Have you ever researched a place, found all the top attractions, and then literally threw that list away and did something completely different? Well, that was what happened to me on this trip. Countless friends have been to Tasmania and literally everyone goes east from Hobart or Launceston or reverse. There are beautiful walks to stop at, places to camp, hikes through parks etc. But since I witnessed all of the world at Salamanca Markets in Hobart that Sunday, I was a bit hesitant to see what the most trafficked route of Tasmania would be like.
Then an alternative arrived, my friend Felipe mentioned that there was a road leading west. The west of Tasmania is almost entirely national parks. Considering everyone travels east, the road west was almost guaranteed to be ours exclusively. After a quick google maps, instagram stalk, and review of the “Wild West” advertising campaign, I was sold. The next day we took the road west to Queenstown.
We did this drive on a motorcycle, so imagine this scenario. Wide open plains with only a handful of trees. No farms, no cars, no people. Just nature, hills, sky, trees, birds. This is what we were looking for. The beauty of traveling on a motorcycle is you are IN it. You feel everything, the wind, the sun, the shade, the smells, every part of the world around you is actually within you. If you still cannot imagine, check out this timelapse from my gopro of the drive.
Lake St Clare National Park at Cradle Mountain
First stop was a couple hours into the trip at the southern part of Cradle Mountain. Lake St Clare is massive and has more walking trails than you would actually expect. There is one 45 minute loop that takes you through the forest, around the river, and eventually to the lake. I was desperate to see a platypus which apparently live there but alas they were all hiding. As expected we only saw 2 other groups which made the walk through the forest even more peaceful as only the birds were our company.
This town was the place to mine in the 1800s. The next 200 years didn’t bring much economy to the area. It has the one bar, one hotel, one movie theatre vibe that most small towns have. We stopped in one of the local clubs with a sign that read “all are welcome, come in and say hello!”. We swung the door open and were greeted by 10 friendly faces. Mostly old men, one woman. They invite us over, tell us to order a beer and start asking us which AFL team we were supporting. I felt like I was back in Virginia.
The real reason to visit is actually the drive. Since the town sits in a valley on the other side of a mountain you have to cross wide open plains as this mountain looms above you. Once you zig zag through the mountain pass and clear the ridge you are greeted with a continuous view of mountains with no town in sight. More zig zagging through the hills and eventually you have a down slope and the town reveals itself. Absolutely stunning. Again see the video for proof.
If you have time stop at Nelson Falls on the way, we spent too much time at the markets in the morning and then with Lake St Clare in the afternoon we couldn’t but I’ve heard it is worth it.
From Queenstown you have a couple options of nearby towns with many water attractions like kayaking, white water rafting, and stand up paddle boarding. Unfortunately when you make spontaneous plans in a time where all of Australia is just dying to travel you do not have many options. After calling every trip provider in the region we came up empty handed. But this is why you have Plans B, C, D etc. We took the long way to Strahan by driving up to Zeehan hoping we might catch some last minute bookings with a tour operator. With no success we took the route over to Strahan to explore further.
There is more than enough to keep you busy here with Hogarth Falls, 75 mile beach, and West Strahan Beach. We walked through People’s Park which ends with Hogarth Falls, then drove the graveled road to 75 mile beach. The waves here are aggressive and not for swimming. Fitting in with the west vibe of being wild. Driving on a gravel road in a motorcycle is hard. Hard for the driver and hard for the passenger. The whole bike shakes and the poor driver has to try and anticipate what each little rock will do. After that bit of stress we went to West Strahan Beach to enjoy the sunset. This beach sits on the harbor which is 11x bigger than Sydney’s.
There is a pier that juts out into the water. We saw kids jumping off and thought that looks fun. From the pier looking into the water you could see nothing. The water was completely black. No idea the depth or what else lived there. But like they kids were doing it right? Luckily Felipe is brave and climbs down the ladder first to understand how deep we are talking. He confirms, the depth is there, like frightening so. Now we have this unknown depth of dark mysterious water in front of me. Jump! he says.
I jump, and we swim around in the cold refreshing water. I had my gopro with me for some action jumping shots but now in the black deep water I was regretting holding it. Felipe says he’ll throw it to the deck. From the water we are about 5ft maybe down, treading water. I explain that if he misses we are literally never seeing this black device again. He, very seriously, takes it and after careful consideration tosses it. It almost makes it, smacking the side of the pier rebounding towards us and the black water surrounding. In some crazy reflex he grabs it as it slaps the water. I watch this all in slow motion honestly not believing he has caught it. I still to this day writing this look at my gopro laughing thinking there was such a high chance it would be at the bottom of the bottomless harbor.
The drive back from Strahan is known as 98 turns. With the sun at our backs we drove east winding through the forest. Arriving back in our little sleepy town just as the sky started changing colors.