Tasmania: Way Under Down Under
A world away from mainland Australia, Tasmania feels like riding in a different country. It is spectacularly sparsely populated and the small-town feel which even the bigger cities inhabit is heartening. The riding in Tasmania is renowned amongst Australians as being the best in the country. We rode anti-clockwise around the island in three weeks.
Here’s a quick overview of our route. There’s a good guide of this route in Lonely Planet’s “Cycling Australia” book. We also found a good ride log at downtheroad.org
Devonport to Gowrie Park, 51km
After picking up supplies in Devonport, we headed south to the “mural” town of Sheffield for lunch and an explore. There is no camping at Sheffield so we headed to the free camping at Gowrie Park (en route to Cradle Mountain). The free camping site at O’Neil’s Creek (Gowrie Park) has an impressive view of Mount Rowland, but no potable water.
Gowrie Park to Cradle Mountain, 40km
Short day today but its mainly uphill. Camped at the excellent, commercially-run Cradle Mountain campground. Set up camp by 1pm and headed out to the National Park visitor centre to take the shuttle-bus further up the mountain to Dove Lake. We saw our first wombat and echidna today – the National Park is full of wildlife. Even thou’ it was summer (Feb), it was quite a cold night camping up the mountain.
Cradle Mountain to Rosebury, 70km
A short descent back down Cradle Mountain and on the road to Rosebury, which starts with a climb up Black Bluff Range to the highest point on the route (930m). It is then largely downhill for the rest of the day, with lunch at the historic mining town of Tullah. Camped in Rosebury – the town has lovely views but the town is somewhat blighted by the large open cast mine in the middle of it.
Rosebury to Strahan, 73km
Three short climbs today – the last peak at Professor Range Lookout has views up and down the west coast. Rolled into Strahan about 2pm. We were expecting more from Strahan due to the hype in tourist leaflets. The town itself is rather sleepy but pleasant enough.
Strahan to Lake Burbury, 66km
Headed on out of Strahan on the road to Queenstown. Some big, long climbs before Queenstown but quiet roads and great views. Queenstown is rather unglamourous but is famous for its ‘denuded’ surrounding hills which make for interesting riding. Winding climb out of Queenstown on the “99 Bend Road” and stayed at the basic but cheap campsite at Lake Burbury, 22km outside of Queenstown.
Lake Burbury to Lake St. Claire, 73km
Quiet riding through grassy plains, forested mountains, National Parks and World Heritage Areas. Moderate climbs for most of the day and camped at the Lake St. Claire National Park campground. Waited around the lake at sunset but, despite waiting for hours, saw zero platypuses.
Lake St. Claire to Meadowbank Lake, 105km
Big breakfast at the Hungry Wombat cafe before tackling the up and downs of the valleys used the Hydroelectic Power Stations – some fun, winding descents make up for the climbs. Camped at the free campsite at Meadowbank Lake – no water at camp so pick up supplies in the nearest town (8km to the town of Ouse – it is on the way to the lake).
Meadowbank Lake to Mount Field National Park, 30km
Short, pleasant ride to Mount Field National Park. The camp is right on the edge of the park – it is a great campsite and it is full of wildlife at dusk, especially possums and the little pademelon kangaroos. There is also a night-time glow-worm walk which is easily accessed from the camp.
Mount Field National Park to Hobart, 77km
Followed the river towards New Norfork and Hobart, picking up the cycle path as you enter Hobart. Hobart is a great town – I would recommend heading to the MONA (Museum of Old and New Art) – although some of the art is not for the faint of heart.
Hobart to Port Arthur, 101km
Cycled over the Tasman Bridge (which, worryingly, collapsed in 1975 killing 12 people). The highway is busy heading out of Hobart but soon becomes quiet passing through Sorell and Copping. Fairly long ride to the Port Arthur Peninsula.
Port Arthur used to be a prison settlement and the 100ft wide entrance of Eaglehawk Neck was the only connection to the mainland – it was fenced and guarded by soldiers, man traps and half-starved dogs. We took a rest day at Port Arthur and explored the prison ruins and settlement.
Port Arthur to Orford, 96km
After a 20km doubling back on yourself back to Eaglehawk Neck, we took an unsealed gravel road parallel to the coast to avoid any traffic. It was scenic but tough-going, climbing up and down forest roads. Stayed at the pub in the Orford.
Orford to Swansea, 58km
Rolling up and down along the coast and fields of sheep on the road from Orford to Swansea. We had hoped to take the dinghy service as a shortcut to Coles Bay but after phoning the boatman to arrange a pickup, we were told that he had sold his boat and doesn’t run the service anymore! So, we will have to take the long way around to Coles Bay tomorrow.
Swansea to Coles Bay, 60km
The ‘long way around’ from Swansea to Coles Bay is actually rather pleasant – passing walnut plantations and orchards. We also passed Mt Peter, which pleased Pete. Coles Bay is very, very, very picturesque. Set up camp and hiked up the mountain to take in the view of Wineglass Bay – one of the Top 10 beaches in the world, apparently.
Coles Bay to Bicheno, 39km
Short ride to Bicheno to spend the remaining day exploring the town. Hoped to see the fairy penguins at night – but they did not show. Luckily, we had already seen hundreds of the little fellas at Phillip Island, Melbourne a few weeks earlier.
Bicheno to St. Helens, 77km
Fairly flat, coastal ride today to St Helens – a nice(ish) fishing town. The local grocery store sold wallaby mince – so cooked up a batch wallaby chilli, recommended.
St. Helens to Scottsdale, 102km
Long, hilly day today. Free camping outside of Scottsdale – popular campsite next to a pleasant park. We had been tipped off that the park lake had a family of platypuses. We went to explore at dusk – the lake was not much more than a duck pond so I wasn’t hopeful but, after a little patience, we finally saw a platypus!
Scottsdale to Launceston, 68km
Overall downhill today but the route is still fairly rolling in places. Launceston itself is a very hilly town with some very steep streets.
Launceston to Evandale and back, 36km
Unladen ride to Evandale and back to see the Penny Farthing championship races – this annual event is fantastic and well worth attending if you are in the area. http://www.evandalevillagefair.com/
Launceston to Devonport, 95km
Fairly unremarkable ride back to the ferry port ends the Tasmania trip.