Are you planning a trip around Tasmania ? Wondering what the road conditions in Tasmania are like ? Have heard stories the west has heaps of hills ? well lets touch on a few of those and more subjects below.
Before vanning around Tassie we were told by several people things like ” the roads are steep and windy”, “our mirrors almost touch passing cars”. We even had one guy that said he tried navigating a hill in Tassie where his wheels were spinning the whole way so had to back down the hill with the van on. It’s comments like these that can make you nervous if you take it as gospel. But it’s effectively just individual peoples interpretation of road conditions and we all have different outlook on these matters.
I’m here to add to the gossip and tell you from my view how we ended up finding the road conditions in Tasmania. The below will be in reference to towing a 3 tonne caravan of a decent length with a common 4wd. When I say “road conditions”, for the purpose of this post I’m more focusing on the navigating the steeper hills rather than the actual roads physical condition.
To help clear up what hills I’m going to refer to, I’m talking about the ones that either :
Make you butt cheeks clench when going up or downhill
or the ones I like to call the brake burners.
We are currently doing a three month journey around Tasmania and so far covered a fair amount of the common and sometimes not so common roads. In the first week of travelling Tassie you will think your GPS unit is broken. This is normal. Compared to the mainland where you travel 300km before seeing another town, in Tassie there’s a town almost 30 -40km apart from each other. When you enter the details into your GPS however, sometimes she will tell you that 40km will take you 1.5 hours. After being tempted to throw it out the window because you think it’s broken you’ll soon come to realise…. She was right.
The Main motorways are great, frequently two lanes, wide and caravan friendly. Along the coastal regions however they are often narrow with lots of corners and your everyday rolling hills that generally don’t fall into either of the above two catagories. This slows you down considerably so instead of sitting on 100km you’ll often find yourself sitting on 70km with plenty of 25 – 65 km corners. This of course accounts for the GPS time frame’s. Which is fine as there’s no need to rush.
General Road condition
Tasmainian drivers we found are soooo much more patient than mainland drivers. Possibly because alot of Tasmanians also own caravans themselves. So they understand that towing a 3 tonne caravan around windy roads is never going to be a speedy option. That and the fact the destination for most is only a short one anyway, so perhaps no one is in a big rush.
Tassie is made up of A, B and C class roads like the A10 ( main road through the west. or C132 back road to cradle mountain. Unfortunately from a Caravanners point of view ,all because you’re on a main road like the A10 doesn’t mean it’s wide, flat and user friendly. The A10 for example can change from wide and smooth to something you’d expect in a back street of the country. But for all of that still highly drive-able. Just don’t think because you’re on a “A” road that you can set cruise control and go make a coffee 🙂
Oh and while on the subject of road conditions…….., Dear grader driver on the A2 towards Arthurs river. You had one job….. enough said 🙂
The Mountain Hills
Anyway lets get onto what I wanted to talk about. The mountain hills. The guy that said he had wheels spinning up the hills has me scratching my head. I’m not sure what road he was on, what planet he was on or what he was drinking, but let’s first touch on the roads we recommend NOT taking your van up.
Jacobs ladder ( East coast ) – it’s steep, windy, dirt road and simply isn’t a road you need to take a 3 tonne caravan up so just don’t.
Mount Wellington. ( In Hobart) – tourist Buses travel up and down here but strongly recommend NOT taking your caravan up here. It’s over 1000m high, tight twisty and constant climb up with no real purpose for having a van at the top other than annoying road users and increasing brake sales to the mechanic at the bottom of the hill 🙂
Elephants pass – (East coast below St Mary’s) – Although we didn’t travel it because we were pre warned. Reports we have heard is this is not a road for caravans. Advise taking the coastal road instead.
Ok with that out of the way….. I hear you asking which ones are the butt clenchers ? and which ones are the brake burners ?
The Steep and windy
The ass clencher for me was the road on the East coast between Derby and Pyengana. Now it’s highly manage-able with a caravan on the back don’t get me wrong. However it is probably the worst hill we went up and down because all at the same time it has … Steepness, sharp corners that almost back onto themselves, very narrow and goes for 6 or so km’s each way ?. And to top that off there is a dairy farm in Pyengana so milk tankers often go up and down here. For us we met one on probably the worst corner possible as we were heading downhill. It’s a busy hill so there are frequent vehicles going up and down. If you’re like me, I don’t like being ” that guy” that holds up traffic. However, in this case the secret is to put that thought to the side. There are some but not many pull over spots and so just take it slow, use your gears ( for us 2nd gear and 40km/h is the sweet sounding spot of our motor when descending) and you’ll be fine. Most of all watch out for trucks around those tight bends.
The Brake Burners
The brake burners – These are the hills I refer to as the brake burners. Because if you don’t take it slow and don’t use your gears you’ll have smoking brakes at the end of them. These are the hills that are steep, windy and a long decent, usually in excess of 2km long ( often 6km long). You know the ones… when 3rd gear doesn’t slow you down so you just keep riding the brakes ?.
The two main hills between Hobart and Huon valley. Not hard ones to do it’s just constantly long so don’t rush it. (PS: Hobart itself is a hilly area outside the CBD)
After Hamilton you come to “ouse”. Between ouse and Brady’s lake ( near Derwent Bridge) – There is a steep and windy mountain climb then just after the first power station ( near Terraleah area ) there’s a steep and windy downhill descent and same type but a climb back up again on the other side. Again don’t panic just use your gears.
From Derwent Bridge to Queenstown there is at least 3 decent brake burners if you don’t take it easy. Mostly windy and steep but highly do-able.
Strahan to Queenstown is not really a brake burner although there are a couple of patches. However its 30km of windy roads so just drive to conditions. TIP: from Zeehan to Strahan is a good easy road in.
The B51 from great lake area to Poatina. Steep, windy and long and ummm long 🙂
The road from Cethana across to Miena near cradle mountain
Between Mole Creek and Shiefield
Few of the central roads like Gentle Annie hill ( on the way to cradle mountain from Ulverstone direction) and the A10 to Hellyer gorge, not super brake burners but windy so suggest to be done slower than normal.
Overall yes there are some steep hills to navigate. But honestly it’s really just a case of driving to the road conditions. As per above there are those main ones to keep in mind and a handful of other ones like around the great lake, etc but burning tyres going up hill ?. Not unless you’re a clown.. and/or in the ice i guess 🙂 Note: I didn’t really talk about going up the steep hills as that’s just a case of 2nd gear on the steep ones and don’t rush.
For a large part of coastal tassie roads (especially the East side) they are just narrow in places and windy, nothing to worry about as it’s beautiful scenery and if you go to fast you’ll miss it, and the corner 🙂
Our little secret … shhhh
Ok so i also wanted to mention an advantage we have when travelling around. And it’s not a secret I just wanted you to keep reading :). We have the WiTi wireless trailer interface. You may of heard of it or seen our post on it before ?. It’s a wireless trailer plug, Caravan Alarm and anti theft System, GPS tracker, Electric brake controller and ……. has downhill descent braking mode. I can confirm after putting this through it’s paces the downhill descent mode works a treat. Especially on some of these steeper road conditions we often come across.
Why is downhill descent needed if i have a brake controller ?
Glad you asked 🙂 … A normal brake controller works proportionally off inertia of the vehicle. When you brake to stop at the traffic lights for example, the inertia of the caravan trying to make its way into your back seat 🙂 causes the electric brakes to come on proportionally. When going downhill you often just tap the brakes and no real inertia is achieved. Therefore no real assistance is provided causing the tow vehicle to do most the braking. WiTi does it differently. It detects through electronics that you are heading downhill and applies brakes appropriately. That way the caravan assists with the braking rather than rely on just the tow vehicle. This is a much safer way of going downhill. The caravan is less likely to try and push the tow vehicle down the hill. Worth getting in my opinion if you can afford to. NOTE: we are not affiliated with WiTi, i just believe in it as a product.
Enjoy your travels and stay safe out there
Did you find a hill not discussed here that’s worth mentioning ? let us know in the comments.