Visitors urged to plan park trips

TOURISTS and locals flocking to Tasmania's national parks over the holiday period have been urged to plan ahead to avoid disappointment.

The state's most popular parks like Freycinet and Cradle Mountain are overflowing with visitors, and the Overland Track is booked out until February.

Environment Minister Brian Wightman said people planning to visit Tasmania's national parks should do their research first.

"Tasmania's national parks and reserves, coastal areas, rivers and mountains are beautiful but unpredictable weather can turn them into harsh and unforgiving places and the unwary can be caught out," Mr Wightman said.

"It is essential that everyone venturing into our great outdoors take precautions against sudden changes in weather, acquaint themselves with campfire safety and stay on formed roads and tracks."

About 650,000 people visited Tasmania's national parks last year, with 191,000 visiting Freycinet, 170,000 visiting Cradle Mountain and 100,000 visiting Mount Field.

Park visitor numbers have been declining since 2005 following a drop in regional tourism, but there have been signs of a resurgence in the past 12 months.

Tourism Minister Scott Bacon said Tasmania's national parks were essential to drawing tourists, local and international, to regional areas.

"Our state contains many environmental treasures and protecting them, in ways that do not block off access or stifle development, can only be good for tourism," Mr Bacon said.

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