We arrived in January and you welcomed us with balmy sunny weather. Shirts, shorts and even a bikini on some days. In fact, we experienced our hottest night in our year of travels around Australia!! We will never forget it.
It was Australia Day weekend and we were parked at Coles Bay with our good friends Elle & Larry (@elchapposadventures). It was an absolute scorcher. Lying in the van trying our best to get comfortable, we heard water being sprayed. Instantly we started laughing in hysterics. It is neighbours Elle and Larry keeping cool with their nifty spray bottle technique! Knowing that they had a spare bottle we yelled out to them and the rest of the night is history.
Fast forward 3 months and we were waving goodbye to you from the decks of the Spirit Of Tasmania (SOT) wearing three jumpers and trackies….. We will miss you Tasmania, but we will definitely not miss your bipolar weather. Like c’mon, you snowed on us in SUMMER!!!
That’s right. 3 months. We had not booked a return ticket, we thought we could just wing it. What a rookie error that was! After a few conversations with the grey nomads we thought we better have a look at the available dates. The next available was the 20th April. By the time Ben found his wallet and pulled out the VISA card, the 20th was fully booked. Needless to say, we snatched the 21st!
HOT TIP– BOOK A RETURN TICKET
We covered an insane 9,000KM and free camped for 88 nights/93 – the 5 paid nights cost us all together a whopping $25!! The free camping in Tasmania is like no other state. The areas generally have basic amenities which means that they are clean of white roses (for those non-nomads this term is used to refer to toilet paper left disgustingly scattered around) and majority of them are dog friendly (hallelujah). I believe that there is currently a great debate on the free camping within the Tasmanian Government/Councils. This could potentially mean the closure of some free camping areas. Which is really sad, because for us, the money we save on free camping we support local and spend the money within the communities. We would be devastated if we could not visit a bakery in every town because the camping fees have blown the budget!
Now to the bit we know you have been waiting for…. our favourite places! With Tasmania being an incredibly vast and wild destination, it was so hard for us to pick our top hot spots. The entire state was a highlight! We sailed the Tamar River, hiked in Freycinet National Park, made a snowman on Mt Mawson, fished for trout, seen the sunrise over Cradle Mountain, frolicked in crystal ocean waters, dove for abalone and lobster, wandered around the Walls of Jerusalem, hunted for our own meat, kayaked in the contrasting calm waters of the West Coast, splashed around in bioluminesence, worked for 3 weeks painting houses, foraged for wild fruits and nuts, explored the Tasman Peninsula, hiked some more and explored many of the stunning river systems, forests and rainforests. We have managed to put together a recap on our 4 fav’s.
4 FAVOURITES TASMANIA
Waterhouse Conservation Area
Situated on the North-East coast 2.5 hours from the SOT in Devonport, Waterhouse was the perfect introduction to Tasmania. The gravel road in to the conservation area was one of the better ones that we have travelled on, so that in itself was already ticking the boxes.
Boasting 11 different free camping areas it is obviously a popular place for locals and travellers alike. However, do not let this deter you from staying as some of the sites have been sectioned off by either fences or vegetation giving you privacy and the feeling of seclusion. Our two preferences being Ranson’s Beach and South Croppies Point. With Ranson’s on the Eastern side and South Croppies Point on the West there is a chance to be hidden from the dreadful wind. Unless a Northerly pops in to say a big hello!
We could harp on and on about the greatness of Waterhouse Conservation Area but, we will let you experience it for yourselves. We hope that your time there will be just as good as ours!
Ben Lomond National Park & Surrounding Forests
Drivers, raise your hand if you have been personally victimised by a back-seat driver. If not, KUDOS to you but, you better hold on tight because things are about to heat up in here. We would suggest staying calm and forgive your backseat driver in advance for their slightly abusive do-this-do-that’s because after all they are on edge…quite literally.
Welcome to Jacobs Ladder. The final ascent to the Ben Lomond Plateau. At an elevation of 1,570m above sea level, the unsealed road conditions are subject to snow and ice which can be unpredictable. That alone is enough to get the backseat drivers squawking and questioning if it is even doable. But, if you time it right and are prepared then you are in for one hell of an adventure.
As we hair pinned our way up the mountain surrounded by sheer dolerite cliffs and scree slopes, we were amazed. It was a perfect blue-sky day which meant that we had clear views across the entire plateau. Arriving at the top and looking back down on the road, we felt a sense of accomplishment. 1 because the van had conquered it’s first mountain pass with ease and 2 because the driver (Ben) stayed calm. We would both agree that Jacobs Ladders is the best single road we have experienced in Australia.
Driving around the magnificent mountain and its imposing cliffs we decided that we were not ready to leave the area, so we found a spot in the surrounding forest for the night. We cooked dinner under the most magical sky and had a visit from a very inquisitive spotted quoll. Knowing that the forest was home to the beautiful fallow deer we called it a night and set our alarms early in hope to see some.
If the sound of the alarm was not enough to scare the deer off, Ben sure was. He wandered a short 10 meters from the van where right there he seen (but also spooked) a herd of fallow.
Maybe next time I will see them too!
Queenstown / The Lyell Highway
We think that we will be a very small percentage of travellers who would have Queenstown in their “Top 4 Tasmania”. We have heard travellers liken it to the most depressing place and we completely get that, it has major scars from the worst environmental disaster in Australian history. We had the best time there and ultimately, experiences triumph attractiveness. We enjoyed it so much that we went back twice!
As we passed through the surreal rocky moonscape down in to Queenstown we were in awe at not only the surreal rocky moonscape but the surrounding conglomerate mountain range that boasted Horsetail Falls and of course the “Welcome to Queenstown” sign made from white rocks on the mountain ridge. Oh, and the NINETY bends in the road. Let’s just say it was definitely a contender for our #1 single best road in Australia.
During our two visits we strolled around the town learning of the history, drove up and around Mt Huxley, visited the meeting site of the King and Queen rivers and watched a local game of AFL which was a major highlight. Queenstown’s home ground is considered to be ‘Australia’s Most Feared Football Oval’ and that it is. Completely made of gravel the teams must learn a rolling technique rather than a tackle to avoid serious gravel rash injuries. Why the oval is made of gravel you ask? There is up to 3 metres of rainfall every year therefore it is difficult to maintain and upkeep a grass field. After speaking to a local, apparently the oval was as bad a road base back in the day. Absolute NUTS!!
Due to having our dog, Tosca, on board we were unable to do the 4-day Frenchman’s Cap hike as hoped so we set up base camp at the Lake Burbury free camp and stopped in at all the short walks in the Franklin-Gordon Wild Rivers National Park along the Lyell Highway as we headed towards Queenstown. Our favourites being the Franklin River Nature Trail and Donaghys Hill. We got a great taste for the section of west coast wilderness and we will be back to conquer Frenchmans one day!
Mt Murchison Regional Reserve
Mt Murchison was one of the many mountains I had written down (two A4 pages to be exact) to summit and one I was really looking forward to the most especially because Ben had agreed to come along and that it is off the beaten tourist track. We have planned for a sunset summit but in true Ben & Scout hiking style, we were 2 hours too early ha-ha!
The 5km return trail begins at a small gravel pit on the side of the highway and gradually ascends along a spur through enchanting forest before popping out on to moss and lichen covered boulders sprawled in the rockery of mother nature. Feeling our lungs bursting with the crisp mountain air we stopped to take in our surroundings. The sunlight was cascading down through the craggy cliffs and in to a navy-blue lake. The first of a few stunning lakes on the mountain. We also caught a glimpse of a waterfall!
As we traversed north across and up some very exposed sections, we reached the 1275m summit and were gobsmacked at the uninterrupted views. The chunky conglomerate rock of Mt Murchison formed a natural circle with the sheer cliffs dropping down into bowl of hanging lakes. The close by Tyndall Range boasted a specular back drop and off in the distance the DuCane Range and Cradle Mountain-Lake St Clair National Park cast its profile across the horizon.
It was truly the most magnificent sight. So wild. So rugged. So untouched.
There is still so so much that we have left to explore so we will definitely be back!!! And who knows, we might even find a different 4 Favourite Places.