I recently returned from a touring trip in Tasmania. The plan was for three of us to start out from Hobart and work our way up the east coat, across to Launceston and then back to Hobart by the central tablelands. We would mostly be camping and had allowed about two  and a half weeks for the journey, averaging 50 km per day. Used Lonely Planet's 'Cycling in Australia' as a guide.

The Bike

I couldn't really justify a dedicated tourer so decided to adapt my hybird bike. It is an aluminium framed flat bar with carbon fork , a 52-40-30 chain ring and a 26 tooth rear sprocket, which I knew was not really low enough. The front wheel only had 16 spokes so I swapped this for an old 32 spoke one I had lying around. Added a Topeak Super Tourist rear rack and Ortileb roll top rear panniers. Also mounted a Topeak Tour Guide handle bar bag. I put on Schwable Marathon Plus Tour 35mm tyres. Fully loaded, it came in at about 33kg.


The Trip

Flew down to Hobart and got a taxi to Sorrell, which is near the airport Took one pannier as on board luggage to avoid paying excess bagge. Set out early the next morning for Eaglehawk Neck. The bike handled very differently, could really feel the back end swaying about. Got a big shock on my first descent when a small shift in my weight started a big fish tailing action, but I managed to control it. Tried putting a bit more weight on the handle bars after this.

The ride was fairly flat and scenic. Nice sea side views. Had to wait at a swing bridge at Dunalley for a boat to go through  A long climb up to the look out and then steep descnt down to the neck. First camp site was failry basic back packers. We camped in a small paddock they had with lots of chickens and a sheep. No shops here at all, but luckily there was a resort and pub were we had some dinner.



Next morning we climbed about 200m along Pirate Bay Drive back to the look out. It was a long climb, but not too bad, even with all the extra weight. Now we are heading north through Welangta state forest towards Orford. Have bee told that a bridge has been washed out, but cyclists can skirt around on a  walking track. A dirt road begins out of Kellevie. Very soon it is a long steep climb. Have to get and and walk after a while. A few signs warning the road is closed but we press on. Reached a lunch and BBQ stop at Sandpit Creek in the afternoon. It had a big under cover area and a fire place, so actaully made a good camp site. Oddly, there is a hen (or rooster) wandering around the area. It sleeps in one of the sheds. Lots of trucks and people around working on the washed out bridge.


In the morning we walk the bikes down to the bridge which has almost been completed. The site foreman is unhappy that we are in the area. He has had a stream of cyclists passing through here. The walking path around the bridge has been built over. He reluctantly lets us through and gets the workers to stop for a few minutes. More steep gravel road ahead. I lose control on one descent as I swerved to avoid some road kill and fall to the side, but only a few minor grazes. Glad to get to the coast and back on bitumen. There is a great cafe at Orford were I had a scallop pie. Meet a Japanse girl here who is cycling alone. We press on to Swansea. Although it is a coastal road, there is still a lot of climbing. Get in failry late to a caravan park, have travelled about 88km today.


Now heading towards Coles Bay. Lonely Planet suggests a short cut by using the informal boat service across Moulting lagoon. I ring up the boat man and he makes it all sound a bit tricky. He can't do it if there is too much wind, has to be a high tide, gets me to repeat the directions to the meeting  back to him very carefully. We cycle out to Dolphin Sands and meet the guy who is running a small tinny. The trip is only a few hundred metres. We manage to get two bikes plus all the panniers in one boat load, so a second trip is needed. At $20 per bike, it seems like a good profit margin, but it has saved us a lot of back tracking. Short trip down to Coles Bay where we find the caravan park. Later we ride out to the national park with out panniers and walk up to the lookout over Wine Glass bay. Notice that the national park has a large camping ground with really good views, but no showers.


Travel up to Bicheno and stop for lunch. Getting strong head winds today which makes it a struggle. It is also a public holiday, so lots of traffic.

It's getting late so we stop at the camping ground at Chain of Lagoons. It is very basic, only pit toilets but there are hundreds of people here, mostly in camper vans. A strange but very welcome site is the Mr Whippy van that turns up and does a brisk business.



Head winds not too bad as we continue north. Pass through  Scamander where we meet two other touring cyclists. So we form up a convoy of 5 bikes and ride on to St Helens. I need a break from camping so opt for a cabin. We are spending 2 days here. Do a short trip out to Binnalong Bay which al the guide books say is a must see. It's pretty good, but not that different form the rest of the coat. Ride back via Humbug Hill and the very corrugated gravel road gives us a good shaking.


Starting to go inland towards Launceston. This will be the first big climb as we ascend about 500m to the Weldborough pass. The road is steep, tight and twisty. After a few kilomteres, I have to relent and push the bike. The gearing isn't low enoguh for the weight I am carrying. As we get above the tree line, it flattens out a bit. I can see the summit and am able to ride all the way up to it. Fast and twisty descent through the rain forest to Weldborough where we meet a Japanese cylist. Could have camped in the grounds of the only pub here, but press on to Derby. Still quite hilly here and have covered a lot of ground today. The camp site here is free, but no showers.


Still heading west to Scottsdale. Scenery is nothing special here, compared to the east coast. We have passed some timber plantations and that means lots of log trucks. Some of them are B doubles and tall also. They come roaring past at what seems like 100km/h even though the road is only single lane in each direction. Have to watch out that the vortices they leave don't buffet us to much. Try to get off the road when we hear them coming. Lots of rolliing hills. Camping ground is free again, seems like these small towns want to help out the campers. Most people arrive in camper vans. The log trucks roll on all through the night, their engine braking waking me many times. Hot showers here but they are coin operated. See the first bike shop of the trip and take the chance to get my tyres pumped up.


We are now deviating from the Lonely Planet routes to visit my uncle in Lillydale. This is the first road we don't have an elevation chart for, and it's a real tough one! Lots of of long twisty inclines, with log trucks still roaring past. Get to Liillydale around lunch time. My uncle has brought a trailer so we load up all the bikes and drive to his small farm up in the hills. He puts on a wonderful lunch, dinner and breakfast for us. We all enjoy the comfort of a real bed.


We are starting to head south and back towards Hobart. My uncle offers to take us to Deloraine, which means cutting out the difficult navigation around Launceston. After that it is the biggest climb of the trip, 1000m up to the central plateau over 35km. It's a bit daunting so my uncle generously assists by transporting some of the bikes and gear up to the top. I ride all the way up, but without panniers which is so much easier. Spectacular views now of the Great Western Tiers.


Soon after reaching the summit, the Great Lake unfolds in front of us. A twisty decent on dirt road brings us to Breona, which is just a small collection of holiday cabins and some unofficial camping spots.The lake is partly artifical, being one of the first hydro projects. It has been stocked with fish, so lots of fisherman out here, even at night time when it is very chilly. Next day we have 19 km of gravel to reach the small town of Miena. Pass lots of shacks scattered along the road. Back on gravel, a very flat and desolate landscape now.


The route is mostly down hill now. Not much to see, except for some stone sculptures. Head on to Bothwell, another small town. Caravan park is right next to the cemetery. This one has hot showers that are free.


Next day a bit of climbing and then a long descent into Apsley. Join the Midlands Highway at Milton Mowbray. Was expecting to see a wider road here. But the verge is only about 50 cm wide and flanked by a thick vibra line lane marker. On an uphill section, it opens up to double lanes with a gutter on one side. But still lots of slower cars and trucks on the inside lane. Starts to feel a bit dangerous. Then back to the single lane plus narrow verge, except now it is down hill, so I'm getting more nervous. It improves as we pass through Pontville. Now into Hobart's outer suburbs at Bridgewater. Have a bit of trouble finding a way onto the bridge. On the other side there is a nice back road following the railway. Eventually it is augmented by a dedicated cycle path. Stay at the camping ground in Berriedale.


The final day is a 20 km ride in the cente of Hobart. Find a good hotel and enjoy 3 days off the bike.Lots of rain about now. There has been flooding and roads are cut on the east coast. We were very lucky, having no more than a few spots of rain in over 2 weeks of riding.


I ride out to the airport alone, my friends are staying on for a few days at Bruny Island. The Derwent Bridge cycle path is the narrowest I have seen, barely wider than my 500mm handle bar in some sections. Tricky to travel on with fully loaded panniers and strong cross winds, so I walk some of it. Then the main highway continues but there is no verge and an 80 km/h speed limit going up hill. I find a nice bike path along the coast which takes moe to Bellerive.  Eventually have to join the Tasman Highway from the South Arm Highway. Again another fast uphill section with no break down lane, so try to get out of there as quick as I can. Once on the Tasman Highway, there is a good break down lane. Get to the airport where it is time to box the bike and wait for the plane.


Overall, it's been a great trip. Some tough sections and difficult terrain, but beautifull country side and friendly people. The bikes stood up very well with no punctures, and the riders coped pretty well also. I would get a set of front panniers if I was to do another long tour, to balance out the bike.


Views: 919

Comment by Michael S. (Boxhead) on April 7, 2011 at 8:42pm

Thanks for posting Kim. Sounds like an adventure.

I now have a dose of "Touring envy". It's going to make it hard to sit in the office tomorrow.

Are there more instalments of the trip report to come?


Comment by Rob Berry on April 8, 2011 at 10:39am
Fiona and I were in that area of Tasmania earlier in the year, but we only cycled around Hobart (which was really nice). It really is so beautiful, I'd definitely like to return as a cyclo-tourist.
Comment by naomi on April 8, 2011 at 2:17pm

That boat guy has a great little buisness! We used him too but so worth it not to backtrack.

I went on my hybrid too - it was fine. Tasmania was so much fun - Did you find the central tablelands quite isolated? Tasmania can have a very long way between ammenities.

Comment by Neil Alexander on April 8, 2011 at 3:59pm

The boat guy is amazing. He seems to have been doing it since the 1980s -- Alethea and I first used his services in 1986 -- or perhaps the job passes down through the generations.

Some of the tourist information centres frown on him, referring to him as a cowboy and suggesting that he is not licensed or insured or anything. It seems to me that despite the tinyness of his tinny, he takes safety seriously and refuses to operate in windy or otherwise dangerous conditions. I haven't heard of him losing any customers.

As for the central highlands, Nomes, if you want to experience isolation and rugged beauty, that's an ideal place. Cycling up there feels like a real adventure, especially given the amount of unsealed road. But there is very little traffic.

Comment by KimR on April 8, 2011 at 5:23pm

Neil, it's the same boat man. His wife was saying he has being running this for 30 years, but is slowing down a bit now. It's just described as an informal service, so I wouldn't expect insurance cover or anything. It's only a 5 minute trip, so not too risky I guess.


Yep Naomi, did central tablelands, will add in a description soon. Very isolated, the  desolate scenery  reminded me of the movie 'High Plains Drifter'.

Comment by Ma Dame Vélo on April 8, 2011 at 6:06pm
Kim, I love that you took the Specialized.  Inspires me to just ride mine rather than buying a "specialised" tourer.  Great trip, great blog, many thanks.
Comment by Michael O'Reilly on April 10, 2011 at 5:53pm

Ah the boat man. He went a mile a minute in that thing and was talking even faster!

I did hear a bit of grumbling from peeps about "he's not paying tax on that" but boo hoo. That's a major bit of backtracking on fairly dull roads avoided thanks to a $20 bill.  

Comment by Neil Alexander on April 10, 2011 at 9:31pm
Yeah, it would cost $22 if it was all above board. Stop whinging, peeps.
Comment by KimR on April 14, 2011 at 10:50pm
Blog is complete now.
Comment by Michael S. (Boxhead) on April 15, 2011 at 1:36pm

verge is only about 50 cm wide and flanked by a thick vibra line lane marker

Sounds a bit sketchy.


And timber trucks, that brings back memories of close encounters with timber jinkers while car touring years ago. They are crazy drivers. I don't like the idea of the same while cycling.



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