Monday, August 18, 2014

Driving from Hobart to Lake St Claire in Tasmania

The Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area was one of the places in my bucket-list for my visit to Tasmania, Australia. It's a vast property composed of several national parks. I had inquired with the Tasmanian Travel & Information Centre if there were day trips available from Hobart. Unfortunately, there were none.

The World Heritage property includes the Central Plateau Conservation and Protected Areas, Cradle Mountain-Lake St Clair National Park, Devils Gullet State Reserve, Franklin-Gordon Wild Rivers National Park, Hartz Mountains National Park, Mole Creek Karst National Park, South East Mutton Bird Islet, Southwest National Park and Walls of Jerusalem National Park.

There was a tour that went to Cradle Mountain from Launceston. But it required a two-night stay there due to limited public transport between Hobart and Launceston. The only option then was to rent a car to be able to get to one of the national parks.

I ended up renting a car in Tasmania, which is a challenge for anyone used to driving on the opposite side. The good thing though is that outside Hobart, there are less cars, making the drive much more manageable. As soon the car rental office opened, I picked up the car and I was off.

The drive took me through the fantastic scenery of Central Tasmania. As soon as you leave the Hobart area, it becomes a two lane highway making it difficult to stop to admire the view. The towns I passed by on the way, dots on the map, were really small rural communities, many of them villages. There was Hamilton and Ouse. The highway takes you through the center of town. Other villages like Tarraleah are off the highway.

In Tarraleah, there is a view point for the Tarraleah Hydro-Electric Development. Tasmania is the leader of renewable energy generation in Australia. More than ninety percent of Tasmania's power comes from hydro-electricity. The Tarraleah Hydro-Electric Development was commissioned in 1938, utilizing the waters of Lake St Claire & the Derwent River.

Before reaching Tarraleah, there was a road block at Wayatinah saying the road was closed (only four-wheel and cars with tire chains were allowed). The area still had snow and the road closure was a bummer since I had already driven two-thirds of the way. I tried to find some information in Wayatinah. But the coffee shop and facilities were closed since it was winter. The village seemed deserted!

I chanced upon the Wayatinah Lakeside Caravan Park and drove to it hoping to ask for information. Good thing the owner David was very helpful. He made calls to confirm that the road had already been cleared and that we were waiting for the police to remove the road sign. The caravan park is right beside Wayatinah Lagoon, a fishing lake.

The snow was starting to melt. Had I arrived a day earlier, I may not have been able to proceed. So it's best to ask the Tasmanian Travel & Information Centre to check during the winter months if there are road closures.

Along the way were so many lakes. I stopped by Bronte Lagoon which was just by the roadside. I finally reach Derwent Bridge, the gateway to the Cradle Mountain-Lake St Clair National Park.

From there, it's another five kilometers to the Lake St Clair Visitors Centre. If you are driving, make sure to purchase your park pass, a scratch card which you need to place on your dashboard. They are sold at the Tasmanian Travel & Information Centre in Hobart. And it's best to purchase them there to be sure. You can also purchase them at the park visitors centre.

Lake St Clair is Australia's deepest freshwater lake. They have scenic cruises with spectacular views of southern mountain peaks.

If there was more time, I would have wanted to see Cradle Mountain. That's one of Tasmania's Big Three, the other two being Port Arthur and Wineglass Bay. You always have to leave something for a return trip!

Tasmanian Travel & Information Centre
20 Davey Street, Hobart, Tasmania 7001
Phone No. +61 (3) 6238 4222
Fax No. +61 (3) 6224 0289

Wayatinah Lakeside Caravan Park
David and Diane McMillan
Phone No. +61 (3) 62893317

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