We didn’t think anything was going to live up to the playground right in front of our campsite at Coles Bay – but we were wrong. Moving into the Big 4 at St Helens, right on the edge of the Bay of Fires we discovered a jumping pillow (!!!), a playground and games room that we could camp practically in front of. I may or may not have been seen jumping around on the pillow with the kids a few times – as always there is no photographic proof (I don’t think). It seems this has become the kids paradise tour of Tasmania – which we are going to put an immediate stop to by going free camping after we check out on Wednesday. Of course it’s going to be a stark contrast after camping Disneyland but I’m sure the kids will cope – it’s a matter of the adults coping with the whining!
So in line with our aim of spoiling the kids fun we went and looked at all the spots the locals had recommended along the Bay of Fires for free camping. I may have also been a little reluctant, having been accustomed to power, running water and shower blocks (sigh) but as the photos will attest to, this place is the Tasmanian Whitsunday’s. Before all the Queenslanders get their knickers in a twist I know it can’t compete with the water temperature but otherwise there is white sand, turquoise water and miles and miles and miles of beautiful beaches. We are slowly luring the kids in with promises of night beach fires, toasted marshmallows and beach frisbee – plus hunting down every piece of detritus the ocean throws on the sand and declaring ‘treasure’ so it can stink out the camper.
The other highlight of the day was visiting the Pyengana Dairy Company headquarters, set right in the middle of the lush green grazing fields with a mountainous backdrop where we also trekked to one of the highest water falls in Tassie. The “Holy Cow Cafe” offered tastings of their traditionally made cheese (to die for), home made ice-cream and milk that hadn’t been homogenised, leaving the thick layer of cream on top. This is almost impossible to obtain on the ‘mainland’ so I’m devastated about leaving the land of cream topped milk now.
St Columba Falls
This was all topped off for the little people by seeing a real working dairy and lots of frolicking calves – although it made me realise what little city slickers we are raising when they became overly excited every time a cow ‘mooed’ and I had to explain what an udder was!!
This is hands down so far my favourite place in Tasmania. Everyone raves about the East Coast and with good reason – this is truly a wonderful spot. We invaded the Big 4 caravan park at Coles Bay with our multiple birth tour group and terrorised the current residents with five children under 6 (tee hee). Luckily we had the perfect position – right next to the playground, toilets, barbecue area with a view of the bay in the background…heaven for traveling parents. Nothing comes close to the joy of being able to setup and pack-up while your kids play! Also there was a Tavern practically on site and a really short walk down to the beautiful Muirs Beach so truly heaven.
Camp Inns at the Big 4 Coles Bay
Sunset from Camp Inns
If you ever needed a place to hide for a while, to recover from life or just ‘find yourself’ as the saying goes this would be it. I walked every morning and evening along the beautiful curved bay of Muirs Beach, complete with rock pools where the kids could play David Attenborough and discover crabs, shells and prawns while the adults watched the sky scape. I took so many photos of the same horizon as every time the light, clouds and time changed it dramatically – from the opposite end of the beach you could look back at where our camp site nestled in the green finger of land right in front of the ‘Hazards’ as the series of Mountains in Freycinet National Park are known as.
View Back to the Hazards from Muirs Beach
Another Face of Muirs Beach
Evening Fisherman at Muirs Beach
Fun at Dusk on the Beach
We all decided to challenge our children and take them on the Wineglass Bay hike (which involved a mountain so it was dicey!) Have to say I was impressed with all of them, a 2.5 hour hike took us threehours and that was pretty much constant motion for little legs up and down some very steep rock steps. It was well worth the effort, you couldn’t stay in Freycinet and not experience this stunning Tasmanian icon of a beach. Mind you, coming from Queensland we had no intention of swimming but apparently children have no nerve endings and our crazy Victorian friend joined them in braving the chilly water – but not for long.
The Beautiful Wine Glass Bay
Who’s in First?
Kid Collection Taking a Well Earned Break
Cape Tourville Lighthouse Board Walk
The only down side of this stay was saying good bye to our new friends as they headed off after two nights and we settled in for five. It’s not often you meet people on the road that are completely camping compatible (apparently it took them one and half years to find us!) and the kids especially were very sad to separate from their new friends. On the plus side they were travelling ahead of us so we’ve had regular updates on the best places to stay and where to go.
I found it very hard to leave this little haven, it will always be high on my list of perfect places to retreat to.
On our way to Hobart Lake Sinclair seemed like the perfect spot to break the trip – finishing point for intrepid hikers tackling the overland track (definitely not us!) with a stunning visitor centre, multiple hiking trails around the Lake and the potential to see platypus and wallabies – however neither of which made an appearance!
The camping spot was beautiful, under stands of gum trees that provided a fair amount of shelter from the pelting rain that seemed determined to follow us from the West Coast but didn’t do much to help with the overnight temperature of zero. No denying it was cold but the Mountain Design sleeping bags lived up to their temperature ratings, the kids managed to stay in their bags and not get lost down the bottom of them in the middle of the night and I just absolutely refused to go out for overnight toilet runs – this became somewhat of a national emergency by 7am but at least I didn’t have to leave my little burrow of warmth!
It’s funny how when you are away and playing tourist you will go outdoors on days that would normally see you hiding out under the doona – so despite drizzle and grey skies we loaded up the backpacks, briefed the short people on what ‘hiking’ is and set out – bright pink rain jackets pretty much assuring we weren’t going to lose anyone in the bush. Heading off whinging with games of I Spy and making a science lesson of photographing native plants we made the full two hour hike with only 20 minutes of piggy backing so overall it was counted a success. Brought home how different life is after having kids – the piggy back section felt like the only exercise portion of the hike and we had to avoid any long or steep trails – not because of muscle fatigue but ear damage from all the complaining…
It was a shame about the cold and rain here, it was so beautiful despite the weather but after a couple of nights we were feeling way too soggy and miserable to pretend it was fun anymore and headed for Hobart!
Not sure how I almost forgot to write about our side trip to Strahan – this is usually a ‘must do’ tourist activity on the West Coast, situated on the Macquarie Harbor you can take boat cruises or a scenic train trip from Queenstown to Strahan. To our shame we didn’t get around to either of these activities, partly because we had the pull of family keeping us around the Queenstown area and partly because of the exorbitant cost of taking the entire family on either. There is also a rather funny rivalry going on between Queenstown and Strahan, obviously the latter receives the bulk of the tourist attention and so the Queenstown locals like to refer to Strahan as their ‘toilet’ thanks to the mining tailings that used to be sent down the Queen River into the King River- and on to Macquarie Harbour!
However this pint sized tourist town on the harbour was picturesque and well worth a short drive to have lunch on the harbour, take a stroll the rainforest to a tiny waterfall and browse the Huon Pine centre to be amazed by huge lumps of timber polished to within an inch of their life and fashioned into everything from rocking horses to coffee tables. Unfortunately none of these would fit in the campervan (I was up for trying!)