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 only). 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.

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.

Tasmazia and the Village of Lower Crackpot

Traversing Tasmazia and the Village of Lower Crackpot
Tasmazia and the Village of Lower Crackpot
Tasmazia and the Village of Lower Crackpot © emily@traversingtasmania 2017

Tasmazia and the Village of Lower Crackpot is, pardon the pun, amazing. Laugh your way through the maze, with another joke just around the corner. Be propelled at lightning speed back to your childhood as you find what’s around the corner and climb through small spaces. Above it all stands the imposing, gorgeous Mount Roland. If you haven’t been to Tasmazia yet, then you need to plan to visit soon!

The House of Hadd
The House of Hadd © emily@traversingtasmania 2017

Winter in Tasmania means the winter blues combined with a good dose of cabin fever for many Tasmanians. You can beat the winter blues with a good laugh as you make your way through the Great Maze at Tasmazia. Named due to its towering hedges (even the tallest of adults can’t cheat in this maze!), the Great Maze is full of surprises, including the Three Bears House, a garden path and a monumental toilet. It’s a real hoot!

Balance Maze
Balance Maze © emily@traversingtasmania 2017

On the edge of the Great Maze are several other treats. Whizz down a fireman’s pole, make your way through the spooky house (the spookiest thing being how dark the maze through it is!) and wobble your way across the balance maze. If you want, you can even put yourself (or somebody else!) in the stocks. Kids will love this part of the maze but I can tell you that it was great fun as an adult too. I’m proud to say that I made it through the balance maze without falling off!

Once you’re finished with the Great Maze and the other attractions on its edge, there’s more! You’ll now find yourself in the Village of Lower Crackpot. This is a quirky, miniature village surrounded by four smaller mazes. The buildings in the village include tributes to local groups such as the Salvation Army and the State Emergency Services, as well as crazy, humorous buildings like the University of Lateral Thinking. The inventors of Tasmazia and the Village of Lower Crackpot do have a sense of humour! You can overlook the village from The Tower.

Yellow Brick Maze
Yellow Brick Maze © emily@traversingtasmania 2017

This part of Tasmazia has a stunning outlook of Mount Roland. As you make your way through the four smaller mazes, be sure to look up for a great view! There are three quirky hedge mazes and a paved maze filled with humorous buildings (look out for the Boot Camp!). If you’re feeling mazed-out, the best view is from the end of the Yellow Brick Maze and the funniest centre-piece is in the Hexagonal Maze.

Embassy Gardens
Embassy Gardens © emily@traversingtasmania 2017

The final attraction at Tasmazia and the Village of Lower Crackpot is the Embassy Gardens. This houses the miniature and humorous (can you see the theme?!) embassies of several countries. Make sure that you ring Belgium’s bell. Mothers, take refuge in your safe space (complete with another great view of Mount Roland!). Once you’ve finished here, it’s out the gates and to the loo.

The Village of Lower Crackpot
The Village of Lower Crackpot © emily@traversingtasmania 2017

Tasmazia and the Village of Lower Crackpot boasts the best ladies’ toilets on the planet. The cubicles are very roomy, each with its own painting and chair! There is a small gift shop and a café. While you won’t find gourmet food there (aside from the honey for sale), it is tasty, served quickly and dietary requirements can be catered for.

What to Bring

The Crapper Monument
The Crapper Monument © emily@traversingtasmania 2017

The most important thing to bring with you is a sense of adventure! Wear sturdy shoes and comfortable clothes as you’ll be outdoors for a good half day at least. Take a hat and sunscreen in summer and wear a warm coat, hat and gloves in winter. You can exit and then re-enter the maze as often as you wish but it might be wise to take a bottle of water and snacks with you. There is no (usable) toilet in the maze so keep this in mind too!

Getting There

A joke around every corner
A joke around every corner © emily@traversingtasmania 2017

Tasmazia and the Village of Lower Crackpot is about a 15 minute drive west from the town of Sheffield. From Devonport, drive south via Spreyton. From Launceston, drive north on the Bass Highway, taking the left-hand turn at Elizabeth Town for Sheffield. If you’re travelling from Cradle Mountain to Sheffield (or vice versa), Tasmazia is well worth the slight detour.

Cost

Post Office
Post Office © emily@traversingtasmania 2017

At $25 per adult, you may think that Tasmazia is a bit overpriced. Entry costs $20 per senior, $70 per family (2 + 2) and $12.50 for children (with children under four free).  I would pay the entry fee again in a heartbeat. It is worth every cent for a good laugh and a fabulous adventure!

In nearby Sheffield, you’ll find the Redwater Creek Railway, which I enjoyed visiting a few weeks earlier. For more posts about my travels in Tasmania’s north west, click here, and for more in the north, click here.

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.