“Your natural state” says all the Tasmanian license plates. They weren’t lying when they decided on this. About 33% of the whole state of Tasmania is protected natural land, and there really aren’t that many people around the whole state.
Most people just know of Tasmania because of the Tasmanian Devil cartoon. The real Tasmania Devils are actually becoming more and more rare because of a tumor spreading throughout the population. However, all other wildlife seems to be doing great (besides the amazing amount of anmials hit by cars). After the sun goes down, the forests come to life. The amount of wildlife is even so much that we were told probably 10 times not do drive after dark. Every morning we would see why: roadkill (mostly wallabies, a small kangaroo-like animal) could be seen every few miles.
Tasmania has a very small population. The land area is about 2/3 the size of Iowa, but the population is about 1/6 the size of Iowa (500,000 in Tassie compared to 3,000,000 in Iowa). Their biggest city, Hobart, is a good 80,000 people. In other words, not many people are around. Especially in the late fall/winter months when tourism has slowed down. Luckily for us, this was the season we are in now. In 5 full days, we saw around 50 tourists. This was is less than the number of people that were on my bus tour in New Zealand. This gave a much different (and, in many ways, more enjoyable) experience with nature.
I traveled with a girl from France and a guy from Kansas. We arrived in Hobart and immediately began searching for a car. Not booking ahead for something this important can be a scary thing. Always searching for the best deal, we ended up with a late 80′s hatchback with over 200,000 miles on it that was US$35 per day. The office of the company was literally a desk, a computer, a few cheap chairs, and that’s it. Shady, but as long as the car got us from point A to B, and C, and D, we were happy. And, fortunately, it did.
One thing I noticed about Tasmanians is their kindness. While looking for the car rental places, we had our map out and looked like the normal conufsed tourists. There were 3 different instances where people approached us and asked if we needed help. They actually came and asked us. I’m not even sure if this happens in Iowa.
We immediately drove to Bicheno which is the town with the hostel closest to Freycinet National Park, home of Wineglass Bay. The drives between each city were nice, but overall New Zealand is much more impressive with scenery than Tasmania. The drove into Freycinet and hiked all day. The first hike was a tough one, with a lot of climbing and steep walks on the rocks. Instead of a path, they just had arrows telling where to go. This was probably the most difficult hike I have experienced, andn it was well worth it. The view from the top was of Wineglass Bay with its white sandy beaches, its inviting turqoise waters, and the green forests filling all other land. From the lookout, we could see 2 people on the beach. Other than that, everything we could see was completely deserted. It’s amazing to see such a beautiful beach deserted. Heading back down was not as difficult as I imagined while going up. The entire hike took about 3 hours and we never saw one other person on the path. I loved it. This is how nature should be.
Our next hike was all the way to the beach on Wineglass Bay. Easier hike, and on the way we saw some wild wallabies. We made it to the beach to see it deserted completely. While eating lunch on the beach, we had a pleasant surprise. This is almost a surreal moment. Three dolphins appeared and were swimming around, sometimes jumping out of the water. Here we were, sitting on one of the nicest beaches in Australia, deserted, and watching dolphins out in the turquoise waters. The only fault to this was that the inviting waters were not so inviting after all, at a guess of 55 degrees. But you can’t win them all. This was definitely the highlight of the trip.
While walking around Bicheno, we had seen a sign showing a penguin. We asked about it and learned that the rocks along the beach in Bicheno usually have penguins after sunset. We couldn’t pass up the opportunity for this. After walking for a while, we pretty much gave up and were about to head back when one of the girls saw a penguin under a rock. It was hard to get a good view of it, but it was a small one. Just the size of a normal bird. Unfortunately, we didn’t get to see it walk. But cool enough to see one. Penguins and dolphins in one day, hard to top that.
The next morning, we walked back down to the little bay in Bicheno to have a look around and to see if the sunrise was nice there. It was a bit too cloudy, but out in the bay was a seal swimming around tearing after a fish. From what we could see, it was good size. I would guess 3 feet tall, but that’s just a guess from seeing a small part of it a distance away. For all I know, it could have been 12 inches tall or 15 feet tall. But for your sake, my best guess is about 3 feet.
We continued on to Cradle Mountain, stopping along the way at a raspberry farm and a cheese factory. We had the chance for an afternoon hike of about 4 hours. Obviously the mountains are going to be much different than the oceans and bays. The mountains were much colder and had more of a forest feel to it. Rather than climbing up like at Freycinet, we were covering more distance with smaller hills. We walked to Crater Lake and then up to Marion’s Lookout (this part was actually going up. Since we were in the clouds here, couldn’t see too much). I never actually did see Cradle Mountain because the clouds always covered the top half. We walked around part of Dove Lake and then back to the carpark. The most memorable part of this hike were the wombats on the way back to the car. Wombats are marsupials only found in Australia. Funny animals since they are only a few feet long and almost as wide. They tend to be very slow. The final part of the hike was a huge open area with some small hills. These smalls hills were where the wombats have their burrows and hang out during the day. We were there at the right time to see many. We saw around fifteen throughout the whole field. When we got close enough, they would stumble away back up the hill. If we had wanted to, we easily could have chased it down. But, since we’re nice tourists, we limited ourselves to just taking pictures (which I fell into the tourist habit of picture-itis by taking 30 pictures. BUT, I just wanted a good one but couldn’t get it with the darkness falling in. I’m using that as my excuse.)
We woke up the next morning for a drive to St. Clair Lake, another national park with some more nice hikes. We planned on doing one hike that would last around 3 hours, but we ended up getting lost and had to turn around when we realized we were on a 5 hour track (which would have us walking in the dark for an hour, not something I want to do in Tasmania). It was frustrating since we just had a little bit of time and had to walk the same track the way we came. We then tried to watch the sunset over the lake, but the clouds put a damper on that. Still a fun day, but nothing can be perfect, I suppose.
Finally, the last day we headed back towards Hobart. We ended up at a famous bakery in the heart of Hobart, and I was instantly reminded of Spain. In the bakery, I went to find a bathroom. I was led to a small little area behind all the buildings that is typical Spain. Also, the style of buildings and alleyways were typical Spanish. The area, called Salamanca Place, is named after the city of Salamanca, Spain. This is cool since I had the chance to go to Salamanca in January.
We drove out of Hobart to the southwest to find the airwalk bridge. This is a walk on a bridge that is built through a forest and partly over a river and valley. Again, another nice park with a very different feel from all the others.
After a nice meal at an Indian restaurant in Hobart, we headed to the airport and then to Sydney and Newcastle. This concluded our trip to the famous nature reserves of Tasmania. Each hike had its own unique feel to it and I enjoyed them all. Tasmania is often avoided by tourists who go to Australia, but it’s definitely worth a visit to those in the area.