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Dusting Off an Old Post: Tasmania Road Trip (January 2011)

I’m a little late with this month’s old post. It might not come as a surprise, but we’re off to Australia once again! Last time we explored southwestern Australia; today let’s go to my favorite region Down Under and on a Tasmania road trip

After spending the winter (summer?) holidays in Sydney, I drove back to Shepparton to pick up a good friend of mine, Alex, who was still working on farms, picking fruit and pruning trees.

We had booked tickets for the Spirit of Tasmania, the ferry that operates between Melbourne, Victoria, and Launceston, Tasmania. So, we drove the two hours to Melbourne, slept in the car and boarded the Spirit early the next morning.

Spirit of Tasmania ferry.
Spirit of Tasmania.

We were going to drive around Tasmania for two weeks, which would be sufficient time to see all highlights and even more. And highlights are plenty on that stunning little island southeast of the Australian mainland.

Tasmania’s main road is an actual loop and it passes by all places of interest. What follows here will be a rather short chronological summary of each day that we spent on the island.

Monday

Visit to Launceston, Cataract Gorge and the Tamar Valley. Pretty nice day with some sunshine and clouds. We were lucky to be there at that time; those clouds we saw were fully saturated rain clouds. The weather was going to get a lot worse…

Cataract Gorge, Tasmania.
Cataract Gorge

Tuesday

We drove past St Columba Falls towards the, what is supposed to be, stunning Bay of Fires on the northeast coast. It was a dull and grey day though, which was kind of disappointing.

Bay of Fires, Tasmania.
Bay of Fires.

Pitched the tent next to the car, started a small fire and cooked some food.

Camping Bay of Fires, Tasmania road trip
Camping at the Bay of Fires.

Then it started raining…

Wednesday

The plan was to go to Freycinet National Park today. At the park entrance there was a sign that had the weather forecast on it. Suffice to say that it didn’t look promising. Rain, rain and rain until at least Friday night.

So, it was an easy decision to drive to Hobart and go to see the island’s capital first.

Thursday

Spent the day in Hobart exploring the city (using a city walk in my Lonely Planet, which can be very helpful at times!). Hobart is Tasmania’s capital, but it really doesn’t feel like a city at all; let alone a capital city. There’s not a single skyscraper. It’s really just a big fishermen’s town. It’s awesome!

Hobart Harbour, Tasmania.
Hobart Harbour.

We met a bunch of people in the hostel the first night and we decided to go and see Port Arthur, the old prison. No matter how beautiful and peaceful Tasmania is now, the history behind it is horrific. I’m not going to bore you guys with more information here; there’s plenty of that to be found on the internet.

Friday

A humid, rainy and grey visit to Port Arthur. That was quite impressive to say the least.The entrance fee was 32 dollar, but we managed to sneak in for free.

Port Arthur, Tasmania.
Old prison in Port Arthur.

Originally Port Arthur was a concentration camp. Anyone who had done something wrong in England (stealing a simple apple was enough sometimes) was put on a ship and brought here (or Sydney) and was forced to do hard physical labor.

At first prisoners were deported to America, but after the English lost the War of Indepence they had to start looking for another place. In other words, Australia started off a concentration camp for criminals.

Port Arthur, Tasmania.
Old church in Port Arthur.

We spent the evening at the hostel drinking goon, the classic backpacker booze Down Under.

Saturday

Went to Salamanca Market, a big open-air market in the harbor of Hobart. Found all three of the Lord of the Rings books for only nine dollar!

Salamanca Market in Hobart, Tasmania.
Salamanca Market.

We left for Freycinet NP in the afternoon. The weather was perfect by now.

Driving Tasmania road trip.
Driving towards Freycinet.
Wineglass Bay, Freycinet NP, Tasmania.
Wineglass Bay, Freycinet NP.

Sunday

Sunset in Wineglass Bay, Tasmania.
Sunset in Wineglass Bay.

Spent the morning laying on the beach in Wineglass Bay and the afternoon hiking through the national park. Absolutely breathtaking! Blue skies, blue water and white beaches. And there were no people around us at all. None, at what has to be one the most beautiful beaches on the planet.

Beach in Freycinet National Park, Tasmania.
Pebble beach in Freycinet NP.
Hiking trough Freycinet NP, Tasmania road trip
Hiking trough Freycinet NP.
Wineglass Bay, Tasmania.
Wineglass Bay.

Although (or because of) there aren’t any people, the wildlife is abundant. Mostly possums, which are completely innocent and even cute, but because we were sleeping outside on a mattress it took a while to get used to all the sounds and movement around. At one point during the night I even woke up because there was a possum sleeping on my legs!

Possum in Tasmania.
A nightly visitor.

I also spent about an hour just laying on my back while watching the stars. It was the most incredible sky I have ever seen, countless stars and a clearly visible Milky Way.

Wineglass Bay, Tasmania.
Snoozing on the beach.

Monday

We packed our stuff early in the morning and hiked the two-hour hike over the Hazards back to the car park. Pretty tough with a fully packed backpack.

Drove to Mount Field National Park in the afternoon.

Mount Field National Park, Tasmania road trip.
Mount Field National Park.

Tuesday

Mount Field is known for its tall eucalypt trees. They’re in fact the second tallest trees in the world, after the Californian redwoods, and the tallest flowering plants. Tasmania is one of the few places you can still walk among them; southwestern Australia is another.

Mount Field National Park, Tasmania.
Waterfall in Mount Field NP.
Echidna in Tasmania.
A funny Echidna.

So walking is what we did. We went on a few short to medium distance hikes during the day. Stunning once again!

Jumped back in the car in the evening and made our way to Lake St Clair.

Landscape in Tasmania.
A great view!

Wednesday

It was a little bit rainy in the morning, but we left for an ambitious hike through Cradle Mountain – Lake St Clair National Park nevertheless.

Hiking near Lake St Clair, Tasmania.
A long hike in Cradle Mountain – Lake St Clair NP.

Honestly, the most amazing and unimaginable landscapes await you at moments you least expect them. Tasmania is so incredibly diverse, it’s just breathtaking. By noon the sky had cleared and the sun was shining down on us. It was a truely fantastic hike that day.

Lake St Clair, Tasmania.
Lake St Clair.

In late afternoon we drove towards Ocean Beach on the west coast. David, a German guy we met in Hobart and who was part of our group that went to Port Arthur, had higly recommended this. We fired up a barbecue (there are public barbecues for people to use everywhere in Australia by the way), make ourselves an awesome dinner and went to the beach to watch the sunset, which was nothing less than spectacular.

Sunset at Ocean Beach, Tasmania.
Ocean Beach sunset.

Thursday

A quiet day. We visited a small town library to charge our batteries, figuratively and literally, and drove north towards Cradle Mountain in the evening.

Friday

It was a rainy morning once again, but we decided to go on a hike anyway. In general, as we now knew, it was always misty and rainy in the morning, but it tended to clear up by lunchtime.

Cradle Mountain, Tasmania.
Cradle Mountain in the morning.
Cradle Mountain, Tasmania road trip.
Cradle Mountain in the afternoon.

Cradle Mountain was seriously impressive. This is the place were the famous Overland Track begins, a multi-day 88-kilometre hike to Lake St Clair. I put that on my list back then and it still is; I am doing that some day!

Hiking Cradle Mountain, Tasmania.
Boardwalk near Cradle Mountain.

We drove towards the north coast in the afternoon, arrived earlier than expected and went to visit Table Cape, the remains of an ancient volcano.

Table Cape, Tasmania.
Table Cape.

Saturday

We spent our last day in Tasmania driving along the northwest coast. Paid a visit to Fossil Bluff and the Nut, resulting in spectacular views once again. The first fossils of a marsupial were found in Fossil Bluff. It’s nothing extremely exciting, but I wanted to go take a look anyway.

The Nut, Tasmania, Australia.
The beautiful Tasmania north coast, seen from the Nut.

We concluded two totally amazing weeks in Tassie with fis hand chips on the beach, drove back to Devonport and boarded the ferry back to Melbourne…

Fish and chips on the beach, Tasmania road trip.
A perfect ending to an amazing two weeks.

Some side notes:

During that time Tasmania suffered from massive floods in the northeast (in fact the entire eastern part of Australia was flooded). We were there on the first two days of our road trip (see the first Monday), which was extremely lucky. A few days later and we would have been stuck.
We stayed ahead of the bad weather pretty much the entire time after that. During the last week the weather was as brilliant as it get in Tasmania.

Tasmania is a part of Australia that most tourists and/or backpackers tend to skip. This blows my mind. In my opinion it’s the most beautiful and diverse state of the whole country. The scenery is phenomenal and the people are so friendly. And on top of that, the distances are not as enormous.

Maybe it’s a good thing that there is no mass tourism there. It still is unspoiled. A third of Tasmania, for example, is true wilderness. There are places in the southeast that have never seen a (modern) human being. No one even knows what kind of animals are living there; the Thylacine or Tasmanian tiger is said to be extinct since the early 20th century, but it may as well be thriving in that remote and undiscovered part of the world. There are reported, but unverified, sightings by the way.

If you would take any, any at all, national park in Tasmania and place it in Europe or the United States, there would be swarms of tourists, food stalls, dozens of souvenir shops,… There’s nothing like that in Tasmania.

Tasmania road trip, Australia.

Tassie rocks!

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