Hobart is one of the most spectacular and underrated launch points for scenic drives in all of Australia. The state of Tasmania, the smallest of the Australian states, has 20 national parks that make up a majority of the land. The Cradle Mountain and Lake St. Claire Park is of the most popular, and rightly so. The drive to the Mountain itself takes roughly 4 hours from Hobart, and although it follows national highway 1, you’ll have to brace yourself for a twisting, curving drive. You’ll head up the winding mountainous roads through the speckled light that filters through the old growth forests. Cradle Mountain is amongst the World Heritage Listed Wilderness Areas in Tasmania, and it’s protected, pristine beauty is testament to that. The diverse geography of mountains, valleys, lakes, rainforest and grasslands were formed during glacial erosion and are home to echidnas, wombats, platypus and of course, Tasmanian Devils.
You can park you car two and a half hours in at Lake St. Claire to stretch your legs or sit in the peaceful calm of the still waters edge atop the smooth stones. When you reach Cradle Mountain you can choose between short walks or multi-day treks on the Overland Track. There is a 6 kilometre circuit around Dove Lake with stunning views and ambling wombats. It is advised to stay overnight after completing this drive, not just for the sake of rest, but because the beauty in this area deserves some time for soaking in. Even in the summer it is cold once you’re up there, so you can choose to stay at the Lodge or one of the other hotels in the area, or you can rug up and stay in the camp area where there is a large fireplace, hot showers, and cooking facilities. This adventure can be done solo or with the whole family.
Dove Lake Walking Circuit, Cradle Mountain National Park.
If you’re less inclined for driving cold, winding, mountain roads then head Northeast to the equally stunning white sand beaches of the Tassie east coast. Freycinet National Park is about 125 kilometres from Hobart, roughly a two hour drive. The drive is not just a means to an end but a beautiful stretch of coastline with long, white-sand beaches where you may feel inclined to stop and take pictures or take a quick dip. When you reach Freycinet you can continue the beach drive by taking the road past the Friendly Beaches where there are both free and paid camping sites just near the ocean. The highlight of the Park though is absolutely the walk to Wineglass Bay. You can buy a single day pass on the spot in the parking lot and head up the steep path to the lookout point between Mount Mayson and Mount Amos. From here there is a dazzling view of where you’re headed. Head down the other side of the mountains through the shady forested steps to the spectacular sands of Wineglass Bay. The water is a sparkling blue and in the summer months, it even feels warm to plunge into. The whole walk is about a two hour return, including a quick dip, but you’ll likely want to spend more time. If you have 4-5 hours then instead of heading up the same path you can follow the bushy isthmus to Hazards Beach on the other side and continue back along the cliffy trail to the carpark. If you need to get back to Hobart then it’s only a couple of hours away but it’s worth it to spend a night or two and explore the many other beach trails and sprawling drives in the area.
The view of Wineglass Bay and Hazards Beach Beyond, Freycinet National Park.
Something a little closer to home is the summit of the Wellington Ranges at Kunanyi, or Mount Wellington. It’s about a 25 minute drive out of the city centre up the very steep Pinnacle Road. During Winter this road can be closed to due ice and snow so make sure to check out the Hobart City Council Website for road conditions and for deciding on appropriate clothing. On the way up you will pass many bush trails and waterfalls as well as the more hard core hikers and bikers that have taken on the climb. The summit itself sits at 1,271 metres and delivers a vast and awe-invoking view back down to the city and the surrounding wilderness. It’ll be worth it to brave the cold and soak in the sights for a little while, bring a thermos of tea if you’re especially sensitive to the temperature. When you head back to your car you might experience the peculiar effect of the strong Radio FM and television transmitters in this location. They are not harmful to humans except for that fact that you may find yourself stuck in the elements for longer than desired because the strong waves can disrupt electronic key fobs from performing their unlocking duties! The Wellington Park official site recommends trying the unlock button while holding the fob near the driver’s side window or behind the wheel where it has better signal. This is better than manually unlocking which can set off the anti-theft alarm system. Aside from the chance of this minor adventure, the Kunanyi lookout is a must for any car owner in the Hobart area.
The early-riser’s rewarding view at the Mount Wellington summit lookout during sunrise.
Even as the smallest Australian state, Tasmania contains wild beauty unlike any other part of the country. The three areas mentioned here are merely a starting point for scenic drivers based in Hobart, and this state will surely be revisited and subsequent articles. If you’re itching for more already, then take the three and a quarter hour drive up Highway 1 to Devonport and hop on the Spirit of Tasmania. When you get off the ferry in Melbourne, check out these drives http://www.areyouselling.com.au/sell-my-car/melbourne/ and you can restart your driving adventure all over again.