Amongst Australians Tasmania, fondly called Tassie, is the butt of jokes. Four seasons in a day and the people have webbed feet due to the tiny gene pool, so they say. Well I never saw any of the people take off their shoes so I can’t comment. What I can tell you about is the fantastic week I spent here over Christmas.
I think it would be fair to say the majority of tourists see Hobart and much of the east coast of the island. While perhaps this is fully justified we really enjoyed our drive down the west and still fit in all the beautiful east coast on the way back up to Launceston.
Day 1 – Launceston to Cradle Mountain National Park to Queenstown. Sleep: Queenstown
After picking up the hire car in the morning, put Cradle Mountain National Park in GPS and after getting yourself whatever you need to fuel yourself for the day it should take you around two and a half hours to reach your destination. A UNESCO heritage site in the Tasmanian wilderness it spans an area of wonderful beauty and wildlife. You’ll need to buy entry for the park and if you’re using this itinerary as a guide I’d recommend getting a pass for the car that gives entry to all the National Parks in the state. You have to park it in the car park at the entrance and then either walk or take the shuttle buses the go to and from the different points of interest in the park.
We took on 2 of the walking tracks in a busy day for us but were rewarded with sights of mountains, lakes, wild wombats (I was very excited as this is the only time I saw them in the wild in my year in Australia), huge crows, and generally rugged nature.
Completing our walk as the park was about to close we came upon Dove Lake which was the perfect way to end the afternoon. It’s possible to scramble over to a more isolated part of the lake-side to sit and take it in. Sitting there with the water in front of you and mountains looming in the background gives that great feeling of insignificance. Close your eyes and hear the water lap against the shore for a truly relaxing few moments. Until your friends tell you to get a move on for the last shuttle bus!
It’s worth noting that you aren’t obliged to take the shuttles because they aren’t as frequent as you’d like, but the walking distances range from about 2km to 10km between points.
We found accommodation in the mining town of Queenstown which is another 2 hours drive from Cradle Mountain. It was our gateway to a day out in the western coastal town of Strahan the next day. We were limited in terms of budget accommodation but this proved to be excellently located. Check out Barrys place in Queenstown.
Day 2 – Strahan & Queenstown. Sleep: Queenstown
We had read that Strahan was THE town to visit in the west of Tasmania. It is on the waterfront, is the gateway to World Heritage listed Franklin–Gordon Wild Rivers National Park, and is host to a wealth of activities. As we hadn’t been able to reserve 3 beds in the local youth hostel we had decided to stay in Queenstown and drive in for the day.
We were a little disappointed to be honest and found that most of the interesting activities such as kayaking, a river cruise and scenic flights were either running limited services because it was the week of Christmas or were too expensive. We were also unlucky in our search for platypus :(.
Obviously in between day 2 and 3 we had a chance to look around Queenstown. It is a sleepy little down when the mining industry is shut down as it was while we were visiting. We ran into some interesting characters when in the pub, asking for directions, and buying food in the local shop. It’s be great to hear from people who’ve visited when it’s been busy. The scenic railway line runs between here and Strahan, a very recommended activity giving insight into the areas history, great views, and restaurant service on board. Unfortunately it didn’t fit in with our schedule so we missed out.
Day 3 – A day of driving and sightseeing to Hobart. Sleep: Hobart
It’s around a 3 and a half hour drive from Queenstown to Hobart, the capital city. So we thought we’d take longer and make a few photo stops and ensure we’d reach our hostel at the end of the afternoon.
This was one of my favourite days of the trip. The west is so green and lush and we drove by quite a few lakes along the way. The landscape is very rugged but the air very fresh.
As we left Queenstown and climbed up a narrow, winding road there was a turn off to a lake uncovered by the mining in the area. The exposed land was a multitude of colours and it’s hard to get that and the surrounding landscape into one photo.
Continuing on we reached greener country and it wasn’t long before we reached Lake Burbury where we stayed only for around 15 minutes. A great spot for a panorama.
The next hour and a half or so is spent driving through national park with trees on either side, creating a lot of shadow. We passed through Derwent Bridge which gives views of Lake St Claire to the north and Lake King William to the south. We continued on enjoying the road as we went.
As we neared the greater Hobart area we stopped for food in New Norfolk, a fairly small town. At this point in was lunch time and after another hour we had reached Hobart and decided to go towards Huonville and stop at a local winery, Home Hill. At this point it was raining heavily and we were pleased for the shelter. For $5 each we received a tasting of 3 or 4 wines from a very friendly hostess. A couple of bottles were bought off the back of that so I’d say it was worth it!
As a final bit of sightseeing of a long day we wanted to check out Blackmans Bay but unfortunately due to the terrible weather the visibility was very poor and after driving around decided to head into Hobart and find our hostel.
Day 4 – MONA & Mount Wellington. Sleep: Hobart
All aboard the boat dressed like a cow! What?! That’s right, the MONA ferry is painted like an aquatic cow, which is a cow that swims… you get the gist. For me the best part of MONA was the trip over there along the River Derwent and seeing the impressive red building as we approached.
In the afternoon we went to the viewpoint up at Mount Wellington. Being December it was very chilly up the top and I regretted not taking a warm layer to be able to further appreciate the view.
Day 5 – Port Arthur. Sleep: Hobart
It was Christmas Day but Port Arthur were still running tours in the morning. A rainy morning at that. Our holiday moods were not affected however. One of the most successful prisons in Australia under British rule, Port Arthur was a rehabilitative centre that attempted to teach inmates new crafts to reduce the risk of them reoffending when they were released. It was also the first location of a separate juvenile facility as it was thought that boys were more likely to live lives on the straight and narrow if they weren’t thrown into prison with adult offenders. Forward thinkers!
Day 6 – Freycinet National Park. Sleep: Bicheno
Ah Freycinet National Park, where wallabies hang out in car parks.
Finally, we were at one of the top 10 beaches in the world at Wineglass Bay. The water was about 16C but we just HAD to swim before a couple of hours walking along beaches, cliffs and through the forest.
I love erosion. We came across this place called the Tessellated Pavement on our drive towards Bicheno.
Day 7 – Bicheno. Sleep: St. Helens
A 5 minute drive from Bicheno was this secluded lake. The temperature was…fresh. But once I was in there was no stopping me. Peaceful and tranquil I really want to go back!
Day 8 – Bay of Fires, St Columba Falls, Bridport
We thought we were in the wrong place for the sunrise, but I don’t believe that’s possible anywhere up the east coast. We had this morning planned and it didn’t disappoint. I’ll let the photos do the talking for Bay of Fires.