Nelson River was also vigorous.

Indeed, when the river was as voluminous as you see in the photo above, we were getting sprayed at the lookouts.

That was something we couldn’t say about any other waterfall during our trips to Southeastern Australia in 2006 and later in 2017.

Nelson Falls – luck with the timing?

Julie and I were very pleasantly surprised to see Nelson Falls pumping the way it did on our first visit in November 2006.

Nelson_Falls_17_045_11282017 - View of Nelson Falls as seen during our November 2017 visit
View of Nelson Falls as seen during our November 2017 visit

That was because we were pre-conditioned to expect poor flow due to a bad drought that had adversely affected so many other waterfalls throughout that trip.

However, its invigorated flow might have had to do with the rain we had received the previous night while we were staying in Queenstown (some 27km to the west).

When we came back to Nelson Falls in November 2017, given its wishbone shape (as opposed to the inverted wine glass shape), it actually had less flow than on our November 2006 visit.

Whether the latter trip was also adversely impacted by an unusually dry Winter and Spring before an odd storm here and there re-invigorated it, we weren’t sure.

Walking to Nelson Falls

Nelson_Falls_17_018_11282017 - Julie on the lush track heading towards Nelson Falls
Julie on the lush track heading towards Nelson Falls

Even though the signs said it was merely a 700m 20-minute return walk to take in Nelson Falls, Julie and I spent about 40-45 minutes in both of our visits here.

The track was flat pretty much the whole way with boardwalks set up in the most sensitive spots while meandering alongside the Nelson River.

In sunny and warm weather (like on our second visit), there was ample forest cover to prevent the harsh sun from beating down on us.

Overall, it was a relaxing stroll and one that rejuvenated us while breaking up the long drive between Queenstown and Hobart.

The History of the Nelson Falls area

Nelson_Falls_022_11282006 - Julie checking out the impressive wall of water before her from one of the lookouts closer to the misty Nelson Falls. It didn't seem like that lookout was available on our second visit in 2017
Julie checking out the impressive wall of water before her from one of the lookouts closer to the misty Nelson Falls. It didn’t seem like that lookout was available on our second visit in 2017

The interpretive signs along the track had us imagine we were in a time machine.

By playing this mind game, we learned that this part of Tasmania was once under water, then later under ice, and then split up into neighbouring forests that would tectonically drift as far as New Zealand and even South America.

Indeed, the species of fern that were along the walking track also happened to occur in those distant places attesting to the existence of the former Gondwanaland supercontinent.

In fact, the primal and wild feel of the rainforest here was aided by its inclusion in the undeveloped Franklin-Gordon Wild Rivers National Park.

This was part of the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area seeking to protect these ancient tracts of land.

Nelson_Falls_17_009_11282017 - Looking upstream at the Nelson River from the bridge over it by the car park and interpretive signs at the start of the Nelson Falls Track
Looking upstream at the Nelson River from the bridge over it by the car park and interpretive signs at the start of the Nelson Falls Track

This reserve (dominating much of the western and southern parts of the state) was one of the largest contiguous tracts of undeveloped wilderness left in Tasmania.

Although the legislative protections helped to maintain the health of this area since the 1980s, we could see that prior efforts to find mineral riches as well as a way to traverse the boggy and rugged wilderness took its toll on the landscape.

However, in the 30+ years since the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area was established, we found ourselves in a far different place than what the old photos from the signs at the trailhead had shown.

Indeed, it seemed like Nature quickly took back what had been undisturbed well before the advent of European settlement.

Nelson_Falls_17_003_11282017 - Looking towards the Lyell Highway, which was the enduring legacy of past human activity of the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area (besides arguably Climate Changed-induced damage)
Looking towards the Lyell Highway, which was the enduring legacy of past human activity of the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area (besides arguably Climate Changed-induced damage)

Perhaps the enduring legacy of the human activity of the past was the current Lyell Highway.

That road linking Queenstown and Hobart pretty much followed the Linda Track, which opened up exploration (and exploitation) to the west between the two towns.

Authorities

Nelson Falls resides in the Franklin-Gordon Wild Rivers National Park near Queenstown, Tasmania. It is administered by the Tasmania Parks and Wildlife Service. For information or inquiries about the area as well as current conditions, visit their website.

Nelson_Falls_17_027_11282017 - Julie walking on the well-shaded gentle stroll through the temperate rainforest to Nelson Falls on our late November 2017 visit
Nelson_Falls_17_029_11282017 - There was one part of the short walk where the Nelson Falls Track branched from each other then rejoined later on.  Julie took the left part of that branch during our late November 2017 visit
Nelson_Falls_17_034_11282017 - Julie hiking beneath some of the larger ferns growing around the Nelson Falls Track during our late November 2017 visit
Nelson_Falls_17_035_11282017 - Finally approaching the end of the track with Nelson Falls in view on our late November 2017 visit
Nelson_Falls_17_040_11282017 - Looking at Nelson Falls from the lookout during our late November 2017 visit, which was a bit further back from where they used to let us go to in November 2006
Nelson_Falls_17_043_11282017 - Nelson Falls looking segmented on our second visit in late November 2017
Nelson_Falls_17_044_11282017 - Focused long-exposed shot of the Nelson Falls during our late November 2017 visit
Nelson_Falls_17_058_11282017 - Julie on the return walk from Nelson Falls after having her fill during our late November 2017 visit
Nelson_Falls_17_060_11282017 - Julie continuing on the gentle rainforest track after having had her fill of Nelson Falls during our late November 2017 visit
Nelson_Falls_17_061_11282017 - Julie well along the return walk back to the car park after having her fill of Nelson Falls on our late November 2017 visit
Nelson_Falls_001_jx_11282006 - Trailhead signage for the Nelson Falls Track during our visit in November 2006
Nelson_Falls_014_jx_11282006 - Trailhead signage or kiosk at the Nelson Falls Track as seen during our visit in late November 2006
Nelson_Falls_031_11282006 - Looking along the Nelson River from near the start of the short track to the Nelson Falls during our visit in late November 2006
Nelson_Falls_024_jx_11282006 - The well-developed walking path through the rainforest towards Nelson Falls as seen in our first visit back in November 2006
Nelson_Falls_028_11282006 - Pleasant stroll within the cool, temperate rainforest as we approached Nelson Falls during our late November 2006 visit
Nelson_Falls_003_11282006 - This was Nelson Falls from the closest lookout platform on our first visit in late November 2006, but it was so misty here that long exposure photos just weren't feasible. Turned out that on our second visit, this nearest lookout was no longer sanctioned
Nelson_Falls_008_11282006 - Due to the high volume on our first visit in late November 2006, in order to get the long exposure photographs, I had to retreat towards one of the more distant lookouts to get a shot of Nelson Falls like this

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Getting to Nelson Falls was pretty straight forward as it was right off the Lyell Highway (A10) 27km (30 minutes drive) east of Queenstown and 233km (about 3.5 hours drive) west of Hobart.

The car park was well signposted on the north side of the highway.

Nelson_Falls_17_005_11282017 - The car park for Nelson Falls
The car park for Nelson Falls

Since Nelson Falls was in national park land, park fees applied through the self-help payment kiosks at the car park.

That said, we had paid for the eight-week/eight-person pass (back at the Mt Field Visitor Centre or at the Cradle Mountain Visitor Centre).

At first glance, that might have been overkill for Julie and I since we only expected to stay in Tassie for at most a little over a week.

However, it was good for all national parks in the state (including the three that we visited at Cradle Mountain, Franklin-Gordon Wild Rivers, and Mt Field).

Nelson_Falls_17_062_11282017 - Looking back at the context of the rest of the Nelson Falls car park and the Lyell Highway
Looking back at the context of the rest of the Nelson Falls car park and the Lyell Highway

Therefore, we wound up saving a few bucks over the pay-as-you-go method.

For some geographical context, Queenstown was 42km (about 45 minutes drive) east of Strahan, 91km (under 90 minutes drive) west of Lake St Clair, 110km (over 90 minutes drive) southwest of Cradle Mountain, and 260km (over 3.5 hours drive) northwest of Hobart.

Right to left sweep from downstream to upstream before examining the falls


Fixated on the falls when we first saw in full flow back in late November 2006

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Tagged with: tasmanian wilderness, franklin, gordon, wild rivers, queenstown, tasmania, australia, waterfall, world heritage, nelson river



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Johnny Cheng

About Johnny Cheng

Johnny Cheng is the founder of the World of Waterfalls and author of A Guide to New Zealand Waterfalls. Over the last 2 decades, he has visited thousands of waterfalls in over 40 countries around the world and nearly 40 states in the USA.
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