If you're a fan of bike touring, you've probably heard of the legendary Sarah Hammond - the badass cyclist who conquered the gruelling Race to the Rock Race not once, but three times! Well, she was the inspiration behind our own bike touring adventure along the Tasmanian Trail, and let me tell you, it was a ride for the ages. Oh, and our ages, seven of us, all in our seventh decade (or more).
From the moment we set off, we knew we were in for a wild and varied ride. The Tasmanian Trail is no joke - it's a rugged, 480-kilometre stretch of terrain that winds through some of the most breathtaking scenery you'll ever see. So, we were ready to take on anything that came our way – almost! And let me tell you, we faced some serious challenges. We battled through steep climbs, heart-pumping descents, many a locked gate, barbed wire fences and some truly gnarly weather (let's just say there were more than a few times we regretted not having our rain gear more easily accessible). But we also had some of the most unforgettable experiences of our lives. We shared laughs, meals, and even the occasional local beer and wine together and met a bunch of friendly locals eager to make our adventure more enjoyable. We soaked in stunning views of the Tasmanian wilderness, and marvelled at the unique flora and fauna that make this island so special. But most importantly, we learned a thing or two from Sarah Hammond's example. We learned that with a little bit of grit and determination, you can overcome any obstacle. We learned that sometimes the most challenging experiences are the ones that leave the biggest impact. And we learned that with good friends and a sense of adventure, anything is possible. So, if you're looking for your own bike touring inspiration, look no further the Tasmanian Trail. It's a journey you won't soon forget.
Like any great holiday, you need a logistics plan. Below is a summary of what we used and set out to accomplish.
- Arrive by air into Hobart airport, unpack boxes and start ride from the airport.
- Flashpacking style - Plan to stay in a town every night, with accommodation and meals for the 7 of us, all prebooked.
- Ride on average 75kms a day, at an average of 12-15kms/hr.
- Ride together, regrouping at every junction.
- Minimum of 50mm tyre widths recommended, to be most comfortable.
- A quorum of Curve ti bikes (2xGMX+, 1xUprock, 1xKevin)
- With extra clothing, medical, spares, EPIRB, day food, portable coffee machines(the essentials) etc, we averaged about 12kgs of gear each.
- Follow the Tasmania Trial route, South to North. Details at https://www.tasmaniantrail.com.au/
- Everyone has trail GPX’s on Wahoo/Garmin devices and backup navigation via MAPOUT.
- Finish at Devonport, catch the overnight ferry back to Geelong, then train to Melbourne.
Day 1 - Hobart Airport to Port Huon 65km | 1190 vm
Most of the group arrived by air, mid-morning. Assembled bikes at the airport with a plan to ride from the airport. Some late arrivals, and some (non-Curve bike issues) meant a maxi-taxi transfer to Hobart for a lunch rendezvous. Our early arrivals rode to Hobart, challenged by the narrow bike path across the Derwent river bridge – extreme winds, some height apprehension and wide Walmer bars with centimetres to spare on either side of the bars adding to the experience. Setting off into clear, albeit cool conditions after lunch, we experienced the stunning R18 pipeline track before turning off into the forest, following a valley adjacent to the Huon Highway. The valley road took us through Pelverata, Woodstock and Huonville with torrential rain and a brisk cold southerly to welcome us to Tassie. Rookie error was to underestimate the cold and wet, and not having all our proper clothing easily accessible. We arrived in Port Huon, humbled – very wet, very cold, and very hungry! Thankfully there was a big roaring fire in the hotel to warm us up.
Day 2 - Port Huon, Dover, Port Huon loop 67km |1530 vm
Jettisoned our travel packs, as this was a loop via Dover. Followed the coast road, alongside the stunning Huon River. We enjoyed the glorious landscape vistas through the eucalyptus trees, before seeing the “infamous” Tasmanian salmon fishing industry at work as we headed into Dover. Another storm, yielding more torrential rain greeted us for lunch in Dover – so we sheltered before setting back to Port Huon, officially joining the first section of the Tasmanian Trail. Some newly erected barbed wire fencing across the track, meant some very careful and delicate manoeuvring to negotiate this initial part of the track. The locked gates we encountered further on were a welcome relief – only in that we knew to expect those. You could chose to get keys from the folks that maintain the track for these gates, or just lift the bikes over each gate. On reflection, we should have just got the keys – lifting 7 bikes every time became a little bit of a chore.
Day 3 - Port Huon to New Norfolk 71 km | 1780 vm
The “kitchen sink” day – we encountered every conceivable gradient, every conceivable road surface with almost no trail markers. The gpx track is an absolute necessity on this trail! Only later, after deliberating with locals, did we realise the “epicness” of us doing Jeffery’s Track after a solid few day of rain. A 8km section of the track (and I use that term very loosely) took us almost 3 hours to negotiate – huge bog holes with unknown depths just made it impossible to do anything other than try to skirt around where possible, or wade through when the side vegetation made it impossible to edge. The damage that 4x4’s have done was clear to see – and hard to ignore. We made it – but only just before sunset.
Day 4 - New Norfolk to Ouse 64 km | 1000 vm
A calmer day in every respect. Followed the Derwent River valley for the first half of the ride, before turning into the forest to the west. Had glimpses of blue sky, punctuated by wonderful double rainbows and peaceful farmland vistas – a welcome relief after yesterday’s ordeal. Arrived to be warmly welcomed by the owner of the Ouse Hotel – and the run of all the rooms and a superb dinner.
Day 5 - Ouse to Miena 87 km |1880 vm
Time for us to ascend onto the Tasmanian highlands and lakes area. We experienced vivid blue skies, dark moody lakes, blissful scenery, and easy roads – and even a few trail markers to tell us we were on the right track! A leisurely lunch stop at Bronte Park refuelled and re-energised the group to push onto Miena. A wonderful riding day – it’s easy to see why so many anglers head to this area.
Day 6 - Miena to Poatina 57 km | 490 vm
Deviated at little from the main track to take in Tods Corner on the Great Lake and then followed the aqueduct that contours around to Arthurs Lake. Followed the main track through the Great Lake Conservation Area before a ripper 10km, steep decent into Poatina on bitumen roads. This bitumen decent was in place of the main track through Hop Valley – as we were advised by locals to avoid this due to massive rockslides blocking the track for several kilometres. We’d done our one epic day – no need to be too adventurous. Poatina is a “must do” town, it’s an old hydro town that was purchased by a church group and now run as a community. The manager was incredibly helpful in getting us all into a house and supplying dinner and breakfasts. OK, it’s a dry town, meaning no alcohol to purchase – so it should come as no surprise to you, that our saddle bags were a little heavier today.
Day 7 - Poatina to Deloraine 76 km | 890 vm
An easy roll out of Poatina along flat farm roads for 40kms to Bracknell for morning refreshments, before following a wonderful dirt road alongside the Liffey River, climbing up and over into Golden Valley. More stunning Tasmanian scenery, before we deviated off the man track to head into Deloraine for our overnight accommodation. A few more Tasmania Trail markers appeared today - I think the total count to date was about 17, with most of those being sighted today – just saying!! The Empire Hotel was incredibly accommodating, bikes parked in the main conference room, great rooms, and facilities – and an absolutely ripper dinner! All suitably fuelled up for our last day tomorrow.
Day 8 - Deloraine to Devonport 90 km |1480 vm
Into the Mersey Valley and the Cog Range. A challenging but enjoyable gravel road climb up into the ranges, through dairy farms and awesome views back to Mount Roland, as we skirted around its base and into Sheffield for lunch. From Sheffield, through more farmland and farms with the obligatory locked gates and somewhat unhelpful “Private Property – Keep Out” signs on the main track. Yep – we Tasmanian Trail travellers know that access has been agreed for us – but it is still disconcerting to enter with signs that don’t portray a hint of welcome. At least we saw a stack of Tasmania Trail markers today. One epic river crossing at the Mersey was a highlight today – a good 100m stretch of waist deep water, on a very rocky and slippery base. Keep your shoes on – and lift the bike as high as possible – but then halfway across you fatigue and by the other side the bike is more resembling a submarine. The ride culminates with a cruisy roll along the Devonport – Latrobe Coastal Pathway – skirting the aforementioned Mersey River, all the way into Devonport and the finish of the trail.
So – an epic ride. It’s got everything and will test you – but equally reward you with scenery, experiences, and memories for life. Would I recommend it – yes !