This is my 50th post about a Tasmanian experience or place. I spent a long time contemplating where to go, what to do, but all these plans were laid to waste when, unexpectedly, a friend introduced me to his favourite place in Launceston.
The best thing about living in Tasmania is when you find gems: a person you’ve never met, food you’ve never tasted, a place you’ve never seen. This week, I visited Corra Linn for the first time. Although I’d heard plenty about it (as a favourite spot with locals for a summer swim), I had no idea how spectacular it would be.
The entry to Corra Linn is unobtrusive. Park in a gravel area to the side of the road. Climb over the roadside barrier. Find the part of the fence where the barbed wire is rolled over and climb over the fence. Mind the broken bottles and the cow pats. Now comes the best part: look up.
Corra Linn is a gorge on the North Esk River. Towering cliffs guard a waterhole, patches of sand, rapids and rock falls. My friend tells me that one of the rock falls had occurred very recently due to ice expanding inside the rock. The area would certainly be a geologist’s paradise! I’m sure that rock climbers enjoy it too. The gorge is a magnificent contrast to the surrounding paddocks.
In winter, Corra Linn is a beautiful spot to sit and contemplate. I’m told that it’s a great place for swimming in summer, however, take care as there are submerged and falling rocks. Ownership of Corra Linn has been unclear in the past and therefore the area is not well maintained. There are no safety barriers or signs and the gorge has not been developed. It is a wild place, worth the visit just for its natural beauty.
The gorge is about 15 minutes’ drive from Launceston or Evandale. Your navigation system may have alternate spelling (Corra Lynn). Note that Corra Linn Distillery is actually a good 15 minutes’ drive away so don’t use this as a reference point! Instead, search for 292 Blessington Road, St Leonards.
Entry to Corra Linn is free but at your own risk. Enjoy the beauty of wild Tasmania!
Staying in the area for a while? Read more about my adventures in Tasmania’s north and midlands.
After visiting Cataract Gorge last week and seeing the Lady Launceston cruising between the towering rock formations, I knew what I wanted to do this week! Fifty-minute Cataract Gorge Cruises depart Home Point several times each day and I highly recommend doing a cruise if you haven’t already. You’ll visit a small portion of kanamaluka (Tamar River), North Esk River and mangana lienta (South Esk River).
Your first sight is the picturesque Seaport. Did you know that the marina at Seaport was built for the Sydney Olympics in 2000 and was originally located in Rushcutter’s Bay before retiring to Launceston? I didn’t! The yachts make for some great photos; our captain was also full of information about the surrounding buildings.
As a local, I was thrilled to be able to see up close the new hotel being built inside the old grain silos. This imposing structure has been part of Launceston’s cityscape from 1960 and stands at 35 metres high. Hobart refurbished their grain silos some 15 year ago and I have been hanging out for someone in Launceston to do the same. Our captain says that the hotel will be ready for visitors in 18 months. Start saving for a trip to Launceston!
Near the silos, Kings Wharf is an intriguing place. What at first appears to be a depository of utterly unloved ships and vehicles is in fact rich in history. The rusted shell of the Ponrabbel II, which dredged the Tamar River for about 40 years, is berthed here. The shiplift has had some rather famous boats built or repaired on it, including some of Victoria’s ferries.
After Kings Wharf, it’s time for the best part of your Cataract Gorge Cruises journey: sailing through The Gorge! On your way, you’ll have stunning views of Trevallyn’s stately Georgian and Victorian homes. You’ll also sail past local vessels as well as local landmarks: Royal Park, Ritchie’s Mill and the Penny Royal Complex with its distinctive blue stone quarry. Finally, you’ll sail underneath the West Tamar Highway and Kings Bridge. From here, you see the two bridges that form Kings Bridge more distinctly, as well as catching glimpses of the gatekeeper’s cottage (now leased to artists and musicians).
Sailing up the South Esk River was stunning. Above us, the rock formations towered. An abseiler descended one of the many registered routes. Metal spikes projected from the rock, showing the path of the wooden aqueduct that used to carry Launceston’s water supply. Beside us, lines of foam ringed the rocks, signalling a recent rush of water. The Gorge floods regularly; the 2016 floods in Northern Tasmania were particularly momentous. You’ll also learn about the history of The Gorge, including the one penny fare that visitors paid to the family who gentrified the area (so that they could recoup some of the cost). The area is also very significant for Tasmanian Aborigines as a source of food, culture and spirituality.
Cataract Gorge Cruises depart from Home Point, which is at the western end of Launceston’s Seaport. Paid parking is available at the Seaport or at Royal Park. Alternatively, walk approximately 15-minutes from the CBD. In winter, cruises depart at 11:30am, 12:30pm and 1:30pm. In the other three seasons, cruises operate on the hour from 9:30am, with the last cruise departing at 4:30pm.
At $29 per adult, this cruise was a good deal! You’ll pay $12 per child, $25 per concession and $70 per family. In summer, I recommend booking in advance with Cataract Gorge Cruises if you have a preferred departure time. The rivers are generally very calm (except when in flood, in which case you won’t be out there!) but you are exposed to the elements. Wear warm clothes and make sure that you have sun protection (sunscreen and hats are available for purchase from the booking office). I enjoyed learning a little bit more about Launceston’s history and seeing a different view of Launceston’s riverside sights.
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!
Last week, I visited the lovely Mersey Bluff Reserve. Dubbed “The Bluff” by locals, it has a rugged beauty, excellent facilities and is a significant location in punnilerpunner country. In summer, Mersey Bluff Reserve is crowded with swimmers, diners, children playing on the playground and people walking or running by. In winter, I arrived to find a man wheeling a car tyre past the playground and saw approximately fifteen people across the entire reserve. Everyone who stayed away because of the rain missed out though.
When you arrive at Mersey Bluff Reserve, you’ll see a giant playground, a beach, and a fascinating building, which houses the amenities and eateries. I recommend having a bite to eat here as the view is superb. Walk north along the beach and you’ll see a cement track. This leads you around The Bluff. It is a short but stunning walk. On a sunny day, at the right time, you’ll even see The Julie Burgess about (this is how I first learnt that she existed!) or The Spirit of Tasmania sail past.
One of my friends recently told me that she loves to go to the beach in winter. Now I understand why! I have never seen the water so wild before. Waves pushed up to the cement barrier on the beach. They pounded the cliffs and surged through the rocks. I stood at one lookout and watched the water pour in and out of a crevice for about five minutes. It was amazing!
I followed a father and his two sons around the track. One of the boys asked his father to read him a plaque. His father read out a poignant statement about a man who died in 1929 trying to save a little girl. Near the lighthouse, there is another plaque about a man who died more recently, again, trying to save someone else. For the sake of others, please swim only at the beach and not near the cliffs.
The lighthouse is testament to the perils of The Bluff and of Bass Strait. It is a rather gorgeous red and white striped lighthouse, perched on the cliffs overlooking Bass Strait. You first see it from a lookout just off the walkway. You cannot climb the lighthouse but admiring it from the outside is good enough.
As you walk back down the hill, you’ll see two things: a caravan park and Tiagarra. This is no accident, as a sign at Tiagarra, an Aboriginal Cultural Centre, points out: “Wherever there is a caravanpark or campsite on the ocean or rivers it is likely to be built on an Aboriginal living site, as they are in the best positions to stay in the seasons”. Tiagarra means “to keep” and is one of the oldest Aboriginal Keeping Places in Australia. Take time to read the poetry printed on the windows and to look for petroglyphs (carvings) on the rocks near the lighthouse. Tiagarra is open by appointment for groups of ten or more.
Devonport is about one hour’s drive north of Launceston on the Bass Highway and about half an hour east of Burnie. When you arrive in Devonport, head to the city centre. From here, follow Victoria Parade. This then turns into Bluff Road. There is plenty of car parking at The Bluff. If you’re keen on exercise, there is a cycling and walking track that runs alongside the river from the city to The Bluff. It is rather picturesque!
There is no cost to visit Mersey Bluff Reserve or to walk around the base of the lighthouse. If you make an appointment to visit Tiagarra (with a group of ten or more), you can purchase craft and artworks. Alternatively, buy some food at one of The Bluff restaurants or have a picnic at one of the picnic tables. I’ve always enjoyed visiting The Bluff and, as my winter visit proved, the loop walk around the coast is worth doing at any time of year.
When I was a child visiting Bicheno, one of the most special things we did was walk out to Diamond Island. This was a real treat because walking over a sandbar is fun and because, back then, even when the tide was low you tended to get wet. After a recent storm, the sandbar is now much bigger (or at least, it seems so to me!). I was a little bit worried that we wouldn’t make it to the island as low tide occurred at 5am. We arrived at Red Bill Beach at about 8:30am and found a wide, dry strip of sand to walk on. What a treat!
Diamond Island is a very special place because you can walk out to it. Also, it is basically a giant Little Penguin rookery. You can find the rare, small Swift Parrot here (we saw a pair!). The island has the fiery lichen-covered rocks that are unique to the East Coast and it has large, beautiful rock pools. You might even see a pair of pelicans like we did. As you can see, it would be shorter to make a list of reasons NOT to visit Diamond Island.
One reason not to visit Diamond Island is if you don’t think that you can make it back across. You do NOT want to be stuck on the island for 12 hours. It will get dark and cold and the penguins would rather be left alone. Another reason not to visit Diamond Island is if you have your dog with you. They are not allowed in the reserve.
As the island is a penguin rookery, there are no paths (except those made by the penguins). Do not step on the greenery! You don’t want to be responsible for a penguin home invasion. To be sure that you’re not treading somewhere that you shouldn’t, stay on the rocks. Traversing the island will take a little bit of thinking and leaping this way. It’s quite fun!
For information on Bicheno and how to get there, read this post. Once you’re in Bicheno, walk or drive to Red Bill beach, the surf beach near Diamond Island. It’s about a ten-minute walk (at a reasonable pace) from the car park and along the beach to Diamond Island. When planning your visit, check the tide times and make sure that you leave plenty of time to get back off the island on the same tide.
Unless you are fined for walking on the penguin rookery, there is no cost to visit Diamond Island. Remember to stay on the rocks and take any rubbish with you. The views of and from Diamond Island are beautiful. Take your camera and a sense of adventure and you’ll have a great time.
Read more of my adventures on Tasmania’s East Coast here.
While camping on Bruny Island, which you can read about here, we went for a bushwalk. Our destination was Cape Queen Elizabeth and I wasn’t sure what to expect. By chance, we timed our walk at low tide which turned out to be a very good thing!
The walk to Cape Queen Elizabeth begins with a car park and a 4WD track. Although it’s not the most scenic part of the walk, do take the time to admire the flora. It’s beautiful! The 4WD track takes you past the aptly named Big Lagoon which is, well, big! It’s also visible from the tip of Cape Queen Elizabeth so be sure to look out for it. After big lagoon, you’ll continue down the track for a few hundred metres before having a choice to make: beach or bluff? You can only make it across the beach during low tide. We had a quick look at this website to see if it was low tide in Adventure Bay and fortunately it was! We took the walk along the beach.
If you can’t quite manage the whole 3 – 4 hour walk to the point of Cape Queen Elizabeth, a good second would be to at least make it to Mars Bluff via Neck Beach at low tide. The rock formations are exceptionally beautiful from the beach! You’ll also have views of Cape Queen Elizabeth from the beach, framed by towering cliffs. Round the first cliff and you’ll find a crevice to explore. This takes you through to another beach. There are caves to explore here, including one that is uniquely rectangular! The water reaches into these caves at high tide so please make sure that you’re well out of the way by then. Rock formations can collapse at any time and you do explore these areas at your own risk.
Another highlight of Mars Bluff, which you’ll find around the next cliff, is the arch. I walked past it without even noticing it at first as it is so huge! It is an imposing natural structure. My husband climbed on top of it. I was content just to walk through it and photograph it! Make sure that you time your walk to coincide with low tide as the arch is unique and worth making the extra effort to see.
From the arch, walk to Miles Beach. I didn’t know this at the time, but there is a fisherman’s shack to be seen in the dunes at the eastern end of the beach. While at the eastern end of Miles Beach, take note of the location of a white pole. This is where you’ll need to go if the tide is too high for you to return via the shore. When we walked across it, Miles Beach was littered with crab shells and the sand had been shaped into intriguing patterns by the wind and waves. At the end of Miles Beach, there is another white pole, signalling the start of the walking track to Cape Queen Elizabeth.
The walking track again leads you through native flora. This time, you’ll see stunning white gums, stands of tea-tree and a mutton bird (short-tailed shearwater) rookery. Make sure that you stay on the track and take your rubbish with you to protect the birds. When you reach a fork in the path, take the left turn (an arrow made from rocks is on the ground to guide you). This takes you up to the tip of Cape Queen Elizabeth.
There are two main vantage points. The lower one affords stunning views of Adventure Bay and Fluted Cape. The higher vantage point gives you views of the rest of Cape Queen Elizabeth, down into a crevasse (take care), and on to the shadowy forms of what must be the Tasman Peninsula!
What to Bring
As it’s a 3 – 4 Hour walk, you will need to carry at least a litre of water per person, food, sunscreen, a hat, a basic first-aid kit and good walking shoes. From experience, I recommend wearing thick socks and/or bandaging your feet to prevent blisters with newer shoes. I also recommend wearing layers for warmth and taking waterproof gear if rain is forecast. Finally, remember your camera to take some amazing photos! It’s also handy to have your phone with you. I used mine to check tide times and a map of the track on the go.
For directions to Bruny Island, see my instructions at the bottom of my general post about Bruny Island here. Once you’re on Bruny, head south towards The Neck (follow signs from the ferry for Alonnah and Adventure Bay). Before you reach The Neck, you’ll see Bruny Island Honey on the right. Directly opposite this is the car park for the Cape Queen Elizabeth Walking Track. You know you’ve gone too far if you pass the airstrip.
There is no cost to walk the Cape Queen Elizabeth Walking Track. Make sure that you take care of the track by taking any rubbish that you see out with you.
To read more of my posts about Bruny Island, click here. For posts about southern Tasmania, click here.