PEDALS, PINOT & PUPPIES // Swansea, Australia

After rain, snow, hail and the occasional glimpse of sunshine, we were treated to a picture perfect blue sky when we arrived in Swansea, on Tasmania’s east coast.

The small coastal town offers views across the blue bay to the acclaimed Freycinet National Park. We briefly wandered the beach, taking in the sunshine and the blue skies.

Our main agenda for Swansea was to explore the wine region just out of town. Through the help of google I came across Swansea Cycle Tours, a small local company owned by the loveliest lady who was incredibly flexible and adjusted the tour to meet our needs. The bike tours are typically guided, but we enjoy the flexibility of going at our own pace, but the owner was more than happy to organise a self guided tour for us, which included bike hire, helmets, water, and being driven out to the nearby wine area.

We were dropped off near a country road about 15kms out of Swansea, and after a quick briefing we were pedaling down a dirt road towards our first stop – Craige Knowe Vineyard. Chris made some off hand comment about how we might see some cute dogs at the wineries, and then we arrived to this – a fluffy, adorable, tiny 12 week old puppy.

LOOK at this cutie. Many cuddles and pats were had.

The sweet views, delicious wine and local food platter for lunch also helped set up an excellent start to our wine trip.

Our next stop was a short ride up the road to Gala Estate, one of the oldest wineries in the area.

The best part about Gala was the cellar door, which was located in an eccentric old house that was, until recently, the home a farm hand who worked on the estate. The resident was using the above stove right up until he had to move out a few years ago!

The next winery, Springvale, was a slightly less leisurely ride down a major highway, but as per usual we were treated with stunning views and sunshine (and wine)

Our final stop was Milton Winery, which was a perfect place to unwind from our bike ride… well, the 5kms we probably covered anyway. It was easy riding!

It was such a wonderful day in the sunshine, exploring a beautiful slice of Tasmania. Even though we didn’t cover much distance on the bikes it was a convenient way to get around between the wineries at our own pace, though there are tours available.

– Reanna

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OUR LUCK CONTINUES // Lake St Clair & Central Highlands, Australia

After a number of hours driving in the rain, our expectations were extremely low when we pulled into the car park at Lake St Clair. After spending a few minutes huddled my the fire in the visitor centre, we decided that we would venture out to the main viewing point.

It was eerie and somewhat beautiful seeing the lake covered with mist, though of course it was nothing like the picture perfect blue skies we had seen in the brochures. The rain was only light, so continued on for a small hike – at least we could stretch our legs!

As we were crossing a bridge we were suddenly hit by sunlight and blue sky began to emerge. I still cannot believe our luck with weather throughout this holiday – the rain always cleared exactly when we needed it too!

A bit further along the track we were able to see out over the lake from a platypus viewing area (sadly, not one platypus was seen!).

Five minutes further down the track and we popped out onto a quiet beach along the lake shore – it was a completely different day! Albeit only briefly, the rain returned as soon as started walking back to the car park.

It was sunny enough for me to snap approximately 200 photos, and enjoy the stunning views. Lake St Clair is at the south end of the Cradle Mountain-Lake St Clair National Park, and is the finishing point of the Overland Track. I couldn’t think of more beautiful places to start and finish such a walk!

We spent the night in a nearby town, if you can really call it that. Bronte Park seemed to be a ‘trailer town’ in the middle of the Central Highlands. The pub we stayed at was ‘quaint’ and ‘characteristic’ at best… let’s just say we had parmas for dinner and we in bed watching Harry Potter by 7:30pm.

The next morning we were up and out relatively early to hit the road for the East Coast. After spending 15 minutes removing ice from our car, we were treated to another day of amazing driving through the highlands.

Tasmania really is ridiculous.

– Reanna

BEACH TO BAY TO BUSH // Strahan & surrounds, Australia

Our time in Strahan was short and defined by the continually changing weather we experience in Tasmania. Strahan (pronounced “straw-n” not “stra-han”, as my Dad corrected me – whoops!) is a small town on the western coast of the island state, and is primarily known for being a gateway to the Franklin-Gordon Wild Rivers National Park.

We arrived in Strahan in the late afternoon, and after driving in snow, sleet and rain we were finally treated to a glimpse of sunshine. After checking into our super dodgy accommodation, we made the most of the clear skies and walked along the bay into town for dinner.

Admittedly another reason we chose Strahan as a destination for our trip was the local Beach to Bay fun run. I am sure most normal people would consider entering any type of sporting event on their holiday to be ridiculous, and I am not quite sure what compelled us to enter! I was certainly questioning our decision to run 9kms when we woke to pouring rain in the morning. But as luck would have it, by the time we arrived to start the race the skies had cleared!

The run ended up being beautiful (and hard – I must admit I hate running!) as we ran along the bay, and over a hill to spectacular views of the wilderness down south. Chris of course beat me by about 20 minutes, and we were treated to a “healthy” BBQ of local salmon at the finish line, before hitting the road.

Our plan was to drive through the centre of the state, to Lake St Clair for another walk. The roads were windy and slow going, but it meant we were able to admire the amazing views of the surrounding wilderness.

I was constantly in awe of the changing landscape. One moment we were driving high in the mountains, surrounded by forest, and then next we were in the dry, brown highlands, before turning another corner and seeing snow capped mountains.

The second hour of our drive to Lake St Clair was met with pouring rain and winding roads, so our view was limited to a few hundred metres ahead. But as seemed to the running theme of our trip, the weather was always in our favour…

– Reanna

SNOW DAY // Cradle Mountain, Australia

Another public holiday for a sporting event, another excuse to get away for a few days! Well, this is the attitude Chris and I have adopted, and rather than partake in the Spring Racing fever surrounding the Melbourne Cup public holiday at home, we planned yet another weekend getaway. I think we are finally settling into this work-life balance!

With a bit of planning we managed to extend our weekend out to a five day break, giving us a bit more time away and the added bonus of two short work weeks. After hours of scouring Skyscanner we settled on Launceston, the second biggest city in Tasmania. We had previously been to Hobart, so Launceston felt like a good base for a short road trip around the island state.

After a quick night in Launceston, we hit the road early in the morning to reach our first destination – Cradle Mountain. The national park is known for being the starting point of the famed Overland Track, but it also a features a number of short walks and some amazing views.

The weather forecast was looking pretty grim, so we rugged up in our thermals and beanies before arriving at Dove Lake. I was worried we would have nothing to look at due to the clouds, but we were treated to a stunning view across the lake to Cradle Mountain itself.

After a few happy snaps we hit the trails for the 6km Dove Lake circuit. Everything was fine and dandy for the first 15 minutes, and then it began to snow!

Admittedly the weather forecast had suggested the possibility of snow showers, however I had been skeptical (it is nearly Summer, after all!). Chris and I couldn’t believe it when it started snowing, and continued exclaiming to each other how amazing it was every 30 seconds.

We thought it would pass, but it continued to set in for the next hour as we hiked around the lake. By the time we were nearing the end point, the snow was beginning to stay on the ground, as we could hardly see the other side of the lake. It was such a surreal and beautiful experience! Oh, and it was bloody freezing.

We did get one five minute break of sunshine when we reached the boat hut!

By the time we reached the starting point we were thoroughly covered in snow and ready for a hot drink, but we had to fight it out with the hundred other tourists waiting for the shuttle bus. Luckily the waiting area was sheltered, and we were treated to some lovely views of the snow covered landscape.

All in all, the hike was an amazing experience. Growing up in Victoria I hardly ever saw snow, let alone had the opportunity to be outside during a snow shower!

After refueling with cover and heating, we hit the road again to Strahan, our destination for the night. But more on that later!

– Reanna

THE EDGE OF WINTER // Bright, Australia

It is a Saturday morning as I sit here putting together this post, and all these mountain photos are inspiring me to go outside for a hike this afternoon. Whether or not I will actually get around to jumping into the car and heading out of the city is another story, but at least the idea is there!

This photo dump is from the Sunday of our weekend trip to Bright. The town is known for being a nearby base to the Alpine region and a number of snow fields, with one of the closest being Mount Buffalo National Park. After packing up our campsite and tracking down some coffee, we hit the road for the slow, windy drive up to the mountain.

We had planned to drive all the way up to the Horn Carpark, but found that the road was blocked off at Cresta Valley Carpark due to snow. I had not expected there to be so much snow around, considering Winter had ended the month before. We weren’t complaining though, as snow is still a novelty for us Australians.

From the Cresta Valley Carpark, we followed the road a couple of kilometres up to the Horn Carpark, which offered some amazing views.

From the carpark, it was another 1.5km return hike to the Horn itself. There had been snow across the road, so we were feeling a bit unsure about how hard the hike to the top would be. Added to this, a fellow hiker seemed to think he was hiking Mount Everest and stopped to put metal crampons on his boots. Nevertheless, we persevered.

Despite our fears, the hike up was actually surprisingly quick and easy, with minimal snow on the trail. We had a bit of a laugh for the over ambition of the other hiker, but quickly returned our focus to the most amazing 360 degree view of the surrounding landscape. A-ma-zing.

It was such a clear day, so we were treated to some pretty spectacular views above valleys and mountains below.

We could make some neighbouring mountains, such as Mount Bogong, peaking out from the distant clouds.

The hike back down was even easier, though looking back at the Horn (which you can see in the photo below) made our legs hurt.

We drove back down the mountain, stopping at the historic Mount Buffalo Chalet. The Chalet is currently unoccupied, with rumours of it being redeveloped floating around. It would be a spectacular location to stay, so I hope that it is redeveloped in a thoughtful way that respects the surrounding national park.

The Chalet is located next to what I can only imagine is the spectacular Gorge Day Visit Area – we couldn’t completely appreciate it as it was covered in clouds! Whilst nowhere near as bad as the fog we experienced in the Blue Mountains earlier this year, the clouds did unfortunately block out the amazing views. I am glad we made it up the mountain early to see some views from the Horn!

We still took the 3km Gorge Circuit Walk and were able to see some amazing waterfalls and a few brief glimpses of the valley below.

On the drive back down we stopped briefly one final time, when I spotted this amazing lookout. You could see the snow capped mountains of the Alpine region off in the distance – it was simply breathtaking!

I feel like we only touched the surface of the amazing Alpine region, and we are already planning to come back in the Summer for more explorations. There is a campground only open during the warmer months on Mount Buffalo that we are hoping to check out. If you have done any good day hikes around the area, please let me know! I would love to get some ideas for Summer.

– Reanna

 

AWAY IN THE MOUNTAINS // Bright, Australia

Life has been pretty flat out around here, with work all week, and every weekend becoming filled with getaways, family gatherings, and generally just being away from home. Sunday night always rolls around in a frantic run around the house, as we try to catch up on cooking, washing, and getting everything ready for another week. As much as I love spending my weekends away, today we are blessed with a quiet weekend at home. And now I can finally catch up on photos from a few weeks back!

In our home state of Victoria, we have not one, but two public holidays based around sporting events. Personally, I could not care less about either of the sporting events, but I do love a public holiday, particularly when it lines up with a weekend. Once Chris and I realised that the AFL Grand Final public holiday was coming up, we booked a campsite in Bright. Located at the base of Mount Buffalo National Park, the town is a popular holiday destination for exploring the Alpine region – but neither of us had ever been!

Bright is a three and a half hour drive from Melbourne, so we ended up arriving in time for lunch and an afternoon of exploring. After setting up camp, I decided an afternoon stroll would be nice, so I took us up to Huggins Lookout. Turns out our ‘stroll’ ended up being a short, but steep, hike which we were 100% unprepared for. We were sweating profusely in our jeans and jackets by the time we arrived at the top, but the views over the town were spectacular.

A few snaps of our camp site. We stayed at Bright Holiday Park, which was located a short walk from the town centre, and had peaceful campsites along the creek. As we booked an unpowered campsite, we managed to score a secluded spot away from everyone else.

On the Saturday, we were up early and set off on a walk around town. A popular walk in the town is the Canyon Walk that follows the river alongside both banks. It was 3kms return, and took us under an hour.

The walk was beautiful, and easy to follow on a path with minimal obstacles or hills (thankfully, as once again we were wearing jeans!). However, we did come across a number of families attempting the walk with prams – not recommended!

Okay, so I took way more photos on the Canyon Walk then I realised – whoops!

After some more town explorations and some coffee, we hit the Murray to Mountain Rail Trail with our bikes. The trail is sealed, and follows the main road out of Bright, heading all the way Wangaratta. We followed it for around 12kms to the other side of the nearby village of Porepunka, stopping at Feathertop Winery for some tastings.

It started to rain as we got back on our bikes to our second stop, Ringer Reef Winery. But as soon as we arrived, the sky cleared and we were treated to the amazing view below!

Eventually we made our way back to Bright, stopping for lunch in Porepunka. We attempted to watch some of the AFL Grand Final at Bright Brewery, but eventually gave up in favour of sitting around the fire at our campsite.

I had heard so many positive things about Bright, so it was great to finally visit! In the winter time it is a popular base for visiting the surrounding snow fields, so perhaps we will be back next year… not that either of us can ski!

– Reanna

WEDDINGS, WALKS & WATERFALLS // Byron Hinterlands, Australia

Somehow two weeks have slipped by and I am only just finding the time to sit down and upload the remaining photos from our weekend getaway to Byron Bay! It feels like a lifetime ago now, as I have been so swept up in other dramas in everyday life. But I digress…

After a morning walk on the beach (and coffee, always coffee) in Suffolk Park, we packed up our ridiculously pathetic hire car and hit the road. During some quiet periods at work I had taken it upon myself to essentially plan out our entire trip, so Chris was happy to follow my suggestions along to Bangalow, a nearby inland town. To our luck, the local market was on! It was in a beautiful location, and was absolutely pumping. If only we hadn’t been so cheap and stuck with carry on baggage.

After exploring the market, I directed us on to Minyon Falls. Apparently Nissan Micra’s are not designed for narrow, winding, dirt roads, but nevertheless we made it and were treated to some pretty sweet views.

The waterfall itself was fairly nonexistent, despite being the middle of winter. It has been a fairly dry season, but the viewing point itself was worth the drive.

The main motivation for our trip was a friend’s wedding, which was being held just outside of the inland town of Lismore. Whilst Lismore itself was nothing to write home about (like, don’t even stop there), the location for the wedding was picture perfect.

It was such a beautiful day! Admittedly this was the first wedding we had attended of a friend our own age, so Chris and I were beginning to feel a bit old and question where we were with our lives!

The next day we decided to evacuate Lismore as soon as possible, and hit the road again. Of course, I made Chris pull over at the last minute to get the above photo.

We stopped for coffee in Nimbin, a town renowned for its promotion of alternative and sustainable lifestyles… and weed. I had thought the town might be quirky and fun to look around, but it turned out to be slightly less inviting than we anticipated. After downing our coffee, checking out the local bakery, and being offered weed at least three times, we were back on the road.

And finally, our last stop – Mount Warning. I stumbled across this hike during my research, and it was honestly one of the best hikes I have ever down. I would apologise for the barrage of photos here, but I am not even sorry.

Located about an hour north of Lismore in Wollumbin National Park, the hike is a straight up and down summit. It is about 4kms each way, and the signs suggested it would take about five hours return. With a few drink breaks and a 20 minute break at the top, we managed the trip in just over three hours return.

The hike up was beautiful, though quite steep at times. The incline was continual, and occassional you would get views over the hinterlands through breaks in the forest.

The last 400m to the summit was an almost vertical rock scramble, with a chain along the side to assist with the ascent. Chris and I arrived at the base just as another couple went ahead of us, so it ended up taking a long time to get to the top as we waited for them to go ahead, and for other hikers to come down.

The top features 360 degree views all around the surrounding hinterlands – it was absolutely breathtaking! You could see all the way up to the Gold Coast, across the Queensland border, and back down to Byron Bay. We couldn’t have asked for a better day weather-wise either. If you are ever in the area, this hike is a must do!

After scrambling back down to the car (climbing down the rock face was significantly harder than coming up it!) we took our time road tripping back to Ballina Airport.

Now it is back to waiting for sunshine to come back to Melbourne – fingers crossed it comes into force soon!

– Reanna