Tasmania: An Epic Road-trip Part 8
Part 8: From Launceston to Freycinet
“I don’t exactly know where I’m going but I’m going.” I live by these words when it comes to travel. And it could not be truer than being on a road trip with Ron and Lenny. I could have done some research or quick google search about Tasmania before our trip but no. I left all the travel planning and guiding to Lenny and trusted the driving to Ron since they had been to Tasmania before. My first impression of Tasmania was that of a sparsely populated place and mostly wilderness. And Ron helped enlarge that image of wilderness when he told me that the cabin where they stayed in before was surrounded by wombats and that I should be able to take a picture of kangaroos crossing the road as they're plentiful in Tasmania. I did not know about the other cities in Tasmania other than Hobart.
So, I was a bit surprised when we arrived in Launceston where our accommodation for the night was located. I found Launceston to be a relatively big city. It has old-style buildings, modern apartment buildings, natural theme park like the Penny Royal, and golf courses. Our hotel had the same set-up as the hotel we stayed in Devonport: with casino, pub/restaurant. We did not go to the reception area but went to the bar to pick up our keys to our room. Granted we used the self-check in system at our accommodations throughout this road-trip, I found it odd to skip the hotel reception area and get our room key from the bar. Launceston main draw is the Cataract Gorge.
The next morning, we visited the Cataract Gorge. Ron and Lenny who visited the gorge a year ago immediately noticed the impact of the severe weather on the tourist site. They knew exactly where to go to start our walk but part of the track to the large stone boulders was underwater. Instead, we took the Duck Reach, one of Tasmania’s 60 Great Short Walks, to cross to the Alexandra Suspension Bridge that was built in 1907. At the other end of the bridge, we were greeted by wallabies and peacocks. Another feature of the Cataract Gorge was the geological dolerite. According to the information sign, it was estimated to be over 200 million years old and were formed during the Jurassic period when dinosaurs walked the land.
Next, we headed east to explore Freycinet National Park, one of the most visited national parks in Australia. It was about a two-hour drive from Launceston. We drove along a stretch of farmlands, sheep paddocks, green valley as far as the eye could see, vineyards, and eucalyptus forest. I did not see any small towns or service stations (servo) before we arrived at our accommodation in Swansea. With a population of less than a thousand, Swansea is the largest town closest to Freycinet. It was raining when we arrived, so we thought of just spending the rest of the afternoon relaxing at our cabin. We had some crackers, M&Ms and Tim Tams in our snack pack but we did not pack anything for lunch since Ron was looking forward to eating seafood at the oyster farm in Freycinet. He made a quick stop at the fish market and bought some tiger prawns and fish that we cooked in our cabin.
The sky cleared up after lunch, but there was nothing to do in Swansea. There were beaches but it was too cold for swimming. We decided to drive to Freycinet and planned on watching the sunset there and have dinner at the oyster farm. Freycinet National Park is one of the oldest National Parks in Tasmania. It was named after the French explorer Louis de Freycinet, who sailed through the area around the 1800s. It stretched out along the peninsula overlooking the Tasman Sea and surrounded by the dramatic peaks of the Hazards ranges.
We drove on a two-lane road lined with well-manicured trees, trimmed and sculpted by nature. Although the east coast is supposed to be the driest part of Tasmania, it had been raining in the past few days. And the recent heavy rains have gouged some holes on the road surface. Soon enough, we saw the view of pink and rust-colored mountain peaks ahead of us. The road became more rugged with towering pine trees on the side as we approached the visitor center. I saw a couple of kangaroos hopping along but did not cross the road.
Freycinet National Park has many walking and hiking tracks. Hiking the Hazards range was on our itinerary for the next day, but the weather had improved that we decided to do some hiking. There were three hiking options from where we parked: Wine Glass Bay Lookout, Hazards Circuit, and Peninsula Tracks. We decided to hike the Wine Glass Bay Lookout. There was a warning posted at the track entrance that the walk is not suitable for everyone, and many people find the walk challenging…also a warning about the 1000 stairs equivalent to a lot of steps.
The climb to the first lookout with the view of Coles Bay was relatively easy. Then it became a constant steep grade, and stairs. Ron took his time since he did the same hike before and knew exactly what to expect at the end of the hike. I keep stopping to take pictures. So, Lenny was always a hundred steps ahead of us. We climbed higher and higher, stopping for pictures between the big boulders. The mountains seemed taller than they look as I pushed myself to the top of the Hazards. As we reached the top, the view of the Wine Glass Bay was well worth the heart-attack (just kidding about the heart-attack).
Kidding aside, the view of the azure blue waters and white sand beach nestled in the Hazards range and bordered with pink granite peaks was stunning. No wonder, it is the most photographed view in Tasmania. We took a gazillion pictures and lingered to take in the view. It was the highlight of our trip to Freycinet.
By the time, we returned from hiking, the Freycinet Marine Farm/Restaurant and other eating places were already closed. But Ron, the foodie could not go to Freycinet and not enjoy the seafood at Freycinet Marine Farms/Restaurant. So, we went back two days later. Lenny splurged to make Ron happy.
TO BE CONTINUED
PHOTO & VIDEO GALLERY
- All photos by the author
- I have no material connection to the products, brand-names, tourist sites mentioned in this blog.
- Ron and Lenny (not their real names) live in Australia.