A Travellerspoint blog

Hobart to Cradle Mountain

A scenic road trip

sunny 10 °C

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I’d always been told that Tassie has amazing scenery, great outdoors and amazing food, and that I would ‘love it’. Being an avid traveler born and bred in Melbourne, people were usually a bit taken aback when I’d confess that I’d never been to Tasmania. I’d always wanted to go, but traveling to destinations farther from home always sounded so much more appealing and adventurous.

My cousin Wendy travels a lot and is always ‘in-the-know’ with sales on domestic flights. After a week of being at the hospital with Grandma, we were exhausted, drained and was in desperate need of something positive. She was browsing on Jetstar’s website, a budget airline in Australia, and found that they had one of their big sales on. We started browsing and dreaming of all wonderful places we could go – a great escapism from the reality that was in front of us. I didn’t have enough annual leave accumulated for an overseas trip, so I started dreaming of all the places I’ve wanted to visit in Australia – Uluru, Blue Mountains, Western Australia, South Australia, and then I remembered – Tassie. My friend Flo (Florence) and I had spoken of traveling to Tassie together, so I sent her the link to the crazy cheap $78 return flights. I wasn’t really serious, as I usually plan my trips at least a few months in advance (I’m a bit of a planner and like to make sure I have my annual leave approved before I book any flights). Plus, I’d recently booked a spontaneous trip to Port Douglas and had a trip to Darwin planned for quite soon after that. But to my surprise, Flo was keen to go for 5 days, and I was in a “there’s more to life than work” mood, so before I knew it, the flights were booked. I knew that I would need to get away for after Grandma… and this seemed to be the perfect trip for it.

We left for Tassie 4 days after I got back from Port Douglas, so I was going from the warmest place on the east coast to the coldest. I had resigned from my job and was working in the notice period, so I was super keen for the get-away. It was the first time Flo and I were traveling together, and I was really excited, but a bit apprehensive because I generally prefer to travel alone for anything longer than a weekend. We checked the weather forecast, and it was going to be a few degrees colder than Melbourne – not that much colder, right?

We arrived in Hobart at around 9:30am and we set off on the drive to Cradle Mountain as soon as we got the car. Despite given a teeny tiny lipstick red Hyundai i20, I was super excited to be driving a manual again. We relied on the GPS on my phone for directions, blindly following the instructions the Google lady barked at us. Immediately I was blown away by the openness and the crisp fresh air. There were mountains and blue skies, farmland scattered with cute little sheep. There were rolling hills and windy roads. It reminded me of a mix between country Victoria and what I imagine New Zealand to be like. Flo found the fun fact that Tasmania has the freshest air in the world, and I believed that.

We stopped at Campbell Town for lunch, about 1.5 hour drive from Hobart. We went for a walk along the main street to stretch our legs, wandering in an antique shop and a cute homewares/gift shop. It’s a quaint little town, with a petrol stop, an IGA, an op shop and lots of little cafes and restaurants. It felt colder than Hobart, so after a quick walk we decided to have lunch at Zeps Café. It had a fireplace! And the best vegetarian focaccia I’ve ever had.

We hopped back into the car and after a bit of a mishap with the gear shifting (I didn’t realize the car had 6 gears as I’ve only driven cars with 5, so I was trying to reverse in the 6th gear – doh!), we were on our way again. The scenery seemed to be similar, with some small changes – more tree lined streets and more rolling hills. There were many times that we’d turn a corner and one of us would gasp “Oh wow…” in awe at the view. It seemed we were both in need of some time out of the city. We continued chatting the whole way, having D&Ms (deep and meaningful conversations) through each of the small towns that we’d pass. I think it was after making a turn out of Sheffield that we first saw Cradle Mountain. The view was amazing and got us excited about visiting the National Park.

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First glimpse of Cradle Mountain

From there, the terrain became more shady and dense with trees, and the windy roads now climbing uphill. We stopped by a lookout and soaked in some beautiful views.

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View of Cradle Mountain from lookout

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More views from lookout

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Excited by the views

We soon arrived at our cabin at Discovery Parks and we felt like we were really ‘in’ the park, being surrounded by trees and hearing nothing but birds. Our cabin was basic, with a bunk bed, a double bed, a small heater and desk and chair. It reminded me of the KOA Kabins I’d stayed at in the US. We were told that the information centre was closed (open 8:30am-5pm) so we went for a quick walk and then headed to Cradle Mountain Lodge for dinner. There was an amazing fireplace at the lodge, so we stayed for a drink and chatted to some ladies from South Australia.

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Hot drinks by the fireplace

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Flo the fireplace expert

After returning to our cabin, we had a few glasses of wine before heading to bed, excited for the day ahead.

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Nothing better than a fireplace in a cabin on a cold night

Posted by always_explore 17:00 Archived in Australia Tagged tasmania national_park cabins outdoors fireplace cradle_mountain Comments (0)

Cairns

Hartley's Crocodile Adventures

sunny 26 °C

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View from Rex Lookout, Captain Cook Highway

Sunday was our last day in Port Douglas and we were excited to check out the local market in the morning. We were flying out that afternoon, so we got up earlier than our standard holiday wake-up time and headed down. It was a small market, with arts and crafts. It might be because I’m not the target audience for these markets, or that I’m spoilt by the Melbourne markets that I’m used to, but the stalls didn’t really appeal to me and we didn’t stay for very long. We were soon in the car on the journey back to Cairns to catch our flight.

A bit before halfway to Cairns, there is Rex Lookout, which has a lovely view of the sea and a nice point to break up the drive.
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View from Rex Lookout, Captain Cook Highway

In planning our drive, we were tossing up between going to the Kuranda Koala Gardens, where you can cuddle a koala, or Hartley’s Crocodile Adventures. Given Hartley’s was closer, we decided to check that out. I’ve never been to an attraction where crocodiles are the main stars, and I was apprehensive as I’m not a huge fan of the creatures.

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Despite that, Hartley’s was a really good experience. The crocodile feeding was a highlight, where the keeper explains facts about the crocodiles and lure them out of the water with meat. The sound that comes from the crocodile snapping it’s jaws is so unique, and you can feel it reverberate – kind of creepy!

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Jesse, the funniest reptile keeper, feeding Spartacus

Can you hear the sound of the croc snapping it's jaws?

There is a lagoon cruise, which is super short, but again the keepers feed the crocs and you can see them a bit closer as they come right up to the boat.

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Crocodile feeding from the boat

There are so many activities at Hartley’s – I feel like a family could spend a whole day exploring. There are other native animals other than crocodiles - koalas, wallabies, kangaroos, kookaburras, cassowaries. However, we spent a couple of hours there and we were ready to be on our way.

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Lazy koala

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Making friends with Skippy

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Kookaburra with broken wings that was rescued from a road accident

We drove into Cairns and walked around a little bit. Cairns was as I remembered it – small, touristy and in a way lacking in personality. The tide was out, so looking out at the waterfront with no water was a bit underwhelming. Ann’s flight left a few hours before mine, so after a sad farewell as I dropped her off at the airport for her journey back to the US, I returned to Cairns. I sat by the waterfront and read. It was nice, but not as relaxing as 4 mile beach in Port Douglas was. After a relaxing 4 day winter escape, leaving from Cairns made it easier to be ready to go home

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View from Cairns waterfront

Posted by always_explore 17:00 Archived in Australia Tagged sea views cairns crocodiles Comments (0)

Daintree Rainforest National Park

overcast 23 °C

After a couple of days of being blessed with sunny weather in Port Douglas, on Saturday we woke up to grey skies and signs of rain from the previous night. The weather forecast had predicted rain, so we had discussed what to do on a rainy day. We were tossing up between checking out Kuranda or Daintree Rainforest National Park. We decided to go to Daintree as we thought we could check out some of the sights in Kuranda on the way back to Cairns. We plugged Daintree into the GPS on my phone and it said it was a 1.5 hour drive.

The drive to Daintree from Port Douglas is pretty straightforward, and in my opinion, not particularly scenic. It’s mostly through sugar cane fields, but it is nice to look out and see the mountains. The is a novelty part where you have to take a ferry to cross a river, which broke up the drive. After crossing the ferry, the terrain changes and pretty quickly you feel like you’re in a rainforest. The roads are quite windy, and unfortunately Ann got pretty carsick. We stopped Alexandra Range (Walu Wurrigga) lookout to get some fresh air. Although it was pretty cloudy, it was really scenic and peaceful.

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View from Alexandra Range Lookout

We drove a bit more, and again the carsickness hit Ann and we stopped shortly after at the Discovery Centre. We asked one of the guys there about how windy the roads ahead would be, and he reassured us that we were through the worst of it and it would be less windy from that point. He made a lot of recommendations on where to stop, and we decided to check out the Jindalba boardwalks. It was an easy 20 minute walk, and it’s what you expect rainforests to be – walking through luscious green ferns and under the canopy of green leaves, with birds chirping and a stream running in the background.

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Lost in the rainforest - Jindalba walk

After the quick walk, we continued driving. I’d been quite eager to see a Cassowary, as my friend had warned us of it being ‘dangerous’, and I was skeptical. We passed one on the side of the road, and being my first time seeing one, it was quite exciting! It looks like a cross between a turkey and an emu, and looks out of place with a bright blue head and red gobbly bit.

We stopped for lunch at Lync-Haven Rainforest Retreat. It was a quirky little spot, with a wide range of birds in cages (cockatoos parakeets, cockatiels), reptiles in glass cases, and wallabies fenced in the back. We had sandwiches, which were good but much too big of a portion size.

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Cockatoo at Lync-Haven

After lunch we checked out Thornton Beach. It was a really gorgeous beach, despite the dreary weather; and one of the first thing we noticed were the tiny little balls dotting the entire beach.

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Thornton Beach

They seemed to be dug up by little tiny crabs, which would peep in and out of small holes so quickly that you would think it was your imagination.

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Can you spot the crab?

We had a look at our map and decided we’d only do one more stop at Marrdja boardwalk. The walk at Marrdja was another easy 20 minute walk, but the environment was quite different to Jindalba. It was pretty at the start – green trees and the rainforest-y feel, and big leaves as a canopy.

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Paluma leaves

But then it got a bit creepy once we started crossing the creek. There were mangrove trees, some of which that have snorkel roots that surface to breathe. And because the creek wasn’t so much of a creek but more mud, the roots popping up looked like pointy bones. I felt like it was the perfect scene for a horror movie. We quickly scurried through and although it was a cool and different experience, I was quite happy to get back in the car and drive back. Perhaps that walk is nicer at a different time of year.

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There is so much to see at Daintree Rainforest National Park, but after a 1.5 drive each way and multiple stops, we didn’t have enough time to check everything out. If I ever return, I’d love to start earlier and drive all the way to Cape Tribulation to check that out.

Posted by always_explore 17:00 Archived in Australia Tagged rainforest queensland national_park daintree_rainforest Comments (0)

Port Douglas

The perfect place to relax and rejuvenate

sunny 24 °C

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4 mile beach

I have never needed a holiday as badly as I did when I left for Port Douglas. I had impulsively booked the trip in late March, after feeling the need to escape after a break up. But, as if one heart break wasn't enough and as if the universe was testing me, my Grandma - the love of my life, my anchor, my Person, the woman who raised me - passed away mid-April. It's hard to describe the feeling of loss, pain, grief, regret, aimlessness, solitude, of being lost. The Melbourne winter weather seemed to display how I was feeling, being bitterly cold, glooming-ly grey, pouring rain like tears.

The sunshine I could see the moment I landed at Cairns Airport was such a contrast to dreary Melbourne winter, with the warm air defrosting my bones as it was hugging me. The airport itself is tiny, with a backdrop of clear blue sky and tree-filled mountains. The lady at the coffee shop and the man at the Hertz car rental desk shared the same relaxed, positive disposition. With this setting, it's hard not to slip into beach-holiday mode. It was like Cairns was compelling my spirit to smile back at the sun and my soul to warm up from just being there.

I get into the little white Toyota Corolla hatchback with my coffee and felt cliche as I winded down the windows to soak up as much warmth as possible. The drive to Port Douglas was 1 hour, according the GPS on my phone. I feel excited for the drive, as my friend Ann who I was meeting in Port Douglas warned me that the roads were windy. After countless roundabouts, I saw the sign "Historic Scenic Drive" and I prepared myself for amazing views. It was really beautiful, but I realised my expectations were too high as I had pictured the scenic Great Ocean Road drive which I'd recently visited. Having said that, the views seemed to be better heading south, so something to look forward for when we head back to Cairns. There are beautiful beach views with gorgeous tree-lined sections of road, it's so calming that before I knew it, the Google lady was telling me to turn into Port Douglas.

The main road from Captain Cook Highway leading into Port Douglas is lined with resorts. Resorts are not the most appealing types of places to me, so I was relieved when I arrived at the Beach Terraces Holiday Apartments on a small quiet street. I found Ann enjoying the sun by the pool and we both squealed at how amazing it was to be in sunshine and warm weather. I immediately got changed and we walked to check out the beach nearby – 4 mile beach. It was gorgeous, but super windy, so we decided to go back to pool.

After a couple of hours soaking up the sun, we walked to the main street, Macrossan St, to grab some lunch. I realized what a great location our accommodation in, being very close to both the beach and the main street. Macrossan St is a cute little street, similar to what you'd find in most beach holiday towns - restaurants (all fully open air with outdoor seating - sign of good weather!), stores selling beach gear, clothing stores, little souvenir shops, massage spas, and tour companies. We were travelling during the shoulder season, so it was nice to be walking down a quiet, almost deserted street, feeling like we had it all to ourselves. Though I could imagine it bustling with tourists during peak season. We stopped at a cafe called Fresq, and I had a summery prawn and mango salad. The mango was so sweet and the prawns succulent. After we settled the bill, the waiter beamed "Have an AMAZING day!". I was definitely in a holiday town!

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Warm water at 4 mile beach

We spent the rest of the afternoon sunbaking by the pool, reading, chatting and dipping in the pool. By dinner time, I felt completely relaxed and it felt like I'd been on holiday for days, rather than just a few hours. We returned to the Macrossan St for dinner, feeling indecisive about which restaurant to pick, even though they were all pretty much of a muchness. We stumbled upon Salsa's, which was busy so we drank at the bar while we waited for a table. There were signed plates covering the roof, and we were told that one is left by each famous person who dines at Salsa's, the most famous being Bill Clinton. Easily impressed, I felt we had stumbled across a good restaurant! The wait ended up only being 10 mins, and the food came pretty quickly. I had barramundi and Ann had kangaroo, both very yummy. We were home by 9, and I was very content to get into my pyjamas and watch TV.

After a ten hour sleep, I felt re-energized enough to go for a run. It was a sunny morning, not too hot, but still pretty humid. The sand on 4 mile beach was really compact, so it felt like running on gravel rather than on sand. It was another windy day, but still with clear blue skies, with the mountains in view. So beautiful.

Ann had done the reef before I'd arrived, and I'd visited it on another trip to Cairns, so we had the luxury to do more of the same from the first day - sunbaking by the pool, reading, chatting and dipping in the pool. After 3 or so hours of being in holiday mode, I felt restless so went out to get ice cream and for a walk along the beach again. Although it was windy, it was still very warm and pleasant enough to sit and read. There was a man making sandcastles, stepping back now and then to admire his work – I loved watching how much fun he was having and how much he was enjoying the simple pleasures in life – one of those little moments that makes me appreciate the world we live in.

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4 mile beach

Posted by always_explore 21:46 Archived in Australia Tagged beach queensland port_douglas Comments (0)

Hidden Lake, Glacier National Park

"The mountains are calling and I must go" - John Muir

sunny 18 °C

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As we fly over the mountains in Montana and land in the tiny airport in Kalispel, I am filled with nervous anticipation. Planning this part of our trip was the most difficult, not only due to the remoteness of Glacier National Park, but also due to the limited times of year that the Going-To-The-Sun Road (the only road through the park) is open. We originally had planned to visit GNP in early October, but I had to reshuffle our entire itinerary to ensure we went in early September, a couple of weeks before sections of the Going-To-The-Sun Road closed. This was also my first time planning a camping trip to a National Park, and after so much planning, research, and anticipation, it was exhilarating to have the adventure truly begin.

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View of Kalispell from plane

We get in the car and I am nervous - we had maps, but they weren't exactly the city street maps we were used to. We were reliant on the GPS and thankfully Garmin got us to an Applebees (for Vinnie's token American road trip lunch), a supermarket, a camping store (for bear spray(!) and gas for cooking stove), and our campsite with no hassles. We ended up deciding on staying in KOA Kabins; our excuse being that we were backpacking around the US and didn't have room for tents. But really, because we were inexperienced campers (who are scared of bears) and cabins seemed the easier option.

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Our West Glacier KOA Kabin

Our first KOA site was in West Glacier. The cabins were quaint - a little swing on the porch, picnic benches and fire pit out front, a double bed and single bed, electrical outlets, and a little heater. The bathrooms were clean and had hot water. I felt like we were excited school kids on our first night “camping”. First time using the camping stove, first time starting a campfire, first time making s’mores over a campfire :)

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Inside our Kabin

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Vinnie enjoying brekky

After reading about the tight curves Going-To-The-Sun Road, the way it hugs the mountains, and how in some spots you can look over the edge of the road, I was pretty nervous at the thought of driving it. I was amazed at the cyclists who were zooming up the mountains. The speed limit remains at 25 mph, which helped ease my nerves. The scenery is so spectacular that I spent most of my time in awe, and I quickly forgot about the scariness of the road. As I’m writing this now, and listening to a song we played a lot during our time in Glacier National Park, I wish I could teleport back to driving and take in more of the peace and tranquility of the views from the Going-To-The-Sun Road.

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Going-to-the-Sun Road

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Going-to-the-Sun Road

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Cyclist on Going-to-the-Sun Road

We went to Logan Pass to ask a ranger for some tips on the trails we wanted to hike whilst in the Park. Greg, my dear friend and avid hiker, had provided me with suggested trails, and one of the West Glacier suggestions was the Highline Trail. We asked the ranger about this trail and her reaction told us she was skeptical of our ability to hike it; warning us of the bears and the narrow, steep, and difficult parts of the trail. I'm sure she meant well by warning us, but after her persuasion and skepticism, we were scared off and decided to do the Hidden Lake Trail as our first hike instead.

Hidden Lake was a good introduction to Glacier National Park. The hike down to the lake was 5.4 miles (8.7 kilometres) round trip. We found it relatively easy terrain, despite some hills. It was a slightly chilly day, but after hiking in the sun for an hour and a half, I was shedding off the layers. Along the trail we came across some marmots and mountain goats that I was really excited to see. They were unaware that humans were around and fascinated by them.

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Happy mountain goat along Hidden Lake trail

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Itchy marmot along Hidden Lake trail

After a quick lunch break with some amazing panoramic views of Hidden Lake and the surrounding mountains at the Hidden Lake Lookout, we continued along the trail that headed down to the lake. The trail beyond the lookout was more steep and uneven, and going down hill made my knees ache. Once we arrived, we set our packs down at a small, rocky beach, and enjoyed the calmness. The water was steel blue and perfectly still, reflecting everything around it. I didn’t want to leave! But after soaking as much of the tranquility in as possible, we made our way back, with high ambitions to give the Highline Trail a shot. We were a bit nervous after seeing the bear warning signs at the start of the Highline Trail, but we had our bear spray and knew that as long as we made a lot of noise to let bears know we were there, we would be fine. We weren’t even 15 minutes in when we were stopped by a ranger because there was a grizzly sighting not much further down on the trail. We were a bit bummed, but it worked out for the best because there was no way we would have been able to complete in a couple of hours the entire hike.

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View from Hidden Lake Lookout

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Hidden Lake

On our way back, we stopped by the shops at the entrance of West Glacier and enjoyed some ice cream. I don’t know if it was me being my relaxed-self after reconnecting with nature, but the people seemed so friendly! Also, as cheesy as it is, I think being immersed in the serenity, I felt more open, allowing Vinnie and I to have a really great D&M. It was a great day hiking the Hidden Lake Trail, and after completing it with ease, we gained a lot of confidence in our hiking ability and were keen to check out the Highline Trail the next day.

Posted by always_explore 16:00 Archived in USA Comments (0)

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