Our Amazing Tasmanian Adventure
Tasmania has so much to offer. From the white sandy beaches along the Bay of Fires to the hubble and bubble of Hobart with Mount Wellington gazing down upon the city’s inhabitants like a shepherd guarding its flock; from the unspoilt natural beauty of the Franklin-Gordon Wild Rivers National Park to the snow-capped peaks in the Cradle Mountain-Lake Saint Clair National Park; from the breathtaking view of Wineglass Bay, to the endless ocean panorama from the top of The Nut in Stanley.
We drove off the Spirit of Tasmania in March and it was almost 12 weeks before we drove back on again. During that time, we stayed in 13 different locations and each one held its own secret – a treasure just waiting to be discovered.
1. Launceston. Our first destination and we were simply surprised to find Cataract Gorge, hiding, right in the heart of the city. The temperature dropped, giving us a taste of things to come, and sending us to the shops to buy some warmer clothes.
2. Low Head. Although we only spent one night here, passing over Batman Bridge was rather spectacular. A major bushfire close by was the reason we didn’t stay longer. At this stage, we had four days before we had to arrive at a house sitting job in St Helens.
3. Swimcart Beach. At the time I said: An absolute must – DO NOT drive past. This thought hasn’t changed and, not only was this our first free camp, it was also the most spectacular place to simply sit and watch the water. Abounding with white sandy beaches, blue water reflecting the blue skies above, the Sun and Moon rising over the water – Swimcart Beach is a slice of heaven.
4. St Helens. Where we house sat for eight weeks and the primary reason for going to Tasmania when we did. A lovely spot on the north east coast and the gateway to the Bay of Fires, the Game Fishing Capital of Tasmania and from where we discovered some amazing treasures like Little Blue Lake, Halls Water Falls, and Saint Columba Falls. Dean loved being here as every day he had a short drive to a surf beach and it was considered ‘packed’ when there were 10 – 15 other surfers in the water. (He is accustomed to competing with 30 or 40 other surfers.)
5. Freycinet National Park. This is the gateway to Wineglass Bay – rated one of the ten best beaches in the world and (I’m guessing) one of the most photographed bays in Tasmania. The view from the lookout was breathtaking. Dean and I then walked down to the bay and from there continued around the base of Mount Mayson – an epic 5½ hour bushwalk.
6. Triabunna. From here we took a cruise around Maria Island that included lunch and time to walk through the remains of the penal colony. We camped (free of charge) in a paddock across the road from the Tourist Information Centre and this was the last time we did so. With the weather getting colder, the further south we travelled, we opted to stay in caravan parks from this point forward, just to have the ability to turn on the heater.
7. Port Arthur. This was sad, but necessary stop all the same. I felt I couldn’t visit Tasmania without witnessing for myself places of historical significance. It was difficult, particularly the solitary confinement cells at the Coal Mines Historic Site. While at Port Arthur though, Dean relished seeing Ship Stern Bluff and so badly wanted to have a surf.
8. Hobart. By the time we reached Hobart, it was Just a Little Chilly. Being back in the city was a nice break for a city girl like me, but also a necessary ‘to do’ as we desperately needed to stock up on supplies. Unfortunately, the weather turned nasty, the snow began to fall (quite unseasonably) and the roads south from Hobart were cut (when we wanted to head down that way anyway), so this was as far south as we went. But this sudden change in the weather also meant we were able to take a walk along a snow-covered track on Mount Wellington, past trees and ferns bending under the weight of the snow. It was amazing.
9. New Norfolk. Just a quick trip up the road from Hobart, New Norfolk was simply a van parking spot while we visited Mt Field National Park, a part of the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area, where we walked past waterfalls and amid giant swamp gums. We then drove further up the mountain to Lake Dobson to be in the thick of recent snowfall. It was bitterly cold, but the thrill for the day was seeing the Fagus – a deciduous shrub endemic to the highlands of Tasmania, Australia. I would see it again at Cradle Mountain.
10. Strahan. This was not where we planned to be, but where we ended up all the same. Despite the rain, we took a cruise on the Gordon River which was a wonderful way to spend the day. For me, a highlight was entering another part of the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area and seeing ancient trees that have more than stood the test of time. The remains of the 2,300 year old tree, for example, does not record any signs of fire damage. Wow!
11. Cradle Mountain. Another part of the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area, this destination was (Almost) Beyond Words and by far the pinnacle of our Tasmanian adventure (if you’ll pardon the pun. Arriving back in March, this was where I wanted to head immediately. I cannot remember why we didn’t, but I’m glad we waited. We walked around Dove Lake on a beautiful sunny day – on average there are only 20 per year. Two days would never have been long enough, but forces beyond our control (impending bad weather) ensured we moved on before we found ourselves frozen to death. Ok, that wouldn’t have happened, but -3° C (26.6° F) was cold enough.
12. Stanley. By far, the prettiest town in Tasmania. I could easily have put down roots. The only one, slightly teensy-weensy, little problem – no surf. But I must admit, Dean also liked Stanley and agreed it would be the loveliest place to live if only there was a wave or two to be had every now and then.
13. Devonport. A sad destination to reach as this meant it was time to board the Spirit of Tasmania and return to the mainland, but not before we saw a few sights and captured a few sunsets on the ocean.
We learnt so much about this beautiful part of Australia during our brief stay.
First and foremost – Don’t drive at night. There is so much wildlife in Tasmania and driving at night, particularly on lonely country roads, might see you (that is, your car) hitting something. We saw so much – I can’t even say it – you know what we saw and what I’m talking about, and we were not prepared to be responsible for killing any wildlife. We never drove at night.
Tasmania only has two types of roads. Main roads are the first type. They are paved with bitumen. Some are wide, but, away from populated areas, most are rather narrow. The second type are graded dirt roads and it’s surprising how quickly bitumen turns into dirt. It is not necessary to have a 4WD to drive on the dirt roads. All roads can be silky smooth or very bumpy and most are full of twists and turns.
Notwithstanding the roads, Tasmanian drivers have two speeds. Flat out and stop! Most of them drive flat out on narrow roads full of twists and turns, hugging the centre line, and swerving back to their side just in time to miss you coming from the opposite direction. I did not drive far or often during our stay. It was too nerve racking for me.
Hobart has a lot of cars. Almost half of Tasmania’s population live in the state’s capital or the surrounding greater Hobart area (marginally above 218,000) and considering this relatively low number, the volume of traffic was very surprising. Perhaps this is due to the wide reaches of the Derwent River and the Port of Hobart (one of the best deepwater ports in the world) that divide the city, and that buses are the only form of public transport. (None of this takes away from the beauty of the city though.)
Always pack warm clothes and an umbrella. Regardless of when you are visiting, the weather can and does changes rapidly. Despite the rain, I loved the weather we experienced and more than one local told us: “If the weather was perfect all the time, more people would live here.”
For three months Dean and I called Tasmania home and for me it was not long enough. I loved ever part of Tasmania, those places we were able to visit this time around anyway, and I won’t be surprised if we visit again soon. There were so many other areas we wanted to see but couldn’t for one reason or another.
Surprise, surprise though – I will not be shocked if one day we call Tasmania home.
Perhaps we’ll be Hobartians, or St Helians, or simply Taswegians.