Exploring Northern Tasmania by Bike: the Central Highlands Loop

Tasmania, or Tassie for short, has long been on the list of places I’ve wanted to visit my whole life. Even as a kid with his nosed pressed in nature magazines, the landscape, flora and fauna of this island inspired many daydreams about trekking throughout the backcountry. Over the past few years, trips to Australia came and went, never allowing the extra time to explore this island, its roads and tracks. Each time, locals would say, “mate, you’ve gotta go to Tassie next time!” Everything I’d seen made it look like an exceptional place to ride bikes and with a handful of newly-opened mountain bike parks opening, I began to make moves…

After a few months of wishful thinking this year, a conversation arose in email with the Tourism Northern Tasmania Board about making it out to experience this remarkable place, by bicycle. I immediately began researching known bicycle touring routes, only to come up with a hodgepodge plan that unbeknownst to me, already existed: the Tasmanian Trail. Running from the north of the island, from the town of Devonport, to the south, along a 470km system of roads and tracks, ultimately ending in Dover, the Tasmanian Trail can be either ridden self-supported or credit card toured, by staying in the many hotels along the way. Over the years, the condition of the route has suffered due to excessive rains, making for a very rugged trip if you do the whole thing as mapped.

My initial plan was to bikepack the route, with maybe one or two people and take a week to do it. After conversations with my local liaison to the Tourism Board, we decided to save that for another trip and instead, do a series of loops, which would expose Tassie’s beauty in easily-accessed routes, ultimately giving me, and thus you, the readers a sample of what Tasmania has to offer. There’d be some credit card touring, some bicycle touring, hiking and mountain biking, all over the course of 10 days. Sure, it wasn’t quite what I had planned on, but it still sounded like an amazing trip. Right?

Oura Oura preserve

I arrived in Launceston, late at night, unpacked my bike and quickly realized I wouldn’t need half of the gear I brought along with me. All we needed was a change of clothes and some food to get us to our lodging that evening. Because I had planned initially on a bikepacking trip, I pinged my friend Kris Henry of 44 Bikes to construct a new rigid mtb for me, designed for touring. This bike would allow me to take on big, long days on the bike without having to carry a camera bag. Even with only a change of clothes, tools, food and camera gear, my bike was both visually and physically twice as heavy as my riding mates’. So it goes!

For this trip, I’d be accompanied by Scott, my liaison to the tourism board and local Tasmanian cyclist, and Adam from the bicycle brand Curve, out of Melbourne. We began our two day ride just outside of Launceston, eliminating miles of city riding and freeing up time to document the ride, stopping for food and photos frequently.

Bush hairpins.

The route was simple: take various dirt and sealed roads to the Central Highlands, spend the night at the Thousand Lakes Lodge and then ride back along the many lakes and rivers before connecting with a rugged bit of track along the Tassie Trail. Two days, barely 180k but with a good amount of climbing and plenty of scenery to keep my trigger finger happy, all with picture-perfect weather.

The first day was around 50 miles and 5,000′ of climbing, leaving us to take on 50 miles and 2,800′ on our return. As for the sights, you can rely on this gallery to tell the tale…

Sup?

There are more stories to unfold over the course of the week, so stay tuned! Many, many, many thanks to Tourism Northern Tasmania for funding this jaunt, Scott for organizing everything and Wally the Wombat for posing for a few photos!

  • Ray Juncal

    Oh boy another great adventure… and wombats don’t forget the wombats.

    • geoff.tewierik

      Classic wombat, eats roots and leaves.

      • Frank

        eats roots shoots and leaves

  • Stefan Flores

    Such a rad trip. Thanks for sharing Jon!

  • Kurt Jensen

    Details on the bikes?

    • … working on some galleries. It’s a Curve GMX.

  • Ian

    What kind of shoes is Adam from Curve wearing? Super cool.

    • I forgot – maybe he’ll chime in – he’s had them for a few years and loves them.

    • Hey Ian,

      They from a Sydney crew called SSBD http://www.ssbd.com.au/

      I call ’em my party shoes!

      • Ian

        Awesome! Thanks.

  • Matt Davis

    Welcome to Tassie, John. Hope you enjoy the place! There’ll be heaps of us at Derby on the weekend, if you get a chance for some mtb action…

  • l_a_91

    Breathtaking shots as usual! Would love to know what camera gear you took with you on this trip? Looks like the perfect rig for carrying it safely!

    • I usually shoot with a Leica M240p and a 21mm, 35mm and 90mm lens kit but with all the rain that we’re supposed to get, I went with my Canon 1DX and a 24-70, 70-200 kit. It’s more weather sealed and more resilient. The 1DX and a lens is in the front basket bag in a padded insert and the other lens in in the frame bag with a rain jacket wrapped around it.

  • Alex Hoffman

    Looks like an awesome time! Just came back from a tour of the west coast a month ago, after planning on doing the Tassie trail and deciding against it. Every inch of the bloody place is an absolute ripper though.

  • Paul Grubits

    *Devonport

  • AdamC

    Is this what I’m meant to send the family by way of visiting notification. ‘I’m coming to visit, but by visit I mean ride around Tassie & you come find me… see pictures’

  • snakehawk

    You got any dope on the governor’s brown leather cycling shoes?

  • Bart

    The photo with the bloke riding through water is legit. Also wombats FTW. Making me a little homesick

  • Mat Waudby

    So stoked on this! Tassie doesn’t get the attention it deserves in terms of the worldwide stage! Such a knarly place! Did the Tassie trail in May and it was one of the best things I’ve ever done, even with the cold weather and rain!
    Enjoy your trip! :)

  • jamie

    dude tasmania trail f#@king nightmare ! wow i just can’t believe they call that trail ! more like trap !