We pretended to be Canadian today. At least that’s what we wish we had done in hindsight. Our camper van died on the coast of Tasmania and we had to be rescued by an old surfer dude. It was just us and our wheeled home on a long pull off near the ocean. A perfectly remote spot where we could cook dinner, share some wine and sleep close enough to the ocean to catch the early sunrise over the waves. The only problem was the van, which appeared to be built in the eighties, had no system to alert us that we had left headlights on as they drained the life from the vehicle before sunset.
We were wondering what to do the next morning when the surfer pulled up, representing the only chance we had for rescue without waving frantically at passing cars on the nearby highway, hoping they didn’t notice our unshowered appearance and mistake us for vagrants. He had jumper cables and was willing to help a couple of stranded foreigners. Our battery was located under the drivers seat, which was parked against the tree line, making it impossible to reach with the cables without first moving the van.
We turned the steering wheel and it locked. He had to inform us to turn the key to unlock the wheel. We then all tried to push the van but it wouldn’t move. We sheepishly released the emergency brake. We tried to push again and it still wouldn’t budge. He recommended that we make sure the van wasn’t in gear. It was.
It was first thing in the morning. We just woke up, hadn’t made coffee yet. We were tired. We should have pretended to be Canadian. But the engine started and we were now free again to roam around the island, stopping, sleeping and eating wherever we damn well pleased.That’s the thing with traveling by camper van…FREEDOM. You can go where you want when you want. Eat wherever and whenever, and make your hotel overlook the most amazing view imaginable. It is a freeing experience. You could even claim to be from any country you would like.We spent five nights in Tasmania (Tassie) on our first ever camper vancation, exploring the natural wonders and incredible wineries of the island. We flew to Tassie from Adelaide following our trip on the Great Ocean Road, and did a round trip from Hobart. We hired a van from Tasmania Campers, which supplies older model but reasonably priced rentals which suited our needs. The van was a little rickety and adorned with more than a few dents and scratches, but still gave us all we needed including a small kitchen, double bed and standing room.Tasmania is amazing and would take weeks to fully explore. We didn’t have much time to spend here before meeting family in Eastern Australia, but made the most of our trip. Seven to ten days would have been a good amount of time to spend on the island. With our short timeframe, we explored the east and central parts and camped wherever was scenic and convenient.
There are many free camping sites around Tassie and in general it is very camper van friendly. Using a little common sense, you can park any place that doesn’t blatantly have a prohibiting sign. A complete list of official free and low cost camping accommodations can be found at Camping Tasmania. We typically avoided campgrounds and just found a convenient pull off next to a beach, in a forest or by river for our overnights.
This type of travel does have a few challenges compared to other accommodations. Without a toilet or shower you have to consider arrangements for bathroom usage. We would recommend having wet wipes for cleanliness between showers. Most campgrounds come with showering facilities which typically offer pay for use. With some luck, you may be able to sneak a cold shower if the facilities are not monitored. It can also be difficult for two people to cook, clean etc. simultaneously in this confined space. Washing dishes in a sub-12 inch sink is near impossible.
We made the amazing natural wonders around Tasmania the main focus of our trip, and visited local wineries along the way. There are numerous hiking options around the island, described on Tasmania Park’s 60 Great Short Walks page. Permits for day hiking are required to access the National Parks which can be purchased online, at National Park Visitor Centers, electronic ticket machine, or sometimes at an honor box in the car parks. Full details about the fees and requirements can be found on the Tasmania Parks and Wildlife Service website.
Tasman National Park
Tasman National Park is located on a peninsula just east of Hobart. There are incredible natural landforms carved into the rocky cliffs by pounding waves, unique plant and animal life, and numerous hikes and viewpoints for exploring the area. We did a coastal cliff hike through the park which is part of the Three Capes Track. The scenery was breathtaking with emerald oceans and rocky cliffs surrounding the path. We encountered several native plant and animal species making this one of our favorite hikes in Australia. The Cape Hauy Track (4.4km one way) starts from Fortescue Bay and goes to the cape viewpoint.
Wineglass Bay is one of the most popular spots on Tasmania, and located in Freycinet National Park. There is a relatively short hike up the hillside to a viewpoint overlooking the tropical colored bay. The beach can be accessed by continuing the trail to descend the other side. The return from the beach is therefore steep and quite difficult. With no road access, the beach itself is clean, peaceful and mostly empty of visitors. We saw several wallabies along the hike and beach.
Cradle Mountain National Park
Cradle Mountain is the highest point in Tasmania, located in the center of the island. It is surrounded by a national park with lots of well maintained hiking trails which wrap around lakes and up the surrounding mountains. We spent a day hiking around Dove Lake on the Dove Lake Circuit and up to Crater Lake.
There are incredible stops and viewpoints everywhere, too many to count. No drive is complete without sudden stops to check out an amazing beach or view. We found some particularly cool places around Cape Tourville, Wielangta Forest and among the endless chain of beaches along the way.
Tasmania is not a widely known wine region because the wines are not often exported, but these are some of our favorites. Tassie has a cooler climate compared to mainland Australia and is host to some incredible small production wineries. Most vineyards grow grapes suited for this climate such as Pinot Noir and plenty of Sauvignon Blanc, Riesling, Chardonnay and other citrusy whites. It is also common to find some sparkling wines which are most excellent with some local oysters.
We visited the East Coast Wine Region near Wineglass Bay and later the Tamar Valley Region around Launceston. While we found no bad wineries on Tasmania, there were two that really stood out in terms of quality.
Gala Estate Vineyard – Very small production family vineyard. The wines are only available at the cellar door. There is a wide variety for such a small vineyard and all are very well crafted and easy to drink.
Josef Chromey – A larger and more sophisticated vineyard with an impressive property. These are higher end, complex and very well rounded.
We finished our trip in Tasmania by visiting the world famous Museum of Old and New Art in Hobart which is privately owned and funded. The gallery is built several stories underground making an extremely unique setting. There are many impressive, striking, eclectic and odd exhibits which can take hours to view. This place is definitely worth a visit, but may test your feelings of “what is art?”.
Feeling like long term travel needs to be in your future? Stop by our Trip Planning posts, where you can learn how to prepare for a lengthy trip, see how to never check your bags on planes, find out about travel security and make sense of travel insurance, amongst others.