Despite having completed many motorcycle tours I am yet to ride four of Australia’s territories or states so I am going for a look at Tasmania.
Because Tasmania is as far from me as Singapore I am flying down and renting a bike in Launceston. I hit a new low in airline service changing flights at Sydney. The Jetstar bag drop had just one staff member and queues of over an hour despite everyone already e-checked in and baggage tagged at kiosks. The sole check in person was yelling at people and had one girl in tears sending her back to the kiosk to face another hour in the queue. Sorry I digress.
Fortunately nothing like that with Ben from Tasmania Motorcycle tours who was very friendly and phoned me in advance to offer to collect me at my hotel for bike pick up 1/2 a day early so I could cruise Launceston’s sights and gave me great advice on routes for my tour.
I am renting a Kawasaki KLR650 on this trip. I know I said I would not rent a bike with tubes again outside of SE Asia but bike rentals in Australia are expensive (like everything here) and I let Cheap Charlie choose the bike. Sigh… I really need to find a way to switch him off as I can afford to rent other bikes. Anyway Ben has supplied spare tube and tyre levers and tool kit and the bike has a breakdown service. I hope that means none are needed.
First day of touring I ride south to the central highlands.
It’s brisk but the sun is out. I stop at Perth, just because it is same name as capital of Western Australia which I am yet to get to.
Nice rural riding to Poatina which appears to be a village built to house workers for some past project in the 60’s. Then a nice ascent to the highlands where the temperature plummets to low single digits and I need to layer up and change to winter gloves.
It is bitterly cold and then I encounter some light rain that seems to almost be sleet. Its freezing up here despite being December. I persist to ride a loop around the lakes but it is gloomy and I go north and back down to lower levels as fast as I can.
I was planning to eat at Mole Creek pub because they make a Tasmanian Tiger pie (actually regular beef but with crust that has tiger on it) But I was so cold prior to reaching it I stopped in the town of Deloraine to thaw out with hot soup.
Some patchy rain, nothing heavy and mostly dry roads but the low clouds obscured views so I carry on to my accommodation for tonight in the town of murals, Sheffield.
The name of Sheffield has special meaning to me. When I was young I spent considerable time in Sheffield England, so much that I started to sound like a local, something which stayed with me for years later often people asking was I from the Midlands.
Photographing buildings is a particular type of photography and one I was poor at even when I had a decent lenses and hopeless at now with just my iPhone so instead here is some Christmas cheer and a glass of excellent ‘Fiano’ – a grape I had never tasted before visiting Tasmania but one I now recommend.
The sun came back early evening and it is daylight here until after 9.00pm which is nice. But I know why people in north QLD do not want daylight saving – it’s just so hot where I live we look forward to the sun setting early so it cools down enough to go outside.
Day two is superb weather despite a cloudy day being forecast. Look at this view of Round mountain from Sheffield.
I did a loop around farm roads to the north which reminded me of the roads around Alstonville NSW where my mate lives then came back to another viewpoint.
Nice riding along the base of Cradle mountain but the countryside is cold, barren and windswept. I did not go into the park as no desire to hike in cold wind.
Next I rode a superb road, the A10, AKA Hellyer gorge road. This is a cracking bit of tarmac offering everything a rider might like apart from views being all forested.
The A10 continues north in countryside that reminded me again of the Northern Rivers rolling hills which I used to ride many weekends. I stopped in Wynyard for lunch and viewing the map saw a cape with a lookout so detoured.
By chance I found a road that runs around Table Cape and there enjoyed this superb view north and west which reminded me of the many ocean viewpoints riding in Japan.
The A2 road west was nothing special however the scenery at Stanley was excellent. Very pretty town too.
Tonight however I move further west to Smithton where pub rooms were affordable unlike those in Stanley.
The money saved paid for a big feed at The Bridge hotel bistro, drinks and a very indulgent breakfast at Hugo’s Brew and Chew Smithton which I recommend.
Nature calls on the road and I was delighted to find these retro toilets with bike murals that were also clean and not vandalized.
I had been planning to ride down the west coast gravel roads however I changed my mind. I’ve done plenty of dirt riding when younger but just can’t get interested now days on these heavy ADV bikes with road bias tyres. The sun is shining so I decided to explore more of the excellent tarmac that Tasmania has and also ride the Hellyer Gorge again.
I am very happy with my switch today. I found another excellent motorcycle route, the C237 and enjoyed the gorge road even more 2nd time knowing what lies ahead which also let me plan a picnic lunch there, something I love doing on tour. Met a fellow rider there at the gorge down from Brisbane on a new 1250GS and we had a terrific chat about motorcycle touring.
The A10 continues and is quite good from Lake Roseberry to Zeehan. Then down to Strahan is ok. The B24 to Queenstown is a notable bike road but alas today was all torn up for resealing and a huge mess thanks to water trucks.
Eventually the road works ended. No doubt the B24 will be a cracker once all the repairs are finished as they seem to be improving some of the old surveying.
I might ride the wilderness train in Queenstown next time I visit Tasmania. I’m not into regular tourist things but it does look good. Had a half decent attempt at a Thai meal tonight but then the bill shock almost put me in hospital. Come on Australia you are shooting yourself in the foot with prices now.
Low clouds and light rain leaving Queenstown next morning meant I missed out on enjoying the A10 that climbs the range to the south.
Nice riding on terrific (and dry) road through the Franklin-Gordon wild rivers area. Cold again as I skirt the highlands. Nowhere to get food until I reached Ouse.
Excellent riding south of Ouse
My daily kilometres on this tour are very modest. Actually I could easy have added an extra 50-100km a day but my shortish routes allow me to slow everything down and take extended breakfasts and coffee stops or detour off my route anytime as I did next.
Seeing a road up a hill I thought I bet there is a good view up there but I stumbled upon something quite interesting when I stopped next to a historic marker. See above. (p.s. all photos can be clicked to view full screen if you are using a PC which the site is primarily designed for)
From the viewpoint I saw this field so rode over to take a look. The slow ride is the hardest to master but the most rewarding.
More meandering in Westerway where I made sure I filled up with fuel before leaving civilization.
Next I turn west and ride the excellent road to the Strathgordon in the wilderness of Tasmania.
I am staying in Strathgordon at Pedder’s wilderness lodge which is literally the only thing out here. I was worried what it might be like but no problems it has modern rooms, hot water, wifi, fireplace and bar stocked with fine Tasmanian wine and whiskey. Quite amazing considering how far it is from anything.
I spent the evening chatting to three other riders from various parts of Australia. All brought bikes across on the ferry but noted that it is really expensive and all were talking about needing at least new rear tyre to get home. I think fly and rent works here if coming from far away.
Next morning is beautiful blue skies however it is forecast widespread rain today coming from the west. I am riding east and hope to stay in front of it.
I get a perfect run from Strathgordon in sunshine and sky is still sunny so I linger in the village of Hamilton over coffee.
However refueling at Bothwell rain has surrounded me. I make the call to grab some food and eat in the park across the road while it is still not raining.
By the time I finish that rain has caught me but I ride out of it within 10 minutes and am confident by moving east I can out run it. I feel sorry for the many bikers I wave to riding west.
When planning todays route I did not realise I was on the main north south highway for about 60km. I have no interest in riding a 110kph highway and consider taking detour but it does allow me to put some miles between me and the rain. With blue skies again overhead I exit to visit the historic town of Ross a delightfully preserved turn of the century town.
My sightseeing is cut short as the rain has caught up but I manage to get this photo before the clouds wash out the trees colour.
My route east to the coast via B34 is still dry and a superb set of curves albeit a little busy with cars this afternoon.
I am staying in a cabin at the Swansea caravan park as motel rooms here are ridiculously expensive and am glad I got off the bike early as the thunder and rain rolled in not long after I alight. An easy walk has me at the RSL for the roast of the day. Feeling very Australian.
It pours down all night and next morning while not raining the skies are dark and gloomy. Still I set off anyway to Coles bay. The riders I met in Strathgordon insisted I visit the lighthouse there.
The views today probably would have been rubbish, I’ll never know. There is a toll to enter the national park of $45 which I refused to pay for the ten minutes I would be there to visit the lighthouse. Overseas I don’t mind but this is my country and national parks here are 100% funded by my taxes and owned by Australians. Tasmania you disappointed me with this mean spirited little money grab.
Still the ride down was great so it was not a wasted effort. From here north I encounter passing showers. Nothing heavy enough to be any worry but it kept the roads wet and conditions cold.
I ride the Elephant pass which would be a great road dry but had to be taken carefully today. Up the top is the village of St Mary’s where I warmed up with a coffee and home made fruit cake in the wonderfully named Purple Possum cafe.
The northern descent is better surveying but also wet. The light rain continues until I turned west away from the coast then roads very quickly dry out as the curves increase. A few small mountain ranges and plenty sweepers in the valleys made for a very enjoyable ride despite the grey skies.
Even an Aussie Tail of the Dragon – well kinda. The roads on this history trail were excellent riding and it’s an area I may explore another time in fairer weather.
Today the low dark clouds ruined photography but the country side was still pretty even if that is hard to show.
No problems returning the bike, no big city traffic to navigate. Very easy ride to Ben’s house where again some friendly banter was had before I was provided a transfer to my hotel.
No matter where I ride people always tell me “oh that’s not enough time, you will see nothing”. But I never want to try see everything. Far better for me to discover a destination that I want to revisit again because I can count those places on one hand.
Took me a long time to get here but it was worth the wait. I enjoyed riding Tasmania considerably and it joins my short list of places I will return to ride again.