Cycling Tasmania – Day 17
Derwent Bridge to Queenstown
99km, 1,825m elevation (including side-trips)
Today I cycled out of Derwent Bridge and into Wild Rivers National Park. It was superb. I sailed down long descents with sweeping turns and stopped countless times to take short walks into the wilderness. Bush fire smoke had blown in during the night, obscuring what I could see of distant peaks but leaving behind silhouettes that left the imagination free to exaggerate. It is disappointing to miss out on so much great scenery because of the smoke but I still marvelled at the grand mountainous country.
Since arriving in Tasmania, I’ve seen lots of road signs encouraging people to drive with caution and to stop for a break when tired. The highway folks took it to a whole new level today with a roadside stand offering free refreshments, and even barbecued sausages! What a great idea.
There are many places to stop for a short (or long) walk as you cycle the 86km from Derwent Bridge to Queenstown. The swing bridge over Franklin River, for example, is just a few minutes from the road and lets you get off the bike and enjoy being in the forest. I’ve always loved suspension bridges, especially those narrow, swinging kinds, so I couldn’t resist.
Donaghys Hill takes a little longer to reach but it’s another very worthwhile side trip. In clear conditions, this panoramic spot would give you amazing views of the surrounding peaks.
Almost everywhere I stopped today, bees kept flying around and trying to land on me. If I stayed still and tried to eat something, they practically swarmed. It was disconcerting but when I let them land, they just flew off again. They never stung. Soon I discovered where they’re all coming from. There are hundreds of bee boxes all along the road.
I was very glad to be cycling around Tasmania in a clockwise direction today. In the other direction, nearly all the road today would be uphill. There are so many great places to stop along this route and I’d hate to run out of time to see them all. One of those spots I wouldn’t want to miss is Nelson Falls, a lovely waterfall that cascades down into a deep green forest of giant ferns.
Tasmania wouldn’t let me get away without a good stiff climb the whole day, however. I grunted up the steep hill overlooking Queenstown, glad that I’d soon get to glide down the other side. As soon as I got there, though, I saw that Iron Blow Lookout, a spectacular viewpoint, was even higher. I couldn’t come all this way and not see it. The mine scar below is both unsettling and fascinating. From this airy vantage point, you witness the earth’s flesh torn open for all to see.
The descent into Queenstown is steep with tight turns. I was too tired to let myself go at full speed but I still enjoyed the thrill of seeing huge cliffs dropping away from the edge of the road.
Tomorrow, I’m looking forward to taking a day off cycling to explore Queenstown’s rich mining history.
If you’re planning your own cycling trip in Tasmania, you can see today’s track and download the gpx from strava.