Devonport – Railton – Cradle Mountain – Strahan – Queenstown – Nelson Falls – Lake St Clair – Gordon River Dam – Mount Fields – Cockle Creek – Bruny Island – Richmond – Hobart – Port Arthur – St Helens – Freycinet – Bay of Fires – Waterhaven – Low Head – Grindelwald- Launceston – Longford – Jacobs Ladder – Ross – Oatlands – Liffey Falls – Mole Creek – Stanley – Railton – Devonport
After much deliberation it was decided that we were going to visit Tasmania. There’s two ways to visit Tasmania; fly or sail.
Flying is the quick way but for us, we wanted to take our car/house across so we chose the ferry. The Spirit of Tasmania is the only ferry operator travelling across the Bass Strait from Melbourne to Devonport.
Sadly it’s a nine and half hour crossing across the roughest sea in the world so it’s not exactly plain sailing. (Sorry, I couldn’t resist!) If you’re planning on doing the journey stock up on travel sickness tablets and remember headphones/book/tablet because it’s a long old ride! But; it’s so worth it.
Tasmania is a wonderful part of Australia so different from the mainland and so much smaller meaning you don’t have to worry about long distance driving and you see a lot more over those distances.
We began our journey by driving down to Cradle Mountain which is home to several of Tasmania’s great walks namely Dove Lake which is the walk we opted to do. Between 2-3 hours dependant on how many times you stop to take photos! The mountain is pretty spectacular from all angles. If you’re feeling more adventurous you can climb to the top or even walk the length of the National Park to Lake St Clair. Our time was limited in Tasmania and we had so much we wanted to see we opted for the lake walk and it was everything we wanted it to be. We visited when the weather was rather bleak and it made for an eerie experience but it all added to the atmosphere and it was really cool walking through a silent and misty rainforest.
A point to note; the Cradle Mountain National Park has wals for all and abilities. The park itself only has a car park at the visitor information; from there you hop on to a shuttle and just get on and off at whichever destinations/however many times you wish! It’s also worthwhile buying a National Parks Holiday Pass which costs $60 and lasts for 8 weeks. This pass allows you entry into all the parks in Tasmania and also can give you a free night camping in certain areas! An absolute must if you’re planning on visiting more than one and even better if you’re camping your way around!
From Cradle Mountain we delved through the mountains to Strahan. A strange place, not very friendly to tourists but it has beautiful sunsets and it’s also home to the famous Wilderness Railway and Sarah Island ferry. Both are pricey affairs and unfortunately we weren’t able to get on to the train as it was fully booked. That was no skin off our nose as we went further along to Queenstown taking in the marvels that Tasmania had to offer. It’s no lie when someone tells you, ‘you’ll want to pull the car over every 100 metres to take a photo’. It’s the truth! The landscape remains, almost, untouched and the focus of Tasmanians and the tourist industry is the preservation of the land rather than human superiority. Just the way it should be!Queenstown is famous for its mining industry and it’s only recently discovered grass again; before that the land was orange from the mining of copper, gold and iron. The once used mines now house a lookout where you can see a blue lake created from the mining. The landscape is incredible, like something created on a green screen, the colours and textures layer after layer seduce you as they mingle and marvel in front of your eyes. And, as if that wasn’t enough, Queenstown also has a waterfall. High in the mountain with a boardwalk running alongside it high off the ground. The waterfall was full of life due to the recent and terrible rain but the star of the show was the views over Queenstown. Mountains after mountains, green and brown tinged with burnt orange yet another a feast for the eyes; a feast certain to leave you with goosebumps and an enormous sense of gratitude.
Inspired by our sights in Queenstown the following day we were on the road early to try and cram as much in as possible in between Queenstown and the Gordon River Dam (around a 5 hour drive) and the early start was well and truly compensated!
We began in Nelson Falls, a short walk through dense forest greeted by native noises, crashing water and isolated from everything and everyone we met the Nelson Falls. Yet another spectacular waterfall which, gave me goosebumps, it’s incredible how something you see so often can be completely different from the last. We’ve seen a fair share of waterfalls but we still keep going back! There’s something magic about them, so invigorating and refreshing.
The drive along had a whole host of stops mainly wilderness walks, waterfalls and rainforests. If you have the time they have a Frenchman’s Cap walk which boasts 3-4 days hard walking. We didn’t do the walk but we did make it to the suspended bridge..very cool but scary! The water gushing underneath due to the constant and heavy rainfall was exhilarating and a humble reminder that you did not want to fall in!
The drive continued and it had rivers, picnic spots, revolutionary energy systems, look outs, a wall art sculpture and then you reach Lake st Clair. The other end of the Cradle Mountain National Park. The lake was spooky and still as if it were glass reflecting the landscape beautifully but without losing its own worth. The weather was terrible and sadly the view wasn’t the best and the walks were too muddy and rough for us; the unprepared explorers! Nevertheless; a spectacular place for a moment of clarity.
We continued the long drive through the mountainous landscape built as if only for giants and enchanted creatures as if it were made for a film and finally managed to get to the Gordon River Dam. Now, this is a place that will make you feel small and make you realise you are a mere dot in the big wide world! Breathtakingly high, an isolated treasure of the Tasmanian southwest. What makes it all the more special is that, although a lot of people visit you never feel like you’re just cattle being herded from A to B. You’re free to explore at you’re own leisure. If visiting, I’d highly recommend being silent and, if you time it right, you’d be able to hear a pin drop.
Feeling very spoilt and overwhelmed by all the marvels that we had seen we headed to the Mount Falls National Park which was set to be our home for the night but it also delivered many more delights. We took the short stroll to Russell Falls. Hands down; the best waterfall in the world. It look like Jungle Book and it is otherworldly. So big, so many different layers and levels, so full of life (we saw two platypuses!) and just paradise. Out of this world spectacular. (I told you I liked waterfalls!)
And, as if that wasn’t enough, we also saw the rare glowworms only seen in Tasmania. All round; a perfectly brilliant dayNext up was a drive down to Cockle Creek; the most southernly point of Tasmania and therefore the southern hemisphere. You can even take the whalers walk which take you around to the very most southern point whilst displaying whale bones and remains from a tragic and distant past. The whaling in this area was so bad that whales don’t actually go there anymore! We went for walk and we made it back in time to sit on the beach, go fishing (Nick even had an encounter with a particularly big sting ray) and watch the sunset whilst playing cards. Another area of Tasmania which just doesn’t have the tourist footfall and therefore is idyllic and pristine. So much so, it’s where the Tasmanians go for a weekend get away! The marshmallow sky and gentle crashing of the waves is a wonderful way to end your day and send yourself to sleep.
Due to a mistake with the ferry booking we ended up having an extra week in Tasmania which meant we could now be more liberal with our time and therefore we decided to take the short ferry trip over to Bruny Island. An island, off an island off an island! Very cool!A small and beautiful place filled with culture and history; there’s a craft brewery, cheese factory, chocolate factory, a beautiful lighthouse, a museum dedicated to the a Pacific, a lot of Captain Cook history and a very creepy quarantine. If you’re lucky you may even be able to see a penguin or two! The sea around Bruny is so clear and blue it’s incredible. Unfortunately a little chilly whilst we were there so we didn’t get in it was still very lovely to admire.From Bruny we were off to the capital; Hobart. A place we really wanted to visit but it was an absolute nightmare to navigate and find somewhere to stay (Hobart showgrounds; don’t bother!) So to put it off a little longer we headed outside of the city to a little town called Richmond; like the whole of Tasmania its famous for its convict buildings and bridges. The Richmond Bridge is a spectacular piece of work which has stood the test of time and looks quintessentially British. It’s very strange and it’s a theme that transmits throughout the whole of Tasmania and elements of Mainland Australia. I love it.
On to the city! Hobart is a super cool city filled with pubs, bars, museums, old convict buildings, breweries, a prison, a spectacular harbour, the famous MONA art gallery and everything in between. It was a very busy few days!
The cascade area of the city was my favourite. The buildings are all old and all the walls have stories to tell both cruel and inspiring. The Cascade female factory was a perfect example of this! Unbelievable that a place of detention also housed a winery! The buildings here are all overlooked by the mighty high eyes of Mount Wellington. If there was ever a place to be incarcerated then I think this would be it!
Further up the road is the Cascade Brewery; the oldest brewery in Australia and it looks like it could House the Addams family or Dracula. It was superb! We opted to do the tour (it would be rude not to) and we were taken round by a very passionate Tasmanian lad and then we had four drinks of our choice. We loved them all! If you’re ever in Tasmania be sure to try a Cascade lager as you can only buy the beer in Tasmania and it is yum!
Although neither of us are into art, really, we were told by everybody to take a visit to MONA; the museum of old and new art. At $28 it was pretty steep entry price and although there was some spectacular pieces, some eye-opening piece (the wall of vaginas…pardon the pun) the majority I just couldn’t understand. A tattooed man sitting on a pillar for six months of the year until he dies to be skinned to be art; strange. My favourite though; the digestive system in art form it was literally fed and it literally pooed. Giving a whole new meaning to some art being sh*t! However, the building (it’s built underground) and the word waterfall they’re the real showstoppers and made the trip across very worthwhile!
Hobart is full of markets so be sure to stop by and enjoy the samples and bargains of local produce. We enjoyed some mac and cheese and a meat platter with absolutely no regrets! The Salamanca market by Kelly’s Steps on a Saturday is the biggest in Australia and is a must if you’re in the area! On the subject of food it’s infamous and a must to enjoy some fish and chips by the harbour whilst watching the world go by and battling the seagull mafia around. The fish and chips are served off a floating stall which is very quaint and adds to the experience! It was particularly good because the sun was shining brightly that day and that sometimes makes all the difference. If the harbour isn’t for you enjoy a picnic in the Tasmanian Botanic Gardens and be sure to check out the rose archway and Japanese garden which was completed so decadently you wonder in the splendour.
About an hour and half away from Hobart is the historic site of Port Arthur the harsh, brutal and ironically beautiful convict site where the baddest of the bad men would be sent. The site, mostly ruins, still has it’s remains and a few buildings still intact can tell a million stories! This was probably the best world heritage site for convict history that Australia, maybe even the world, has! With your ticket price you get two days consecutive entry, a 40 minute introductory tour and a 25 minute ferry taking you around the cemetery and Port Puon the young boys prison. It was brilliant for a nerd like me!
It wasn’t just the historic site that was impressive though; the drive in to Port Arthur was some of the best we’ve seen in Australia. The blowholes, the convict coal mines, the tessellated pavements but the best site was definitely the remarkable cave. Remarkable because of its formation but more so because it has an outline of Tasmania letting light in! If that’s not impressive then I don’t know what is!
Down Port Arthur is the famously lethal surf spot Shipsterns Bluff and Cape Raoul famous for its ‘organs’. The walk to both points is quite vigorous but would be so worth it! We walked to the lookouts of both and the views were second to none. Incredibly, five minutes before we arrived to the car park we had a big hit of snow and hail after the temperature soaring to 28! They’re right when they say Australia can have all seasons in a day! In hindsight we shouldn’t have done the walks, the wind was strong and bitter as was the ice cold rain but never-mind; we lived to tell the tale and could even see the storm over the sea.
A lot of people dismiss this area of Tasmania but it has so much to offer. Wonderful coastline and magnificent history all preserved and untouched. Well worth a visit; I mean we only plan to do Tasmania once so what’s the point in missing out key areas!
From Port Arthur we headed up the east coast where we were greeted with sun and much warmer climates. This was wonderful and much better than the snow which we hadn’t forecast or appropriately dressed for. Snow in flip flops? No good for anyone!
The East coast is home to two gems of Tasmania; Freycinet National Park and Bay of Fires. Our plan was to free camp around both locations due to their popularity so before we got there we stopped in St Helens for a very welcome rest day.
First stop; Freycinet. Freycinet is probably the most famous Park in Tasmania and it’s most popular site; Wineglass Bay. Wineglass Bay is a beach with a distinct shape and all the shades of blue. It developed its name because of its shape but also because of its whaling past. When blood came in to the bay it looked like wine. It somewhat takes away the romantic side of the name I think!
Wineglass Bay has a lookout and a walk which you can take down to the beach. There are a lot stairs to climb down to get to the beach so prepare because what you go down you must come up! The steps are absolutely worth it; the place is just paradise. There are also some other lookouts in Freycinet with my favourite being Honeymoon Bay. It was on par with wineglass and it didn’t have the same amount of visitors! However; seeing it on foot wasn’t enough for us so we decided to embark on a scenic flight over the Freycinet National Park. We rose early from a heavenly free campsite (Friendly Beaches in the National Park) and boarded a small aircraft. Nick was lucky enough to sit in the cockpit! The half an hour flight takes you soaring above the sea so you can get a Birdseye view of the park and the bays. Wineglass Bay is superb from aerial view as is the park; it’s vast and untouched and you get a feel for how isolated it actually is. Magic! The scenic flight we took was one of the best things we have done in Australia and I would urge anybody who is embarking on a trip to Australia to do it. It will give you goosebumps and it will take your breath away!A short drive up the road is Bay of Fires and Bingalong Bay. Again, we made it to one the most spectacular free campsites which, literally, opened up onto the beach. The short walk around took you to the rocks and stone formations laden in burnt orange. It looks like they have been painted and the contrast of the orange with the deep blues of the sea make this a real treat for the eyes. Strangely; the name Bay of Fires doesn’t come from the colour of the rocks but from the first voyagers. When they came into the bay they could see fires all along it from the Aboriginal tribes who lived there. Another breathtakingly beautiful place; the east coast has you spoilt for choice for things to look at!
From the Bay of Fires we followed the coast along the top all the way along to Low Head. Low Head is home to the oldest and still operational lighthouse in Australia. The lighthouse also has a penguin colony which is cool, sadly they didn’t want to come and see us whilst we were there! If you visit on a Sunday the volunteers actually ring the horn from the lighthouse and the power in the volume of the horn will leave your ears ringing!
Right from the top we decided to head back down to the south driving to Grindelwald (a strange Swiss village near the coast with the best mini golf!) to Launceston (Tasmania’s second biggest city) over the Ross bridge and down to the Oatlands; a convict built town which has retained most of its original stone buildings and its famous site; Callington Mill.
Launceston is a very hip city, just like Hobart, but it has a Manchester feel about it. It’s retained a lot of its old buildings and holds on to its industrial past. A few places we stopped to see and loved; James Boag’s brewery, Customs House and the gorge. We also visited Penny Blacks but it was a commercial tourist trap which we wouldn’t recommend!
Rather than the city we stayed at Longford a beautiful little town plentiful in history and heritage but not as well known. The campsite is right by the river and it was honestly one of the most peaceful night sleeps we had in Australia. Superb and serene!
Next stop; Ben Lomond National Park to climb Jacobs Ladder. An exceptionally high and steep incline in Tasmania’s ski region! And what a climb it was( I say climb but you actually drive up but still, difficult for a car!) The views from the top were exceptional and absolutely worth the detour. It wasn’t the ski season when we got there so it was deathly quiet at the top only making the peace and quiet in the mountains otherworldly.
Down from the mountains we stopped through Ross and, just like Richmond, it’s famous for a bridge but it’s not as well known. The bridge is pretty impressive but the real crowd pleaser in Ross is the bakery. Still in its original building with the original oven this place is tiny and always busy! The baked good, pastries and pies are all impressively displayed through the glass counter but people don’t visit for the pasties…they visit for the vanilla slice. Modestly titled; ‘the worlds best vanilla slice ‘ and I, humbly, agree. It’s well worth a stop BUT be forewarned you’ll want more than one slice of the delicious vanilla’ry goodness!
A short drive south took us into the realms of stone buildings and a blast from the not so distant past. Neither of us were born in the 1980s but it sure did look like an 80s filmset! The whole town is like a heritage listing. They leave postcards around with information about the buildings and some you can even get a key to look inside! The main attraction is the Callington Mill which has recently been refurbished to its former glory and is actually a working flour mill! A beautiful building which only gets better at night; when it’s lit up its absolute magic.
Tip; if you’re camping there’s a free campsite right by the mill which is provided by the council and runs off donations (optional) for great views and a night of peace then this is a stop for you!
Having ticked off everything we wanted to do in Tasmania at this point we had a few days spare so we took a long drive and managed to get to Mole Creek; a National Park with lots of camping spots! I can’t say we did much as we just parked up and ate birthday cake as it was Nick’s birthday! It was so quiet and we woke up by throwing ourselves in the river; how refreshing!
We spent our last days driving up to the north coast but, I can honestly say, it was not worth it. The Nut outside of Stanley was ok but it looks like a less impressive Great Orme! To top it off the weather took a horrendous turn and it must have rained for three days straight! Certainly not the perfect ending to what had been a perfect trip!
That being said; we’ll count our losses because Tasmania exceeded all expectations and certainly left us smitten and besotted with its beauty and untouched glory. Anybody who visits Australia but dismisses Tasmania, politely, is an idiot!
Final note; To anybody whose planning a visit to Tasmania and is going to camp a few tips we’d give are;
- Use Wiki Camps it costs about £8 but it will save you a fortune as it gives all the best stop offs and free camps.
- Free camp in Tasmania as they have the best campsites in the whole of Australia.
- Be sure to have a few rolls of toilet paper and some hand sanitiser…just incase!
- Prepare for mosquitoes and midgies; they are relentless! Everybody warns you about snakes, sharks and crocs but these guys are the real danger! They can ruin your day so just make sure you have some spray!