The west coast of Tasmania is all winding mountain roads, forest shrouded in mist and hidden lakes. It’s a stark contrast to the idyllic beaches of the east coast, and just as beautiful in it’s own way. Remember that the drive can be quite slow going, especially if you’re not used to roads like that, so take it easy and enjoy the views.
The first stop for most people leaving Hobart is Bruny Island, either by driving yourself or by taking a tour from the city. Unfortunately we didn’t do either thanks to a shortage of time and money, but it looks beautiful. The most recommended was Bruny Island Cruises, take a tour from the island for $120-135 or a full day tour from Hobart for $225.
Another side trip that we didn’t have time for was Gordon Dam, a beautiful two hour drive off the main highway. Instead we drove north to Lake Saint Clair, Australia’s deepest lake, to take a sneaky peak at the luxurious Pumphouse Point, a small hotel converted from an old Pumphouse floating 250m from the shore with a larger Shorehouse for those with a slightly smaller budget.
After another hour or so of winding mountain roads we soon crossed the narrowest point of Lake Burbury, a man made water reservoir, before leaving the forest covered hills and entering mining territory. Iron Blow Lookout takes you high above the earliest major mining venture on the west coast of Tasmania, out of use now but still impressive nonetheless.
Free camping in this part of Tasmania can be tricky because we found that a few of the sites listed on WikiCamps no longer existed or were not suitable. We ended up camping at Lake Mackintosh “Campground” which was basically a gravel carpark near the dam. Great for campervans, not for tents, but there are some rocks to hold your guide ropes down.
Queenstown is a small mining town nestled in the mountains with an old American West feel to it. It’s a great place to spend the night, or if you’re just passing through then stop for a schooner of beer at the old Empire Hotel. From there it’s a stunning drive to the little coastal town of Strahan where you can enjoy a stroll along the water or a ride on an old steam train. Drive up to Zeehan and back to the highway to complete the scenic loop.
The next morning was our one chance to see Cradle Mountain. We got up early, packed the tent down and kept our fingers crossed that the rain would stop by the time we got there. Instead, it got ten times worse and we couldn’t even see the base of the mountain 10ft in front of us, let alone the top of it. I’d recommend giving yourself extra time up here in case the same happens to you.
To make up for the complete lack of activities so far, and to have a break from driving, we drove east to Mole Creek Caves to see glow worms deep underground. There are two different caves to explore. Marakoopa Cave with it’s beautiful decoration, reflective pools, an underground river and glow worms, or King Solomons Cave, a compact and colourful cave with calcite decorations that sparkle like diamonds. Tours cost $19 ($9.50 concession) per cave and last for 45 minutes. We did the Marakoopa Cave and it did not disappoint! But I really freaking love caves.
From Mole Creek Caves it’s a pleasant drive through wine country towards Launceston (pronounced Lawn-ses-ton for some stupid reason) via the strange Swiss style town of Grindlewald. If we had more time I would have loved to spend most of it drinking my body weight in wine at one of the wineries but alas, we were in a rush and drink driving is frowned upon.
Highlights of the trip:
- Literally the whole drive
- Iron Blow Lookout
- Marakoopa Cave
Read about the East Coast of Tasmania here, and Hobart here.
You can view the full album here.