Just outside of Hobart, typical scenery.
And the cleanest air in the whole world!
Wow. I had to dig out my trip journal to write this part of the blog since we packed so much activity into our 5 days there. WARNING: Lots of pictures (I couldn't bring myself to cut out any more!)
Other than where I was going and to pack all my warm clothes, the trip was a complete surprise! I woke up on Thursday morning, in Hobart, as Matt’s grinning face explained that our new adventure was out in the parking lot. With Matt, you just never know and he didn’t disappoint! He brought me out to our home-away-from-home....a Britz Camper Van. I threw open the sliding door to find a little home complete with fridge, sink, gas stove and cupboard filled with everything we needed....even a bunk bed! The absolute perfect way to get around and see the sites of Tasmania.
Day 1 Thursday
We picked up critical supplies in Hobart - Lonely Planet Guide, maps, groceries and some local wine and off we went onto the Tasman Highway, heading north along the East Coast. Destination Wine Glass Bay in Freycinet National Park. We pulled into the parking lot
and two wallabies hopped over. They were adorable, seemed tame and let me pat them. We fed them a bit of carrot then headed on our hike to the lookout. It was about an hour walk to the lookout from which you had a perfect view down onto Wineglass Bay - and the colours did look just like the photos. I had been hoping for sunshine and improved weather so I could get a photo just like the tourist brochures and we were lucky! Then, we decided we hadn’t come all this way to just look at Wineglass Bay - we had to swim in it! We walked all the way down to the beach, had a ‘refreshing’ dip and play in the waves. After a little rest, I took some pics of the local beach wallaby then we hiked all the way back up - lots and lots of stairs! Then it was on the road again. A quick stop at Tourville for a lookout, then to the location of the surprise evening adventure - a night walk with the Little Penguins in Bicheno! I was thrilled! I’ve been trying to see these little guys in their natural environment
Little wallabies hanging out in the parking lot at Wineglass Bay watching the world go by.
for some time now. We have them in Manly but, as far as I can tell, it’s too busy for them so they stay hidden. The Little Penguins come in from the sea after dark, gather together at rocks near the waters edge and then waddle up in groups to their burrows. We got close up views of their burrows at the Rookery and if you stay still and are quiet, they will walk right between your legs. Normally, there are many more coming to shore but it’s moulting season (they go to sea for 6-8 weeks, get really fat, come to shore for a couple weeks and lose their feathers) so there are fewer around. They were absolutely adorable - a bit smelly - but very, very cute. A very interesting and fun way to spend the evening...with the exception of a few ‘obnoxious tourists’.
After the penguin walk, we jumped back in the van and followed Lonely Planet Guide directions to Douglas Apsley National Park (in the dark) to camp for the night. The 7km dirt road in looked a bit suspect and there were no other cars but we decided to go to bed and see what
And one of them let me pat him.
it was like in the morning.
Day 2 Friday
It turned out to be a beautiful spot and we had an amazing hike the next morning. After a coffee in the bunk, we followed a trail up and along a river through the bush, boulder-hopped all the way back through the gorge, and finished off with a swim in a freshwater lake. An excellent way to start the day!
Looking at the map, we decided to head north up the coast to the Bay of Fires. A quick stop at St. Helens and Binalong Bay, where I found a big abalone shell, then onto the Bay of Fires. The clouds were moving in so the beaches weren’t as tropical blue as described but still miles and miles of beach and hardly a soul around. In the afternoon, we stopped for some food and photos and hoping to get fish for dinner only to learn that it is not scallop season and all the abalone is sent to Asia for jewellery. Hmmm. Then we had to find a home for the night so off we went to the Northern tip of Tasmania and to Mt William National Park.
On the way was one of my favourite stops - a rainforest walk at Weldborough Pass Rainforest Walk. There are a few pics of the palm trees - I love palm trees!
It was a quite a long drive from the Mt William turnoff to the actual campsites but it was along Forester Kangaroo Drive, which lived up to it’s name! There are kangaroos and wallabies everywhere and I just can’t get enough of them! Apparently, these are the endangered Forester kangaroos which are special to this region. Then, right near our campsite we spotted a big wombat and her baby! They let me take a few pictures then wandered off into the scrub. I’ll have to send some pics to Nana C, she loves wombats :) Very cool. We parked the camper van, grabbed a bottle of red and went for a walk to the beach and along the trails to see the night life. Dinner was pretty simple - soup, crackers and Tasmanian double brie under the stars as we made our plans for the next day.
Day 3 Saturday
I decided to get up early for sunrise over the ocean but unfortunately, it was cloudy.
The famous Wineglass Bay
Luckily the weather cleared in time for a few photos and a walk down to the beach.
The beach was still beautiful and there was no one around, so I had my coffee in peace. Since we were awake, we stopped and had breakfast on the plains with the Forester Kangaroos. Wow, a true Aussie experience. We only had 4 days here and no time to waste so onto Brighton, hoping for a rest and a hot shower. Ahhh - just in time. The beach was really nice with small rolling waves and huge expanses of sand. We made ourselves presentable and it was on to the wine region! Yes folks, more wine!! Australia rocks!! It’s smaller and less commercial than the Hunter Valley but we tasted some wonderful wines at Pipers Ridge (where they also sell Ninth Island and Kinvarra Estate sparkling wines) and bought a few ‘souvenirs’ to take back home. We stopped at a lookout for the view of the Tamar River, crossed the Batman Bridge, then for lunch at Rosevears Waterfront Tavern (built in 1831). It was a cute pub, right on the water but unfortunately we missed lunch time (I had a huge craving for salt and pepper squid and some coconut crumbed scallops) and had to settle for a liquid lunch
It looks a tropical blue
but was actually pretty cold!
of the local beer - James Boag (brewery is in Launceston).
While in Launceston, we went to the Cataract Gorge. Literally part of the city and a fabulous public park called the Cliff Grounds Reserve. The zig zag trail goes along the south side of the gorge from Kings Bridge, along South Esk River, leading to the park which has a restaurant, outdoor pool, suspension bridge, gondola rides, hiking trails - all 15 min from town centre! We climbed the barrier fence and scrambled down to join the other 'rule breakers' for a swim in the river. It felt really good after a hot walk. At the park, on the other side from the zig zag trail, there is an upscale restaurant and a paved path back to the bridge. What a perfect place to stroll to for dinner.
Since we arrived in Launceston too late for lunch and too early for dinner we decided to keep driving towards Cradle Mountain - the next adventure. A stop in Deloraine for Thai, which has never tasted so good, then onto Cradle Mountain National Park. We saw tons of potoroos (mini kangaroos) and a beautiful moonrise and ended up parking and
Down at the beach there were very few people.
camping just outside the entrance at ‘Leary’s Corners’ for a quiet, star filled night.
Day 4 Sunday
Cradle Mountain and the Overland Track - one of Australia’s most famous walks and I was excited to be there! The morning was pretty chilly (5C) so I was happy to have brought my down vest. Cradle Mountain Park is now so popular, they have had to designate a big parking area, then have shuttle buses bring you to different areas for hiking. It’s not commercial, just easy. We took the shuttle down to Dove Lake to start our hike. Around the lake, up the mountain, along the face of the mountain, down another mountain and then to a crossroads. During the walk I think I went through every layer of clothing twice - and I had 6 layers on. It was cold, hot, foggy, sunny, everything over 4 hours! At the crossroads was the signpost was Cradle Mountain Summit or Kitchen Hut and return to the trailhead. We knew we wanted to get all the way over to Port Arthur in the afternoon so we didn’t have much time to do the summit but....we couldn’t come here and not do the
summit. So off we went at an ambitious pace to summit Cradle Mountain. Wow - it was not an easy walk. The base was a steep single track that turned into massive boulders that you had to crawl, jump and climb over. And the poles to mark the track to the peak just kept appearing! After 45 min of hard climbing up through the clouds, the summit was definitely worth it. All the way to the top - 1545m!! It was pretty crazy and steep - you would not want to slip and fall here. We had a quick lunch in the sunshine, took some obligatory photos and then it was back down. Not only proud to have made the summit and had lunch in the sunshine, but we did it in less than 2 hours (the sign suggested 2.5 hours). I also felt extremely lucky as Cradle Mountain has a reputation of having only one sunny day in 10 and that one rarely gets a view from the summit. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cradle_Mountain and http://parks.tas.gov.au/index.aspx?base=3297)
The walk back along the Overland Track was a bit tiring (after the summit and the sun was pretty hot) but there were lots of people around
A little break before heading back UP all those stairs!
doing day hikes and also starting the 7 day Overland Track to Lake St Clair. We passed Crater lake (200m deep and black) and the wombats bid us farewell at the end. Sunburnt, sweaty, tired and smiling - what a day!
Exhausted, we got in the van. A few hours from Cradle Mountain, down through Queenstown (a levelled copper mining town which is nothing like the town of the same name in New Zealand), through Franklin - Gordon Wild Rivers National Park and to the other end of the Overland Track at Lake St. Clair, we realized that it was highly unlikely that we were going to make it to Port Arthur for the ghost tour we had hoped to do. It is a famous ghost tour and has lots of recommendations but looks like we will have to save it for our return visit to Tasmania. Soon after accepting the fact that we were not going to make Port Arthur that day, we realized we weren’t even going to make 50 more kms! We had a whole new problem....we were pretty much down to empty on the fuel gauge and nothing was open on Sunday at 6pm. Crap.
The photo's not great - my lighting was off but he had such a cute face I had to include him.
We asked one guy who ran some cabins where we could get gas and he said we would not make it to the next town. Do we stay in this population 100 town until tomorrow morning? Do we risk running out of gas on a deserted road? Tasmania has a pretty small population 493,000 and reminds me a lot of Northern Ontario and the gas stations are few and far between.
We decide to risk it and drive to a park about 30 (stressful) kms away. Not happy times as we watch the fuel gauge. Our only hope is that the actual light has not come on. Unlucky - the gas station had closed 1 hour prior. Our second hope is a small town 10 km further, called Tarraleah. Now, I have to say, we didn’t hold out much hope and since we were flying home the next day, it seemed like we were ending our trip a little prematurely but we managed to roll into Tarraleah on fumes and it was awesome!! It has an interesting history - it’s a little town of a couple hundred at its peak (hydroelectric industry) and was purchased privately by a family in
the 2002 - ‘The family that bought a town’. Not only did we get to fill up the tank, we got a hot shower (worth a lot when you haven’t had one in awhile!) and a hot yummy dinner. Whew!
We decided to keep driving towards Port Arthur as far as we could (or as long as Matt could stay awake). The trouble with driving at night is that there is so much wildlife (possums, pademelons (mini-wallabies), etc.) that you have to drive really slow so we made it only to the outskirts of Hobart and just parked it.
Day 5 Monday
Our last day we had planned to spend in Port Arthur and on the Tasman peninsula before dropping the van at the airport and heading back to Sydney
Matt was up early and drove us, while I slept in the top bunk, to an ocean lookout. I got to lie in bed and drink coffee and look out over the ocean. Ahhhh, spoiled rotten. It was a bit overcast so we went to the blowholes, through Eaglehawk Neck (when Port Arthur was a penal colony, this isthmus had dogs and guards to prevent the convicts from
escaping up to the mainland) and to Port Arthur. It's quite an interesting place and not at all what I expected. The whole area is a convict site with old buildings and a fascinating history. Our guide was very informative and told us all kinds of stories. Included in the ticket was a boat tour around Point Puer (boys prison) and the Isle of the Dead (cemetery). It was an overcast day so a good day to tour around. I bought a couple of historical fiction books set here - “For the Term of His Natural Life” which was great and The Fatal Shore. I can see why the ghost tour here would be really cool. Next time. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Port_Arthur,_Tasmania
Then, a stop at the Tasmanian Devil sanctuary for (their) feeding time, on the way to the airport. They really are funny little creatures and it was their mating season so ...well, you know. We had a close up view of the feeding (and more), learned a bit about them and saw some other native animals. At the moment, there is a rare cancer that is destroying the tasmanian devil population so we felt it was important to support parks
Can you spot the Little Penguin
This was one of the only pictures I took. I felt bad, like we were harassing them. It was enough just to have them waddling around us.
like these. Unfortunately, my 2GB memory card was full so I don't have any photos of them....well, then again, maybe it was a sign of a great trip!
Then, onto the plane to Sydney after a whirlwind tour of Tasmania. I think we hit most of the highlights but I’m looking forward to returning.
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