A whistle-stop tour of Tasmania

We arrived at tiny Hobart airport in the early evening and we were waiting patiently for our bags to make the 30 metre journey from plane to belt when, suddenly, we had a very cute dog sat attentively next to us. Tasmania has very strict quarantine regulations and you cannot bring fruit or vegetables over from the mainland. Being the thrifty travellers that we now are, we had brought our own plane snacks, rather than buying them at the airport, and this little fella could smell the apples even though we’d thrown them away. Dogs are cool. Hobart airport also has this excellent statue which Caro loved, so now we have about 30 photos of it:IMG_3156There is no public transport in to town so we hopped on the airport shuttle and were dropped off just outside our hostel, The Nook. We checked in and discovered, to our delight, that we were in fact sleeping in bunk beds. We had suspected this from our reservation but had not dared to hope.IMG_3160This picture is taken from the door and James is standing in the only available space to the side. We were essentially sleeping in a windowless cupboard, meaning that Caro had finally achieved her aim of actually becoming Harry Potter. The next day we set out to explore Hobart, heading first to the waterfront and Elizabeth Street Pier. This has a sort of posh market that was fun to wander around although the wares slightly too pricey for our tastes.

Next, we did the “In Bobby’s Footsteps” tour of Battery Point, which is like a village in the middle of a city. Battery Point is lovely in general but we must point out one thing about the tour: at least half of the places of interest on the map have descriptions that begin with words like “this used to be….. but now”. This isn’t ideal on a walking tour and we found ourselves looking at a car park and a hideous 1980s style pub both of which had replaced much prettier buildings. Nonetheless we persevered and some of the places in Battery Point, such as Arthur Circus, the cottages lining Kelly Street and Kelly’s steps, were lovely and worth the walk.

Hobart is a pretty small city and once we had taken in the Houses of Parliament, the Courthouse and the shopping area we had pretty much seen what the CBD had to offer aside from museums and made our way back to our cupboard for some blog writing. Whilst making dinner that evening we ran in to the girl who works behind the bar at James’s old rugby club in London, small world. The next morning Caro was treated to an early morning wake-up call from two friends in London who were having dinner together and so started the day on a bit of a high (as they are two of our avid readers: Hi guys, love you both.) It was time to leave Hobart so we picked up our little Kia Rio and started having a think about what to name her as we drove up to Mount Wellington, 1200m above Hobart. It hadn’t exactly been scorching down in Hobart but we were comfortable in shorts and t-shirts. Here’s a quick tip; it gets cold up mountains. It was 8 degrees when we got to the top but, being stubborn and/or stupid, we decided to just throw on our hoodies and brave the cold. So, we were a bit chilly but it was 100% worth it, the views from Mount Wellington are absolutely beautiful.DSC_0009DSC_0005We were feeling the cold a bit so did a quick two-person conga line to warm up on the way back to the car, which we had decided to name Copacabana The Party Car.IMG_8722We drove almost directly north of Hobart up the Heritage Highway with Launceston as our final destination. English friends, stop trying to pronounce this name as you will get it wrong, it’s LON – SESS – TUN. Our route took us through the historic towns of Oatlands and Ross. Ross is a really lovely town and we stopped to have our lunch by the river, overlooking the bridge.IMG_8718James was absolutely delighted to see that Ross was also taking a delivery of a cannon as we were making our way out and back to the highway.IMG_8726We failed to take any pictures but, if you do happen to drive the highway, look out for sculptures in the fields to either side.

We had been told by Aussies on the mainland numerous times that we would feel right at home in Tassie as it is “just like England”. Doubtless, it is more like England than the rest of Oz, particularly as we were driving through the farmland, but it’s not so similar that you would ever confuse the two.

We arrived in town and found our way to Launceston Backpackers, our somewhat interesting home for the next two nights. We will preface this by saying that it had absolutely everything that we needed, the kitchen was well stocked and it was very clean. That being said, it was a weird place. There was hardly anyone there on our first night and it did have the stark feel of a prison, or perhaps a convent. That evening we took a stroll up to Cataract Gorge, Launceston’s biggest draw card, and along the Gorge walk.DSC_0021It is very pretty and well worth going to see, we would just advise that you stop as soon as you can see the chair lift across the river. There is a strange sort of holiday park at the far end which doesn’t add much to the experience, well for us anyway. There were plenty of people enjoying it.

We meandered back through town taking in the centre, and happened across the Irish pub, imaginatively called The Irish. We stopped in for a quiet pint and as we were leaving the barman casually threw out “good luck for the third test”, bastard. We headed back to the hostel, and devoured some excellent Tasmanian steak.IMG_3181The next day we made our way to Tasmania’s most famous landmark, Cradle Mountain. On the two hour drive there we took the scenic route through glorious scenery of managed farmland and then mountain forest, which was broken up every now and then to reveal panoramas across northern Tasmania. Definitely take the time to do the scenic drive if you follow the same route as us.

We pulled in to the chilly Cradle Mountain visitors centre car park, wrapped up in all our clothes and coats and ventured out to get the lay of the land. Cradle Mountain is a very popular destination, so the park run shuttle buses to the start and end points of the various walks, to keep traffic down on the very narrow and winding access road. This is an excellent idea and we would encourage anyone visiting to take the shuttle bus option, it eases pressure on the park dramatically. It also means that you can appreciate the views out of the windows and we saw an echidna and a wombat to whet our appetites for the park.

There are loads of walks at Cradle Mountain and you could easily stay for two or three days to tackle some of them. As we only had a few hours we decided do the Dove Lake walk which is a 6km tramp right at the base of Cradle Mountain. We had lucked out with the weather, which was cold but clear, and so we got a full view of the mountain which is so regularly shrouded in cloud.IMG_8739The park operates a sign in and out log book for walkers, so we dutifully signed in and set off. The beginning of the track was quite busy but once we got a short way in the walk was very peaceful and we passed only a handful of other walkers.  We stopped at about the half way point to enjoy more cheese sandwiches and take in the views.IMG_3195

I think we can all agree that, despite the cold, the scenery is stunning and James enjoyed the opportunity to play with the camera some more.DSC_0048IMG_8729After our walk, we re-boarded the shuttle, saw another echidna, and jumped back in to Copacabana The Party Car. One of our reasons for heading to Cradle Mountain was the Devils@Cradle Tasmanian Devil conservation site close by, as we both wanted to see the threatened species while in Tassie. We have avoided paying many entry fees but we are glad we did here, particularly as we had fortunately timed our visit to coincide with a keeper’s talk. The talk was 45 minutes and hugely informative about the Devils, the impact of facial tumour disease on the population and what is being done to try and conserve a disease-free population whilst increasing wild numbers.IMG_3204The centre also has a similar conservation program for Spotted and Eastern Quolls which, as carnivores, can be aggressive but they are also so damn cute.DSC_0072We took the slightly straighter highway route back to Launceston, as Caro was having flashbacks to childhood ski trips and feeling the ill-effects of the winding roads. Whilst preparing dinner that evening, James got talking to another traveler in the hostel who, it turned out, had been staying at the same place as us on Margaret River at the same time as us. She is cycling from Tassie back to the UK, which is an astonishing undertaking. It was great to chat with another traveler and get some tips on Sri Lanka and India.

Our final two days in Tasmania were to be devoted to the east coast so the following morning we worked our way across to the coast from Launceston. Our first stop was on a whim; we pulled off the road at Sideling Look Out and we were rewarded with this dramatic view over the Shire of Dorset.IMG_8757Further East we wound our way up to Ralph Falls. The walk from the car park takes about 15 minutes and winds through beautiful, fairytale woodlands finally bringing you out on to a viewing platform and a fantastic view of the falls and surrounding countryside.IMG_3212Our final stop before hitting the coast was St Columbia falls, which you don’t even have to get out of your car to see so you might as well stop by. We continued to wind our way through the hills until we hit the coast and the Bay of Fires.IMG_8784Bay of Fires is yet another fantastic beach and also, relatively undeveloped. It wasn’t quite warm enough to tempt us in to the water so we admired the beach for a while before moving on to Scamander, another 20 minutes down the coast, where we had a cabin booked for the night. As it was our last night, we were rather pre-occupied with packing so ended up having an oven pizza for dinner, not our finest hour but the novelty of an oven did add to the enjoyment. We have mentioned before that we have definitely over-packed so we took the opportunity of moving country to throw out a couple of bits and pieces, no doubt the first of many attempted purges.

As our flight wasn’t until the evening we had a whole morning before we needed to head back to the airport and we used it to visit Freycinet National Park. Our route took us through the lovely little seaside town of Bicheno, which we definitely would have explored the previous afternoon, if we had realised that it was there. We did not have time that day, however, and pressed on to the Park. Freycinet is hugely popular, of everywhere that we have visited in Australia it felt the most crowded, to the extent that we were unable to park at one of the sites. Caro had hurt her back the previous day and wasn’t really up to a long walk so James tackled the walk to Wine Glass Bay Lookout on his own.DSC_0085The views were absolutely beautiful and therefore worth the walk however unfortunately the path had been very crowded so the walk itself was not as enjoyable as it might have been. Caro took herself off to Honeymoon Bay and filled the hour whilst James was gone blog writing in her outdoor office.IMG_8799Overall, we enjoyed Freycinet and we are glad that we went, it just didn’t quite live up to Cradle Mountain and some of the other amazing places that we have been so lucky to visit in Australia. Once we were back in the car, it was time to head back to the airport and bring our Australia tour to a close. We stopped to buy our last Connoisseur ice creams and bid farewell to another faithful friend.IMG_8802Our Australia Lonely Planet has been a fabulous travelling companion and we hope whoever picks it up off the backseat of Copacabana The Party Car finds it just as useful. We will be writing a cover page for the Australia section of the blog with general observations and hints and tips so we won’t go in to any of that here. All we would like to say now is that our time in Australia was incredible, we went on an amazing journey through a beautiful, wild and incredibly diverse country. We have had the perfect start to our adventure, New Zealand, here we come.





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