Hurry up and wait. The mantra of traveling. After running late to the airport and then having a delay of a couple of hours, we finally took the short flight to Hobart, Tasmania. Tasmania is Australia’s island state about 150 miles south of the mainland. When we arrived we rented a car and drove into Hobart city. We didn’t have a lot of time that afternoon/evening but we walked around the cute little lanes, down to the center and to the harbor. The town reminded me a little of the small European seaside towns. It was a small town with cobblestone lanes and alleys, there were many nice cafes, restaurants and boutiques along the street adjacent to the port and everyone seemed to be on holiday.
That evening we went to the oldest hotel and pub in Hobart. We stayed for a few beers and we met a couple of men who seemed like “regulars” at the place. We spoke with them for a while and they gave us a hard time about taking over their pool table. They seemed interested in our story, what we were doing in Tasmania and how a French guy and an American girl ended up together. Most of the towns in Tasmania seemed like everyone knew everyone. It is a small island state that had a small population. If you were new, people knew.
Before it got too dark we drove to a camp site but had to stop at the grocery store along the way to stock up for the week. Since we didn’t have any camping gear with us (including a cooler) we ate canned tuna sandwiches, pastries and canned vegetables the whole week. We were sick of it by the end of our trip. The car not only served as our kitchen, but also served as our hotel. We slept each night inside our little Kia Rio. That night we parked in a nearby camp spot along a river that was filled with campers. We slept in the car and the next morning spoke with our neighbors- an Australian woman and her Dutch boyfriend.
Paul took a quick swim in the cold river and then we drove to the Derwent Bridge area (recommended by our camp neighbors) in Cradle Mountain-Lake Saint Clair National Park. We walked around Lake St. Clair along the pathways throughout the park. The lake was huge and I went for a swim. It was freezing! Paul thought I was crazy for swimming because it was far too cold. After becoming numb from the cold water we walked a bit more before returning back to the car park.
We got back on the road again as we wanted to get some distance that night. The radio stations were really strange there. The music was either oldies or hard rock and screamo. There was no in between. And explicits were freely played on the stations. We drove through a lot of beautiful scenery and stopped several times along the way to take photos. We drove through a lot of very curvy roads, mountains and mines. We stopped in a tiny town, but there was very little there and it seemed everything had already closed up for the day. It was already getting dark so we went to a camp in another nearby small town. We got yelled at by one man in an RV for supposedly parking too close to him, but we ignored him and stayed right where we were.
Wednesday we drove to the other side of Cradle Mountain National Park. We walked around Dove Lake and got a good view of the mountains. It was very beautiful but cool and windy. We climbed onto a boulder to get an even better view. Later, we drove a short ways and stopped at a lookout over a dam for lunch. We continued on to Launceston and, again, stopped for a few photos along the way. When we arrived in Launceston we walked around town for a while looking for some cheap flip-flops for Paul, but a lot of the shops were already closing. Luckily, we eventually found a cheap Kmart that was still open.
We went to a happy hour bar for a few beers and glasses of wine and to charge our electronics. We utilized pubs for our charging station throughout our trip. We stayed there for quite a while until it started getting late and we got hungry. We went to an Italian restaurant for dinner, but it was not very good at all. They clearly wanted to close up because they rushed our food out. It was probably some of the worst “Italian” food we had eaten. Afterwards, we drove to a nearby small, historic town with an RV park to sleep for that night.
The next day we drove towards the coast but stopped at Cataract Gorge first. The gorge cuts right into the city and has many walking tracks and a garden. There are two large bridges, viewing platforms and wildlife, such as peacocks, roaming the grounds. We didn’t spend too long here as we were anxious to get to the Bay of Fires.
At the Bay we started at Binalong Bay and worked our way down to St. Helens, Scamander, Bicheno, and to Friendly Beaches. This area had a beautiful coastline filled with rocks that looked like they were “on fire” (hence the name “Bay of Fires”) because they were red.
That night we camped just past Friendly Beaches at Lagoon Game Reserve. We walked out to look at the lagoon and there was a hunter there fixing his duck blind. Paul and I took a lot of photos of the sunset. Despite it being a swamp, it was actually quite pretty with the sun setting. A car of girls came to the campground later that night, otherwise it was just us. It was a little chilly so Paul built a fire and the group of girls came over to join us. They were all from Germany and were doing a similar trip around Tasmania as us.
Friday we went to Coles Bay. We did the hike up to the viewpoint of Wineglass Bay. There were a ton of tourists here. Paul wanted a more unique view without all of the people so he went climbing while I sat and rested after the steep climb up. He was gone for a while but he came back to tell me he had found a way. He said it wasn’t going to be easy for me. I responded, “If you can do it, I can do it”. He chuckled and we went towards the boulder that provided the view. It wasn’t too bad. It wasn’t the easiest climb, but not as bad as I was expecting. I had to take my shoes off and go barefoot to feel comfortable though. He was right- the view was amazing. We could see all of Wineglass Bay and with zero people around us.
After taking several photos we climbed back down and decided to do the long walk down to the actual beach of Wineglass Bay. It was nice, but not really worth the two-hour roundtrip walk down and back up and then down again to the car park. We stopped at a few other less popular places in Coles Bay then drove to our next camp. We stopped along the drive at a few places for photos including the “Spikey Bridge”. Paul that it was funny and strange that this was a “tourist site”.
The last place we stayed at while in Tasmania was a tiny town called Buckland. It was a lot behind a tavern. The owners didn’t mind if people camped here for free, but it was appreciated to come in for a beer as a token of gratitude. The small country town reminded me of my hometown. We went inside the bar and all the “regulars” (old men) were there. As soon as we walked in we got the look, “You aren’t from around here”. I know this look. Like at the last pub, they were very interested in us and our story and what we were doing here. They had very strong country accents that I even had trouble understanding. I had to try to translate most of it for poor Paul. After talking with then for a while we got our next beer to drink outside on the patio and watched all of the young people and their shenanigans.
Saturday, our last day, we drove to Port Arthur to visit the old convict settlement. It is one of Australia’s most significant heritage sites and an open-air museum. It was huge and had a lot of history behind it. We took a tour that was included with our ticket as well as the boat tour that took us to see the various islands. One of the islands was for juvenile convicts and another one was used as the grave yard. The tiny cemetery island held thousands of bodies. After the tours we walked around the land to see all the different parts of grounds.
When Australia was being colonized the English used the island of Tasmania to send their convicts to stay. Port Arthur became the biggest, most famous and highest security penitentiary for these convicts due to it being at the tip of a peninsula. The prisoners walked around freely throughout the settlement simply because they had no where else they could escape. They were surrounded by ocean and if they tried to escape up the peninsula the guards or mother nature would stop them. Seeing as they were English they were not accustomed to the Australian wildlife or flora and couldn’t survive in this type of nature. Plus, the island of Tasmania itself is so small. They only had so many places they could hide. No prisoner escaped Port Arthur settlement successfully.
On our way out of the peninsula we stopped at a beach that had a ground that looked like concrete but was natural. We also saw strange marine life in the cracks that Paul and I inspected. We checked out another viewpoint, but had to start heading back to Hobart to catch our flight back to Melbourne that evening.
Tasmania was beautiful. It reminded me a lot of Ireland in ways. It had a lot of country land, lakes, small cute towns, forests, small family owned shops along the road, old brick or stone bridges and small “mountains”. Tasmania was on my list to see when I first decided to come to Australia and I was happy I had finally made it! It is a place you could spend as little or as much time as you wanted there. We had five days and we were able to complete a full circle around the island and see everything we were interested in seeing. The only regret we had was not seeing a Tasmania Devil. However, they are nocturnal animals which makes them extremely difficult to see in the wild in their natural habitat. There were nature centers that had them for viewing, but we weren’t interested in seeing them in a zoo-like setting. No matter how long you decide to stay I highly recommend renting a car as this is the best way to see the most of beautiful Tasmania.