Monday, January 26, 2009

Perfect Beaches, Perfect Campsite

It was Jude who gave us the tip. Butlers Beach. A privately owned campsite offering bush camping along 7km of spectacular coastline.

Hillocks Drive bush camping, Yorke Peninsula, Australia Day
Friday 23 January to Monday 26 January 2009
Alex, Bec and myself

After some google efforts we had it tracked down, Hillock Drive at Butlers Beach. We drove down after work on Friday night, Alex bought me tea to make up for the $9 I wasted on parking my car in the multi-level next to work to save time, I had return home to get something he couldn't bring from his camping list.

Having found the key that was left out for us, we explored what campsites we could easily see in the 10 o'clock darkness. We shortlisted, and settled on one behind a huge sand dune with small trees sheltering and shading the site. It was a winner. The next day when we spoke to the woman in the shop to pay our camp fees, she declared it was probably one of the best campsites. Yeah! And it was, lots of shade,
plenty of shelter from the wind.

On Saturday morning we explored and walked through the sand dunes down to the beach. It ended up being quite a walk as we tried to make a path through the dunes. Eventually, having given up on following others' footsteps, we found Salmon Beach. We had camped behind a headland, so from what we could see there was no easy route to the beach. The water was wild, but warm, so we decided to strip down to our underwear and go for a swim. It was really really good. Bec decided not to join us, but filmed us, then wandered off for a walk as we dried off.

Saturday afternoon we explored the coastline of Hillocks, there were a number of really cool beaches. We drove all the way to the end, only to discover later that beyond Gartrells Rocks it was 4WD only, yeah sure, it had been sandy and a challenge to drive through, but really, it was a private road. At Flat Rocks we discovered a series of shallow warm rockpools, and as we stood near the sea edge we were soaked by the extensive spray from crashing enormous waves.

Sunday we headed over to Edithburgh, going via a wind farm to see how huge those beasts really are. We found a sweet spot near Edithburgh that Alex had snorkelled at during a recent Easter family camping trip. It was low tide though, so we snorkelled under the Edithburgh jetty which was good. A cool breeze and deeper water meant the wetties were welcome. Some stuff to see, and other snorkelers too. Once we were out though, we saw a huge manta ray over a metre wide, if not one and a half metres wide.

After a woeful lunch in Edithburgh, we drove to Point Gilbert near Port Moorowie, which was very seaweedy. We had a discussion about the name Periwinkle Reef, Alex argued it was mentioned in the SA Tourism guide, a reckoned it wasn't. A bet was made, an Ice Coffee in it. I won, claiming my prize on Monday in Moonta.

With all the seaweed and yellow water, we decided to check out the third spot mentioned in the guide, Parsons Beach, north of Hardwicke Bay. Nope, looked the same. With all this dirt road driving, we had been around for long enough for the tide to change, so back to our initial spot that was no longer just ankle deep. Saw little, and it was cool, except one small and remarkably stationary ray thing, and
Alex allegedly saw a Guitar Shark.

After our swim Monday morning, we made pancakes, of which predictably the first didn't work, then packed up before heading out at 12noon to drive listening to the Hottest 100 up to Moonta Bay where we swam. The days had got hotter over the weekend, now for Aussie Day it was 35 degrees. Lots of people at Moonta Bay, a shallow but warm sea, in which the three of us played frisbee. Upon returning to our bag and towel, which we had left at a safe distance from the water's edge, or so we thought, they were about to be inundated. Listening to the countdown to 1 on the Hottest 100 we arrived back home at 6pm.

A top weekend, pity Jude couldn't make it down as she got into her Groupie thing for Tour Down Under, but still a fab weekend. Not enough photos perhaps, but that was cos so much of the stuff we did was in the water, so not a bad weekend at all.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

233km in Tasmania

Tim, Kate and myself have just returned from doing 17 days/233km of hiking in Tasmania.

Hiking in Tasmania really is something special. There are so many trails and places to camp, and with an all-parks pass it is very cheap. I could live here someday, for a time at least. Maybe based in Hobart. With more research I could come up with a comprehensive list, but for now I can say I would like to hike up Mt Wellington - I drove up here but forbid myself from walking the distance of several metres from the carpark onto the adjacent Pinnacle (the peak of Mt Wellington) in favour of saving the moment until I had hiked up the mountain from much lower down. I would also like to spend a weekend camping and hiking on Bruny Island, a week or so hiking the South West Track, Maria Island, Flinders Island and more time exploring the Walls of Jerusalem National Park.

Over the past three weeks these are the hikes we have done:

We used Lonely Planet's Walking in Australia guide which is well recommended for it's excellent maps and walk notes. Borrow or buy the book, or alternatively download a pdf of just the Tasmania chapter for as little as $8 from the Lonely Planet website.

I also spent some time around Launceston, visited Bruny Island, camped at Binnalong Bay on the Bay of Fires and explored Richmond.

Friday, January 2, 2009

Bay of Fires

"White beaches of hourglass-fine sand, Bombay Sapphire sea, an azure sky - and nobody," Lonely Planet's Best in Travel 2009 guide (formerly The Bluelist) says. "This is the Bay of Fires: the secret edge of Tasmania, laid out like a pirate's treasure map of perfect beach after sheltered cove."

Bay of Fires, Mt William National Park, Tasmania
3 day hike, Wednesday 31 December 2008 to Friday 2 January 2009

Lonely Planet may be a defining influence on where traveller's visit, but these words published just last November had yet to reach their full impact. The beaches were still empty of people. Lonely Planet published this destination in their Top 10 Regions of 2009, the only Australian entry. View the article from Lonely Planet's Best in Travel 2009 guide.

News report from ABC1's 7.30 Report, aired on 25 November 2008

Prior to commencing our hike, we camped at Binnalong Bay at Cosy Corner in a crowded car-based campsite. It was a stunning beach though.

We left our car outside the former general store in Ansons Bay, from where our pre-arranged taxi took us to the start of our walk at Top Camp, in Mt William National Park, the camp being accessed through the shack town of Musselroe Bay (taxi: East Coast Taxis, based in St Helens, 0417 513 599, 03 6376 2999, $90 on the meter). It was hot but windy, not a promising start to a long beach walk. Thankfully though, it was a tail-wind, I think it would have been miserable if we had been walking into the wind. As it was the wind would collect the sand up and throw it at your legs and face like a thousand needles.

We camped at the 4th Stumpy Bay campsite, finding it an ideal haven from the beach wind. A pleasant river setting with grassed areas beside the picnic area, it was here that we spent our New Years Eve. I was adament to spend some time on the beach late afternoon, but the wind was fierce and unrelenting.

The following day the wind had subsided somewhat, and we walked a further 15km to the Deep Creek campsite. There were many beautiful beach spots today, with stunning red boulders and rock reefs. We were treated to a special sunset and evening swim. The following morning we swam again, this time putting the snorkel and mask I had carried on my pack to use. The conditions weren't ideal for snorkelling. All the people I had seen in recent days snorkelling had been wearing full wetsuits. As it was, it wasn't the lack of a wetsuit that would be our undoing, it was the brain freezie created on the outside of our heads as we swam headfirst through the cold water.

The entire walk except the final 3km was on beach or climbing over rock headlands. At Deep Creek campsite we discovered a map of a trail that went from Mt William, at a paltry 217m above sea level, to Kangaroo Forester Drive, then to just down the road to Stumpys Bay #4 campsite and then following the coast to Cobler Rocks. It would have been good to follow the short section along the coast, although the coast there was quite good.

Just 600 metres from the car, still amidst bush and walking along a sandy track with no sign of the car yet, Kate firmly declared that she was now over walking having walked the past 3 weeks. Lucky the track emerged into Ansons Bay and the car promptly afterwards.

Download Google Earth KML file of Bay of Fires hike
Download kml file to view in Google Earth or adapt to use as a navigational aid in a GPS unit


Bay of Fires
Wednesday Thursday Friday
31/12/2008 01/01/2009 02/01/2009
Top Camp to Stumpys 4 Stumpys 4 to Deep Creek campsite Deep Creek campsite to Ansons Bay
Distance 7.8km 14.3km 14.4km
Moving Duration 1h47m 3h13m 3h14m
Stationary Duration 47m 1h53m 1h39m
Moving Average 4.4km/h 4.4km/h 4.5km/h
Overall Average 3.1km/h 2.8km/h 3.0km/h
Oodometer 204.7km 219.0km 233.5km