About one year ago I traveled together with my family for 4 weeks to Tasmania. It took some time to write this travel report but better late than never.
It was my first trip to Tasmania and to Australia. My main focus was to take images of the temperate rainforest.
After having visited New Zealand, the Pacific North West, and Patagonia in the last three years, Tasmania was the last step in my long-term project to take images of all the places with large areas of temperate rainforests on our planet.
For the landscape and rainforest images, I used mainly a Leica M9 camera with lenses from 18mm to 90mm while snapshots and documentary images were shot with a Sigma DP2M and a waterproof Sony TX10.
You can find a selection of the best landscape images of this trip in my Tasmania Gallery.
In this blog post, I will give you some background information on how we traveled and what we experienced down under in chronological order. Although it is not meant as a travel guide to Tasmania the information provided can probably help planning a similar trip, especially if the circumstances are comparable (family vacation with a 9-year-old kid combined with some serious landscape photography).
Our trip started on the afternoon of December 14th in Ingolstadt. A few hours later at the passport control at the Munich airport, it could have been ended quite quickly. In Germany, we have compulsory school attendance. All school vacations in the winter half-year have a maximum length of two weeks, not enough for a family trip to the other side of the world. Traveling in our summer vacation was also not an option since it is quite cold in Tasmania at this time of the year, especially since we had planned to camp in a tent during the whole trip.
Since our daughter Linnéa (8 years old at the beginning of the trip) goes to a semi-private Montessori school getting special permission for a prolonged winter vacation is a bit easier compared to standard public schools where it is nearly impossible in Germany, at least in Bavaria.
The question was only do we really need written permission by the head of the school or is word-of-mouth permission by the class teacher sufficient. Luckily we decided to get the written permission despite the necessary additional effort.
A good decision. The customs officer in Munich wanted to see the written permission and would have stopped us otherwise.
The Emirates flights from Munich to Dubai (6 hours with a Boeing 777) and from Dubai to Sydney (14 hours with an Airbus A380) were unspectacular. It was my first flight with an A380 but although the plane looks huge from the outside, inside the difference to other modern airplanes is not that big, at least not in the economy class.
In Sydney, we had to change the planes again and continued with a Qantas 737 to Hobart.
35 hours after starting in Ingolstadt we finally arrived in Hobart, Tasmania.
Sometimes traveling that long distances with a small kid can be problematic. Luckily Linnéa is very easy in this regard because she is used to traveling a lot. We started our first longer trips with her when she was six months old and haven’t stopped since then. She was happy with the Emirates entertainment system and slept a lot on both long-distance flights.
On the Hobart, the airport was no possibility for currency exchange. Even the two ATM machines didn’t accept my European EC/Maestro cards. Luckily you can pay nearly everything with credit cards in Australia. We picked up our rental car, a Mitsubishi Pajero (from AVIS, booked in Germany), and stored our five big bags with all the camping equipment and personal belongings in the trunk. Our plan was to spend all nights in our tent on campgrounds beside the first and last night. I assumed that we would probably be very tired when we arrive in Hobart and would appreciate not having to put up a tent on the first evening. Therefore I reserved a room via Booking.com at the Fountainside Hotel. It is located very close to the interesting places in Hobart. It is clean but with the atmosphere of an American motel. In my opinion, only the location can justify the high price. Next time I will probably camp on the first night. After checking-in at the hotel and a small stroll along the harbor, we went very early to bed, suffering from the 10 hours time difference. My first impression of Hobart was not that great. On a Sunday evening shortly before Christmas, the city was nearly dead, no people, no activities, everything closed. But this first impression changed completely when we returned to Hobart at the end of our trip.
The next day we got up quite early and went to the nearby Collins Hotel for some tasty Eggs Benedict for breakfast (the breakfast buffet in our hotel was not included in the room price and didn’t look too promising). Afterward, we managed to change some € in Australian $. A time-consuming process since the first bank could only change max. 800€ and you have to fill out a really long questionnaire before getting any money. But two hours later we finally managed to start to our first destination, the Mt Field NP, located about 80 km northwest of Hobart.
Regarding food was our plan to use restaurants whenever they are available and eat self-prepared cold stuff like sandwiches, wraps, salads, etc. when nothing else was available, like in remote wilderness areas.
We took our camping dishes but decided to leave the stove and pots at home in Germany to reduce the travel weight. And of course, we had no fridge. Before leaving Hobart we stopped at a supermarket and got some food for the next couple of days. Mainly stuff that can be eaten cold and need not be stored in a fridge.
After a short drive, we arrived at the visitor center of the Mt Field NP. As in the past, I had no problems changing from right-hand driving to left-hand driving and quickly felt comfortable with the Mitsubishi Pajero. We had lunch at the Waterfall Café and then set up our well-proven Hilleberg Keron 4 GT tent at the Mt Field campground.
The campground is located directly at the Tyenna River where you can see with some luck platypus. After watching the river for some time we finally saw one swimming just below the surface but didn’t manage to get a picture.
Afterward, we went for a short hike to the Russell Falls and Horseshoe Falls. A beautiful trail through the temperate rainforest with lots of photo opportunities at the Horseshoe Falls. On this trail, we also had our first encounter with an echidna, which looks like a combination of a platypus and a porcupine. The echidna is one of the few egg-laying mammals.
After some cold dinner in front of our tent, we went to bed. During the night we could see our first wallabies which came close to our tent.
After breakfast in front of our tent, we did the Tall Trees Walk. This short trail leads to some big swamp gum trees. But it is really difficult to get some good images of these trees. Next, we hiked to the Lady Barron Falls through some beautiful rainforest.
Afterward, we had some early lunch at the Waterfall Café, where Linnéa found out that she really loves bruschetta.
Then we drove the gravel road up to the Lake Dobson area. In between, we stopped several times and did some short 5-10 minutes hikes through different areas with swamps and mountain rainforest. It was raining most of the time but we were prepared with good rain gear.
At the Lake Dobson, we did the Pandani Grove Nature Walk which is extremely beautiful and probably my favored track in Tasmania.
The trail leads for about an hour around the Lake Dobson through lovely mountain rainforest with blooming Waratah trees, covered with red flowers, and lots of Pandani plants. Linnéa and I shot many images along this trail and we got some of our favored pictures from this place.
All four trails we did in the Mt Field NP, the Russell Falls Nature Walk, the Tall Trees Walk, the Lady Barron Falls Circuit and the Pandani Grove Nature Walk are listed in the brochure 60 Great Short Walks Tasmania, published by the Tasmanian government, available either online or printed at nearly every ranger station in Tasmania.
Then we went back to the campground and after some sandwiches at the visitor center and a short break at the campground started for a night walk to the glowworm cave which is located on the Russell Falls Nature Walk. Although the glowworms were not that spectacular especially compared to the glowworm cave in Te Anau, New Zealand which we visited three years ago, the night walk was really great. We saw many animals like possums, spotted quolls, and countless wallabies.
After breakfast at the tent and a cappuccino at the Waterfall Café, we drove on the Gordon River Road about 100 km to the Gordon Dam. Shortly after Maydena, we did a side trip to the Styx Valley. About 20 km after the junction two short trails start to the right and left of the road: the Big Tree Walk and the Styx River Walk. Each of the walks takes about 20 minutes return. On the Big Tree Walk, you can see some huge 89 m high swamp gum trees, while the other walk leads to the extremely beautiful Styx River with its tannin colored water. The red color gives a perfect contrast to the intense green of the ferns. A heaven for a photographer and together with the Pandani Grove Nature Walk my favored spot in Tasmania.
But of course, there can be no paradise without hell. In this case dozens of nasty black worms trying to suck our blood. We had our first encounter with Tasmanian leeches. Luckily we could pick most of them from our clothes before they could reach our skin. But when I drove back to the main road I felt a sudden pain in my neck. Of course, it was a leech, but not yet stuck firmly so I could remove it quickly without stopping the car.
The next stop was the Creepy Crawly Nature Trail which starts from the C607 road to the Edgar Dam shortly after the junction from the main road. This trail leads through some dense horizontal scrub and you really have to crawl at some passages to reach the end of the trail, a lot of fun for my daughter Linnéa, who loved this trail.
After another short stop at the Mount Wedge Nature Trail which can be skipped without missing a lot, we finally reached the Gordon Dam 12 km behind Strathgordon. You can walk along the dam and it is definitely a proof of engineering ingenuity but I found the nature in Tasmania much more interesting. In Strathgordon you can find a restaurant and a fuel station but if there are no guests both are closed which was the case on our first visit. Therefore better call in advance if you plan with food or fuel in Strathgordon. This is a very remote place. Within 100 km there is nothing besides beautiful nature in every direction.
On the way back we saw several wallabies and a beautiful white cockatoo. Since everything was already closed when we arrived back at the Mt Field NP we had some cold stuff like tuna, corn, and bread at the campground for dinner.
After charging all batteries in the sanitary facilities of the campground, breakfast at the Waterfall Café, and a short stop at the nearby raspberry farm we drove via Derwent Bridge to the Franklin River Nature Trail, located between Derwent Bridge and Queenstown. The short trail leads through beautiful rainforest and provides nice views and photo opportunities of the Franklin River, while the short hike along the Frenchman’s Cap Nature Trail shortly after the Franklin River Nature Trail was not worth the stop.
Not far from Queenstown starts the trail to the Nelson Falls. It is extremely difficult to get some good images of the falls but the trail leading to the falls has some great photo opportunities. This trail is definitely worth the short stop.
In Queenstown, we had some afternoon lunch/dinner at a pizzeria which was managed by a student from Argentina as his summer job. He was literally stuck at this place in the middle of nowhere at Christmas. He had no car and in Queenstown, there is not much you can do without a car. In addition at Christmas, most Tassies stay at home with their families. He told us that the best thing about his job was that he could learn to raise his tolerance for suffering. Despite his situation, he was very friendly and a really nice guy and I’m pretty sure that he managed this difficult situation.
Afterward, we went on to the Darwin Dam where according to our map a campground is located. There was indeed a place where you could put a tent but there was absolutely no infrastructure, no toilets and no water beside the lake. Nevertheless, it was a nice place with nice views over the lake and a feeling of wilderness, especially since we were the only camper there.
Before we went to bed we had some picnic at the lake with the leftovers from our afternoon pizza.
After a quick breakfast at the lake, we drove the Bird River Bridge Road to the end. This narrow earth road leading through the dense temperate rainforest is, in my opinion, one of the most beautiful roads in the world. An SUV is recommended but with good weather, a 2wd car with higher ground clearance should be sufficient. For big RVs, this road is definitely too narrow.
At the end of the road is a parking lot and the 5-hour hiking trail to Kelly Basin and the ghost town of Pillinger (which was an important harbor in the past for copper mining) starts there. We walked the trail for about 2 hours but decided to return to our car before reaching Kelly Basin.
Both the Bird River Bridge Road and the hiking trail to Kelly Basin offer tremendous photography opportunities and are highly recommend for anyone interesting in temperate rainforests.
Afterward, we drove back to Queenstown where we had again some lunch at the pizzeria and then went on to Strahan where we checked-in at the Discovery Holiday Campground in Strahan, which has great infrastructure with a big kitchen and recreation room but is far from idyllic.
Then we did the short hike to the Hogarth Falls in the Peoples Park in Strahan. The trail leads through beautiful ferns along a tannin colored river.
For the next day, we had booked a ride with the West Coast Wilderness Railway. After breakfast at a café in the center of Strahan and a short stroll at the harbor, we took the bus to Queenstown where the railway trip through the rainforest starts.
The steam train was used in the past to supply the gold and copper mining towns in the west coast wilderness. Now it is used only for touristic purposes. The train is partly restored and partly build new identical to the old construction. To manage the high inclination in the mountains, especially fully loaded, the train has in addition to the driven wheels a rack-and-pinion drive that can be activated on steep sections.
Along the railway, the train stopped at several historic stations and mining towns and we got some interesting explanations about the history. At one station you could pan for gold which was great fun for Linnéa.
The whole railway trip took about six hours (including the bus ride to Queenstown). It was nice but I’m not sure if it’s really worth the 285$ for two adults and a child.
Afterward, we drove with our Pajero to the Ocean Beach about 10 km west of Strahan. There are many nice dunes and it is allowed to drive on the 30 km long beach. Something that is unthinkable in Germany and I still have some mixed feelings about this. On the one side, it is great fun to drive on the beach but on the other side, I found it quite disturbing when other people were driving with dirt bikes or SUVs at high speed close to you while you walk along the beach and try to enjoy the nature.
Really bizarre (at least for us with our cultural background) was the view of the fisherman. They all parked their cars directly at the water in a row next to each other, casting their fishing rods directly in front of their cars.
For dinner, we went to the Risby Cove Restaurant in Strahan where we had some really great beef with truffle potatoes and pork chops with dates and mustard.
After breakfast in the city center, we left Strahan. Our next destination was the Montezuma Falls. We had planned to drive the off-road track, which starts south of Roseberry, to the falls. According to a sign at the entrance (and our guide-book), this track is classified as ‘moderately difficult’. Either there was some heavy rain at this place during the last days or the Tassies have a completely different conception of a ‘moderately difficult track’. I have some experience in off-road driving, both from my main job as an automotive engineer and from owning and driving a modified Range Rover Classic for some years, but this track was definitely one of the most demanding ones (not counting off-road parks or competitions where getting stuck or using winches is just a standard situation).
By using the reduction gear and center diff lock we successfully managed the first 7 km of the 14 km track. But a really deep mud hole finally stopped us. Several off-the-wall recovery tools like a surfboard and foot mats were laying around the mud hole, which is not really a good sign and finally convinced me not to try to get through the hole with the Pajero. In addition, we hadn’t seen any other car during the last hours and if we got stuck we would probably spend the complete Christmas weekend at the hole before someone would come and help us. Since we had enough water, food, and camping equipment in the trunk the situation was not dangerous, but we had better ideas about what to do at Christmas than spending it around a mud hole.
We turned around and went back to the main road and continued to the Cradle Mountain National Park. After checking-in at the nice Discovery Campground, we had some lunch at the visitor’s center. Behind the parking lot of the visitor’s center, we could get very close to some wombats and echidnas. Very interesting to view these bizarre Australian animals.
But again no paradise without … You can probably imagine what’s coming now. Right, the ground and bushes were covered by leeches. And finally my daughter Linnéa had one on her feet already stuck and sucking her blood. After our last encounter at the Styx River, we were prepared and always carried a salt cellar. We quickly put some salt on the leech. The truth is, it was probably half of the content of the salt-cellar, thinking the more the merrier. A few seconds later the leech fell off. During the whole time, Linnéa stayed very cool. And I was very proud of her.
After this experience, we drove to the Cradle Mountain Lodge where we did the beautiful Enchanted Walk Trail and had some dinner at the Pub in the lodge. The Asian noodles with pork were quite tasty. Afterward, we went to the Devils & Cradle visitor center. This is a breeding station for Tasmanian devils. We did the evening tour which has the advantage that the (nocturnal) devils were quite active and we could watch them fighting about some wallaby legs.
We could also pet one of the devils which were, of course, great for Linnéa who loves all animals.
In addition to the devils, there were also Spotted Tail Quolls and Eastern Quolls, related to the devils but smaller and more beautiful. Then we went back to our tent.
We started the day of Christmas Eve with some breakfast at the visitor center. Afterward, we did the Rainforest Walk, Pencil Pine Falls Walk, and Knyvet Falls Walk. All three are short and beautiful walks starting near the Cradle Mountain Lodge. Then we went to Waldheim where Mr. Weindorfer from Austria settled 100 years ago and started to develop this beautiful area for tourism. Sadly for him, the success of this project came only after his death when finally a road into the Cradle Valley was built. Before we continued to the Dove Lake we did the short Weindorfers Forest Walk at Waldheim.
Since Linnéa was asking every few minutes when we will finally start to decorate the Christmas tree, we went back to the campground. We brought some Christmas tree decoration and battery-powered LED lights from Germany for Christmas Eve. After choosing a nice tree close to our tent that looked at least a little bit like a European fir-tree Linnéa started enthusiastically with the decoration. Afterward, we did a short walk around the campground and just at that moment Santa Claus arrived at our tent and we missed him ;-). Luckily he left some nice presents under the Christmas tree for us.
Linnéa got a dolphin and was very happy.
After the gift-giving on Christmas Eve, we changed our dirty hiking trousers and muddy boots to some less dirty hiking trousers and sneakers and went to the exclusive White Gum restaurant in the Mountain Chalet where we had booked a table. The venison plate and the duck breast were tasty but the vegetarian plate was rather mediocre and the appetizers were served after the main course.
Before we went to bed we enjoyed our illuminated Christmas tree in front of our tent.
After a short breakfast, we went with the shuttle bus to the Dove Lake where we started for the Crater Lake Circuit Tour (Dove Lake – Wombat Pool – Crater Lake – Crater Falls – Ronny Creek). The tour gives a nice impression of the Cradle NP and takes about three hours.
We had an early dinner at the pub of the Cradle Mountain Lodge (steak and burger) and then went back to the campground where we played some games in the recreation room while charging the camera batteries.
After breakfast, we went to the Wilderness Gallery at the Cradle Mountain Chalet where you can view some beautiful landscape images from Tasmania and Iceland. Then we went via Waratah to the Philosophers Falls.
On the short one hour walk to the falls, we saw some extremely colorful mushrooms.
Our next stop was the campground in Corinna. The campsites are beautifully located in dense rainforest in front of the Pieman River with many wild animals like wallabies and possums running around. But the provided wooden platforms were only usable for very small tents. We had to camp on the road with our large tent.
Corinna has only a few houses, one large building with a hotel and restaurant, some small cabins which can be rented, and a ferry station to the road to Zehan. Nevertheless, I really like this place. It has a great atmosphere and conveys a feeling of wilderness.
After a very good steak at the restaurant, we ended the day with three short walks: Burrowing Crayfish Walk (5 min.), Old Telegraf Hill Walk (45 min.), and Huon Pine Walk (20 min.).
You could book some organized tours in Corinna with the Arcadia II boat on the Pieman River. But we didn’t do this because they stop only for a few minutes at the Lovers Falls and I wanted to have more time to explore this area and take some pictures of the falls.
Instead, we rented a kayak and explored the Pieman River on our own.
It took us about 45 minutes to Lovers Falls. The creek there is extremely beautiful but difficult to photograph.
After visiting the Lovers Falls we paddled into the Savage River mouth where you can see the derelict of an old sunken metal ship.
Back in Corinna, we did the Whyte River Walk which is a one hour roundtrip along the Piemann River and Whyte River. The day ended with some nice dinner at the Corinna restaurant (lamb, steak, and pasta).
After a rainy night and breakfast at the hotel restaurant, we put together our wet tent and drove the Western Explorer Road into the Tarkine wilderness and Arthur Pieman Conservation Area.
Shortly after leaving Corinna, we stopped at the signposted Middleton Creek. An overgrown and difficult to follow trail is leading along the extremely beautiful creek.
After exploring the creek we went on in the direction of Balfour. At the junction (60 km after the creek) we found the following sign.
The track to the left (with the sign) leads to the sea and is much more difficult than the one to the right leading to the old mining town Balfour. But even the easier track to Balfour had some really deep water holes.
After our off-road experience at the Montezuma Falls, we decided to skip the sidetrack to Balfour. Driving along the main road through the Tarkine is not difficult at all (with good weather a 2wd car is sufficient) but you still get the feeling of wilderness since there are no villages, no petrol stations, and no cell phone connection for 120 km.
A few kilometers later we arrived at another junction, the road to the left continues to Arthur River while the road to the right leads to the South Arthur Forest Drive which was our next destination. After a short picnic at the Frankland River bridge, we continued on the South Arthur Forest Drive to the campground at the Julius River Reserve. This campground is beautifully located directly at the Julius River in the middle of a lovely rain forest. There were only two other campers (smoking pot which smelled along the whole campground) and many wallabies coming close to our tent.
Only the infrastructure was rather primitive with just some dirty pit toilets. After doing the 30 minutes Rainforest Walk and some cold dinner at the picnic tables with bread, tuna, tomatoes, and corn we went to bed.
It rained the whole night and didn’t stop in the morning. After a quick breakfast at the roofed picnic table, we had to put our wet tent together again and drove the short distance to Lake Chisholm where we did the short walk to the lake. Normally you should be able to see some lovely reflections on this lake. But when we arrived at the lake it was still raining and in addition very stormy. Of course, there were no reflections at all under these conditions.
We had planned to continue the South Arthur Forest Drive to the Milkshake Hills Forest Reserve, but due to the heavy rain, the road was flooded and closed. We, therefore, decided to try to reach Milkshake Hills from the other side via Kanunnah Bridge and Tayetea Bridge. It was a very long drive but we finally managed to reach Milkshake Hills with its lovely fern trees. Sadly for me, the rain had stopped in the meantime and there was now a completely blue sky with direct sunlight. Everybody who has ever tried to get good forest images under these conditions knows that this is an impossible task. Since there were no clouds at all visible waiting there for better photography conditions was no option.
Next, we tried to take a shortcut from Milkshake Hills directly to the Dip Falls via some forest tracks. This was quite a challenge, both regarding orientation and off-road capabilities of the Pajero. Quite demanding (and fun) was a section called Ghana Link with several deep mud holes.
Getting stuck there would be a major annoyance since it would probably take weeks before another car would take this road and the next place where we could get some help was about 20 km away. But since we had enough water and food and a handheld GPS to navigate to the next village we decided to continue.
With the help of reduction gear and diff locks, we finally reached Dip Falls a lovely waterfall with basalt columns similar to the Svartifoss in Iceland. Since the light was not perfect for shooting the waterfall we first visited the nearby Big Tree Reserve and had some dinner at one of the picnic tables above the falls (wrap with tuna). When the light got better we went down to the falls. On the way down I saw a really big black snake. In Tasmania live only three different kinds of snakes and all three are poisonous. Therefore I quickly skipped my idea of climbing through the dense vegetation to the middle part of the falls and went further down the trail to the bottom.
After shooting many images of the falls around sunset we went back to the car and drove at beginning darkness to the northern coast of Tasmania. We finally found a nice campground at Crayfish Creek (between Black River and Rocky Cape) with very good bathroom facilities, located at a fresh water creek flowing into the sea.
After breakfast in front of the tent, we started the day by exploring the creek and collecting some shells on the beach. Linnéa was really excited about this place. We finally left the campground around noon. In Wynyard, we had some fish and chips for lunch before we continued via Devonport to Deloraine where we had another short break at a raspberry farm and enjoyed some raspberry ice-cream and fresh raspberries. Along the Highway, we saw many fields with white flowers and were completely clueless about why anybody should plant millions of white flowers.
Finally, we decided to stop at one of the fields and take a closer look at the signs.
They turned out to be opium poppy fields. Later I read in my guide book that Tasmania is the largest legal producer of opium in the world.
From Deloraine, we went to the Liffey Falls where we arrived around 6 pm. Liffey Falls is a really great place with tremendous photography opportunities.
The walk along the different falls takes about 45 minutes and leads through beautiful rainforest. The Liffey Falls are definitely one of the top highlights in Tasmania and I could easily spend many days there taking images of waterfalls and the rainforest.
When we arrived back at the car it was already getting dark. Luckily a few km away from the Liffey Falls we found the campground Qumby Corner in the Golden Valley. It is a small but nice site with clean facilities.
After a long breakfast, copying all my images from my memory cards to my notebook, and charging all the batteries we left the campground around noon.
Before driving to Launceston we had another quick photo stop at the Liffey Falls. In Launceston, we checked-in at the city campground.
After a short stroll through the city and some dinner at the harbor (great steak and not so great pizza), we went to the New Year’s Eve party at the Royal Park. There were several different food stands and a stage with live music.
At 8:30 pm and at midnight there were two nice fireworks displays, the first one especially for the young kids, which I think is a great idea. In addition, they were selling LED lightsabers for the kids for a reasonable price of 6$. Of course, Linnéa wanted to have a lightsaber. It was really fun to see all the small Jedi Knights running around with their illuminated lightsaber through the darkness.
We stayed there until 11:00 pm and then went back to the campground which is located on a small hill providing a nice view of the city. We, therefore, watched the second fireworks display from the campground.
After packing everything together we went to the Cataract Gorge, a small but very beautiful nature reserve located directly in Launceston. We had some breakfast at the Basin Café, from where you have a nice panorama view of the gorge. The food at this café was really tasty.
Afterward, we did the short hike along the gorge.
And then went to the nice swimming pool which is located in front of the café.
Cataract Gorge is really a nice place and definitely the highlight in Launceston.
Around 1:30 pm we continued to the Weldborough Pass, where we did the signposted Rainforest Walk, which has some interesting information panels.
Then we drove to the St. Columba Falls, the highest waterfall of Tasmania (90m). The falls are very difficult to photograph, but the surrounding is extremely beautiful. The creek there, the St. Columba Rivulet, is probably the most idyllic place in Tasmania.
We finished the day at the Weldborough Pass campground (nice and cheap) where we had some Thai soup and curry for dinner at the restaurant.
For breakfast, we went to the Holy Cow! Café in Pyengana. After a cappuccino and some tasty ice-cream, we joined some presentations about the hand-made cheddar cheese. It was interesting how different young cheddar tastes compared to an aged one.
Then we drove to the Ralphs Falls. The walk to the falls takes about one hour (round-trip). The landscape there is not very typical for Tasmania and looks similar to the Mediterranean maquis found for example in Corsica.
After this walk in the hot midday sun, we went again to the St. Columba Rivulet and had some refreshing swimming in the lovely creek.
Then we continued to St. Helens at the Bay of Fires where we checked-in at the Caravan Park. It is a big, crowded and expensive campground, but it’s the only choice in this area if you want some kind of infrastructure. There are many alternatives beautifully located directly at the sea along the Bay Fires but they don’t have any kind of water supply and often just one (dirty) pit toilet for dozens of campers.
We had some pizza for dinner at the family restaurant in the city center, which was ok, but not great. We ended the day by watching the sunset at the beautiful Binalong Bay with its lovely white sand.
This was Linnéa’s 9th birthday. Therefore we started the day with some sparklers and handing over the presents at the campground.
For breakfast we went to the Binalong Bay Café where we had some tasty crab omelet and eggs Benedict and of course afterward the obligatory birthday cake.
Then we explored the spectacular Bay of Fires with its turquoise water, blue sky, white sand and orange-colored granite rocks. The orange color is by the way produced by a lichen. The beaches at the Bay of Fires look like a combination of Seychelles and Breton Cote Granite Rose. This place is another highlight in Tasmania and should not be missed.
At one of the many beaches, we went swimming. The water was very cold but with an air temperature around 35°C we enjoyed the refreshing experience.
Afterward, we drove via The Gardens and Policemans Point to the northern end of the Bay of Fires at Eddystone Point.
On the way back the weather changed completely. From 35°C and blue sky to some dark clouds and less than 20°C. Nevertheless, we decided to delay our dinner and enjoy the sunset at a lovely section of the Bay of Fires near The Gardens.
Since we arrived quite late back in St Helens most restaurants had already closed. We, therefore, went again to the same family pizza restaurant.
We started the day with breakfast at a bakery in the city center. Then we went again to the beaches of the Bay of Fires.
Since we had 40°C air temperature we spent most of the day in or near the water.
After some ice-cream in the city, we went back to the campground for laundry, charging the batteries and copying my images to the notebook.
We finished the day with a great dinner at the best restaurant in St Helens, the Blue Shed. We had some oysters and a spicy squid salad as starters followed by some fish (blue eye). Really great was the desert, a warm orange cake with sorbet and cotton candy. The Blue Shed is, even for Tasmania, very expensive, but definitely worth it (main dishes are 33$).
Before we went to bed at the campground we watched again the sunset at our favored spot at the Bay of Fires.
After putting everything together we went for breakfast to the Banjo Café in the city center of St. Helens. This was my first (and only) negative service experience in Tasmania. Normally all people working in restaurants or shops are extremely helpful and friendly in Tasmania, much better than for example in Germany. This time I tried to order a pita with avocado that was offered on the menu. The woman at the counter replied that I should choose one from the display cabinet (where they had only pitas with eggs and ham). When I asked her if the one with avocado from the menu is not available at the moment she replied that everything from the menu is available but insisted that I have to choose one from the cabinet. After repeating this same conversation three times I gave up unnerved and ordered a standard breakfast. When I had paid everything she told me that it will take a lot of time to get breakfast, a minimum of 30 minutes, and asks me whether I still really want my breakfast or prefer to get my money back. For somehow I had the strong feeling that she was trying everything to convince me to leave this bakery without buying anything. Maybe she was hired by the competing bakery on the other side of the road 😉
Afterward, we drove to the Mathinna Falls. The short walk to the falls and back to the car takes about 30 minutes.
Then we continued the 20 km to the Evercreech Rainforest. There are two walks through the lovely rainforest. The Snow Gum / White Knight trail takes 30 minutes and leads to some huge (91 m) and old (300 years) snow gum trees (Eucalyptus pauciflora).
The other trail takes about 60 minutes and leads along the Evercreech Rivulet to the Evercreech Falls. This is another extremely beautiful place that should not be missed. Sadly the light was not great for photography (blue sky and very high contrasts) we, therefore, returned to our car without taking any images. I decided to visit the Evercreech Rivulet again at sunset to get at least a few good images of this lovely place. In the meantime, we had dinner at one of the picnic tables (wraps with cucumber, tomatoes, and tuna).
When the light was getting better I went alone for another walk along the rivulet.
Since it was already getting dark when I returned we quickly drove the 20 km to the Griffin Campground, which is free of charge and nicely located at a river but has just some pit toilets.
Our first stop on this day was at the Mount Elephant Pancake Barn where we had a late breakfast.
At this place, we first heard about the bushfires from some fellow travelers and the innkeeper. Both our next planned destinations, the Freycinet National Park and the Tasmanian Peninsula, were declared as disaster zones, and the roads to Coles Bay and Port Arthur were completely blocked. We decided to drive to the visitor center in Bicheno to get some more information about the bushfires. They confirmed the roadblocks and presumed that both national parks will not be opened again in the next couple of days. They suggested that we should go instead further south to the Huon Valley which was safe at the moment. After some fish and chips in Bicheno, we decided to follow the advice and drive to the Huon Valley. The road to Hobart was open, but traveling was quite adventurous. We had to drive through very dense smoke and in some sections, we saw the bushfires very close to the road.
When we arrived at the blocked junction to Coles Bay there were many firefighters, police officers, stranded tourists, and some television teams. We asked a police officer whether it’s safe to continue on the road to Hobart and he confirmed it.
At this place, we could also watch several fire fighting helicopters picking up water from a nearby river.
We felt slightly uncomfortable at this place and continued quickly to Hobart to get out of the bushfire area.
We passed Hobart and continued to Huonville where we had planned to spend the night. 10 km west of Huonville is a nice campground beautifully placed in the mountains, the Huon Bush Retreats.
At the entrance, we found a big stop sign and a small book with some very detailed explanation of how to drive on the steep gravel road to the reception.
Since I’m an automotive engineer it was funny to read the section about how to identify whether you have a front-wheel, rear-wheel, or four-wheel driven car. By the way, the road was slightly steep but not difficult at all. Everything on this campground is extremely well organized with a lot of attention to every single detail although maybe a bit too finicky for my liking.
They have nice big campsites with enough distance to your neighbor.
The best of the Huon Bush Retreats were all the wild animals running around. At dusk, we had about 10 wallabies directly in front of our tent.
But the biggest highlight for Linnéa was of course ‘Ellie’ a tame wallaby who lives (or at least spends some time) in the office of the campground.
There are several hiking trails around the campground which can also be used by daily visitors (free of charge but a voluntary donation is appreciated).
Before we went to bed we did a 45 minutes roundtrip to the rainforest platform and the (dried-up) waterfall.
The next morning we had some breakfast at an internet café in Huonville. Then we continued to the Hartz Mountains National Park where we did three walks. Two short ones to the Keoghs Falls and the Arve Falls and a longer 45 minutes walk to the Lake Osborne, which was very nice with lots of flowers and pandanis.
Afterward, we continued to the Tahune Air Walk, a treetop walk with some nice views of the Huon River. Just the entrance fee (50$ for 2 adults and 1 child) is a bit too steep.
On the road to the Air Walk are many walking trails signposted. We did the short Zig Zag Trail and the beautiful Keogh’s Creek Walk.
Afterward, we visited the Big Tree Lookout, the West Creek Lookout, did the nice Huon River Walk through the lovely rainforest (the trail starts at the Tahune bridge), and went down to the Huon River via the Eagle hang gliding trail.
Since it was already getting dark we decided to spend the night at the Air Walk campground (20$ per site, with flush toilets and water but no showers). After sunset, we did another treetop walk in complete darkness which was fun.
In the morning Linnéa and Kerstin saw a black snake at the parking lot. Before we drove back to Hobart we had breakfast at the visitor center. In Hobart, we bought some food for the next couple of days and then continued to the Mt Field National Park where we had planned to spend the night.
Sadly the road to the national park and therefore also to the campground was closed due to bushfires. My alternative plan to spend the night at the Edgar Dam campground was also not possible since this road was closed too. We were a bit perplexed about what to do now and decided to drive back to the closest campground in New Norfolk. In New Norfolk, we had dinner at a Chinese restaurant called Shanghai which was quite good.
We started the day with a visit to the historic trout hatchery Salmon Ponds. After several failed attempts the first fish eggs were brought 1864 from Europe to the ponds in Tasmania on a three months journey on a sailing ship. They were put in ice surrounded by moss in a wooden box to keep the eggs alive. At the Salmon Ponds, they have a nice café called Pancakes by the Ponds where we had some raspberry pancakes for breakfast.
After visiting the ponds and feeding the trouts we drove back to the Mt Field National Park. The roads to the campground and Lake Dobson, as well as the road to Edgar Dam, were still closed. We decided, therefore, to drive all the way to Strathgordon and spend the night at the Teds Beach campground. In Maydena we took the junction to the Junee Cave which can be reached after a short walk through beautiful rainforest along a creek.
We explored the first part of the cave with our flashlights. The Junee Cave system is one of the biggest in Australia but most of it is underwater and can only be explored by cave divers.
The most interesting discovery was an endemic Tasmanian cave spider with its cocoon.
Then we continued on the road to Strathgordon until the Styx Valley junction where we followed the Florentine Road to the west for 50 km. Beautiful sections of old-growth forest alternated with plantations and logging fields. Then we returned to the main road to Strathgordon and continued on the road.
Shortly before the junction to Edgar Dam we stopped at the signposted Timber Track. This track was built in the context of the protests against the logging activities in the Florentine Valley. The trail leads through some beautiful old-growth rainforest.
Then we continued to the Teds Beach campground. Since it was very stormy and rainy we decided to have dinner at Lake Pedder Chalet in Strathgordon first before returning to the campground. The served Thai curry and teriyaki steak were quite tasty.
When we returned to the campground the rain had stopped and we could set up our tent. It’s a self-registration campground (12,5$) with flush toilets but no showers. Due to the very rough underground the sites are better suited for RVs than for tents. The night was very stormy but it was no real challenge for our Hilleberg tent.
We started the day with breakfast at the Lake Pedder Chalet (raspberry pancakes, eggs Benedict, and cappuccino). After the cold night, Linnéa was enjoying her own (coffee-less) cappuccino at the restaurant.
Then we returned to the protest site at the Florentine Valley where we walked the Twisted Sister Trail.
Since the road to the Mt Field National Park was still closed we decided to make another visit to the Styx River, one of my favorite places in Tasmania. Before driving to the Styx Valley we had some cold dinner at one of the picnic areas (wraps with tuna, corn, cucumbers, carrots, and tomatoes).
I was shooting there until it was really getting dark. In the meantime, Linnéa explored the surroundings and found the following stones which she named ‘Madame Stoner’.
Then we had to decide whether we should drive to the campground in New Norfolk or back to Teds Beach. Since we would arrive in New Norfolk around 11 pm it was not clear whether we would get past the closed gate and get the necessary keys for the lavatories at this time. We, therefore, decided to drive back to Teds Beach.
This was probably the most demanding drive in my whole life. Every 100 meters a wallaby or possum was jumping on the road directly in front of my car. After countless full brake applications and obstacle avoidance maneuvers we finally reached the campground at 11 pm (without hitting any animal). On the road from Styx Valley to Teds Beach, we saw more than 100 wallabies, about 10 possums, 1 devil, and many other small mammals.
After a very rainy night, we drove back to the Waterfall Café in the Mt Field National Park where we had some breakfast (bruschetta and scones with jam).
Afterward, I had a very interesting talk with an old retired ranger. He finally revealed some secret spots for viewing the famous and difficult to find cushion plants in Tasmania to me. I bought some topographic maps and marked these secret places. Afterward, I felt like I have a secret treasure map handed over to me by an old pirate captain.
I will for sure return to Tasmania to explore these secret spots. The flights are already booked, but that’s another story.
Afterward, we drove to the Fountainside Hotel in Hobart where I had booked a room for the last night. In Hobart, we put everything together for the flights on the next day, cleaned the car (which was really dirty after 4 weeks on gravel roads), and then took a walk through Hobart.
It was sunny with temperatures around 30°C. We had some ice-cream at the wharf and then walked to Salamanca Square where a lot was going on. All the bars had opened and were playing cool and loud music. Dressed up hip people were dancing on the streets. All the noise and hurly-burly was at first a bit confusing after four weeks in the wilderness. But we quickly enjoyed city life again. Several women in evening dresses and men in suits were laying on the meadows with cocktails in their hands and listening to live music. Very cool! Our impression of Hobart changed completely compared to our first visit before Christmas. Hobart is now one of my favored cities in the world and I would love to live there.
We went for dinner in the Hog’s Breath Café which is specialized in steaks. I had chosen one of the famous prime rib steaks with mushroom sauce which was very tender. Linnéa who had chosen to be a vegetarian some months ago had some gnocchi and Kerstin an avocado salad.
On our last day in Tasmania after breakfast at a bakery, we went to the Salamanca market which is the biggest outdoor market in Australia. You can find there many local products like fruits, honey, and handmade jewelry. In addition, there were several performances of street artists.
Afterward, we went to the 7-Mile Beach where Linnéa collected many beautiful shells.
At 3 pm we returned our rental car at the airport. When we checked-in at the airport they asked us whether we have any batteries in our luggage. Of course, we had. There seems to be a strange rule in Australia that all kinds of batteries have to be carried in the hand-luggage and in addition, they have to be sealed by adhesive tape. We, therefore, had to unpack all of our bags at the airport again to collect all the batteries and put them in our hand-luggage. When we returned to the baggage drop-off with our five big bags the guy at the counter looked at us with an expression on his face that seems to tell ‘these bags will be for sure way above the allowed free luggage’. Then he put our luggage on the scale. The allowed free luggage was 90 kg. The display of the scale showed 90,00 kg. The expression of the guy changed to a smile and we finally entered the plane without any further problems.
The short flight to Melbourne as well as the long flight to Dubai (again with an Airbus A380) were both unspectacular. After a two hours stop in Dubai we continued to Munich.
35 hours after leaving Hobart we were finally back home. Tasmania is an absolutely fantastic place. I love nearly everything about this island with just one exception … the long distance from Europe. Nevertheless, my next trip to Tasmania is already booked and I will leave Germany in a few weeks.
In the quest for cushion plants …
we’ve been to Tassie almost exactly one year later and also visited several areas you’ve been to, like St. Columba Falls. A really great place, even though I had to skip photography here due to the bad weather (bright sunlight, damn it!). Interestingly, we share the same thread-title 😉
Thanks for the trip report and sharing those stunning pictures.
We were in Tasmania at the same time as you. We were isolated by the fires at Coles Bay. We also had a wonderful time. I am so glad you enjoyed your trip. The Australian dollar has fallen over 20% since you were here so it may not be so expensive for you. We also have temperate rain forest in Victoria which are also worth a look.
Thanks for your comment Peter. Tasmania (and probably also the other parts of Australia) is really a great place. It’s just a bit too far away from Europe. Otherwise I would probably visit Australia every year. And even if the Australian dollar has fallen a bit since our last visit, the flights to Australia are still very expensive.