Up the plateau from Deloraine
Tasmania boasts many beautiful scenic drives. One of my favourites is the road which ascends from Deloraine, in the north, up the side of the central plateau. Steep climbs, hairpin bends, lush forest and panoramic views make for a pleasant driving experience.
The road is known as the either the Lakes Highway, or the Highland Lakes Road, depending on which map you read. Both are preferable to its other designation, the A5. Beginning from the small town of Deloraine, it traverses lush green farmland before starting its climb - and what a climb! From just 230 metres above sea level, it reaches 1209m at its highest point, which for Australia is a very large altitude gain in a relatively short distance. The vegetation also changes dramatically over the half hour drive, and the drop in temperature is very noticeable if you drive with the windows down.
Once climbing, tight bends force a reduction in speed, which allows a better appreciation of the forest the road passes through. Towards the top of the climb, one large flat parking area and another with limited parking (and a lookout) provide good views over the coastal plains and the plateau escarpment.
When the plateau's top is reached, the road flattens out and winds through low sub-alpine landscapes vastly different from the country down below. You really feel like you're in another world, and climatically speaking, you are. A short side road leads to Pine Lake - apart from the the lake there is a half hour walk trail featuring pencil pines, which are unique to Tasmania.
A few kilometres beyond Pine Lake, another lookout (really just a bit of parking space beside the road) reveals the expanse of Australia's second largest natural freshwater lake - Great Lake. After a short descent the road deteriorates to pot-holed gravel and follows this high altitute lake for the next 40km or so, and can be used as a direct route to Lake St Clare or the southern parts of the state. If you continue this way you'll see a unique part of Tasmania which most visitors miss. Alternatively, the lookout over Great Lake is a suitable spot to turn around and return to Deloraine. The descent off the plateau is a different experience to the climb, and possibly even more enjoyable.
The downside of the road's altitude is that the higher parts are prone to ice and snow. Only a small number of days each year are affected, and road closures generally don't last more than a day or two, but if you're in the area during winter or early spring it pays to keep an eye on the weather.
As well as being a through route, and providing access to Pine Lake, the road up the plateau from Deloraine also leads to an access road for the Liffey Falls which are well worth a look. The more energetic can also use the road to access walks such as Quamby Bluff, Projection Bluff, Liffey River track and Warners track. If you enjoy driving through good scenery, however, the drive up the plateau from Deloraine is worth doing purely for its own sake.
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