when we looked out the window of monday’s early morning flight, we were treated to a warm, sunny welcome from heart-shaped tasmania. after spending the past couple of months in cities all over asia without any time behind the wheel, we couldn’t wait to get the keys to our campervan and explore the landscapes of australia’s southernmost state. it would also be our first-ever trip of the sort, and the idea of living out of a van and enjoying the open road was something we’d been looking forward to for weeks.
after settling into our new home on wheels and getting our bearings (which included sitting on the wrong side of the van with the gearshift on the left!), alex stuck the key in the ignition. with one turn, our tasmanian road trip roared to life. driving a campervan on the left side of the road for the first time is awkward and difficult, and it was definitely going to take some getting used to. our first stop was seven mile beach only a half hour away. we saw it from the plane as we were landing and knew it’d be the perfect place to have breakfast. this endless stretch of sand is also perfect for playing a pick-up game of cricket, which we witnessed as soon as we set foot on the beach! within a few minutes of walking my pockets were stuffed with pretty specimens for my soon-to-be-enormous seashell collection. our morning got even better when a couple of germans on their last day of vacation came over and offered us a bunch of groceries they didn’t want to go to waste. with things as expensive as they were in australia, we happily took it all. soon we were on our way out of hobart heading northeast on the A3 to freycinet national park. JB and alana said we couldn’t leave tasmania without spending a couple days camping there, and by a stroke of luck we were able to scoop up a recently cancelled two-night reservation at the popular richardson beach campground.
for the next couple of hours we drove past golden fields, sheep pastures, and heavily wooded hills on our way to the east coast. tangled gum trees lined the road, their twisted branches reaching out and up towards the sun. just as our time in sydney had confirmed, the landscapes of australia have a whimsical sort of look to them, and this became especially apparent here. almost half the state is protected and marked as reserves, national parks, and world heritage sites, and with a substantial part of the population living in and around the capital of hobart, much of the island remains wild and untouched. at one point we pulled off by spiky beach to admire the view. stunning blue waters contrasted sharply with the long golden grass, and jagged rocks covered with little black mollusks dotted the shore. after another hour of breathtaking coastal scenery we arrived at freycinet national park and pulled into our little campsite by the beach. our long day of traveling was rewarded with a spectacular sunset and cozy first night in the campervan.
tuesday’s gorgeous weather made for a memorable 6km round-trip hike to wineglass bay. it was a relatively easy walk to the lookout point, followed by a steep and rocky descent to the beach. as soon as we came out of the trees we stumbled upon a perfect arc of white sand and rolling turquoise waves framed by wooded granite peaks. low-lying clouds settled in to complete the picture-perfect view. the beach was breathtakingly beautiful, and yet somehow we’d never heard of it before. it makes you wonder just how many more amazing places there are in the world that you don’t even know exist. on our way back we ran into a wallaby and her adorable little joey – we couldn’t believe how close we were able to get! the afternoon ended with a drive up to the lighthouse at cape tourville for sweeping views of the beautiful coastline, the tasman sea stretching out in front of us all the way to new zealand. later we enjoyed another fantastic sunset on the beach, this time equipped with a bottle of tasmanian pinot noir and the tunes of bob dylan.
after two nights on the freycinet peninsula, our campervan adventure was bound for the bay of fires further up the coast. this area was named for the fires of the aborigines that lit up the beaches when it was discovered in the late 18th century. ironically it’s the giant, flame-hued granite boulders that the bay is most famous for. produced by a lichen, the effect looks almost doctored, as if someone threw the whole area into a photoshop file, stripped it of color, then painted parts of it bright orange. despite the cloudy weather we enjoyed the scenic drive along the southern reaches of the bay, a 13km curve of sandy white beaches and aqua waters between binalong bay and an area called the gardens. there were some pretty amazing campsites right on the sand, but it was still too early to call it a day so we changed course and pointed our wheels northwest for a couple of hours. our tour of tasmania’s beautiful beaches finished with a quick stop in bridport, where the afternoon’s low tide left the brown sugar sand exposed for what seemed like miles. at sunset we settled into our campsite for the night – a tranquil spot by a lighthouse at the end of a two-lane road in low head, a quaint town that sits on a small rocky peninsula. this turned out to be the northernmost point of our self-designed tour. in tasmania (and much of oz), you can freedom camp practically anywhere as long as you’re outside city limits, which definitely adds to the fun and spontaneity of any road trip. with beers in hand and bob dylan playing his harmonica again in the background, we watched the sky turn shades of orange, pink, blue, and black. the moonlight was so bright that later that night, we decided to sneak past the gates and walk up to the lighthouse. we were about halfway there when suddenly we saw something move in the grass and heard a couple of loud warning thumps. my liquid courage faded fast and we turned around, deciding it was just a tad too dark and the sounds too close to not take them seriously.
our last day in tassie came quickly, and with it some beautiful warm weather. since it was considerably cooler down by hobart, we decided to enjoy the better part of the day in the north before making our way south. we drove back to bridport to while away a couple of hours on that same stretch of beach, then headed southwest down a scenic narrow road to check out the lavender fields of bridestowe estate. rows and rows of purple multiplied down the hill as far as the eye could see, and set against a backdrop of green mountains and blue sky they looked and smelled absurdly beautiful. it was as if i’d stepped into a dream and i didn’t want it to end. unfortunately alex missed out because the entry fee was quite steep, but it was probably for the best. the fields were literally buzzing with bees and probably would’ve sent him running and gagging for his life. after a quick stop in launceston to grab some food (shockingly, a quick meal from a strip mall food court sets you back at least $12 USD), we began our journey back to hobart. the hills, farms, and vineyards were bathed in sunlight the entire time, and we really enjoyed the peaceful tasmanian countryside. the strangest part of the drive were the large opium poppy fields we passed, complete with barbed wire fences and danger signs. apparently tasmania is the largest producer in the world of opium alkaloids for the pharmaceutical market! who knew?
our road trip fittingly ended in the same place it started. we found a great campsite right next to seven mile beach and brought a bottle of wine to wander the shores with one last time. at one point we bumped into a couple of women walking their dogs, and it ended up changing the course of our night. maybe it was because i was disappointed we hadn’t seen any wombats in the wild, or maybe we just had karma on our side, but somehow we got to talking with mary and her friend and the conversation ended with an invitation to come over and meet the wombat and echnida she’d recently rescued. i. was. in. heaven. when the two were no longer within earshot i was squealing with excitement to alex, tears of (anticipated) cuteness streaming down my cheeks. after i eventually got it together, we walked over to mary’s house and met her mother enid. the two of them showed us the best of tasmanian hospitality and we bonded over traveling, mary’s encounters as a wildlife specialist, and enid’s love of cricket. spending time with them, their six-week-old wombat, and their one-year-old, one-eyed echnida was the highlight of our trip. that said, having breakfast on the beach at the crack of dawn definitely wasn’t a bad way to round out our stay!
even though four days is not nearly enough time, we absolutely loved our introduction to tasmania. it’s funny how we only decided to come here after a chance meeting at the half-moon party back in ko phangan, where a girl named kelsie swore up and down that her home state of tassie was a must-see if we were coming to australia. unfortunately we managed to pick the one week that she was out of town, but we thank her anyway for giving us the idea! our 980km on the road gave us a lot of time to reflect on how much we’d seen, experienced, and learned in the last seven months, and how much we still had to look forward to. our next adventure would take us back to new south wales, only this time there would be sharks involved.
// trip down under to date: 4 flights, 1 country, 2 states, 1 boat, 1 campervan adventure, 980km