Northern Tasmania Day Ride
A pictorial look at a random Northern Tasmania Day ride.
Northern Tasmania Day Ride
A destination that should be on every bike rider’s bucket list is Tasmania. Growing up there and riding dirt bikes, I knew Tassie offered some excellent off-roading opportunities. But now having lived outside of the Apple Isle for some time, I took a fresh look through mainland eyes. So it was with renewed enthusiasm on a recent visit that I took up the offer of my sister’s Honda VTR 250 and company through some stunning countryside on a clear, brisk Tassie day.
My day began riding pillion with my sister from my folk’s property in Penguin. Penguin is a small coastal town with a giant penguin in the main street and matching Penguin rubbish bins. It’s worth a stop off to take in the stunning coastal view and to check out the man-made Penguins. If you wish to see the real thing, you will need to grab a torch and come back at night.
We followed the scenic “Old Coast Road” to Ulverstone, then onto Forth where the Forth River runs through rich volcanic farmland. Here, we met up with Wok on his CBR1000 and Heidi transferred to the back of Wok’s bike. Two-up on the Honda was a bit taxing on the little twin, even for us two lightweight girls.
From Forth we took Wilmot Road which runs parallel to the river, snaking its way through farms and bushland and past the Paloona Dam hydro-electric scheme. Heading up Gentle Annie Hill, towards Wilmot we ride through a series of switchback corners that were fabulous on a fine day, but could easily be treacherous in wet or icy conditions and heart-stopping, when log trucks or milk tankers are running.
Many of the country roads are narrow but well maintained and traffic is virtually non-existent on this beautiful Sunday morning. One glaringly obvious site of human inhabitance is the numerous wildlife carcases littered on the roads and gravel verges. Though dead, wildlife appears to be abundant. Sadly, the absence of Tasmanian Devils squished on the road also signals the demise of the snarly little Tassie icon. In years past, it was common to see the little critters bowled over where they had been snacking on other road kill.
Wilmot Road passes through dairy country and eventually to higher ground that is the foothills of the Mt Roland Reserve with a commanding view of Mt Roland and glimpses of the picturesque Lake Barrington in the foreground.
Continuing on, the Wilmot Road becomes the Cradle Mountain Road and we have the option to continue on towards World Heritage Cradle Mountain, but we stop for a stretch of the legs and a consult. A beaten up 4WD with “explosives” written on the tailgate stops at the backwater general store and refuels at the bowser. The 4WD looks like it has been at the punishing end of its namesake. We take the Cethana Road option through bushland and past Lake Cethana, the result of another hydro electric scheme. Ironically, Tasmanian’s pay a high price for power, despite hydro created dams dotting the state.
Wok’s suggestion of the newly opened Round Hill café hits the spot with coffee and something to eat. The menu is extensive and home cooked roast lamb, beef or pork with roast vegies is on offer, piled high on the plate. But we opt for a lighter option and enjoy a verandah seat overlooking the Round Hill Mountain, an area rich in history and as well as gold. The air is crisp and the sun is bright and a perfect day for taking in Tassie’s stunning scenery.
Now that we are refuelled, we head up the steep and winding Oliver’s Road. The plan is to ride over Mt Claude and back down into a rich farming area known as Mole Creek. Apart from it’s amusing name, Mole Creek is also famous for its caves, two commercial operations being the King Solomon Caves and Marakoopa Cave systems.
Traveling over the mountain and dropping down to the other side, we come to a crossroads, Mole Creek one way and a sign pointing to Devil’s Gullet in the opposite direction. Naturally we took the Devil’s Gullet option which sounded more exciting than a mole and a creek. The road to Devil’s Gullet was gut wrenching, literally, with a 30km return trip on badly corrugated gravel road winding its way up to a desolute plateau of button grass and rock. Concentrating on negotiating the rough ride, I did not notice the drop in temperature and it was towards the top of the range that we encountered snow.
A 500m walking track posted the direction of Devil’s Gullet and the 220m drop into the gullet. The walking track has been there for a long time, so it’s no great wonder that anything in a size suitable to fling from the viewing platform disappeared over the edge years ago. Luckily the snow provided the perfect medium for a primitive depth gauge. Snow sounds kind of loud when it hits rocks from this height.
As well as hosting a myriad of natural wonders, Mole Creek is also home to the Tiger Bar a.k.a the Mole Creek Pub. The Tiger Bar is decked out with all manner of Tasmanian Tiger paraphernalia including motorcycle riding thylacines. Drop in for a Tiger Ale on your way through.
Backtracking to the Union Bridges Road, we headed back through the hills through Paradise towards the mural town of Sheffield. During the ride, I am reminded of how few road users there are and how infrequently I have to glance at the speedo, unlike more inhabited areas of mainland Australia where you must ride with one eyeball glued to your instrument panel. Here lies one of the most unfettered areas to ride with little interference from those that govern us.
As with most of the towns in Tassie, Sheffield bears an English name and was settled in the early 1800’s. The town boasts about 60 murals depicting the history of the district up to present day and was painted by various local artists. With the late afternoon sun fading, it was a fitting end to our day ride and time to head back to the coast.
Over the past few years, Tassie has become a favoured destination for many riders. Whilst relatively mild for our day trip, it is advisable to be prepared for any and all types of weather conditions. For those that haven’t ridden Tasmania, it remains one of the last untamed wildernesses, whether you are bushwalking in the outer reaches or riding without the shackles of our modern world. If you haven’t been yet, write it on the list.