Bruny Island

6th – 14th April 2026

With a very good rap about this island and having enjoyed camping here many years ago we were looking forward to Bruny Island. On the whole we were disappointed. Perhaps our final assessment was coloured by our need for a rapid departure. Read on …

On the car ferry, with the ‘other’ ferry going the opposite direction.

Bruny Island is just off the south east coast. We caught the car ferry from the pretty little village of Kettering for the 20 minute transfer to be landed at north Bruny. Most of the action happens in south Bruny. North and south sections are joined by a very narrow isthmus.

The isthmus, called ‘The Neck’ and south Bruny from the lookout.

All around The Neck is conservation land, reserved to protect the Little Penguins’ and the Shearwaters’ nests. Of an evening in the warmer months you can watch hundreds of them returning from a day fishing.

There’s a memorial here to Truganini, one of the last full-blood lutruwita people. Her life and that of her people at the hands of the white settlers is horrific and shameful.

Everyone should take a moment to reflect here.
What a beautiful day for sailing. Sykes Cove, Bruny Island.

Camping spots are few on Bruny. We headed over to the western side to camp beside the Bruny Hotel.

A stunning sunset from the beer garden of the Bruny Hotel. The amazing colour attributed to the smoke from a fire on the mainland.

We were lucky enough to see the very cute albino wallaby. The snow white wallaby is a genetic mutation and is found nowhere else in the world – only Bruny Island. There are at least 200 of them on the island.

I found it interesting that this albino mother has a normal coloured Joey.

Next day a drive around north Bruny proved underwhelming. It was raining so a stop at the cheese and beer tourist drawcard filled in a little while. Tomorrow we want to walk the Fluted Cape track but the closest campsite we could find to the trailhead is at The Neck. Camping here is amongst the bush, no views.

Tassie has an excellent initiative with their “60 Great Short Walks” book.
It started with an easy walk alongside the coastline.
But the peak of this sea cliff is where we’re headed. It wasn’t long before the climb became quite steep on a very uneven track.
The views were stunning.
So beautiful.
At the top.
The descent was inland a little on a very steep and poorly maintained track. This photo is where it’s pretty good.

Anyway safely down we returned to our campsite at The Neck. That night my right knee started getting painful. By morning I was unable to walk on it. Not a big deal if I could rest it, but we’re booked onto another multi-day walk at the end of the week. Panic stations ensued! An appointment with a sports physio in Hobart was made for that afternoon, so we packed up and headed to the ferry.

But not before dropping in here. (Just another retail outlet – nothing to see).
And here – a little-known cure for sore knees.
The lovely physio examined my knee and diagnosed a ‘grumbling medial meniscus’, strapped it and strongly advised me not to do the multi-day hike. Sorry physio – I’m not missing this hike for anything.

Having cut our Bruny Island trip short (though I don’t think we missed much) we camped beside the Huon River at Franklin. What a gem that is!

The view out of our lounge room window
There we are just beside the smallest tree. Isn’t it a pretty town!
Just a little further on.

But we didn’t spend all our time in the van. Coffee and a treat was partaken every day at Cinnamon and Cherry, a middle-eastern cafe. A short walk along the river kept ‘the knee’ mobile.

The Huon being the centre of Apple growing on this island which has been known as The Apple Isle of course we had to visit an Apple orchard and cidery.
We celebrated our 49th wedding anniversary at this excellent Italian restaurant just a very short walk from our campsite.

All that remains now is to drive into Hobart where we’ll meet our next multi-day hiking tour. This one though has a difference …

Down the A1 to Hobart

24th – 29th March (Happy birthday Evan)

We’re heading south again now getting ready to welcome a very special person to Hobart for Easter. 
But first – a trip down the A1.

Christmas Hills Raspberry Farm
Yes, the ice cream was absolutely delicious.

Maree and Carl met us for coffee in Latrobe on their short break from the Mornington Peninsula. Outside Latrobe is House of Anvers chocolates which deserved a look in – hot chocolate for morning tea! 

Really good chocolate, particularly the truffles.
Ashgrove dairy. Just a retail outlet and cafe.
But they do have colourful cows!
Our campsite beside the Elizabeth River, Campbell Town. With potential for a duck á la orange for dinner.

The RV park is just a short stroll from the Red Bridge.

Using convict labour this pretty bridge was finished in 1838 and has been in constant use since then. It’s one of the oldest surviving bridges in Australia and is the oldest brick bridge.
Walking into town we noticed a continuous row of red bricks on both sides of the road. There are more than 160,000 bricks.
Each brick has the name of a person transported here as a convict, their age, the ship they came on, the misdemeanour and their sentence. So many of the crimes were so minor. It’s quite disturbing. 
The statue of Eliza and the ram was interesting. In 1830 Eliza Forlong, a Scotswoman, carefully selected breeding stock from around German farms to be shipped to Hobart, pioneering the super-fine merino wool industry with her husband and sons.
The town of Ross also has a beautiful convict-built bridge completed in MDCCCXXXVI.

Daniel Herbert was the stonemason/sculptor who was given a life sentence and transportation to Van Diemens Land for highway robbery.

On arrival in Hobart he was employed as a convict stonemason and amongst other notable structures worked on the Ross bridge.
He sculpted the 186 keystones of motifs, people and other designs for the bridge.

Oatlands, however, was our favourite town.

With 138 sandstone buildings, 87 in the Main Street, this town has the greatest display of Georgian houses in Australia.
Some as private homes.
Additionally the Callington Mill, a fully functional wind-driven flour mill has been painstakingly restored along with several other sandstone buildings associated with the mill.
The restored millers cottage.

Until 2020 and COVID restrictions the mill had been producing specialty flours for artisan bakers. Unfortunately it hasn’t been restarted since then.

The Callington Mill Whiskey Distillery makes a very tasty drop which we discovered on a ‘tasting’.
Steve needed a little rest after the tasting. He was feeling kind of small.
A large lake at the edge of town has a cycleway/walking path alongside it joining Oatlands to the nearest town some 7km away. A walk along this stretched out the legs and took us past some historical points of interest.
One of which is the night cart (dunny) pans that were discarded at this location when septic systems were installed in Oatlands during the 1950s. When constructing the path the decision was made to leave them as found, in recognition of their past role. Rumour has it that the best potatoes are grown where these used to be emptied.

Leaving Oatlands we drove down off the plateau through very dry and often over-grazed sheep country and into wine, berry and stone fruit orchard country. A stop at the popular historic tourist town of Richmond to see the bridge, was a must.

When it was gazetted as a place of National Heritage importance it was described thus, “Richmond Bridge, built by convict labour in 1823 to 1825, is the oldest, surviving, large, stone arch bridge in Australia with a high degree of integrity.”
Old Hobart Town in Richmond accurately replicates in miniature (scale 1:16) the life and history of Hobart as it was in 1820.
It covers an area equivalent to 2 tennis courts and includes present day photographs to compare the changes, and similarities. This is well worth your time to visit. 
Just over the road is the Pooseum, its tag line being “An education in defaecation – in all its scatological splendour”. Unfortunately closed today, it being Good Friday. Pity, with grandchildren who delight in all things scatalogical I could have done with some good facts at my fingertips.

Tonight we’re camped across from the Longley International Hotel just a short drive to Hobart. This ‘out of the way’ hotel in the country boasts some music royalty in their line-up!

It’s also the home of the Big Axe. Not sure whether to be reassured or worried about camping here.

30th Mar – 6th April

Yay, we’re in Hobart and our daughter, Laura, is going to join us. We’ve booked an AirBnB in Battery Point for the week.

Yummm! Salamanca Markets are a must.
And then our favourite daughter arrives. ❤️
“Chocolate and Whisky” turned out to be a great place to chill.
We caught the Mona Roma ferry up the Derwent R to enjoy an afternoon of live music on the lawn at Mona.
The Cascade Brewery was on Steve’s bucket list for not only their tasting paddle but also the rivulet that runs beside the brewery. Apparently heaps of platypus live there. After a little tipple we went in search of them, unsuccessfully.
Summiting Mt Wellington is a must for every tourist in Hobart.
The walking on Mt Wellington is beautiful.
We found a waterfall to walk to.

As well as these activities we filled our week with a few too many visits to the best bakery ever, Jackman and Ross, a very enjoyable evening of Gypsy jazz, a day shopping in the CBD, a mother/daughter spa morning and lots of time together just chilling.

East & North East Coast

8th – 22nd March

8th, 9th March

A long and deep recovery sleep was had by all before we left the Tasman Peninsula. A few aches and pains and stiffness was soon walked off – yes, walked off!! – by dropping in to see ‘the blowhole’ (not blowing today, low tide, calm conditions), the Devils Kitchen which is a 60m deep cleft into the cliffs where the water foams furiously with the ocean swell. Also…

Tasman Arch, an impressive natural bridge
The tessellated pavement – a unique geological feature created as the siltstone cracked when the earth moved some 300 million years ago.
The lookout down the coastline all the way to Cape Hauy.
Sorry, only the remains of our lunch from Blue Lagoon Oysters.

The camping area at Triabunna was packed, however a cafe just up the road offers camping out the back for $10/night and there was only two of us there – perfect. A short walk took us to the waterfront, the supermarket, the pub, the laundromat and of course a cafe. Great place to recover!

10th March

Today was overcast with light rain on and off all day as we continued up the coast stopping in at an old salt works, an old bridge and a vineyard.

Such a beautiful location.
Not much remaining – Lisdillon Salt Works
Three Arch Bridge built by convicts in 1845. It spans Old Man Creek, and blow me down if that’s not the Old Man himself!
Enjoying being out of the rain at Mayfield Estate Vineyard while we waited for our pizzas.

The Mayfield coastal campsite was full. However as we sat enjoying our pizzas at the vineyard we noticed a car drive down to the shore. Hmm investigation revealed it as a dirt track down to a disused boat ramp. Perfect – camping by the water tonight.

We’re camped just near the old boat ramp.

11th, 12th March

A little further north is Swansea. On the way we passed Spiky Bridge

Another convict-built bridge. There’s conjecture over the reason for the spikes. Perhaps to stop the cows falling off …
A walk on Spiky Beach. (No spikes on the beach!)
A pleasant walk at Swansea, even if we couldn’t pronounce it.
Someone has a sense of humour.

13th March

Freycinet Peninsula is one of the gems of Tasmania. Its most striking features are the huge granite mountains forming Mount Freycinet and the Hazards in the south which is joined to the northern section by a thin isthmus with Wineglass Bay the crowning glory. All of the southern section of the peninsula is National Park, with much of the northern section also under their care. In the north a sealed road runs down the western side of the Peninsula to the township of Coles Bay and as far as Cape Tourville. Other unsealed roads cross over to beautiful beaches, camping spots and little hamlets on the eastern coast.
To explore the southern part of the Peninsula it’s a case of strap on the hiking boots and get the backpack out as there are no roads. We’re returning next month to walk the southern peninsula so today we spent our time exploring the beautiful bays, beaches and hamlets of the northern peninsula. 

Steve on Friendly Beach
On the boardwalk to the Cape Tourville Lighthouse.
The four-wheel drive track across the island.
The Fisheries. Beautiful little bay for swimming.
Pelican Bay. Moulting Lagoon
Honeymoon Bay

Thurs 14th Mar

Bicheno. Lots of yummy things to do here!

We started at a cafe renown for its pastry. 
Bicheno has a pretty impressive blowhole too which entertained us for a while.
Then on to Waubs Harbour Distillery for a personal tour of the distillery and explanation of the process before a whiskey tasting. I learnt a lot this morning, though after the tasting I may not recall it all. 
Next was the Lobster Shack for a garlic butter half lobster for me and a lobster roll for Steve.

We voted Bicheno a great little town.

Tonight we’re camping at the trailhead of the Apsley River Waterhole and Gorge hike, ready for an early start tomorrow. 

Friday 15th Mar

It’s an easy walk down to the waterhole which looks very inviting for swimming, until feeling its temperature.

Apsley River waterhole

To cross the trickling river here requires picking a way through and over mounds of river rocks. The path, now mostly loose stones or rocks, climbs for perhaps 2 kilometres before descending very sharply into the Gorge.

The return is on the same track. Did you gather this isn’t one of my favourite walks? 

Trout River camp, despite it being a fair distance on an unsealed road, looked inviting.

We set up right beside the beautiful river and …
… took our chairs and a drink over to the jetty to enjoy the setting sun over the mountains.

Saturday, Sunday Monday 16th, 17th 18th Mar

Back to the coast again St Helen’s proved to be a great spot to reprovision the larder, and also the cellar when we dropped in to The Priory vineyard for a tasting. 

Cray fishing boat at St Helens

Fellow Explorer friends Des and Tina are camped at Cosy Corner at the southern end of the Bay of Fires, another Tasmanian highlight. How could we not stay at a camp called Cosy Corner! 

Our location was idyllic right beside the ocean high up on the dunes.
Looking south from our beach to Binalong Bay and the very popular Swimcart Beach.
Many think the bay was given its name from the lichen covered orange/red rocks. However it was named in 1773 by a sea captain who observed the many camp fires of the hundreds of aboriginal folk who lived there.
Bay of Fires

Our time was spent chatting with our friends and walking the magnificent white sands to the rocks coloured red by lichen. Such a great spot to reset. Monday afternoon we headed inland to Pyengana.

Tues 19th Mar

Pyengana has a beautiful free camp beside the famous Pub in the Paddock, and nearby to some points of interest.  

The pub is also the home of the beer-drinking pig.

Once the rain stopped (it rained most of the night) we headed over to the Pyengana Dairy to watch the robotic milking machines milk the cows. We bought some of their cheese. 

The cows were so relaxed, cruising up for milking whenever they felt like it, then sauntering just as casually back to the paddock.
The truly beautiful St Colomba Falls, at 90 metres high, is amongst the tallest in Tasmania. And as a bonus is just a short walk from the parking area.
The power of the falling water sees mist floating in the air and leaving a light dew on your face.

An information board at the trailhead describes a flood in 1929 which tore large slabs of granite from the cliff face of the falls dramatically changing the course of the falls. 

Some years ago Derby was a dying country town as the mine closed. Some very forward-thinking locals decided to put in some mountain bike trails in their surrounding mountains. Today it is a thriving industry with bike sales, repairs, rentals, accommodation, cafes, and restaurants all catering to the growing national and international cyclists, their entourage and the tourists like us who just come for a look. 

Some kilometers north is Little Blue Lake. This man-made lake bounded by high, crumbling cliffs has quite stunning blue water. The water is highly mineralised, particularly with aluminium and is unsafe to contact. 
Petal Point camping area. A remote spot on the far north-eastern coast.

Our campsite is once again a very short walk from the ocean, but instead of pounding waves we’ve got strong winds and rain tonight as a front sweeps through. We’re well protected behind thick coastal heath growing to about 2 meters. 
As we drove towards our campsite for the night we saw our first snake on the road. There are only 3 snakes native to Tasmania, unfortunately all of them are venomous. That does make it easy for the Emergency Departments – they only have one antivenene that covers all three. 

Wed 20th Mar

A little more wind, a little more rain before the skies cleared, though not the wind. There’s a reason this campsite is surrounded by wind turbines! Time to head east.

Most of the communities along the northern coastline are a jumble of cheap holiday shacks until Bridport. This small town boasts all the facilities as well as the port for shipping to Flinders Island.

Bridport – such a pretty beach. The remains of the old pier are just visible off the end of the far point.
Steve at the blue-striped lead light guiding shipping into the mouth of the river at Bridport.

We lunched at the mouth of the river into the port before exploring the very pretty Mermaid Beach.

Just north of George Town the Low Head Lighthouse warns ships of the perils of the Hebe Rocks at the mouth of the Tamar River. It’s been functioning since 1833.

More than a dozen ships foundered on the rocks in the hundred years since 1808. Stately homes line the road between George Town and Low Head. The year each was built is on the gable in Roman numerals. Without googling can you decipher MDCCCLXI?

With a State election happening next weekend a long-held controversy about the name of the impressive Batman Bridge that crosses the Tamar River has been highlighted. John Batman after whom it was named led massacres of aboriginals in the Black Wars. I hope they do change the name! 

We continued our travels westward along the northern coastline. Narawntapu National Park was a highlight of our travels here in the 1990s, particularly for the dozens of wombats seen grazing. So it was with great disappointment that I’ve learnt that mange killed them all by 2017. On the bright side we met up with Pat and Dick again (from our west coast travels) and had an enjoyable evening with them. 

Thurs 21st March

As rural industries fade away or are taken over by large corporations rural towns tend to fade away. It takes lateral thinking and lots of community support to reinvent themselves. We recently saw this happen in Derby and today we saw two more towns that have tried to make this transition. Railton is known as the town of topiaries. In 1999 one man decided to start this project and the community got behind him. The topiaries were wonderful to see. Unfortunately most of them are now gone or neglected. The Council is looking after the spiral trees on the street. I hope they’ll soon get their impetus back. 

Always good to meet interesting characters in your travels. This chap brings his pet alpaca into Sheffield to meet people on most days.

Much more successful is Sheffield which chose a less maintenance-intensive project and refers to itself as the Town of Murals. It too just needed one local champion in the mid 80’s to enthuse everyone about the project. Today there are over 140 murals around town and it plays host to the International Mural Fest every April with the winner’s entry being added to the towns collections. Initially the murals told the history of the town or highlighted certain people. There are also art spaces around town open to the public where you can go to watch artists at work. 

Huge murals adorn every wall in Sheffield.

Driving through this lush country that supports dairy and small crops is a pleasure, particularly with the imposing Mt Roland with its bare rock cliffs as the backdrop. The quartz-rich conglomerates that form the mountain are very hard and resist weathering.

Continuing west-ward our road took us around the edges of Cradle Mountain NP as we steadily climbed the range, weaving around tight hairpin bends until we were once more in the highlands amongst the forests and button grass plains. The higher we climbed the lower the temperature dropped and we soon found ourselves amongst the clouds. 

Met up with Marlies on the walk up Black Bluff Range to the Cradle Mountain lookout. We look cold because we were.
Buttongrass Plains as we descended. Look at the rain coming in faster than we can run!

Tonight we’re staying at the Waratah Caravan Park on a lovely unpowered grassy site beside the river with no neighbours, unlike the powered sites that are full, close together and on gravel. Go figure! 

Fri 22nd Mar

Travelling via the secondary roads we made our way back towards the north coast. Firstly though up and over the range with lots of hairpin bends to get to Hellyer Gorge for brunch. A short walk to the gorge and along the river refreshed us.

Hellyer Gorge

Once off the range the State Forestry seemed to own everything – no more magnificent old growth forests, just pine and eucalypt monocultures as far as the eye could see.

We’ll be travelling back south again to meet someone special in Hobart. But first – Highway 1 from north to south.

Three Capes Track

Monday 4th March – Thursday 7th March 2024

This multi-million dollar track on Tasmania’s south east coastline is one of the best walks you’ll ever do. Over four days we followed the amazing Three Capes Track for 48km around the Tasman Peninsula. It’s rated an easy to moderate trail, but considering the pack weight of any multi-day hike and the amount of ascending and descending to be done each day (after the first), a good degree of fitness (or youth!) is required. The trail starts and ends at the Port Arthur Historic Site, a two-year pass to the site is included in your track fee.
We booked to do it as a self-guided hike staying in the public huts – it’s a very popular walk with only 48 hikers permitted to leave each day. We both carried packs weighing around 13 – 14kg, which thankfully didn’t have to include tents or sleeping mats. All our own food, plates and cutlery, sleeping bags, pillows and clothing to deal with cold and wet conditions made up the weight.

The white dotted line is the walking track.
Track elevation

Day 1: Port Arthur – Denman Cove (boat) – Surveyors Hut (~4km walk)

Ready for anything!

We’re booked on the 11.30am boat and arrived in plenty of time to drop off our packs and park Harvey in the long-term parking bay in the sun to keep the batteries charged and the fridge cold. Registering for the hike we were given our access cards and an excellent book called Encounters on the Edge filled with cultural, geographic and just plain fun facts – like how to recognise whose poo belongs to who.

This tag has my name and the dates I’m walking the track and must be attached to my backpack.
An excellent guide and souvenir of the track

The book, and the Park Rangers at each hut, encourage us to walk slowly and mindfully. To further support this the huts and beds are pre-assigned for the whole walk – no dashing in to get the best bed.

Leaving Port Arthur for Denmans Cove.

You’ll notice in the map above that it all starts with a cruise from Port Arthur to Denmans Cove. Our cruise was cut short due to rough seas and strong winds. At Denmans Cove the boat isn’t able to get into the shore so we zipped off the bottoms of our pants, wore our boots dangling around our necks and hoped like crazy we wouldn’t fall in with full packs as we negotiated the knee deep water and wave surges.

Landed safely – dry from the knees up.
At the trailhead – boots and long pants to put on.

Today’s walk is short – 4 km along a well-defined natural path. With half the day still in front of us we took in the sights and sounds as we wandered, resetting ourselves to once more enjoy the pleasure of just walking through a beautiful landscape. Along the way are story seats designed by UTAS furniture design students. Each of these seats is linked to a story in the Encounters on the Edge book. These were a highlight of the walk which everyone enjoyed.
Initially we walked through coastal heath and eucalypt forest until reaching Surveyors Cove. This little cobblestone beach was a great place to pause, rest, eat our lunch and continue that recalibrating that is so hard to do in a busy world.

Surveyors Cove

From here it was a surprisingly steep little climb up to our hut for the night. Surveyors Hut is situated in the middle of a buttongrass plain and has amazing views over the ocean to Cape Raoul and the setting sun.

Art works at as we approached the hut
Surveyors Hut

The huts are all environmentally designed. Two large kitchens with gas stoves, pots, pans, cooking utensils (but not cutlery), power points and USB charging stations, a pellet heater and a comfortable community sitting area created a warm and friendly atmosphere at each of the huts. Big covered and open decks surrounded the huts and all were linked by covered walkways. We were assigned a room with two double bunks which we shared with a couple from North Queensland. The beds have a triple layer memory foam mattress. With our sleeping bags and blow-up pillows we were both very comfortable. The ablutions block was about 50 metres away – no showers, just composting toilets and sinks on the deck. Lighting is only in the common rooms – a head torch to use in our own rooms and walking around after dark was essential.

Surveyors Hut was unique in that it had several big BBQs which we’d been told about and came prepared with sausages and my spicy bean chilli for a hearty meal tonight.
Each evening the resident Park Ranger shares information about the hut and tells us what to expect for the next day’s walk. They also spent some time talking about the history, geology and fauna and flora of the track. Excellent talks we looked forward to.

Open decks with lovely views.
Who you lookin’ at?

Day 2: Surveyors Hut to Munro Hut (11km)

Being the first time we’ve done this kind of walk, ie staying in shared huts, I slept badly, woke early and, due to no lighting in the huts, went over to the kitchen/common room. Another newbie to the experience was there and we got the pellet heater cranking, but neither of us had tea bags or coffee with us. Lesson learnt!
As everyone started waking and Steve was up we gathered our food bag and enjoyed our overnight oats and a coffee as we chatted with others. Backpacks repacked, boots back on we left the hut about 8.30am.

Off through the eucalypts

The first of many Story Seats for today “From Punishment to Playground” wasn’t far down the track and afforded views across to Point Puer and Port Arthur. Point Puer was the children’s prison where our guidebook tells us ‘despicable acts’ took place. Today it’s a golf course.

Point Puer on the right.

Moving along, the dry eucalypt woodland with low shrubs and grasses is wombat territory. The Story Seat here is quite fun – it looks like wombat poo. The guide book describes the scat of animals we may see as we walk, Tasmanian devils, brush tail possums, wallabies and pademelons, quolls and currawongs.

Wombat poo: cube-shaped and typically deposited in high places to mark their territory. Wombats hold their poo in longer than any other mammal, up to 16 days, so it’s pretty dry when it comes out and may account for its shape.
Scat guide!

The sharp climb up Arthur’s Peak followed – some switch-backs, some steps, some just straight up. Once at the top though the views were worth every step.

Steve making sure we’re not lost. Crescent Bay across to Brown Mountain and Cape Raoul from Arthur’s Peak.
From Arthur’s Peak to the south and some of the highest sea cliffs in Australia.

With no reason to rush we relaxed here watching the seabirds searching for their lunch and appreciating the calm ocean after the last couple of days of wild weather.
Despite our next climb up Crescent Mountain being even higher than Arthur’s Peak it was a gentler climb interspersed with points of interest, such as Jurassic Crack. All the rock we see on the track, and covering 1/3 of Tasmania is a Jurassic age igneous rock called dolerite. Dolerite is a very strong rock but cracks in huge columns. See the rock in the photos above and particularly the ones to come.

We saw several echidnas alongside our path today. This little fellow is pretending he isn’t there, hoping we won’t notice him.

Emerging from the forest onto a ridge of very evenly low shrubs we see why it’s known as Tornado Ridge. The first European bushwalkers here described it as if a tornado had ripped through levelling the forest. Nothing as dramatic as that, but it is as a consequence of the wind. Ellarwey Valley is also named by these bushwalkers, though the name comes from them saying “where the ‘ell are we”. True story.

Story seat on Tornado Ridge to read the entertaining story of ‘Where the ‘ell are we’ in our guide book.
Flowering heath. This shrub grows to about a metre.

At a crossroad we turned south for the hour-walk through thick forest once more to Munro Hut. This has to be the best hut on the hike. For a start there are showers – open air, in a 2/3 corrugated water tank. First get a bucket of hot water, fill the shower bucket with it and hoist into the air. It may be primitive but it felt like pure luxury.
Next was the viewing deck, with binoculars, cantilevered over the forest for views along the coast to Cape Hauy. Of no less stunning a location is the helipad.
The downside – the toilet block is 200 – 300 meters away from the huts on a good path through the forest. Not designed well for the quick dash at 2am!

Views from the deck. Munro Hut

We’re getting to know many of our fellow hikers as we share story seats, kitchens and even food – freeze-dried ice cream isn’t that great! Tonight we were challenged to a game of Oh Hell (a 500 spin-off) with several other hikers. Lots of raucous fun and cries of ‘oh hell’!

Day 3: Munro Hut to Cape Pillar to Retakunna Hut (19km)

The longest day today as we leave through the silver gums to see Cape Pillar, the highest sea cliffs in the Southern Hemisphere.
We were both awake before dawn, packed up quietly and after a delicious hot coffee headed off, but not before a sunrise photo from the viewing deck.

Looks like a beautiful day for hiking. Sunrise from Munro Hut.

As it’s out and back to Cape Pillar we left our big packs in a storage shed, taking only day packs with water, food, first aid and wet weather gear (you never know in Tassie). Today’s track is either gravel or boardwalk and easy walking despite starting with a couple of ascents. After about an hour and a half of walking we came across carefully placed stones representing the tail of a snake which led onto a boardwalk. This is one of the art installations made in conjunction with the local indigenous people. It represents the rainbow serpent. 2.8km later, when the boardwalk ends, is the snake’s head.

The beginning of the Serpent boardwalk.
We’ve crossed to the southern side and are getting views across a forest of old-growth trees, eucalypts regenerated after fire, shrubs, sedges, etc.
Looking back along the boardwalk. With a couple of hours walking done this was the perfect spot to enjoy our delicious breakfast peacefully.
The Banks of Oaks Story Seat
The flora here is all banksias and sheoaks, a dramatic change from the tall eucalypts we’d been walking through. The guide book describes how nature’s gardening tools, wind and fire, have shaped it. The fierce winds prune the vegetation to an even height and fire creates an even-aged stand. Banksias and sheoaks need fire to regenerate.
This stunning Story Seat is titled ‘Sex on the Cape’. It’s all covered in the guide book – the birds, the bees and … the antechinus. All female antechinus come on heat at the same time. The males go into a frenzy of copulation over the next two to three weeks, then … they die … all of them …at the same time … at the same age.

We’re nearly at Cape Pillar now. Tasman Island with its lighthouse and fascinating stories from the days of lighthouse keepers is coming into view as are the incredible dolerite cliffs.

Dolerite cliffs. Note the columnar shape.
Tasman Island from Seal Spa. Australian fur seals gather in the waters at the base of these cliffs.
Tasman Island. Note the lighthouse. Can you see the Zigzag Track. It leaves from near where the yacht is anchored and zigzags up to the top.
A pensive moment.
And more stunning dolerite rocks.
The (in)famous Blade. A challenge to every hiker. Yes I took up the challenge and stood at the top point. Scary and tricky!
Just completed The Blade
The Chasm
We made it! Cape Pillar
The view from Cape Pillar in one direction. You can also see out to Cape Raoul to the west and Cape Hauy to the east.

After awhile of resting and taking in the extraordinary views we retraced our footsteps to Munro Hut, repacked our big backpacks and walked the hour or so further on to Retakunna Hut. Another beautifully designed hut, similar to the others, nestled at the base of Mt Fortescue amongst eucalypts and moorlands with wallabies grazing.
Another pleasant evening chatting, stretching on the yoga mats, then dinner, another hotly contested game of cards and off to bed to sleep soundly.

Day 4: Retakunna to Cape Hauy to Fortescue Bay (14km)

Today isn’t the longest day, but it is the toughest. Today we climb a mountain, wander through a rainforest, be stunned by the views and the number of steps to be negotiated to see them, before finishing at a pristine beach to complete this wonderful experience.

Up before the sun. Beautiful watching the sunrise over the forest.
Retakunna Hut
We’ve got more company for our early morning coffee today. There are two buses to take us back to Port Arthur from the end of the track. One leaves at 2.30pm, the second at 4.30pm. The early-bus hikers need to leave early to get there in time. We’re on the late bus, but will leave early and have our breakfast on the track again – it was so lovely yesterday.

Last night the Ranger warned us we’d be climbing 482m to summit Mount Fortescue first thing this morning. Surprisingly the climb up Mt Fortescue is one of the highlights of the trip. This coastal temperate rainforest has beautiful tall stringy barks with their dark green leaves, fallen logs and rocks covered in lichens and mosses, tree ferns that tower over your head and the earthy aroma of damp humus-rich soil. It’s also very peaceful – darker, quieter and cooler. The perfect place to meditate on the Story Seats.

Enjoying the moment at the summit of Mt Fortescue
And down the other side. Aren’t those tree ferns amazing?
Just one of the many Story Seats. To this point we’ve already learned about the creepy crawlies of the forest, the critters that live in and on the soil, the travellers that pass through here, ie humpback and southern right whales and the shearwaters, and the fauna that links us to the other countries that formed Gondwana. Taking time to read these stories at each seat elevates this hike to one of the best.
Once more we walk along the amazing coastline.
Big backpacks dropped at the turnoff to Cape Hauy we begin the descent, ascent, descent, ascent, descent and final ascent to the point of the Cape. All of this is on steps. Over 2000 of them apparently – one way! Repeat on the way back.
Keep going – yes that track of more steps ahead has yet to be climbed!
Yay! Cape Hauy! Just stunning!
Look over the edge and you’ll see the Totem Pole. It rises from the ocean and rock climbers love this challenge! In the photo it’s the single column closer in.

With the highlight of Cape Hauy committed to memory we headed back up and down those steps! The final ascent to the corner to pick up our backpacks was brutal! Worse still was putting our heavy backpacks back on – it’s been a tough day and we still have an hour to walk to Fortescue Beach and the end of the trail.

Two happy hikers.

The beach and waters of Fortescue Bay are pristine and very inviting, but no swimming this time. We chilled and chatted and reminisced on one of the great walks with our fellow walkers as they wandered in. Granted it’s among the more expensive hikes, but the design and maintenance of the track, the fabulous Story Seats, the hut amenities, the attention of the Rangers and the sheer beauty of this trail makes it worth every cent.
It’s so good I may even do it again one day.

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 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

A Castle, Beaches, a Waterfall and Home

12th – 21st May

Just a few kilometres down the road is Mamu Tropical Skywalk. On arrival we downloaded the app then set off on the kilometre or so walk through the rainforest with the audio (from the app) telling us the story of the area, the plants, the cyclones and other interesting info.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is 05_12_mamu-1024x768.jpg
At Mamu Skywalk

A 350m section of elevated walkway leads to a cantilever 15m above ground right in the rainforest. The view of the rainforest beneath us and to the sides was fascinating, just looking at the different trees and epiphytes.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is 05_12_mamu-walkway-768x1024.jpg

Mamu walkway. Excellent infrastructure designed to showcase the area at its best without damaging any of the flora.

But also straight ahead was the Johnson R Gorge. This is such beautiful country. Further on is ‘the tower’. This 37m tower, with many, many steps to reach the top, looks out over the tops of the trees and across gorges. Fantastic! 

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is 05_12_mamu-walk-1024x768.jpg

The view down the valley from the Mamu boardwalk.

Paronella Park is the main destination for today, with camping onsite. For years people have been telling us about this place. It’s one man’s dream of having a European Castle in Australia. José Paronella nearly single-handed built his home and his castle over a 6-year period. A grand staircase leads from the beautiful grounds and tennis courts past the fountains to a ballroom, which used to hold dances and show movies, with refreshments provided from the refreshment rooms.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is 05_12_paronella-1024x768.jpg

Rustic Paronella Park

Mena Creek enters the property via a waterfall into a large swimming pool. The hydroelectric power plant José established here provided electricity to the property fully 30 years before the local townsfolk had power. In its heyday Paronella Park was an exotic playground for the locals as well as many servicemen during WWII. 

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is 05_12_paronella3-1024x768.jpg

The falls on Mena Creek – a part of Paronella Park. A hydroelectricity unit was built here to power the park and is still functional today.

These days, the gardens and fountains are still beautiful, but following floods, cyclones and a fire it’s just the shell of the castle that remains. We stayed in the caravan park on the grounds and did the daytime tour as well as a night tour where the castle is lit beautifully and accompanied by an original music score. Altogether a very enjoyable stay. 

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is 05_12_paronella4-1024x768.jpg

The light and music show at Paronella Park is quite special.

13th May. Bingil Bay

Bingle Bay has a reputation of being a highly desirable camping spot, with only 8 sites and no reservations taken, ie first in, first served. This meant an early departure for the drive to the coast.

Our campsite at Bingil Bay. Perfect!

We arrived just as the couple who had the best site (that is site 6) were packing up to leave! Walking on the beach, a quick swim (crocs and stingers uppermost in my mind) and lots of sitting back reading was the order of the day. 

Steve spent a relaxing hour or so fishing. Bingil Bay

14th May. Wallaman Falls

The last of the waterfalls for us on this trip also happens to be the highest permanent waterfall in Australia.

The very spectacular Wallaman Falls.

We camped in the NP campground and, after admiring the falls from the lookout, did the 3.5km return walk to the base of the falls – a very steep descent, followed, unsurprisingly, by a very steep ascent to return. We were both pretty chuffed at how well we managed it – all those Devonshire teas haven’t wreaked too much damage. Once more, a spectacular geographical, or should that be geological, feature. 

The walk to and from the base of the falls is quite a trek, but well worth it.

15 – 16th May.

Heading south now quite quickly. We stopped for brunch at the TYTO Wetlands RV camp (looks good for future reference), and a cuppa at Saunders Beach (nice beach, but camp site in carpark) before pulling up for the night at the free camp at Giru.
Next night we headed for Lake Proserpine (also currently a free camp) where we’re meeting up with our old travelling buddies Ken and Wendy. Lake Proserpine is a huge campsite alongside the dam. A pleasant camp, particularly our time with our friends.

Back with a great travelling mates, Ken and Wendy, for the last time. 🙁 They’re selling their Trakka. At Lake Proserpine

 17th – 19th May

A night at Waverley Creek Rest Area – a good roadside rest area OK for one night. Then on to Wreck Rock camping ground in the Deepwater NP. The road to it from Agnes Water heading south is in very poor condition, so we came up from the southern side on a good dirt road. We spent two days here, mostly relaxing and going for lovely long walks on the beach. A pleasant stay.

Wreck Rock campsite. Another lovely campsite beside the beach south of Agnes Water.

20th – 21st May

We spent our last night before arriving home with good friends Ric and Gill on the Sunshine Coast. Needless to stay a good night was had by all.
But there’s no place like home, and it was lovely to arrive back home.

Duration: 54 days
Distance driven: 7,471 km
Fuel cost: $1410
Campsites: 18 nights in 9 National Parks
Free camps – 15
Cost of camping – $766 (+$459 at hotel Cairns)
Activities: $791

Brunch at Whitsunday Gold coffee roastery with mates Ken and Wendy.

Chillagoe and lots of Waterfalls

8th-12th May

Originally we’d planned to visit Chillagoe when we left Karumba via the Burketown Development road but it was closed due to flooding, hence the zigzagging across the Tablelands. Surprisingly, as we left the Tableland, we passed through rich agricultural lands with avocado, mango, banana, citrus, grapes and sugarcane, and other crops we didn’t recognise, stretching for many kilometres. Before long though we were back in cattle country. 

Pawpaws – or red papayas. Absolutely delicious eating. Outside Babinda
The Wheelbarrow Way, one of many tourist trails that highlight our history. Chillagoe

Chillagoe has a population of a bit more than 200. It struck us as a tough little town, its residents having weathered many ups and downs as most mining towns have. Over the years huge deposits of silver, lead, zinc, gold, limestone and marble have been mined here. The lime stone and marble mines are still working, with a few small silver, lead and zinc operations continuing. Chillagoe lime has the sugarcane industry more or less cornered but unfortunately, while beautiful marble is mined here, most of it is sent overseas for treatment. Most of the marble in Parliament House came from Chillagoe. 

Marble blocks awaiting orders before shipping to their destination.

But we’re here for the caves. Back around 400 million years ago the limestone laid down under shallow oceans was lifted, towering above the surrounding countryside where weathering and erosion and fluctuating groundwater levels slowly dissolved some of the limestone, creating caverns and passages, now rich with stalactites, stalagmites and flowstones. We visited three caves today with the ranger – Donna, Trezkinn and Royal Arch. All were outstanding, as was the infrastructure allowing us to view them without causing damage.

Chillagoe Caves
Chillagoe Caves

Between cave tours we walked out to the Balancing Rock. I’ve seen many Balancing Rocks, but this is a pretty good one, and the bush walk, after yesterday’s marathon effort, was good to keep the muscles moving.

‘Saving’ the balancing rock – Chillagoe

Dinner at the Cockatoo Pub tonight, behind which we’re camped for 2 nights. 

Before leaving Chillagoe this morning we drove out to the Archway caves, which are self-guided.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is 05_10_chillagoe-768x1024.jpg
The approach to the very sinister-looking Royal Arch caves.

Other than the extraordinary, gothic-like appearance of the limestone karsts in which the caves form, we weren’t impressed with this section, nor game enough to go crawling into little spaces by ourselves with just a head torch. 

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is 05-09_Chillagoe08-768x1024.jpg
Exploring the caves at Chillagoe

Back through the savanna and the rich agricultural farms and orchards to the Tableland. On the way we dropped in to the Mount Uncle Distillery. A tasting board of spirits was set before us – a pleasant time was spent tasting them all, buying a couple of bottles, and then wandering their beautiful grounds, lush with tropical plants and vegetable gardens and lots of peacocks!

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is 05_10_distillery-1024x576.jpg
A delightful time taste-testing at Mt Uncle Distillery.

By the time we’d done that and made ourselves a cuppa we were sober enough to continue our journey to Malanda where we booked in to the caravan park. The Malanda Falls are beside the CP, but we weren’t that impressed, looking more like a weir than anything. A quiet night, other than for the curlews which seem to be at every campsite!

Still chasing waterfalls today we’re following the Waterfall Way to the southern Tablelands. First stop was Millaa Millaa Lookout, which promised amazing views out to Mt Bartle Frere and Bellenden Ker. However, this section is known as the “misty mountains’, hence no mountains seen, but the rolling countryside and magnificent valleys filled with rainforest was absolutely beautiful.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is 05_11_millaa-lookout-1024x768.jpg
The view from Millaa Millaa Lookout. On a clear day you can see Mt Bartle Frere and Bellenden Ker – not today. But beautiful nevertheless.

Next stop, Millaa Millaa Falls, the most-photographed falls in Australia. They are “perfect” falls, coming out of thick rainforest in one reasonably wide band of water and falling to a large pool below. Despite the cooler weather I had a swim here, swimming over to and behind the falls. A wonderful experience. 

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is 05_11_millaa_falls-1024x768.jpg
The very beautiful Millaa Millaa Falls.

Next stop, Zillie Falls then on to Elinjaa Falls where there’s a steep path of about 500m to get to the base. It’s possible to swim here too. 

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is 05_11_elinjaa_falls-768x1024.jpg
Elinjaa Falls

By now it was lunchtime and the cafe at the biodynamic dairy at Mungalli was calling to us. A very filling cheese platter, followed by the best ice cream I’ve ever had (Espresso flavour) replenished our energy levels. The countryside is so pretty – hills, gullies, rainforest and the lushest grass you can imagine. It’s no wonder the dairy cows give such beautiful milk.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is 05_11_mungalli-lunch-768x1024.jpg
The most delicious lunch at the Mungalli Biodynamic dairy farm.

Continuing our meandering drive through the tiny town of Mungalli, which also has a waterfall, though more like steep rapids, we descended and descended until reaching Henrietta Campsite in Wooroonooran National Park. We’ve stayed at lots of National Parks over the years – they’re a credit to our country. This one has a large open area to kick a ball, an electric BBQ, covered tables, toilets and a shower (cold). The campsites are all nestled into the rainforest all around and beside Henrietta Creek. Most have bush walks or other activities. Here we decide to do the walk to Nandroya Falls, a return walk of about 7km. A couple of rock-hopping water crossings and a narrow path ascending and descending alongside the river gave us a bit of a workout. First we came to Silver Falls and finally Nandroya. These are a favourite of Steve’s as they fall spectacularly from a narrow gap in the sheer cliff face to the pool below, then from that they tumble down again over a wide cliff to the next level. 

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is 05_11_nadroya-falls-768x1024.jpg
Nandroya Falls – such interesting falls.
This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is 05_11_silver-falls-1024x768.jpg
The lovely Silver Falls, seen along the walk to Nandroya Falls.

Back at camp we took our chairs down the steep little path to sit by the river contemplating life, the universe and everything, and hoping to spot a platypus. Alas no platypus, but we did get up close and personal with a few too many leeches! A quiet night anticipated with just us and one caravan. 

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is 05_11_henrietta-campsite-1024x768.jpg
Relaxing at our campsite at Henrietta NP campground.