Tasmania Road Trip – The Edge of the World, Gordon River & Bay of Fires

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Tasmania is a place that is getting more and more famous. Here’s a travel experience about the a Tasmania road trip.

Tasmania, Australia’s island state is the most southern part of Australia. It lies in the south of Melbourne and is separated from the mainland by the Bass Strait – a notoriously rough section of sea.

The ferries, The Spirit of Tasmania I and Spirit of Tasmania II cross the Bass Strait daily from Melbourne to Devonport and back, carrying freight, passengers and vehicles. The ferry docked early in the morning after an overnight trip and passengers were woken at 5.45am by the crew over the intercom system.

I was already awake and had been up on deck to catch the first glimpse of Tasmania – a place I wanted to visit for a long time. By 6.30, with a hasty breakfast and some much needed coffee before, I collected my dogs from the kennels in the hold and drove down the ramp at Devonport.

My navigational skills range from minimal through appalling and right down to non-existent so my meanderings around Tasmania although thorough were a little unexpected at times. In the two months I spent in Tasmania, I wandered and camped over as much of the island as I could.

I travelled with a teardrop camper for comfortable and secure sleeping, with a galley style kitchen to cook some food. Here are my highlights of my Tasmania road trip!

The Edge of the World in Tasmania

Spirit of Tasmania Cradle Mountain Arthur Pieman Conservation Area

The first destination of my Tasmania road trip was the west coast of the island which faces into the roaring forties. The Arthur-Pieman Conservation Area covers 400 square miles or 100,000 hectares of the west coast and ranges from the Arthur River in the north to the Pieman River in the south.

There are numerous bush style camp-sites in this area. I checked in at the Ranger station in Arthur River and decided to go to Prickly Wattles campground, a short distance south from Arthur River and found a site to call home for the next few days.

Sites are a generous sized clearing in the bush and are well spread out so there is plenty of privacy and time to enjoy the tranquillity of the bush. This campground is ‘serviced’ which means it has a drop toilet and an untreated water supply. Campers need to supply their own firewood and take any rubbish away with them.

While I was camping here I visited “the edge of the world in Tasmania” at Gardiner Point and looked out across the open expanse of ocean – towards Argentina, the nearest landfall and separated by the largest expanse of ocean in the world. The coastline is dotted with shanty communities where people have built houses – some rustic and some more luxurious.

Most are used as holiday homes but there are a few permanent residents. The ocean was rough – even on a reasonably calm day – lines of breakers rising up and crashing noisily onto the beach. I decided not to swim in the open ocean but found a lagoon with water. The lagoon was so crystal clear that it was impossible to determine its depth and swam there.

Gordon River and the Huon Pine

Spirit of Tasmania Gordon Rive

Tasmania is renowned for its National Parks and World Heritage Areas and one of the best ways to see these is a river cruise on the Gordon-Franklin rivers. Cruises run daily departing from Strahan in the south-west, with lunch provided and a helpful and informative crew, it’s a memorable day out.

The boat first travelled to the ‘hell’s gates’ where the river spills into the sea. It was named because of its treacherous waters which claimed many lives in the early days of settlement, and by convicts being sent to Sarah Island.

I preferred to be on deck and enjoy the amazing natural scenery! We then travelled upstream to Sarah Island. This island was an early penal settlement used for convicts who were repeat offenders.

The conditions were appallingly bad. It was bitterly cold and wet, food was scarce and often rotten, floggings were administered regularly and were so harsh that convicts sometimes died as a result. Things improved when a Scottish boatbuilder heard of the Huon Pine.

Its properties made it ideally suitable to ship building, and David Hoy went to Sarah Island and worked with the convicts to establish an extremely successful and productive shipyard. I had a wonderful day out on this cruise and it was very informative.

These days the Huon Pine is protected and logging of this remarkable tree is prohibited. It is still available for sale, although in limited supply. I bought a wooden cutting board for my kitchen which will probably outlast me.

Bay of Fires – Jewel of the East Coast

Spirit of Tasmania Bay of Fires

On the west coast of Tasmania, near the quaint town of St. Helen’s, you can find the Bay of Fires. This is a truly magnificent coastline with numerous campsites. The water is wonderfully clean, with white sandy beaches and plenty of opportunities for fishing, swimming, snorkelling, boating and any other water based activity or sport you enjoy.

It is an absolute jewel, and the town of St. Helen’s is great for food shopping. You can get many supplies there like gas bottle refills, pharmacy purchases, and art and antique stuff. I spent a few days here, and could have stayed much longer to relax and enjoy a beach holiday.

Ross in Tasmania – A Step Back in Time

Finally, a little town that I found almost by accident – Ross. My time in Tasmania was coming to an end, so, reluctantly, I decided to head back towards Devonport, I saw a sign along the way pointing to Ross and decided to investigate.

From the moment I drove across the arched stone bridge (built by convicts), it was as if I had stepped back in time, I was enchanted.

Ross was built as a Garrison during the years that Tasmania was a penal colony and most of the old buildings are still standing. It is now classified as a heritage town, and all new building within the main town area must adhere to strict heritage guidelines.

I wandered around the main streets of the town, lined with stone and brick cottages, visited the Tasmanian Wool Centre and a Gothic style church, ate Vanilla Slice at the wood-fired bakery (it’s highly recommended), checked out some real antiques, and explored the Female Factory where female convicts were sent.

I had a wonderful time during my Tasmania road trip, but then it was time to go back to Devonport to return to the mainland and go back home.

You’re a fan of road trips? Check our travel stories about a Road Trip through the UK and a Road Trip through the USA!