Note: This is a very long post with lots of photos!
Winter 2014 is finally behind us. Although this Winter wasn’t really all that cold, it just seemed to drag on and on. Everywhere I go now, I see Spring blossoms stretching out of their cocoons, dancing in the fresh, warmer Spring air and waving goodbye to the last of the winter breeze.
Where has all my time gone this year? Although I haven’t been blogging as much as I’d have liked, I have definitely accomplished a lot this year. Firstly, Yuye and I have bought a house. Yes, a place we can finally call our own. As soon as we moved in though, the awful winter flu caught me by surprise and I was bedridden for quite some time. Then came a sprained wrist and various other issues, blogging just didn’t seem like a top priority. It’s at times like this that I really need a holiday, away from it all to clear my mind and cleanse my slightly worn out soul.
It feels like only yesterday that I went to Tasmania with my cousins on their honeymoon (yes I was a third wheel for a whole 2 weeks…) but really it was almost 2 years ago now. It was right about this time of year too, when the snow was melting on the mountain tops, creating slushy trickles of icy water down the side of peaks at Cradle Mountain.
Being the southern most state in Australia, Tassie has an average maximum temperature of around 21 degrees Celsius in summer and currently only sitting at about 15C. That’s perfect for those who don’t like the heat, but not so good for a summer person like me.
Tassie is what I consider a hidden gem. It’s not always on the tourist map as a must visit location for international travelers, but everyone who have been cannot recommended it enough. It’s great for a romantic getaway or a family trip in a hire car, tasting local produce and visiting wineries on the way. One thing is for sure though, you need at least 3-4 days there to fully enjoy what the island has to offer.
On my trip there with my cousins, I had taken a flight over from Melbourne, landed in Hobart and drove all the way to Launceston via the east coast in a hire car. I saw plenty of tour buses along the way but they didn’t get to enjoy the little beaches and great lookouts for as long as they could have nor did they have a choice to take detours and eat at local restaurants.
Although our trip was reasonably strict as I had booked all the accommodation beforehand, we did have a fairly laid back and enjoyable time. The only thing I regret not doing is eating more at restaurants and instead bought meats and veggies and had our own backyard BBQs in the rental properties. It wasn’t bad though. So this post will be more or less a scenic tour of Tassie and I’m sure there will be a food and winery tour coming up soon. 😉
We arrived in Hobart in the morning and after waiting for an hour for our rental car, we finally started our journey. Driving around Tassie is not hard by any means as there are straight forward roads to follow, especially with someone to navigate next to me.
Our first stop was the Salamanca Market. It was an unfortunate day however because it was raining and cold. Many of the stalls had to cover up and we didn’t really get to experience it as much as I liked.
After the market, we drove to the nearby Bonorong Wildlife Park which was about 25 minute drive north of Hobart. Tickets at the time cost $25 per adult and $11 for children (younger than 3 is free). Established in 1981, it is Tasmania’s most popular wildlife park and its purpose is to nurse injured and orphaned wildlife.
It was a very hands on experience where you can pat kangaroos, koalas and many other native animals. We got to see Tasmanian devils and a wombat joey as well.
Since it was quite wet and cold, stepping on kangaroo poop wasn’t the most fun but it was all part of the experience I guess.
Our hotel for that night was at Travelodge Hobart Airport as it was closer to where we needed to be the next day – Freycinet National Park on the east coast. The hotel was only a stones throw away from the airport and was quite new and clean. We booked a 1 bedroom plus lounge suite with a queen bed in the bedroom and a sofa bed in the lounge.
Early in the morning, we headed out for the east coast. On the way, we passed a lot of beautiful and serene beaches which we stopped at at our leisure. We arrived at Freycinet just after lunch. Luckily we bought a simple lunch from the supermarket at Salamanca so we could keep going.
As soon as we got there we headed to Wineglass Bay which was a bit of a trek upwards but it was well worth it. Along the way, we saw a number of very friendly wallabies. That’s the most fascinating thing about Tassie, you don’t really have to go to wildlife parks to see native animals, and some of them were so friendly you’d have thought they were household pets.I suppose they really got used to seeing tourists.
Wineglass Bay really does look like a wineglass from afar, but the lookout was seriously crowded with tourists so it took a fair while to get that perfect photo.
That night, we stayed at Sheoaks, a rental house along the coast. They have bed and breakfast in one house along with 2 other properties next door for rent. The house was clean and quite large, enough to house quite a few people. There were a couple of things about the place that I didn’t like though. For instance, it didn’t provide any shampoo or conditioner (even though everything else was provided like towels and linen), there was no pepper left, no tissues or tomato sauce and the towels were very worn out. There was obviously no internet which is fine, but I couldn’t even figure out how to turn the TV on. There was a DVD player but no DVDs to watch, there was a spa but there was also a sign that said please don’t use it. Go figure.
On the up side, the bedding provided was quite fluffy and nice, heaters were also provided as were electric blankets which were necessary in that cold weather. A large number of cooking utensils were available as was a BBQ which we didn’t end up using (we just cooked on the electric stove top in the kitchen).
We were up nice and early the next morning and headed towards Cradle Mountain via Launceston. We left Wine Glass Bay at around 9:30am and reached Cradle Mountain at around 7:30pm with a few stops on the way.
It was a very long drive indeed with just me driving, but the scenery kept us all busy and awake. It was simply stunning. The route I took was through inland so we got to see a lot of forests and mountainous terrain.
By the time we arrived though it was already dark. It was a little scary to drive through the Cradle Mountain National Park in darkness and going slow and careful was the key as there were a number of bridges and roads that could only fit one car.
We stayed at the famous Peppers Cradle Mountain Lodge which was an amazing establishment. There are 86 timber cabins tucked away in the wilderness and although they were very close to each other, it felt like there was a lot of privacy as well.
My cousin and his wife got a complimentary bottle of sparkling wine to celebrate their honeymoon after I noted this on the booking online. This was a great little surprise, even though we couldn’t finish the whole bottle that night.
We had dinner at the pub style Cradle Mountain Tavern in Peppers along with lots of other people. There weren’t many food options nearby and I think people staying at other hotels also dined here.
Food was just average though. The steak was a little overcooked and not well seasoned.
The buffet breakfast the next morning was included in the package and had a reasonable selection of hot and cold breakfast items, fruits and juices.
Cradle Mountain is over 1400 metres above sea level so it was quite cold. In fact, when we went in September, there was still a lot of snow around, both on the mountain tops and down where we stayed. That just added that little touch to the magical surroundings I think.
Cradle Mountain is where the world famous Overland Track lies. It takes roughly 6 days to complete this track and shouldn’t be attempted unless if you know what you’re doing. It starts at Dove Lake (right next to the car park) and passes Marions Lookout. We obviously didn’t have the stamina nor the time to do the 6 day track so ended up doing a number of short tracks that took between 20 minutes and 1.5 hours. One of them was the Marions Lookout track.
There were 2 trekking options to reach the top, however we decided to take the shorter but exponentially more difficult one. What can go wrong right? It turned out that part of the track was almost vertical and we had to move
forward upward using the aid of metal chains to pull ourselves up. As it was spring, the snow on the mountain was melting very quickly. This made our climb even more difficult. Some of the paths up the mountains were slippery and had a constant stream of water running down which made our shoes wet.
Part of that track near the top was completely covered in snow which almost made us turn back. I was afraid of taking a single step for fear of losing balance and slipping. When it’s that steep, it’s not the most fun idea trust me. We decided to push on by grabbing onto some shrubs. Boy was it worth it.
The view from the top was just breathtaking. We stopped just briefly, sitting there taking it all in and feeling the satisfaction of victory.
We of course could have just taken the easier path which took us an extra half hour to complete but would have otherwise made life a lot easier. This was the path we took to go down.
After a long day of trekking, we settled into a new place for the night – Cradle Mountain Wilderness Village. It’s not that we didn’t like Peppers but we just couldn’t justify the price per night there. For almost $300 per night at Peppers where we had to share one room amongst 3 people, Wilderness Village was only about $200 for a 2 bedroom villa.
After enjoying another night of home cooked meal (ingredients bought from the convenience store nearby called “The Store”), we passed time by watching horror movies on TV in an eerie cabin setting in the wild. I’m sure this would appeal to some people out there.
The Store is only open from 9am – 5pm in winter months and 9am – 6pm in summer. It’s the only store in the area that sell everyday items and some food ingredients. If you need any essentials, make sure you catch them before they close!
This was definitely a very short Tassie trip. Ideally I would have loved to stay another week to tour the wineries, taste local produce and visit more scenic destinations that we didn’t get to do. I guess Tasmania is close enough for another trip later on. 😉
After checking out of Wilderness Village, we did another short track just nearby (which only took about half an hour) and started to head down the mountain. On the way, we met this furry nocturnal friend – the wombat – casually strolling beside the only road out and stopping traffic as a result. We fell for it as well and got out of the car to catch a glimpse of this otherwise rare animal to be seen in the wild (compared to wallabies anyway).
Heading back to Lauceston where our plane was to depart for Melbourne, we passed Sheffield, a small regional town which is known as the “Town of Murals”. It’s these town murals (the first one painted in 1986) that puts its name on the tourist map.
We stopped at a local cafe called Highlander Restaurant – Naomi’s Kitchen for a quick drink. It’s popular with locals and tourists alike, and I loved all the handmade tea cosies and other merchandise you can buy around the shop. We decided to sit outside to enjoy the beautiful sun.
A short stroll after our drink revealed just how many mural there are in town, mostly on the side of buildings and also in Mural Park. Mural Park displays the 9 finalist pieces from the Mural Fest art competition which is held every year in April.
This concluded our trip in Tasmania. It was hard work, a lot of driving and a whole lot of mountain climbing but the breathtaking scenery we had the pleasure of seeing throughout the trip made it all worthwhile.
My next trip to Tasmania will be a food and wine one and hopefully I can make it happen soon.
Address: Salamanca Pl, Hobart TAS 7001, Australia
Opening Hours: Sunday – Friday CLOSED, Saturday 8:30am – 3:00pm
Bonorong Wildlife Park
Phone: (03) 6268 1184
Address: 593 Briggs Road, Brighton, Tasmania, 7030
Opening Hours: Monday to Sunday 9am – 5pm
Phone: +61 3 6257 0049
Address: 47 Oyster Bay Crescent, Coles Bay TAS 7215, Australia
Peppers Cradle Mountain Lodge
Phone: +61 1300 806 192
Address: 4038 Cradle Mountain Rd, Cradle Mountain TAS 7306
Cradle Mountain Wilderness Village
Phone: +61 3 6492 1500
Address: Cradle Mountain Rd, TAS, Australia
Highlander Restaurant – Naomi’s Kitchen
Phone: +61 3 6491 1077
Address: 60 Main St, Sheffield TAS 7306, Australia