Thursday, July 21, 2011

Tasmanian reflections: West and East coasts

I am deviating from chronological order here, because Hobart deserves a post of its own, but fell between our exploration of the West and East sides of Tasmania.

Fortunately, I think I'm allowed to break chronological order on my own blog.

After leaving Cradle Mountain, we wound our way down the West Coast to Strahan, stopping briefly at Zeehan and Queenstown en route.

Map courtesy of Google

Zeehan was once, apparently, the third largest town in Tasmania. I'm embarrassed to admit we did not take a single photo. I can describe it most aptly as a ghost town: we saw no one on the streets, no cars moving, very few shops or open places, and the only signs of life were on the way in when we passed some mining accommodation.

The entire West coast has experienced a dramatic fall in fortune since the mining booms of the 1890s to early 1900s ended. For us, Zeehan captured that fall most succinctly.

In Queenstown, we found an actual town, with people and shops, which was a slight relief. It had a faded feel to it, but it did feel present.

The barren hills on the way out of town also provide a stark reminder of the toll mining took on the environment: smelter fumes killed the vegetation and some decades later, they are yet to recover.

Hills around Queenstown. Spot the effects of mining? 

It was with some relief that we found Strahan to be sleepy, quiet and with few shops or restaurants, but nonetheless nice in a small town way.

I think most people use Strahan as a base for taking a Gordon River cruise, which are one of the few (but very expensive) ways to get into the midst of the Franklin-Gordon River national park. We didn't do this, so pottered around the small town centre and waterfront instead. We had only one night in Strahan, and this was probably sufficient in the off season!

After Strahan, we drove through the middle of Tasmania, along the northern edge of the Franklin-Gordon National Park, to Lake St Clair. 

This forms the bottom of the Cradle Mountain-Lake St Clair National Park and is where Overland Track walkers would finish their journey.


Franklin Gordon Rivers national park

We stayed a night at (tiny) Derwent Bridge, which allowed us to visit the lake, and have the place almost entirely to ourselves as the light faded and dusk fell.

Lake St Clair

After our time in Hobart, and a visit to Port Arthur, we then wound up the East coast. 

Map courtesy of Google

The East is reported to be warmer  and more peopled than its western equivalent. We found this to be true, although we had clear weather on both sides of the state.

We stayed at Bicheno, mostly using the town as a base for visiting the Freycinet national park just south of Coles Bay. 

The Freycinet peninsula includes the acclaimed Wineglass Bay, with the view from the Wineglass Bay lookout reportedly the most photographed vista in Australia. Given the lookout is a steep 45 minute climb uphill, this is quite a statistic! 

Wineglass Bay is actually around the corner, but the view from this peak was quite impressive too

Unfortunately, the lookout itself was closed for repairs when we visited. But as we had planned to walk down to the bay and beach itself, it didn't matter too much (the lookout point branches off the main path).

The beach was beautiful.


The following day we also walked along the Bicheno beachfront, in sparkling sunshine...

 Bicheno Blowhole, blowing!

...before ultimtaely driving back to Launceston for our flight home.

There was one final treat in store on that drive (hint: it involves food!), but that will appear another day.


  1. So would you like to go back to any of the places you visited?

  2. I love the look of the east coast! I had really thought that Taz was going to look a lot like NZ, but that's really not the case at all. Very interesting!

    If memory serves, you're almost vegan, right? So does that mean you've never eaten kangaroo? I've heard it's dry, but good in a spaghetti sauce or something wet... thoughts?

  3. I would love to visit Tasmania sometime, it looks so beautiful.
    To answer Stephanie's question, kangaroo is a game meat, if you're from the USA, think venison or bison.

  4. @cityhippyfarmgirl
    Most definitely - but probably Hobart and Cradle Mountain, rather than the towns mentioned in this post. They were worth visiting, but I feel like seeing them once might be enough.

  5. @Stephanie @
    I think my photos may not be conveying the NZ-esque aspects of Tasmania! I haven't actually been, but I think certain parts are quite similar (the mountainy bits, for instance). My partner described it as "New Zealand light", in that it's smaller and less dramatic but still similar!

    On the kangaroo question: I haven't tried it! I did eat meat before I turned vegetarian / semi-vegan, but never kangaroo. It's meant to be very low fat though, so I can imagine it could be dry if not prepared properly. I've heard good things when it is prepared properly though (e.g., just cooked through with sauce).

  6. @Liz N
    I'd definitely recommend Tasmania for a domestic holiday. Beautiful indeed :)

    Thanks for helping out with the kangaroo question poll too! Have you tried it? It seems to have increased in popularity in recent years.

  7. Wineglass Bay! I'm almost *positive* that's where we saw a whale, far out, on my school trip!

  8. @Hannah
    I'm sure it was! Well, mostly sure - it's meant to be a great location for whale spotting. We didn't see any though.

  9. Absolutely loved wineglass bay, bay of fires area...and also cradle mountains for the pademelons! :)

  10. @Mrs Bok - The Bok Flock
    We didn't make it to the bay of fires - just about the only place we'd have liked to see but couldn't squeeze in. Somewhere to return for :) And yes, the pademelons were certainy a highlight!


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