Hiking St Patricks Head For The Best Views Of Tasmania’s East Coast

You may have seen the almost perfect symmetry of St Patricks Head as you drive through the Fingal Valley towards the east coast of Tasmania. Its pointed triangular peak casts a long shadow towards the sea at sunset and almost touches the southern edge of Ben Lomond National Park at sunrise. 

This is where we first noticed St Patricks Head and knew we had to climb the bouldered peak to witness the incomparable views of Tasmania’s East Coast. We have now completed the short 3 km hike on multiple occasions, often for a sunrise photography mission close to home, and it never disappoints.

St Patricks Head is a must-do Tasmanian hike for your east coast Tassie road trip. You can very easily add this stop if you’re just passing through, or as a day trip from St Helens. In this post, we will cover all the information you need for a successful mission to the peak of St Patricks Head. 

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Sunrise shining on the peak of St Patricks Head Tasmania

St Patricks Head Hike Overview

3 km return

Grade 3 – Some experience recommended 

2 hrs

Elevation Gain
291 m

Highest Elevation
655 m

Small car park, public toilets in St Marys town

Entrance Fees

Getting To St Patricks Head

The St Patricks Head hike begins on the northern outskirts of St Marys just before you enter St Marys Pass. St Patricks Head is 1 hr 40 mins east of Launceston, 2 hrs 45 mins north of Hobart, and 40 mins south of St Helens. Google maps has two locations marked for the trailhead and one takes you to a dead-end rather than the actual car park. For the right directions, use the map below and make sure to turn onto Irish Town Rd from the Esk Hwy and not Gillies Rd.

Note: There is a sign signifying the St Patricks Head turn off from the highway at Irish Town Rd.

You may feel as if you’ve entered somebody’s home when you reach the end of St Patricks Head Rd, but if you park off to the right, you will find a gate and a sign to indicate the beginning of the hike. 

St Patricks Head Trail Notes

If you’re looking for a short hike that offers sensational views of the east coast, this is it. The St Patricks Head hike is our favourite local trail for sunrise, sunset or to simply get the legs moving. 

But just because this hike is short, don’t expect it to be a cruisy groomed path – this is still Tasmania and as with the vast majority of hikes in the northeast, you can be sure to find a gnarled forest and a bouldered peak. 

The Forest Of St Patrick’s Head

Walking through Bobs Gate at the beginning of the St Patricks Head Hike Trail Head

A small gate leading to a paddock indicates the unlikely beginning of the St Patricks Head Hike. Make sure to close ‘Bob’s Gate’ behind you as you follow the skinny dirt track northeast towards the forest’s edge. Look out for a giant tree halfway along the meadow that has its entire insides hollowed out, you can literally stand tall inside the ancient trunk!

As you reach the forest, a sign indicates the official beginning of the St Patricks Head trail and guides you under a canopy of blanket leaf and myrtle beech trees. The trail, littered with decaying forest flora and funky mushroom species, gently ascends as you traverse the southern slope of St Patricks Head.

Climbing the steep summit of St Patricks Head

The corpses of giant eucalyptus trees lie across the path in some sections, requiring you to clamber over their moss-covered trunks to continue along the trail. These trees can become quite slippery in damp weather so it’s best to check your footing before trusting its decaying body. 

The Climb To The Summit Of St Patricks Head 

Climbing the steep summit of St Patricks Head

As the trail continues to climb, small openings in the dense forest offer glimpses of the coast in the distance, spurring you forward with fresh anticipation. After a kilometre of traversing, you will reach the beginning of the major push to the rocky summit of St Patricks Head.

At this point, there will be two trails to choose from – the original track and the newly refurbished section. The new section traverses for a little longer before ascending a set of rocks in a much more manageable way than the original track. 

Climbing higher, the boulders grow in size and number as you scramble in between and over the obstacles, following the markers for the easiest route to the peak. There was once a rickety old rusted ladder that assisted in one of the trickiest sections, however, it is now replaced with a single metal rod driven into the rock for your foot to balance on as you haul yourself over the boulder.

St Patricks Head’s Summit

watching sunrise from a mountain top in the best beginner hiking gear

Once you reach the trig point, the landscape out to the west is revealed, showcasing the vast Fingal Valley and the precipitous peak of Stacks Bluff far in the distance. Lush farmlands press up against densely forested foothills that lead to a myriad of mountain peaks layering the northeast of Tasmania. 

In the east, the entire coast from the Bay of Fires to Bicheno sprawls before you, the sun reflecting off the deep blue sea that feels impossibly close. You could spend a good chunk of time attempting to name each bay and finding all the small villages that line Tasmania’s east coast.

At sunrise or sunset, the perfectly pointed peak of St Patricks Head casts a triangle shadow over the valleys below. At sunrise, the point of the shadow meets the sea and at sunset, it almost touches the foothills of Stacks Bluff. Both times of day offer a spectacle that’s well worth the twilight mission.

Layers of mountains during sunrise at St Patricks Head

Additional Information For Hiking St Patricks Head

Best Time To Hike St Patricks Head

The best time to hike St Patricks Head in our opinion is winter. You may think we are crazy, seeing as Tasmania has a reputation for being bitingly fresh in the winter months, but we have solid reasons for our choice. 

Firstly, it’s a fact that sunrises and sunsets burn brighter in the winter months due to lower humidity levels and cleaner air. And secondly, these occasions take place at a far more convenient time in winter than in summer. 

Because St Patricks Head is such a perfect location to watch either the sunrise or sunset, we highly recommend catching one or the other. But don’t forget your headtorch and an extra layer of clothing for the peak!

Taking Photos of the Sunrise over the ocean from St Patricks Head

Leave No Trace

Our wild places are becoming less and less wild as the years progress and it is each and every one of our responsibilities to protect our environment as best we can. The Leave No Trace principles are there to ensure we leave a location the same – or better – than we found it. These principles are:

  1. Plan ahead and prepare
  2. Travel and camp on durable surfaces
  3. Dispose of waste properly 
  4. Leave what you find
  5. Minimise campfire impacts
  6. Respect wildlife
  7. Be considerate of others

There are no rubbish bins or toilet facilities at St Patricks Head so make sure to pack out what you pack in, this includes food scraps which can be detrimental to the native animals. The closest public toilets are located in St Mary’s which is less than a 10-minute drive west of the trailhead.

What To Bring For The St Patricks Head Hike

The St Patricks Head hike is short and moderately difficult, however, it is always good practice to bring the hiking essentials on every hike. This is the list of things we carry with us on all of our hikes, minus the overnight camping equipment for day hikes of course!

Essential Hiking Packing List

  • Topographic Map and Compass – It’s best to avoid relying solely on your phone, which can run out of battery. 
  • Digital Map – In addition to a paper map, you can use AllTrails to download the route and follow along with the inbuilt GPS.
  • First Aid Kit – You can visit this post if you’re unsure what should go into a first aid kit for hiking.
  • Emergency Beacon – Our emergency beacon lives in our hiking packs permanently.
  • Reusable Water Bottles Avoid taking plastic water bottles that can break easily and add to the overwhelming amount of plastic pollution. We also suggest bringing a water filtration system to treat river water.
  • Head Torch Don’t forget the spare batteries! Look for a headtorch with a minimum of 100 lumens. 
  • Sturdy Hiking Shoes We recommend hiking boots over trail runners for longer hikes, where the trail is unstable and can become very muddy. 
  • Long pants or gaiters Tasmania has a thriving population of leeches.
  • Down Jacket and Thermals Staying warm while hiking is extremely important and these items play a key role, the mountains are unpredictable, best be prepared.
  • Rain Jacket and Rain Pants Rain pants are optional but can provide an extra layer of warmth in miserable conditions. 
  • Sun Protection – The UV rays are stronger at higher altitudes.
  • Sleeping Gear – Make sure to pack a tent, a warm sleeping bag and an inflatable mat for overnight hikes. The mountains can get very cold at night, even in summer.
  • Cooking Stove Nothing beats a warm, satisfying meal after a big day of hiking.
  • Emergency Snacks – You can never have too much food and who doesn’t love snacks!
  • Camera Gear – We never travel anywhere without our camera, tripod or drone!
Walking through frost covered fields at the start of St Patricks Head Hike

Where To Stay Near St Patricks Head

St Patricks Head is located just outside of St Marys and a 45-minute drive south of St Helens, the largest town on the east coast of Tasmania. The closest free camping to the St Patricks Head trailhead is Shelly Point Campground in between Beaumaris and Scamander in the north. For other camping options close by, you can download the WikiCamps app.

Accommodation In St Marys

Accommodation In Scamander

Accommodation In St Helens