We embark around 7 o’clock in the morning at Devonport and drive firstly through the quarantine checkpoint… Without our fruit and veggies (a couple of carrots, onions, peaches and ginger) from the esky on board we continue. These checkpoints can frequently be found at the state frontiers to diminish the spread of non-domestic plants and animals, here in Tasmania they control quite thorough.
Welcome to Tasmania. An island roughly twice as big as Belgium, but with perhaps only a tenth of its population and a hundredfold of its nature.
From sleepy Devonport we drive through Latrobe – the platypus capital of the world – and Sheffield – with the iconic Mt Roland – before arriving at Craddle Mountain.
Craddle Mountain is as iconic as it gives a postcard view. With us, the rain also arrives… We want to go for the summit walk, but the rain makes us hesitate and once we’re on the road – fully wet dressed – the bad signalisation of the different tracks gives us only a boardwalk along the Dove Lake. We decide to return at the end of our trip to give the summit walk another try.
After that we drive to Waratah, a small tin mining city. What we’ll remember of it, is the waterfall on the main street and the huge broom saplings everywhere. Once again we burned our fuel reserves and need a refill. It’s just that granddad limits the fuel to 20$ per car in this sleepy town… So we have to change our plans and drive to Tullah, a silver mining city.
In Rosebery we want to visit Tasmania’s highest waterfall, the Montezuma falls, and have the choice between a 3hr walk or a 4WD. A little bit lazy after a few hours sleeping on the boat and a boardwalk in the morning we choose the 4WD… But what a miscalculation! Steep slopes, mud, tricky crossings,… One hour later, tired and disappointed we try the last part by foot. But the falls are nowhere to find and we don’t dare to continue that late in the afternoon. So it is returning to the highway. There we discover it was a hard graded track, yeah that discovered Ilse also during the driving! Luckily we’re all safe again on the tarmac and drive to Zeehan, another silver mining city. In 1900 it was the third biggest city of Tasmania, but for now its only a ghost from its glorious past.
We end our day in Strahan, where we buy a grilled chicken and eat it at the Macquairie Harbour waterway. Both exhausted from the day we drive to the West Coast and park at the coastline… Another idyllic camping spot is ours tonight. Sleep well.
Sleeping at the beach feels great, so fully recovered we awake and drive to Hell’s Gate, the 80m narrow passage to the Macquairie Harbour. Once at that point we discover that beach driving is allowed here at Ocean Beach. So we make our own 80 mile beach and cruise back to our camping site.
From there we drive into Strahan, find out that the visitors centre opens at 12 pm and decide to drive a little along the waterline. Some time and a couple of nice bay views later we leave town.
The next city on the road – Queenstown – is another mining city. This time copper. More than a friendly granny on a bench, some ‘historic’ buildings and a lookout over the mine has this city not to offer. So we leave soon and stop for two small walks along the road to Lake St Clair. The first one are the Nelson Falls, with a nice pictured boardwalk and after that the Donaghys Lookout leaves some impression. A beautiful 360 degrees view from the hilltop at the surrounding mountain land is our share.
Underway we hear a thunderous *bang* and Janis starts to incline strongly. A blowout occurred, after some tactical manoeuvres, the tyre is changed and we arrive late afternoon at lake St Clair. There we decide to go for a couple of hours forest walk along the lakeside to feel the forests.
That evening we arrive quite late at our campsite near Bradys Lake.
We wake up early by the sound of rain… Yesterday we didn’t take the time to secure all the lines of our tent and that we pay now cash, water in our tent! Hmm… Hmm in no time we break up our camp and are on the road again.
Upon arrival in Tarraleah our tank is once again nearly empty. Sometimes it is tricky here in Tasmania to get sufficient fuel supplies. In Tarraleah we’re lucky someone could sell us the 20l supply for his mower, because it’s raining today. The village is supposed to have a fuel station, but this was left unattended for quite a time now.
After that we drive to Hobart, were we enjoy the hospitality of Steve and Bec, with their daughters Katie and Holly. We met them a couple of months earlier on Kanawa Island and they invited us in their home once we are in Tasmania. But the arrival feels a little bit hectic, because we just made a slip with our car and the rain in our tent made us feel uneasy.
The tyres really need a replacement. A short while later we’re already in a garage, negotiating about the price and placement. While we visit the Salamanca markets, they change our tyres and bring the car to us. These Salamanca markets are a must see here in town, but for us it feels like Christmas shopping in Ghent or Bruges. After the markets, we make a short stop in the harbour area before we drive to the MONA, the museum of old and new art. Another must see in the city. This museum lies entirely underground and has some specialities to offer… With an iPod you discover all the artworks around you. Some of them are great, like the light bulbs who glow at the rhythm of your heartbeat, the falling water-words, the rainbow snake, the fat car and many others. But some are really disgusting, representing suicide and murder.
We end with a peep on Mt Wellington, which should give beautiful views over Hobart, but the summit is covered in the clouds. That night we share a delicious meal by Bec at home and sleep once again in a real bed.
Our discovery of Hobart’s surrounds start with a walk in the Tasman National Park, we leave Hobart over the high Tasman harbour bridge and follow the Convict Trail to the park. The Tasman peninsula is only accessible over land by crossing two small and easily defensible land bridges, Denison Canal and Eaglehawk Neck. That is why in the early years Port Arthur was developed as a convict centre. History of that kind is not our thing, we enter the peninsula for its major nature scenery. We choose a walk to Cape Hauy, from where steep cliffs fall into the sea. Along the walk and on the cape we have a superb view over the coastal scenery and pass another eucalyptus forest. We really started to love these special shaped trees – and the cute bears that inhabit them – during our stay in Australia.
Once we reach the cliff, we see the lanterns – a rock formation – standing tall between some huge rocks.
On the way back to Hobart we stop near the Tasman Arc and the Devils Kitchen, both some eroded structures in the rocky cliff walls.
Next morning we decide to explore the South Coast of the Island. So we head to the Huon Trail to discover that part… Before we can go, we have to decide what we really want to see, because there is so much to discover in that area. There is the Tahuna air bridge with some nice forest walks, the thermal springs and caves, but we go for a visit to South Cape Bay. This road takes us to the furthest drive in Australia. Along the road we pass some small cities – Dover, Southport, Ida Bay, Catamaran – and another pair of superb bays before we reach Cockle Creek. There we meet the whale sculpture of a Southern Whale. We also discover the story of the French who discovered Tasmania, mostly for research purposes, while it where the English who claimed it as their colony.
After that we enjoy the different landscapes sliding along, while we walk the trail to South Cape Bay. The southernmost point of Australia. After a miraculous day in the South, we drive happily back to Hobart. The last part of this trip goes in the dark, while we see crossing all kind of night animals crossing the roads. Luckily none of them ends under Janis her new shoes.
To discover all kind of nature around Hobart, we head this time on the Rivers Run trail. The most important stop that route is the Mount Field National Park, with some famous waterfalls inside. So we go for the Falls Circuit and discover the Russell Falls, the Horseshoe Falls and the Lady Barron Falls. However we’ve already seen lots of falls, they stay inspiring and beautiful! The most spectacular piece is the ‘Tall Trees Walk’ in one of the oldest living forests of the world, with trees from over 400 year old. There we get the opportunity to measure Australia’s highest tree with a clinometer – a swamp gum of 98m! Only the red pines in the United States are higher, up to 111m.
After the discovery of Mt Field, we drive – along a for us quite boring way to Lake Pedder, Tasmania’s first dam lake. The construction of it got lots of resistance, for what it became quite popular. Nowadays it is used especially for the trout fishing. With good weather, this is a real scenic drive along many peaks and mountain views of Tasmania, but today it is just rain, clouds and fog.
In the end we return to Hobart for a well earned, refreshing sleep.