Cradle Mountain

Cradle Mountain viewed from the Dove Lake walking circuit

Cradle Mountain viewed from the Dove Lake walking circuit

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.

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Mole Creek Caves

A column (when a stalactite and stalagmite meet) in Marakoopa Cave

A column (when a stalactite and stalagmite meet) in Marakoopa Cave

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.

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The Murals of Sheffield

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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.

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Cataract Gorge and Tamar Island

A black snake on Tamar Island

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.

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Bay of Fires

The spectacular view from the Bay of Fires beach

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.

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