Tasmania

Tasmania

A island south of Victoria covering less than 2 % of the total land of Australia. It holds Australia’s premier wilderness area’s. Mountains, superb forest and great coastal areas sums up Tasmania, combined with many historic sites such as Port Arthur. Tasmania would have the most untouched or restored historic sites and buildings in Australia. However for the Off Road person it also has some extreme difficult tracks. The island offers lots of variety and brilliant scenery. But be warned snow can fall all year round in the mountains, but generally the east coast is tempered and the west coast rugged, cold and windswept. Must do destinations are Freycinet National Park, the Bay of Fires, Mount William National Park, Jerusalem National Park, Cradle Mountain and lake St Clair National Park, Arthur Pieman Conservation area, Franklin Gordon Wild Rivers National Park  and South West National Park.

A great Island to visit, if possible visit in February based on past weather patterns.

Assuming you are arriving from Melbourne with the ferry you will arrive in Devonport. The boarding in Melbourne is easy and stress free. Head to the station pier in Port Melbourne and boarding starts at around 2.5 hours before departure. If you do have your tickets, proceed to the ticket booth. Tasmania is named after the Dutchman Abel Tasman who visited the island for the first time in November 1642. Nearly 50% of the population lives in the capital city Hobart. Nearly 45% of Tasmania is either protected land, National Park or World Heritage listed. Tasmania was also the place with the first environmental party in the world. It is situated closer to Antarctica (2500km south of Tasmania) than most major cities on the northern mainland of Australia. It is sparsely populated with Great Wilderness areas and good roads which makes it possible to drive from one end of the island to the other in one day. There are opportunities to take hard, moderate and soft 4WD tracks all over the island. Tasmania is also called Australia’s island state or the green island. For those on an around Australia tour or an around the world tour it is a welcome change from the mainland or the Australian Outback and deserts and it is a great part of Australia with lots of lake side reserves, off road tracks, beach driving, National Parks and conservation areas. It has a very rugged South West and Southern wilderness area and a very scenic North and East Coast. In fact, it may have the most restored buildings in the country since its beginning as a penal colony. Tasmania is Australia’s smallest state. Word of warning for our international overlanders. The outback, Australian deserts and to some degree our beaches are very different to the terrain you are used to in Europe, Africa or South America. If you are travelling remote ensure one person in the vehicle has first aid knowledge, make sure you have proper communication equipment. Min Satellite phone, UHF radio, and if possible HF radio (available for rental) let people know where you are going and call in to advise them you have arrived. Travel well within your capabilities and when crossing rivers in the North be aware of Crocodiles, same applies to those who like fishing, Freshwater Crocodiles are not as dangerous however they bite and do a lot of damage. The beaches of Australia have some very soft sand in particular when you have to drive above the high water mark. driving the beaches on a outgoing tide is what I recommend when turning on a beach always turn towards the water to avoid driving uphill and turning in soft sand. Tyre pressure very important in our land cruiser I have been down to 10 psi. My suggestion is start at 25 psi and go down in 5 psi lots as required and keep the speed down. Be aware of deep rutted tracks, bull dust, mud, soft sand on beaches and inland tracks, deep water crossings all combined in one day of driving can be a challenge and can break parts in your vehicle not to mention being stranded mid stream with a flooded engine. Be warned do not become one of those people who know it all Australia’s outback is unforgiving. 

WELCOME TO TASMANIA

The ferry arrives in Devonport and this is the gateway to the North West of Tasmania. Enroute to the west coast following the North Coast of Tasmania you have river, oceans and mountain views, passing through the seaside villages of Ulverstone, Burnie, Wynyard, Boat Harbour, Stanley Smithtown and Marrawah. In Stanley you need to visit the Nut and its lava lake of a long extinct volcano. The coastline around here is one of the longest in Tasmania and completely unspoilt. The drive from Marrawah to Zeehan on the west coast offers great coastal scenery and you will visit very nice small settlements such as Arthur River, Couta Rocks, Temma, Balfour, Corrina, Granville Harbour, Trial Harbour and Zeehan. On the way you will visit Arthur Pieman Conservation Area, Pieman River Reserve, Mt Heemskerk Regional reserve and (If still open for traffic) the spray tunnel, before arriving in Zeehan. From Zeehan you can backtrack to the coast and follow the beach to Strahan or the bitumen to Strahan. Strahan is right on the border of the Franklin River Gordon wilderness area.

A boat cruise is a must (hopefully the weather is nice). It follows the river to where the Gordon and Franklin rivers meet. This tour includes a visit to Sarah Island a notorious convict prison. Next stop is Queenstown, this town will show you how humans can destroy and pollute. The hills surrounding Queenstown are completely stripped of trees, only to keep the fires going in the local copper smelters. The area looks like a moonscape. (please note: our last visit was in 2008). From here a suggestion would be to visit the Franklin Gordon River Wilderness area. (During our last visit we required a permit which we obtained in Queenstown) Around Queenstown are lots of tours on offer and scenic drives. Franklin Gordon River Wilderness area is a must to explore where ever possible by vehicle and the office to check is in Queenstown or speak to the local 4WD clubs. We could travel as far south as the Bird river. From here we could walk to Macquarie Harbour. Controversy re the franklin Dam in 1982 background info click here http://education.abc.net.au/home#!/media/521221/franklin-river-campaign. Once back in Queenstown the next stop is Cradle Mountain Lake St Clair National Park. By many visitors it is regarded as the best National Park in Tasmania. Lake St Clair with its mountain peaks and mirrored waters is one of the highlights. Follow the main road east and turn off at Lawrenny to Strathgordon. This is a true wilderness area with gorges, world famous rivers, waterfalls and mountains. The area is also home to ancient Huan Pine Trees which are up to 3000 years old. (Yes 3000 years!!!) Strathgordon lays in the middle of the wilderness area with Franklin Gordon River National Park to the North, and South West National Park to the South. The town is located on Lake Pedder. This is the end of the road hence you need to return the same way.

Next is Hobart and the surrounding area. Hobart is the capital city of Tasmania and the second oldest city in Australia after Sydney. Hobart is also the finish of the World-famous Sydney to Hobart race (always held in December) and one of the 5 gateway cities to Antarctica.  Must do things in Hobart: Salamanca Markets (Saturday), Battery Point, Cascades Female factory, Sullivants Cove, Australian Antarctica Division and Mount Wellington for a great view of Hobart. From Hobart you can venture south following the beautiful Huon Valley towards Geeveston and the Harz Mountains National park. Stop at Franklin where students from around the world learn how to build wooden boats. Another stop could be the Tahune Forest Air-walk. Via South Port you arrive at Cockle Creek. This is where the road stops and if you wish you can walk to the most southern point on the Tasmania mainland. (South East Cape). On your way back to Hobart another stop could be Bruny Island if you like to see the white Wallabies.  Bruny Island is the only place in Australia/World you can see them in the wild. (also called Albino Wallabies or painted Wallabies) Bruny island is easy to access by ferry, it looks like 2 islands, but it is joined by a narrow strip of land called The Neck. Another must do stop is Port Arthur one of Australia’s most infamous prisons and a world Heritage site. This was once the prison it was impossible to escape from. Many buildings are still standing. On a sad note it is also known for the Port Arthur massacre in 1996 when 35 men-women and children were killed and 18 wounded. Read  https://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/port-arthur-massacre-in-australia.

Follow the coast north and you finish in Coles Bay and Freycinet National Park, well known for Wineglass Bay. From the lookout you have a perfect view and every brochure of Tasmania will have a picture of the view across Wineglass Bay. The park itself has many secluded beaches and bays with nice granite peaks as a back drop. From here you arrive in the North East corner of Tasmania with lots to do. Places such as Binalong Bay, Eddystone Point, Musselroe Bay, Ben Lomond and Mount William National Park are perfect areas to explore. Ben Lomond is the only ski resort in Tasmania and usually it is open from Mid-July till Mid-September. It is a treeless area at around 1300meters elevation, with lots of wild flowers in spring. Magic views from the hairpin road (Jacobs Ladder). Mount William National Park near Eddystone Point has long beaches, lots of wild life, great camp spots and perfect scenery.

The only issue in Tasmania is the weather, relatively cool compared with Mainland Australia. Summer is from December to March with temperatures between 17 and 23 C, the winter is from June till September with temperatures between 3 and 11 degrees C. February appears to be the best time to travel but regardless of where you travel in Tasmania you should be prepared for drop in temperatures, heavy rain and cold weather. We had snow in February while driving in Cradle Mountain National Park.