I’ve just finished a month-long, 1,500-km cycle tour around Tasmania. This remote island is a pleasure to travel by bike with long winding roads that pass through incredible scenery with little traffic. Its diversity is striking. There are vast temperate rain forests, tropical white sandy beaches with turquoise water, rugged coastlines with towering sea cliffs, and peaceful sheep pastures and lavender farms. Tasmania’s history is equally rich. From its notorious convict beginnings to hardy miners who struggled to make a life in the remote corners of this island, there’s so much to learn. Whether you stay in campgrounds or treat yourself to character-rich B&Bs and historic hotels, you’re sure to discover some real gems along the way.

At the beginning of my journey

I thought it would be helpful to write a brief guide for anyone planning their own cycling trip in Tasmania. I hope this trip report gives the potential cyclist some inspiration and ideas of where to explore and what to expect. My trip was largely unplanned – I woke up in the morning and decided where to go or perhaps planned ahead a day or two. If I ever do another cycling trip in Tassie, I’m sure I’ll take a different route, so use mine for ideas but I wouldn’t follow it exactly.

Marrawah

My Trip – Day by Day
Accommodations that I especially enjoyed have a link to their website.
tasmania-map

How it all got started – In Search of the Tasmanian Devil

Day Route Distance (km) Elevation (m) Sleeping Don't Miss
1 St Helens Point to St Marys 78.7 1,266 St Marys Hotel Mount Elephant Pancakes
2 St Marys to Bicheno 45.9 532 Bicheno Backpackers The "blowhole"
3 Bicheno to Freycinet NP 51.3 334 House in Coles Bay Wineglass Bay
4 Coles Bay to Triabunna 89.4 799 Spring Bay Hotel Spring Vale Vineyard
5 Exploring Maria Island - - Spring Bay Hotel Maria Island cycle or boat tour
6 Triabunna to King George Sound 78.3 1,498 Airbnb with Jen & George
7 Murdunna to Port Arthur 51.4 851 Norfolk Bay Convict Station Remarkable Cave
8 Visiting Port Arthur - - Norfolk Bay Convict Station Port Arthur Historic Site
9 Taranna to Coal Mines Heritage Site 20.9 411 Casilda House B&B Tasmanian Devil Unzoo
10 Dunalley to Richmond 56.5 683 Charles Reuben Estate Richmond Bakery
11 Tee Tree to MONA 39.5 530 Mount Wellington Hut MONA
12 Hobart with friends - - Andy's place Mawson's Hut
13 Hobart with friends - - Andy's place Female Factory
14 Hobart to Mount Field NP (via Westerway) 81.3 1,841 Duffy's Russell Falls
15 Westerway to Tarraleah 69.7 1,560 Tarraleah Cottage Power Station viewing platform
16 Tarraleah to Lake St Clair & Derwent Bridge 58.5 603 Derwent Bridge Wilderness Hotel The Wall
17 Derwent Bridge to Queenstown 98.5 1,825 Penghana B&B Donaghys Hill, Nelson Falls
18 Exploring Queenstown - - Penghana - photos here Mt Lyell Underground Mine Tour
19 Exploring Queenstown - - Silver Hills Motel West Coast Wilderness Railway
20 Queenstown to Strahan 53.0 613 Franklin Manor B&B King River Lookout
21 Strahan to Rosebery 77.9 1,226 Rosebery Top Pub Henty Sand Dunes
22 Rosebery to Waratah 63.4 1,342 Bischoff Hotel Lyn’s hand-made teddy bears in Tullah
23 Waratah to Corinna 68.4 1,290 Corinna Wilderness Experience Waratah's stamper mill
24 Relaxing in Corinna - - Corinna Wilderness Experience Pieman River Cruise
25 Waratah to Boat Harbour (via Table Cape) 88.8 1,277 Marrawah Airbnb with Simon & Stuart Table Cape lookout and lighthouse
26 Arthur River to Smithton (via Montagu) 73 461 Marrawah Beach House "Edge of the World" in Arthur River
27 Marrawah Petsitting - - Airbnb with Simon & Stuart Marrawah beach
28 Marrawah to Stanley (via Forest) 81 636 Airbnb The Nut
29 Exploring Stanley - - Airbnb Highfield House
30 Low Head to Bridport (via Beechford) 78.8 818 Platypus Park Low Head lighthouse
31 Bridport to Gladstone 60.6 363 Gladstone Central Apartments Gravestones of Chinese miners
32 Gladstone toward St Helens 40.2 624 Ringarooma Bank Myrtle Forest Walk

Random Stats

  • Total Cycling Days: 23
  • Total Distance Cycled: 1,500 km (65 km/day)
  • Total Elevation Gained: 21,400 m
  • Longest Day: 99 km from Derwent Bridge to Queenstown
  • Biggest Climb: 1,840 m from Hobart to Dobson Lake in Mount Field National Park, almost all of it in the last 16 km
  • Fastest Speed: 68 km/h while descending a big hill on my way into Richmond

The silica road

My Favourite Accommodations

King George Sound (Tasman Peninsula) – Airbnb with Jen & George – wonderful hosts who happily share their home, a peaceful spot in the forest with beautiful views of the sea below. It took me about 30 minutes to cycle there from the main road.

Norfolk Bay (Tasman Peninsula) – Norfolk Bay Convict Station – a B&B full of history and character. This house was once used as a base for transporting convicts between Hobart and Port Arthur.

Dunalley (Tasman Peninsula) – Casilda House B&B – a beautiful homestead right on the water in a quiet fishing village with very welcoming hosts.

Westerway (Derwent Valley) – Duffy’s Country Accommodation – a relaxing former ranger’s cabin in the country that I just didn’t want to leave. Watch the sheep and cows wander by just outside your door. This is a good base for exploring Mount Field National Park.

Queenstown (West Coast) – Penghana B&B – Once the mine manager’s house, this B&B is full of character and history (see my post here) and the hosts are more than happy to share it with guests.

Corrina (West Coast) – Corrina Wilderness Experience – rustic cabins in a wonderfully calm setting in the Tarkine Wilderness along the Pieman River.

Marrawah (North West) – Airbnb with Simon & Stuart – Simon’s grandmother’s house feels like home and overlooks a stunning bay. Friendly cats and dogs join the hosts to give guests a warm welcome.

Simon & Stuart's place

Now for some practical trip planning advice…

Road Conditions & Traffic
On the East Coast, near Hobart, and on the North Coast I found the traffic quite heavy. Roads in the Central Highlands and West Coast are less busy. In both cases, the roads are often narrow with little or no shoulder and there are tight turns with limited visibility. The West Coast was better in this respect, having a shoulder more often and generally being wider. People tend to drive fast in Tasmania but most slowed down and gave me space, except for transport trucks, which often barely move over or slow down.

Back to sheep pasture and the sea

Taking smaller roads, when you can find them, makes a big difference. This sometimes means getting creative with your route, for example going on a gravel road rather than a paved/sealed one. I found that most of the sealed roads were generally in good condition, some even freshly paved. Gravel roads were sometimes rocky with washboarding but not so badly as to make then un-rideable without suspension. These could be challenging with a fully loaded bike. If you plan to spend many days on gravel roads, a bike with suspension would be quite helpful.

Peaceful rural scenery

Bushfires and Road Closures
Summer (mid-December to February) is bushfire season. These fires can start unexpectedly and move unpredictably. A number of areas I wanted to see had road closures due to bushfires. The smoke can also get quite thick, reducing visibility and making the hard work of cycling a lot less fun.

For up-to-date information on bushfires and road closures, see TasALERT.

As far as I got along the Western Explorer Road

Mobile Phone Service
Telstra is the only network that works outside of the cities and towns in Tasmania. On the East Coast I found that reception was good in most places. On the West Coast there were long stretches without any reception when away from the towns.

"Edge of the World" at Arthur River

Where to Stay
I had no set route or itinerary in mind and just took it a day at a time. I stayed in a combination of B&Bs, old character-filled hotels, hostels, and with friends. Often, we just showed up in a town and took whatever was available (sometimes, the very last room). Sometimes we reserved a day or two ahead. This worked well everywhere except for Coles Bay, where we ended up in a large house that was perfectly nice but way more than we needed and rather expensive. Book ahead for Coles Bay if you’re not camping.

Tarkine Hotel's dinning hall

Weather – Wind, Sun, and Rain
Tasmania’s weather is very changeable. I found most days hot, yet the very next day could be quite chilly. Near the sea it is usually cooler than inland and there is often a strong breeze. Sometimes the wind coming off the sea was very strong, making it difficult to cycle at a reasonable speed. The sun is especially intense this far south. Sunscreen is essential. Tasmania is known for rain, especially the West Coast. I must have visited in an unusually dry year as it only rained twice while I was cycling and not hard enough or cold enough that I needed a rain jacket.

7-DSC07921

Clockwise or Counterclockwise?
I cycled clockwise around Tasmania. An advantage is that this puts you on the same side of the road as the sea, so you get the best views when you’re along the coast. A disadvantage is that the prevailing headwinds come from the west, so you’ll be heading straight into them as you cycle from Hobart to the West Coast. I must have been lucky as I had very little wind on this part of the trip.

7-DSC06986

East Coast or West Coast
Go to the East Coast for convict history, small town charm, and easier cycling. Go to the West Coast for nature, mining history, and challenging cycling. They’re both great experiences and I’m happy I had the opportunity to visit each of them. If you have the time, why not do both?

Ruins of the church at Port Arthur

Where to Start
Getting to Tasmania is fairly easy. You can fly to Hobart (in the south) or Launceston (in the north). There is also a ferry between Melbourne and Devonport (in the north). These are all great places to start and you can either hire bicycles from these cities or have one delivered to you there. If you only have time for a short visit, you can fly to Hobart and take the ferry from Devonport back to Melbourne. Even though I had lots of time, this is what I did. You get both experiences that way.

Spirit of Tasmania ferry
Spirit of Tasmania ferry

When To Go
I cycled from mid-January to mid-February. I found most days fairly hot. Only two days were cold. I may have just lucked out, as Tassie is renowned for cold weather even in summer. The roads were quite busy until after Australia Day (Jan 26), when most of the mainlander Australians head back home and kids return to school. Bush fires in late January and February affected were I could cycle, obscured the scenery, and made the air difficult to breathe. If I were to visit Tasmania again, I’d avoid the peak season (mid-December through January).

Donaghys Hill

Queenstown and her copper-rich mountains

Road Kill
I was really surprised at the number of dead animals on Tasmanian roads. Sometimes it seemed like every 10 minutes I’d see a new one. It’s sad. There’s no real danger to a cyclist but the worst part is the horrid smell. You often smell it before you can even see it.

Goof-ball
“Please don’t run us over!!”

Apps, Maps, and other Resources
I bought a driving map from the tourist information center in Hobart. There is also a series of topographic maps that will give you more detail but I found the single map for the whole state sufficient.

I used the maps.me app on my phone to help with navigation and planning. It works offline and has a good set of features, but it’s not quite as good as Google Maps.

The Travelways Newspaper (available from tourist information centers) has a complete list of official accommodations. Airbnb was also useful.

I tracked each day’s cycle with strava. You can download my gps track and see the elevation profile by clicking the strava link in each day’s trip report. I’m happy to provide the gpx tracks from my trip. Just leave a comment here letting me know you’d like them.

Bicycle Hire/Rental
I hired a bike from Manfred who runs Green Island Tours. He is located about 10 km from St Helens but he will deliver a bike to you in Hobart, Launceston, or Devonport for a fee. The bike I rented was a well-maintained Merida Speeder T2. It’s heavy but sturdy. Manfred included all of the tools and spare parts that I might need. I paid $335 AUD for a one-month rental.

You can also hire bikes from Rent A Cycle Tasmania in Launceston ($10 delivery to Hobart) at prices similar to Green Island. Another option is Long Haul with higher-end bikes but it’s more expensive.

Inviting Stanley

Clothing and Cycling Gear
I wore a cycling jersey, padded cycling shorts, and fingerless gloves. Be sure to wear bright colours so that you’re easily visible. Only once did I wear a jumper during the morning until I warmed up. I took a rain jacket but never had to use it. I also wore arm warmers but they were more to prevent sunburn than to keep my arms warm. On hot days I soaked them with water first to keep cool.

I picked up some cycling gear from Bike Ride in Hobart (74 Liverpool St). Tasmania is expensive in general but the customer service at Bike Ride is outstanding.

Sporting my new and very form-fitting jersey

National Parks Pass
To enter any of the national parks as a cyclist, you need to purchase a pass. It costs $30 ($60 for cars) for two months. The pass is just a slip of paper that you can get when you enter any of the parks either at an information board or visitor center.

Two little Tasmanian Devils
Two little Tasmanian Devils

Some must-do’s

See the Tasmanian Devil. I really enjoyed the Tasmanian Devil Unzoo. There are a number of places where you can get a glimpse of this endangered animal that only exists in the wild in Tasmania.

Sample some wine in wine country. Along the east coast and near the historic town of Richmond, there are many vineyards

Try the scallops, oysters, and fresh salmon almost anywhere you go, but especially along the East Coast and in Hobart.

Learn about Tasmania’s convict history at Port Arthur or Hobart’s Female Factory.

Visit a historic mining town on the West Coast where you can live like a mine manager and tour an active copper mine.

Take a boat trip to Maria Island or along the peaceful Pieman River.

Enjoy any number of the 60 Great Short Walks in Tasmania, like Wineglass Bay or Donaghys Hill.

Myrtle Forest Walk

I hope this gives you some inspiration and some ideas to create your own cycling adventure.

Have you ever thought of cycling in Tasmania?

Advertisements

8 thoughts on “Tasmania Cycle Tour

    1. Thanks! I’ve really enjoyed having you follow along. Thanks for all your comments.

      This week I’m going to explore the Great Ocean Road that runs along Australia’s “surf coast”. It has beautiful rugged coastal scenery and lots of hipster surf towns, so I’m really looking forward to that. Next week, I’m flying to Bali to do some scuba diving and yoga and, hopefully, see my first even total solar eclipse.

      1. Wow, I’ve been dying to see a total solar eclipse since reading the essay “Total Eclipse” by Annie Dillard. One of my favorite writers, and one of the most powerful stories I’ve read. Check it out before you go. Enjoy your travels!

  1. A great summary of your trip Justin. Tasmania is such a beautiful place. I’ve just read that you’re doing the Great Ocean Road next, that will be fantastic. I’ve driven that road countless times and never ever get sick of it. To do it on a bike will be brilliant. And Bali will be amazing too. Lucky you! Enjoy … look forward to following your new adventures.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s