From Bluff I traveled up to Te Anau and battled the crowds. I did some short sections of the the Kepler (Brod Bay to Dock Bay) and Routeburn (Key Summit Alpine) Tracks and checked out Milford Sound. The area is one of the most popular areas in the country and for good reason – the snowcapped mountains, reflective tarns, and diverse flora make for some of the most beautiful landscapes in the world. One day I’d like to go back and do an entire Great Walk on one of the tracks.
For 4th of July weekend this year I took a road trip to San Antonio and Austin. The weather was incredible and I had a lot of fun driving through the Texan farmland. I went to San Antonio first and visited the Alamo and other missions, all of which encompass a UNESCO world heritage site. The architecture is incredible and entrance is free to all the sites.
In addition to the Missions, San Antonio has amazing Mexican food and crafts centers. It was definitely worth the detour on my way to Austin to spend an afternoon there.
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.
After Sheffield I drove down to Mole Creek, which is home to a massive karst cave network. Marakoopa and King Solomon’s caves can be toured over a couple of hours and the experience is unreal. The pictures barely begin to do it justice. Marakoopa is a much larger cave and has what’s called “The Cathedral”, a gigantic cavern with gorgeous formations. King Solomon’s Cave is smaller but has more intricate and colorful formations, and the tour focused a bit more on the history of the caves. The cave is named after the historical King Solomon and his collection of treasures.