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.

Bicheno Blowhole and Rice Pebble Beach

Traversing Bicheno Blowhole
Bicheno Blowhole
Bicheno Blowhole © emily@traversingtasmania 2017

Bicheno has two unique attractions within easy walk of one another: Bicheno Blowhole and Rice Pebble Beach. There are a few blowholes on Tasmania’s East Coast. The thing that makes Bicheno Blowhole exceptional is its surrounds. The rocks on the coastline near the Blowhole are covered with the distinctive, fiery lichen that is unique to the East Coast. This orange back-drop contrasts beautifully with the water spout. The marine environment around the Blow Hole is also fascinating. Take a look at the kelp off the side of the rocks. It’s enormous!

Bicheno Blowhole
Bicheno Blowhole © emily@traversingtasmania 2017

There’s a lot to do at the Blowhole. You can look for sea life, hop on the rocks around the shoreline or even picnic on the table atop a nearby rock, if it’s available. It is a popular destination! Even in winter, there were plenty of people about. Perhaps the thing that you’ll spend most of your time doing though is listening for the whoomp of water rushing through rock as you try to time the perfect photograph. It sounds tedious, but it’s not! It’s an intriguing sound and a spectacular sight! Just be careful that you don’t wander into the splash zone or off the rock while you’re trying to get the perfect shot! And definitely don’t go out onto the rocks if the seas are stormy.

Rice Pebble Beach
Rice Pebble Beach © emily@traversingtasmania 2017

When you’re finished at the Blowhole, there’s still plenty more to do. Around the corner is Bicheno’s secret beach: Rice Pebble Beach. As the name suggests, it is covered in tiny pebbles instead of sand. I remember visiting the beach several times when I was a child. The feeling of the stones under your feet is heavenly yet torture!! You can paddle and swim at Rice Pebble Beach but you do need to take care as there are a lot of rocks under the surface. If swimming isn’t your thing, read a book, admire the scenery or climb the lichen-covered rocks.

Getting There

Bicheno Blowhole
Bicheno Blowhole © emily@traversingtasmania 2017

To get to Bicheno, see this post. Once you’re in Bicheno, you can reach Bicheno Blowhole and Rice Pebble Beach by car or by foot. You could walk along the foreshore track via The Gulch. If you’re driving, you can take a similar route or, from Burgess Street, turn onto Douglas Street. There is ample car parking space at the end of Douglas Street. To reach Rice Pebble Beach, follow a dirt track south from the car park. Once the track ends, continue walking on the grass until you see a track disappearing into the trees.

Cost

Lichen
Lichen © emily@traversingtasmania 2017

There is no cost to visit Bicheno Blowhole and Rice Pebble Beach. Save your pennies for fish and chips from The Gulch, a cuppa from one of the cafes or a penguin tour.

Read about more of my adventures on Tasmania’s East Coast here.

Bicheno

Traversing Bicheno
Diamond Island
Diamond Island © emily@traversingtasmania 2017

Bicheno is a beautiful little town on Tasmania’s East Coast. I spent many a summer holiday in the town as a child. Within the town boundaries, you can shop for Tasmanian goodies, eat fresh seafood, have a decent coffee, swim, surf, dive, fish, climb to several vantage points, see Little Penguins, stand on the edge of a blowhole, or walk over a sandbar to an island. And that’s not an exhaustive list by any means! Bicheno packs a punch!

Waubs Bay
Waubs Bay © emily@traversingtasmania 2017

My favourite thing to do in Bicheno is to swim. Although I am a true Tasmanian, it is winter and I don’t have a wetsuit, so we did my second favourite thing: walk. There are several tracks around Bicheno, including a lovely, albeit uneven, foreshore track. From the centre of Bicheno, you can walk to many different places.

Waubs Beach
Waubs Beach © emily@traversingtasmania 2017

It is very short walk to Waubs Beach, a small but gorgeous place. In summer, this is where the surf lifesaving club operates. This weekend, we saw people on paddleboards, in kayaks and even going for a swim (in wetsuits, of course!). Bicheno is famous for its annual ocean swim. Australia’s famous Olympic swimmer, Shane Gould, heads up a swimming group and it may have been just this group that we spotted! The day before we arrived, whales were seen swimming nearby too. Whales are regularly seen offshore from July to November.

Wauba Debar's Grave
Wauba Debar’s Grave © emily@traversingtasmania 2017

On the shore, you’ll find a memorial to the Merchant Navy and the grave of the bay’s namesake. This is one of the most important graves in Tasmania as it once held the remains of Wauba Debar, a Tasmanian Aboriginal lady who won the hearts of locals at a time where racism and sexism were at their worst. Shamefully, her remains were removed for scientific study in the late 1800s but she is still remembered here with her original grave site and stone.

The Gulch
The Gulch © emily@traversingtasmania 2017

Further south along the coast, you’ll find The Gulch. This is a small waterway and wharf protected from the elements by two Islands. On the other side of the islands lies the Governor Island Marine Reserve. This is one of the world’s best temperate dive locations, with over fifteen species inhabiting the small area. Seals can sometimes even be seen on nearby Alligator Rock. For a fantastic view of The Gulch, head to Whaler’s Lookout.

Bicheno
Bicheno © emily@traversingtasmania 2017

The track to Whaler’s Lookout starts from Foster Street and is well signposted. We found a track winding up from the end of James Street but it is not for the faint hearted! At the top of the hill, you’ll find two lookouts. Whaler’s Lookout looks over the township and is so named because Bicheno was originally a whaling town. You can read about this awful yet fascinating history on the information board at the lookout. From Whaler’s Lookout, keep walking on the loop track and you’ll find another lookout, this time over The Gulch. It’s a lovely view!

A short walk south, either via the streets or the foreshore track, is the Blow Hole and Rice Pebble Beach, which you can read about here. A longer walk North along the foreshore track is the surf beach, Red Bill, and the town’s most famous attraction: Diamond Island. The island is famous for its penguin colony and its accessibility via a sandbar. You can read about my visit to Diamond Island here.

Getting There

Bicheno
Bicheno © emily@traversingtasmania 2017

Bicheno is on Tasmania’s East Coast. It is about ten minutes’ drive north of Freycinet and one hour’s drive south of St Helens. From Hobart, it will take you approximately two and a half hours via the Tasman Highway. Bicheno is just over two hours’ drive from Launceston via Campbell Town or St Mary’s. You can also take the longer route via St Helens and Bay of Fires. Wherever you’re driving from, add on an extra hour or two for stops. Its the East Coast. You see something you really want to stop for approximately every ten minutes.

Cost

Red Bill Beach © emily@traversingtasmania 2017

Understandably, the cost of accommodation is much less in the off-season (over winter). That said, there truly is something for everyone, ranging from tent sites to caravans to luxury B&Bs. As far as attractions go, you can spend the big bucks on scenic flights and cruises in nearby Freycinet or you can do what we did and just walk around Bicheno. It is such a fascinating and beautiful place!

Diamond Island
Diamond Island © emily@traversingtasmania 2017

There is much more that I could write about Bicheno. We bought veggies from a local market, had a delicious piece of gluten and dairy free slice from The Farm Shed – East Coast Wine Centre and hope to return soon so that we can do the many things that we missed out on this time. Next time you head to the East Coast, don’t forget to visit the small but brilliant town of Bicheno.

You can read more about my adventures on Tasmania’s East Coast here.

Diamond Island

Traversing Diamond Island
Diamond Island
Diamond Island © emily@traversingtasmania 2017

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!

Swift Parrots
Swift Parrots © emily@traversingtasmania 2017

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.

Sand Bar
Sand Bar © emily@traversingtasmania 2017

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.

Penguin Rookery
Penguin Rookery © emily@traversingtasmania 2017

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!

Getting There

Pelicans
Pelicans © emily@traversingtasmania 2017

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.

Cost

View of Bicheno
View of Bicheno © emily@traversingtasmania 2017

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.

The Neck Game Reserve Camp Ground

Traversing Neck Beach

This week, we camped with a friend on Bruny Island at The Neck Game Reserve Camp Ground. We had three days of unseasonably warm weather. The sky was gorgeous, bird-life was plentiful and the sound of the waves crashing against the shore lulled us to sleep.

Sunrise
Sunrise © emily@traversingtasmania 2017

There’s something wonderful about waking up to bird-calls and sunlight shining through trees. There’s something even more wonderful about strolling down to the beach, watching the sun rise higher and joining the short-tailed shearwaters paddling in the shallows. The Neck Game Reserve Camp Ground is right next to Neck Beach, with just the dunes separating the two areas. It is a spectacular piece of coastline.

View from The Neck Lookout to Cape Queen Elizabeth
View from The Neck Lookout to Cape Queen Elizabeth © emily@traversingtasmania 2017

We arrived at the camp ground at about 2pm. After we had set up camp, we walked back to The Neck Lookout. We dawdled, taking photographs, admiring the birds, and even stopping for a rest, and it took us about an hour and a half to get there. The Neck Lookout is unique as it is a rookery for both mutton birds (short-tailed shearwaters) and penguins. We could hear the penguins but it became too dark to see them (and we had a long walk back to the campsite). Next time, I’ll take a red-light torch (or even just a piece of red cellophane to put over a standard torch) so that I can see them at night! Make sure that you take care of the penguins by staying on the paths, taking all rubbish with you and not shining bright lights (including camera flashes) in their eyes.

Facilities

The Neck Game Reserve Camp Ground
The Neck Game Reserve Camp Ground © emily@traversingtasmania 2017

The Neck Game Reserve Camp Ground has about thirty unpowered sites. When we were there, we shared the camp ground with caravans, campervans, 4WDs with pods on top, and even a cyclist with a tiny tent who was cycling the 60kms to Hobart the next day. It was a nice atmosphere and everyone was very respectful (toilet lid down, quiet at night, sleep-in in the morning… marvellous!).

Day Use Area
Day Use Area © emily@traversingtasmania 2017

Two pit toilets are available for use in two different locations. This means that the toilets are within easy reach of most sites. When we arrived, there was no running water but water was available the next day. To drink this untreated water, you’ll need to boil it for three minutes at a rolling boil. We brought our own drinking water and just used the water there for washing up. There are two picnic tables and a fireplace for day use. Camp fires are allowed at your site too, although you’ll need to bring your own firewood. I recommend also bringing your own fold up chairs, table and cooker to make cooking and eating at your site that bit more enjoyable.

Getting There

View of Neck Beach
View of Neck Beach © emily@traversingtasmania 2017

For instructions on getting to Bruny Island, read my post about the island here. Once you’re on Bruny, head south towards The Neck. Follow signs from the ferry for Alonnah and Adventure Bay. Once you’ve passed The Neck Lookout, you’re close! A few kilometres down the road, you’ll see blue signs to The Neck Game Reserve Camp Ground on the left.

Cost

Paddling with Birds
Paddling with Birds © emily@traversingtasmania 2017

Camping at The Neck Game Reserve Camp Ground costs $10 per site (for two adults) and $5 for each extra adult. We paid $30 for two nights which is an absolute bargain considering the scenery! For up to date prices, see Parks and Wildlife’s information here. Sites are not able to be booked in advance and you will need cash (and a pen) in order to pay the fees via the self-registration box at the camp ground.

To read more of my posts about Bruny Island, click here. For posts about southern Tasmania, click here.