Archive for April, 2012
“Too easy!” The first thing I noticed about traveling in Tasmania was this familiar expression that I heard over and over again throughout our trip from shop keepers and information ladies! Hopefully some of this post will help to make your trip to Tasmania “too easy”.
I just wanted to throw together some highlight of our trip to Tasmania and hopefully give you an idea of what you can or can’t expect to see/do in 10 days.
Tasmania wasn’t ever really high on my list of must see places in the world, I really knew very little about it and only did a bit of research before heading over to “Tassie”. That being said, it has quickly become one of the places I think everyone traveling to Australia and/or New Zealand should check out. From what I gather most tourists only plan on a few days in Tasmania which is enough if you want to see one or two places but not enough to really get a feel for the place.
It’s relatively small on the map but takes a long time to get from point A to B with the winding highway roads with max speed of 100kph/60mph which most of the time you can’t really go that fast safely. It’s about the same size of Ireland, Switzerland or West Virginia, USA. I haven’t been to West Virginia but know I would really need more than 10 days to see all of Ireland or Switzerland. I think 10 days was just a bit too short to see what we really wanted to see without feeling like we were go go go every day. There are islands off Tasmania that we could have easily spent 3-4 days along on exploring, hiking and relaxing.
One thing I find super helpful when trying to plan itineraries is looking at the tour groups and see what they book for their customers. Obviously they include the “must sees” and you can get an idea how long it will take you to “tick the boxes”, understanding that you wont really get a full feel for the place but can go on your LSD tour – your “look, see, do” of the area.
We did use a 2008 version of Lonely Planet to help figure out some must sees but I have to say I was unimpressed with LP itineraries. There wasn’t one route that made a loop around the island – which is what we ended up doing.
Briefly, here was what we did:
Day 1: Arrived in Hobart and had a day to plan, arrange internet (be aware that your Optus or Vodafone will NOT work in Tasmania outside of the two main towns – Hobart and Launceston) It proved almost worthless to have this and we ended up buying a $100 internet stick from Telstra which was a lifesaver or at least a sanity saver! If the weather is clear you can do a drive up to Mount Wellington – our weather never played the game for us.
Day 2: We had another crap weather day and ended up driving West from Hobart. We thought about doing the Tahune Airwalk and Hastings Caves which you can do both in a day. If the weather was better we probably would have opted for a day trip to the Tasman Peninsula or Bruny Island. The highlight of Day 2 would have been Hartz National Park – but even that the weather wasn’t ideal by our summer chasing standars – but seeing big beautiful snow flakes was pretty cool!
The “we sure wouldn’t do that again” was definitely the thermal springs in Hastings. Guess we learned our lesson that thermal doesn’t mean “hot”. It was cold outside and the springs are a mere 28C or 82F – so similar to a lightly heated swimming pool, definitely not what we were anticipating.
Day 3: We started our circumference of the island by heading counter clockwise. We only chose counter clockwise because the weather seemed to be playing the game for the coast. You could do this all clockwise. We didn’t make reservations until the night before when we had an idea of where we wanted to get to. This was a great day that included a stop at Freycinet National Park to hike to Wineglass Bay.
I would have loved to have hiked Mt. Amos but not enough time for both. Wineglass Bay is a MUST do in my opinion. That night we opted for cheaper accommodation in Bicheno and really enjoyed the town of Bicheno. Had a great meal of grilled Trevella that night at the Sea Life Center.
Day 4: We only went as far at St. Helens and the Bay of Fires. Not long on the map but this gave us some more time to explore Bicheno and the coast and the Bay of Fires. This was an amazing day – great weather so the red rocks really stood out against the blue water and sky. Just enjoy exploring and the beauty. These were some of the prettiest beaches we have seen (and we live in Kauai so we see some awesome beaches).
Day 5: This was a big windshield day for us. We saw that there was good weather in Cradle Mountain and since we had little interest in wineries or the town of Launceston we made a few stops but made it as far as Gowrie Park which is about 45 minutes outside of Cradle Mountain but had some cheap accommodation (nothing fancy so don’t expect much) but it was cheap!) Some not to miss stops along the way are the St. Columba Falls on the Pyengana reserve.
The Pyengana dairy was good too but eating that much cheese, milk and fat definitely went against my nutrition plan and my body told me so! Made me know that I definitely need to give the Ultimate Reset a go when I get back to the States!
We also did a short walk through Cataract Gorge in Launceston, which I probably would have enjoyed more had I not eaten like crap a few hours prior.
Day 6 and 7: We had a BLUEBIRD day in Cradle Mountain – two days in a row so we took full advantage and did A LOT of walking! A few gripes about Cradle Mountain… first of all not all the hikes are listed when you get to the visitor center. You get the short ones and the LONG ones but not the 3-5 hour hikes for people like Chris and me! The fist day we hiked to Marion’s lookout – we chose the steep and tough trail (glad we did – I like stairs!). After getting up there I knew I wanted to do more hiking in the area! Instead of heading back the way we came we took a longer route that spit us out at a different shuttle stop and took us by Cradle Lake and through some lovely rainforest.
On our way back to the visitor center after our hike we stopped at the “Interpretation Center” where they have a 3-D model of the park with walking trails outlined on the model. Why isn’t this in the visitors center? We didn’t get off at the Interpretation Center because if we had we wouldn’t be allowed back on the shuttle going INTO the park – only going OUT of the park. Seriously?? We saw some other travelers get really frustrated by this fact – its not really explained or sign posted well enough IMO.
For our second day we decided that if the weather was nice we would head back to Cradle Mountain and do a BIG hike that would take us 1/2 way around Dove Lake, up to Lake Wilks, to the saddle between the two main peaks, across the face, around another mountain and to a couple more lakes (Twisted and Hanson) and then back to the start. It was a GREAT hike! Really good bang for the buck!
Because accommodation was booked at Gowrie Park we had to find another option and chose a pub in Waratah, also about 45 minutes outside of Cradle Mountain but on the West side. It was my first time staying in pub accommodation Waratah ended up being a pleasant surprise. The pub was across from a nice waterfall and we heard of another hike to do in the area – Philosopher Falls which was also very pleasant.
After our second day of hiking we decided to head all the way up Northwest to Stanley for the night. We didn’t make too many stops since we knew we would be back through the next day to explore if we wanted. We did consider going from Stanley around to Arthur River and though the Tarkine but heard the road was rough, would involve a ferry crossing and it would take a LONG time so we chose to double back.
Day 8: Another big windshield day. These are almost more exhausting than the hiking days! I’ll take hiking days over windshield days any day!
We started in Stanley by hiking up to the top of the Nut! Definitely worth the walk! (Or you could take the chairlift but not us!)
We had a couple stops at Rocky Cape, Sisters Beach and Boat Harbor Beach. All lovely but after seeing the beaches on the east coast these didn’t quite compare – although Boat Harbor Beach was pretty special.
The stops didn’t take long but we really did just stop, have a look then carry on, not really soaking in and enjoying the area. We wanted to make it to Strahan that night in time to check it out a bit. We also wanted to see Montezuma Falls but messed up by not planning enough time for the three hour hike. Next time!
Strahan just isn’t our cup of tea – sounded like the highlights was a pretty boat trip that is special because of the reflections in the water. We skipped this (you would need a 1/2 day- whole day at least to do this trip) We checked out Ocean Beach and McQuarie Headlands and called it a night.
Day 9: Another BIG drive. The drive from Strahan back to Hobart is LONG – about 5 hours but we wanted to stop a few times for a couple short walks. We really only wanted to get as far as Mt. Fields or Westerway for the night. We did a couple of the short walks, Nelson Falls and the lookout were both nice and worth the stop. We arrived in Mt. Fields to do Russell Falls which was REALLY nice. Definitely worth the stop – it was a really good falls, and an easy short walk! We could have made it back to Hobart but ended up staying in New Norfolk when we drove past another pub, apparently the oldest continuously licensed pub in Australia. It was similar to staying in the hotel like the Shining! We were the only guests, it was old, but no kids playing in the hallway.
Day 10: We headed on the rest of the way to Hobart – we were going to stop at MONA (Museum of Old and New Art) but it was closed on Tuesdays and we were going to drive up Mt. Wellington but you guessed it, cloudy! So we carried on and went to the Tasman Peninsula. I would suggest spending more time on the Tasman Peninsula – I don’t think we gave it nearly enough time. However, the Port Arthur historical site I wouldn’t head back to – expensive and boring, of course this is just my opinion – some people spend two full days there. We spent about 90 minutes there and were out $32 a person. Ouch! It would have been nice to do a boat trip or some more walks or spend the night out there. We headed back to Hobart (about 75 min drive each way so a doable day trip)
Day 11: It all depends on the weather it seems! We hoped Mt. Wellington would play the game but it didn’t so we tried MONA again. I really enjoyed MONA but Chris breezed through it and thought it was just a bit too weird. There are some very “interesting” (read: odd, controversial, out there) exhibits. It is meant to make you think, give you something to chat about and maybe even make you feel a bit uncomfortable. Read reviews on tripadvisor.com to decide if you want to check it out or not! We were feeling pretty tired after the 10 previous days so checked out the Botanical Gardens and called it a day to get ready to fly out the next morning.
Click the Fat Car – even a Porsche doesn’t look good with extra pounds
So the cliff notes version of our trip
~Pay attention to weather to plan your route
~Highlights were Cradle Mountain and the East Coast beaches
~Would come back to check out Bruny Island, Maria Island and Tasman Peninsula more. Maria Island is expensive to get to so spending a couple days would make sense to me.
~Get a Telstra phone! It'll be more expensive but what good is a cheap phone that doesn't work!
~Get a parks pass for eight weeks. Otherwise each park is $24 for 24 hours.
Email me if you have questions. I know I am not an expert in Tasmania, just a traveler like you trying to see the sights and make the most of it!