Road Trippin’ the Tasmanian Coast
Waheeda Harris had no idea what to expect when she decided to take a road trip along the coast of Tasmania, an island off the coast of Australia. What she found was a unique, rural paradise…
After two weeks of exploring the big cities of Sydney and Melbourne, I was ready for small town adventures while exploring the island state of Tasmania.
Just off the southeast coast of mainland Australia, Tassie, as it’s affectionately dubbed by locals, is an island once thought by islanders and mainlanders as the back of beyond. But in the past few years, this wee isle has come into its own – with a vibrant arts community, distinct food culture and a popular spot for hiking and surfing.
When I was landing at the airport in Launceston, Tasmania, all I could see was endless green rolling hills, as they dipped down to the sandy beaches and the ocean. My drive to Hobart would be through the western half of the island – alternating between the hill areas and the coastline.
I thought the region might resemble Ireland or the semi-mountainous Cascade areas of Washington State I had spent so much time wandering in during childhood. But Tassie is more than just green hills and rocks.
My first stop was on the edge of Launceston, at the Cataract Gorge – an easy hike into a stunning combination of rock and water. At its centre is a picnic hangout for families. I was mesmerized by the outcroppings of the gorge itself, each side symmetrical as it made a dramatic entrance for hikers. I could imagine climbers focused on heading up the rock faces, eager to see the view from above, like the birds, and finding their next destination along the highway.
As we drove along, the newly paved roads were far from any urban existence, rural, in the best sense of the word. Among the few road markers were signs of warning, urging motorists to watch out for Tasmanian devils, who are often injured by cars as they do their bit to clean up the roads of other animal victims of the highway.
Heading into the heart of the island, the road took us through forest, up into mountains and along the sea – and although I could imagine this land being a harsh place at one time, its welcome mat was extended, encouraging travellers to explore. People waved as we drove and when we stopped, everyone said hello, immediately making us feel part of the local community.
My guide and I stopped to hike the Coles Bay Conservation Area on the Freycinet Peninsula, an uphill challenge that thankfully included benches built into crags by local artists as rest stops for the weary.
As we reached the summit, standing at the lookout towards Wineglass Bay, I pictured those first settlers who arrived by boat. I wondered if, on seeing the sand beach and massive rocks, they worried there was no arable land. Was it a worthy spot for making a life, they may have asked?
A faint scent of sea air followed us as we kept driving, replaced by wafts of roadside grasses and wildflowers. As we continued through the hills, passing farms, ranches and making a quick stop at a newly established local distillery, I could sense the unique mix of artistic creativity and nature found here – those who lived here had found the balance between the two.
Arriving in Hobart after two hours of driving, this seaside city seemed as busy as New York in comparison to the laid-back life seen along the highways. I wanted to head north back into countryside, revisiting our stops and finding new spots to hike or to meet locals. I wanted another dose of Tassie’s roadside culture, one that made road-tripping a pleasure to be repeated.