Summit Topping in the Cradle Coast
Pack your boots and your lunch – it’s time for two days of mountain climbing.
In need of some mountain air? North-west Tasmania is home to some of the freshest air on the planet. There’s no better place to clear your head, soak up the longer days and summit a peak or two. We’ll be sure you’re well fueled with the region’s wholesome goodness on your mountain mission.
If you’re starting in Devonport, all good adventure days begin with a delicious packed lunch. Pop into Hill Street, a providore packed with soft cheeses, crusty breads and all manner of walking snacks. From here, head for the rolling hills of Sheffield. Grab a coffee (Fudge’n’Good Coffee if you like your coffee with smooth fudge) and take a wander through the streets of this mural-blanketed town. The World of Marbles and Emporium are must visits. You might even like to have a tinker on the outdoor piano on the main street.
On the drive to Sheffield, Mount Roland is a commanding presence. This is your first climb and is about 50 kilometres drive south west of Devonport. The walk is a solid six hours (11km) by the time you stop, turn around, and gasp at the views out across Bass Strait more than once. We suggest climbing up the face. It’s a steeper ascent, but more breathtaking. For a cruisy, but longer descent, take the southern route and gentler grade back down. Keep in mind though, this does require a car shuffle.
From Mount Roland, wind your way along the coast to Penguin for your overnight at Madsen Hotel. If you have time, divert to the old Bass Highway between Ulverstone and Penguin. This iconic stretch used to be the main highway and hugs the coastline so intimately you could almost cast a line from the car.
At Madsen, perhaps the penthouse is in order with your own private balcony and free standing spa to relax those weary legs? Tonight, get your fill in Penguin. This seaside town boasts a little of Spain. Fuel up on the Latin flavours of El Perro, a sweet little tapas and cocktail bar complete with authentic Sangria.
Rise early to the sun over Bass Strait and head for the letter box. The Letterbox Café serve up delicious hot breakfasts from 8am (The Renaissance Café is also a delight). High five the ‘Big Penguin’ on the main street, or at least get a selfie with him (obligatory!) then pull on your boots for summit two. Today’s climb is Mount Gnomon, around 8 kilometres south of Penguin in the Dial Range. It’s an easier walk than yesterday, taking only around an hour of effort for some stellar views.
The walk begins quite steeply, but later veers north and enjoys a gentler gradient. A lookout offers views across to Mount Duncan and the tumbling valley below. If you’re up for an extended venture, continue along the ridge to Mount Dial. Up top, views spill out across the strait, back along the North West coast towards Devonport and you’ll be able to spot Mount Roland, yesterday’s conquest.
Follow your morning walk with a visit to Mount Gnomon Farm. Meet Guy – he breeds rare breed free range pigs on the property. Contact the farm directly if you’re keen on a ‘secret life of pigs’ tour and staying on for lunch. Ethically-raised meat in their dining room is one special treat. Alternately, you can often catch them at the Cradle Coast Farmer’s Market at the Ulverstone Wharf each Sunday, 8.30-12.30.
After the walk, pop in to Wings Wildlife Park at Gunns Plains. It happens to have the largest collection of Tasmanian wildlife in the country. That’s around 150 species, ranging from up close encounters with our Tasmanian devils to meerkats, monkeys, plus an aquatic centre complete with albino rainbow trout. Lunch is available at the park.
You’ve reached new North West heights. Now, complete your North West adventure by heading underground. Gunns Plains Caves is close by (as is Preston Falls for those who enjoy a good waterfall) offering the chance to dip below the surface into a limestone cave with permanent stream. Glow worms, platypus and even freshwater lobster might surface for a greeting.
For the athletic enthusiasts, take a peek at The Dial Sports Centre. It will be hosting a number of events during the Australian Masters Games in October. But for you, with many kilometres covered, there’s no need to run laps. You’ve just completed North West Tasmania from summits and depths few may encounter. Reward yourself with afternoon hot chocolate from Ulverstone’s Thirty Three Cups and a divine slice of cake. Or two.
Words: Alice Hansen, Pictures: Tourism Tasmania