A large mural in the town of Sheffield, Tasmania
After Launceston I took a roundabout drive through the mountains and stopped by a few waterfalls on the way to Sheffield. The small town is known for its murals that illustrate the history of Tasmania, as well as an annual mural competition.
Common themes are aboriginal history and relations with European settlers, Tasmanian wildlife, and historical figures from the region. The visitor’s office has maps to assist in touring the town, and it’s well worth an hour or two to stroll around.
A black snake on Tamar Island
I got to Launceston in time for Festivale, where I got to sample local wines and watch some great street performers and musical acts. I hadn’t heard of the event in advance, so it was a nice surprise and a welcome break from the hiking and sightseeing I’d been doing.
Upon leaving Tasmania’s second largest city I stopped by two local natural wonders – the Cataract Gorge and Tamar Island. Like everywhere else in Tasmania, the sights are well set up for visitors with clear and safe walking tracks loaded with wildlife. There is also a lot of historical elements to these sights and you can learn about the lives of early Tasmanian settlers.
The spectacular view from the Bay of Fires beach
Following my day on the Tasman Peninsula I made a stop at Triabunna, hoping to make it to Maria Island. I didn’t realize I was meant to book the ferry to the island in advance, so I wasn’t able to go. However, I did meet some hilarious and hospitable fisherman in the tiny town and I spent a day playing pool and hanging out on their fishing boat. It’s cliche, but that’s the best thing about travel… you never know who you’ll meet or where the road will take you.
After spending some time in Triabunna, I made my way further north to the Bay of Fires, which is consistently ranked among the best beaches in the world. It’s a quiet place with free camping spots and nearly endless walking opportunities. There are fairy penguins and wallabies and loads of other creatures to see, in addition to the striking red rocks along the beach. Contrary to common assumption, the bay is not actually named for these red rocks but for the fires that the European settlers saw the aboriginals making along the coastline.
A view of Wineglass Bay from the lookout on Tasman Peninsula
After finished up my teaching contract in Darwin I headed to Tasmania for a 17 day road trip. It was an absolutely stunning state and I met the kindest people, ate the most delicious local food (oysters, cheese, beer and wine, chocolate, salmon, beef…), and saw an abundance of animals. There are dozens of short hiking trails which I used as the foundation to plan my trip. I flew into Hobart and essentially made a big counter-clockwise circle, making my first major stop the Tasman Peninsula.
Most famous for Port Arthur (which I didn’t have time to see), the peninsula is also home to amazing cliffscapes and the postcard-worthy Wineglass Bay.
The view from above of Florence Falls – complete with rainbow – in Litchfield National Park
The final stop on my 10-day tour of the Top End a few weeks ago was Litchfield National Park, a popular weekend getaway for Darwin residents and home to loads of glorious waterfalls and swimming holes. Of course I took advantage of as many walking tracks as I could, one of which winds for about 5km along Florence Creek in relative peace and quiet.
Another highlight of Litchfield is seeing the incredible magnetic terminte mounds. These termites use the magnetic forces of the earth to orient their cathedrals to optimize exposure to the sun. And, of course, the above ground portions of the nests are a gigantic 2+ meters high.
At the end of this tour I settled in Darwin to begin a job for five months – I need to recoup a lot of the money I’ve spent in Australia! It certainly isn’t as cheap here as it was in Asia and South America, and I don’t even want to share how much I’ve been spending. So my blog may be quiet for the coming months, but I’ve got a big trip to WA planned in December and I’ll be sure get my camera ready.
The natural infinity pool of Gunlom Falls in Kakadu Natioanl Park
After our Mary River cruise we finally made it to Kakadu National Park, a sprawling 20,000 square km area (that’s half the size of Switzerland!) whose geological history extends millions of years and human history of over 40,000 years. Of course you can spend months exploring the park and not see everything, but the tour I was on just hit two highlights: the rock art of Ubirr and the swimming holes at Gunlom Falls. Both were extraordinary and I hope to make it back to Kakadu during my months working in Darwin. During the wet season the waterfalls are even more stunning and the wildlife is even more abundant.
The view from Baruwei Lookout, part of a 5k bushwalking trail at Katherine Gorge
Driving up from Alice Springs, the red rocks and sand suddenly turn into more familiar greenery and the air stops feeling so terribly dry. It’s just past this point where you will find the bustling town of Katherine (pop. 10,000) and the beautiful Katherine Gorge – known to aboriginals as Nitmiluk. Our group was able to do the 5k Baruwei loop walk which passes through a magnificent lookout over the gorge. As usual there is loads of interesting plant and wildlife, including wild cockatoos and tons of flying foxes.