Chasing bandicoots & paddimelons in the tiniest land down under.
Shortly after returning from 40days traveling New Zealand in the heart of winter we sped off to Australia's smallest state, Tasmania. Tassie has been on our bucket list for sometime so we decided to spend a month exploring and camping there and we've put together this list of highlights from the trip.
1. Hobart & Mount Wellington
Opting to fly into Tassie this time we landed in Hobart and spent some time catching up with friends. We quickly picked up a hire car, which was surprisingly affordable for the 22 days we needed it. Many rental companies on the mainland package cars with Spirit of Tasmania ferry tickets as well so this is an option well worth considering.
Our first stop was Mount Wellington, which stands guard over Hobart at 1,281m. It was looking particularly pretty still tipped with snow so we wasted no time in driving up! It takes about 40mins from the centre of Hobart up a windy road. The drive is easy, but take it slow, you'll be dodging cyclists and its barely wide enough to be two way. From the top you can see all of Hobart and get a better look at the iconic 'Organ Pipes', dolerite columns, which make up the face of the mountain. Even on warmer days I can imagine it's still pretty chilly up there though, so take a hat! It be windy! Once the weekend arrived we headed to the famous Salamanca market (open every Saturday) and browsed through all the independent stalls before heading to the Salamanca Whisky Bar for a drink. The bar is stunning but also very inviting, perfect for whisky aficionados (and for those of us who just want a cocktail!). After a couple of chilled out nights with our friends we headed south to the Tasman Peninsula.
2. Tasman Peninsula and Cape Raoul
One of our favourite things about Tasmania is how close together everything is, so the beautiful drive from Hobart to the peninsula only took a couple of hours. You pass lots of easily accessible lookouts to keep the drive interesting (the Tasman Arch & Devils Kitchen were our favourites).
For the first night we camped at the Fortescue Bay Camp Ground. The campsite is lovely, right on an idyllic squeaky beach, and we had a great time making friends with the local wildlife. However if you forget to get your parks pass beforehand (yup, we forgot) the campsite ends up being quite pricey! We'd recommend grabbing a pass that covers your entire trip, its easily the cheapest option and info for this can be found on the Parks Tasmania web site.
We set off early the next day for a 5hr return hike to Cape Raoul. You're not walking for too long before you reach the first look out. It gives spectacular views over the infamous Shipstern Bluff (a famously sketchy surf break). If you continue onwards it takes you through a lush & fragrant gum forest and down onto the Cape Raoul plateau where the trail follows the cliff edge, finally terminating at the cape itself. You can walk/climb to the very edge and the views make the moderate walk very much worth it. After the hike we stopped at the White Beach Tourist Park for the night, it was extremely cheap and had showers and a kitchen which is exactly what we needed after a long day of hiking. However, a warning for those who enjoy a long rinse, the showers are unfortunately on a timer!
3. Bay of Fires
Before coming to Tassie, this was a place we were determined to visit. It was the spot most highly recommended to us and certainly didn't disappoint. We free camped at Jeanneret Beach, there are tons of free camp sites in the area but after investigating all of them, this was our favourite.
We set up our tent pretty much on the beach and woke up to sound of waves and sea birds. The beach was almost empty for the three days we were there but apparently in summer it becomes very crowded. We spent a full day relaxing in the sunshine on the whitest sand and swimming in the bluest water (more like paddling, it was still mighty cold in there). The beach was enclosed by those famous orange rocks and boulders that you imagine you'd see in Bay of Fires which made it picture perfect at sunset.
It's here we met the worlds cheekiest possum, who tried to sneak off with our fry pan. No exaggerating when we say we had to wrestle to get it back, the little punk was determined to lick it clean. For supplies the town of St Helens is close by and has everything you need for stocking up or doing some laundry!
After free camping for a several nights we headed 5mins down the road to the Bay of Fires Bush Retreat for some luxury. This is glamping at its finest, well equipped bell tents in a beautiful, sheltered, clearing fringed by gum trees. At night well lit paths lead to outdoor fire pits, chairs and blankets. The skies were incredibly clear while we were there & the milky way was out in top form. The amenities are beautiful, with lots of rustic charm and there are tons of thoughtful touches (like marshmallows to toast at night!). There's also the option to have dinner and breakfast there, we opted not to but from what we saw the food looked superb! If you're passing though Bay of Fires, it should definitely be on your to do list.
4. Coles Bay & Freycinet National Park
We reconvened with our friends for some birthday celebrations at Coles Bay, stopping in another free campsite called River and Rocks. It's right on the river mouth with a view of the mountainous national park in the distance. We sunbathed with cold beers on the river shore and watched thousands of tiny crabs nestling in and out of the sand. It was a bit of a 'David Attenborough, Planet earth' moment watching them hurry about. The next day we headed to Freycinet in hope of a climb, as it's a world renowned rock climbing location. However, the day was stormy and large swells were crashing into the cliffs throwing sea spray high into the air. It was deemed a bit sketchy for climbing and instead we headed for the Wineglass Bay lookout, which is a short 1.5hr return walk through the Freycinet National Park. The path is very pretty and well formed, meandering through a maze of giant boulders and populated by tassie's adorable tiny native wallabies, known as paddimelons!
5. Launceston and Tamar Valley
As we're both huge fans of a good vino, we felt we needed to get involved with some Tasmanian produce (I mean, you have to try the wine right!?). So we headed to Launceston and stopped in a lovely Air BnB for two nights. We explored the city and found our favourite coffee shop of the trip, Bread + Butter where the tables were equiped with toasters and they made their own bread on site. We then headed for the famous wine region, Tamar Valley. We stopped in for lunch and some lovely Pinot Noir at Pipers Brook Vineyard and Cellar Door. A thunderstorm broke overhead but we were safe from the deluge in their covered outdoor area, next to the patio heater, listening to some great live music. For those travelling in vans or RV's the vineyard is also RV friendly so you can free camp there overnight (perfect if you maybe enjoyed the wine tasting a little too much!).
6. Cradle Mountain & Queenstown
Cradle Mountain is on many people's must do lists, and it was definitely on ours. We free camped close by the night before all ready for the big hike the following day. However, we both woke up feeling ill. Admitting defeat we decided that neither of us were in a fit state to hike up a mountain and decided to have a road trip day rather than waste it completely. Traveling down the coast was picturesque. Jagged, Jurassic looking peaks dotted the horizon while the road wound through forested gorges, over rushing rivers and eventually to the historic coastal town of Strahan, where we stopped for lunch. After lunch we made our way down to Queenstown, to find a famous drive described as a breath taking 'moonscape'. While it does have a stark beauty a little research on the area told us the grey and amber scarred earth is due to years of pollution from nearby mining, which has turned the soil arid. This knowledge gave the whole area an unsettling feel, a harsh contrast to the lush forests and fertile alpine grassland we had just driven through.
We headed back to Hobart to catch our flight home to Melbourne.
While we did spend a month in Tasmania and we managed to see and do a lot, there are still things we feel we missed. We'd love to go back to Cradle Mountain and have another chance to climb in Freycinet. Bruny Island is also a spot we didn't have to time to get to and would love to visit. It seems as if you could discover something new every time you make the trip across the strait and we can't wait to get back!
Have you travelled in Tassie? What are your top spots? We'd love recommendations for future visits!
Joe & Jesse
1. Deloraine, a town near Devonport where we saw a platypus. We stopped in the best B&B here called Blakes Manor, the self contained suite made us all feel like royalty (think draped four poster beds) and the breakfast included was a feast delivered by the lovely hosts to your room the night before. We wish we could have stayed longer.
2. Marakoopa Caves and Cafe. En route to Cradle Mountain swing by the caves which go deep underground and open to huge cathedral like caverns and home to the famous Tasmanian Cave Spider (spiders that predate the dinosaurs!). The Marakoopa Cafe is also well worth stopping by, it's in beautiful surroundings and the owners Lars and Sarah are lovely and filled with knowledge about the area.
3. Willie Smiths Apple Shed an incredible Cidery with bar, restaurant & live music space housed inside of a huge, historic timber apple shed only a short drive from hobart.
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