Hobart local and all-round shredder Jacquie Schapel gives you the low-down on her home town and surrounds. The trails, the ales, and the sights.
You’d be hard pressed to find someone into mountain biking, or outside of it for that matter, that hasn’t heard of Derby in Tasmania. The huge - albeit damp - success of Round 2 of the Enduro World Series (EWS) has helped the village and its surroundings become a must-ride destination.
Tasmania is synonymous with adventure, whether it be big wave surfing at Shipsterns Bluff, hiking the almost untouched south west corner of the state or just being the gateway to the Antarctic. And mountain biking is just another one of the many ways you can enjoy the outdoors in the deep south. Tasmania has been home to many a National Mountain Bike round, Marathon Nationals, and famed stage races such as Wildside and the Hellfire Cup.
Getting to the island state
There are two main airports to fly into Tassie; the capital city, Hobart, lies right on the southern coast and Launceston, a bit more central at the head of the Tamar River and approximately 90 minutes drive from Derby. If you want to make an adventure of it and do away with the hassle of hiring a car, you could take your own vehicle on the Spirit of Tasmania ferry from Port Melbourne which deposits you in Davenport on the north coast after a short jaunt across the Bass Straight.
But once you have made the trip south what else is there to do? Armed with a car, bike, mates or just solo there are so many ways to put more feathers in your Tasmanian cap. Take just a few days or a couple of weeks to explore, both options are a win depending on how long you’ve told work you’ll be ‘gone to get milk’.
Your Tasmanian agenda
In one stint, Hobart is approximately four hours by car from Derby (and 2.5hrs from Launceston). So in this way you can either tick off some key places to ride and explore pretty quickly or wind your way around or across the island and (literally) drink it all in.
Heading east out of Derby it’s a 45 minute drive or so to reach the Northwest Coast, an area is famed for the red lichen covered rocks and turquoise waters of the Bay of Fires. Here you can stock up on freshly harvested oysters and flap around in the Tasman Sea. There isn’t a huge trail network as such, but plenty of fire roads to roll out on to take in the scenery.
Continuing further south along the coast you get to experience what is a common theme; incredible beaches with barely a soul on them, farmland that butts right up to the ocean and plenty of wineries, distilleries and little towns along the way to refill an empty belly. If you have the time, take it. Even in the depths of winter this coastline is quite raw with its beauty. Just take a few extra layers of clothing to enjoy it in comfort.
Freycinet on the Wineglass Bay is a destination that should be ticked off whilst visiting Tasmania. It’s home to a huge annual adventure race, The Freycinet Challenge, and with that some great cross-country and firetrail mountain biking. Concentrated mainly around the Hazards Bay and Friendly Beaches you can drive to the National Park Visitor Centre to park and base yourself from there. If biking isn’t on the cards, hike up Mt Amos, surf, rockclimb or take one of the walks up and over to Wineglass Bay. Bring a thermos and a snack as it’s a great way to enjoy a pristine beach with no vehicle access.
Richmond is one town you may pass through on the way to Hobart from the coast and is an area for wine buffs, beer connoisseurs and spirit lovers alike. Whilst coming here and not drinking is totally acceptable, don’t be surprised if you end up doing the bulk of the driving whilst your mates ‘commit’ to their visit. Hydration is key to every mountain biker’s success after all.
At this point you are probably wondering where all the rest of the biking is? Well aside from the fact that IT’S COMING; it’s also a way of highlighting that your bike is as much a buddy along for the ride as it is the reason to come to Tasmania.
Dropping down into Hobart, the sight of Mt Wellington awaits. At just over 1200 metres it towers over Hobart and the Derwent River. It is visual proof that there are plenty of trails to ride in and around Hobart - with many a hill to conquer.
On the east side of of the city, the main riding spot is the Meehan MTB Park that hosts a trail network of diverse singletrack covering two areas locally known as Clarence and Belbins. There are some great loops to be found here with incredible views of Hobart - look for Clifftop Track and the DH Track for some fun, techy trails.
Meehan is complemented by some great bike paths along the eastern side of the Derwent River and smaller trail networks that will essentially lead you into the Park. If you prefer a longer day in the saddle, link up Shag Bay and Pilchers Hill networks to drop you in the backside of Meehan. These trails are intermediate so be prepared for a challenging but enjoyable ride. Hobart can manage to pack in quite a bit of climbing per kilometre, but what goes up must go down so the return on investment is pretty good.
You can’t ride on an empty stomach, here are Jac’s picks of local restaurants to suit any budget
FEED THE MACHINE
Mid Fancy Pants
Willing Bros Wine Bar
Mona Bar and Tasting (pictured)
Nice and Tasty
East Coast Wineries & Brewery
Iron House Brewery and Distillery
North and South and back again
Over the Tasman Bridge and into Hobart CBD it’s quite easy to ride straight from town to the trails. The best known and most accessible are North South, Glenorchy MTB Park and The South Hobart Trail network. If you are looking for free parking this is located at the base of Cascade Brewery so another option if required.
A bike path called ‘The Rivulet’ will take you from just outside the CBD and up to the historic brewery. From here you can wind your way up to Pinnacle Road via one of the many fire roads or just hang the bitumen for a less steep option. The North South track starts at ‘The Springs’, about a third of the way to the summit of Mt Wellington and 14km from town. By car it’s a 30 minute journey, and by bike it’s essentially how fast you want to climb - but somewhere in the order of an hour or so. Some really helpful instructions with regards to finding North South are to park, walk east towards the clearing and look north towards the mountain; the path that heads into the trees is the trail head.
A recent edition to The Springs is the great little café, Lost Freight. As Hobart isn’t renowned for being particularly tropical, it would be best to bring some money to pre load with some hot beverages and home baked goods. These guys are also really friendly, so if you are having trouble finding the entrance to North South they will be able to help you out.
For many years North South has been the flagship trail in Hobart. One of the most scenic and dramatic it’s a shared use trail that can be enjoyed by novices and dedicated riders alike. Snaking its way just over 12km down the mountain, expect to pass through deep, lush canopies, swooping rocky turns and some fun north shore features to boot. As mentioned, this trail is as hard as you want to make it. The narrow nature creates a challenging and technical trip when ridden fast, with fun sections to boot, but conversely it works just as well as a beginner/intermediate trail if you are just looking to roll along with the family.
Approximately 3.5kms along North South you will reach the Junction Cabin. On a winter’s day you might find the fire going and come across a few of the many hikers on the mountain. As its namesake suggests, it’s also the point at which you can begin to choose your own adventure. Continue on here and you will ride all the way through to Glenorchy MTB Park either via the Greencore Trail or the famed Glenorchy DH if you desire a more dramatic entry.
Fork hard right and you can make your way down the Old Farm Track to the South Hobart Trail Network. From here you can access a multitude of trails including Tip Top and Slides, but again locals are the best GPS around so if you come across one (they’ll have two heads, dead giveaway) just ask for directions or a wheel to follow if you fancy.
Finishing back at Cascade you only have to roll down the hill to get some of the best coffee in town. Ginger Brown’s is a cosy, friendly place to finish and replace all the calories spent.
Eat, drink, ride... relax
On the topic of calories and activities off the bike, Hobart has boundless options. There are so many cafes, pubs and restaurants to enjoy with almost all offering locally grown food and hand crafted beverages. It’s a running joke that if you don’t feel full the entire time, you might be doing it wrong.
MONA is a big draw card, and definitely something to tick off whilst in Hobart. Standing for ‘Museum for Old and New Art’ expect something different in an incredible setting built three floors into the ground. For the non-art lovers there’s a café, cellar door and restaurant, as well as the odd market or music festival. Getting to MONA is half the fun with a 30 minute ferry journey on a camouflage fast catamaran departing from Brooke Street Pier in historic Salamanca. Filled with local artisans and makers, the Pier is a great way to sample just some of what Southern Tasmania has to offer before you head to MONA.
Other great places to visit if you are staying in Hobart for a couple days are Bruny Island, the Huon Valley and Kellevie/Marion Bay. Bruny requires a short ferry to nip across to the island, but has some great gravel grinding rides to be found. Again, it’s full of cheese and alcohol so bringing snacks is optional. If you do want to stick to that gravel grind then it’s a great way to explore the Huon and more places to eat. Home to apple orchards, bakeries and more booze it’s a very pretty place to experience by bike.
Once you’ve had your fill of the South, and worked off some of the cheese and liquid delicacies, you can either fly straight out of Hobart or travel back up to Launceston. However, going the long way round will take you up the west coast, home of the Wildside Race. And you can always explore most of these trails at your own pace via a stop at Lake St Clair, Strahan and Cradle Mountain.
Here comes Maydena
The latest piece to be added to the Tasmania puzzle is the soon to be completed Maydena Bike Park. A gravity dedicated venture by trail builders Dirt Art, Maydena Park is just above its namesake town and less than 90 minutes drive north west of Hobart. With a touted 800-plus metres of vertical it will feature a mountain top café and dedicated up-lifts. Dirt Art Director Simon French and his team are aiming to have approximately 100km of DH, enduro and XC specific trail once the proverbial dust has settled.
All in all, there’s much more to Tassie than meets the eye. Visiting one location is great, but there’s always an amazing opportunity to see more of the spectacular setting. Come to ride some of Australia’s newest and exciting trails whilst getting away from it all. Because remember as much as it’s a really big deal right now, Tasmania is pretty good at being left off the map all together. So unplug, ride, relax and repeat.
Tasmania sits a long way south, so there are a few essenti als you shouldn’t forget – whatever time of year you go!
- A warm jacket AND a waterproof jacket
- A camera you can take along for the ride
- A trail bike with strong tyres
- Beer money
- The Trailforks app on your phone