The major appeal of exploring Tasmania by campervan is that it opens up the island and makes every journey part of your holiday. There's a laissez-faire attitude to bunking up by the roadside meaning you have the freedom to make anywhere and everywhere your home for the night. This flexibility means you can avoid the towns and cities, making the most of this geographical treasure chest while cutting down on travel time between destinations.
To 'do' Tassie, you really need months; but with a van, it's possible to get your bearings in a just over a week. I was quite aggressive in my autumnal trip last April – clocking up around 1,800 kilometres in eight days - but it meant I got to see as much as possible of this intriguing heart-shaped island.
My mini-loop takes me up and over towards the Huon River, which reflects the smoke billowing from a controlled fire at sunset. I park up besides Storm Bay overlooking Bruny Island for my first night in Tasmania, treating myself to some local Pinot Noir and some pasta.
Cutting through dense forests, the road dips in and out of crags and hidden valleys, passing numerous lakes with near-perfect reflections. I pass more roadkill than vehicles – a sign both of Tasmania's abundant wildlife and its isolation. An open plateau affords breathtaking views of Mount Olympus and the oddity that is Frenchman's Cap before the road weaves down towards Lake Burbury.
With the day light gone and rain starting to pour, I park up at a deserted campsite to see out the night. Unfortunately I leave the window open as I cook, allowing a multitude of midges to join me for my meal; a school boy error.
The rain eases up, though, and the series of lakes that follow are pretty breathtaking. I certainly made the right decision to head inland: although there's a 70 percent chance of rain on any given day at Cradle Mountain, against all odds the sun is surrounded by a blue sky as I arrive at Tasmania's most famous site in mid afternoon. The trail walk around Dove Lake is mesmerizing – and is capped off unforgettably with a magical pink sunset.
This being quiet season, there's no problem in finding a berth for my van at the Cradle Mountain camp site. As much as it's a bonus having all mod cons on board, nothing beats a proper hot shower.
By midday I'm back on the road and heading to the north east coast through dense forests and gorges. I arrive at the sleepy coastal town of Stanley – as close to Victorian England as anything you'll get in Tasmania. Here, a curious 152m-high volcanic table-top formation called The Nut rises from the sea above the heritage town: the climb up is so steep the locals have put in a chairlift. After a steak supper in Wynyard, I park up in total isolation at Table Cape on a cliff ledge overlooking the choppy waters of the Bass Straight.
On I press to Tasmania's second city, Launceston, for a potter around the impressive Cataract Gorge. It's still pretty wet as I drive north through the Tamar Valley wine region – but it clears in time for a marvellous sunset at Low Head.
It's hard to think that this is the same island as the wind-swept, rain-lashed north coast. The white sands are sandwiched between calm lagoons and bushland on one side and the rough cerulean-blue Tasman Sea on the other. The road beyond the rickety shack-town of The Gardens is unsealed so my Apollo and I cannot venture further north. A local dog joins me as I ramble around taking photos of this beautifully isolated spot. Inspired, I drive south and park beside the sea at Shell Cove near Beaumaris for the night, falling asleep with the sound of waves crashing against the shore.
There's no time to chat because I have a busy day ahead at the staggeringly beautiful Freycinet National Park, home of the Hazards – a series of spectacular 485-metre high pinky-orange granite outcrops. In stark contrast to Cradle Mountain, Freycinet gets 300 days of sunshine a year – and although well into autumn, today is a scorcher. A brisk uphill walk takes me to a stunning lookout above the dramatic white bowl of Wineglass Bay, and I cannot resist heading down to the water for a paddle, where I'm joined on the beach by a small kangaroo so tame that he allows me to stroke his fluffy coat.
Next I embark on a foolhardy three-hour return trek to the summit of Mount Amos with nothing but a half bottle of water and an apple. At times the climb is quite perilous: there is no path as such, just a series of red markers that often lead you up hazardous slopes alongside vertiginous precipices. The view from the top is without a doubt the highlight of my whole trip. I'm the only person stupid enough to clamber up here and so it feels like I'm presiding over my own private kingdom. Any future visit to Tasmania will include at least two days bushwalking in Freycinet – it doesn't get much better than this.
Before returning the van I drive up Mount Wellington, which rises high above Hobart and – when the weather's clear – affords unparalleled views over the Derwent Estuary. Before flying back to Sydney the next day, I'll explore Hobart, take a boat up to the zany subterranean modern art gallery Mona (a must for any visitor), and have a final plate of whiting and chips at Fish Frenzy by the harbour with a chilled glass of local Chardonnay. After all that driving, I deserve a drink.
About Apollo Motorhome Holidays
Proudly Australian and 100% family-owned, Apollo Motorhome Holidays is the world's largest recreational vehicle company. Motorhomes and campervans can be hired in every state of Australia, from Auckland and Christchurch in New Zealand, and at a number of locations in the United States and Canada. Pricing varies according to the season and type of vehicle you are hiring. To book or find out more call 1800 777 779 or visit www.apollocamper.com/holiday