At the end of January, Matt’s mom came to spend a few weeks with us in Sydney. She had traveled to Australia before, but had not yet visited Tasmania and it was at the top of her travel list. She invited me to join her on her excursion, and so we left Little Bear home with dad and set off to Tasmania for five days.
Tasmania is only about an hour and half flight from Sydney, and so is actually a pretty easy weekend escape. It did take another hour plus to get to the airport via public transit (ferry, then train) and we showed up two hours ahead, so overall it was a decent travel day, but we left early in the morning and were in Launceston (the main town in the north of Tasmania – Hobart is the main town in the south) by midday.
After dropping our gear in our hotel, the Grand Chancellor, we set off to explore the town. We walked through the main business district which was completely quiet since it was Australia Day, and then wandered down to the river. We came across the Tamar River cruises and decided to take a short tour to get the lay of the land. It was really interesting and we learned a lot about the town. It started off as a major shipping port until the river silted so much that the port had to be moved further seaward, but has since remained a prominent town and economical center of Tasmania. The river has flooded a number of times, including the major Flood of 1929, which flooded a large part of the town after a dam broke. We also learned about the current logging battles in Tasmania and the vast deforestation that is occurring.
After our river cruise we walked up a trail that follows the South Esk River Cataract Gorge to the First Basin, where there is a cafe, scenic chairlift, pool and large picnic area. The gorge was beautiful with crystal clear waters and sheer rock cliffs. A lot of locals had chosen the river as their Australia Day picnic location and there was quite a bit of activity (although never did any place seem crowded in Tasmania).
On our way back we stopped off for an ice cream at the Penny Royal, a unique pirate-themed attraction at the base of the gorge with restaurants, accommodations and various attractions. We had a lovely Italian dinner back on George Street in downtown Launceston before tucking in for an early night.
The next morning we met our Life’s an Adventure walking group in the lobby of our hotel, and after a few diversions (we accidentally left one guy back at the hotel and had to turn back for him) were on our way to the Bay of Fires. It was a long, slow, bumpy ride out to the northeast corner of the island, but the countryside was beautiful and felt a world a way from the frenetic pace of Sydney.
We started our first day of walking in Mt Williams National Park. Our crew consisted of Jackie (Matt’s mom), myself, a couple from Melbourne, two photographer friends from Sydney, and a family of five also from Sydney (with kids aged 6, 9 and 11). And our guide, Chelsea, who carried a backpack larger than I would take for a five day backpacking trip. The rest of us just carried day packs and our luggage was transported to Anson’s Bay where we would spend both nights at the “Beach Shack”.
The first day we hiked about 12 kilometers along beautiful white sand bays. The bays were broken up by rocky headlands we had to scramble over, but the beaches were long and the tide low (so hard packed sand), so the walking was really easy. Our group was a bit slow – the kids especially (although they were real troopers). Jackie, the couple from Melbourne and I frequently got out ahead, but had to stop and wait frequently for our guide at the end of each bay as the trails would turn inland sometimes to skirt the rocks.
The scenery was absolutely fantastic. The sand was pure white, the water crystal clear and turquoise and the rocky headlands were smooth granite boulders covered in a reddish, orange lichen that provided an amazing contrast of color to the scenery. I actually enjoyed the slow pace as I had decided to focus on my photography and learning a bit more about my good Canon 6D on the trip. With a toddler constantly in tow, it is hard to spend time fiddling with the dials and figuring out lighting, so I’ve ended up getting stuck in automatic mode ever since Matt gifted me the camera a year and a half ago. Having two photographers along (one professional) was even more motivation as they were both very eager to help and provided many great tips.
We ended our first day at Deep Creek and were picked up and shuttled a few minutes south to Anson’s Bay. A spread of appetizers and wine awaited and we were very quickly treated to an amazing dinner as well. Except for river raft trips when I was young, I’ve never done a guided tour and enjoyed the special treat of having everything taken care of and getting to just sit back and relax. I did feel a bit guilty that Matt was at home chasing Little Bear around, prepping him his thousands of meals he eats a day and getting no relief – but not really.
Our second day we headed out early and were shuttled back up to Deep Creek, where we continued walking south. The highlight of the day was our stop at Eddystone Lighthouse, and in particular a beautiful sheltered pool on the south side of the point. Our guide pulled a stove and pot from her massive backpack to make us up cups of tea and coffee, which were accompanied by packages of biscuits she also had stored in there (along with coolers packed with our lunches, first aid kits, and who knows what else). A few of us braved the cold water (not quite snow melt cold, but pretty cold) and took a dip in the ocean. We spent the good part of an hour taking pictures and lazing on the rocks.
We hiked over 14 kilometers the second day, but it was definitely not strenuous. Again, the terrain was mellow and the beaches pretty hard packed for the most part. There was some bush walking and I was glad I had long pants (we were all covered head to toe to protect ourselves from the strong sun) and gaters (which we wore for leeches – which we never came across – but which were really handy for keeping the sand out of our shoes).
The second night our hosts set up a beautiful table outside overlooking Anson’s Bay and we had dinner by candlelight. The group was really friendly and it was enjoyable to divulge in some adult conversation since I spend so much of my time now conversing with a 2 year old.
Our last day we hiked south from Anson’s Bay another 11 kilometers or so to a place called the Gardens in the Bay of Fires Conservation Area. The hiking the final day was quite a bit more strenuous than the first two days. We had to trudge through deep sand and most of the beaches were slanted, which is pretty painful on the hips. The rocky headlands between bays were also quite a bit steeper and more frequent (there were smaller coves as opposed to long beaches). And to top it off there were a couple of large cobblestone beaches that involved stone stepping for hundreds of meters. Luckily it was the last day and it felt good to get a bit of a challenge and push ourselves that final stretch.
The little coves were also extremely picturesque and amazingly it seemed that the scenery just kept getting prettier. At our destination for the final day we enjoyed our lunch on the beach and again a few of us dipped in for another swim. The van picked us up and brought us and our luggage back to Launceston, with a stop for ice cream on the way.
Back in Launceston we checked back in to the Grand Chancellor and then met the couple from Melbourne for a nice dinner at a local pub.
Our final morning in Launceston we checked out some local cafes for a sampling of breakfast and then walked through the City Park. The park has an enclosure of snow monkeys that were a blast to watch playing and we took quite a few videos to share with Little Bear. We then headed off for the airport and had a smooth trip home, except for an aborted landing in Sydney due to a thunderstorm and having to circle back for a second attempt – which got the heart racing a bit.
It was incredible getting to experience such a remote corner of the world. And the scenery was so unique and stunning. It was also great to meet such a diverse group of people (whose amazing photos continue to fill my Instagram feed and fuel me with more motivation to travel around Australia) and to spend such quality time with Jackie. And it was wonderful to return home to Matt and my Little Bear and be able to dive back in 100% to mothering after my short break.