Article from ARB 4×4 Accessories.
Words & Photography by Steve Fraser.
I love Tasmania and let’s face it, there’s a lot to love about the Apple Isle. It has some of the most incredible landscapes in Australia, crazy 4WD tracks, amazing scenery, awesome food and some of the friendliest people you can hope to meet.
Hopefully, by the time you read this, the travel restrictions around Australia will have eased and we’ll be able to travel again. If you love travelling in your 4WD and experiencing the best of Australia, it doesn’t get much better than a visit to our southernmost state.
In this edition of 4×4 Culture, I thought I’d share my top 10 favourite spots in Tassie. You may know some of them as they are on the regular tourist stops but some of them are a bit more off the beaten track. Before we start, here are a few tips that might help make your trip even more enjoyable.
Tassie Travel Tips
The most popular time to visit Tasmania is over summer. My preference is to visit in early March as the weather is not too cold and school is back so the tourist spots aren’t as busy, making the campsites and tracks easy to access.
It’s important to remember that the weather in Tassie can change much quicker than it does on the mainland, so come prepared. If you’re heading off road, you need to be in a very well-prepared, high-lift 4WD. A winch and recovery gear are a good starting point. If you’re planning on doing some hiking of some of the incredible trails, and you should, make sure you are well prepared for a sudden change in conditions. It’s a matter of when, not if, it happens to you.
You can spend two weeks or two years travelling around Tassie, so let’s get started on my idea of the top trip.
I’d start my trip in Devonport, where the ferry arrives, and head around the island from there.
1. Cradle Mountain
If you live in Australia and haven’t heard of Cradle Mountain, then you probably need to get out more. It is a stunning mountain located in the Central Highlands area. The mountain is only 1,545 metres high but it has an incredible shape. It appears to climb out of Dove Lake, which lies in the foreground, making it one of the most incredible landscapes in Australia.
It is probably one of the most visited locations in Tasmania and located only 80 kilometres south-west of Devonport. It’s a great first drive once you leave the ferry. Over the years, the increasing popularity has led to increasing vehicle restrictions. You are no longer permitted to drive to Dove Lake, which is where you get the best view of Cradle Mountain. This spot is also the start of some incredible walks.
If you stay at the Cradle Mountain Resort, you can take the free shuttle bus that runs to Dove Lake. There is also plenty of parking at the Visitor Information Centre. The walks from the lake vary from an hour to several days. Walking around Dove Lake takes around three hours and only needs an average degree of fitness.
Sunset at Dove Lake is worth the effort. If you manage to get a day with clear skies, you are in for a real treat. The sinking light hits the side of the mountain and transforms the mountain from granite grey to a gorgeous crimson red.
2. Stanley Nut
Now it’s time to head to the north-west corner of the island, home to a unique land formation affectionately called the Nut. It’s an extinct volcano that towers above the gorgeous small town of Stanley. If you are feeling energetic, you can hike to the top of the Nut. Otherwise, you can take the small cable car ride for a more leisurely option. Once you’re at the top, you will love the incredible view. If you are a keen photographer, sunset at the Nut provides a bunch of great options. Once you have captured that special moment, I highly recommend dinner at the local pub. But a word of warning, book ahead as it is booked out most nights.
3. The Tarkine Wilderness
This is one of Australia’s last untouched wildernesses. It is the largest temperate forest in Australia and the second largest on the planet. Located in the north-east corner of the island, this is a must-visit area on a trip to Tassie. It is quite remote with very little in the way of population. The biodiversity is stunning with lots of tracks through the forest to explore. You can either enjoy the region from the comfort of a 4WD or choose from one of the world-class walks. Either way, this region is one for the nature lover.
It can be hard to find the exact Tarkine region on a map. Basically, it is bound by the Arthur River to the north, the Pieman River to the south, the Murchison Highway to the east and the Southern Ocean.
If you want to connect with nature, this is as good as it gets. There are options for camping in the forests, which are incredible, or several really nice eco retreats. Either way, put aside at least a few days to properly experience nature at its finest.
4. 4WD on the Wild West Coast
If you’ve come to Tassie to experience the 4WD tracks, then this is the area to head for. One warning I would offer is that unless you are an extremely experienced 4WDer, don’t try to tow anything on these tracks. It’s called the wild west for a reason.
A good place to start is the Sandy Cape Track near Teema. They were not lying when they called it Sandy Cape. The sand can be like quicksand and has claimed more than a few newbies over the years. The river crossing is especially challenging, so make sure you time your crossing and you are ready with the recovery boards – you will need them. If you are well prepared, have a nicely set-up 4WD and have some experience off road, you will love this.
If that’s not enough for you and you want a serious challenge, then try the Balfour Track, which runs from Arthur River to Corinna. When the sign at the start of the track recommends winches and snorkels… well, you get the idea. This track is only open from October through March. If there’s been any recent rain, be prepared for a very long, fun and challenging day.
There are lots of other serious tracks in this
area located around Granville Harbour and Corinna. You will only be limited by your sense of adventure and how much time you5have on your hands.
5. Franklin Gordon National Park
The area was made famous in the 1980s when a bunch of greenies, led by Bob Brown, fought against the government when they planned to dam the Franklin River. I’m very grateful that they won the fight and that this area remains an unspoilt wilderness. One of the best ways to see the area is to base yourself at Strahan on the west coast and indulge in one of the day-long boat cruises along the Franklin and Gordon Rivers.
There is even an electric (silent) boat. It is pretty wonderful cruising through the narrower sections of this incredible river with no sound except nature. So special.
6. Drive from Strahan to Derwent Bridge
If you love a good drive with lots to see, then this could be the best piece of bitumen in Australia. It twists and winds its way over 126 kilometres with few straights, so it’s slow going and that is the point. Take your time and soak in this incredible drive.
First stop is the mining town of Queenstown, which is 50 kilometres from Strahan. You can’t call it pretty but it is a fascinating glimpse into our recent mining history. With most of the vegetation gone, it looks like a scene out of a Mad Max movie.
Keep heading east and you will come across Lake Burberry. Just before the bridge, there is a parking area. My advice is to park the 4WD and walk out onto the bridge. The view in every direction is stunning. With a backdrop of mountains and the crystal clear water of the lake, spots like this are why I love Australia.
Nelson Falls is the next stop and it’s only a few minutes from the road. If there has been some rain, it can be gorgeous. This is an easy-to-access spot, so even those who might struggle a little will make it into the falls.
The remainder of the trip to the Derwent is gorgeous, ensuring you have a day to remember.
My suggestion is to take the backroads from Wayatinah to Maydena. It’s a pretty straightforward dirt road through the forest, which is really interesting. Again, just remember it’s slippery when wet.
Once you hit the main road near Maydena, head west. This is really pretty country and you travel through several different ecosystems along the way. There are lots of photo opportunities to be had and it’s generally a pretty quiet stretch of road. The road comes to a dead end at the Gordon Dam and it’s definitely worth a look.
Once you have turned around and begun heading back towards Hobart, make sure you stop at the Mount Field National Park. It’s only a couple of minutes off the main road and home to a couple of the best waterfalls in Tassie. The first waterfall is Russell Falls, which is easily accessible for everyone. If you return at this point, it’s only about a 25-minute casual stroll.
My suggestion is to carry on and do the Three Falls Circuit. The first section after Russell Falls heads uphill and gets the heart pumping. The walk has a few steep sections, it’s six kilometres long and takes about two to three hours to complete. Along the way, you’ll come across Horseshoe Falls, which is a personal favourite of mine. Bring the camera and be sure to get a shot of this gorgeous location. Keep going and the next stop is Lady Barron Falls before you start descending from the forest and return to the car park.
8. Bruny Island
Bruny Island, located off the south-eastern coast, is only a 10-minute vehicle ferry ride and you find yourself on a little oasis. The island is about 50 kilometres long but appears to be two islands, with North and South Bruny joined by a narrow strip of land called the Neck. The Neck is a small, incredibly photogenic section of land that is a habitat for native wildlife.
The southern end has a few camping options right on the beach at Cloudy Bay. The Cloudy Corner campsite is about two kilometres along the beach at low tide. Most 4WDs will have no problem towing a camper or van into this spot. It’s a really nice place to base yourself for a few days on Bruny.
A highlight would have to be the Bruny Island Cruise. It’s an award-winning boat ride you will never forget. It lasts about three hours and will take you along the steep cliffs and into the deep sea caves. The wildlife is incredible with seals, migrating whales and dolphins often on show.
The island has some interesting lighthouses and lots of hiking trails. If you prefer a more relaxed pace, there is no shortage of food and wine spots. The Bruny Island House of Whisky might help warm you up on a cold day. Enjoy a Bruny Island Cider, try local oysters at one of the many great restaurants or cheese and local beer at the Bruny Island Cheese Company may be more to your liking. I find it hard to go past the Bruny Island Chocolate Company.
9. Wineglass Bay
This may be the most popular tourist spot on the island and it’s for good reason. Wineglass Bay rivals Whitehaven Beach in the Whitsundays or Lucky Bay in Esperance. It is, without a doubt, one of Australia’s best beaches.
There will be lots of other people around, that’s the downside, but once you start the climb to the lookout, the numbers thin out. It is a reasonably energetic 45-minute effort to make the lookout but, trust me, it’s worth it.
Most people will turn around at the lookout and head back down at this point. If you’re the hiking type, then this is about halfway to the bay and I would encourage you to head down and enjoy a walk on this stunning beach.
The complete round trip will take you about half a day but why rush? Allow a whole day, take your time and make sure you get lots of photos. This is the jewel in Tassie’s crown.
10. Bay of Fires
The Bay of Fires stretches over 50 kilometres from Binalong Bay in the south to Eddystone Point in the north. This is a gorgeous area with white sandy beaches and stunning granite boulders.
There are several camping areas around the southern end of the bay and the gorgeous town of St Helens is not far away if you prefer a bit more comfort.
Cosy Corner and Binalong Bay are a couple of areas worth checking out. If you manage a sunny day in either of these towns, you are in for a real treat.
Well, that’s my Tassie Top 10. I’m sure that after a few weeks in Tassie, you’ll discover your own favourites. One thing I know for sure is that the smallest state in Australia is not short on the biggest attractions.