Steven, one of five participants embarking on Tasmanian Expeditions’ six-day Cycle, Kayak, and Walk Tasmania tour, looks a touch disappointed when he realises we’ll only be pedalling down 1270m Mt Wellington on our final day rather than up it as well.
I can’t help but smile at his reaction – he’s clearly a keener cyclist than me. This tour, which travels south along Tasmania’s east coast from Launceston to Hobart, includes quite a bit of activity: two full days of cycling, 2.5 days of hiking, a few hours sea kayaking, plus the Wellington descent.
Although I love exploring quiet roads on two wheels and appreciate the idea of riding 60-70km in one day, I seldom (ok, never) pedal that far at home – so knowing a support vehicle will be constantly trailing us on scheduled cycling days is what makes the two-wheeled element of this trip seem doable.
Tasmanian Expeditions – the start
Even so, the trusty support vehicle, which carries all our equipment and luggage, ends up receiving very little love from its charges.
No one in the group hitches a ride on Day 1, as we cycle east along sealed roads through the Fingal Valley, up and down 258m St Mary’s Pass to the Tasman Sea, and, finally, south along undulating terrain to the coastal town of Bicheno and its fairy penguin burrows.
And no one seeks its shelter on Day 3 either, when we set off from Bicheno in a chilly rain that persists throughout much of the morning.
Thankfully, the pesky clouds lift by lunchtime, and our next destination, wildly beautiful Maria (pronounced ma-rye-ah) Island, temporarily fills the horizon, distracting us from our fatigue as we continue south towards the portside town of Triabunna.
Freycinet National Park
Our bottoms receive a welcome break from our bike seats on Day 2, when we take a day trip south from Bicheno to Freycinet National Park. Here, we gear up for a morning of sea kayaking with Freycinet Adventures, setting out on Coles Bay’s clear turquoise waters.
The rugged, light-pink knuckles of the park’s Hazards Range provide the southerly backdrop for our paddling, and our excitement about the hiking we’ll soon be doing alongside their exposed granite elevates.
After re-joining our energetic Tasmanian Expeditions guides, we motor to an 11km circuit track, which leads us south to Wineglass Bay, west along the Isthmus Track to Hazards Beach, and then northeast around the base of Mt Mayson back to the parking lot.
I’ve heard plenty of fellow travellers rave about Wineglass Bay and I, too, am suitably impressed when we reach the lookout.
The bay’s lovely crescent-shaped strip of ivory sand encourages us to snap our necessary photos quickly so we can descend and place bare feet upon it – and maybe even brave its ice-block blue companion waters with a swim.
However, when we step out onto the cool, thirsty sand, two Bennetts (red-necked) wallabies, harbouring joeys, capture my attention. The creatures fearlessly approach our picnic area and hover in hope, but since feeding them is strictly off-limits, their efforts are in vain.
Maria Island Walk
Freycinet isn’t the only place where we encounter Bennetts wallabies. Car-free Maria Island National Park, accessible via ferry from Triabunna, hosts an introduced population as well as other introduced species such as Forester kangaroos, Cape Barren geese, Flinders Island wombats, and Tasmanian native hens.
The island is also home to native pademelons, fairy penguins, the endangered forty spotted pardalote, and tiger snakes.
The tour spends two nights here, either in the rustic, circa-1830 penitentiary, built during the first of the island’s two convict periods, or in the nearby campground; given the abundance of goose poo in the campground, I’m quite happy that we end up occupying two large, bunk bed-filled rooms in the former. And I’m also a fan of the building’s 1920s veranda – the perfect spot for sipping one’s morning coffee while observing adorable wombats feed alongside geese.
For me, the caffeine is indispensable, as our two days on this 22km-long island brim with bushwalks and other activities. On the first afternoon, we set out for the dizzying dolerite columns of 620m Bishop and Clerk.
From the summit, Freycinet Peninsula is clearly visible to the east, while Maria’s Fossil Cliffs, where deposits of fossilised shellfish were mined for lime in the 1920s, beckon from below.
On the second day, some of us tackle 709m Mount Maria, a six-hour return journey, while others bike Maria’s unsealed vehicular tracks and briefly snorkel in the surrounding 1500ha marine reserve.
On Day 6, we ferry back to the mainland and continue south to Hobart. And by the time we reach Mt Wellington, even Steven doesn’t look that eager to make an ascent.
Inhaling the summit’s frigid air, we begin our descent through alpine landscapes, rainforest, and dry forest to the Old Cascade Brewery and the tour’s end.
It’s been a fun, rewarding, and exhausting week – my cheeks are wind burned, my muscles feel well employed, and I have just enough energy left for one final activity before I fly home tomorrow: walk around downtown Hobart and choose a boutique beer to celebrate.
Kara Murphy was a guest of Tasmanian Expeditions
Tasmanian Expeditions’ six-day Cycle, Kayak and Walk Tasmania tour includes professional guides, five nights’ multi-share accommodation/camping, meals, support vehicle transport, Maria Island ferry transfers, a half-day sea kayaking tour, national park fees, mountain or touring bike hire on the mainland, a cycling helmet, and camping equipment. Phone 1300 666 856.
Accommodation before and after the tour isn’t included. In Launceston, the Hotel Charles offers modern king rooms, studios, and spa apartments. Phone 1300 703 284. In Hobart, Corinda’s Cottages offers self-contained accommodation in its historic outbuildings. Phone (03) 6234 1590.