On a mission to see the ‘missing bits’ during a month-long camping trip.
This was our sixth trip to Tasmania and, we thought, our last. Surely we can visit all the places we hadn’t been to before and then move happily on to another part of Australia. What we discovered was that Tassie will never be ‘done’.
These are lessons learnt on a trip around Tasmania with a camper trailer in tow.
Where we went
We had been to Tasmania on five other occasions, so this was about seeing the bits we hadn’t seen. We disembarked, turned left and did a lap of the state via Bridport, Stumpy’s Bay (North-East National Park), Bay of Fires Conservation Area, Tasman NP, Southport and South-West NP, Mt Field NP, Arthur River (west coast) and Bridport (again, because we loved it). We had previously visited Hobart and Launceston, the Cradle Mountain region, the Freycinet Peninsula, Queenstown and rafted on the Franklin to Strahan.
What I learnt – national parks and walks (and strolls)
First up, a confession. I have to admit I can be a bit ageist. I’m 62 and moderately fit, so should not have been surprised at how many older Australians are walking difficult tracks. But I was – even though I was one of them.
Tasmania talks up its national parks and walking trails and did not disappoint – well, maybe just once. Stumpy’s Bay in North-East NP was cold, windy and had a dozen bluebottles washed up on the beach. Not that we were contemplating swimming. On another day, it may have been lovely.
The series of free camps north of St Helens and Binalong Bay in the Bay of Fire Conservation Area was glorious – azure blue water, fishing, swimming, signature red lichen on the rocks. Though most camps were crowded. We kept heading north until we found my favourite spot on this trip – Sloop Reef. This was a beautiful bay; no beach but you could swim among the rocks and the view was to-die-for. The swimming beaches were just south, though a drive away. St Helen’s was about a 20-minute drive away, where you can shower, do your laundry and wash the dog and your car if you wish. A very friendly town. I can also recommend Lichen restaurant in Binalong Bay.
St Columba Falls are the longest in the state and well worth the drive past Pyengana and the short walk. At the start of the walk was a storyboard about an early settler who was lost in the forest for nine nights and being tracked by Tassie devils when she chanced upon another human. Our pioneers were stoic people.
Oh to have Tasman NP on my doorstep. Cape Raoul walk (moderate 14km return trip) promised and over-delivered. I can still feel my feet tingling when I looked over the edge at different points and urging me to jump (it really is a thing). Gobsmacking towering 300m high dolomite rock formations, diverse vegetation including forests, heath and scrub. Make sure you view the end point from both lookouts. I can’t wait to get back to this area to walk other tracks.
I’d been to Bruny Island, but only for a day, and was desperate to get back for more oysters, cheese, beer, chocolate, pizza, scones and jam. And to walk.
The Luggaboine track in the south-west is an easy 90-minute track but takes you past yet another stunning bay that just screams at you to swim in it. And the Queen Elizabeth Cape walk is an easy 6km stroll to a rocky archway. Time your walk according to low tide – much easier. Fluted Cape, on the other hand, is a challenging three-hour (for some) circuit that has spectacular cliffs that are almost as good as Cape Raoul. It’s tough uphill and tough going down, with loose rock and tracks that slope to sheer drops, but so so good. I’m amazed – but delighted – that some of these walks are not fenced off at the edges. I’m sure they would be in Victoria.
Next up was South-West NP and the South Cape Bay track – a moderate 15km walk that was interesting, but not great. I’d been spoilt. It was very windy at the destination the day we did it, a few snakes en route to keep you alert and the cape actually looked like it had been covered in bitumen. I’m sure on another day it would be better.
In this region, the 4km walk to Duckhole Lake near Dover and in the Hastings Caves State Reserve, was a beautiful easy meander through forest, past creeks and to a lovely little lake at the end. Though again, be alert for snakes in the sunny patches.
The fires were still active in a number of regions, so we headed to Mt Field NP. On day one, we drove the 16km up, up, up to walk around Lake Dobson, but hadn’t counted on it being so cold and so wet. Whatever the temperature is down below, apparently it will be at least 8°C colder on top. It was a great drive, but disappointing not to do what I understand is a beautiful short walk.
Near the campground is the Mt Field NP circuit walk past falls and very tall trees. The Styx Valley was closed due to the fires, so this was our chance to see big trees – the swamp gums that are 80-90m tall. They didn’t disappoint. It’s a nice stroll, but can be quite busy.
I regret to say, Arthur River was disappointing with limited, unattractive camping areas that didn’t match the reviews. Though I think by that time, we had been totally spoilt. Next time, we will start in the Tarkine region. Next time …
Do: the Bridport town circuit walk – lovely on the foreshore, dull through the bush but the information boards about the area’s history are fascinating; play golf at Barnbougle and Lost Farm, if you love the game and are cashed up; have a meat pie in Exeter (from the bakery’s century-old oven); stop at Pyengana Dairy Farmgate Cafe for coffee, cheese and scones; have a beer at the Pub in the Paddock (near Pyengana) and buy one for Priscilla the pig – if she’s awake and your conscience permits; stop in Bicheno for a fisherman’s basket at The Gulch; swim in Stewart’s Bay near Port Arthur; check out the old cemetery at Cockle Creek; drive to Lake Pedder, Strathgordon and walk out on the wall of the Gordon Dam; stay awake when you’re travelling through the Central Highlands and over the Great Western Tiers; stop for refreshments at the Possum Shed in Westaway; visit the hop museum at Bushy Park; remember what deck your car is on when you board the ferry.
Travel dates: 2 February–2 March (28 days)
Kilometres covered: 3342
Total fuel costs: $425.60
Accommodation costs: Combination of free camping, caravan parks, national parks and two nights indoors – $871 (27 nights, one night on the ferry) average $32 per night
Ferries/passes: Spirit of Tasmania $1400, Bruny Island $80, parks pass $60
Do you love Tassie? Have you been multiple times? What walks have you tried and loved?
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