Cataract Gorge Reserve

Traversing Cataract Gorge Reserve
Cataract Gorge Reserve
Cataract Gorge Reserve © emily@traversingtasmania 2017

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.

Walkway
Walkway © emily@traversingtasmania 2017

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.

Wallabies
Wallabies © emily@traversingtasmania 2017

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!

Cliff Grounds
Cliff Grounds © emily@traversingtasmania 2017

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.

Peacock
Peacock © emily@traversingtasmania 2017

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.

Bridge
Bridge © emily@traversingtasmania 2017

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.

First Basin
First Basin © emily@traversingtasmania 2017

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!

Alexandra Suspension Bridge
Alexandra Suspension Bridge © emily@traversingtasmania 2017

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.

Getting There

Cataract Gorge Reserve
Cataract Gorge Reserve © emily@traversingtasmania 2017

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.

Cost

Cataract Gorge Cruises
Cataract Gorge Cruises © emily@traversingtasmania 2017

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!

Want more ideas about what else to do nearby? Read about my experience Cataract Gorge Cruises and my adventures in Tassie’s north and midlands.

Mersey Bluff Reserve

Traversing Mersey Bluff Reserve
Mersey Bluff Reserve
Mersey Bluff Reserve © emily@traversingtasmania 2017

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.

Walkway
Walkway © emily@traversingtasmania 2017

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.

View of Bass Strait
View of Bass Strait © emily@traversingtasmania 2017

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!

Memorial
Memorial © emily@traversingtasmania 2017

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.

Lighthouse
Lighthouse © emily@traversingtasmania 2017

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.

Tiagarra
Tiagarra © emily@traversingtasmania 2017

Getting There

Lighthouse
Lighthouse © emily@traversingtasmania 2017

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!

Cost

Mersey Bluff Reserve
Mersey Bluff Reserve © emily@traversingtasmania 2017

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.

Staying in Devonport? Read about my visits to Home Hill, Bass Strait Maritime Centre or The Julie Burgess. Passing through? Read about my adventures in Tasmania’s nearby north west or north.

Spirit of Tasmania

Traversing Spirit of Tasmania I
Spirit of Tasmania
Spirit of Tasmania © emily@traversingtasmania 2017

The easiest way to travel to Tasmania is via aeroplane. On a clear day, you’ll see stunning aerial views of the state and of the stretch of water separating it from mainland Australia. This bird’s-eye-view of Bass Strait gives you no idea of its breadth . It is not. To fully experience Bass Strait, take a ride on the Spirit of Tasmania.

Port Melbourne
Port Melbourne © emily@traversingtasmania 2017

The two Spirit of Tasmania vessels sail between Port Melbourne and Devonport. They ferry people, pets, vehicles and freight containers. In winter, there are generally sailings every day except Sunday. In summer, day sailings are also available. Both Spirit of Tasmania I and II have restaurants, bars, a reading room, a tourism hub, a playground, a cinema, and so on.

Spirit of Tasmania
Spirit of Tasmania © emily@traversingtasmania 2017

I like the night sailings and my first priority is to be out on deck while the sun is still up. There are many ways to get to the outside decks and I recommend choosing one that isn’t too crowded and faces the sunset. After this, head to Tasmanian Market Kitchen for a meal (dietary requirements are catered for).  On Deck 9, you’ll find live music from a talented Tasmanian act. I’m not one for a late night when I know that I’ll be woken up very early so I tend to head to bed after half a set.

Melbourne
Melbourne © emily@traversingtasmania 2017

You have a choice about how you will spend your night on the Spirit of Tasmania. You can either sleep in a recliner or a cabin. My husband tells me that the recliners are awful but they are much cheaper and other people swear by them. I like space, my own bathroom and lying flat to sleep so it’s an inside cabin for me. For a slightly higher price, you can book a cabin with a porthole (not worth it on a winter night sailing though!). When you get out into Bass Strait, there are waves, very large waves. If you suffer from motion sickness, make sure that you take your medication! Let yourself be rocked to sleep.

Getting There

Devonport is about an hour’s drive north of Launceston on the Bass Highway. From Hobart, it will take you about three and a half hours (four hours including a stop) to get to the ferry terminal. Once your reach the outskirts of Devonport, follow blue signs for the ferry. The ship begins loading passengers two and a half hours prior to departure (boarding closes 45 minutes before the ship leaves). In Devonport, I recommend enjoying the view from the other side of the Mersey River and taking a bit of time before boarding.

Western Gate Bridge
Western Gate Bridge © emily@traversingtasmania 2017

The easiest way to reach the ferry terminal in Melbourne is via the toll roads. You can pay for the toll in advance here. If you are averse to paying tolls, make sure that you leave plenty of time to find your way. I try to arrive at Port Melbourne at least two hours before boarding commences. Parking nearby is limited but you can generally find a two-hour spot and walk along the shore for a while before boarding.

What to Bring

Tasmanian Market Kitchen
TMK © emily@traversingtasmania 2017

You cannot access the vehicle decks after the ship’s departure. Pack an overnight bag with warm clothes (for out on the deck), toiletries, snacks and medication. Food is available for purchase on board the ship. Due to Tasmania’s strict quarantine regulations, you cannot bring fresh fruit and vegetables, plants or meat/fish with you.

Cost

Lounge Area
Lounge Area © emily@traversingtasmania 2017

Prices vary according to seasons. There are two methods for booking. Method One: book well in advance so that you get the sailings that you want. Method Two: wait for a last-minute special (but risk missing out on a sailing altogether). Either way, I recommend signing up for the Spirit of Tasmania mailing list so that you’re aware of upcoming specials. If you are taking a ute or 4WD, make sure that you account for the height of your load when booking your tickets.

Enjoy your journey to Tasmania! While you’re in Devonport, why not visit Home Hill (a prime-ministerial home) or sail on The Julie Burgess? If you just need a good feed, go to Tasmanian Food and Wine Conservatory or Christmas Hills Raspberry Farm. For more ideas for your Tassie adventures, read my posts about what to do in Tassie’s north, north westsouth, west coast, east coast and midlands.

Corinna

Traversing Corinna
Corinna
Corinna © emily@traversingtasmania 2017

Who wouldn’t want to stay the night in a ghost town? How about one on the edge of the takayna/Tarkine? What if you could then spend the day traversing ancient rivers, forests and mountains and the evening snuggled up next to a gas heater in a pioneer-style hut? Welcome to Corinna, an ex-mining town on the north bank of the Pieman River on Tasmania’s wild West Coast.

Tarkine Hotel
Tarkine Hotel © emily@traversingtasmania 2017

Corinna is the Tasmanian Aboriginal name for the Pieman River. The town was established during the gold rush of the late 1800s. Here, 2500 people lived and a 7.5kg gold nugget was discovered. This is still the largest gold nugget found in Tasmania. The town had a substantial two-storey pub, which was later dismantled and moved to the south side of the river before being moved to Zeehan and, unfortunately, burnt down. The area was also logged and the wood taken back to England for use as banisters, masts, and so on. Prior to this, the Tarkiner people (hence the name Tarkine) lived here. There are still giant middens on the coast: remnants of their lives and sacred sites.

Pademelon
Pademelon © emily@traversingtasmania 2017

All of the huts at Corinna (some original and some recently constructed) bear the name of a person associated with the town’s history. We stayed in Louise Lovely, named after the lady who produced and starred in the film Jewelled Nights shot partially on Tasmania’s West Coast. The town now has no permanent residents, except for a Tasmanian Devil (in the car park) and a large number of friendly pademelons.

Short Walks
Short Walks © emily@traversingtasmania 2017

There are plenty of things to do at Corinna. You could easily spend three full days here. I recommend planning your trip around a cruise on the Arcadia II (a longer cruise to the Pieman Heads, which you can read about here) and the Sweetwater (an hour-long cruise to the wreck of the Croydon and to Lovers Falls, which you can read about here). You could do this during a day if you can manage to book a spot on both cruises. Your other two days could be spent walking, or even kayaking. It is possible to walk from Corinna to the summit of Mount Donaldson (yes, we did that too!) or you can take a series of shorter walks around Corinna. Kayaks are available for hire from the Tarkine Hotel.

What to Bring

Kayaks at the Savage River
Kayaks at the Savage River © emily@traversingtasmania 2017

There is untreated rainwater available at Corinna. You will also find complimentary bottled water in your fridge. I wish that I had brought my 20L drum of water with me though as the rain water tastes quite thick (that’s my best description!), even after you’ve boiled it for the required three minutes to treat it. I also wish that I had brought some insect repellent and eucalyptus spray (my preferred insect spray) as we were kept awake by mosquitoes on the second night. Even writing this is making me feel itchy!!

Replica Huts
Replica Huts © emily@traversingtasmania 2017

You should also bring food. The Tarkine Hotel serves lunch and dinner (not in winter) but you do pay middle-of-nowhere prices. They can cater for dietary requirements if you book in advance. There are a few (mainly tinned) food supplies available at the “General Store” part of the Tarkine Hotel. However, you will need to provide breakfast and snacks for yourself. I’d also recommend bringing some food for bushwalking. We cooked a meal – a pasta dish – on the four-burner cook-top in our hut and enjoyed staying in to a homely meal. There are ample pans and utensils provided.

Last of all, bring warmth and a good book. You’ll have no mobile reception, so snuggle up in your slippers and travel rug and read. There are some coffee-table books on the takayna/Tarkine and Tasmania supplied. When you’re outdoors, having good shoes, waterproof clothing and appropriate layers is a must. Remember sun protection in summer and don’t forget your camera. The wilderness is breathtaking!

Getting There

Fatman Barge
Fatman Barge © emily@traversingtasmania 2017

You can reach Corinna from several directions. Drive south from the North-West tip of Tasmania, following the unsealed Western Explorer. Alternatively, travel north from Zeehan, crossing the Pieman River via the Fatman Barge ($25 per voyage). This is an excellent way to travel as the barge is cable-driven, the only one of its kind in Tasmanian. Take note of operating hours though: 9am – 5pm during non-daylight savings hours, with hours extended to 7pm during summer.  Lastly, you could drive south from Burnie, via Waratah. This is a sealed road until you reach Savage River. From here, it’s 21kms of unsealed roads until you reach Corinna. Make sure that you fill up with petrol before you make the journey as there is no fuel available in Corinna.

Cost

Accommodation
Accommodation © emily@traversingtasmania 2017

Accommodation in one of the recently constructed pioneer-style huts costs $220 per couple per night night. There are bigger huts available and also cheaper options: groups can stay in the original pub and couples can stay in the original Roadman’s Cottage. If you’re really pinching pennies (and it’s not too cold or wet), you can even camp at Corinna. Whatever option you choose, make sure that you book in advance. I happily paid for the luxury of having all the mod cons (an ensuite, lighting, a four-burner gas cook top and a lovely log-style gas heater) in the middle of nowhere. Corinna runs on solar power and a satellite phone link so enjoy your time in blissful isolation!

You can read more about my time in Corinna here. You can also read about my adventures on Tasmania’s West Coast here or North West here.

Tasmanian Food and Wine Conservatory

The Conservatory, Tasmanian Food and Wine Conservatory
Grand Piano, Tasmanian Food and Wine Conservatory
Grand Piano, Tasmanian Food and Wine Conservatory © emily@traversingtasmania 2017

Built to house a local gentleman’s beloved grand piano, the conservatory next to the Parramatta Creek Rest Area has always been enigmatic. I have been meaning to stop there for quite some time, on the advice of a friend, to visit what is now The Tasmanian Food and Wine Conservatory. I’m glad that we did.

The building is spectacular, as is the grand piano inside it. The interior of the conservatory is generously filled with pot plants, rustic wooden tables and Tasmanian produce. When we arrived, it was also full of happy customers.

Mains, Tasmanian Food and Wine Conservatory
Mains, Tasmanian Food and Wine Conservatory © emily@traversingtasmania 2017

Our meals were sensational. It is clear that using local produce is a priority, as is friendly, efficient service. Although we were pressed for time before heading to Home Hill, we enjoyed a meal and a drink. I highly recommend the pork belly with Vietnamese noodles. There are options for those with dietary requirements, including several gluten-free desserts.

Getting There

Tasmanian Food and Wine Conservatory
Tasmanian Food and Wine Conservatory © emily@traversingtasmania 2017

The Tasmanian Food and Wine Conservatory is located 15 minutes from Devonport and 50 minutes from Launceston, just off the Bass Highway at Sassafras. Look for blue road signs for Parramatta Creek Rest Area. If you are travelling from Devonport, you’ll see the conservatory but it’s harder to spot when travelling from Launceston due to the trees. The Parramatta Creek Rest Area consists of a car park, amenities block and BBQ area (including sheltered tables)  surrounded by stately trees. There is also further parking at the Tasmanian Food and Wine Conservatory.

Cost

Parramatta Creek Rest Area
Parramatta Creek Rest Area © emily@traversingtasmania 2017

Main meals at the Tasmanian Food and Wine Conservatory cost approximately $25+ for lunch and the conservatory is open Tuesday – Sunday from 9am to 4pm. I recommend making a booking; we were very lucky to get a table inside (due to a cancellation). For up to date information about the Tasmanian Food and Wine Conservatory, see their Facebook page. If you don’t want to buy lunch, you could have a picnic at the Parramatta Creek Rest Area before stopping for a drink at the conservatory; it’s well worth seeing the interior of the building (and the piano).

On the same day, I visited Home Hill for the very first time! For other posts about Tasmania’s north-west, click here.