We drove to St. Helens with the YHA in mind for our overnight stay. We had to drive around the block a couple of times to find it and we soon found out why we had missed it – it was boarded up. Luckily I had seen a sign on the high street advertising backpacker accommodation so we just drove around the corner in search of a bed. St Helens Backpackers turned out to be one of those little gems of a hostel that make travelling interesting and stress-free, just like the one in Hobart. It was run by Paul, originally from Liverpool, who had lived in Tasmania for many years. He ran it with his Danish girlfriend and they both lived in a converted bus in their driveway, which we found highly amusing given the fact that their hostel was a gorgeous spacious wooden building with wood-burning fire, a cosy homely feel, clean kitchen and bathrooms where they could easily have had one of the many bedrooms to themselves instead of sleeping in the bus. They were obviously living their dream! We decided to take it easy and spend the evening at the hostel chilling out – me reading a book on the sofa in front of the fire, and Mark working on his laptop.
The next morning we headed out in the car to visit the local sights. First up to Binalong Bay where we caught our first glimpses of the areas white sand beaches and turquoise seas. It was blowing a gale though so we decided not to get out and walk on the beach, but instead to drive further up the coast to the Bay of Fires Reserve which we had heard was special. So named because of the Aboriginal fires burning along the shore when it was first discovered by the Europeans, and not because of the red rock formations, the Bay of Fires was gorgeous. Stretches of white sand for miles, turquoise sea, red rocks and empty beach. Just amazingly beautiful. So beautiful it was hard to believe that it was empty. Was this Tasmania’s best kept secret? I think it was, but I fear this is about to change due to press exposure and the dreaded curse of the Lonely Planet guide book apparently including it in a recent publication. I’m just glad that we got to see it in its prime before the developers get to it. Because I have no doubt they will. We’ve seen it all too often over the last 7 months of our travels – if they think there is money to be made, then the concrete will follow. Such a shame, because it really felt like paradise. The other thing which we didn’t know was that you are allowed to camp there for free! There are only basic facilities – a compost toilet – and no running water, but imagine waking up to that view every morning. Wow.
Sometime later, after waving goodbye to paradise, we headed back inland for the drive to Launceston, where we planned to stay the night. We took a minor detour to park up and take a short walk to view St Columba Falls – Tasmania’s largest waterfall at 90 metres high. We also stopped at the local cheese shop where we purchased some local cheese for our sandwiches and some fudge for the journey. At the locally famous ‘Pub in the Paddock’ we drove by at just the right time to see someone feeding a bottle of beer to the pig. Apparently the pig prefers beer to water. Strange but true.