4 days in Tassie on a budget

Day 1. Fly Brisbane to Launceston. My lovely daughter dropped me at the airport. I guess she does owe me a few taxi trips. I was feeling a bit blue because Katey had left the day before to fly to Singapore for her best friends 40th. I missed her and so did our dogs.

I arrived at Launceston around lunchtime. I had a nap on the plane and woke up as we were over Bass Strait and I saw a tiny speck which was probably a ship. The car hire company picked me up and took me to the depot. While waiting I noticed a bicycle workshop for people to assemble and take apart their bikes. It’s clearly a popular spot to cycle, so what a cool idea. Maybe next time.

Once I got shown the many features of my hire camper van, I decided I was going to Ansons Bay so put it into google maps and set off. In no time at all I was in the countryside and suddenly found myself on a dirt road. I checked google was taking me to the right place and continued. At some point it turned back to bitumen but then alternated all the way to Anson’s Bay, although it seemed mostly dirt. There were more dead wombats and other wildlife on the roads than cars.

What struck me is how isolated it was. I only went through one tiny town (Gladstone) with a servo and pub in about 150km. Anson’s Bay was a bit of a let down. It’s a sleepy fishing village, and the only shop there that I found was one that looked like it closed a long time ago. The only sign of life was a father chopping wood with his son. There were massive stockpiles of chopped wood at most houses.

So onwards to St Helens. I passed a couple of nice creeks and what seemed like rainforest on the windy dirt road. I passed very few cars and made it to my next stop at St Helens, got some fuel and supplies and headed out to Binnalong Bay.

There were some nice views of the water and I pulled off into a campground called Dory Point. The road was very corrugated, and driving slow made it worse. After what seemed like forever I came across very private and free campgrounds. After some searching I found one with a resident rabbit, a water view and sounds of the ocean. I saw there were amenities.

I made a coffee then took my deck chair to sit on the small hill above my campsite. It was a nice view looking across a bay. The sand is very fine and white and the water clear. It seems very remote with no buildings or people in site. Then it was back to the van to make dinner. I had bought a scotch fillet steak at the St Helens IGA and it went with the brussels sprouts and boiled potatoes very well.

There was no phone reception. I was very aware of my reaction to this as part of my plan was to do a technology detox. I actually felt a but of panic and very isolated from everyone I care about. Was my daughter ok with our dogs? I kept checking my phone in case it got reception, but it didn’t. I made dinner then felt totally lost as what to do next. I am so used to whipping my phone out all time that it has become a bad habit.

Anyway, it forced me to write this then just lay in my van listening to the peaceful sound of the ocean. I’m sure that if I had phone reception I would not have appreciated a small thing like this as much, so perhaps my detox is doing some good.

Day 2

I didn’t sleep that well but never do the first night out of my own bed. The sound of the ocean helped me back to sleep each time. I had to sleep diagonally as I am too tall. I woke, had plans to do a hike but wanted to get moving, so headed back to St Helens.

My only breakfast requirement was a nice view and I found it at a spot on the hill on the opposite side of the bay to where I had camped. It seems boating is a big part of life around St Helens and I could see why. Then it was on to St Mary’s through a winding road high in the clouds as the light rain fell.

I came across an ad free radio station that played everything from Noiseworks to even older music. I was loving it. Music really does take you back and it took me back to a time before kids and responsibility. I came into St Mary’s and a beautiful tree lined street of all colours and a quaint pub.

Still no phone reception, so it was on to Bicheno through more rainforest, clouds and past sheep grazing in the countryside. The desire to do a baa out the window was strong.

As I drove into Bicheno a small private island resort stole my attention. There was no way in for commoners so I got more supplies,  checked out real estate prices in a shop window then headed to the beach past the library.

As I made a bacon and egg sandwich, two guys got ready to go spearfishing. They put up the dive flag and disappeared into the chilly water. I walked past a father and son rock fishing and was inspired by this place. It is like the granite belt and Girraween West of Brisbane, but by the sea. If there was a nirvana, I think I just found it. 

The bay was calm, yachts were anchored and not even moving and the water so clear. I found it breathtaking, even on a cold overcast day like today.  If that’s  how it looks on a bad day, then say no more. I rock hopped and followed the white painted  triangles which led the way to the famous Bicheno Blowhole.

Along the way I walked along a wharf where the water was so clear it was like looking into an aquarium. A hidden-away coffee shop overlooked the water and there is a small island across a narrow channel. I was tempted but kept walking to the Blowhole where a large rock stands adjacent. How did it even get there?

After Bicheno it was time for a wine stop then onto Coles Bay. I was tempted to stay overnight at the Friendly Beaches but went into town and spoke to the National Parks people about camping and hiking.  Their site was full so they pointed me to a free one right on Coles Bay called River and Rocks Campground. There’s a toilet block and lots of private sites with only the sounds of birds. A friendly wallaby greeted me.

Day 3

It was drizzling when I woke.  It was a nice sound on the van roof. I was tempted to stay in the van and eat all day but knew there was hoot waiting. I caffeinatd and had some yummy muesli clusters from the local IGA. Have I mentioned how much I love IGA’s. I like that they support the local community.

Then it was in to Freycinet National Park,  stopping to take photos of the top of the mountains obscured by cloud.  It looked impressive.  I purchased my pass, parked and set off. I had a plan to do an 11km round trip in around 4 hours. I wanted to save the best till last so travelled the opposite direction to most.

The hike was fairly kind with no steep bits and lots of magnificent views over Coles Bay. I used a lot of the time to go over my business plans in my head.  I find walking great thinking time and have found nature inspires me. After about an hour I came across a small secluded cove with crystal clear calm blue water lapping at the shore, white sand and coloured rocks.  I think I stood there for ages while it sunk in.

Time to move on and I soon came across a similar one but it had a wallaby grazing peacfully. I got my picture taken with him and then felt compelled to be a part of this magnificent vista so waded into the water and put my head under. I came up gasping.  I took another moment to absord what my eyes were seeing then set of again.

It was a long walk along Hazard Beach but I didn’t mind.  I saw a trail to Wineglass Bay but thought the walk I was doing was bigger so kept going.  The odd seagull bodysurfed in the small waves which looked fun.

I got to the end of the back and saw a sign I wasn’t expecting,  checked my map and thought oh well that must be it.  I had my doubts though and passed another couple and told them my plans and asked theirs just in case I needed them later.  I had 350ml of water for the hike I’d planned but this seemed much longer than expected.

I got to Cooks Beach but the next sign said it was still five hours to Wineglass Bay. Clearly I’d messed up so turned back.  I hate doing the same hike twice so ran all the why back to the missed turnoff. The sign said it’d take 2 hours but it took a lot less than that. From here the sign said it was thirty minutes to Winglass Bay and another 1.5 hours back to my car. 

I was pretty thirsty by now but treated myself to a sip occasionally. I hadn’t eaten even though I’d taken food.  I felt too excited to eat.  It’s a trait of my biotyoe which my partner finds amusing. I went straight past Wineglass Bay and to the lookout.  I had expected this to be the best part of the day but it was going to be hard to beat the seclusion and beauty of the earlier coves. 

It was crowded and this immediately detracted from my experience, but I did get some good photos and got to see just how far I’d walked. I snacked and left on very shaky legs. The walk back to the van was harder than it should’ve been but didn’t take long.

First item on the agenda was water and I got two glasses before I realised the battery was dead and the pump couldn’t work.  Oh well, off to the shop the buy it.  It costs more per litre than petrol I realised, and I got sparkling by mistake but there you go.  Special boiled potatoes in sparkling mineral water coming up.  Very hipster.

I had to drive to the lighthouse, and the view towards the entrance of Wineglass Bay was worth it.  It was only 1000km to the south island of New Zealand the sign said and I thought of the guy that died kayaking to get there.  That’s a lot of open water.

I wanted to stay at the campground next to the National Park but couldn’t so it was back to the same place as the night before.  It was free and I was hungry.

Day 4

An uneventful night except for a dream where John Jarratt was knocking on my van. I stayed awake for a while after that and was hungry so had some cereal. I was still catching up from the day before.

When I woke I saw it was another rainy day which was fine by me. I was a bit sore after yesterdays exercice so had no big plans for today other than one more good beach view then make my way back to Launceston.

I drove back to Bicheno. I think that was my favourite spot on this trip.  It was Anzac day and there was a big turnout at the local RSL. I cooked a lot of bacon and eggs and ate it at my new favorite beach just down from there. I chatted to some divers as they got ready. The water is never appealing on a cold day like today but with the right wetsuit you can be toasty warm.

I noticed there was a group of people out further with wetsuits and hoods and it looked like they were doing a group swim.   Kudos to them.  The bay was incrediby calm and the water still crystal clear so I could see the appeal.

The drive back to Launceston wasn’t inspiring in terms of scenery. It was mostly brown countryside punctuated by the odd vineyard. I couldn’t resist and stopped for a riesling for my partner.  It tasted very good with a hint of grape. I wish I could describe it better but was told it’s their flagship wine.

The only other highlight was Campbell Town. There were quaint historic stone buildings and trees of all colours lining the streets.  Then it was on to Launceston which seemed a bit of a let-down now. I did go to Cataract Gorge so that was nice. I found a Big4 campground and the $45 is a small price if only for a hot shower which will be amazing.

The campervan had cost around $100 per day with upgraded insurance. Watch for animal damage as it’s not covered generally. I avoided driving between dusk and dawn and had no problems. Food was mostly from IGA’s and a 24 hour park permit cost $24 for the van. It included staying at the Friendly Beaches but that was a bit further from Coles Bay. All accommodation was free apart from the last night.

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