Hobart and the East Coast beaches
After escaping the soggy snows of Cradle Mountain I hopped on the bus to Launceston to thaw out and make a new plan. The weather had put a serious dent in my tramping ambitions so I reminded myself of one of my motivations to visit Tasmania, to connect with the Tassy Greens. So it was off to Hobart, the capital.
The bus trip through the centre of the island is quick and fairly scenic with dense forests and open tracts of pastoral farmland. The bus terminates just a few blocks from the city centre and I found the hostel whose listing had caught my eye in the Lonely Planet, 'The Pickled Frog'. True to the description 'the frog' had a casual atmosphere with a lively bar room and relaxing common room. There were a few quirks like no real lights in the dorms but what would you expect from a pickled hostel?
A few days flashed by roaming the streets of Hobart taking in the sights of the historical waterfront district including Salamanca Market. There are interpretive signs everywhere in Hobart so it easy to take in the history of the town. The Tasmanian Green Party office turned out to be kiddy corner to the frog so I spent a little time there chatting and listening to their trials and tribulations.
A group of three girls at the hostel had rented a car for a couple of days to explore the east coast beaches and I accepted their invitation to hop onboard and swap mountain dreams for beachtime.
We left early next morning having a good laugh at our first driver Katie's premier experience driving on the left side of the road. Here I can confess that in my 3 months in Australia I have avoided driving myself entirely. Wineglass Bay was first on our list at Freycinet National Park and after a casual drive stopping at various other beaches en route we arrived at the trailhead after lunch. A spectacular hike up over a pass through 'the Hazards' takes you to a lookout above the picturesque sand rimmed cove and an easy descent down to the beach.
We spent a little time admiring the stunning beach before heading back over to the car and on to the hamlet of St. Helens were we spent the night at the comfortable YHA hostel.
The attraction just north of St Helens is the ominously named Bay of Fires, recently listed by Conde Naste as number 2 on their list of the world's most beautiful beaches (after St. Barts). Unlike its companions on that list (I am fairly sure) the Bay of Fires was devoid of any development. The single lane road in fact looked like it had only just been paved days before and all that greeted us at the end was a small lot large enough to park no more than 3 cars!
A short hike along a seaside trail popped us on to the first of several beaches which rimmed the wide open bay. The beaches certainly are beautiful but I had to imagine that the Bay of Fires had made the list as much for the cache of its obscure location as for the scenery. Anyone who has visited some of the remote beaches on BC's west coast might raise a similar eye brow. However there's no doubt that the pure white sand, emerald water and exotic vegetation combine to form a dramatic sight.
After a great morning wandering around the Bay of Fires we headed back to Hobart in time for Katie to make her evening flight to Melbourne and I followed her a day later choosing to fly rather than bus all the way back up the island to the ferry.
Next stop Queensland.