The Central Highlands are an overlooked area for cycling in Tasmania.
Most people flock to the east or west coast but the Central Highlands boast some stunning wilderness areas, set around the Great Western Tiers mountains and a series of lakes, popular with fishermen.
Base image by TASMAP
© State of Tasmania.
If you enjoy desolate cycling, then you’ll love this. It’s also a quick way between north and south, as long as the weather cooperates. Pack a few days of food and a tent on the bike and head out.
With some extra time, you can visit Mt. Field national park or just park your bike somewhere in the highlands and do some bushwalking. Part of the area has UNESCO World Heritage protection.
Duration: 4-5 days
Terrain: Mostly flat out of Hobart. A mostly gentle climb up to the Great Lake and a swooping descent down the other side.
Accommodation: Camping gives the most flexibility but you could find a room for the night in New Norfolk, Bushy Park, around Mt. Field National Park, Ouse, Miena and Westbury.
Highlights: The high plateau around the Great Lake and the descent to Westbury.
Lowlights: Very changeable weather. Can be cold. Bring a good fleece and wet weather gear.
**Click on the thumbnail photo of the map to get a full-sized version for printing**
Day 1: Hobart to Bushy Park (65km)
This should be more than doable in one day but if weather stops you short, New Norfolk isn’t a bad place to spend the night.
Leave Hobart on the bicycle path. It runs along the Derwent River and starts from the cenotaph in the city centre. The path ends just after Berrisdale and here you can take Main Road (instead of the busier Route 1) all the way to Granton, where a bridge leads over the Derwent River.
Cross the bridge and follow the quiet B10 over rolling hills, then across the Derwent again to New Norfolk, a picturesque town perched on the riverbank. There are plenty of shops, two supermarkets (the Woolworths is infinitely better) and a caravan park (tent sites for 2 people A$17).
New Norfolk also has an easy free camping option on a walking trail that goes straight past the caravan park and continues for some distance along the river. Just go past the reception for the caravan park, keeping the camping area on your right, and proceed straight ahead to find the trail. You may need to go 1-2km back to be away from most walkers but it should be easy to dawdle along with your bike until you find a good spot.
If you’re not ready to stop yet, carry on to Bushy Park, 22km away on the B62. The ride along the south side of the river is scenic and you’ll pass many hop farms along the way as well as a couple B&Bs if you’re looking for a room.
At the B61 junction, go right 100 meters to find the Bushy Park Campground, run by Mike, a cheerful pensioner. It’s just A$4/person to spend the night. You can do your laundry, have a hot shower or just pick some fresh herbs out of Mike’s organic garden and sit back and watch the chickens before you make supper in the camp kitchen. Mike even gets out the kettle so weary cyclists can make a cuppa. Highly recommended!
Day 2: Bushy Park to Tasman Trail Campsite (70km)
Today sees the first of the gentle, steady climb onto the plateau. You start near sea level but end the day at 500 meters.
Turn left from Mike’s campground, heading for Westerway, Fentonbury, Ellendale and eventually the A10 junction, some 35km later. If you have plenty of time, you may want to turn in Westerway to visit Mt. Field National Park (expensive camping).
Carrying on the C608, there are a few steep ups and downs but mostly it’s not too hard and there are small shops in both Westerway and Ellendale. Ellendale also has a picnic area with BBQs and water. There’s a free camping area as you approach the Derwent River at Dunrobbin Bridge.
Go left on the A10 and cycle the 7km to Ouse (general store, park, online access centre, hotel), a good place to break for lunch.
From Ouse, you have two choices.
The first option is to carry on the A10 and camp in either Wayatinah or Tarraleah. Wayatinah is the cheaper of the two caravan parks. This means more comfort and a hot shower but also more traffic on the main road.
The second option is to take the C173, which branches off to the right just past Ouse general store and is marked by a sign for the Power Museum in Waddamana, 52km away. This means free camping for the night and carrying a bit of water and food.
We chose the second option. The C173 turns to dirt after about 9km. It’s a very lightly travelled road and is in reasonable shape. It rises steadly all the way to Victoria Valley Falls. If you’d like a stroll, there’s a short walking path to the falls and it’s possible to camp there (just enough space for a tent at the end of the track) but getting your bike down the trail is tedious.
A much better option (if only we’d known about it!) is to carry on just 2km, turn right onto the C177 for Waddamana and camp at the Tasman Trail site (pit toilets, picnic table, rainwater), just after the junction.
Day 3: Tasman Trail Campsite to Miena (60km)
Continue along the C177, climbing steadily through farmland and state forest. You’ll probably see a wallaby or rabbit cross your path.
The Ouse River appears just before Waddamana and its banks might make a good campsite if you passed by the Tasman Trail site. The now almost-deserted town of Waddamana is just another 2km away and the power museum here (Australia’s first hydro-electric project) is worth a look. Admission is free and there are picnic tables, barbecues and a water tap.
The day’s big climb comes after Waddamana. Switchbacks take you up for nearly 5km until you reach the Penstock Lagoon (free camping area). A few more kilometers brings you to the A5 junction, where you go left for the 12km to Miena. The road is now entirely paved, contrary to some old maps.
Miena doesn’t have much in the way of services. There’s a lodge, with a restaurant, and further on at the junction with the B11, is the Great Lake Hotel. Here you can buy expensive groceries at a general store (prices double what you’d pay in a town), camp for free on a grassy area (power and water free, showers A$3) or get a beer and meal in the bar.
Day 4: Miena to Westbury (75km)
It’s a flat run along the shores of Great Lake. The road is largely dirt and in reasonable shape.
There’s very little traffic but do watch out for the occasional logging truck. They fly by and don’t slow down. Just pull over and brace for the dust or mud that will inevitably come your way. There are a lot of cottages up here but no shops after Miena. You can easily wave to the entire outpost of Liawanee (population 7).
At the end of the lake, the road turns upwards for a short distance, passes a lookout point and takes you to Pine Lake. It’s paved by now and called the Lake Highway.
At Pine Lake there’s a nice short stroll on a boardwalk. It only takes 15 minutes and explains about the unique vegetation in the area.
Now you’re near the peak of 1,210 meters and a fantastic downhill awaits you. There’s over 15km of flying cycling ahead. Do stop to take in the view at the lookout point, a couple kilometers after you start heading downhill.
As you near the bottom, you’ll start to smell changes in the vegetation and feel warm air hitting you from the valley. You’ll pass a cafe, a turnoff towards Liffey Falls (one possible camping site for the night) and then the turn to Golden Valley.
Swoop down another hill and go left towards Quamby Brook. You can follow signs all the way to Westbury from here, where a night camping behind Andy’s Bakery awaits (A$2.50/pp, toilets, free wifi, great food and coffee, no showers).
Once you’re rested up, you have lots of choices for getting back to Hobart. Ride into Launceston and onto the east coast or head for the pretty towns of Deloraine and Sheffield, the ride up Cradle Mountain and the west coast.