All good things must come to an end, and so it must be for our Tasmanian adventure this time around. After a cracking week of weather and champagne 4WDing, we were running out of time to see everything we wanted.
After staying the night in Queenstown, we explored the hills around the area. Queenstown itself is a relatively big mining town. There isn't much in the way of attractions for the kids, but the scenery, which could be mistaken for a lunar landscape, is really something else. Here we also took the opportunity to stock up on food and supplies for the remainder of the trip. Due to the isolated nature of Queenstown, expect to pay more for your groceries and fuel.
After driving a few tracks around the southern part of Tassie, we slowly made our way north towards Hobart where we decided to stay in a hotel for a couple of nights. This gave us the chance to grab a well deserved hot shower and take in what the city had to offer.
We had always planned on spending a few nights over on the east coast, also known as the calm side of Tassie. We visited Wineglass Bay in Freycinet National Park and did the two-hour return walk – not for the faint hearted. This walking track is rated as a medium difficulty, so you need to have a reasonable level of fitness to be able to complete it. The view of the bay is simply fantastic, and should not be missed. If you're up to a bit of physical exercise and you want to wear the kids out, we highly recommend you take them on the walk to the lookout.
After a short drive down the track we decided to try and find a campsite for the night. After exploring for a short while, we found a suitable place in a game reserve. This proved perfect as we were able to have a fire. Keep in mind when camping in a National Park, by law you can't have any sort of fire. Gas stoves are permitted.
We got into camp with plenty of daylight. If you're travelling with kids, try and get into camp a few hours before sunset. This is less stressful, and the kids can give mum and dad a hand setting up. After a big BBQ meal (which of course was supplemented with a few cans of the cold stuff) we settled in for what was going to be a chilly night.
Morning arrived before we knew it and it was time to pack up camp once again and head further north. We only spent a few days on the north-eastern side of the island, but there were enough tracks and attractions to fill up an entire month. Don't be worried about finding a camp site, there are plenty littered along the whole coastline.
Leaving the east coast behind us, we headed for Bridport and St Albans Bay. Bridpoint is the last town before you hit the beach at St Albans Bay, so take this opportunity to fill up your water jerries and other supplies before heading out any further. Camping in the bay is fully self-sufficient with no fresh water and amenities close by.
The track to get onto the beach starts off as dirt but changes quickly. Before you know it you're on the sand, staring at your first dune. Take this opportunity before attempting the dune to air down to the right tyre pressures. Once you've climbed that first hill, the track weaves its way through vegetated dunes and some deep water holes. Care must be taken along this track. We ran into a little trouble flooding the front foot wells of the 80 Series. You may hear this a lot – always check the depth and the state of the bottom. If a hole has had water sitting in it for some time there's a good chance the base is like quick sand and it will bog a 4WD in seconds.
After a good hour driving through the dunes, you emerge onto the beach. South of the beach entrance is a no-go zone for 4WDs, so please respect the rules. Driving on the sand here is fairly straight forward. There isn't a great deal of soft sand along the main part of the beach but in the dunes it's a different story.
Once we caught sight of the dunes there was no stopping us. We decided to explore the area behind them for potential campsites. We found there is plenty of room available, so there would be no reason to camp on top of others, even in the peak season. For us nothing could beat a campsite nestled in the dunes, only 20m from the water. We set up camp and settled in to what would be our home for the next three days.
Fishing was on the agenda so we grabbed the rods and wet a line. Unfortunately our fishing skills left much to be desired. We couldn't even get a nibble, but a fisherman just down the beach was getting tired reeling them in. Once the sun set, it started to cool down quite quickly so we headed back, started the fire and whipped up a quick feed. The night had to be one of the clearest we'd had all trip. With no ambient lighting, I took the opportunity to grab a few star trail shots with the camera.
We woke the next morning to yet another beautiful day. A couple of us even got the courage up to get around in a t-shirt and shorts! Jumping straight in the 4WD, I hit the first dune of the day and sunk straight down. I tried again but couldn't get any further. At this point I realised someone had fiddled with my tyre pressures and had pumped them up to 40psi! It was funny at the time, and really demonstrated to us the importance of the correct tyre pressures. I aired down to the right pressure and sailed up in exactly the same spot I struggled with only five minutes earlier.
Once we cleared the first few rows of dunes, the monster dune came into view. This dune was incredible and with a good climb of about 100m through soft sand, it was determined not to let us up. After a few attempts in second low, I had to drop the pressures to about 10psi and take a run at it in third low! Nothing beats screaming up a soft sand dune wrestling the wheel to keep the whole truck on track. This time it worked, it really showed what more momentum and lower tyre pressure can do in dune driving. The view from the top was spectacular and was well worth the effort in getting up there.
The rest of the day was spent soaking up the fantastic weather. It was our last day and we didn't want to wear ourselves out for the big drive back to Sydney. There is something about a beach that can keep kids entertained for hours. This area is perfect for a travelling family. Before we knew it the day had passed and it was our final night in Tassie.
It's always a sombre feeling when you get to the last night of an epic trip and you know that tomorrow it's back to civilisation and the bustling city life. For us though we were over the moon with the time we had on the Apple Isle, and we'll definitely go back again.
The following morning we packed up and jumped in the 4WDs for the last leg of our adventure. We crossed the headland and continued up the beach for a number of kilometres before turning off up the final climb. The exit was extremely chewed out and sloppy, so it was a matter of throwing the lockers in, building up momentum and working the steering to keep everything going forward. It was a fitting end to what had been a fantastic trip. All that was left to do was air up the tyres and make our way back to Devonport to dock with the Spirit of Tasmania.
Wineglass Bay is located halfway up the east coast of Tassie, 5km south of Coles Bay. St Albans is on the northern part of the island, 10km from Bridpoint.
Camping in and around Freycinet National Park requires a vehicle permit that also covers camping. There are various game reserves that make fantastic camp sites. St Albans Bay is littered with camp sites, all of which are free and require no permit.
SUPPLIES AND FACILITIES:
There are limited facilities in and around Freycinet National Park. Your best bet would be to buy necessities before entering the area. If you plan to camp at St Albans Bay there are no facilities at all, so you'll have to be self-sufficient once there. Everything you need is available in Bridpoint, only 10km away.
Trips are rated from A through to E, with A meaning only suited to vehicles with an extreme level of off-road modification and E meaning perfectly suited to all types of 4WD vehicles. Freycinet National Park for the most part is a D-grade trip, with a few optional tracks requiring low-range. St Albans Bay is a C-grade trip, but care must be taken negotiating water holes and quicksand in the area.
MAPS AND GUIDES:
4WD Tracks in Tasmania, by Chris Boden. This book is extremely accurate and very well presented. It can be sourced via www.roving.com.au.
St Albans Bay
CONTACTS AND INFORMATION:
Parks and Wildlife Service Taxation Department, Queenstown.
Ph: (03) 6471 2511.
Diesel – $1.65L
Unleaded – $1.60L
The north-eastern side of Tasmania offers a near endless supply of tracks for any keen 4WDer wanting to explore.
The Freycinet National Park is full of attractions. The walk to Wineglass Bay will take you two hours return and while you'll need a certain level of fitness, it's still suitable for kids and well worth the effort as it offers incredible bay views.
St Albans Bay will keep any keen 4WDer entertained for hours, exploring the sand dunes and surrounding vegetation areas. Fishing is popular as is swimming during the warmer months.
WORDS BY AARON RANKIN, PHOTOGRAPHY BY AARON AND JOSH RANKIN