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Discovering Tasmania's Scenic Beauty on Two Wheels

Cycling as Seniors Across One of Australia’s Most Beautiful Islands

Article and photos by Cherie Thiessen

Wineglass Bay, Tasmania, Australia
Beautiful Wineglass Bay in Freycinet National Park in Tasmania, Australia.

Choosing the Perfect Cycling Tour for Seniors in Tasmania

Cycle touring has always been our favorite mode of travel, and though we may pedal slower now that we are in our 60s, we love the crunch of wheels on gravel and their hum on asphalt. We are especially wild about cycling islands; this was the year for Tasmania.

The company: Step one was finding a small, local company, and Green Island Tours,based in St. Helens, looked ideal. Owner Manfred Kempeneer founded the Tasmanian company in 2001: "It's the first exclusively cycling-focused touring company in Tasmania," Kempeneer told us. "We pride ourselves on attention to detail, and offer a very personalized service." Flexibility was also offered: a variety of accommodations from hostel quality to top end and a selection of tour choices. Although the guided tours were the most popular, my partner, David, and I wanted a more independent form of travel, with accommodations organized for us, fully equipped bikes waiting for us, a contact to call if we ran into problems, and a detailed itinerary that would ensure we didn't miss anything en route. That was exactly what we got. :

The joy of cycling: Like turtles, we immerse ourselves in local experiences at a slow pace, engaging all senses. We love investigating every roadside stand, smelling every wild bush with blossoms, pulling out binoculars to spy on every new bird, and tasting good food en route. We also like to spend our money locally, and when we do that, people seem more eager to chat with us, offer tips and assistance, and exchange stories. In slow times, everything mellows; there's nothing between us and the people whose country we're visiting.

Planning Our Journey: From Hobart to Evandale via Tasmania's Natural Wonders

The Route: We opted to begin at Tasmania's capital, Hobart, and end at the historic village of Evandale, with days off to explore some of the scenic highlights like Maria Island, Freycinet National Park, and the beaches around St. Helens, and to visit famous attractions like the Bicheno Penguin Colony and nearby East Coast Natureworld.

The total distance would be around 311 miles. Considering we had two weeks to do it, this didn't seem too harsh, but we'd been warned about the hills and the headwinds.

Accommodation Options for Senior Cyclists in Tasmania

The first night: Our small Hobart hotel was a budget option, basic but clean and centrally located. Gleaming, fully equipped Shogun hybrid bikes awaited us, along with a wonderfully detailed itinerary of our routing, right down to when and where to buy provisions and what to watch for along the route. We were delighted to unearth a bottle of Shiraz inside one waterproof, sturdy saddlebag.

Richmond: The next day dawned moody, the rain and wind forcing us to dismount and push our bikes over the lofty Tasman Bridge. It was an ominous beginning, but no worries, today we only had 18 miles to cover, cycling northeast to the landmark village of Richmond. We were glad to arrive early as the town offered several historic attractions: Richmond Bridge, Australia's oldest bridge still in use (1823), St John's Catholic church (1836), also Australia's oldest, and the Richmond Goal (1820s), the country's oldest intact jail. Later, in the Barracks, historic buildings were renovated into classy accommodations, and we pulled out of Shiraz and celebrated our first day of cycling in Tasmania.

Van for cyclists in the rain in Tasmania.
Having a van available during a rain when cycling is a great luxury.

En route to Orford: Day 2 was 35 hilly miles along country roads to the Tasman Sea, an energetic but scenically beautiful trip. The final few miles wound uphill on a skinny road, following the river curtained by blinding rain. However, we soon splashed into Orford, where our spacious accommodations at Seabreeze Holiday Cabins and our friendly host awaited.

Exploring Maria Island: A Day Trip into Tasmanian Wilderness

The following day, too excited to linger in bed, we hit the pedals, flying four miles along the coast to Triabunna, where the 49-foot ferry to Maria Island was awaiting to take up to 48 passengers across choppy Mercury Passage.

It was a 40-minute trip to the pier at Darlington, once a busy settlement but now home to only a few park officials. Only eight of us disembarked this day at the tail end of a Tasmanian summer.

Maria Island has been a national park since 1972. Ferry Captain John Cole-Cook warned us there were no restaurants or transport on the island; it was bike or boot to all the plentiful attractions: 290-million-year-old fossil cliffs, pearly gleaming beaches, dramatic sandstone painted cliffs, renovated buildings from the convict days, several now housing displays and museums, a visitor center, and trails winding to vistas and relics of bygone days. We had eight sunny hours to wander the 104 sq. mile island, spot our first wallabies and kookaburra, explore the fossil cliffs, and watch the sunlight play on the spectacularly painted cliffs. Rated by the National Geographic Traveler as one of the world's top 10 islands, this natural paradise was surprisingly deserted. At 5 p.m., exhilarated and pleasantly tired, we cycled back to Orford, the Seabreeze, and our fish and chip dinner.

Maria Island Cliffs are painted and jagged in Tasmania.
The painted cliffs at Maria Island.

Coastal Cycling Rides, Wine Tastings, and Encounters with Tasmania's Wildlife

The next few days were blissful. Cycling along the coast with no headwinds and glorious weather, and with each day's cycling under 50 miles, was effortless. A welcome stop en route was Freycinet Winery, where, after a wine tasting, we purchased glasses of their signature Louis Riesling/Schonburger to have with our picnic lunch. We had two nights in Bicheno, enabling us to visit Freycinet National Park. The first evening finished with a guided visit to the nearby Bicheno Penguin Colony, tracking the little Fairy Penguins by moonlight.

After ogling Wineglass Bay, probably the most photographed sight in Tasmania, we scrambled down 600 rough steps to its iconic beach, taking a circular route to the trailhead four baking hours and seven miles later. It was the hottest day, but relief was always close, coolly lapping the deserted beaches. Two wallabies squabbled over an apple at the park entrance while we waited for our bus; no cycling today.

Kempeneer had recommended East Coast Natureworld as the best place to surround oneself with kangaroos, tiger snakes, Tasmanian Devils, Koala bears, and birds. We stopped there early the next day but did not linger for coffee because we were 47 miles still to go. The park impressed us with its humane treatment of animals, its spaciousness, and its knowledgeable staff, and it was well worth the stop.

Tasmanian Devils in Tasmania!
Tasmania Devils in the wonderful East Coast Natureworld attraction.

St. Helens, is the largest town we've seen since Hobart. The day was another visual delight as we swooped past ocean vistas, undaunted by the deluge that ambushed us a few miles before town. Pretty soggy by our arrival at 4 p.m., we were energized to do a little exploring in this popular resort town. Two nights were booked here so we could explore the Bay of Fires area by bike the next day. See Tasmania Parks and Wildlife Service for more information. Named one of the world's hottest destinations by the Lonely Planet, it was given its unusual name by Captain Tobias Furneaux in 1773, when he noticed numerous fires along the coast, leading him to erroneously conclude that the country was densely populated.

Overcoming the Elements: A Rainy Journey to Tin Dragon Trail Cottages

Branxholm: This was only a 31-mile day, with one killer hill. We never climbed it.

"This can't keep up," David reassured me at breakfast as we watched the rain and wind hurling against the windows, and our sadistic server smirked.

We were saved by a call from Kempeener:

"You can't cycle in this. Wait for me; I'll be there in an hour." I smiled broadly at our server. We're not pushovers, but what awaited us was not pretty.

We finished our coffee, the van arrived, and the bikes were loaded. "I've never seen it so bad," our rescuer commented as he gripped the wheel and climbed the slick, narrow road coursing with rivulets. The van labored a steep 1,500' against a punishing headwind and horizontal rains.

Five miles from Branxholm, we persuaded Kempeneer to let us out. We wanted to get a little drenched to save our pride when we rolled into our ultra-deluxe accommodation at Branxholm.

That night was Nirvana. The cottages, set in an idyllic setting, were gorgeous. Folded between hills, with the river coursing nearby, they offered private outdoor hot tubs with llamas grazing alongside. Our fridge and cupboards were so well stocked with provisions we didn't even have to go out. Later, we walked to the tiny museum on the property, a tribute to the Chinese miners who once lived and toiled in the tin mines here. Then, down to the swollen river to spy on the platypus. Later, we lay in our hot tub, watching lightning flash and feeling like gods.

Concluding Our Cycling Adventure in the Historic Evandale

En route to our hostel accommodation at yet another venerable inn, we encountered our first vicious headwind, an assault that knocked us sideways. However, this was only a 15-mile day, and no rain accompanied the gale, so long stretches of walking were no hardship. The longest day, at 50 miles, was saved for our last day. We were fit by then, and although one steep hill presented challenges, the descent was breathtaking and undulated for miles. Elated, we arrived at Evandale by 4 p.m. to admire the town's informative statues and absorb some of its history and ambiance. Over tea in a popular café, the locals smiled and asked the usual opening questions. We chatted about local politics until we found our accommodation at Greg & Gill's Place, in a 7-acre pastoral enclave. Gill showed us our cottage, built in 1826, where freshly baked cookies awaited us, along with another well-stocked fridge. To this cornucopia, she added a loaf of hot bread.

Later, over bread, cheese, and wine, we marvel at the fun you can have at any age when you go back to basics.

For More Information


  • Cycling is definitely a great way to see Tasmania, but if you want to see all of Tassie's attractions, plan on tacking on a week or two at the end of your trek to rent a campervan and get to those really, really challenging places like Cradle Mountain and Dove Lake, and out-of-the-way places like Arthur River and Strahan, with their cruises into environments so pristine you can even drink the tannin-infused river water. Rent from local companies. Small, VW-type vans are all you need. You can recoup the rental costs by cooking meals and camping for free.

  • Many stretches of this trip do not have cafes, shops, or takeaways, so if doing this trip independently, be sure to always carry food and drinks.



  • Air Canada (Best Canadian carrier, with nonstop flights from Vancouver)
  • Qantas Airlines (Flights from USA, Melbourne to Hobart, and Melbourne)

Tourism sites

Note: We made a point of doing business only with small local companies, hotels, attractions, etc., with Green Island Tours as our "agent." It makes a difference!

Cherie Thiessen writes travel stories from Canada's West Coast Gulf Islands. She is a member of the Travel Media Assoc. of Canada and the B.C. Travel Writers' Assoc. She taught travel writing at the University of Victoria for many years. She has also lived and taught English abroad in China, Japan, and South Africa. Now in her late 60s, she enjoys cycling, hiking, and sailing.

Related Topics
Senior Travel
Adventure Travel
More by Cherie Thiessen
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Cycling in Puglia, Italy: Enjoying Slow Travel
Family Immersion in Quebec's Magdalen Islands

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