Tassie West Coast

We’re entering Devil Country!

Monday 19th Feb:

Today is a day for washing and resting.

With all those clothes it’s no wonder our backpacks were so heavy.
Myalla Showground. The perfect camping spot for a peaceful rest.

Smithton and Woolnorth (visited March 22 and 23 – included here to complete the west coast)

The staff at Smithton Visitor Centre were excellent, as were the displays describing Indigenous life before colonisation and the early colonial days. From here we were able to book onto the Duck River Dairy tour to learn about their robotic dairy facility. What a transformation dairying is since I was a child in the country. I was fascinated to watch and learn about the stress-free cow autonomy and lack of human involvement that robotic dairies provide. Cows have such fun personalities when given the freedom. A wonderful innovation. 

The live computer readout from one cow being milked. The computer recognises each individual cow. The milk from each teat is measured/weighed. A sample is taken from every milking and tested allowing the farmer to pick up an unwell cow immediately.

The farmer/owner is also a cheese maker, and the vet. We watched him at work checking and turning his latest cheeses made only from the milk of his own cows. He sells them under the brand La Cantara and I swear you can taste that the milk comes from happy cows. My favourite cheese of all time is his hard blue.

Over the road is an excellent free camp and a nearby Bistro Grill – dinner out tonight. 

Next day we were booked on a tour of Woolnorth.

Woolnorth is a 41,000 hectare property in the far north west of Tasmania. Originally a grant given to the Van Diemen Land Company and used for sheep it was sold to a Chinese company that was running the largest dairy farm in Australia. Parcels of land have since been sold with only 700 hectares dedicated to dairy cattle and another 6000 hectares to beef cattle.

On the property are two large wind farms with 62 turbines harnessing the winds of the roaring forties. The carbon fibre blades have copper points and wire to draw lightning strike away from the control box. The integrity of each of the blades is assessed by drones with infrared sensors. Cool, hey!

Woolnorth Wind Farm. Source:Woolnorth

A concern has been the risk to birds, particularly the raptors, from the wind turbines. Here they have two initiatives to address this – firstly exclude their food source from the immediate area, ie the pademelons, and secondly the turbine/s the eagle is close to automatically stop when a bird is nearby.
At Kennaook/Cape Grim a Premier Global Baseline station has been monitoring and studying global atmospheric composition for climate change purposes as a result of human activities and natural variability since 1976. With no land west of here until the southern tip of Argentina winds coming from the Antarctic and Indian Ocean are the cleanest on earth. This is one of only 3 such stations – another is at Mauna Loa in the Pacific and the third at Alert in the Canadian Arctic. And yes, at this point Australia does have the cleanest air in the World.

Cape Grim Premier Global Baseline Station. Image supplied.

Kennaook is the original name for Cape Grim. Though it could well be, the name is unrelated to the mass murder of aborigines that occurred here in 1828 under the direction of Edward Curr, Van Diemens Land Company director. Cape Grim was named by Matthew Flinders in 1798 because, from the sea, the cape looks like the head of a prehistoric man crying. 

Phillip and Deb, fellow Explorer owners, with us at Kennaook/Cape Grim. The two islands on the left are the Doughboys.

Tuesday 20th – Thursday 22nd February:

For the next 10 days we’ll be sharing our travels with Pat and Dick, friends and fellow Explorer owners. The tiny township of Marrawah on the west coast will be our campsite tonight before beginning our journey on the Tarkine Drive. 

Not a bad free campsite – Marrawah.

Tarkine is an indigenous word meaning belonging to, or of, the Tarkiner. The Tarkiner people lived along this rugged coastline for 40,000 years prior to colonisation. The Tarkine is the second largest temperate rainforest in the world, with over 400,000 hectares of virgin wilderness, rugged coastline, rivers and buttongrass plains. The Tarkine Drive is a loop drive through sections of the wilderness. Despite most of it being under Parks and Wildlife management the State has made a provision that any of it can be used for logging at their discretion. This doesn’t bode well considering the might of the Logging Industry.

Wednesday: Today we’ll follow the Drive down the west coast.
At West Point we watched the surfers riding the waves. These waves can be enormous as the swell travels across the Indian Ocean unchecked. Today though, not so big as there was a strong easterly wind blowing. 

Note the giant kelp washed up on the rocks. Mawson Bay

Continuing south Mawson Bay provided a dramatic coastline to explore and have a break. The headland at the end of the bay, Bluff Point is the most westerly point of Tasmania. A lighthouse here apparently has a colony of bees living in the wall near the entrance – an effective way to keep people away. 

Crossing the mouth of the Arthur River at the aptly named township of Arthur River we headed to the even more intriguingly named “Edge of the World”. Huge driftwood logs and giant dried kelp is washed up along the beach. 

Pat at Edge of the World. Note the driftwood.
Steve deep in contemplation at Couta Rocks

Couta Rocks proved a fun place to explore along the rocky bluffs before we backtracked to the shack community of Nelson Bay to settle in to a nice quiet grassy campsite by the beach. As the afternoon cooled down (temps have been in the high 20’s) we walked along the beach to Sundown Point State Reserve then followed a track to the mouth of Sundown Creek to find the petroglyphs. This area contains many artefacts from aboriginal days, such as shell middens, tools, depressions from huts and petroglyphs (rock carvings). 

Dick admiring the petroglyphs. Steve and Pat chatting.
Planning Meeting! Steve and Dick

Thursday: Today we’ll venture inland to the forests of the Tarkine as we continue the tourist drive.

First stop Sumac Lookout which towers above the thick rainforest that borders the Arthur River.

Sumac Lookout. Hopefully the magnificent tree in which this sign was carved wasn’t felled for this purpose.
The Arthur River from Sumac Lookout as it cascades its way through thick rainforest wilderness.

Onward to Julius River to do the sinkhole walk through lush rainforest, coming across several sinkholes.

A sinkhole on the Julius River walk.
Lake Chisholm

Further along the Drive a 30 minute walk through tall trees and ‘man ferns’ brought us to the large and very pretty flooded limestone sinkhole that is Lake Chisholm.

Dempster Plains provided a very different outlook with expansive views over buttongrass plains. An information board explained how for thousands of years the Tasmanian Aborigines created these plains by burning back forest. Wallaby, wombats, bandicoots, possums, lizards and emus would be flushed out by the flames where they could be easily hunted. As the button grass regrew the animals would be attracted back to the fresh flush of growth making the hunting grounds a continual and reliable food source for both people and animals. This process is called fire stick farming. 

The Dempster Plains buttongrass plain
Unnamed sinkhole alongside the road.

Another pretty sinkhole alongside the road was next on our tour before we reached the end of the Drive and the pièce de résistance – Trowutta Arch. A short walk brought us to the stone arch which remains after a cave collapse and the creation of two sinkholes, one on either side of it. One sinkhole is dry, the other with steep sides is 20 metres deep and water-filled. It’s a stunning and rare geological creation.

Looking under the Arch towards the flooded sinkhole
Looking under the arch towards the dry sinkhole.

Returning to our southerly drive down the west coast we joined the unsealed Western Explorer drive and found a place to pull up for the night just north of the Lindsay River bridge. A big day today – a quiet restful night anticipated.

Friday 23rd Feb:

Our route south is variously known as the C249, the Western Explorer Road or the “road to nowhere”. This remote, 120km, unsealed, white dirt road winds it’s way through beautiful thick forests, across button grass plains, around the edges of mountains or up and over those mountains as it crosses the Tarkine Wilderness – the last known home of the Tasmanian Tiger.

Driving The Western Explorer on a misty, rainy day. Can I see a Tassie tiger there?
Buttongrass Plains
Bridge over the Donaldson River
Donaldson River

Shallow mountain streams with their rapids and beautiful big rivers are crossed on this journey to Corinna. Corinna is an old mining and pining town – gold for the mining and Huon pine for the pining. Today there’s just a few houses remaining and an attractive pub that sells meals and tickets for the barge. 

Someone has a sense of humour.

To continue south one must cross the Pieman River and the only way across is on the Fatman Barge. This barge is weight and length restricted – a car and caravan is too long. One Explorer at a time fits well! 

On the Fatman Barge crossing the Pieman River

The beautiful thick forest continued – such a stunning drive. We passed quite a few stands of bee hives on both the Tarkine Drive and the Western Explorer. The honey made from these wilderness trees is usually manuka or leatherwood or a combination of blooming wilderness trees and shrubs.

Bee hives nestled into the Tarkine wilderness rainforest. Good idea not to stop near them – can you make out the thousands of bees buzzing around?

Tonight we’re staying at McIntosh Dam to camp in the muddy car park with no view of the dam – what a letdown after the last few days of superb travels and campsites.

Saturday 24th Feb:

Our major plan for the day involves walking to Montezuma Falls. These falls are Tasmania’s highest with a drop of 104 metres. To reach the falls is an 11km return walk along the old tramway through a beautiful rainforest of myrtle, sassafras and leatherwood trees and tree ferns (called man ferns in Tas).

Pat and Steve enjoying the walk.
Old sleepers from the tramway still forming part of the path.

The tramway was constructed on a 2 foot wide gauge in 1897 to carry passengers and ore from the mines to be smeltered in Zeehan. From here it went to Germany to be used in weapons production. This export ceased when war broke out in 1914 and the line was used infrequently until 1932 when it was finally abandoned. 

An old wooden tramway bridge crossing a small creek.
And voila – Montezuma Falls

 Sunday 25th Feb:

Henty Dunes. These 30m high dunes run for 15km along the coastline and are whipped ever upwards by the winds crossing the Indian Ocean. 

In Strahan and a wander along the waterfront revealed lovely old buildings, fishing boats at the dock and a cafe serving great coffee. 

Steve, Dick and I enjoying Strahan waterfront.

The fragrance of Huon pine drew us into Morrison’s Mill and gift shop – such a beautiful timber. Huon pine is endemic to Tasmania and found mostly in the west and south-west of the State. It’s a very, very slow growing and long-lived tree – some trees have been dated to 3,000 years old. It’s a valuable timber not just for its rich buttery yellow colour and fragrance, but also because it is insect resistant and decays very slowly making it ideal for ship building and fine furniture-making. Due to logging, mining, inundation (dam building) and fires this tree is under threat. All living Huon pines are now protected and retrieval of fallen pines is carefully regulated. 

Tonight we celebrated Steve’s and Dick’s birthdays at View 42° restaurant. (Any excuse!)

Monday 26th Feb

Such a beautiful day.

A quiet day catching up on admin and housework for Steve and I while Pat and Dick did the Gordon River cruise. This evening we all attended the play “The ship that never was”. It was based on true events, but was such fun. Two actors and lots of audience participation. Well worthwhile. 

The play – two actors, and lots of audience participation.

Tuesday 27th Feb:

Distances between places in Tasmania are surprisingly short for we Queenslanders used to travelling a few hundred km between towns. Leaving Strahan it was only 42km to Queenstown. However what Tasmanians do very well is windy, steep, mountainous roads through rainforest.

We soon lost the rainforest as we entered the previously completely denuded mountains around Queenstown. Copper smelting polluting the air and the rivers, and logging to keep those smelters going created a desolate moonscape. On a previous visit here many years ago, we saw they were trying to re-establish the trees – those saplings are now trees and have covered some of the hills. 

A pretty town surrounded by green hills today … but not in every direction.
Not so much forest here. Steve points out the cycle track he raced on back in 1971.
The Queen River in the centre of town. After 100 years of mine runoff this river is considered the most polluted in Australia.

Queenstown has some historical buildings of note and a very good miners memorial.

Miners Memorial. These stepping stones form a path up to a fountain which trickles water past them. It’s excellent and tells the story of mining in Queenstown.
Tasmania is setting itself up as a perfect destination for the mountain biking tourist. Just outside Queenstown are several of these death-defying trails cut into the mountainside.
This is the path back from Horsetail Falls, about 5km out of Queenstown. It appears I was more impressed with the walkway than the falls – no pics of falls.
Lake King William was tonight’s campsite! If Queenstown was the moon, this was Mars! The water levels were very low.

Wednesday 28th Feb:

We’re heading east now to The Wall in the Wilderness at Derwent Bridge, which is in Tasmania’s Central Highlands. This extraordinary sculptural masterpiece by Greg Duncan was begun in 2005. The Wall is 3 meters x 50 metres, double-sided Huon pine with panels that illustrate the history of the Central Highlands from indigenous times to the present. The life-like finish to all the pieces is extraordinary. No trip to Tasmania is complete if you miss The Wall.

The detail is extraordinary and seeing the whole 100m is awe-inspiring.
No photography allowed, therefore this is a stock photo from Discover Tasmania.

Tarraleah, our campsite tonight, owes its existence to the hydroelectric power company.

Huge pipes bringing water to the hydroelectric plant and lots of power lines taking the power away. Tarraleah

From the 1930’s to 2005 its residents were mostly hydro workers housed in company houses, as well as the mine executives luxurious lodge. About 20 years ago it was sold (yes, the whole town) and run as a camping and accommodation area, on a village scale. Last year it was bought back by hydro Tasmania who use the houses for their workers but maintain camping. 

Some of the helicopters being used – and the ‘bucket’ used to scoop up water.

While we were there a bushfire was raging not too far away. There were 12 water-bombing helicopters working out of the oval nearby. The fire was brought under control and we found it quite interesting watching the process. 

Thursday 29th Feb – Sunday 3rd March:

Today we farewell Pat and Dick as we start heading towards Port Arthur and they head north. Leaving Tarraleah we descended on windy roads for ages before finally reaching dairy and sheep country and the Derwent Valley to pull up for the night at New Norfolk. This historically charming town was founded by the settlers evacuated from Norfolk Island in the early 1800’s. 

Friday we popped in to Hobart to buy some dehydrated meals for the upcoming hike.

Saturday we enjoyed our brunch overlooking Eaglehawk Neck and the bay, then wandered up to the coffee van for a delicious coffee with even better views.

The view through the back windows. Eaglehawk Neck
Coffees from the coffee van. The view is only marginally better than from Harvey.

Parker’s Beach campsite, was delightfully quiet last night – us and one other. The beach is lovely, with amazing sandstone cliffs being eroded quite sculpturally.

Parker’s Beach

Today it’s been strong wind warnings and showers all day – gale force winds most of the time, with temps in the single digits and ‘feels like” values only just staying above the negative, until evening when it could hold up no longer.

Being confined to the motorhome we made good use of our time finalising our packs for the big walk tomorrow, and watching movies. 

Overland Track: Cradle Mountain Lake St Clair NP

The Overland Track

The Overland is a 65km track (+side tracks) through the alpine highlands of Tasmania and is considered to be amongst the Worlds best multi-day hikes.

We’re going to walk this track over the next 6 days with the Tasmanian Walking Company. We’ve chosen to do it with this well-respected company as the Track is notorious for having unpredictable weather at any time of year (a young adult died in a February blizzard some years ago) and we’re not familiar with walking in such conditions. Also our hut accommodation and food is provided allowing us to reduce our pack weights, still carrying 10kg. There are no shortcuts to the distance walked though!

Tuesday 13th February

Day 1: Hadspen to Cradle Mountain (vehicle transfer)
Waldheim Chalet to Barn Bluff Hut (7 hours walking)

Guide Sam doing the briefing before we left Hadspen.

At 7am we met the other 9 hikers and 2 guides who make up our group. Before leaving Hadspen Guide Sam and Guide Milo checked our gear, ensuring we had everything we needed for whatever weather we might encounter, and gave us a briefing on the walk ahead of us – not a word of which I recall! Too nervous!

To break the drive to Cradle Mountain we stopped at Sheffield, the town of murals, and parked beside the Gustav Weindorfer mural. Gustav was instrumental in getting Cradle Mountain Lake St Clair declared a National Park.

Gustav Weindorfer at Waldheim Chalet – mural.

The mural depicts Gustav in winter at Waldheim Chalet, accommodation he built for his guests. He’d light a fire to warm the room then open the door and sit quietly writing up his journal. The animals would slowly come inside for the warmth.
The bus dropped us at Waldheim Chalet for a brief look around before commencing the hike.

Waldheim Chalet
This became a favourite quote on our hike!

With no more delays we began our first day of hiking at 11am. Today is the longest and hardest day of the hike and will take us about 7 hours before we arrive at Barn Bluff Hut.

And so we begin …

The track is initially an easy, though narrow boardwalk through buttongrass plains. A gradual ascent brought us to temperate rainforest, which I didn’t expect to find here. A lovely waterfall cascades into Cradle Lake – a glacial cirque. We walked alongside this beautiful lake until it was time to start climbing. Along with dolerite peaks, glacial cirques are a feature of the walk, the largest and deepest being Lake St Clair.

Beautiful Crater Lake Waterfall cascading between us.
Cradle Lake and the boat shed Weindorfer used for his chalet guests.

For the next two kilometers we’ll continue to climb culminating in the steep ascent to Marions Lookout at 1,250m high. The path is now irregular stone steps.

Looking back on our track past Cradle Lake as we climbed higher
Lakes amongst the heathlands

The final ascent of Marions Lookout is brutal. The stone ‘steps’ are very irregular, some being more than knee height above the last. A loose chain ‘handrail’ is a godsend to help pull yourself upward as well as preventing a fall backwards.

Marions Lookout ascent. Note the step I’m climbing and how much higher the person just ahead of me is.

Thankfully we all arrived at the top unscathed to be met with fantastic views in every direction, not the least being Cradle Mountain.
I had been particularly anxious about this section of the hike and was greatly relieved to have done it without a problem and have it behind me now.

How’s that for a fabulous view! Cradle Mountain and Dove Lake

Our hungry group rested at Kitchen Hut for lunch. Kitchen Hut is one of the older historical huts along the Track, and like the other huts is not to be used as an overnight hut except in an emergency.

Kitchen Hut. Steve’s just finished his lunch. Note the spade and the upper level door! The snow can get pretty deep in these parts.

Sam (guide) is a wealth of information about the geology and plants of this region.

Creeping strawberry pine. (Yes, it’s a ground cover pine!) The fruit is delicious.
Eucalypts growing on rich Dolerite soils on the other side of the Fury Gorge fault line while low growing heaths growing in poorer soil are seen on this side of the Gorge.
Manuka (Leptospermum scoparium). Bees make the healing Manuka honey from these flowers.
Cushion plant.

After a fair amount of walking I asked Guide Milo how much further, “Not far – just there at the base of Barn Bluff”.


Yeah, see – not far to Barn Bluff where our hut is!!


Chocolate break – hey, a lovely surprise on our first day that was repeated every afternoon about an hour before reaching the hut. (Note the rocky path)
Referred to by the guides as the ‘Brussel sprout’ you’d really need to be desperate to spend time in this emergency shelter. This section of the hike is quite exposed, hence the need for emergency shelters.
There were so many times on this hike that I found the scenery to be awe-inspiring.
This type of duckboard is more like a sobriety test. At times narrow boards like this would be 1/4 metre above the ground.


Perfect cushion plant. Stunning country! Barn Bluff is getting closer.
This is what Guide Milo called “Tassie Flat” – ie any ascent or descent that wasn’t a mountain (my interpretation). Nice duckboards here.


First sight of the hut was a thrill, which just got better. Guide Milo had gone on ahead and made afternoon tea for us, soon to be followed by wine and cheese while dinner was fresh grilled salmon and salad. Can’t remember dessert, but it was delicious too. Each of the five huts we would stay in had six 2-bed rooms, toilets and hot showers in the hut, a drying room for wet clothes, big lounges in a lovely community room, yoga mats, a library with the same books in each hut so you could pick up where you left off, and outside was the helipad – always with an amazing view. This was the spot to take the yoga mats each afternoon for stretching, yoga and wine drinking.
Day 1 was exciting, daunting, awe-inspiring, surprising and exhausting. Guide Sam commented on how much he loved the Overland because every 20 minutes it changed – so true. It’s been a great start to our Overland Track adventure and there’s still 5 days to go.

Wednesday 14th February

Day 2: Barn Bluff Hut to Pine Forest Moor Hut (6 hours walking)

Great excitement this morning over breakfast – it’s snowing! WOW it was lovely to view through the plate glass windows of our lovely warm hut. Realisation soon struck that we’d have to start walking soon. Fortunately it was only light and soon melted, though light rain and wind hung around most of the morning.


The crew all ready to leave! Rain jackets, rain pants, gaiters, waterproof boots, beanies and gloves and pack covers. (And yes, that is me – the only one not looking at camera)

It’s not far from our hut to the turnoff to Lake Will. The path through alpine heathlands is duckboard and made for easy walking.


Lots of water lying around

Note the warning sign about protecting your pack. At each of the side trips there’s somewhere you can leave your big pack and take only a light pack in with you. However – the currawongs (a bird) have learnt how to open zips and will make quite a mess of your pack searching for food. The solution is to put the pack rain cover on covering all the zips, then mound the packs up together all facing inward.

Joseph Will in 1890 mined a seam of coal that runs near to our path to the lake. Apparently there is still evidence of his mines, but I didn’t go looking for it. The lake is quite beautiful with its sandy quartzite beach lined with pencil pines and Barn Bluff as a magnificent backdrop. Today there’s snow to be seen on the Bluff.


First glimpses of Lake Will. Barn Bluff not yet showing us her snow.
At Lake Will. Barn Bluff in background.


The Lake Will track. The colours and textures of the alpine heath are so restorative.


Leaving Barn Bluff crossing alpine heathlands on a rocky path.
Lots of lakes and tarns in this area

12.15 pm

Walking alongside Lake Windermere. This is a popular spot for Overlanders to swim, but not today even though the skies are clearing and the rain gear has been stowed.


Steve on boardwalk through buttongrass plains, admiring the emerging mountain range.
Descending into a gully with Mt Oakleigh in background.

2.30 pm

In the forest. A muddy path!


Out of the forest and admiring the views once again. Notice the stark white tree trucks. These trees probably died as a result of a bushfire 50 or so years ago. Because there are no termites in Tasmania they persist. They’re known as ‘stags’.


Pine Forest Moor. More rocks and roots and mud.
So beautiful.


Oh dear. Look at that path. Waterproof boots for the win. Also note the pandanus.

Once more one of our wonderful guides had skipped on ahead to bake scones for our afternoon tea and get dinner underway.


Freshly baked lemon myrtle scones with jam and cream and a coffee. What a reward! Pine Forest Moor Hut


A cheeky Tasmanian red out on the helipad.
Enjoying a glass of wine with Mt Oakleigh as the backdrop. Pine Forest Moor Hut
Looking across Pine Forest Moor to Mt Oakleigh

Thursday 15th February

Day 3: Pine Forest Moor Hut to Pelion Hut
(5 hours walking)

Breakfast every day has been freshly baked bread made the afternoon before and left to rise overnight, hot porridge, cereals, local jams, etc. Large containers at each hut contain all sorts of nuts and dried fruits for us to make up our own scroggin packs for walking, and the guides fill our lunch boxes while we eat breakfast. We carry our own snacks and lunch.

We left the hut about 9am. Today’s track begins by descending through myrtle beech rainforest to skirt around the base of Mt Pelion West. While forest walking is my favourite bushwalking the muddy track made this one a challenge.


Mud puddles
The track as we descend towards Pelion Creek
The trick is to use the walking poles to find not-so-deep, firmer spots in the mud. This lesson was learnt the hard way by some.


Now that’s a happy hiker!

Avoiding a muddy path by walking around it is frowned upon as it continues to widen and destroy the path.
Gaiters + waterproof boots = walk straight through. No chance of me doing anything else with Guide Milo standing beside me.
Yes, that is the path! Great care taken on roots as they can be slippery when they’re wet and a trip hazard all the time.
The forest canopy doesn’t allow much light in, so there’s very little understory growth, but lichens and fungi thrive.


We’re now at the lowest point on the Overland, though at 740metres it isn’t that low. The Forth River is where several of our party saw a platypus.
A frog, at Frog Flats!

We now begin the climb Overlanders have dubbed ‘Heartbreak Hill’, from 740m to 840m, emerging out of the forest into buttongrass plains – and duck boards.


Steve, and Mt Oakleigh.


Old Pelion Hut is a place of significance for Guide Sam – his grandmother walked the Track in the 1950’s and stayed here one night, signing the log book.

A page from the log book. This entry is dated 1951.
Lunch at Old Pelion Hut. Note Guide Milo standing at the hut has the stove out having just boiled the water for us for coffee, tea or hot chocolate.
Inside Old Pelion Hut
Steve, enjoying his hot coffee and lunch break at Old Pelion Hut.


Guide Milo with the huge pack follows Steve as they skirt around the buttongrass plains.
Pademelons on the path.
Douglas Creek
One of hundreds of fossils found in and around the creek.
The fossil hunters of Douglas Creek.
Posing on the bridge crossing Douglas Creek
Crossing the swing bridge over Douglas Creek
Signage on the Track is very good. This one looks like it’s been here a long time. The Arm River Track joins the Overland here.
Mt Oakleigh across the river, over the buttongrass plains and through the forest.


Yoga on the helipad.
A moment of zen on the helipad


Guide Milo looking sheepish because Sam didn’t make him an apple crumble, so we all donated a spoonful of ours to him. Can’t complain though, Sam had made us the most delicious wattle seed muffins for afternoon tea.
Sam and Milo briefing us on tomorrow’s walk, with the aid of a mud map.

Friday 16th February

Day 4: Pelion Hut to Kia Ora Hut
(5 hours walking)

Today there are options of two side trips – one to Mt Doris and the Japanese Gardens and the other to the highest peak in Tasmania, Mt Ossa at 1617m. But first we have about 100 meters of climbing through rainforest over 4km to reach Pelion Gap. Starting a hike with a climb is not my favourite!


Gaiters and poles hanging up in the mud room.
Steve getting the boots on ready to leave.


What do you mean that isn’t a path? Of course it is!!
Striding on through the rainforest – tangles of roots won’t stop me.


Douglas Cascades. We followed Douglas Creek for a while. This is where it meets the Forth River.
Morning sunshine through the rainforest.


These duck boards have seen many pairs of boots.
And from the other end. It’s been a relentless climb to this point.

Pelion Gap is where you choose whether to climb Mt Ossa or not. If it’s clouded over there’s not much point. As you can see today is magnificent weather. However Steve and I and several others decided not to climb it – we’ll climb Mt Doris to the Japanese Gardens instead.


Note the dropped packs while their owners carry only day packs on the side trips.
The track is pretty good. Though some sections are very steep.


On the left is Mt Pelion East (referred to as ‘the nipple’) and Mt Ossa on the right. You’ll note we’re only carrying day packs now having dropped our big packs at Pelion Gap – except for Guide Milo, I think his pack has grown onto his back.


DuCane Range
Opportunistic plants – filling a crack in the rock
Magnificent cushion plant.
The Japanese Gardens on Mt Doris
Japanese Gardens. Mt Pelion East in background.
Japanese Gardens with Mt Ossa in background.


Winding our way back down. The Nipple (aka Mt Pelion East) front and centre.
Descending the ‘stairway to heaven’


Leaving Pelion Gap it’s a gentle descent across Pinestone Valley with only one small range before we reach Cathedral Hut.

Heading towards our hut at the base of Cathedral Mtn (on left). DuCane Range on right.


Guide Milo filling water bottles at the spring. “Best water I’ve ever had” said Steve


Wow! Look at that! Our hut with Cathedral Mtn right behind it.
View out of the big glass windows. These windows are what the Guides call the Cathedral Television.


Enjoying my cuppa at Cathedral Hut.
Guide Milo making the bread for tomorrow’s breakfast. He’ll leave it to rise overnight.
None of the huts so far have had refrigeration. This is a very effective way to chill the wine.


Steve stretching on the helipad.


Mushroom and pea risotto for dinner tonight.
Crème brûlée for dessert

Saturday 17th February

Day 5: Kia Ora Hut to Windy Ridge Hut
(4 hours walking)


Sunrise over Cathedral Mountain. Note the helipad amongst the buttongrass.


Icy cold Kia Ora Creek


Duckboards through the forest


Du Cane Hut was built around 1910 by Paddy Hartnett. During winter he snared Bennett’s wallabies and possums for their skins which his wife Lucy and their children dried out in the hut. Today this is another ‘emergency use only’ hut.

Du Cane Hut
Packs off at Du Cane Hut
Guide Sam giving us the good guff on this hut.
Steve ready to go!
Just rest a little longer. Du Cane Hut
Guide Milo, contemplating the next 3 hours.
Flowering leatherwood near Du Cane Hut. Just waiting for some bees to make the honey unique to Tasmania.

From here the Guides sent us off one at a time to enjoy the solitude and peace of walking alone through the oldest forest of the National Park, with King Billy pines up to 2000 years old. This was a favourite time for me.

And so begins a beautiful, solitary walk through the forest.
Strawberry bracken on a tree trunk.
Mossy creek during silent walk.


We regrouped here to enjoy some waterfalls on the Mersey River.

Albert Fergusson, the first Ranger in the southern section of the park honoured by bushwalkers. He was also the first ferryman on Lake St Claire with his boat Lady Velocity.


Lunch and a swim at Hartnett Falls
Swimming spot at Hartnett Falls on the Mersey River.
Hartnett Falls


Haha, yes that half-log IS the track.


A steep climb, the last one on the Overland, took us to Du Cane Gap sitting atop a layer of dolerite.

Rest time after the final climb of the Overland at Du Cane Gap
Start of the Du Cane Range
So many fungi and lichen


Water bottle fill-up time.

Sunday 18th February

Day 6: Windy Ridge Hut to Lake St Clair (3 hours walking)

We began our last day of walking with mixed feelings – it’s been such an amazing trail that has tested our physical capacities (and, during Guide Sam’s trivia competition, our mental capacity!) but fed our souls through many days of pure nature. Today we’ll be heading for Narcissus Hut then a little further on to Lake St Clair, Australia’s deepest natural lake, shaped by glacial action millions of years ago. Here we’ll catch the ferry back to the Lake St Clair Visitor Centre.


Breakfast was a community occasion as we refuelled ready for the day ahead.

Banksias. Still walking through forest for a while – dry sclerophyll.
And big trees …
And fungi.
And Jack Jumpers!
“Jack Jumper Ants do not bite. Rather, they grasp the victim in their jaws, then bend and sting them. Their sting is in the tail. They are aggressive, typically walk with a hopping motion, and can sometimes jump from surrounding vegetation. The stings of Jack Jumper Ants can be very painful and local swellings are common. Large local swellings can also occur, which may last a few days at a time.” (taken from allergy.com). Our guides did warn us about these little critters and both carry epipens, an anaphylactic reaction being a possibility. Fortunately, despite seeing many of them on the track no one was stung.


The end is in sight.
Not wanting it to end the temptation was to turn around and walk back again – but that feeling only lasted a second or two!!


The last day of walking was easy – either a good path through the forest or good duckboards through the buttongrass plains.


Crossing the Narcissus River on the swing bridge.


Enjoying our last ‘on track’ lunch beside Lake St Clair.
A swim in Lake St Claire is the Overlanders rite of passage for completing such an epic hike. Yes that’s me about to join several others of our party who took the plunge in the freezing cold waters.
Our ferry that will take us the 17km length of the lake to the Information Centre.
The whole crew at the end.
With thanks to Tasmanian Walking Company for this opportunity, the other 9 hikers whose friendship and positivity made the hike so enjoyable and special mention to Guides Sam and Milo whose knowledge, patience, care, support and great cooking made this the best hike ever.
Yay us!!
Track profile with exceptions – those aren’t the positions of our huts and we did several side tracks not noted for a total walk of 72km.

And so ended one of the most wonderful adventures we’ve have. Our goals for this hike, other than to finish it with no injuries, were to be challenged (Steve) and to be awestruck (Denise). Without doubt both goals were achieved time and time again.

(With thanks to my walking friends who so generously shared their photos.)

North West Tasmania

2nd – 12th February

Friday 2nd

The weather was very average, with lots of wind. The first 3 hours on the Spirit of Tasmania crossing Port Phillip Bay were blissfully calm, but … Bass Strait was choppy! Our booked recliner chairs were at the stern of the ship which I’m led to believe is the best spot in rough seas. Once we were in the Strait I only got up once to go to lunch and very nearly wished I hadn’t.

Recliner chairs on the Spirit. Could that be a green tinge to my face?

Anyway one book nearly finished and 11 hours later we disembarked in Devonport, Tasmania! So exciting! 
Tonight we’re staying at the Ulverstone Golf Club camping area.

Saturday 3rd

A slow start to the day as we planned the next couple of weeks, replenished the fridge and settled in for the night at a quiet, pretty campsite on the banks of the Leven River.

Sunday 4th

Ahhh Tasmania! It really is relaxing with its rolling hills, green pastures, chubby cattle and sheep and, at the moment, clear blue skies. A drive south climbing through majestic eucalypts brought us to Preston Falls. A  well-constructed 200m track with a few stairs led to a viewing platform on the cliff edge above a pretty waterfall dropping about 25m.

Preston Falls

Back on the road southward Leven Canyon was our goal. The Leven River has carved the deepest canyon in Tasmania, some 275 metres below the lookouts. A large parking and picnic area was nearly full when we arrived. It’s also a free camp.

There are two lookouts over the canyon which can be accessed separately by short out-and-back walks, or a circuit which joins both lookouts together by “the steps”. Purposefully choosing to ascend “the steps”, we set off clockwise. A well-constructed path led downward through tall, mossy-trunked gums which sheltered a glade of giant man ferns (the term Tasmanians use for tree ferns).

Leven Canyon from The Edge Lookout.

At The Edge Lookout a viewing platform is suspended above the cascading rapids of the Leven River. After enjoying the view we headed back a little way to where the track branched to go up the steps.

Just a very few of the 697 steps on Leven Canyon walk.

697 steps, to be precise! Bench seats along the way were engraved with the number of stairs you’d already done, the number to go, and how many stairs before the next bench seat. My walking poles were a godsend!

A bench seat (one of many) on the Leven Canyon walk, indicating how many steps to go and how many you’ve already done. And how many steps since the last bench seat and how many before the next one.

Back at the car we descended the range coming out in mixed farming country again. Tasmania supplies 75% of the World’s legal poppies for making codeine and morphine. Sadly we’ve missed the flowering stage, however the poppy heads are still on the plants, drying out before harvesting.

Poppy field.

Our campsite tonight is a free camp on the coast near Penguin ignominiously called Sulphur Creek. No it didn’t smell of sulphur!

Breakfast at Sulphur Creek. Just west of Penguin.

But first we picked up a few groceries in Penguin, wandered the streets a little and had a beer at the Penguin Brewing company – delicious it was too!

A couple of craft ales from the Penguin Brewing Co. Mine is the ‘Little Penguin’ and Steve’s the ‘Emperor Penguin’. Both excellent.
What a delightful street library at Penguin.

At the campsite we spent a pleasant Happy Hour with Explorer owners Margie from Melbourne and Kev and Denise from Buderim. Explorer motorhome owners are well-connected through a Facebook group, and it just so happened that quite a few of us happen to have chosen Tasmania to visit this year.

Monday 5th

Continuing westward we found a walk to do at Rocky Cape National Park – the 11km Broadview Circuit Track. It starts with a steep climb (does any hike not start with a steep climb!!) before entering the National Park. A well-defined sandy path through heathlands gives great views back to Sisters Beach, our starting point, before coming to the junction to summit Broadview Hill. The hilltop provides sweeping views of the coastline, and our path yet to tread.

Sisters Beach from Broadview Summit

Back on the good path we headed to Anniversary Point. A steep descent brought us down onto the beach where we were fortunate to have arrived at low tide – good, firm sand to walk on. This interesting little bay has offshore rocks known as The Five Sentries.

Anniversary Bay. Broadview. Hiking track includes full length of beach. Note the Five Sentries just offshore.

About a kilometre along the beach it becomes quite rocky with a wide wave-cut platform making for fun rock-hopping. 

The climb back off the beach again is, once-more, very steep. The flora is now predominantly a banksia grove, with the largest banksias I’ve ever seen – some trunks being so big you couldn’t get your arms around them to hug.

Banksias on the Broadview Circuit Track.

Lee Archer Cave at the bottom of a steep descent back down to the beach contains a midden and artefacts deposited over thousands of years, and are still used by the Aboriginal community for shelter and ceremony. Respectfully being asked not to enter the cave meant there wasn’t a lot to see from the mouth of this wide, deep cave. 

Lee Archer Cave – on the Broadview Circuit Track.

Climbing back to the path again we continued on to Wet Cave – a narrow opening leads downwards into a wide, deep cave with a pool at the end. Soon after leaving the cave the track leads back onto the beach for a short walk to the boat ramp and back to Harvey, our motorhome. And so ended another enjoyable hike with an array of flora and lots of birdlife and lizards.

A drive to Stanley and an early night after a well-deserved shower was in order.

Tuesday 6th – Wednesday 7th

Stanley is a pretty little town with its many beautifully preserved historic buildings from its heyday as the centre of the Van Diemen Land Company and also the birthplace of Joseph Lyons, Australian Prime Minister (1932 – 39). Consequently Stanley became the perfect choice to film the movie The Light Between Oceans, a post World War I drama.

But the most striking landmark in Stanley is The Nut! In 1798 Matthew Flinders described it as “a cliffy round lump that resembles a Christmas cake”. This stump of an old volcano rises some 150 metres above sea level.

The Nut or is it a Christmas Cake, Stanley.

We climbed the very steep path to the top and wandered the 2.5km circuit path that follows the cliff line. A pretty and varied walk with unobstructed views all around.

Stanley from the chairlift. Looking west.
Enjoying a night out with friends. Stanley Hotel

Thursday 8th Feb

Not far out of Stanley is Highfield House, the now restored 1830’s home of Edward Curr, the Chief Agent of the Van Diemens Land Company. The history of this first settlement in north-west Tasmania is a sordid one with maltreatment of the convicts assigned to the Company and a massacre of the local aboriginals.

Highfield House from The Nut. Looking north

Popping into many of the little beachside communities along the northern coastline as we returned eastward rewarded us with unspoilt white beaches with the bluest ocean lapping at the shores.

Of interest is the 1.8km long jetty at Port Latta. Iron ore, mined at Savage River, is made into a slurry and transferred to the Port via an 85km long pipeline. Here it is converted into pellets and exported, mostly to Japan.

Rolling hills with grazing sheep and cattle, fields of onions, potatoes, poppies and tulips brought us to another volcanic plug known as Table Cape. Tulips have been grown on these rich basalt soils since 1984, the bulbs now being exported to Holland.

Table Cape. Imagine those bare fields covered in poppy and tulip flowers.

A lighthouse built in 1888 still warns shipping of the perils of this rocky coastline.

Steve just finishing an arduous shift saving ships from certain disaster, Table Cape Lighthouse.

Friday 9th Feb

Today we mixed it with the locals. Don and Jan from Burnie, RVing friends from way back, met up with their traveling crew of about 5 other motorhomes at Hagley and invited us to join them. Tales of travels done and yet to do provided great entertainment.

Saturday 10th – Monday 12th Feb

No trip to Launceston would be complete without a visit to Cataract Gorge. This beautiful gorge formed by the South Esk River has a cafe, large grassed picnic area, a swimming pool, a chair lift and lots of walking tracks. We headed off on the 6km return walk along the cliff edges of the gorge to the Duck Reach power station. This station, one of the earliest hydro-electric power stations in the world, operated from 1895 to 1955.

The walking track to Duck Reach power station.
Crossing the river to the power station.
Duck Reach power station
A well-deserved swim at the Gorge pool

Saturday night we camped at Old Mac’s Farm ($20) after spending the afternoon reminiscing as we wandered the Lonnie CBD.

Sunday night was at Honeysuckle Banks free camp near Evandale where preparations were in full swing for next weekend’s penny farthing races.

It wouldn’t be the first time Steve has ridden a penny farthing.

Our backpacks were emptied and repacked and weighed several times before we were finally satisfied. But generally we (particularly me) just tried to keep the nerves in check. Sunday night we camped in the carpark of the Red Feather Inn at Hadspen, the meeting point for the hike. This 6-day, 64+km hike in the Tasmanian Highlands is going to be a challenge.

Southern Explorer 2024

We sold Priscilla, our 4×4 Mercedes Sprinter at the end of 2022 and ordered Harvey another 4×4, this time an Explorer motorhome built on a Toyota Hilux base, taking delivery in August 2023. This is to be our first ‘big’ trip since 2022 -we’ve missed that wonderful feeling of freedom that a long trip with not much planned gives us. 

Home to the Spirit

13th January – 1st February 2024

Weighing Harvey fully loaded as we leave for Tasmania.

Our first stop was the public weigh-bridge at Caboolture. Our total weight came in with a bit to spare – that was a big relief! Tasmania, here we come.

Night 1 was spent with our friends Bryan and Trish in Boonah. Next morning we all breakfasted at our ‘regular’ in Boonah before we farewelled Bryan and Trish, then dropped in on my aunt in Warwick. About 2.30pm we arrived at Girraween National Park.

On went the packs and the boots for the hike to Castle Rock. The huge granite rocks of this area are amazing. 

Trail to Castle Rock. Huge granite rocks everywhere.

Monday 15th Jan

We’re heading off today but not before doing another bush walk. We went the opposite direction to yesterday’s hike following Bald Rock Creek to its junction with Ramsay Creek where their waters will flow on to eventually join the Murray Darling system. 

Pretty waterfall cascading over the granite slabs.

It was easy, flat walking with lots of delightful little waterfalls and beautiful spots to stop for a dip in the crystal clear waters. Lazy goannas soaking up the sunshine, little lizards scurrying away on their back legs  with head raised, several red-necked wallabies and some Eastern Greys and countless birds and flowers made for an enjoyable hike. About 6km round trip. 

Eastern Grey Kangaroos

Leaving Queensland a productive morning was spent solving the world’s problems in Tenterfield with our friends and previous travel companions Pammy and Milton before continuing the journey to camp in the rain at Mother of Ducks Lagoon outside Guyra, with about 20 caravans! 

Tuesday 16th Jan

Still drizzling and cold this morning we were happy to get back on the road early heading straight to Tamworth to our favourite cafe, Rubys, for brunch. Once off the New England Tableland the temperatures once again rose to the low 30s despite the cloud cover and we had an easy drive to The Black Stump Rest Area for a peaceful night as its only residents. 

On Wednesday when we stopped at Molong for lunch the rain started and got heavier and heavier, particularly during the 15 minutes Steve had to stand outside filling the water tank. On the rain radar it showed a break coming up so we continued on to Bendick Murrell Rest Area south of Cowra for the night – another peaceful night on our own. 

Thursday 18th Jan

The rain cleared this morning to a beautiful day. The drive through Young for a coffee at the cafe, Tarcutta for brunch and Holbrook before arriving at Gadds Bend for the night is one of the prettiest drives we’ve done. The rolling hills, getting higher the further south we travelled were all a deep emerald green, while the black Angus cattle and the white sheep contrasted so beautifully against the background. 

Perfect reflections in the Murray River as seen from Mt Alfred.

Gadds Bend, on the Murray River just over the border into Victoria, must be one the the best free camps we’ve stayed in. We first stayed here in 2017 and it hasn’t changed at all. It’s a very big, grassed area along about 200 meters of the river which is lined with big River Red Gums reflecting perfectly in the swiftly flowing waters.
Another perfect, peaceful night.

At the picnic area, Mt Alfred. Note the object in the wedge-tailed eagle’s claw.

Friday 19th Jan

Today we head to Kosciuszko National Park for some walking. Wow that road up the mountain sure is steep and winding. As the passenger I had wonderful views of the mountains, gullies and trees. It was interesting watching as the flora changed from thick rain forest-type vegetation to alpine vegetation as we drove higher. The line markings on the road changed from white to yellow and tall guide posts with reflectors at the top signaled the beginning of the snow line – as well as pull-over bays for drivers to fit chains to their tyres. No snow today, but the temperature was dropping.

First stop the Information Centre at Jindabyne where we recall an excellent cafe from our previous visit. We also bought a 2-day Park Pass for $34 then headed out to Sawpit Creek to do the 6+km walk to the waterfall. A pleasant walk with a stunning waterfall. 

Sawpit Creek Waterfall

Then off to Island Bend campground – our favourite from our last visit 7 years ago. Surprise, surprise it’s changed! Back then we had a lovely camp on the grass right beside the river, and we were the only ones there. Now they have campsites starting from right up on the main road all the way down the hill, and they were nearly all full (OK it is Friday night during the school holidays). To get to our previous camp it’s noted to be 4-wheel-drive only. We walked it – very big holes and washouts! And the grass camping is only for tents. We did find a spot up the hill a bit and had a good night, but it was very disappointing. 

Saturday 20th Jan

Tell me again why we’re both smiling!

Today we walked the Main Range Circuit track to Mt Kosciuszko and the Summit Track to complete the circuit- 23km! It really is a stunning walk through alpine country. It starts at Charlotte Pass and immediately heads downhill fairly steeply for about a kilometre to the Snowy River which, due to recent rains, is flowing swiftly and is relatively wide. This has to be crossed on stones of various sizes and width and stability. With our big packs weighing about 10kg I found it a very daunting crossing, which I’m grateful to say I crossed without incident. From there the track just went up, and up and up.

Yes Steve that is our path. Keep going. Mt Kosciuszko in the too far distance to see just yet!
Steve on the Main Range hike to Mt Kosciuszko.
Lunch break overlooking Lake Alpina. Main Range hike to Mt Kosciuszko.

It took about 4.5 hours to finally reach the summit of Mt Kosciuszko, Australia’s highest mountain. The Main Range section is stunningly beautiful. The surrounding ranges fade off into the distance as we walked along mountain-sides overlooking pristine crater lakes. 

The downside was the track construction. Some of the Main Range track was natural surface, excellent to walk on, large sections were granite paving stones of different sizes and surfaces which was not only very hard underfoot but dangerous to not be watching every footfall for fear of tripping. There was one section about 3km long of raised steel boardwalk – bliss. The Summit Track, to complete the circuit back to Charlotte Pass, was predominantly large stony gravel, very difficult to walk on. 

On the top of Australia

Finishing the walk about 6pm, both exhausted, we decided not to go back to Island Bend but stayed at a picnic area beside Sawpit Creek. An early night tonight.

Sunday 21st, Monday 22nd, Tuesday 23rd

After a slow start to Sunday the drive to Corryong where we camped at the recreation grounds alongside the golf course, was short.

Horrie the Wog Dog was befriended in the Middle East during WWII where he reputably had extraordinary hearing, alerting the troops to enemy aircraft. He was smuggled back into Australia and lived out his remaining years in Corryong. Note he’s wearing his Corporals uniform.

Monday, with a little more energy, we walked around town where the “tourist drawcard” is the local lad Jack Riley who is thought to be the drover referred to in the Banjo Paterson poem The Man From Snowy River. The 6km walk included summiting Playse Lookout. 

The Man from Snowy River

Next morning, on the way to Tallangatta, we popped in to see the 77m double storied ‘trestle bridge’ over Boggy Creek, a part of the old railway line which had carried supplies for the Snowy Mountain Scheme since 1887, closing down in 1978. Discovering this was part of the Victorian High Country Rail Trail we decided to walk 10km of it.  Sleep wasn’t a problem tonight – we’re both exhausted!

Steve on the trestle bridge.

Wednesday 24th, Thursday 25th

Before leaving Tallangatta, a drive to the lookout above gave us a magnificent view of this pretty little town nestled along the Hume Dam. It’s known as ‘the town that moved’ –  in 1956 all timber homes moved 8km west, while the brick homes, churches, etc were flooded when Lake Hume was dammed. 

A beautifully scenic drive through the Kinglake Valley to Tolmie was rewarded with cool temperatures at last, though rain was threatened. The Tolmie Recreation ground surrounded by tall eucalypts made a quiet, restful camp for two nights. It rained all day Thursday and into the night.

Friday 26th, Saturday 27th, Sunday 28th

Australia Day, we followed the unsealed Murrindindi Road through State Forest tall trees looking for a good hike to do that wasn’t busy with long-weekend campers. Myrtle Gully Trail was the chosen one though it turned out to be in disrepair with many fallen trees across the track. Still it was just the hike we needed – 11km through the most glorious tall tree forest (lots of Myrtles and Soft Fern Trees), and what better activity to do on Australia Day than being out enjoying the beautiful Aussie bush.

Walking amongst the majestic Tree Ferns
I’m pleased we weren’t on the track when this came down!

Onward to Toolangi Recreation Reserve for two nights. 

Leaving Toolangi and the beautiful tall tree forests behind we descended into bushland, then cattle country then vineyards as far as the eye could see. Lunch was at Lilydale – thought it was a village but it may as well be a suburb of Melbourne. We skirted around Melbourne to stay the night at the Lang Lang Showgrounds. Grassy, quiet, lots of birds – that’s about it.

Monday 29th, Tuesday 30th, Wednesday 31st

Long lunches, cocktails, a walk, and lots of chatter made for a very pleasant and relaxing time with Maree and Carl in Balnarring, Mornington Peninsula.

Thursday 1st February

The drive down the western side of Mornington Peninsula to Sorrento reminded us what a pretty area this is with so many things to do and places to explore. From Sorrento the car ferry took us to Queenscliff then it was a short drive on to Corio Bay in Geelong, the departure point for the Spirit of Tasmania. A drive down to see where we’d have to come first thing tomorrow morning to board the Spirit proved to be a good move! This evening’s Spirit was in dock getting ready to sail, so we stayed to watch it go, then spoke with some other RVers who told us they were staying (camping) in the queue overnight, all ready to go tomorrow morning. So, that’s what we did too! No stress for us tomorrow morning.

6.30am and ready to board the Spirit of Tasmania