There are two Alum Cliffs in Tasmania: one in the south and one in the north. I visited the latter, which is located near Mole Creek and Chudleigh on the way from Launceston to Cradle Mountain. Listed as one of Tasmania’s “60 Great Short Walks”, the walk to tulampanga (Alum Cliffs) was indeed short and great!
Located in a farming region, the views from between the trees, out over nearby pastures, are rather lovely. I caught a glimpse of the mountains in the distance at one point too. Look around you: A friend saw a falcon in the sky and I spied two gorgeous pink orchids in the bush. There are several interpretive signs to help you better understand the history and significance of the area.
After 20 minutes, including stops for photos, you’ll find yourself at a small staircase. This leads to the Alum Cliffs Lookout. The view that awaits is at once understated and spectacular. It’s a humble view, of the river below and the cliffs opposite, but it’s impressive because of the sharp angles of the Alum Cliffs, especially in contrast with the surrounding bush. Sit a while and enjoy the view.
What to Bring
It really is a short walk to the Alum Cliffs Lookout so you won’t need to bring much with you. That said, weather in Tassie is unpredictable and we have some critters (snakes, ants, spiders) that can make life unpleasant at times so bringing basic first aid supplies and wearing appropriate clothing is a must on any walk in Tasmania.
Take the Bass Highway north from Launceston (or south from Devonport), turning onto the B12. Head towards Mole Creek. Shortly after you have passed through the township of Chudleigh, turn right onto Mersey Hills Road. My husband thought that we were lost at this point as the road is narrow and winding. Don’t worry! You will eventually come across a well-signposted carpark on the right-hand side of the road as it takes a sharp bend. You can’t miss it.
Free, free, free! As this is a reserve, entry to the Alum Cliffs Track is completely free, that is, you don’t need a Parks Pass. Thank you, Parks and Wildlife Tasmania, for providing yet another well-made track, complete with interpretive signs.
While you’re in the area, make sure that you look at the truly gorgeous Mole Creek Caves. Staying a while? Read about my adventures in the surrounding north and north-west areas.
Launceston’s Cataract Gorge Reserve (“The Gorge” to locals) is a unique place. Carved out by the mangana lienta (South Esk River), the gorge is a stunning, dolerite landscape. The south side of the river is a dry forest and is accessible via the Zig Zag Track (for hikers). The north side resembles a rainforest and has a sealed path. The Gorge is a popular area for walking, picnics, swimming (in summer) and spending time with family and friends.
We parked at Kings Bridge and walked on the sealed path to the Cliff Grounds. This walk is very picturesque. You first encounter the bridge, an entryway and then a house that seems to cling to the cliff. Artists in residence live here. Along the pathway, there are many sights to see, including native flora, rapids and a hut made by two local gentlemen in the mid-1900s. It is a peaceful walk. You can also take a short cruise up the river.
As we entered the Cliff Grounds, we saw three wallabies. They are beautiful creatures and were very tame. Please do not feed them processed food as doing this can cause lumpy jaw. I highly recommend that you read Parks and Wildlife’s information on interacting with wild animals. It is just as satisfying to take a photograph from a distance. These wallabies were very good posers!
The Cliff Grounds were “beautified” by locals in the late 1800s. They built pathways and the gorgeous Victorian structures that are dotted about The Gorge, including the rotunda. This now contains information about the history of the Gorge and Cliff Grounds. Near the rotunda, you’ll find the path to the Gorge Scenic Chairlift. This boasts the longest span in the world! I’ll have to ride it next time I visit but ran out of time today.
There are several species of trees to admire, including approximately seventy native species. There are also seventy species of native birds to admire. Although they are introduced species, there is something wonderful about walking beneath towering maples, oaks and elms. There are also plenty of peacocks to entertain you (I grew up with peacocks so I’m not so fond of them!). I spotted three peacocks on the roof of the restaurant when we left the Cliff Grounds. The Gorge Restaurant is open daily from 9am and a kiosk is also open during the day.
From the Cliff Grounds, head downhill, following signs for The Basin Walk. This will lead you across a small footbridge (with no rails) from which you can admire the rapids, the First Basin and the suspension bridge. It’s a short walk from here to the Basin Cafe, above which is the other end of the chairlift. The Cafe has an excellent view. It is situated above an amenities block, which is designed to cater for summer swimmers.
In summer, you’ll find lovely clean water in the pool and life guards to boot. Locals also swim in the First Basin, but this is not recommended due to the submerged rocks and the depth. It is about 20 metres deep, although I have been told that the bottom hasn’t yet been located… I was brave enough to get in on a hot day some years ago, albeit with a pool noddle for safety!
From the Basin Cafe, walk towards the suspension bridge, along an unsealed path. Built in 1940, the Alexandra Suspension Bridge is very elegant and the views up and down river from it are stunning. Some people (including me!) will swing the bridge from side to side as they walk across it. If you don’t like heights, wait until you’re the only one around before crossing. A short distance from the bridge, climb the set of stairs leading up to a viewing platform. Again, the view is wonderful.
Cataract Gorge Reserve is about a 15 – 30 minute walk from Launceston’s CBD. Paid parking (or free street parking if you are prepared to walk a little further) is available just off Basin Road in West Launceston. Limited free parking is available near the Cliff Grounds (Trevallyn) and limited paid parking is available near Kings Bridge at Penny Royal Adventures or on the street.
It does not cost anything to explore Cataract Gorge Reserve or to swim in the pool (when it is open in summer). You can also use the public barbecues, picnic areas, amenities and playground equipment for free. We brought a picnic lunch with us. Alternatively, purchase lunch from the Basin Cafe or book a table in The Gorge Restaurant. Cataract Gorge Reserve is a very special place. Enjoy your visit!