Walk, Swim, Sleep, Re­peat

Australian Geographic Outdoor - - Road Trip - WORDS AND PHOTOS LAU­REN SMITH

We touched down in Launce­s­ton with the barest of plans, ba­sic sup­plies, a tent and some sleep­ing bags, know­ing we had eight days to get round the coast and back.

We’d been de­bat­ing about where to go dur­ing the sum­mer hol­i­days, con­sid­er­ing a road trip through the US, a beach hol­i­day in Samoa and back­pack­ing in Belize, be­fore de­cid­ing to com­bine all of the above in a trip around the east coast of Tas­ma­nia. We fig­ured we could fly down with some clothes in our back­packs and a tent and our sleep­ing bags jammed into a suit­case, and sort the rest out later… our only plan was to bounce around the coast­line, mak­ing sure we got at least one walk and a swim in ev­ery day.

When the first two of us landed in Launce­s­ton, with four hours to spare be­fore our third mate ar­rived, we picked up the rental car – more spa­cious and fancy than we’d an­tic­i­pated – and headed out on a sup­ply trip. We vis­ited Kmart (pil­lows, camp chairs and a ta­ble), Ray’s Out­doors (a por­ta­ble bu­tane camp stove, air mat­tresses and a pump), Kmart (plates and tea-tow­els), Coles (mugs and enough food to see us through the week ahead) and Kmart again (we’d forgotten saucepans).

We’d pre-booked a camp­ing spot in Low Head, about 50 min­utes north of Launce­s­ton, for our first night, drawn by the lure of pen­guins. We picked up the third mus­ke­teer from the air­port and an hour later we were so set up that we’d even dropped coldies into the cooler bags zipped onto the arms of our new camp chairs. We ate din­ner quickly, chat­ting with fel­low cam­pers, be­fore head­ing up to nearby Low Head Coastal Re­serve to join in the nightly pen­guin tour.

Around 200 lit­tle pen­guins come ashore ev­ery night at Low Head be­tween Novem­ber and Fe­bru­ary, with other pop­u­la­tions spread around the coast­line – there’s no short­age of op­por­tu­ni­ties to meet pen­guins in Tassie! There are strict rules in place at Low Head to pro­tect the birds, and the tour be­gins with a safety talk, and lots of facts about the pen­guins and the his­tory of the lo­cal area. We watched the pen­guins swim to shore in small groups, preen­ing safely near the rocks and then scur­ry­ing across the beach to their chirp­ing young, lin­ger­ing as long as we were al­lowed.

The next day we broke camp and drove through Ge­orge Town and on to Brid­port where we stopped to walk through the beau­ti­ful

wild­flower re­serve that makes up part of the Gran­ite Point Con­ser­va­tion Area. We spot­ted a pair of red-necked wal­la­bies watch­ing us from the safety of the scrub be­fore we headed back to the car. We moved on through St He­lens, stop­ping for a for­ti­fy­ing toastie, be­fore driv­ing on to Dora Point at Hum­bug Point Re­serve, a free camp­ing area be­tween St He­lens and Bi­na­long Bay, where we spent the af­ter­noon swimming and scram­bling around the rocks.

We were up and at it early again the next morn­ing, tak­ing a quick dip at Bi­na­long be­fore breakfast, and a last look at the mighty sweep of the Bay of Fires, be­fore head­ing south to Fr­eycinet. There are drive-in camp­ing spots in Fr­eycinet Na­tional Park, but they were all booked out, hav­ing been al­lo­cated in a bal­lot back in Au­gust. We headed for the lo­cal Big 4, and de­spite the No Vacancy sign, snagged a pow­ered site for a cou­ple of nights.

It’s easy to lose a few days at Fr­eycinet. There’s a mul­ti­tude of walks, in­clud­ing short fam­ily-friendly half-hour loops, up to the longer three-day Fr­eycinet Penin­sula Cir­cuit, as well as myr­iad other ac­tiv­i­ties such as swimming, kayak­ing, ab­seil­ing, surf­ing and moun­tain bik­ing. We bought a 24-hour park pass and spent the first day work­ing through some of the short walks, vis­it­ing Tourville Light­house, Sleepy Bay and Honeymoon Bay, where we stopped to spend a few hours swimming and en­joy­ing the sun, be­fore head­ing back to make bur­ri­tos over the camp stove and get some sleep.

I made every­body get up early the next day to the gen­tle pit-a-pat of rain on the tent so that we could get a head start on the crowds head­ing to Wine­glass Bay. Af­ter a quick bak­ery stop, we headed back into the na­tional park un­der clear­ing skies, be­gin­ning the 1.3km as­cent up to the Wine­glass Bay look­out that’s perched be­tween The Haz­ards, Mt Amos and Mt Mayson. The next 2.5km winds steeply down from the look­out to the beach, ev­ery sin­gle step adding to our wari­ness of the re­turn climb. That fear melted away when we hit the beach and shucked our sweaty hik­ing clothes, run­ning across the wide, white, crys­talline sand into the swell.

We had tossed up tak­ing Haz­ards Beach cir­cuit back – a flat­ter, scenic walk around the base of Mt Mayson – but with time tick­ing on our 24-hour park pass we had to climb out the way we’d come in. Tak­ing it at our own pace, we slowly sep­a­rated, leav­ing ev­ery­one to their own thoughts – try­ing not to glare at the kids and trail-run­ners who bounced past us, or gloat too ob­vi­ously as we over­took other walk­ers. We made it back to the carpark, sweaty and proud, and drove straight to the take­away place at Coles Bay, re­ward­ing our­selves with a large bag of hot chips.

When we’d orig­i­nally sketched out our route on the back of an en­ve­lope, we’d planned to head to Maria Is­land next – a wild, moun­tain­ous na­tional park with no cars or shops. We’d changed our mind though, af­ter ar­riv­ing in Tassie, and had opted to shoot straight across the south-western cor­ner and spend a night on Bruny Is­land. We started the 2.5-hour drive as early as we could,

…it was a beauty of a spot to while away the af­ter­noon, don­ning our wet­suits to brave the cool wa­ter…

reach­ing Ket­ter­ing in time to catch the 10.30 ferry.

When we’d set­tled on Bruny, we’d booked a site at a pri­vate camp­ing spot in Cloudy Bay, down the south end of the is­land. Af­ter stop­ping at Bruny Is­land Cheese Com­pany for an early lunch, we drove to the Neck, where we’d planned to climb out to the look­out. The park­ing op­tions were limited – the only spot left for us an awk­wardly an­gled spot be­tween the scrub and a ledge that I was ter­ri­fied of re­vers­ing the rental car off. We started creep­ing our way to­wards it, un­der the watch­ful eye of an older cou­ple parked next to us, mil­lime- tre by mil­lime­tre. Af­ter a few nerve-wrack­ing min­utes, the gen­tle­man started hol­ler­ing help­fully through the win­dow – “For­ward, for­ward… you’re barely mov­ing… you’re lit­er­ally barely mov­ing!” Grate­ful for his help and em­bar­rassed to my core, I said thanks and bolted up the look­out for a very brief glance over the isth­mus be­fore mak­ing the speed­i­est exit I’ve ever made from such a beau­ti­ful van­tage point.

Push­ing on, we wound our way down through Alon­nah and Lu­nawanna to the la­goon where we were stay­ing. This pri­vate par­cel of land, which can han­dle up to about 18 groups at once, sits be­tween Cloudy Bay and the la­goon, so it was a beauty of a spot to while away the af­ter­noon, don­ning our wet­suits to brave the cool wa­ter on the beach side, be­fore head­ing to Bruny Is­land pub back in Alon­nah for a de­li­cious meal – far be­yond the cal­i­bre of any­thing we had proved ca­pa­ble of cook­ing on the burner.

Back at camp, we had a stack of fire­wood wait­ing and we built our lit­tle te­pee shape and stuffed it with kin­dling and then set about hope­lessly try­ing to get it to catch in the wind. Af­ter maybe five min­utes of watch­ing us fum­ble, a neigh­bour­ing cam­per came across with his blow­torch to put us out of our mis­ery – not the first or last time dur­ing the trip that we were grate­ful for well-pre­pared trav­ellers ready to land a hand, or a ham­mer.

With the mem­ory of the pub meal still tin­gling our taste­buds, we cleaned off the camp­ing grime once more and fol­lowed our noses to Frog­more Creek Win­ery the next day, the 2015 Tas­ma­nian Restau­rant of the Year. Af­ter tast­ing as many fan­tas­tic dishes as we could, and fin­ish­ing a bot­tle of wine, we left the vine­yard and headed for our next stop – the idyl­lic river­side town New Nor­folk, just out­side Ho­bart and rich in con­vict his­tory. We camped un­der­neath wil­low trees along­side the Der­went and spent the af­ter­noon rest­ing (our full bel­lies), leap­ing from the jetty with lo­cal kids and

tak­ing the scenic walk along­side the river. We also un­der­took a sneaky camp­site search to find a group of cam­pers that looked un­der­re­sourced, of­fer­ing them our cook­ing sup­plies, chairs and mat­tresses – an ar­range­ment that thrilled both par­ties.

Af­ter drop­ping off our sup­plies with them the next morn­ing, we repacked our tent and sleep­ing bags back into their suit­case and headed into Ho­bart. De­cid­ing to take some time out for our­selves, we di­vided – Sam caught the ferry to MONA, Dim­ity headed to the cin­ema to see Star Wars, and I took a fly­ing tour of the lo­cal whisky cel­lar doors. We spent the night, our last in Tassie, trad­ing notes over din­ner at the rau­cous New Syd­ney Ho­tel and re­hash­ing our favourite mo­ments over drinks at the in­ti­mate Sul­li­vans Cove bar.

The next day we loaded the car for the fi­nal time, and drove straight up through the mid­lands (with only one emer­gency turn off the main road be­cause we were in des­per­ate need of breakfast), mak­ing it back to the air­port with time to spare be­fore our flights left. In eight days, we’d cov­ered more than half of the Tassie coast­line. Now we just need to get back and ex­plore that western coast.

Clock­wise from above: Some of the best swimming spots in Tassie: the chilly Der­went River; pris­tine Wine­glass Bay; and crys­tal-clear Bi­na­long Bay; we were reg­u­larly fu­eled by carb-heavy, camp-stove cooked feasts.

Clock­wise from above: Dim­ity and Sam rest at our camp­site un­der the wil­lows of New Nor­folk; hik­ing up the 600 steps up to the Wine­glass Bay Look­out; the view of Fr­eycinet Na­tional Park, past the Tourville Light­house.

COUR­TESY AUS­TRALIAN GE­O­GRAPHIC

Dur­ing peak sea­son, the Bruny Is­land ferry costs $38 re­turn for most ve­hi­cles, and leaves from Ket­ter­ing ev­ery half hour.

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