Here’s a way to make sure you catch all the best roads and sights
Europe is full of hotels that specialise in looking after motorcycle travellers. I punched “Motorcycle hotel Europe” into Google and came up with 416,000 responses. I’ve stayed in a few of these and have been very impressed with their helpfulness and the range of motorcycle specific services they offer. Advice about local rides is always included among the services and is especially useful.
Until recently, few hotels in Australia have seen the potential of the two-wheeled dollar. With notable exceptions such as Riders Rest in northern NSW (which is not really a hotel), Australian hotels are happy enough to see us but don’t usually offer any special help.
That has just changed. The Launceston Country Club, a part of the large hospitality chain Federal Hotels, has created six motorcycle touring routes as part of its Tasmanian Classic Touring series. Its marketing manager, Michael Bailey, says the routes are designed to showcase the beautiful scenery for which Tasmania is renowned and cater to the ever-growing motorcycle touring market.
“We looked at the numbers of bikes travelling on the Spirit of Tasmania and realised that we should do something for all these people,” he added. “Each map highlights one aspect of the Tasmanian experience — from its rich history to its pristine beaches and lush rainforests. The routes trace former Targa stages and legendary passes and are bound to appeal to all motorcycling enthusiasts — from novices right through to experienced riders.”
Just to prove it, he invited Mrs Bear and me down there to sample a tour. You can read all about our ride in the most recent issue of Cruiser+Trike magazine, but meanwhile here is the background information and some impressions.
Michael, a keen motorcyclist himself with a sports biker and a cruiser in the garage, devised the routes to show off northern Tassie at its best. You can see details of the rides in the box, but take my word for it: they are exceptionally well chosen. Once picked, they were extensively tested by the president, Tony Benneworth, and members of the Tamar Tourers, the local Ulysses Club branch. The selection is a good complement to the Hema Motorcycle Atlas. Five of them are full-day rides and they’re really not kidding with some of them; if you want to stop for a reasonably leisurely lunch, you won’t be getting back to the Country Club early after a day’s enjoyable riding.
The 350km Three Passes ride takes you over to the East Coast on the A3 by way of St Helens before tackling Elephant Pass. It returns to the Midland Highway by the A4 through Avoca. The History Run is a lot shorter at only 75km, but you get to see five of northern Tasmania’s most significant homesteads as well as historic Evandale. Intermediate in length is Mountains, Mines and Meadows, which heads west from Launceston. It covers 208km and takes in Mole Creek before heading north towards Devonport.
Both fairly long at 310km are the Wild Mountains and Five Beaches rides. The former goes south as far as Melton Mowbray and includes the famous (with us, anyway) Poatina Esses. The latter covers both sides of the Tamar River and continues east to Bridport and then down to the hop fields at Scottsdale.
We chose the only half-day ride, called the Vineyards Run. With a couple of short excursions and peaceful morning tea and lunch it took us most of the day despite officially being only 165km. Mind you, we did a lot of rubbernecking. It’s hard to avoid.
So here’s how it works. You don’t need to specify which rides you want to do when you book your package. That means you can check the weather the evening before and choose your route to make the most of it. This is very useful in Tasmania, where weather varies enormously with location. All you do in the morning is pick up the map you want from the concierge. At this stage you are also asked to leave your details in the visitors’ book at the concierge desk and to sign back in when you return. Yes, they will send out an alarm if you’re not back when you say you will be.
Security parking for your bike is available in the Country Club’s car park, with 24-hour surveillance. Unfortunately, there is no undercover parking.
The little map folder also includes detailed directions, so you don’t have to rely on being able to work out which turnoff to take just from the (necessarily fairly basic) map alone. I can vouch for both the usefulness and accuracy of the instructions, which include distances. As well, there are suggestions for fuel and food stops, and details of some other attractions. What the whole thing amounts to is a basic shorthand guide to the best of the area you’ve chosen.
The leaflet that lists the trips also holds some useful road and road safety information.
If you can only stay one night (and this would make an excellent first night as part of a longer Tasmanian visit) you will need to be pretty decisive to choose between the options; some are focused more on riding while others concentrate on the natural or manmade attractions of northern Tasmania, but they’re all worth riding.
In fact, as an introduction to northern Tasmania the entire set would be hard to beat. You get fast roads and slow; beaches and mountains; history and great food. Oh, and the vineyards, naturally. Did I mention that it was the Vineyards Run we chose?
Dress for Tassie (prepare for any one or more of the four seasons in any one day) and have fun. And given the quality of the accommodation, the prices are very reasonable.
You may have noticed that I mentioned at the beginning of the story that the Country Club is owned by Federal Hotels, which also owns several other properties in Tasmania. If this Classic Touring concept proves successful, there is a good chance that it will be extended to other hotels owned by the group. That would include Strahan and Hobart, just for a start — a very encouraging possibility. The Launceston Country Club’s motto, by the way, is “Shouldn’t you be here?” That would be fine with me, any time…
To do this ride, Mrs Bear and I borrowed a K 1300 GT from Chris Gannon at Launceston BMW — thank you, Chris, especially for coming through at such short notice. We visited Tasmania as guests of Country Club Tasmania.
Tassie top six
The six Tasmanian Classic Touring routes are:
• Three Passes: traverses some of the most stunning temperate rainforest scenery in the state, including the Sideling, Weldborough and Elephant passes.
• Wild Mountains: weaves through acres of lush farmland and breathtaking mountain passes before opening out on to the Central Highlands.
• Mountains, Mines and Meadows: this former Targa stage takes in the rolling hills of the Meander Valley against the backdrop of the Great Western Tiers before returning to Launceston via Beaconsfield.
• Vineyards Run: takes in the Tamar Valley and its surrounding wineries, showcasing beautiful vistas across the river and ever-changing vines.
• History Run: passes five of Northern Tasmania’s most significant homesteads — Entally House, Brickendon, Woolmers, Franklin House and Clarendon House — as well as the charming village of Evandale.
• Five Beaches: visit Northern Tasmania’s most popular beaches — Gravelly Beach, Beauty Point, Greens Beach, Low Head and Bridport.
The maps are printed on tough, waterproof plastic paper. When you complete one of the routes, you also get an exclusive Tasmanian Classic Touring cloth patch (see pictures).