Cycling Tasmania

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Every new adventure begins with a step away from something.

This moment makes me sad, over and over again. I am always already homesick when I am doing the first step. Even if it is just the Airbnb apartment that I am leaving.

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When I cycled from Yarraville and took the punt across the Yarra river towards the ferry, I came across the famous pink lake at Westgate Park in Melbourne. This lake has a very high concentration of salt that naturally turns it pink.

I would love to test if it floats as much as the dead sea.

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Here I am boarding the Spirit Of Tasmania, the ferry that is taking me from Melbourne to Devonport in an overnight cruise. I really loved the idea of literally riding on board in Melbourne and off board in Devonport – much more than taking a flight.

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For the night at the ferry I had booked a single cabin. This turned out to be the most expensive way of travelling to Tasmania. Next time I will just book a bed, if at all.

Spitit of Tasmania, the cabin

Goodbye Melbourne!

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Upon arrival in Devonport I was lucky to meet my friend Sam Denmead, the author of the famous Cycling-in-Tasmania-PDF. She not only gave me a lift to Launceston and a shelter for the first night, but also the best possible instructions on how to plan my bike tour. How lucky was I to have a private tour planning with the best expert for cycling Tasmania.

And when I realized on her raised relief map how hilly Tasmania actually was, I also got some hot tool to iron that problem out.

map of tasmania cycling

My first stage lead me to the north coast of Tasmania. I was lucky that it did not rain, but I was not quite lucky with the wind in my face.

headwind in tasmania

After my first night camping (in Tomahawk at the beach) I went south, taking only side roads. Some were unpaved, like Banca Road. Not a single car for hours, just the road and me. I loved it!

banca road tasmania

I was basically cycling around a hill called Mount Horror, when I got the tiny town of Winnaleah.

cycling near Winnaleah

Then I took the Tasman Highway across the mountains of the Blue Tier Forest. It went up the famous 99 turns, and later straight down with a wonderful downhill ride to St Helens.

On top of the hill in Weldborough is a great pub and campground where most cyclists – just after having climbed up – have a great rest.

But I had an appointment in St Helens, so I kept cycling although my energy was going quite low. That’s why I didn’t even take time for any photos along the way – except for this one of the two pelikans resting near St Helens.

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But then, after a few coffee piccolo in St Helens and a very slow start, the day got better and better.

The beaches along the east coast of Tasmania are great. I enjoyed the colors, especially once the sun came out.

cycling tasmania east coast

The quick detour to Falmouth is worth it, although I had to give up the fortune of having a tailwind for a short while.

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A handful shells on the beach of Falmouth.

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This is what people in Tasmania do on a Sunday. They enjoy the beach.

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The beaches on the east coast of Tasmania seem to be endless.

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Some wild berries at the beach.

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Landscape along the east coast of Tasmania.

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At Devil’s Corner on the east coast of Tasmania I met this little black fellow that enjoyed the view as much as I did.

Fun fact: I did almost the same shot of this place exactly 5 years ago, and I only found out later.

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After a long day of cycling the east coast of Tasmania I made it to Swansea just with the last sunlight.

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There is nothing you can’t fix with cable ties. Now the USB plug won’t accidentally get off my battery pack again while riding (and charging).

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Well, a word about my technical setup. This will be another blogpost at some time, but for now:

My bike (a custom built stainless steel frame by Norwid) has a SON hub dynamo, all cables are inside the fork and head tube, the USB power outlet is a Supernova The Plug III on top of the head tube. It basically charges my camera, my iphone or my backup battery as soon as I cycle more than 10 km/h.

I have experimented quite a bit with all sorts of different chargers on my bikes, and I find this one the very best available at the moment.

What looked like a good spot for a selfie in the one second…

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…got quite wet the other second.

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But since I am a quick learner, this almost did not happen again to me.

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But there was another reason for me to get down to this beautiful beach.

It was the idea of having an espresso at this beautiful spot.

Luckily I never go on a bike tour without my proper barista equipment. Which in this case is

  • some freshly roasted espresso beans from Hobart
  • the Hario MSS-1B Mini Mill Slim Coffee Grinder
  • my MSR International stove
  • and especially the Airspresso device. This little Melbourne made thing gets pressurized with my bike pump and does in fact produce a real espresso.
  • Which then I only drink from a real glass, that I am also always carrying around with me.

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Since the punt across the two peninsulas of Freycinet National Park is no longer working (despite what Lonely Planet says), I did not cycle in that dead end.

But I enjoyed the view to the beautiful mountains of Freycinet, as seen in the background of this tree.

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They said I should rather stay away from all snakes in Tasmania. Because every snake in Tasmania is poisonous. 

And they say the copperhead is a “dangerously venomous snake with neurotoxic venom, capable of killing an adult human if correct first aid is not applied.”

So I took the photo from the other side of my bike.

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Only later, when I looked closely to the sharp photo, I found out why the snake was not really moving.

It was dead.

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And then I got to Hobart. A town I really love. So I decided to spend two nights there, checked a good hotel and had time for another touristic business appointment.

Besides that meeting I also got some things changed on my bike.

I am riding on 700 mm wheels (28″), and my gear shift is Ultegra with the smallest possible gear, which is a 30/30.

So in fact my bike does not really have a very low gear. And after all the hills of eastern Tasmania I thought I would rather have a smaller gear on my bike for the even steeper hills of western Tasmania.

Officially this is not possible with Ultegra.

But…

a good bike mechanic knows all the specs of all the parts for your bike.

And…

an excellent bike mechanic also knows what Shimano does not want you to know.

This is for example the fact that the old Deore long cage 9 speed derailleur perfectly fits with a 10 speed cassette and with the rest of my Ultegra group.

And that is what James from www.bikeride.com.au, my favorite bike shop in Hobart, found out. In other words, he improved my slowest gear from 30/30 to 30/36. This means I can now cycle up hills that are 17% steeper. Or 17% slower.

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I think once back at home I will fully switch to XT.

This is a view to the lobby in the RACV hotel in Hobart. They were quire helpful with my bike!

lobby of the RACV hotel in Hobart

The maybe greatest attraction of Hobart is the MONA museum. This is me in front of it’s wired truck.

Can you imagine I felt too much in a hurry to finish my tour prior to my booked departure (by ferry from Devonport and then by plane from Melbourne) to even go inside?

If I can only give you one advice for your bike tour in Tasmania, then it is:

Take more time!

I wish all trucks along my tour had been that harmless.

cycling to the MONA museum in Hobart

As I am leaving Hobart, traffic is getting less and less – and the climbs are getting more and more…

cycling from hobart north

A friend told me I should do a little detour and have a look at the hydro-power station in Tarrleah.

I did so, and I was impressed. This is the pressure releast towers.

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Quite fun to climb and jump around here. Like a perfect playground for me.

Since climbing was not allowed and since this friend is working there and might be reading here, I cannot post any photo of me climbing.

Which I have never done anyway ;)

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My bike was impressed by the view. And I was impressed by the fact that in the tiny and abandoned village of Tarraleah they were still selling good coffee.

So definitely worth a detour.

tarraleah

Right after Terraleah I did another detour. Or a shortcut. Depending on the dimension you are looking at.

Let’s call it a vertical shortcut. They call it the Fourteen Mile Road.

What is a vertical shortcut? It is an alternative route that might be a bit longer, but it saves several climbs.

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Gliding through the forests of the 14 Mile Road. And not a single car passing.

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Gum trees along 14 Mile Road. I love the sweet eucalyptus smell in the air.

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Remote cycling, still on 14 Mile Road.

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And finally, after 14 Miles, I was back on asphalt again. From here on it was gliding across the wet fields of the march.

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Swampy landscape of the march.

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You see lots of dead animals when cycling Tasmania. The call it road kill. And there is even a cook book for road kill.

Literally thousands of dead animals, sometimes every 10 meter another one.

Those beasts can be terribly stinking, and getting a deep breath of the road kill’s decay odor is quite a pain, especially on a bike.

Whenever I saw another one, I quickly estimated the wind and where the smell was, and then I adjusted my breathing and kept my breath so I did not smell it.

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Right now, right here!

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A small walk through the rainforest leads to the Nelson falls.

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My plan was to find a nice spot to set up my tent in Strahan. But when I rode into the pitoresc viallage, I saw the Bushman’s pub and a sign saying that they had got acomodation available. Both the weather forecast and the pub seemed to be well working arguments against my plan.

So I got a room with a nice view at Bushman’s and I did another rest day to go on a cruise up the Gordon river.

bushmans strahan

This also gave me the opportunity to finally find that f***ing hole in my tube. I had not been able to fully repair that flat tire on the road, so I went the pro-way and took the famous three steps to fix it:

  1. Find a hotel
  2. Find the hot bathtub
  3. Find the puncture

Problem solved!

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The remote little bay of Strahan. Quite a place to spend some time.

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Nope, I am not leaving my warm and dry hotel room yet.

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But instead I went on that cruise out of the bay to Hell’s Gate and into the bay and up the Gordon river.

Why? Because on the right side of the photo you see the past weather, and from the left side the rain coming closer. Not a good moment for a bike tour.

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The lighthouse at Hell’s Gate. This is where the roaring forties begin. Or the big waves and the bad weather. We just turned back here.

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Can you see the rain? I mean, what else can you expect when cruising a river in a rainforest…

Gordon River Cuise

The next day it finally cleared up, and I started cycling with the last few raindrops falling. This was actually the very only time I had rain when cycling.

Here you see a small device I highly recommend for a bike tour in Tasmania: the third eye.

This is a small mirror, that can either be glued to the helmet or fixed to you glasses. It helps you being aware of the traffic behind you, something that is quite necessary when cycling in Australia. Some drivers actually expect you to keep a safety distance to them instead the other way round.

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After the rain… in the background you see the 40 km long beach that is north of Strahan.

strahan beach dunes

I cycled from Strahan to Zeehan (an ugly tiny town, but it has a supermarket), and from Zeehan further to Corinna. This was the best part of my bike tour across Tasmania: the road to Corinna and further through the rainforest to Waratah.

cycling zeehan corinna

The route across Corinna is remote, I saw about one car every two hours.

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In the beginning the road was paved, but later it turned into gravel.

Corinna used to be a village of 700 inhabitants during the gold rush. It then got abandoned. And today it has a small punt bringing you across the Pieman River, and on the other side you find a restaurant and a campground.

ferry punt corinna

The campsite in Corinna is quite nice. At least the platforms for the tents look pretty.

But in the end 40 Dollars for a night without electricity and without showers included is quite expensive. That’s the what they call consequences of a monopoly.

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The ride just before and after Corinna was the most beautiful part of my whole tour in Tasmania. On both sides of the road was rainforest, so close I could touch it.

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Huge ferns besides the gravel road. And again – no cars for hours.

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This is what it looks inside the rainforest.

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There are some bush walks along the road leading into the rainforest.

One such walk is the path to the Philosopher Falls.

I tried to walk it, but it seemed impossible. Maybe because I studied philosophy.

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A short-beaked echidna hiding from the noise I made. Although I waited for 15 minutes to get a better shot, this shy guy just didn’t want me to take the photo.

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After staying one night in Waratah, I decided to avoid another day of rain that would have hit me in Cradle Valley.

Instead I quickly cycled all way down to the north coast of Tasmania and had a great downhill until Burnie.

A great downhill? Well almost. Because my front wheel almost went straight into this stupid gutter.

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Australia is a beautiful country. And cycling is a great way to experience a country. But cycling in Australia is still a bit dangerous in some places.

At the end I made it down to Burnie. And I was quite happy, because for a moment I thought my bike tour was over. It somehow just felt like this, to be back out of the rain and into 10 or 15 degrees celsius more than up in the mountains.

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I had a latte piccolo in Burnie. And another one. And another one.

And then I slowly started to cycle along the coast eastbound towards Devonport.

Suddenly my bike asked me if it could play for a while in a half pipe. Since I could not find a reason why not, I found us playing there.

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After this little adrenaline rush I got fearless. I opened GoogleMaps, had a quick look how far Port Sorell was (another 60 kilometers, and it was almost 6 in the afternoon). Then I had a quick look for hotels. And then I quickly booked some random hotel over there.

Why? Because I had never booked a hotel via GoogleMaps on my iPhone before.

And then I was committed.

Luckily there was quite some tailwind blowing. I cycled as fast as could, made a 30 km/h average on a 45 kg bike.

And I reached Port Sorell with the very last sunlight.

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That randomly booked hotel turned out to be just marvelous. It is called Hawley House, and my room is behind the top right large window.

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The drawing room at Hawley House. Has got quite some downtonabbeyness. I am sitting here right now, uploading the photos and enjoying a fine Scottish single malt whisky.

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Et voilà, this is my room at Hawley House. I like it so much, that I instantly decided to not finish my loop of Tasmania, but rather miss the very last part to Launceston and stay a second and a third night in this place.

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This little detail tops my room. Literally. There is a tiny hidden ladder on my balcony, leading up to the roof top to my very private very open air bath tub with a view, that even Lucy Honeychurch has never seen.

Can you see the full moon?

I am off for a bath there now!

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What a great end of a great bike tour.

Two days later I was taking an overnight cruise back to Melbourne. Here I am leaving the Spirit of Tasmania in Melbourne. Can you see the full moon?

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Arriving in Melbourne with the Spirit of Tasmania in early morning with a full moon shining – what a great way to finish my Tasmania bike tour!

Spirit of Tasmania with a bike

There are 2 more articles about cycling Tasmania:

  1. This article is about the 50 tips and advices for a bike tour in Tasmania.

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  2. Then I have got all detailed maps about my Tasmania tour – with a lot of tips for your tour, too.

    Detailed maps for each route of my tour.

  • Rasmus Riemann

    Nice storytelling and pictures!