One blissful week in Tasmania
January 1, 1970
Tasmania was unlike anywhere I’ve ever been before. It was quite simply beautiful. Not long after setting foot on the heart-shaped island had I fallen in love with it; I was captivated by its unique wildlife, spectacular natural scenery and the laid-back lifestyle that Tassies lead. A trip to Tasmania hadn’t always been the plan, however after discovering the cheap price of flights from Melbourne, myself and my family decided to spend a week on the island, and it was a decision we’d never regret. After much research into how to get around, we decided to hire a car (public transport is lacking) and wasn’t disappointed; every twist and turn of the road brought stunning scenery. Sugar-white sandy beaches, crystal clear lakes and impressive mountain ranges were among the many sights coming from every direction that didn’t fail to capture our attention. We wouldn’t have time to go everywhere, but we could give it a good go!
There are two ways of getting to Tasmania; you can fly over or you can get the Spirit of Tasmania which sails from Melbourne to Devonport. We arrived early in Launceston, Tasmania’s second largest city, and headed straight to the Cataract Gorge which is a mere 10 minute drive from the city centre. This gave us our first impression of what the island would be like, and it’s fair to say we were impressed. The area offered various walking and hiking tracks within a scenic natural environment, with peacocks and the worlds longest single span chairlift ($15 return). As we wandered through we passed the odd local walking through the pristine gardens, swimming in the free public swimming pool, or grabbing their daily coffee from the café before work. From here, we headed into the city and had lunch at City Park.
After lunch we drove from Launceston to the Bay of Fires; with its abundence of stiking-orange rocks (many people mistakenly think the Bay gets its name from these rocks, but it was actually named by Captain Tobias Furneaux who saw fires of Aboriginal people on the beaches). The Bay extends from Eddystone Point in the north and finishes further south in Binalong Bay. Binalong Bay was the stuff of dreams; a picturesque beach with crystalline waters, brilliant blue sky and dazzling sunshine. I couldn’t help thinking that it would make a perfect setting for a holiday home… If only it weren’t so far away from my home country of England! We were soon competing to see who could get the best picture (although it would have been more challenging to get a bad photo) and we squabbled over who had managed to capture the Bay in all its glory! In the end, it was my brother Tom who snuck off and got the best shot!
We settled that night in the quiet town of St Mary’s, where we stayed at the St Mary’s Hotel. The restaurant here was incredible, serving up HUGE portions of delicious eats, our favorites of which were the Aussie-loved chicken parmigiana and the ‘fisherman’s basket’ which included the local catches of the day. We went to bed that night with full, happy tummies… nothing can rival the sleep of a well-fed traveller!
We left St Mary’s early to start the ‘Great Eastern Drive’; 220km of stunning coastal scenery and impressive national parks, which begins in St Helens and ends in Orford. The beaches along the East coast of Tasmania are unrivalled by any I’ve seen before. The breathtaking ocean views and azure waters of towns such as Bicheno and Coles Bay made it impossible not to stop to get a better look and wriggle our toes in the silky soft sand! The plan for the day was to explore Freycinet National Park. As with most national parks, there were several different itineraries; various walking tracks taking different times. We decided to chose the 10 minute walk to Richardsons Beach (we were on a tight schedule, after all!) which provided a view of The Hazards, a rugged mountain range, and the 1 ½ hour walk to the Wineglass Bay lookout. The view of Wineglass Bay didn’t disappoint. Although we’d heard that the weather in Tasmania could be unpredictable, we’d been blessed with blissful sunshine, which magnified the beauty of the Bay. There are big rocks that you can climb on to capture a better photo, but be careful you don’t slip and go tumbling down the mountain like I nearly did!
It’s always great to see animals in the wild, and Freycinet National Park was rife with wild Bennett’s wallabies. Unlike kangaroos, who have adopted a rather nonchalant attitude to humans (and seem to enjoy winding me up by turning their heads away from the camera when I attempt a selfie!), wallabies seem a little timid and afraid… it wasn’t long before they were scurrying back into the undergrow
th! Afterwards we drove a short way to start the 20 minute walk leading to Cape Tourville Lighthouse, which provided an incredible view of The Hazards, with White-bellied sea eagles soaring across the sky and Pelicans floating on the deep blue waters.
We began our journey further down the coast by taking a short de-tour to the quaint and charming village of Richmond, where we had lunch overlooking the oldest bridge in Australia. It was a lovely setting for a picnic; the sun was beating down, the grass was a luscious green and a line of school children were happily swinging their lunch boxes as they ambled over the bridge.
In the afternoon we drove further south to Taranna, where we spent a few hours at the Tasmanian Devil Unzoo (tickets were $33). Wild Tasmanian Devils (which actually look nothing like what the Looney Tunes cartoon led us to believe!) are only found in Tasmania – hence the name – and are nocturnal, coming out at night to scavenge. Unfortunately, the only wild Tassie Devil we saw in Tas was lying dead on the side of the road (road kill is rife in Tasmania!!) so the Unzoo gave us the opportunity to see and learn more about the fascinating species. We were also able to feed kangaroos, wallabies and Tasmanian pademelon at no extra cost. Although none of the kangaroos would humour me, I did manage to snap a picture with a photobombing goose (though unfortunately I don’t think ‘goose selfies’ will catch on!). We then travelled to Eaglehawk Neck, at the bottom of the coast, and viewed different natural rock formations, such as the Tasman Arch, the Devils Kitchen and my favourite of which was the Tasman Blowhole. We also visited the Tessellated Pavement, which is a rock surface that has been divided by fractures, producing loaf-like shapes on the ground.
Due to mistakes made when booking accommodation, we didn’t actually manage to visit Tasmania’s waterfront capital, Hobart. Instead, we drove straight through Hobart to Mt Wellington, which you can access by walking, driving or cycling. The pictures taken from the summit didn’t do the view justice. It was pretty incredible, revealing the entire city and surroundings. I imagine it would be even more spectacular when covered in a layer of glistening white snow!
[NOTE: if you love food, wine and weekend markets, Hobart should not be missed! As well as the weekly Salamanca markets, the capital offers annual festivals, such as The Taste of Tasmania, which is a popular food festival, showcasing some of the islands delicious local food and beverages].
The afternoon was spent at Mt Field National Park, a haven for any waterfall lover! It’s hosts three waterfalls; Russell Falls, Horseshoe Falls and Ladybarron Falls. The former of which is a tiered cascade, with a walking track framed by tall tree ferns and inhabited by glow worms which can be seen at night. The latter of which should only be attempted if you can manage the 250 steps uphill near the end!
We stayed that night in Bronte Park, a small town in the middle of nowhere! It was here (as well as the other small towns such as Queenstown and Sheffield) where we learned of the Tassie’s laid-back attitude, as when asked what time check-out was, the owner simple said, “No worries… its Bronte Park!”
The beauty of Tasmania is that there is so much natural scenery you hardly have to spend a penny! We spent the fifth day of our travels at the Lake St Clair Cradle Mountain National Park. On the way we drove down winding roads with views of deep valleys and mountain ranges. First of all we wandered through the wilderness of the Franklin River Nature trail, which offers you the chance to spot a platypus through a specially designed viewing point! [NOTE: the best times to see platypus are at dawn or dusk]. From here, we walked to Donagh’s Hill (40 min return) which is in the middle of a huge plain, surrounded by mountains, of which the jagged peak of the Frenchmen’s Cap stands out. We finished our wandering at Nelson Falls (20 min return).
We were up early to travel to the Cradle Mountain Lake St Clair National Park, where we would be attempting the gruelling Cradle Mountain hike to the summit. It’s something that simply cannot be missed, and is one of the first things I think of when reminiscing on our Tasmania travels. We were well prepared, with backpacks full of water, sandwiches, bananas, chocolate bars and energy drinks… everything you need for a very long day of walking! There are several different choices of walking tracks, including a walk around Dove Lake and the 6 day Overland track. We had chosen the summit walk, which begins with a choice between two different paths leading to Marion’s Lookout; one which is quicker but very steep, and the other which is a longer, more scenic walk that takes you around Lake Lilla and the Wombat Pool. Once you reach Marions Lookout, you are rewarded with a stunning view of the beautiful Dove Lake that is situated below the impressive, rugged mountain.
From here you walk along a wide stretch of land – it was this part of the walk that we felt like Aragorn, Legolas and Gimli from The Lord of the Rings, with the menacing mountain as our backdrop. The initial part of the climb wasn’t too difficult with small rocks scattered around. As you join the constant trail of people walking up and down the mountain, it becomes more difficult; small rocks turn into huge rocks and boulders that you have to manoeuvre your way across, often using your body strength to pull yourself up! I won’t deny that for most of the climb I was absolutely petrified, fearing for our lives! It takes a brave heart to reach the summit of Cradle Mountain, one that is rewarded with an incredible view and a relaxing, pleasant descent.
[NOTE: if you aren’t one for climbing, you could instead travel further north and visit little coastal towns such as Penguin and Devonport.]
After finally arriving back at the car park, we made our way to the small town of Sheffield, famous for its murals which portray the areas colourful history and scenery.
Our final day in Tasmania was spent travelling from Sheffield back to Launceston, where we would be catching our flight. As we had a few hours to spare, we travelled up the Tamar River to a small town called Beauty Point. There’s no guessing where the name has come from; the view of the river was simply stunning!
TOP TIPS FOR TRAVELLING IN TASMANIA:
- Plan ahead! Tasmania is a small island, thus accommodation is limited. Check to see whether it is high-season or if any events will be on during your stay; these factors often cause prices to rise and may cause accommodation to get booked up quickly, leaving you with no-where to stay! Also make sure you know where the local supermarkets are and what time they close. Tasmania’s little towns often only have one store – if that! – and these close early!
- Be wary of the weather. Although we were blessed with high temperatures, I’ve been told that the weather can be very unpredictable. Take clothing for all seasons.
- If you’re someone who relies on your phone signal, I’d recommend using Telstra. Other mobile phone companies have limited coverage in Tasmania.
- When you arrive at the airport, take advantage of the leaflet and booklet stands. These have great maps and ideas in for your travels. You can also find 60 great short walks here.
- We hired a car because there were 5 of us. If you are on your own or in a pair you might want to go with a tour group, such as Jump Tours, who do a similar circuit of the island.
- I would recommend at least two weeks on the island – simply because there is so much to do! We only had a week to explore so were unable to do many of the things we wanted, such as Motezuma Falls, The Nut, Strahan and the Tamar Valley!
- Don’t forget your camera. Ever!