We flew into Launceston and arrived at 10am on Saturday morning. We didn’t hang around in Launceston as we were eager to get to the coast. We took the road towards the north west corner with Stanley being our ultimate destination. To get to the coast road we drove through Sheffield. It was a mining town but when the industry ended to entice tourist the locals painted murals on all the buildings and any walls. Many of the murals depict the history of the town. It was an interesting place to stop for breakfast. We then went north to join the coast road with short stops in Penguin and Wynyard. We arrived in Stanley in the late afternoon, pitched our tent and had supper in the local pub. Stanley is a small town at the foot of a large volcanic plug called the Nut.
The next day we took a tourist drive around the Tarkine with frequent stops for short walks. The fisrt was a quick trip down to Trowutta Arch. The arch was formed when a sink hole collapsed. It was beautiful but quite eerie as we were the only people around. A little further on we stopped to admire the river and we had our first experience of the wildlife, a small echidna pottering around. Our next stop was Wes Beckett Falls which turned out to be slightly more challenging than we had expected, a very steep scramble down to the waterfall but it was worth it, again we were the only people walking in the area. In fact we didn’t see another person until quite far into the journey. It was quite refreshing after the crowds we’d experienced in Japan. The mid point was Arthur River, an extremely small settlement at the mouth river of the same name. It has some of the cleanest air in the world as the next country west is Argentina. In fact air pollution in the rest of the world is measure against the air on the west coast of Tasmania. We went to the beach and it was covered in driftwood of all different sizes including huge tree trunks, presumably washed down the river.
The following morning we got up early and took a walk up the Nut. It’s a steep walk up and there is normally a chair lift but it was closed for repairs when we were there. On the walk up and around the top we saw loads of wallabies hopping about. After a great breakfast in Stanley we moved on to Strahan via Cradle Mountain. The Cradle Mountain National Park was the busiest place we’d been to so far. We had decided not to camp in the National Park as the forecast was for a very cold night, which meant we only had a few hours to have a walk before pushing on to Strahan. We chose to do the very popular circuit around Dove Lake, we were very lucky as it was a clear day and you could see the peak clearly, normally it’s shrouded in cloud. The walk was extremely enjoyable and luckily not many people tend to walk the whole way round so further away from the car park it was quieter.
Strahan is small town on the edge of Macquarie Harbour. The harbour is something like 60 times larger than Sydney Harbour. We pitched up and headed into town to find something for dinner. We have got used to the shops and restaurants closing early in rural mainland Australia but Tasmania took it to another level, we had to make sure we were set up for the evening before 6pm otherwise we’d go hungry! As shops and restaurants shut really early. On this occasion we were lucky and the only restaurant in town was still open at 8:30pm! We had dinner and walked back along the harbour side to the camp site. We only had one whole day in Strahan and we’d discussed taking a tour along the Gordan River but not had time to organise it the evening before. So we got up and had to rush down to the wharf, we got the tickets and parked the car with only minutes to spare!
The cruise went first out to sea to the entrance of the harbour. The entrance was named Hells Gates by the convicts that were brought here to Sarah Island, a secondary offender penal settlement. The convicts first were used to fell trees for the timber industry, but the harbour is very shallow in places and it was difficult to get the large ships in to transport the timber. To solve this problem the convicts started to build ships and over time many of them didn’t want to leave as they took so much pride in their work. After going through Hells Gates we had a quick look up towards Ocean Beach before heading back into the harbour and towards the fresh water of the Gordan river. As the boat travelled up the river the crew pointed out various old trees. We stopped and had a short walk around the dense forest stopping by a Huon Pine tree that was 1,000 years old. We boarded the boat and went back to the harbour with our final stop at Sarah Island. Once back in Strahan we had a look around the town and got supplies for an afternoon BBQ. After the BBQ we went for an explore around Henty Dunes and watched the sunset from Ocean beach.
The next morning we moved on towards Hobart stopping along the way at the other end of the Cradle Mountain National Park at Lake St Clair. It was a very hot day and we arrived at the visitors centre at midday. There was a warning sign informing visitors about the snakes in the area and how they become much more active in the hot weather. With that information we had our wits about us as we started a walk around the lake. Even being extremely vigilant I still managed to miss a tiger snake lurking at the side of the path! Jon hissed ‘Maisie stop!’ I froze and then walked slowly on, the snake not bothered by our presence slithered off into the undergrowth. I should point out that it was about a metre away at the time so we weren’t in any immediate danger! We walked on to a known spot for platypus sightings but as they are very shy and most active at dusk until dawn we didn’t see a hint of one.
After a long drive across the interior of the state we arrived in Hobart, and decided to embrace being back in civilization by swapping the tent for a few days in a hotel. It was strange to be back in a busy city after a few days in the wild isolation of the West Coast. We were staying in the CBD, so after dropping our bags at the hotel we found somewhere a little away from the centre to leave the car for a few days and set off for an evening stroll to get our bearings and also find somewhere to eat for the evening. We ended up finding a really nice pub called Preachers, but after a couple of drinks we found out that they’d stopped serving food for the day. We continued our walk into the Salamanca area of the city, famous for it’s weekly market, as well as for it’s many bars and eateries. We settled on a bar which mainly served pizza, and after a nice meal we headed back for our first night in a real bed for a few days.
Our time in Hobart turned out to have the least good weather of our whole time in Tasmania, but I guess if it’s going to rain than the city is not such a bad place for it. On our second day there we decided to visit the Mona gallery, which had been recommended to us by several people, especially when combined with the boat trip from the city centre to it’s location a few miles up the Derwent river. We bought our tickets from at the wharf and with some time to spare before the boat left we stopped for some very tasty fish and chips for lunch whilst we waited. The Mona boat itself was interesting – a camouflaged catamaran with sheep that you could sit on and enjoy the great views of Hobart during the 30 minute trip. On arrival the grounds of the gallery have some striking sculptures which really make the most of it’s location on a promontory overlooking the Derwent. As we’d been recommended to go to MONA we had high hopes. Unfortunately we were a bit disappointed. We both like and appreciate modern art but found some of the exhibitions at the limit of what we would even call art. One interesting piece was a machine that is fed once a day and replicates the human digestive system and actually defecates once a day! It was very smelly and supposed to represent that all modern art is essentially crap. Perhaps the highlight was finishing our visit with a few beers at the outside bar as the sun had come out and it would’ve been rude not to make the most of it before catching the boat back to town.