giant roadside attractions, hikes, national parks, restaurants, tasmania

Though it has been a couple of months, and our trip to Tasmania is now a memory with a soft-focus filter washed over it, I still want to share some of my impressions. It was one of the most relaxing and visually enthralling trips I have taken.

Tasmania is an island in the Southernmost part of Australia, and often the source of jokes by mainlanders about it not really being part of Australia or that things are a bit slooooow there. But, enough people had said to me that it was geographically reminiscent of Montana to make me desperate to go. Those are the magic words.

We had five days, which is hardly enough time to scratch the surface, but we squeezed in as much as we could, mostly on the East coast.  To maximize our travel time, we flew into Launceston, rented a car, and made our way steadily south to Hobart, where we departed from.

Our day in Launceston was a bit of a wash, as we started at a local park, which we’d heard was amazing. It was scenic enough, with some nice trails and a gorge, but because we had our hearts set on World Class Amazement, we came away blase. We then went off to try some wineries. It was late in the day, and we only hit about four before the cellar doors were closing up shop. At our final winery, the excellent and quaint Moore’s Hill, we chatted up the owner who suggested we drive on to the nearby Narawntapu National Park, where we’d see some nice scenery. We found the beach and got our feet wet, and then did a short hike for some lovely views.

With a little daylight left, we drove on to our hotel further west in the pretty little mountain town of Deloraine, where we’d stay for two nights. It positioned us to be closer to our next stop, Lake St Clair National Park, and the oft-photographed Cradle Mountain. 
Navigation around Tasmania proved to be a trick: our GPS developed a fondness for long dirt roads and never-built thoroughfares. We experienced our first confusion on the way to Lake St Clair, and turned around lost on a dead-end dirt road an hour out of our way, and without any cell phone reception. Thankfully, we ran into fellow tourists in a camper van who had just come from there, and they set us aright again. Later in the day than we’d intended, we arrived at Cradle Mountain, where we started on a two-hour hike around the lake. In reality, it took us more like three hours because I kept stopping for photos. 

For people who hike on a semi-regular basis, Partner-in-Crime and I have been lucky to have experienced essentially no injuries. In fact, I received the worst injury of my hiking life on this walk. Coming down a hill, I grabbed onto a tree to steady myself, and when I pulled my hand away, I had extreme pain and a huge ant clinging to my ring finger. I later discovered that the ant was a Jack Jumper Ant, native to Tasmania, who stings its victims with one of the most powerful venoms in insectdome. Of course, this being Australia, it could not just be a normal ant, but a life-endangering one. I got into an increasing panic until I was able to somehow coax my wedding ring off my swelling finger, which eventually doubled in size. No lie, two months later my finger is still swollen enough that I can’t get my ring back on (and I’m not just saying that so that I can go to singles bars!). 
Done with the hike, my husband, my giant finger, and I explored Lake St Clair a bit longer. We took a couple of short hikes, the best of which was the Enchanted walk, a moss filled forest with waterfalls and a stream, which lived up to its name.   

We ran into this little guy on the walk, a pademelon, which we learned is a marsupial.

I’d gleaned that Lake St Clair was in wombat-country, and given my little obsession with wombats (I had a wombat figurine in my wedding bouquet, for heavens sake), I was determined not to leave without seeing one in the wild. I am not ashamed to tell you that I spent a good hour stalking all the fields I could find that had – ehem – telltale signs of wombat presence. Dejected, I finally had to abandon my hunt for poor P-i-C’s sanity, and probably my own, as well. Cruising out of the park, we saw a couple people on the side of the road, and oh my, they were looking at a wombat! I almost cried. We watched that wombat graze for a long time, until we noticed that there was another wombat across the street. And then, that wombat had a friend. All totaled, we saw five wombats feeding that evening. I was bursting with wombat joy.

As the cherry on top of an already overwhelming day, I added not one but two giant roadside attractions to my “collection…”
Mikey, the Giant Tasmanian Devil
The Giant Coffee Kettle, Deloraine

The next day, back in Deloraine, we woke up to the most incredible foggy mountain scene outside the window of our hotel. By this point, I loved Tasmania, and could not wait to see what more lay ahead.

We were off to another National Park – Freycinet – which is where Wineglass Bay (another one of the famous Tassie landmarks) is.

Freycinet was overrun with wallabies who were highly adjusted to humans, and boldly begged for goodies in the car park. We did not feed them, but we could not resist having just a small play.

The hike to Wineglass Bay was a challenging three-hour round trip. It is the only way to get to the beach. If I’m completely honest, I didn’t find the payoff to be worth the difficulty of the walk, but in retrospect, I’m always happy to have accomplished a tough hike, so I’m glad that we went.

We had our picnic lunch on the beach in the company of a handful of other hikers, and some terribly friendly marsupial friends looking to share.

We had plenty of time left, and took a further wander around Freycinet, where we found some particularly stunning scenery in the way of dramatic ocean cliffs and colorful coastline. These were some of our favorite views of the entire trip.

That night, we stayed in a pretty little town called Bicheno. We treated ourselves to an incredible meal at a highly recommended French restaurant, Cyrano. The decor was nothing fancy, but the food was divine. The owner personally cooked all the meals herself in an exposed kitchen. I had easily the best lamb shanks of my life. 
We were really rolling in the wonderful in Tasmania.
The next day, we headed out early to spend our last couple of days in Hobart and, as this has turned into quite the missive, I’ll finish the adventure tomorrow.

(Click here for part two)