The journey of a lifetime.
Or so it felt. My trip to Liffey Falls is a story and a half – so buckle up! You’re in for a rough ride, just like I was.
It was probably stupid of me to choose such a big day trip to do alone. And yet, that’s exactly what I did.
Driving to Liffey Falls Reserve from Hobart is a three hour drive – one way (maps says 2hrs 45 minutes, but it is wrong) and roughly 50 minutes from Launceston. I did my research, and everything I found said that Liffey Falls were World Heritage listed and walking instructions said to begin from a carpark. I thought, you beauty, there’s a carpark and it’s obviously a high volume tourist attraction, so it’ll be easy to get to. So with as much research as I thought possible, I set out for six hours of driving.
The thing about driving on Tassie roads is that they’re not always in the best condition. In fact, the majority of them aren’t. To make matters worse, I was driving a tiny little Kia which I hired from Drive Car Rental (review in the footnotes of Russell Falls blog post).
Heading out of the city was okay because I was on the main highway. Well, it was okay until the car was suddenly surrounded by a thick, white fog. My heart started to beat faster as the car in front of me gradually disappeared from sight. I’d never driven in fog before, and I could feel anxiety rearing its ugly head.
Almost as quickly as it arrived, it disappeared. I breathed a sigh of relief and continued on.
In-depth driving directions from Hobart are below: (skip this part if not applicable)
- Leave Hobart CBD via Brisbane Street, turning left onto National Highway 1
- Continue on National Highway 1 for 11kms, keeping to the right
- At the round about, take the 2nd exit to stay on National Highway 1
- Follow National Highway 1 for 1.3kms. You will come across three more roundabouts – follow all the signs that will keep you on National Highway 1
- After the third roundabout, follow the highway for 25kms
- Turn left onto Highland Lakes Rd/A5 (you have now left the main highway) and follow this for 66kms. This road is very windy, so be careful -take it slow if need be).
- Turn right onto Poatina Rd/B51 and follow this for 46 kms. This road winds through the Great Western Tiers, and a segment is a particularly steep drive with ridiculous turns so take this slowly
- You’ll reach the end of the road, with the only option to turn. Turn left onto Saundridge Rd/C515 and follow this for 4.3kms
- Turn left onto Blackwood Creek Rd/C514 and follow for 14kms – to be able to continue on Blackwood Creek Rd for this long, you will need to turn right when you reach Hop Valley Rd (on the left). Maps doesn’t tell you to do this, so be on the alert. This turn is probably about 7kms after the initial turn onto Blackwood Creek Rd, and the part after turning is unsealed
- Blackwood Creek Rd will eventually hit an end, where you will need to turn left onto Liffey Rd (also unsealed) and follow for 13kms (at some point this will turn into Gulf Road, which is a sealed road that runs through farmland)
- Turn left onto Bogan Rd/C513 and follow this. At this point I had lost phone service, so maps were only going from memory of the initial route and at a fork in the road, there were clear signs for Liffey Falls, meanwhile maps were telling me to go the opposite way. I decided to follow the signs for Liffey Falls, which led along a very indecent unsealed road, recently (and often) washed out, with loose gravel, bumpy ribs and potholes. My entire car shook and toppled as I drove slowly over the risky road. Be sure to avoid as many potholes as you can, and take it slow
- The forest here is thick, and the unsealed road winds around blind corners in almost a single lane, so care is key
- Eventually, you’ll drive over a bridge, where Liffey River runs underneath and a very small area resembling a carpark is on the right
- Drive past this, and further uphill and you’ll reach the Liffey Falls Reserve carpark. Finally!
The best thing about this drive was that I got to see every landscape possible. I drove through undulating hills, flat baron land, desert-type terrain with dramatic, bare trees and snow laying on both sides of the road, winding mountainous ranges with fresh springs dripping out of rock face, vibrant green farmland, and lush rainforest. I was enjoying the drive and every landscape it showcased.
It was only once I got to Blackwood Creek Rd that I started to panic. The unsealed road was rather bumpy, with loose stones, potholes and lots of dead wildlife. But that wasn’t even the half of it. Compared to what lay ahead of me, that first unsealed road was a soft pillow.
The roads leading to the Liffey Falls carpark were stony, with bumpy ribs and potholes everywhere in sight. My little Kia shook and tumbled over the road with a loud vibrate that filled my eardrums. I gripped the steering wheel, turning my knuckles white as I manoeuvred the car to avoid the dips and cracks from damaging my wheels, or worse.
The road was super thin, surrounded by rainforest, winding significantly uphill and curving around blind corners. I was thankful that there was a car in front of me I could follow. Never in my wildest imagination did I expect the drive to be like this – knowing that it was a World Heritage area highly visited by tourists had left me naive, underestimating Tassie’s untouched land and dodgy roads.
Finally, I reached a bridge (pictured in the above photo) so I got out and took a quick snap to calm my nerves (pictured below). I then continued further up the road, praying I was almost there.
I won’t lie to you. The whole drive I was freaking out. I had no mobile phone service. If I popped a tyre I was screwed. If I damaged the car I would lose my $250 bond, and potentially have to pay my excess.
My heart was racing a million miles an hour. I was questioning myself – why did I do this!? I considered giving up maybe five or six times. But I had come so far – I didn’t want it to be all for nothing.
Then again, I needed to allow enough time for the three hour drive back to Hobart if I wanted to make it back before dark. I pushed on.
Thankfully, less than 100m up the road, I found the carpark. Hallelujah!
I was beyond happy to have made it. The carpark was large, with plenty of facilities including shelters, picnic tables, bike racks, barbecues and toilets. Unfortunately, camping is not permitted.
There’s also a bonus feature – a ‘Big tree’!
I had parked the car and explored the area, my heart rate returning to normal. I was only slightly phased by the lack of phone service (I’m with Optus, and I had promised my Dad I would message him when I arrived safely, which I was unable to do and felt guilty about). But I had made it! That’s all that mattered.
There are plenty of signs at the beginning of the trail (which is back near the carpark entrance, not near big tree) so it’s obvious where to begin. They also provide plenty of information on Liffey and World Heritage sites.
I’ll let the below signs do the talking about what to expect along the trail. Despite the second sign, it’s relatively easy (especially in comparison to the drive).
I began the trail, nervous that coming all this way wasn’t going to be worth it.
The ferns led the way, lining the sides of the trail.
The initial walk is fairly flat, then begins a slight descent.
The ferns and surrounding rainforest were blooming and full of life. I felt instantly relaxed and comforted by the abundance of nature.
I think it’s so wonderful how being immersed in nature can so drastically alter your mood. For me, it’s the perfect cure.
The sun danced through the trees in the open parts, and ferns covered it beautifully in others.
There are plenty of viewing platforms along the trail. The first is at the top of the first visible cascades.
The second is a little further along.
Between the two, I noticed a thin trail that resembled a path. It appeared it was meant to be there, though it looked worn and slippery. You know me – of course I went down.
It gave me a nice, clear view of some of the upper cascades.
If the fresh rainforest wasn’t enough to calm me down, the flowing water of the first cascades were the icing on the cake.
The water looked so fresh, clear and pure as it gushed down the rock face.
It was clear I wasn’t the only photographer to venture down here, though. I kind of liked that, seeing what was left behind and knowing we’ve all shared this space. Instead of impacting it negatively, we’ve left it in pristine condition.
Cobbled stones littered the river. I realised that where I was standing surely became submerged when there’s more rainfall and snow melt.
But in the recent dry conditions, it was a perfect spot to sit and take in the beauty of the falls and the quiet, pristine surroundings.
I could’ve sat there forever, but it was time to continue further, to find the ‘main falls’. I hoped there were some – I honestly had no idea what to expect.
The path follows the river, and the low water levels meant that I could meander down the bank and stand on some flat, rocky segments that weren’t covered by the river.
Honestly, the photos of this place don’t even do it justice. I was mesmerised.
And then I found more falls.
These were by far my favourite, as I watched the large lump of water cascade through a thin crack in the rocks, and project over the edge into a sudden cliff-drop.
Further along the track, these falls peeped through the lush green trees, right before another viewing platform.
This platform wasn’t actually the best place to see the falls, due to the forest cover. Standing on the mulchy bank a little bit before the platform actually provided a better view.
I had to be careful standing on the squishy bank, intertwined with tree roots. The last thing I needed to do was trip or slip down into the gorge. There would be no coming back from that.
Despite the presence of danger, the falls were incredibly beautiful. Illuminating over the edge and pooling on the rocks below, surrounded by moss and ferns. I spent a lot of time playing with camera settings and taking photographs. I loved them all.
The view of the platform I mentioned before:
The path here continues to an apparent ‘lower carpark’ – who knows how to get there! Not me. Haha.
EDIT: I’ve actually since been informed that if I followed this path for another 5 minutes I would have arrived at the actual main falls! Turns out in my hurry to get back to Hobart, I missed the most beautiful part of this track. But not to worry – it just means I’ll have to go back!
I was just as terrified to leave Liffey as I was during my arrival. But it had to be done. I drove back the way I had come (not that there was another way), hitting a fork in the road and freaking out while I momentarily forgot which way I had come from. I figured following the signs for ‘Tourist Route’ couldn’t go wrong.
My instincts were right. I made it back home safe and sound. (‘Home’ was The Pickled Frog Backpackers, a review is in the footnotes of the O’Grady’s Falls blogpost, if you’re more of a hotel person try hotels.com for comparison prices).
At the end of it all, I was so stoked to have made it! And I was happy to have a story to tell and to have endured the journey. Because after all, this is what I love, and this is part of the reason why I do what I do. When I did my research, I couldn’t find anywhere that told me the trip to Liffey Falls was going to be like that. So now, I can share my story for others like me who want to know exactly what to expect and exactly how to do it.
To those people, whoever you may be, happy waterfall hunting! Stay safe,