After returning from New Zealand in January 2015, it was very clear that this wouldn’t have been my last trip to Oceania. Australia had already been on the list of options when planning that trip and now for Christmas 2015, Tasmania was in the books.
My travel companions changed a bit and for our Circumcycling Tasmania adventure, we ended up being an all girls crew. Flights were booked back in May and with China Eastern, getting the bikes Down Under was easy as it’s part of the baggage allowance (2x23kg).
We were planning to have three weeks time and this turned out to be absolutely sufficient. All in all in took us just over 2 weeks to complete the journey, a rest day included.
The west coast has a reputation for being wild and mountainous and beautiful and we decided that the west coast was the best coast and thus the place to start. We were going to ride from Hobart to Hobart, clockwise around Tasmania.
When looking at many of the online guides and recommendations, it’s usually recommended to do it the other way round, so you build up your fitness in time for the mountains, however, we felt happy to have done that part first and then took it super easy on the way back down the east coast.
We left Shanghai on December 19th, super excited and slightly nervous in expectation on the adventure to come. After a cancelled connection and a subsequent 7 hour layover in Melbourne, we finally arrived at our hostel in Hobart in the late evening. We built our bikes and were ready for bed, when the fire alarm set off and we all evacuated to the street. After police and fire fighters had cleared out the building the key take away was to not burn incense in your room, dear hippy travelers in your early 20s.
Back to bed and a short night’s sleep later we were eager to depart for our day 1 of cycling. A quick stop (followed by multiple returns) to the only open bike shop in town (BikeRide) made sure, our gear was in top notch condition and we were ready to conquer day 1. Hobart to Hamilton.
By the time we were finally ready to leave Hobart it was already 2pm in the afternoon and we had a good 80km to go. Heading out of Hobart was pleasant, as the intercity cycle way takes you well beyond the city limits and it’s easy to then just cross the river towards New Norfolk. That way we steered clear of most traffic, however a mean head wind accompanied by crazy rain showers proved to be our welcome to cycle-touring friends for the day.
By the time we finally made it to Hamilton, the sun was setting and we were starving. A friendly older man runs a great place right by the main road. He made a mean curry and played Pink Floyd extra loud. After a warming up and filling our raging bellies, we had only a few hundred more meters to go to the free campsite, that comes with hot showers and clean bathrooms.
A total of 86km and around 950m up in elevation.
Day 2. Hamilton to Lake St. Clair. 109km, 1.900m in elevation.
We woke up to a crisp, but sunny day and felt ready to beast it out. The route for the day offered the option to stay in Derwent Bridge, or to make it all the way to the shores of Lake St. Clair.
The further we rode into the western highlands, the scarcer the traffic, the less the roadkill and the more beautiful the forests and mountains. As we approached the scenic rainforest around Wayatinah, the road became steeper and steeper and the sun was scorching down. Under the shade of some of the world’s tallest trees (hello! Tasmanian Wilderness, Unesco World Heritage Site).
Despite the continuous headwinds and steep climbing, we made it all the way to Lake St. Clair. Camping here was a steep $25AUS and hot showers, gas for cooking etc each a dollar extra. We thus decided to splurge on burgers at the 2 class lodge, where we in our cycling gear were allocated at the bar stools rather than the white linen-clothed tables at the sit-down restaurant. We nonetheless enjoyed our local draft and contently passed out in our tent. Only to wake 6o our 6.30 alarm and seeing our breaths form white little clouds above our faces. Over night the temperature had dropped to below zero degrees Celsius and getting up this morning proved to be a little challenge in itself.
The cold called for a hearty breakfast of porridge and tea and so we postponed our planned early departure a bit to warm up first.
So our day 3 – Lake St. Clair to Strahan, started a little later than we had hoped, and only set off at around 9.30am to tackle the 136km ride, 1.300m in elevation.
From Lake St. Clair we descended towards lake Burbury. A pretty a mostly downhill route through forest and farmland. Once we left the shores of lake Burbury behind and were headed towards Queenstown, the road became long, boring and somehow never ending. On and on, with ever so slight headwinds and a slight up, until we hit the beginning of 99 bend road. Earlier that day I had somehow lost the screw to my front disk brake and now I had my adrenalin pumping every time the downhill became very steep as I was relying solely on my back brake. Following the mantra ‘who brakes, loses’ (I think this really only works in German) I was hitting top speed in the 60s. EXCITING. A nice trucker in Queenstown found me a new screw in his toolbox and I was set to carry on. We had initially planned to stop in Queenstown but it proved to be so depressing, we chose to carry on to Strahan. Another 2 hours later, and we arrived in Strahan, a pleasant little seaside town, that seemed to have gotten stuck in time.
Our camp ground was very nice and in true small-town-manner, all food resources closed at 8, which we only realized at 8.05pm, when the bottle shop was closed and the ladies from Molly’s diner kindly wrapped up their leftovers for us.
The next day took us from Strahan to Rosebery. A rather short 71km ride, with lots of sun and up. We climbed 760m towards Rosebery, where we arrived at 2.30 in the afternoon. The ride was pleasant, we stopped in Zeehan for a cold drink and sandwich and upon arrival in Rosebery, we wasted the afternoon at the local drinking hole on draught beers. As a town, Rosebery doesn’t have much to offer – it’s a mining town and is lacking charme and things to do. We were the only guests on the local campground and a very overweight, ill smelling, and eye-impaired lady lady runs the place. The experience was rather creepy, but we got a good night’s sleep and left early the next day.
Day 4 led us from Rosebery to Cradle Mountain. 71km and 1.700m of climbing lay ahead of us. After the first 12km out of Rosebery, which were a straight 5k up and then down, we stopped for a second breakfast in Tullah. In hindsight, I’d definitely recommend to skip Rosebery and go all the way to Tullah. A super cute place by the lakeside with delicious scones, great coffee and very friendly service made for a welcome stop following Rosebery’s morbid atmosphere.
With renewed energy we then set off to tackle what turned out to be the hardest day. A very sunny day – subsequent heat, and steep roads had us getting off our bikes and pushing up more than once. We were rewarded with spectacular vistas, alpine moors and the faint smell of myrtle along the way. We ran out of water eventually, but friendly Frenchies with a van helped us out. During less touristy seasons, it might be a good idea, to pack another liter within your pannier bags.
Arrival at Cradle Mountain campground included a quick moment of uncertainty as the campground had the sign up they were fully booked. However, fret not, the friendly lady at the reception supplied not only some freshly cut aloe vera for the sunburn of my life, but also the good news, that they always keep some open tent spots for ‘folks like you’. YES!! so good. Merry Christmas!
Our very Christmassy dinner of Spaghetti Carbonara was washed down with a few ales and then those same French people invited us over for a glass of red wine. We didn’t say no to that and I brought my very best French to the table (aided by the liquids) and it was a very nice evening. We postponed our usual 9.30pm bed time to 10.30 and then thoroughly passed out.
The next morning was planned as a hiking day. Instead of getting on our bike, we did pack our tent and gear but left the bikes behind at the camp ground and caught a shuttle bus up to Cradle Mountain and Dove Lake. We spent the morning hiking around Dove Lake and it was the perfect day. Clear blue skies and the perfect mountain view. Apparently we lucked out.
After a sandwich lunch, we then set off for our short and easy day. Cradle Mountain to Gowrie Park. 40km and 500m of up (but many more down!)
We left Cradle Mountain for a super fun day of downhill. Until a loud BANG put a halt to our bliss. Tu Nga’s rear tire had a complete blow out. So we did what any smart woman would do and zip-tied the f&#% out of it. A new tube for the inside and the old one used as cushioning on the outside should prove to be exactly what McGuyver would have done and turned out to last all the way until Launceston. To be on the safe side we took it a bit slower from there but still arrived at Gowrie Park by 5.30pm.
The camp ground isn’t pretty but run by an extremely nice family. The lady sold us some excellent steaks and wine and provided her home-made apple and lemon merengue pies for dessert. No complaints here and passed out with full bellies that night.
Only to be awaken by pouring rain! Day 7 was supposed to take us to Deloraine. A good 60km ride – as the weather forecast was terrible for the entire day so we thought to ourselves ‘screw this..’ and we went for it. Soaked about 10 minutes into the ride, we couldn’t feel our toes or fingers anymore by the time we reached Mole Creek. Due to the Christmas holidays the only open place was the Supermarket, where we hung out for a good 30 mins, put on additional layers and ate hot meat rolls and drank hot chocolate with that.
After leaving Mole Creek the rain finally turned into more of a drizzel and by the time we reached Deloraine, we felt energized and strong. So on we rode to Launceston.
A late afternoon arrival after 112km and only 612m of up. We rode to the nearest open and nice looking bar and caught the final rays of sun for the day that finally managed to break through. The decision to spend our first night in a hotel was quickly made and after a few pints we checked ourselves into the local Mercure where Sister Act was on TV all night and the shower was amazingly hot. Well deserved.
Day 8 was our rest day. We rode around Launceston for some 40 odd km, tried to visit a few vineyards without much luck (all closed over the holidays) and finally moved to the local Big4 camp ground. Terribly located right above the highway, so quite loud, anything but pretty but fine for just one night. After all those quiet west coast roads, I found Launceston generally a bit stressful.
Day 9 – Launceston to Scottsdale. 72km and 1.300m of climbing. A very hilly but beautiful ride. We chose to take the more quiet road through Lilydale Falls, where we stopped for our morning coffee. After that we rode through beautiful forests with some hills (somehow everything seemed easy after the west coast) we already arrived in Scottsdale, where the North East Park offers free camping and is a stone throw away from the town’s supermarket and bottle shop.
That night we went to bed with a bit of worry and lots of anticipation, as our friend Laura was joining us. She had landed in Launceston in the late afternoon and was going to catch up with us that evening. What didn’t go into that calculation was the amount of nocturnal wildlife, she would encounter. In the end the ride that had taken us around 4 hours, took her over 6, as a lot of the hills required walking down in order to not run over commuting wallabies and wombats or their roadkill relatives.
Regardless, she made it, and the next morning we set off with the complete team from Scottsdale to St. Helen’s. 100km and 1.900m of climbing – a tough first day for Laura and a pleasant one for Tu Nga and myself with warm legs and a sunny mood.
The first stop was one for coffee in Derby. A super cute little town and the mountain bike mecca of the east coast as it turned out. Lots of Downhill on offer and cool kids everywhere. Also, this would have been a much nicer camp ground, had we known. In all online resources it says there is no camping available, however, in fact, there is.
For lunch, we stopped at the super awesome Weldborough Hotel. This place in the middle of the rain forest has a fantastic garden, Tasmania’s best craft beers and ciders on tap and offers delicious meals.
After lunch follows an extensive steep climb that of course is rewarded with some super fun downhill, almost all the way to St. Helen’s.
Day 11 the followed with a very easy but beautiful ride from St. Helen’s to Bicheno. Only 78km and predominantly flat, this day is one for the eyes. White sand beaches for miles and miles.
The road follows the coastline and gently rolls south. For lunch we stopped at the Iron Brewhouse where we had some delicious sea food choices that were washed down with the local brew.
The turquoise waters and sparkling white beaches just wouldn’t stop after lunch and so the ride towards Bicheno went very quickly. Shortly before arriving in Bicheno we stopped at the Eastcoast Birdlife and Animal Park where we got to pet Wombats, feed Wallabies and learned about the Tasmanian Devil. A great stop along the way, for big and small explorers.
Bicheno then proved to be your typical Tassie tourist town – entirely packed with Australian vacationers and we had to look around a bit to find a vacant spot for our tent. One of the key attractions in Bicheno are the penguins which come out every night. However, at around 9.30pm (our usual bed time – see that pattern here.. hehe..) we gave up and went to bed. Apparently, as we heard later, we were about an hour to early.
The next morning was one of extensive coffee drinking and pastry eating, as the local bakery is really good. There we ran into more cyclists and it turned out everyone was on their way to Coles Bay and Freycinet National park.
Day 12 took us from Bicheno to Coles Bay, less than two hours, 37km and 166m in elevation and we arrived at the local pub. Still shortly before lunch time but never too early for a cider, we chilled out a bit before pitching our tent.
We made barbecued steaks, chicken, loads of veggies and cooked some pasta and had ourselves a very festive New Year’s eve meal. Most of us (with one exception) didn’t last until midnight, but we still felt like we partied all night when we finally caved in to the ravers next door and got up at 5.30 after what felt like zero sleep to pack up and hike to Wineglass Bay Lookout.
After returning to the Coles Bay, we stopped for coffee and pastries, and then set off to ride to Swansea. Day 13 was supposed to be rather lengthy as we thought we had to go back out around, but instead we ended up hitching a ride with a local boat man who kindly ferried us across the lagoon so that we arrived just outside of Swansea and saved ourselves a hilly and windy 60km detour.
Thus we stopped in Swansea for lunch, where we indulged in the sea food platter and then decided to carry on to Mayfield Beach Campground (total 60km ride, 670m of elevation). Another quick stop at Kate’s Berry farm and then we aimed for the cute campground there has no showers or cooking facilities, but we woke up with the eyes on the ocean and the wind in our faces. Not a bad way to welcome the day.
Day 14 – Mayfield Beach Campground to Richmond. 100km and 1.067m in elevation.
Initially we were only going to Triabunna that day but that was too short and we were there well before lunch time with cold weather and nothing to do, so we decided to carry on. The ride was an easy one with a little climbing along the way and when we finally arrived at historic Richmond the trip already felt like it was done. Some 30 something km outside of Hobart with tourist buses all over the place.
We pitched out tent at the local camp ground and headed for dinner at the town’s pub where we devoured excellent kangaroo steak and the local draught.
The next morning – knowing it was our final day to complete our Hobart to Hobart adventure, we set off in fabulous spirits. Despite being the slightly longer and ‘harder’ route, we chose to go via Greentree Hill. A good climb never hurts anyone and so we arrived back to Hobart’s waterfront 35km later. We settled into the cozy wine bar and enjoyed a lengthy lunch to then carry on to the Taste of Tasmania Food Festival, which we were lucky enough to catch the last of.
The remaining days in Hobart were pleasant and lazy. We stayed with our Shanghai friend Chris, who kindly put us up for the last 5 days at his house. We went to the MONA (extraordinary must go museum!) and the Cascade Brewery and sampled foods all over town.
The perfect wind-down to another epic cycling adventure!