Lapping up the Apple Isle on an exhilarating two-wheeled adventure.
It is fair to say that we were looking for adventure when we planned our motorcycling trip to Tasmania, but 120km/h wind gusts and showers are not exactly the ideal conditions for a motorcycling adventure.
So it is with equal amounts of excitement and trepidation we begin a lap around Tasmania.
I’m with my good friend and fellow motorcycle enthusiast Trevor Collens. We have hired a pair of adventure touring bikes from Tasmania Motorcycle Hire in Launceston. Trevor is on a KTM 1050 Adventure and I have a Triumph Tiger. (What else would you ride in Tassie?)
We have no particular plan apart from a clockwise lap of Tassie, so we load up our bikes and begin our adventure. The combination of morning peak hour, strong winds and rain is a bit of a baptism of fire on unfamiliar bikes. Conditions are far from ideal and if we were at home, we would most likely have left the bikes in the garage and done something else. But we are here to ride, so ride we shall.
In WA, we don’t often experience this kind of riding; it is challenging and sometimes a bit scary as we make our way up along the western side of the Tamar Valley. We have to lean our bikes sideways into the wind as we cross the Batman Bridge. Through the spectacular myrtle forests between Scottsdale and St Helens, the road is slippery and littered with branches, bark and leaf litter.
Thankfully, the conditions ease a bit so we can enjoy the views along the coastal roads from St Helens to Bicheno. That evening over dinner, we chat to a group of other bikers from WA, who tell us that the conditions have made today’s ride the most challenging they have ever experienced.
Our travel plan each day is fluid and determined by the weather conditions — we use the excellent and well-marked touring routes that take in all the best roads and scenery in each region.
Today, we duck out to Coles Bay on the Freycinet Peninsula and continue south to Hobart along the eastern coastline.
Hobart is looking good as we roll across the Tasman Bridge and into town. We have managed to stay dry today but that changes as we ride up to look at the view from the imposing Mt Wellington.
We ride through a couple of short showers and the temperature drops markedly as we ascend the 1271m-high mountain. Snow in March! I think my eyes are deceiving me but there are in fact a few small patches of show among the rocks at the top carpark.
We put on a few extra layers and check out the views of Hobart far below. It is 2C and windy, so we don’t hang around for too long before descending to the warmth of the Lark Distillery on Hobart’s vibrant foreshore.
It is the morning rush hour as we negotiate our way through the outer suburbs of Hobart before taking a left-hand turn to follow the Derwent River towards Strahan on the B62. We stop at Mt Field National Park, where we take a two-hour bush walk to see three stunning waterfalls.
Onwards we go, towards Strathgordon along some of the best MC roads I’ve ridden, with countless bends and jaw-dropping scenery. Seeing the Gordon Dam is a highlight of the day.
The topography of the landscape makes it obvious why this site was chosen as the place to harness the power of the wild Gordon River.
Where the river has carved a very narrow gorge through the cliffs, there is now a mighty 140m-high curved concrete barrier that holds back the river to form Lake Gordon.
The following morning, we say goodbye to the stunning Pedder Wilderness Lodge and begin our journey towards Strahan. Hairpin turns, sweeping bends, steep ascents and descents thrill and challenge us as we make our way through the highlands.
The last 40km from Queenstown to Strahan are particularly demanding after a long day in the saddle. We arrive safely but mentally drained from what has been a long and challenging day.
We wake to clear blue sky and light winds for the first time during our trip and enjoy a quick breakfast at the bakery in Strahan before we set off towards Cradle Mountain where we plan to go for a bush walk.
However, the fickle Tasmanian weather changes as soon as we leave Strahan. Strong winds buffet us as we make our way through Zeehan and Rosebery and as we approach Cradle Mountain, it starts to bucket down.
The visibility is nearly zero and the rain shows no sign of abating, so we abandon our planned walk and head for Burnie. The forecast is for heavy rain, so we decide to make Burnie our base for two nights and take short day trips from there.
One is a short ride up to Stanley on the north-west coast. Stanley is on a small peninsula and its main claim to fame is arguably the Nut, a mountain at the end of the peninsula, which provides a dramatic backdrop for the town at its base. To me, it looks a bit like a mini Cape Town.
The quaint little town has several cafes, restaurants and art galleries and is a popular weekend destination.
It’s still raining but we are not letting it beat us. We don the wet weather gear again and ride off. Down the A1, we head to Deloraine where we join the touring route up to the Great Lake on the central plateau.
In driving rain and with very poor visibility, we carefully and slowly negotiate the hairpin turns on the way up the mountain. We nearly abandon our plans but the weather improves at the top. It’s cold but we have nice views of the lakes as we follow some dirt roads over the top. Steam rises from the drying roads as we carefully descend from the high country.
We stop at Poatina for a cup of tea and a chance to thaw out before heading towards Launceston. Typical — our last day is the best we have had so we waste no time in getting on the road.
We explore the eastern side of the Tamar Valley towards George Town and Low Head. Through rolling hills and picturesque farming country around Lilydale and Scottsdale.
The final leg to Launceston along the Tasman Highway is a thrilling one with hairpin turns, good roads and perfect weather.
It is a perfect way to finish our adventure and we reluctantly hand our bikes back to Grantley Jepson at Tasmania Motorcycle Hire.
Tasmania is nirvana for motorcycle riding. Each time we stopped for a break our faces wore grins from ear to ear and we would typically say “how good was that” or “that was the best bit of road ever”.
The stunning scenery and seemingly never-ending bends are both exhilarating and demanding but the road and weather conditions are constantly changing and demand a lot of concentration.
In the forests, the dappled light can make it tricky and there is often water flowing across the road on sharp bends. Another constant treat is debris and roadkill.
There are excellent well-marked touring routes all over Tasmania and these are generally in good condition but allow plenty of time as it will take you a lot longer to get from A to B than we are used to here in WA.
Know your limits, ride to the conditions and don’t confuse ambition with ability.
You may also like
Our World: Mates for life on world’s waterways
STEPHEN SCOURFIELD relives encounters with graceful swans
Our World: Pristine place to paddle about in
BONITA GRIMA discovers Australia’s very own everglades — in Noosa, Queensland
Podcast: The Pod Well Travelled Episode 11
Regional museums & galleries are short-cuts to a town's heart. In this week's episode, Will Yeoman talks to Travel Editor Stephen Scourfield and cruising writer Michael Ferrante about wheels & (cruising) deals.