Cradle Mountain National Park

Let’s get this out of the way to start with. A wombat decided to chew on Ashley’s shoelace. Here is a picture. If that’s all you need, then there’s no need to keep reading.

Still with me? Good. We did some other things besides feed shoelaces to wombats. It was another rainy day here in Tasmania. Rather than huddle up at the lodge, we braved the elements and headed into one of UNESCO’s top world heritage sites. We simply couldn’t pass up the opportunity to do some hiking while we were here.
The hike around Dove Lake is advertised as one of Tasmania’s best short walks. Even with the low cloud cover and rain, it was certainly an amazing hike. We hiked around the crystal waters of the lake and through a beautiful section of rainforest. The water was so clear that we could easily see rocks at the shore line from 20-30 yards away. We wanted to hike to the summit of Cradle Mountain, but the low hanging clouds blocked all view and we didn’t feel like hiking for 6-8 hours in the rain and fog. In all of these pictures? There should be a mountain in the background.
After a wonderful lunch and short nap, we went to the Devils@Cradle wildlife sanctuary for a feeding tour. The sanctuary is hoping to help preserve the Tasmanian Devil by isolating populations from a deadly cancer that is decimating the native population. There were a number of devils and quolls around, but Ashley’s highlight was the wombats. We were allowed to pet them and watch as they roamed free, hence why Ashley’s shoe was nommed on. We got to watch the animals get fed and learned a lot about their life-cycle and habits. Three of the devils were very happy to be photographed, but the rest were much more keen on having dinner.
Both quolls and devils are carnivorous marsupials, so we decided to spare everyone pictures of the fresh feast the animals enjoyed. We’ll be leaving the Cradle Mountain area tomorrow, but still have a few days in Tasmania before jetting off to Perth.
More adorable pictures are here.

Narawntupu National Park

We’ve skipped a few days, first because it was rainy in Launceston and we had a low-key day, then because we didn’t get the internet up and running our first night at Cradle Mountain.

In Launceston, we visited the local history museum and the James Boag brewery. Both were nice rainy day activities, and while we found an excellent new beer (get the Wizard Smith beer if you’re in Tassie!), nothing too exciting happened.

The next day made up for that though. We drove out of Lonnie and headed up to Narawntupu National Park. It has been described as the “Serengeti of Tasmania,” and it did not disappoint.  We hiked through a coastal forest up to a lookout and saw an amazing amount of wildlife. There native birds were out in force, and the park provided a nice blind to watch them from. We even got to see some black swans reasonably close.
The ‘roos, wallabies, and pademelons (in order of size) were also out. Ashley is still the raining champion of the “spot the thing” game. According to the park, the wallabies are the most inquisitive of the group but we’ve found the pademelons to be the most open and hospitable.
At the top of the lookout, we could see down to the beach as well as the marshy plane that was be home to much of the wildlife in the area. On our way down, we ran into a couple who warned us of snakes along the trail. Despite keeping his eyes peeled, Drew walked right past a big one. Turns out Australia has copperheads too and it’s mating season, which means they’re a bit more ornery than normal. Fortunately this one didn’t seem too interested in us. The second one quickly slithered away as we walked past. Just about the only animal we didn’t see was a wombat, which Ashley had been waiting for the whole trip. However…
Once we’d finished our hike, we drove to Cradle Mountain. One of Tasmania’s most iconic locations, it’s the last of the big parks we’ll visit while we’re here. On the way, we made a brief detour to the 7 Sheds brewery. We only saw one shed, but the beer was fantastic. We can only hope they get some coverage in Alice. Once we arrived at Cradle Mountain, Ashley immediately found a couple of wombats behind the room. The folks in Hobart probably heard the squeeee she let out as she dashed out to take pictures. The lodge here is lovely and we went for one last short walk before dinner, where we planned an excursion into the park for our last big hike of the trip.
More pictures here (the last few are of snakes, so if you aren’t a fan, stop at the wallaby drinking from a puddle).

Freycinet National Park

We departed from Port Arthur early in the morning. Our next destination was several hours away and we wanted plenty of time to hike there. We were headed for the Freycinet National Park and the beautiful beach at Wineglass Bay.

The drive continued along windy, narrow roads. Ashley described the land as looking a bit like Cornwall (the fact that we’re listening to an audiobook set in 1920s England may have helped inspire that comparison). It is a mixture of pastures, old trees, and lots of sheep. This morning, a beautiful fog hung over the farmlands. We stopped to get a few pictures of the fog and the dew covered spiderwebs on a fence. From there it was off to the park.

There are two ways to hike to the bay. The first is a 200m elevation change (both up and down, each way), but is only 3km each way. The other is a much flatter route, but is 9 km each way. In the interest of time, we opted for the steep, short route. Roughly 300 steps up led us up to a beautiful overlook on a saddle between two mountains. Fortunately, this is where most people stop.
The walk down to the bay itself was steep, but nothing too treacherous. What awaited was a pristine white sand beach overlooking a bright blue bay. The water was too cold for swimming, but neither of us wanted to hike back wet anyway. We sat on the rocks eating a picnic lunch and enjoying the quiet – there were a maximum of 20 people on the beach the whole time we were there. We were amused by the persistence of a shore bird was unable to ply any crackers away from us and spent most of the time making sure the other birds knew we belonged to him.
On the way back to our lodgings, we stopped at Devil’s Corner to sample the wines. It was very relaxing to sit and sip on a glass while overlooking the ocean. The wines were quite delicious and we sent a few bottles off to wait for us in Alice.
We stayed at a holiday park about an hour south. They had a small herd of European deer which seemed out of place, as well as wallabies and possums.  We were warned about the possums being overly nosy. Not long after returning from dinner, Drew went out for some fire wood and found one of them perched on the railing… we made sure all of the doors and windows were closed before going to bed.
We spent the next day driving to and enjoying Launceston. Nothing dramatic or exciting, but a very relaxing day. We enjoyed being in a city for an afternoon, with shopping and good food a few minutes stroll away. We’ve made plans for the next day or two that will take back out bush, but it was nice to be in civilization again for a bit.
More pictures are here.

Tasman Peninsula

We (sadly) left Hobart bright and early and drove down to the Tasman Peninsula. The drive to the peninsula is fairly unremarkable, so much so that we thought it felt like Pennsylvania or Virginia rather than an exotic foreign country. However, the peninsula itself is surprisingly packed with things to do.

We started our day at the Tessellated Pavement. It’s a cool geologic formation that results from a combination of tectonic movement and saltwater evaporation. For the full explanation, ask Wikipedia. We had a great time walking around and taking pictures.
From there we drove south to the Tasman National Park. We did a quick drive-by of the Tasman Blowhole, but weren’t too impressed. The tide was fairly mild so we didn’t get many crashing waves and awesome displays of the water splashing upwards. From there we went and hiked along the cliffs past the Devil’s Kitchen towards Waterfall Bay. The views down to the ocean are spectacular and the trail looks to be frequented by wombats although we never saw any (pro tip – wombat scat is square).
We ended the day at Port Arthur, which is most famous for its life as a 19th century penitentiary. The grounds are massive, but surprisingly peaceful for a former prison. In addition to the penal history, Port Arthur started life as a logging station, and became a small community after the prison was disestablished. In 1996, it was also the site of Australia’s deadliest shooting massacre, which led to strict gun control laws here. Our guide grew up in Port Arthur and was clearly very enthusiastic about its history and legacy. It would have been interesting to hear more about some of the non-prison history of the site, and she clearly knew a lot about it. Overall, rather than an area infused with sadness and death, we found it to be quite peaceful.
Ashley also took pictures of the bees, as she is wont to do. The white-tailed ones are apparently “feral European bumblebees.”
I just can't help myself... this was so cool!
Although we could easily spend more time here, we’re getting up early tomorrow to visit one of the world’s best beaches: Wineglass Bay. More pictures from the day can be found here.

Mt. Field National Park

Day two in Tassie dawned crisp with the prospect of colder weather ahead.  We decided to spend the day hiking around in Mt. Field National Park. The park is about an hour north of Hobart and the drive took us by some beautiful rivers, sheep pastures, and through the largest hops producing town in the Southern Hemisphere. Unfortunately all the hops were down for the season but we’re hoping to get a chance to come back and see/smell them at full bloom in the future. The roads were much narrower than Drew expected, but we made it safe and sound.

The park itself is lovely. If Hobart feels like Seattle, then this park felt like an amalgam of North Georgia, Virginia, and California.  Well, until you got to the 7ft tall ferns and the 2-300ft trees. (We did keep an eye out for both raptors and Miyazaki creatures. Nada on both.)
We hiked up to Russell Falls which was pretty spectacular. Pictures can’t do it justice. It’s actually a lot higher than it looks in the pictures we took. From there we hiked upstream to Horseshoe Falls. Smaller, but it felt more tropical despite the temperatures being in the 50s.
As we hiked down the trail, we ran into a bunch of small marsupials. We think they’re pademelon but they might have been wallabies.  As long as we stayed still, they didn’t seem to mind us much. Once we tried to move in to get a better shot, they bounded  off into the forest.
I mentioned the huge trees earlier but this park is covered in them. Lots have fallen down and are slowly being decomposed by the moss and other forest dwellers, but there are still an impressive number standing near the 300ft tall mark. With trees this big and so old, the park constantly reminds visitors that they could fall at any moment. If you’re not comfortable with that risk, don’t come!
We finished our hike with a visit to the last falls at this end of the 6k loop – Lady Barron Falls. 6k seems like a lovely walk, but it ended with a 239 step staircase that had our quads aching! We were were happy to head back to the city after that. Along the way we found a roadside fruit stand selling fresh raspberries out of a beat-up old bus. The bus was covered in amazing smelling hops, lots of which still had blooms. We took a couple of hops flowers for the drive home and headed back to Hobart. We’ll leave tomorrow morning and head down to the Tasman Peninsula.
The rest of the pictures, including more of the pademelon, are here.

Hobart

Hobart

After a day of travel, we made it to Hobart – our gateway to Tasmania.  Although it was dark, cold, and rainy when we arrived, our first full day was lovely. We booked accommodations via AirBnB and are really happy with them. Our host is incredibly friendly and has supplied us with a bunch of tasty baked goods.

Salamanca

We started off our morning with a trip to the Salamanca Markets. The market is in an open stretch near the water and has over 300 stalls. The market has a lot of variety, and we enjoyed browsing the wares. The food all looked and smelled delicious, but we limited ourselves to some tasty breakfast sandwiches, coffee, and fruit. Tasmania grows a lot of the apples we eat here in Australia.  What’s awesome is that they grow lots of what would be called “heirloom” apples stateside and sell them at the markets and grocers.  We picked up several varieties and will be trying them over the course of the trip. For dinner we sliced a Geeveston Fanny and had it with some cheese and olives. The apple was decidedly meaty but very neutral in flavor – it wasn’t tart or sweet. It’s a nice apple, but after eating a steady diet of Sundowners and Galas in Alice, the neutral taste was striking.

Bagpipers

The buskers were all pretty good, especially the bagpipers, which were a nice surprise. The market definitely had more variety than Alice, and we would definitely recommend it to anyone coming to Tassie.

Enjoying the whiskey

From there, we hit two cellar doors for whisky (the Aussie spelling) makers here in Tassie. The Lark, which we hit second, was ok. The whisky liqueur was pretty good but nothing else really grabbed us. However, the first place we visited blew us away. The Nant flight of 3 whiskies was worth every penny.  We finished it off with a taste of of their single malt that’s been aged in bourbon barrels.  Supposedly, it’s one of the best in the world and it lives up to its reputation. It’s expensive, but we’re contemplating buying a bottle when we visit the distillery later in the trip. Even Ashley, who prefers gin, really enjoyed it.
From the markets and distilleries, we headed out of the city proper and had lunch at the Cascade  Brewery. The food was good, but unfortunately the tours were all booked. To overcome our disappointment, we tasted a flight of beers and indulged in some stout ice cream. Yum! To work off lunch, we took a nice walk through the gardens outside the facility.  It was wonderful to see green trees in both deciduous and evergreen varieties.
We finished the day by driving up to the top of Mt. Wellington, which rises almost 1,300m over the city.  It was cold up at the top and actually brighter than it looks in the picture, with the sun peeking through the clouds at times. The panoramic views of Hobart are wonderful.  Unfortunately we won’t have time to go hiking up the forest covered slopes on this trip. Ashley can attest to how beautiful he drive was, but Drew had to keep his eyes on the winding road.
Additional pictures are here, and there will be more coming – this is day one of a three week vacation. Tomorrow we’re off to explore one of the national parks west of Hobart!