Sampling some of Tassie’s finest … walks

On a mission to see the ‘missing bits’ during a month-long camping trip.

Sampling some of Tassie’s finest … walks

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

Total: $2896

Do you love Tassie? Have you been multiple times? What walks have you tried and loved?

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    COMMENTS

    To make a comment, please register or login
    Rod63
    22nd Jun 2019
    10:01am
    Tasmania is THE BEST, because there is such variety in such a small area. The food and wine/cider/spirits are brilliant and the people so friendly and welcoming.
    PlanB
    22nd Jun 2019
    11:16am
    I did Tassie some years back and was told that it could be seen in a WEEKEND!?! FGS I was there almost 8 weeks and took the caravan and traveled every day, did walks and flights -- boat trips and I am SURE there was much more to see could have seen it is a wonderful place and the people were so old style and trusting -- it was a pleasure.

    Let's face it you can LIVE in a place all your life and still not see everything -- there is always something more to see and more to learn.
    Mac
    22nd Jun 2019
    12:29pm
    Yes, Tasmania is the best - wonderful scenery, friendly people, fresh air and good food. A certain vibe to the place which is unique.

    Hopefully it will not be ruined by over-development and proposals for privately run cable cars installed on public land on this and that mountain. - Mt Wellington, Mt Roland, and at Cradle Mountain. This seems to be the latest craze these days.

    Keep Tasmania's cities and towns free from high rise development also otherwise it will become just like mainland Australia.

    Expat. Tasmanian.
    FrankC
    22nd Jun 2019
    3:25pm
    They may put a cable car on mount Roland, ( bit difficult) but NEVER EVER, on Cradle Mountain. Tassie is known for all of the above reasons given , and more. Let's not get this beautiful unspoilt island destroyed by the mighty tourism dollar, Tasmania is unique , not only by way of its history, but by what it doesn't have. ! Have been on the Overland track, and climbed up into the Walls of Jerusalem. Magnificent.
    Mac
    22nd Jun 2019
    5:30pm
    Frank C,

    I said "at Cradle Mountain" - not "on Cradle Mountain". There certainly are plans to put a cable car on Mt Wellington and also on Mt Roland. There are campaigns against both those projects by those who want to maintain Tassie's natural beauty - not turn the island into some kind of Disneyland.

    Presently there is a campaign to stop private huts being built at Lake Malbena, guests to be helicoptered in to their destination. Pricey accommodation too.

    Lots of tourism projects being planned _ Rosny Hill stopped at the moment but still brewing I think, Cambria Green and so on. Lately a proposal for a skyway at The Gorge, Launceston.

    The state government is keen to encourage tourism development. Agree with you about not spoiling Tassie ... "Let's not get this beautiful unspoilt island destroyed by the mighty tourism dollar, ... " but that is what seems to be happening.
    MICK
    22nd Jun 2019
    5:40pm
    Try the Trowutta Rainforest walk. Only a 5 minute walk from the road but you will never have seet tree ferns in such abundance anywhere. Thousands of them. Very nice.
    Of course a visit to Stanley is something not to be missed. The walk around the top of The Nutt is unforgettable and the coffee shop in the township (the yellow building with the green posts) is the only place in Tassie where I've been able to buy a real coffee as most Tasmanians have no idea of what a real coffee should taste like.
    Its a wonderful island.
    Thoughtful
    22nd Jun 2019
    8:17pm
    Yes - do not think you need to be a professional bush walker to enjoy Tasmania. A great deal of the beautiful scenery can be seen from the car or a short walk from a car park.


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