Our final voyage into the unknown valleys, lush forests and dark waterways of Tasmania is about to begin. Strap yourself in for our final seven days of action and adventure as we pile ourselves into a six berth “Cruisin” motorhome and quite literally head for the hills.
To help create the scene picture the road trips of your youth. Fun weren’t they!
Now take away the Marlborough Light’s, 90’s mix tapes, stones ginger wine, single duffle of clothes and the feeling of complete freedom. Replace these with 3 kids, the Frozen soundtrack on repeat, tons of snacks and art projects to avert meltdowns, six large suitcases filled with ALL weather gear and the gnawing feeling that this holiday could swing either way.
Now I’ve set the mood, let the story begin.
Day One –
We picked up our Motorhome locally however; you could start your trip on the mainland and drive your vehicle onto the Spirit of Tasmania to continue your Australian travels.
Route – Cambridge, Richmond, Bothwell, Derwent Bridge, Queenstown, Strahan.
Rookie mistake – No Kwells (travel sickness pills) on board.
Approximate Distance – 340km (This long day of slow driving could be split in two by stopping at Lake St Claire overnight.)
Day one was huge! Once we all got over the excitement of driving a cubby house around and the kids realised they were going to be strapped in rather than roam free while we drove, it got real. We started with a wrong turn (Jamie’s fault) and headed north to Richmond rather that west toward New Norfolk. First happy mistake (thankyou Jamie) was pulling into the Richmond bakery for the first of many a food related pit stop. Richmond was certainly worth the visit with its beautifully restored stone buildings providing home to purveyors of local food, wine, whiskey, tourist treasures and baked goods. The home baked pies were some of the best I’ve had, as was the weighty smoked salmon sandwich I made light work of. Richmond is also the gateway to the Coal Valley, one of Tassie’s famed wine regions. You could easily spend a day cruising among the many cellar doors in the area if you had the extra time.
We pointed the cubby house towards Brighton, then north up the Midland Hwy through to Bothwell. While we chose not to side track, a visit to Nant Distillery would have been ideal from here. The distillery offers tasting, tours and a high end restaurant. With Tasmanian whisky being hard to get acquire since gaining its world class reputation, one shouldn’t pass up the opportunity to drop in on Tasmanian whisky royalty.
Having visited the Nant tasting bar in Hobart on numerous occasions we drove on through the highlands and past the Great Lakes. By this time the view from the cubby house window had changed. Gone were the sun dappled, green rolling pastures of Richmond with its chess board pieces of white sheep and black Angus cattle. In their place was hardy button grass, a species unique to the South West, which grows prolifically on the peat rich soils and stains the surrounding waterways dark brown. As we drove higher, the temperature dropped and the surrounds took on an even more desolate Wuthering Heights feeling as sleet fell on the muddy mores around us. Then only brave souls daring to inhabit this area are seasonal fishermen, who have built huts close to the freezing lakes.
Our next pit stop was truly wonderful. Near the Derwent Bridge talented sculptor Greg Duncan has opened a self-funded art project of such grand scale that it needs to be seen to be believed. Hand carved from wood Duncan has created a touching commemoration to the original pioneers of Tasmania. Named “The Wall” once complete his story will reach 100 metres long by 3 metres high and one metre deep. Jamie and I sipped on Sullivan’s Cove whisky, warmed ourselves by the huge fireplace and truly appreciated the enormity of what Duncan will achieve at this tiny outpost deep in the highlands. While chatting with us, Duncan shared plans to extend the property, building a café and gallery space making The Wall’s appeal as a tourist destination even stronger. To pass without stopping here would be at your great loss.
From here the next target was infamous Queenstown, home to ghosts of people, industries and the environment alike. The driving got tough as we wound our way up the mountain on dirt roads. The weather was miserable, the roads slender and with lots of tight turns the kids were starting a revolt in the back. Fair enough too! Every time we took a tight corner their cushions slipped out from under them sending them sliding in various directions. At first they were amused but after a while it just sucked! Our belongings started to escape and roll across the floor and the Kwells we talked about purchasing, but hadn’t, became our first official rookie mistake. They kids and I took on a sage green colour and it got fairly quiet. If only I could say arriving in Queenstown was worth the drive.
Unfortunately Queenstown’s reputation precedes it and the acid rain scarred mountains surrounding what was once a thriving mining town are shocking to say the least. After driving through typically lush, wet and robust Tasmanian landscapes for most of our drive, the barren, grey mountains surrounding Queenstown sit in stark contrast. I felt sad for the land, sad for Tasmania and for the few proud locals left behind trying to survive in the struggling town. Needless to say Queenstown was not our destination. We would not have made the trip through bar the fact it’s the only route to Strahan and the famous Gordon River Cruise we looked forward to joining tomorrow.
Another 38 kilometres of conservative driving down the mountain and we finally arrived in beautiful Strahan on the Macquarie Harbour. It was a sight for sore eyes and bums after a long day in the saddle. Despite our discomfort the drive had been fascinating with the ever changing Tasmanian wilderness as entertainment and the excitement of traveling like a snail with our house on our back keeping the kids in reasonable form.
We finished the day with a great steak dinner down on the waterfront before pulling into Strahan Holliday Village to park up overnight. The challenge of fitting ourselves into the various pull out bunks and beds of our motorhome provided some final humorous moments and marked the end of our first day on the road. Jamie, who stands six foot three, had to bunk up with 5 year old Charli. Lily and Finn top and tailed in the double bed over the drivers cabin and I got a lumpy plastic mattress to myself in the centre of the vehicle. Five star all the way for us.