The very last stop on my ten month trip through Australia was, finally, Sydney and the surrounding area. I met up with an old travel friend and he insisted we go on the Coast Walk in Royal National Park, which is just south of Sydney. We didn’t have time (or energy, frankly) to do the entire 26k trek, but we did about a third of it. There are gorgeous cliffs, a huge variety of plant and animal life, and swimming holes along the way.
I took a pretty big detour to head up to Ross, which is nearly in the middle of Tasmania. I had seen pictures of the famous convict-built bridge and wanted to see it. I definitely wasn’t disappointed. The tiny town (pop. 272) feels completely different from anywhere else I’d been in Tassie and there is loads of history to see. I stayed at the Man O’Ross hotel, which was built in 1825, and it definitely added to the atmosphere.
The bridge is certainly a highlight of the town. It was built in 1836 with excellent craftsmanship and intricate carvings. There are also lovely churches and bakeries.
On my way back to Hobart I stopped at Oatlands, which is home to the Callington Mill. Built in 1837, the mill is still operational today and is the only tower mill of its kind in the southern hemisphere.
Just a short drive from Hobart’s CBD is Mt. Wellington, which, like most of Tasmania, is filled with short walking tracks. I did the 3 hour Organ Pipes loop, which is fairly steep and rocky but worth the trek for the views of Hobart and the surroundings. Despite being so close to the city, the area was mostly empty on a Tuesday afternoon save for a French family and a British couple.
The walk is filled with beautiful flowers and sneaky skinks. I also saw a pretty cool black and red spider and some interesting birds. The actual Organ Pipes, which are columns of dolerite, are magnificent, though you need rock climbing gear to get really close to them.
Following my experiences at Cradle Mountain I was excited to take in more of the national parks of Tasmania. Luckily, Lake St. Clair and Mt. Field are just south of the mountain and the drive is puntuated by the lovely mining towns of Rosebery, Zeehan, Strahan and Queenstown.
Lake St. Clair is Australia’s deepest lake and Mt. Field National Park is the oldest national park in Tassie. Both parks have several walking trails – as do most in Tasmania – and of course there are loads of waterfalls and species of wildlife to take in.
Cradle Mountain and the surrounding national park is widely considered the crown jewel of Tasmania, and for good reason. There’s absolutely gorgeous scenery, easily accessible wildlife, and walking trails for all levels of fitness.
I spent two days at the park and did two major walking tracks: the circuit around Dove Lake and a more strenuous trek up to Marion’s Lookout. There was an option to climb to the summit of Cradle Mountain, but I was running out of time (and energy).
I saw a wombat in the wild for the first time, and the charming creature became my favorite Australian animal. He was entirely oblivious to the people around him and was just interested in scratching his butt. That’s a life philosophy I can get behind. I also saw an echidna and some Tasmanian devils at a sanctuary close to the entrance of the park.