Ross Bridge at sunset
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.
The view of the Organ Pipes on Mt. Wellington near Hobart, Tasmania
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.
A view from the shore of Lake St. Clair in Tasmania
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 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.
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.
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.