2 Weeks in Tasmania, and 5 useful tips for campervan road trips

The 4 images here are from 4 different parts of Tasmania and they just go to show the diversity in the landscape you’ll encounter while traveling around the island.

Our Tasmanian adventure started by flying into Hobart Airport from Melbourne. There are other ways to get to Tasmania too with the ferry-boat from Melbourne being a fairly popular option for those who have their own cars and plan to travel around the Island.

We had made arrangements to rent a campervan from Hobart for 10 days so that we could explore freely and not have to worry about planning too much ahead. First however, we had 2 days reserved for exploring Hobart. Like we do, we hadn’t made really any plans for our time in Hobart other than visiting MONA and enjoying some good seafood as well as strolling around town for the short while we had there. Both MONA and the seafood alone are good reasons to spend a weekend here even if you wouldn’t have time to do anything else in Tasmania. If you happen to be in town on a weekend, make sure to check out Salamanca market for great local produce, food stalls, local crafts and great street performances

The main plan for our Tasman adventure was to drive a full lap around the island in a campervan. We had mapped a rough route clockwise from Hobart making our way gradually towards Strahan, continuing North from there towards Cradle Mountain, through to Launceston before continuing to the East coast and gradually down south to Port Arthur and back to Hobart. Approximately 1500 km of driving including all the side roads we planned to explore.

tas map - 1
19 hours and 39 minutes was a huge underestimate for the drive time and luckily we knew it from the start. You will easily double that.

The first leg of our road trip was to take us from Hobart to Russel Falls in Mt. Field National Park and on to our overnight stop off at Red Knoll Lookout near to Strathgordon. The drive from Hobart to Mt. Field National Park was already setting our expectations for the trip pretty high. The scenery started to change from the river valley we followed for the first part of the trip to deep forests and steep hills. We took a few hours to explore Russel Falls and the gum tree forests before hopping back in our car for a drive to Red Knoll lookout. We had seen an Image online from the shore of Lake Gordon and had to include this stop in our trip. Here is the view we woke up to:

IMG_3729

Campervan tip #1: If you open the back of a Toyota Hiace (or other vans) when it is pouring with rain, stand to the side of the door when you close it unless you want to get soaking wet from the water that gets trapped around the window and license plate.

Our second day of driving took us back past Mt. Field, through some spectacular mountain valleys eventually all the way to Lake St. Clair. We’d got up at Lake Gordon before sunrise so we got to Lake St Clair early enough to take a boat across the lake and hike back to the car. Crossing the lake offers some of the best views of rugged peaks, bright blue waters on the lake and lush green forests around it. The contrast of colours was amazing.

Campervan tip #2:  Look for free campgrounds. There are some good apps around for that too. We used Campermate and found the information up to date and very useful.

Day three of our road trip couldn’t have brought a more dramatic change in scenery as we continued West across the mountains towards Queenstown. The region is big for mining and you will see this once you get to Lake Burburry but on the way, make sure to stop at Nelson Falls. Crossing the mountains to Queenstown is both spectacular but a little sad at the same time. You will feel very small amongst the rocky peaks here but seeing how we have stripped clean these mountainsides (also the insides of them) reminds us how vulnerable our surroundings are.

Campervan tip #3: When getting into the car, make sure to check your shoes for dust, sand and mud. Remember your car is also your home and your bedroom and it isn’t fun having the floors covered in dirt.

We parked our van near the beach at Macquarie Heads for the night and after dinner headed to the beach for a walk. These beaches go on for miles and we were pretty much the only people there. Such an amazing place to stare into the distance over the ocean and watch the sun slowly set. The only negative in this experience was the amount of rubbish we saw all along the beach and near by campgrounds left by fishermen and campers.

Campervan tip #4: Pick up more rubbish than you bring along.

The next two days would take is high up into the mountains as we headed towards Cradle Mountain. We took our time driving up into the Cradle Mountain region, stopping at Montezuma Falls along the way. The trail along an old tram line is amazing and the waterfall at the end of the track will absolutely blow your mind. They are one of the tallest in Tasmania an you’ll get right up to the base of them for a spectacular view.

Camping options at Cradle Mountain are limited and it is a good idea to book ahead. You’ll need to camp or stay in a cabin near to the visitor centre and take a shuttle bus to the trails early in the morning if you plan to summit Cradle Mountain in one day. (We’ll write up a second post about the hike to the top).

Cradle mountain and the surrounding areas are just amazing. The scenery is so rugged but absolutely beautiful at the same time. Words don’t do a good job describing it so here are a couple of pictures.

So far Tasmania had welcomed us with beautifully blue skies and nice sunny days (apart from a rain shower the first night) but this was about to come to an end. Heading towards Tamar Valley and Launceston, the weather took a sudden change with dark rainclouds rolling in. We decided to continue East all the way to The Bay of Fires near the small town of Saint Helens. We spent the entire day on the road as rain fell steadily just admiring the rolling hills and lush green fields in the region. Again so so different from the scenery we’d been in for the past few days. As we parked our van for the night at the Bay of Fires we realized the wind starting to grow stronger. Boy were we in for a night.

Campervan tip #5: find a sheltered spot to park in for the night if possible. When it rains and the wind picks up, you might think that a mob of angry people are trying to roll the van when you wake up in the night.

The next couple of days were very interesting indeed. We had never been in a storm like this and we got quite lucky with our timing too. The storm brought snow to the highlands where we had just got out from so luck was on our side, however we did get stuck in wet sand, we were freezing in the van with no heating when the engine wasn’t running and our camp kitchen stopped working due to the heavy winds outside. We found out that Wineglass Bay and Freycinet are not so nice when there is a massive storm, however the waves in the bay are pretty impressive. We’ll just need to come back here another time and hope for a clear day. We decided it was time to pay for a high-end campsite with hot showers and an indoor camp kitchen. At least now we could cook a meal and get warm.

We had missed out on many of the trails and the magnificent beaches along the East Coast and the Tasman Highway due to the storm. Luckily the next morning we woke up with the van being completely still and not hearing any rain. Opening the curtains we found that the sky was clearing up and it looked like our luck was changing. Back on the road again we decided to make most of the day by visiting Port Arthur and getting to know more about the history of Tasmania as a penal colony and the more recent history that is every bit as tragic. Amazing stories of the people who were sent here and ended up making this place home and so so sad stories of the people who never went home from here.

The last day of our road trip brought us back to Hobart and we spent the day exploring the surroundings a bit more. So many great places to visit around the town and great views to be seen from Mt. Wellington (at least when the fog doesn’t roll in). Returning the car to the rental shop, we were so happy we could call it home for the past 10 days.


 

It is good to know that there is a park fee for entering National Parks in Tasmania and the best option if you are doing a road trip like us is to get a holiday pass, which costs $60 per vehicle and lasts up to 8 weeks. It gives you access to all parks including Cradle Mountain.

 

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