Welcome to the second post on our road trip through Tasmania! In part one, we went over the “back story” — renting our campervan, deciding how long to visit for, purchasing a national parks pass, and more. If you’re interested in the logistics, make sure to check it out. (Don’t worry; I’ll wait.)
Otherwise, let’s get into the road trip itself!
Warning: Day two’s section touches briefly on gun violence, though not graphically.
Why do Tasmanian devils require conservation? Two reasons: one, a highly contagious and fatal facial tumour currently sweeping through their population; and two, their fondness for feeding on roadkill, which puts them in danger of being hit by cars.
Since devils were wiped out on the mainland ages ago, the Tasmanian population is all the remains, and must be protected to prevent the species’ extinction.
At the park, staff will explain more about these problems and the efforts being made to combat them, as well as share basic facts about the animals and their way of life. If you’re squeamish or a vegetarian, you might want to skip the feeding demonstration — a couple of devils play tug-o-war with a bit of wallaby to tear it apart, and they spend an extraordinary amount of time making sure nothing of the animal is left behind. (One staff member remarked she’d seen devils “sit for several minutes just licking one spot on a rock.”)
Aside from Tassie devils, you can see a few other animals at the “unzoo,” including wallabies, kangaroos, spotted quolls, and more. (And then you can basically go home, cause Australia = done, no?)
After a few hours at the center, we carried on towards the day’s destination: Tasman National Park. With a drive of only 80 kilometers, we had plenty of extra time to spare, which I highly recommend. The Tasman Peninsula has some amazing scenery on view, and a bunch of short walks and look-out points worth stopping for.
Upon arriving at the National Park, we realized we’d made a bit of an error: though we knew it was Easter weekend, we hadn’t considered that would make any difference in our plans (or lack thereof). As it turns out, Tasman NP is a very popular spot for locals on long weekends, likely due to its proximity to Hobart.
Long story short, the campgrounds were booked solid. We were able to snag a spot someone hadn’t shown up for, but it would have been smart to reserve something ahead of time.
Upon entry, a staff member gives you a brief introduction and overview of the site (about 10-15 minutes long). You are then free to roam about on your own. Various demonstrations and tours are given throughout the day, including play performances and a boat journey to an island cemetery.
Though an important part of Australia’s history, Port Arthur can be rather creepy and unsettling. After all, this was a place where people were very harshly imprisoned, and the stories shared there are bleak ones.
In addition, Port Arthur was the location of Australia’s deadliest mass shooting back in 1996. More than thirty people were killed, and dozens of others injured. (The site doesn’t focus on this event, but it may still come up at some point during your visit.)
You can learn more about visiting Port Arthur here.
Freycinet wasn’t quite as busy as Tasman had been, but there were still only a few available spots left in the campground, all of them the slightly more expensive powered sites. (Again: probably a better idea to book ahead, at least around holidays or in the high season.)
Luckily, a powered site also means you get a hot shower — exactly four minutes of hot water for $2. (In Australia, that’s actually a bargain.)
The walk to the top of the bay takes around 25-30 minutes at an easygoing pace. From there, you can either return to the start of the trail, or head down to the beach. This bit is rather steep and rocky, but well worth it; if you visit in the off-season like we did, there’s a very good chance you’ll have the beach all to yourself.
After returning from the walk, we got back on the road and drove up the coast to the Bay of Fires. Here, you’ll find giant rocks covered with splashes of deep orangey-red, set against the bright blue sea beyond. (No comments on the name. I give up.)
If you’re camping, the bay has a few different spots you can stay for free, right by the beach. They even include toilets. (Eco toilets that don’t use water, but still: toilets. Pretty flashy for a free spot.)
We easily found space to camp here (by this point, the long weekend was over and it was back to regular off-season conditions). That said, I imagine in the summer, it fills up quick. You can’t pre-book these spots, so showing up early in the day (or being prepared to stay a bit farther from the beach) is probably your best bet.
Do I really have to tell you it was worth it? No one else was around; everything was still and quiet; and as the first rays of light spread over the sand, you could almost feel the earth coming back to life. (Or maybe that was just the numbness in my fingers wearing off.)
After breakfast, we packed up and got back on the road, now heading inland. Our first stop was Launceston, Tasmania’s second-largest city. With a population of just over 85,000, it’s not exactly huge; that said, its location made it the perfect point to stock up on food and other supplies halfway through our journey. We stayed just long enough to hit the supermarket, then continued on our way.
From Launceston, we headed west towards Liffey Falls State Reserve. We drove a short ways into the reserve, then parked our campervan and took a short hike (20 minutes or so one way) to the spectacular waterfalls.
We camped that night in nearby Deloraine, a town just outside the reserve.
Of course, we didn’t have six days, so we did a slightly shorter walk around Dove Lake, which sits “in the shadow” of Cradle Mountain itself. (Luckily, the weather realized our time crunch, and gave us sunshine, cloud cover, and snowfall, all in the span of two hours. What a bargain!)
This walk is a great option for a day visit. It’s long enough to experience the beauty of the park (and maybe get snowed on), but it’s short enough that you don’t need to rush.
If you’re interested in hiking the Overland Track, be aware you must book ahead and pay a fee if you go anytime from October to May. Find more info on the track here.
After leaving the Cradle Mountain-Lake St. Clair, we continued westward without a destination in mind, and eventually stopping for the evening in Rosebery, a small town on the west coast.
(Did I mention we didn’t really plan this trip?)
Later on, we headed out to the Salamanca Markets, which are held in Hobart every Saturday. Unfortunately, the afternoon was quite rainy, so we wound up heading indoors a bit earlier than planned. We used the time to check out the Tasmania State Museum, which covers natural and cultural history of the area and the people who live/d there. (Each state in Australia has a similar museum in its capital city.)
The next day, we visited Mona — which, though it’s never all capitalized, stands for Museum of Old and New Art. This museum is RIDICULOUS. Like, imagine the wackiest place you’ve ever been, and then add in some flashing lights and people screaming Madonna songs and a bit of general disorientation and, ta-da: you’ve got Mona. It’s pretty fantastic. There are no photos allowed, so you’ll just have to take my word for it till you can visit yourself.
The museum is accessible by road, but taking the ferry up the Derwent River is definitely the more scenic and relaxed way to arrive. The trip takes around 30 minutes, and costs $20 for the basic fare (“sit on a sheep,” and that’s not a metaphor).
After we finished exploring the museum, we visited Mona’s winebar, which features a gorgeous sprawling outside area. Despite the impending winter, the day was sunny, bright, and just warm enough (and if it wasn’t, the wine probably would have helped).
It was the perfect way to end our visit to Mona, and our visit to Tasmania in general.
If you missed it, you can read part one of our Tasmanian road trip here.