Since we gave ourselves about two months to explore Australia, we had time to travel to the isolated island off the coast of southern Australia called Tasmania and see its rugged, natural landscape. On our road trip around the north east section Tasmania we covered about 1,215 kilometers and explored a few spectacular places such as Cradle Mountain, Bicheno and Freycinet National Park. The size of Tassie (taz-zee) surprised us at over 26,000 square miles so we couldn’t cover it all. We’ve highlighted the adventures from our 11 day road trip in this post. Hope you enjoy the read and put Tasmania on your must-visit list!
On December 12th we made our way to Cradle Mountain, a top destination for us to explore in Tasmania, even though it meant we’d have to do a bit of back tracking to get back to the east coast.
On our way to the Cradle Mountain National Park, we stopped for a night in Mole Creek and in the morning we discovered a few neat places. The first was the Trowunna Wildlife Park. This was a fantastic introduction to the amazing diversity of animals that call Tasmania home. Our highlights included:
- Holding a wallaby (a mid-sized marsupial found in Australia & New Guinea)
- Tasmanian devil feeding (Tassie Devils are only found in the wild on Tasmania)
- Learning that there are ~300,000 roadkills a year (highest rate in world)
- Seeing an echidna (egg-laying mammal like the platypus that looks like a porcupine)
- Feeding and petting Eastern grey kangaroos (only found in eastern Aussie & Taz; heaviest living marsupial)
- Learning about quolls (carnivorous marsupial native to mainland Aussie, New Guinea, & Taz) pademelons (smallest macropod mostly found along coastal regions of Aussie, New Guinea and Taz)
The second quick stop on our drive to Cradle Mt. was the Alum Cliffs Walk. It’s a short walk to the edge of a breath taking cliff that overlooks a river valley with sharp peaks surrounding. As we were walking we decided that for a few reasons, Tasmania reminds us of Montana… and called it Tastana or Montania!
Upon arrival to the Cradle Mountain-Lake St Clair National Park we did a short walk around Lake Lilla despite the light rain, clouds and the small amount of snow we spotted on the peak of the mountains. What a welcome to summer in Taz… snow! Of course we had hoped for better weather, but there’s nothing we can do about Mother Nature.
We woke on the third day at Cradle Mountain and prepared for a longer hike in the park. The weather still wasn’t cooperating, but we were determined to go for a good hike anyway, even if that meant the harsh wind and rain/snow turns us around.
As we started the hike, we were unsure of our final destination – as I mentioned we were not sure what the weather would do once on the mountain trail. Our first rest on the trek was at Marion’s Lookout where we couldn’t see much due to fog and rain. It was time for a quick stop and after contemplating a return, we kept pushing forward to Kitchen Hut – a refuge hut for hikers. We gladly took refuge after walking a section of the hike which was a combination of trail and walkways scattered with snow patches to dodge and puddles to jump. As we snacked in the hut waiting for the weather to clear we met an older couple. Turned out the gentleman went to University of Oregon but lives in Tasmania – what a small world!
The weather didn’t clear after our rest, but it was clearing. With no more rain and little wind we decided to head for the Cradle Mountain Summit! Jenny was actually the instigator for the summit try saying, “we’ve made it this far, we can’t turn back now!” I was on the brink of heading back, but agreed. Getting to the top included more walkways that led to the steep ascent. Those we passed on the trail warned us to be careful up ahead due to the weather and the difficult rocky section. Could it really be that difficult? When came face to face with the long vertical boulder field, the answer became yes! We began to bound, climb, scramble from metal trail marker to trail marker toward the whiteout conditions atop the peak. After an hour we made it to the false summit safely where we met the others who pushed upward. Due to some residual snow near the actual peak, we didn’t continue further – neither did the other mountaineers. It was just too dangerous unless you packed crampons and rope or were crazy. The false summit was chilly, foggy and windy so we didn’t have a view or stay long. After a short rest and snack we made the slow scramble back down the boulders.
Once back on the paths, the weather was finally clearing! On the return I convinced Jenny to take the alternate trail, the Face Track, so we didn’t have to do an out-and-back but a loop. The clearing weather yielded beautiful views of the lake and it made the slightly longer (and more difficult) route worth it.
Finally, after 7 hours 15 minutes we made it back to the trailhead, completely exhausted, but feeling accomplished and fulfilled. Cradle Mountain was a challenge and well worth it!
East Coast Tour
St Helens Area
On the drive back east we stopped off to try some of the famous Tasmania sparkling wine at Delamore Vineyards. It was a very informative and delicious tasting that we hope to find again someday.
Our first stop near the east coast was in Gould’s Country which is an old desolate mining town near St Helens that boasts some beautiful untouched land. We filled our time in our usual ways:
- Hiking in the Blue Tiers – We pit stopped to hike the Blue Tier Giant walk to see a 60 meter tall swamp gum tree. We were amazed at the swamp gum trees as it reminded us of the redwood forest in northern California.
- Visiting the picturesque Bay of Fires – the weather wasn’t so great, but wandered the white stretch of beach and climbed on the orange colored lichen boulders. We visited The Gardens, had lunch on the rocks at Binalong Bay and finally stopped for some fresh oysters at the Salty Seas Lobster shop. Turns out we aren’t keen on raw oyster’s slimy texture.
- Bird watching at our AirBnB – Jenny really enjoys the laughing kookaburra! They are native to eastern Australia, but found in Tasmania and New Zealand as well and known for their kooking laugh that we enjoy.
- Dining at the only restaurant for miles, Pub in the Paddock, a old country spot serving fried pub food. We observed locals dining while their kids ran around and the petting pen outside with Priscilla the pig as the star. Not really our kind of place but we enjoyed viewing the largest pig we’d ever seen!
- Evening walk to the St Columbia Falls where we popped open a bottle of a Australian cabernet sauvignon and toasted to exploring Tasmania. The Falls, pictured below right corner, was not flowing too much this time of the year
- Halls Falls hike in the morning where we saw some pademelons enjoying some breakfast on the edge of the forest.
Next stop was Bicheno, a picturesque small town famous for its sandy beaches. We found it a quaint beach town that we’re glad we picked for a stopover. It has a charming feel and some beautiful features in walking distance. After arriving in the afternoon we went out to visit a few sights.
- Whalers Watch, a small walk in town to an ocean lookout.
- Walk to a blowhole, which is a hole in the rock near the ocean’s edge that water splashes upward as waves roll in. It was funny to watch some people get soaked from the blows.
- Hiking up to a lookout rocks with a view of the entire small town and ocean
- Playing a round of tennis for the first time since Canada in June. Needless to say, our game still needs work, but we are the same level considering we went into our 6th deuce during game one.
The activity that really put Bicheno on the map for us was the penguin tour! There is a large colony of small blue penguins that nest near the town and after our takeaway pizza and red wine we were all set for the 9pm pickup. While these aren’t our pictures (no photographs allowed by visitors), they represent exactly what we saw. Our guide was funny and informative as he explained the tour company preserves the shoreline the penguins inhabit. We figured it was well worth the cost if they help restore their natural habitat. We saw nearly a hundred penguins including chicks and adults as they marched in small groups from the beach after feeding in open water during the day.
A few quick things we learned:
- all penguins are blue (not black) and these are the bluest
- They almost always have a male and female chick (80% of the time)
- If frightened they will resort to their secret weapon: projectile poo!
- They leave before sunrise, and come back after sunset for safety
We would highly recommend stopping in Bicheno for the penguin tour if venturing around Tasmania!
Coles Bay & Freycinet National Park
We headed to our final destination which is described by australia.com as “a paradise of pink granite mountains, white beaches and turquoise sea on Tasmania’s east coast.” Sounds like our kind of place!
First order of fun was renting bikes and heading out to a lighthouse in the national park. We encountered such a steep hill that we had to walk for a short bit, but rode the rest to a fantastic viewpoint. The hot and steep ride was well worth the view.
We finished our day with a wonderful sunset on the granite rocks in Honeymoon bay. Definitely reminded us of the Georgian Bay off Lake Heron in Ontario, Canada!
The next day we planned to head out early for an epic hike… but the rainy weather had other plans for us. We took advantage of the stormy morning by being lazy in bed, planning, blogging and reading. It was probably good for us since we’d been active in Taz nearly a week straight with little rest. The afternoon cleared and we went for an evening walk along Muir’s Beach. We capped off the relaxing day by going to Honeymoon Bay in the evening for some night photography. The limited artificial light and clear air made the night sky come alive. We could see what seemed like millions of stars, the Milky Way, the Magellanic clouds (galaxies) and a few shooting stars.
The next two days were filled with hikes in the National Park since the weather was back in our favor. The first hike was the Hazards Beach to Wineglass Bay loop track. We took the less taken path of Hazards Beach first; after about two hours we found ourselves on a gorgeous white sand beach with loads of shells and only a few fellow adventurers. We took a rest and dipped our toes in the “fresh” water to cool off before walking down the beach barefoot to the link path over to Wineglass Bay. After the cross over to Wineglass Bay we decided it was a great spot to eat our lunch out of the sun. The sun over Tasmania is off the charts on the UV scale due to a gap in the ozone layer and the lack of pollution over the island. So we selected a spot in the shade to rest and refuel.
The hike finished with a steep trail to a lookout where we saw a view of both beaches we’d previously hiked on, what a fun trek!
I started our last day in Coles Bay with sunrise photo session at the lighthouse we’d visited a few days ago. It was a wonderful sunrise with a little bit of first light on the rocky cliffs to capture. Taking ‘first light’ photos is becoming one of my favorites.
After breakfast the next day we tackled a three hour hike/scramble up Mt Amos. Thankfully, we encountered different weather – it was cooler and partly cloudy but temperate. The hike began with a dirt trail but quickly became composed of steep, exposed rock sections which led us straight to the top. No wonder they warn the public not to hike Amos when it’s raining – you’d slip and slide!
After the hike we packed up and drove to Launnie, as the Aussies call it. Not much going on, but we stayed at a nice airBnB apartment, did some laundry and went out to explore the town a bit. We took an evening walk downtown, snacked on some Indian food at Spice on the harbor, wandered around Target where Jenny finally found a replacement hair brush (a travel necessity) and finished off with take away Thai food from the top rated restaurant, Star of Siam.
Our final day in Tasmania was a free day in Launceston which we tackled by doing some shopping and took a peaceful walk in the Catarac Gorge. That night we cooked in to celebrate. We had saved the wine purchased from our tasting at Delamore Vineyards for our 10 month “travel-versary” celebration! It was a delicious bubbly to cheers once again in a different country.
Recap of Taz
During our 11 days in Tasmania we experienced a unique array of amazing wildlife; breathtakingly beautiful national parks and nice friendly people/hosts. Our short visit exploring the central and northeast areas of the rural island was great. It’s a place we didn’t expect to find as much adventure as we did. On December 12th we headed back to the mainland’s cultural epicenter, Melbourne, so stay tuned for our eastern Australian experience.
Hope you enjoyed the post and keep on adventuring,
Will and Jenny