23 – 26 April 2018
The Village of Blackheath is the entrance to several nice hikes and lookouts. The star of the day was a 6.3 km, 2 hour hike of the Grand Canyon Loop Track. The trail is rated for medium difficulty at 3 to 4 hours. It is nothing like the Grand Canyon USA but it was a great hike. We lost count, there are hundreds if not thousands of steps. The trail decends from Evans Lookout and winds through a thin canyon before re-emerging from the bottom. We debated whether the Grand Canyon Loop or the Overcliff-Undercliff Trail, near Wentworth Falls, was our favorite.
Blackheath is also home to Govetts Leap Lookout, Anvil Rock and Wind Eroded Cave; however our other favorite was Pulpit Rock.
Grand Canyon Loop Track
Anvil Rock Lookout (top left) and Pulpit Rock
23 – 26 April 2018
Katoomba is the Blue Mountains’ center of tourism and your best option for food and supplies. We spent the majority of two days there along the Prince Henry Cliff Walk. The first day we started at Echo Point which provides access to an amazing lookout over Federal Pass and the Three Sisters, several trailheads, and Visitor’s Center. We walked the Three Sisters Track and most of the Prince Henry Cliff Walk.
The second day in town we spent at Scenic World. Scenic Walkway is a nice boardwalk pathway through the forest and, if nature isn’t interesting enough for you, they have art installations throughout the walk and some exhibits about the area’s mining origins. Beside the boardwalk paths, Scenic World has fun transportation. Scenic Skyway takes you from rim to rim of the cliff walk and gives nice views from mid-air. Scenic Cableway and Scenic Railway take you up and down to the valley boardwalk below. Scenic Railway, the world’s steepest railway, was the family favorite. At times it felt like you were facing straight down! Scenic World is a popular stop and was a fun day but there is something conflicting about commercializing a natural wonder to this degree.
Whether you’re a local city dweller spending a weekend in the bush or a day-tripping tourist hunting a selfie, Katoomba’s postcard views are easy and convenient. If you are looking for quiet in nature, the Blue Mountains have plenty of other options.
Prince Henry Cliff Walk
23 – 26 April 2018
If you Google Australia’s top attractions, Blue Mountains National Park is likely to make the list. The Blue Mountains are west of Sydney and easily accessed from Australia’s largest city making them a popular tourist attraction. They are a 1.5 to 2 hour drive on the Great Western Highway or 3 hour train ride from city center. Day trips are available by bus for tourists short on time. We stayed in the Village of Wentworth Falls which we found very quiet but convenient. Wentworth Falls, Leura, Katoomba, and Blackheath are all great locations to explore the park’s most popular attractions. If you want to be within walking distance of restaurants and shopping, Katoomba is the heart of Blue Mountain tourism.
Driving toward the mountains it was easy to see why the Blue Mountains where named ‘blue’ but as we got closer all we could see was green. Apparently eucalyptus trees that dominate the forest eminate a fine oil that refracts sunlight and gives them their blue appearance.
Our first full day in the park, we hiked trails in the Wentworth Falls area. We stitched together several trails to make a 3.5 hour hike filled with wide scenic panoramas. At first I was disappointed the National Pass Track was closed due to rock falls but I could not imagine it being any better than the ones we walked. Jamison Lookout, Wentworth Falls, Fletchers Lookout, and Rocket Point Lookout were all great but the Overcliff-Undercliff Trail was especially enjoyable.
6 – 9 April 2018
Launceston in Northern Tasmania is the state’s second larget city. With a population of around 84,000, it is smaller than Asheville, North Carolina. This low-rise city has more of a big town vibe. Located at the confluence of the North and South Esk Rivers which form the Tamar River, it was established early in Tasmania’s history.
We stayed in an histroric hotel in town. At first glance, the city failed to wow us but as we walked around we found more and more endearing qualities.
Launceston has a number of architectural treasures and a vibrant business district. The City Park has monkees, that was an unexpected surprise! The National Automobile Museum of Tasmania is small but well worth a visit. And of course the aforementioned Cataract Gorge is outstanding.
We did not know much about the city before we arrived but we will leave Tasmania forever remembering this little gem.
Central Business District
National Automobile Museum
8 April 2018
Memorable cities and towns have something that sets them apart from the rest. Launceston has the incredible Cataract Gorge and surrounding parks and trails. Best of all, they are only a short walk from the city’s central business district.
The gorge straddles South Esk River near the junction of Tamar River. Walking trails on the north side and hiking trails on the south take you from King’s Bridge in town to Alexandra Suspension Bridge at the First Basin. Cataract Gorge Reserve at First Basin has nice park facilites including a cafe, pool and playground. It also has the world’s longest single span chairlift for added viewpoints of the river and gorge. Oh and did I forget to mention the peacocks? Dozens of them hangout around the cafe enjoying the relaxed atmosphere. Further along the river’s southside, hiking trails take you to Sentinel Lookout and Duck Reach Power Station.
On the southside of King’s Bridge is Penny Royal, a great nook of cafes, bars and accomodations with a waterfall, cliff walks, climbing wall, and small rides. We ate lunch outside at neighboring King’s Bridge Bar.
Not just a fantastic place to spend time while in Launceston, Cataract Gorge and surrounding areas are a reason to come to Launceston. We loved it!
7 April 2018
My son really wanted to see a platypus in the wild. We saw them twice in captivity, Sydney’s WildLife Zoo and Melbourne Zoo. Tasmania is supposed to be one of the best places to see them. With our visit here almost done the only platypus we’ve seen in Tassie was at a Hobart museum… not in the wild, not even alive. To be fair, they are especially hard to spot.
This afternoon we drove to Warrawee Forest, about 100 km northwest of Launceston. Platypus Pond in Mersey River was said to be the premier place to spot platypus. I found the trail map online. It seemed simple enough. We drove down Shale Road as far as we could until it was blocked. From there we set off on foot down the remainder of the road where we found the first trail of two trails. It started ok but the further we went the more adventerous it got. It was not what we expected but we could follow the trail markers through the bush. Clearly we took the path less travelled.
Platypus Pond had all the trademarks of a good habitat. There were plenty of animal tracks on the waters edge but no platypus to be found. The real problem we found was platypus are nocturnal so they are best spotted at dusk and dawn. A poorly marked trail, no other hikers, and no mobile phone signal meant we needed to backtrack before we lost sunlight. We raced the sunset to get back to Shale Road. There we found others at the river’s edge. Talking with them we found out that Platypus Pond had been flooded and their habitat destroyed a few years ago. The overgrown trail and lack of hikers started to make sense. Despite our lack of success, not all was lost.
Just when we were ready to give up, bam, a platypus! I wish I could have photographed it. They only come up for air occassionally and are difficult to see, let alone focus a camera, before they disappear again. I’m just glad my son finally got to see a platypus in the wild, albeit briefly.
Mersey River in Warrawee Forest
Platypus at Hobart’s Tasmanian Museum
6 April 2018
On our drive from Freycinet National Park to Launceston, we took the scenic route through St. Helens to St. Columbia Falls. The falls can be seen from the trailhead. The hike to the viewing platform and back takes only 30 minutes through lush rainforest. St. Columbia Falls is worth a stop if in the area, however I wouldn’t go out of your way as we did to see it. There are plenty of waterfalls to see in Tasmania.