Featured destinations: Tasmania
Published 31 May 2017
It was my second visit to Australia. I’d already done the whole backpacking thing a few years earlier, and ticked off the Sydney, Rock and Reef triple whammy. It was time to try something new. After hearing good things about Tasmania, it seemed as good a place as any to visit, and besides, I love wide open spaces, which the island is certainly not short of. So, rather spontaneously, my boyfriend David and I booked a flight to Hobart, hired a car, and off we went.
Leaving Tasmania’s small but perfectly formed capital Hobart behind, the landscape reminded me of the British countryside; all fields, hills, sheep and cows. In fact the only signs that we weren’t in rural Buckinghamshire were the gum trees, and the fact the grass was far too green.
Ross Village Bakery image: Angela Griffin
This was May, Australia’s autumn. The golden leaves were in full force when we arrived in Ross, a pretty village with a war memorial, an ornately carved bridge over a crystal clear stream, and two shops selling knitted jumpers and flowery notepaper. We admired the quaintness of it and David sampled a beef pie from the bakery.
Angela at Wineglass Bay image: Angela Griffin
Freycinet National Park
Our next stop was Freycinet National Park. There we walked uphill through giant orange boulders and gum trees to a lookout point, from where we were treated to fine views of Wineglass Bay, so-called because it’s in the shape of a wine glass. At the top we paused to look at the mountains, bays and beaches, and to make friends with some wallabies, one of which licked my hand.
David makes friends with a wallaby image: Angela Griffin
It was dark by the time we reached Bicheno, where we made a beeline for the coast. Standing quietly on the beach with a torch, we waited. Eventually our torchlight caught a flash of white waddling up the beach. He was followed by another flash of white, and then many more. These were little penguins, the world’s smallest species of penguin, returning from their day at sea. One waddled right over David's foot; it our presence didn’t bother them at all.David climbing the boulders at the Bay of Fires image: Angela Griffin
Bay of Fires
The next day we went to the Bay of Fires, a very pretty beach with sugary white sand, turquoise sea and more of those huge orange boulders. David immediately climbed the rocks, which gave us lovely views over the coast. On top of the rocks the wind was so strong I thought I might fall over, so we climbed back down to St Colomba Falls, the highest waterfall in Tasmania. Before stopping for the second night we stopped at Ledgerwood to see the sculptures of seven local men killed in World War I. Carved into the trees by chainsaw, they were beautifully designed, and we felt they made a fitting memorial.
Angela at the Weindorfer Chalet image: Angela Griffin
Cradle Mountain-Lake St Clair National Park
After breakfast the following morning we drove for two hours into the mountains, barely seeing a soul along the way. Climbing higher and higher, we eventually reached the snowline, and by the time we reached Cradle Mountain-Lake St Clair National Park it was snowing. The temperature plummeted, so rather than hiking as planned, we called in at Waldheim, an Alpine-style chalet that used to be the home of Gustav Weindorfer, an Austrian botanist so inspired by Cradle Mountain that he campaigned to have the area made into a national park. The chalet was like something from a postcard: constructed from wood, deep in the snow-covered forest and next door to a trickling stream. We went in search of wombats, but they were obviously far too sensible to come out of their burrows in the snow and wind, and so we warmed up with a steaming hot chocolate by the fire in the lovely Cradle Mountain Lodge instead.
Angela at Dove Lake image: Angela Griffin
The snow had melted by the time we awoke the next morning, so we returned to Dove Lake, which now had lovely views of Cradle Mountain, although the top was still obscured by wisps of cloud. Wrapped up against the icy wind, we set off on a three-hour circumnavigation of the lakeshore. The wind made the water quite choppy, but blue sky soon appeared; we even saw some wedge-tailed eagles circling above and a wombat nibbling the grass.
The Franklin River
After driving what must be Tasmania's windiest road, we arrived at the raging Franklin River, where we went for a short hike among the mushroom-clad trees. The forest felt very old, like nobody had touched it for centuries, and we didn’t pass a single other car on the afternoon drive to Lake St Clair, a smooth-as-glass lake that beautifully reflected the surrounding peaks.
Views from the top of Mount Wellington image: Angela Griffin
Back in Hobart, I was sad to leave the open spaces, but before I could get too down about it, we had two days exploring to do! First up, we caught the bus to the top of Mount Wellington. Luckily it was a gorgeous day with blue sky so we could see for miles from the summit, including all of Hobart spread beneath us.
The Dog Line image: Angela Griffin
Next we visited Port Arthur, a former penal colony. On the way we passed villages that might have been plucked straight from the Cotswolds, as well as the rather bizarre Dog Line, the location for a line of dogs used to stop prisoners escaping from Port Arthur.
Angela at Port Arthur image: Angela Griffin
From 1833 to 1877, Port Arthur was used as a prison for convicts sent from Britain and Ireland, not that you’d know from looking at it. With a harbour on one side and beautiful gardens and little cottages on the other, it’s a postcard-worthy picnic spot. We admired the crumbled-down church and some of the cottage interiors, and then went to the cells. Here we were especially horrified by the pitch black soundproof confinement chamber where we most occupants went mad within a few days. Back in the daylight we took a cruise around the harbour to see the island where they buried the convicts who died here. It was a bright sunny day, so peaceful and quiet on the water’s edge, and I found it hard to picture the horrors that must once have occurred here.
Tasmania takes all the best bits of the UK: fields and farmland, quaint villages, tea rooms, woodlands and babbling brooks, and rolls them into one, then throws in a few mountains and lakes for good measure. I won’t forget it in a hurry.
Travel to Tasmania with Round the World Experts' Tasmania Holidays.