Our third day in Tasmania started at 7:30am when we packed up our bags and boarded our tour bus to visit Cataract Gorge. Located within the city of Launceston, the Gorge was a slightly more commercialized version of a nature walk.
We journeyed down a trail that ran alongside the river, taking about 45 minutes to complete the walk. The views were wonderful, but I thought the chair lift, manicured gardens, and swimming pool sort of ruined the natural beauty of the area. There was just too much human interference in the area to make it feel “real.” The wallaby didn’t seem to mind though.
When we walked over the suspension bridge to meet up with the rest of our tour group, we started our journey to the Bay of Fires.
Located along Tasmania’s east coast, this stretch of beaches was named in 1773. There is some confusion about the origin of the name. Many tourists believe that it came from the orangey-red lichen that adorns the rocks.
In truth, however, Captain Tobias Furneaux was traveling along the shoreline when he saw smoke all along the coast from Aboriginal fires. These fires were used in their forest regeneration system.
It was easy to forget that it was Easter Sunday as we toured Tasmania, but when we arrived at our first beach, we were unable to find a parking spot with all the holiday visitors. We ended up journeying to the second beach on our tour instead, where we had time to explore the rocky shoreline and swim if we wanted.
The water was about 62 degrees Fahrenheit, so I opted for photographing the tidal pools! It’s really interesting how the organisms in these areas survive and form their own little ecosystems.
There were some small fish, lots of plats, crabs, snails, barnacles, muscles, limpets… all sorts of creatures. There were probably a lot more I missed too…
It was also interesting to see how the rocks had been worn down by the waves. They had carved pathways through the shoreline. I had to make sure the area I was standing in wasn’t wet to avoid getting a surprise shower. The waves aren’t constant; some are smaller and some suddenly roll in much bigger. If the ground was still wet, you knew you had a chance of one of those sneaky large waves coming up the shore and spraying you (and your camera) with salty H2O.
I loved how blue the water was! It was gorgeous.
The last stop in the Bay of Fires was Shelly Beach. At our first stop that morning, our tour guide, Matt, had noticed that I was interested in the shells on the beach, since we don’t have very many in Warrnambool. I apparently inspired him to take us to an extra beach at the end of the day, since we had missed the first one. He took us to Shelly Beach. There was no hiding how it got its name…
Our next stop was the small town of Bicheno (pronounced Beesh-no). Though the water was unusually calm that day, we were still able to check out the blowhole, which was basically a rock formation that would spurt water when the waves hit it.
Usually, we would have the option to participate in a penguin tour this night (at our own expense). The penguins, however, were in their molting season. At night, hundreds of penguins usually come ashore from a little island off Bicheno to return to their burrows. Apparently, they waddle all over the place, including right over your feet.
In molting season, only a few penguins wander back to the coastline. We still could have done the tour, but we only would have seen 5-8 penguins. I didn’t mind though, because while the other tour members were getting photos of the blowhole, I was searching the coast for penguin burrows… and I found one!
It was difficult to see, but when I peeked in I could see the little strip along its body, and I knew it was in there! The photo isn’t the best, but it’s not bad given what I had to photograph.
I at least saw one penguin, so I was a happy camper!
At the end of the day, we arrived at our hostel for the night, Bicheno Backpackers. This was a nice little hostile too. The girls I was traveling with and I were in a room by ourselves, consisting of a bunk bed and queen (it even had a TV, but we never turned it on). There was a stocked kitchen area, which was much smaller than in Launceston, but fully functional. The common living area had a TV, dining table, books, games, and a few DVDs. There was also a small bathroom area with two shower stalls. Again, it wasn’t as large as in Launceston, but it was slightly more cosy. Pets seemed to be a common theme at the hostels we stayed at too. Launceston Backpackers had a fat, old, cranky cat named Fuji (there were signs everywhere not to feed him). At Bicheno Backpackers, they had a dog who loved to play! He’d bring a ball to whoever was nearby for them to throw.
It was about 4:30pm and we had the rest of the night completely to ourselves to check out Bicheno. This town was really small and nothing was open, given it was the afternoon of Easter Sunday. We climbed up a small rock formation to get a view of the town and then wandered down to the beach to just sit and chat for a while.
We turned in slightly early that night to get ready for our final day of the Tassie Highlights Tour!