After having our apples confiscated by the savage quarantine officials, just half an hour after buying them, we resentfully but excitedly nonetheless, boarded the ferry South. Not too dissimilar to the Titanic I suspect, Spirit of Tasmania II offered floating, dry conditions on board, as well as the usual maze of decks that could only be navigated by recalling the differing styles of seating on each. Figuring out where our reclining seats were for the night became even more challenging, while feeling more spaced out than a hippie on acid: I’d irresponsibly washed my pizza and more problematically, anti-seasickness tablets down with a crisp, cold, golden XXX lager…
Cradle Mountain’s mirror lakes and a dream come true
Following a broken nights sleep constantly interrupted by hyperthermic air conditioning and thunderous snoring, we perked ourselves up with coffees and breakfast at a nearby Maccas in Devonport. Despite feeling rather groggy, we bravely opted for a full days walk up Cradle Mountain – we didn’t want to waste the day, given that it was only 7am and had the entire day ahead of us. It wasn’t long before we found ourselves marching in the direction of snow capped peaks, having already spotted some creators of wondrous square poo: Wombats!
The trail kindly offered a civilised boardwalk to ease us in, although this didn’t last long, as flat wood became a gravelled incline, and finally gave way to sheer cliff face! Fortunately chains to help our step prevented an untimely demise, although required careful handling, as we shared this lifeline with other walkers traversing back down. It was all worth it though, once we’d reached Marions lookout. There we were treated to stunning views of Crater Lake’s mirrored perfection, making us question which way was up, as reflections of fluffy clouds soothingly drifted by. Casting our eyes up towards the real sky, rewarded us with views of Cradle Mountain’s unique crown-like peak. Topped with a dusting of snow, we were reassured this was more than a casual morning stroll – we’d just climbed up a flipping mountain and it wasn’t even lunchtime!
Little did we know that our first day in Tasmania was going to finish off with a life long ambition achieved… While driving through the coastal town of Burnie, we’d spotted some unusual road signs, warning drivers of crossing wildlife. Pulling over to investigate further, we discovered a dedicated observation area, that left us with no choice but to stay put for the night. As dusk arrived, our excitement climbed, higher than our morning hike. First we heard them, frantically calling to their mates who’d spent the day out at sea, fishing their feathers off. As our eyes became accustomed to the dark, my black and white obsessions soon came into focus. It was mesmerising watching this animal drama play out in front of us; as more and more fairy penguins appeared from nowhere, welcoming their loved ones back home, or chasing others away who’d mistaken them for their own. It was truly a special evening, witnessing my favourite animals in their natural habitat for the first time 🙂
Breathing the purest air while on ‘The edge of the world’
Given the wonders of our first day on the island, we’d honestly have been happy to leave already, although fortunately we still had many weeks ahead of us on Tassie! So after our morning shower and a slice of banana bread (why can’t we get away with eating cake for breakfast back in the UK without feeling guilty?) we were ready for another day’s adventure. Following a brief stop in cutesy ‘Boat Harbour Beach’, we continued driving West along the coast, until an enormous site began to fill our horizon. At first we were confused – were we back in Uluru? It turned out that this giant monolith goes by by the name of ‘The Nut’, and forms a striking backdrop to the old town of Stanley, perched below. Opting against the gondola, we took the healthier (and cheaper) option, in the form of a steep path up. There we circumnavigated the top, like a secret garden in the sky.
While continuing West we entered the Tarkine, and were ominously welcomed with a large warning sign: ‘No more petrol for 140 km’. Given that the Tarkine is awe-inspiringly referred to as ‘one of the last, great wilderness regions on earth’, I guess it’s understandable. On tenterhooks, we looked down at the fuel gauge; nope, our range was closer to 120km, but that didn’t stop up pushing on to find close-by excitement… When you spot a place name on a map by the likes of ‘The Edge of the World’, one can’t help but become transfixed. Although it sounds rather dramatic, it’s a fair title as looking West from here is the largest empty expanse of ocean on the planet, stretching over half way round, all the way to Argentina! After taking time to gaze off into the distant roaring seas, then reading the stirring poem by Brian Inder inscribed on a plaque, we set off, fairly certain the Earth isn’t flat…
Before heading back to Stanley for the night, there was just enough time to enjoy an amble down to the beach from Bluff Hill lighthouse. Despite having to navigate near impenetrable bushland, our efforts were rewarded in a variety of ways. First were some archeological curiosities in the form of ‘Middens’, where Aboriginal people left the remains of their meals over many generations. Then there were natural wonders; a gorgeous display of pink wildflowers, followed by two sneaky Echidna’s we almost mistook to be boulders 🙂
Imaginary tulips and a giant penguin
The following day started with a drive past ‘Table Cape’; incredibly home to such a perfect tulip growing climate, that they’re supposedly shipped over to Holland! Unfortunately we were a few weeks early, so had to rely on our imagination to paint in the colours. Next was the University of Tasmania’s ‘Makers Workshop’ back in Burnie, offering stunning woodwork, jewellery, prints and edible delights. I couldn’t resist picking up some tasty ‘tilsit’ cheese, after having tried at least a dozen others.
Despite Joella’s very best efforts to convince me otherwise, we soon found ourselves pulling over in the wonderfully named town of ‘Penguin’. Before we knew it, a local spotted Joella taking photos of me, so frantically veered off the road and embarrassingly for Joella, insisted on taking photos of both of us in front of the giant penguin statue, flapping our arms like flippers! Content (well, I was), we drove South to the mellow melodies of Meander Valley FM – a local community radio station broadcast from the arty town of ‘Deloraine’, which inspired us to be our next stop. Another inspiring arts collective caught our eye, and we were even given a personal guided tour of the eclectic works by a friendly artists, who passionately educated us on the colourful and unique fungi of Tasmania. Following a quick browse of the upmarket boutique shops, we sourced a caffeine hit in a coffee shop surrounded by old motorbikes, seemingly more hipster than Hackney!
A little daunted by the lack of choice, we headed in the direction of ‘Quamby Corner’. Yet again Wikicamps proved it’s worth – Quamby Corner Campsite, originally just a 200 acre dairy farm, run by a friendly, semi-retired English couple felt like the middle of nowhere. The low ominous clouds with Quamby Bluff occasionally poking through, also added to the dramatic setting. Our modest meal of beans on toast was sophisticatedly followed by our boutique tilsit cheese on crackers, washed down with a tin cup of ruby tawny from the Barossa 🙂
Exotic fungi and stunning beaches on Tassie’s East side
Helpfully, the campsite’s information point provided us with the next day’s itinerary, taking us first in the direction of a hill that had been looking down upon us earlier. Apparently there’s a walk up Quamby Bluff, although we found little more than a lay-by and viewpoint. Liffey Falls was next on our list, featuring water cascading down numerous step-like rock formations, occasionally littered by fallen trees. While taking in the soothing sounds surrounded by lush ferns, a local outdoorsy looking lady pointed out to us some rather exotic looking fungi – just as the artist yesterday had spoken about. Hilariously the locals then managed to digress from our oohing and ahhing at pink growth on the forest floor, to laughing about the ‘205 vaginas’ installation at the Mona (Museum of Old and New Art)!
For lunch, our appetite took us past the historic town of Evandale – famous for its prestigious John Glover painting prize and eccentric Penny Farthing Championships. Sadly all we found was a large statue in honour of these odd Victorian contraptions, although the general store was fabulously decked out like it was still the 1800s 🙂 Continuing East led to some rather windy roads, going by the creative name of Elephant Pass, before finally revealing golden Lagoons Beach and the deep blue sea beyond. Once we’d arrived in Bicheno, we wasted little time in exploring its lovely coastal walk, which culminated in an angry blowhole finale, surrounded by coach loads of selfie-stick waving tourists. Drinks that evening were rather more awkward than usual: All the locals were sat round the bar, while we sat alone in the middle of the room at the only table – the place was being redecorated, so most were stacked, out of the way…
Not usually ones to follow the crowds, we couldn’t resist a trip to Wineglass Bay – one of the most photographed spots in Tasmania, and that’s saying something. Bravely, with only a couple of cereal bars and apples between us, we set off on the 5 hour long walk. Luckily most tourists were there solely for a quick vanity Instagram shot at the lookout, so things soon quietened down. The walk offered everything we could have wished for; stunning views of the bay below, beautiful beaches scattered with mysterious shells and starfish, strange rock formations and even an unexpected encounter with an inquisitive wallaby 🙂
While driving South, our valiant exercise efforts were rewarded in the form of GIGANTIC blueberry and chocolate ice creams at the Pondering Frog cafe. There the friendly owner recommended staying at the Pub in Triabunna. Little did we know, but it was AFL final night and saying the pub was rowdy would be an understatement. So after a brief schooner, fish and chips down the quayside and another episode of the heart-warmingly funny Detectorists, we hit the hay. The next day we’d be checking into Hobart for our first house sit in almost a month – we could hardly wait!