1 JUNE 2020

TASMANIA'S

EAST COAST GEM

DOUGLAS-APSLEY NATIONAL PARK

 -Travel Blog -
Words & photography by: Kylie Bell

Douglas-Apsley National Park will have you scheduling in your return trip before you have even left. Tucked just off the coastline off the east coast of Tasmania - place your marker about halfway up the map- it is home to dolerite gorges carved by winding inland rivers heading towards the Tasman Sea; the waters that separate our island from New Zealand further east over the horizon.

We had decided it was time to get to know this part of Tasmania a little more; truthfully acknowledging we didn’t know this region of our island as much as we would like to admit. Our road-trips first mission was to collect a friend, to which we owe this trip, who had heard locals speak fondly of the park during her stay. She had waved a hand to us - eager for another hiking adventure too - and had us within days throwing in our gear again in the back seat of the car. Cutting through the middle section of Tasmania on our road trip there, we pass some pretty tempting vineyards and cellar doors, picturesque and highly photographic landscapes and heritage towns to tug on our travel-bug appetite. We stopped at the seaside town of Bicheno briefly, making a note to get fish and chips on our return.

A twenty-five-minute drive later, leaving the pearly white beached coastline, we found the park’s car park and amenities. Packing our lunch, and checking the map, the walk quickly found ourselves stumbling in, then out, of the dry sclerophyll forest at the first stop within ten minutes - Aplsely Waterhole.  The gem of the park, the magical blue of the waterhole, cupped by the gorge. We recognised the iconic landscape from other travellers who had snapped this perfect natural landmark, and wondered why we didn’t pack the swimmers… perhaps even the bbq, the family and a picnic! This is one of the most special experiences of the park, and very accessible. Held in the palm of the dolerite gorge the Apsley River flows by, but slows here long enough to twinkled back to us with its beautiful, tempting blue waters. Our two hour planned trip quickly stretched into an added half-hour as we snapped out our cameras and explored the edges of the river.

This national park is iconic for its deep river gorges where the rivers Apsley, Dension Rivulet and Douglas empty. In turn, they feed the wildflowers and native vegetation which sneaks up the sides of the subvolcanic dolerite slopes. Douglas-Apsley is among many wild places travellers will come across the dark personality of the geography, as Tasmania is actually home to the largest exposure of dolerite in the world, which harbour dark blue and grey tones. This area reminded me so much of Launceston’s Cataract Gorge and Duck Reach, which too is home to impressive dolerite rock gorges; where the South Esk River flows and empties into the Second and then First Basin before it reaches the Tamar River where the historical city of Launceston hums away; another must do in Tasmania.

Reluctantly pulling ourselves away from the blue gem of the waterhole, we bounced across the river via these helpful subvolcanic rocks (I did accidentally miss one and ended up with a wet shoe), but never the less, the hiking adrenaline was already pushing us up the hill, back amongst the trees and undergrowth, entirely obvious to the latter. Once on top of the hill, the track meanders across the way, filled with untouched Tasmanian coastal bushland. Along the way, you can catch glimpses of the views between the trees. Our attention soon turned forward as we started to gently descend a little while later, following the gravel track which soon turned into stacked dolerite steps, back down towards what we knew was further up the Apsley River down to Apsley Gorge. Along our walk, we also came across the signs of Tasmanian wildlife, most certainly hiding and peeking out at us as we strolled past happily. This also includes the notorious nocturnal Tasmanian Devil, who had kindly left his evidence too along the path.

Passing fungus of all shapes and sizes, stopping briefly for some photos amongst moss-covered rocks and Sassafras trees, we clambered down and out into the gorge. Boulders of all sizes - some of which exceeded my waist height - pushed the flow of the contentedly flowing water left and right, downriver. We spent some time clambering the rocks, crossing the river to return again. Feeling blessed to call Tasmania our home, and as tempting as it was to follow the river back down to the waterhole, we reluctantly retraced our steps, glancing back one last time across the river into the forest waiting on the other side. We vowed to return again and explore further.

A new appreciation of the east coast blossomed in our hearts and souls, making us feel grateful and inspired for our islands wilderness. From the pastel reds and oranges of the coastal geography, white pearly beaches, peaceful beachside towns and this national park, this makes a great road trip for travellers looking for some nature therapy. This walk could be easily done within a few hours. Alternatively, pack a picnic and let Apsley Waterhole work its magic on your senses - as we did on our return, munching down our packed luncheon against the magic of gorge.

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