Bikepacking The East Coast Of Tasmania
In a world as hectic and time-poor as we live in now, the mythical four day weekends are the rarest of beasts. Never to be squandered on the mundane or everyday, but rather custom made for relaxation and reward. And sometimes for making life-long memories.
While it wasn’t an officially gazetted long weekend, one of our staff (Sascha) recently decided that he’d put in enough overtime and worked enough consecutive days to take a cheeky extended long weekend. This was no spur-of-the-moment impulse, but rather a carefully planned strategy to take off with a couple of close friends for a tour of the beautiful east coast of Tasmania on a bikepacking voyage.
And so began the creation of a beautiful experience for the three; one they’re already looking back on with longing.
Two of the trio flew out from Melbourne’s Tullamarine airport late on a Wednesday night so as to maximise their time on the ground, and have a full 4 days in Tasmania (the thrid memeber of the group couldn’t quite squeeze that much time off and would be arriving a day later).
The plane trip from Melbourne to Launceston is a typically uneventful, brief affair, with little time to do more than reach cruising height, serve a snack and then begin descent. Anyone who has ever flown this route is left with the distinct impression of brevity – a quick hop and it’s done. Their flight was as uneventful as you’d expect – perhaps the banality of the flight speaks volumes about how accustomed we all are to the near perfection of air travel.
After touching down in Launceston just before 9:30pm, the pair had the odd experience of being held up by a customs dog – sniffing for fresh fruit. After the dog had done his thing and found no contraband, the duo collected their luggage and waited curbside for their host for the evening (a well placed mate) to pick them up.
When you’re launching on a bikepacking adventure, nutrition is paramount. It’s possible that accounted for the meal waiting for them on arrival at their mates’ place (at least, that’s what they claim, we have serious doubts) – beer and pasta, food of the cycling Gods!
The next morning the sun rose through a vail of drizzling rain that made it perfect to spend a couple of hours in-doors re-assembling the bikes from their travel boxes (nothing fancy here, simple carboard bike boxes identical to the ones you can have, usually for free, from any bike shop).
With those preperations completed, the guys took off into the rain to drop the bikes off to be minded (huge shout out to the super friendly folk at Bike Ride Hobart for taking such good care of the steeds) while the pair took in some of the sights.
MONA was always on the agenda for the visit to Hobart (how could it not be?). Tickets for this incredible experience were purchased and passage on the ferry secured – time for some culture!
What can you say about MONA that hasn’t already been said? if you’ve been, you already know. If you haven’t been, you should. Everything from the architecture to the art, the location to the relaxed atmosphere, it all combines for a brilliant experience.
The great thing about MONA is that it’s a living gallery – with a constant schedule of festivals and events; what a way to start a trip, and a must to see more than once. Among the comments from the guys about MONA was that they can’t wait to go back – this was a real highlight of the trip.
The Call Of The Open Road
After the visual experience that was MONA it was time to head back to Bike Ride Hobart to collect the bikes and ride out to the airport to meet up with the third member of the band.
Sascha spent some time assembling and tuning up her bike in-situ at the airport, making certain it was perfect for the trip ahead. From there the plan was to head out into the wilderness and carve their own path to Twin Lakes.
The now complete group left the airport at around 7pm, with what they thought would be a simple and fairly easy 35 k ride to their evenings’ destination. Little did they know that as soon as they were out of the suburban area they’d have absolutely zero phone receiption, having to rely instead on the built-in GPS on an iPhone.
Pro Tip: make sure you charge your lights BEFORE you head out into the unknown!
The 35k turned out to be mostly gravel, contain a wrong turn and take just on 3 hours to complete! One might say not an aspicious begining to the journey, but that would be to miss the point – the gang were all pretty happy it began with an adventure (even if it was mostly a mis-adventure!).
Arriving at the cabin (that was stunningly situated right on Twin Lakes), the group discovered that the day held one more surprise – their booking (although confirmed prior to departure – thanks for your sterling work bookings.com), hadn’t been received by the cabin grounds reception and it looked for a while as if they were in for a very long, very cold night. Thankfully the property manager sorted out the issue quickly and efficiently and then welcomed the trio to their cabin. It has to be said, the property manager was a great guy – relaxed and friendly in a completely unforced way – an attitude that the group would encounter time and again while touring Tassie – everyone was relaxed, friendly and keenly interested in what the trio was doing.
After surviving wrong turns, kilometres of gravel and lost bookings, the guys finally got to build up a nice log fire, crank up the oven and sink a few (warm) tinnies of XXXX (don’t ask, it was all the property manager had left, and by this time nobody was complaining).
Early the next morning the group were woken by the smiling property manager who was laden down with half a kilo of locally grown bacon and half a dozen barn laid eggs – if you’re planning to ride the best part of 85 k on mixed surfaces, it’s best to fuel up properly, and this certainly did the job!
Heading away from Twin Lakes, the group took various back roads towards Buckland in order to get back to the A3 (Tasman Highway). Continuing on the A3 heading for Orford, which was the designated lunch stop for the day. Orford is an incredibly tiny hamlet, right on the water with very little commerce or population. This made it an ideal place to take a break before continuing north on the A3 to Swansea, a slightly bigger burg than Orford, but not by much. Again, right on the sea which allowed for a refreshing ocean swim.
Pro Tip: bike gear makes for pretty good swimming gear!
While the group were in Swansea, they decided to embrace the Aussie lifestyle and have dinner at the local RSL. Nothing says “Aussie” like a couple of beers and some fish & chips all while watching the locals play Meat Bingo (think of bingo, where the prize is a meat platter)!
The next morning saw an incredible sunrise, with the summer heat in full effect – if you’re travelling to Tassie for your own bike packing adventure, you’ll probably want to go in the summer as the weather is simply stunning. Just be aware that this far south there is some real bite in the sun and you will burn within minutes if you don’t liberally apply the sunscreen – take more than you think you’ll need.
Heading out of Swansea and away from the coast, the group ran into the owner of the motel where they’d spent the previous night. He regaled the guys with a story of a mythical hill outside Swansea that, once crested, you could put your car in neutral and literally roll under no power for 19 k – needless to say, the trio were pretty excited by the prospect! Excited, that is, until he mentioned that the 19 k free ride was TOWARD Swansea, not away from it where they were headed! Oh well, as the saying goes, forewarned is forearmed.
As luck would have it, it didn’t take long to find that hill. Epic is too tame a word for it. Just when you thought that you’d crested, you found it was a false summit and the hill just kept going. And going. And going. When you thought it couldn’t keep going, it did. Finally, after what was probably only an hour of climbing (but felt like 10) the peak was reached and the (now exhausted) riders could enjoy the fruits of thier work – a fast and fluid (but all-too-short) descent into Campbell Town where it was time to stop for a well deserved beer and a late lunch.
It would have been very, very easy to have stayed in Campbell Town, drinking beer, but they knew they had another 10 k to ride to get to Ross, that evening’s stop. Ross is a beautiful little village, famous for its historic woman’s prison. Ross is also noted for its historic bridge, sandstone buildings and (like much of Tassie) its convict history.
Nestled on the banks of the Macquarie River, it’s a picturesque town that has a quiet charm (and the best vanilla slice anywhere in the known universe – thank you Ross Bakery, never give up that century-old oven and never stop making those incredible vanilla slices. Seriously, ride there just to experience one). It must be said, the Ross pub is a great place to spend an evening, but get in early if you’re looking for food – the kitchen closes at an unbelievably early 8pm!
The next morning saw a slightly overcast start with sunny breaks, which changed quickly to a steady drizzle. Riding along the Midland Highway, the trio encountered a fair amount of traffic (unusual for this trip), with highway conditions in terms of surface not really deserving of the term ‘sealed’, with a patchy and broken road under wheel.
Basically, it was a couple of hours of head down, tap it out type riding. The Midland Highway heralded an uneventful arrival in Launceston, which was a good thing, as the arrangements (which were specifically designed to make things uneventful) turning out to be pretty eventful!
It was organised with a local bike shop ahead of time for them to set aside three bike boxes (a fairly loose arrangement it must be said) with the shop agreeing to leave them outside for the guys to collect.
Perhaps they were a little concerned about their boxes wellbeing, perhaps they were concerned about littering or perhaps they simply forgot. Whatever the reason, they didn’t leave them and so there was now no way of packing the bikes for the return flight to Melbourne. Airlines tend to frown on people attempting to check unboxed bikes, so a plan b was needed.
Since the flights were set for very early morning, the group decided to head out to the airport in the fading light and buy the three required boxes (at a very reasonable $20 per box – although the $80 return cab fare to and from the airport pretty much ate any bargain there).
Pro Tip: the vast majority of airports sell these Qantas bike boxes, making it pretty easy to simply rock up to the airport on your bike and box it up on the spot.
After spending less than half an hour boxing the bikes up, the gang headed off into Launceston for one final Tassie dinner – at the Jail House Grill, on Wellington Street in Launceston – if you’re looking for an absolutely delicious steak then this is the place – with big-city prices (around $43 for a 280 gram Eye Fillet), it may not be the cheapest but it is certainly quality.
After a meal of that size, and the planned early morning flight out, the only thing on their tired minds was sleep.
The flight back to the ‘big smoke’ was a mirror image of the flight over – time to climb to cruising altitude, eat the snack and descend back into Melbourne. The only difference this time was the memories the three tired friends carried home with them – they may not have weighed enough to count as carry on, but their value is beyond meassure.
We can’t stress this enough: Tasmania is an absolutely beautiful place to visit, an amazing place to ride and one that you’ll want to return to again and again – east coast, middlands or west coast, there’s something for all types of cyclists in this state of wonder.
This trip to the east coast of Tasmania, perhaps more so than most similar journeys, presented a myriad of photographic opportunities – here’s a sample of what the guys captured while away.
A Note On Equipment
We’re not going to list out each individual item of equipment used on the trip – there are countelss bikepacking websites that do a great job of that (like the eponymous bikepacking.com).
Instead, we’d like to briefly touch on two things that were standout items on this trip – the Burra Burra bags from Specialized and the Turbo Cotton Tyres, also from Specialized.
The bags managed to exceed the hype, performing flawlessly the entire trip – everything you could want fits right inside. The range covers handlebar bags (for those items you use frequently and need immediate access to), frame bags, dry bags and stabilizer seat packs (all available in various sizes). They functioned without fault, are more than reasonably priced and have proven to be very robust.
The Turbo Cotton tyres took an absolute pounding on all sorts of terrain, from chip-seal through to heavy gravel and came away without a single cut. For such a comfortable and fast tyre to be able to stand up to the abuse they got on this trip is almost unheard of – stellar job Specialized!
Learn more about the Burra Burra bags here.
Learn more about the Turbo Cotton tyres here.