Tasmania

Hobart

The drive from the west coast of Tasmania to Hobart, Australia’s second-oldest capital city, is one of the most beautiful journeys in the world. The weather was fine and clear but quite cold when we set off from Strahan on the west coast early in the morning. We made good time to Queenstown and decided to stop at a lookout above the town. The views were spectacular and I could imagine it with a dusting of snow. It would be so beautiful.

Awe-inspiring national parks

We continued on our way to the Franklin-Gordon Wild Rivers National Park. Famous for the wild, stunningly beautiful rivers that twist through the wilderness, the park is also famous for its mountain peaks, rainforest, and spectacular gorges.  We stopped at the Nelson River and took the walk down to Nelson Falls. It wasn’t far and we set off along a timber boardwalk through some of the most beautiful rainforest we’d ever seen. How amazing! How absolutely spectacular!

Nelson Falls

Nelson Falls will take your breath away

The walk through the rainforest was simply breathtaking but the falls were magnificent! I had read somewhere that the falls resembles an upside-down wineglass and I must say that is a very apt description. The water tumbles down a 30 metre (98 feet) drop to the rocks below and flows into the Nelson River. I was captivated and didn’t want to leave but, as John pointed out, we couldn’t stay there all day and so we wandered back through the rainforest and were soon back on the road. The Franklin-Gordon Wild Rivers National Park is 117 kilometres (73 miles) west of Hobart and is in the heart of the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area. It is named after the two main rivers lying within the boundary of the park, the Franklin River and the Gordon River. If we’d had more time I would have loved to explore more of the park. Maybe next time.

Bradys Lake, a picture-perfect village

We left the national park and decided to stop for lunch at Tarraleah but when we were still about 13 kilometres (8 miles) out we came around a bend and there before us was Bradys Lake! What a beautiful setting! The mountains rising over the lake with a few houses dotted around the shore in a lakeside, bushland setting. We drove around the lake and through the small settlement before reluctantly taking our leave of this lovely place and, after a quick stop at the Teez Café in Tarraleah for lunch, arrived at the Treasure Island Caravan Park ([star][star][star]) in Berriedale just before 4:00.

Brady’s Lake

The Derwent River begins in Australia’s deepest lake

Our cabin is the basic budget cabin with one room that is living room, kitchen, and bedroom, and a separate bathroom but that was all we needed on this trip; we planned to be out and about every day while in Hobart. Hobart lies in the foothills of Mount Wellington near the mouth of the Derwent River. Later in the evening we took our bottle of Two Tails Sparkling Wine down to the river bank and toasted our first night in Hobart on the shores of the river. The Derwent originates in Lake St Clair in the Central Highlands. This lake has a maximum depth of 200 metres (656 feet) making it Australia’s deepest lake. It forms part of the Cradle Mountain-Lake St Clair National Park. The Derwent River flows for

First night bubbly with Two Tails

187 kilometres (116 miles) and the estuary portion flows for another 52 kilometres (32 miles) out to sea and forms the Port of the City of Hobart, the deepest, sheltered harbour in the southern hemisphere. But this evening we toasted our arrival here in Australia’s southernmost capital and the Two Tails went down a treat before the night chill settled into the air and we adjourned inside the cabin.

A visit to Constitution Dock

It was a particularly cold start the next morning but the day warmed up nicely. In fact by lunch time it was really quite warm. We drove down into Hobart to the harbour and our first port of call was the information centre where we picked up brochures and pamphlets on things to see and do in Hobart. After we left the tourist centre we wandered down to the waterfront. I simply couldn’t come to Hobart and not visit Constitution Dock where the Sydney-Hobart race ends. Along with Victoria Dock, Salamanca Place, and Battery Point, the dock forms part of the foreshore of Sullivan’s Cove. How exciting it must be to stand here and greet the yachts as they sail into the dock. For a while we wandered around the Kings Pier Marina, mostly so John could look at the boats. There were a lot of boats moored there and he was enjoying himself immensely. We watched a huge catamaran come into the Elizabeth Street Pier and her master made the docking look easy. I bet he’s the kind of guy who could reverse park an 18-wheeler without batting an eyelid!

Constitution Dock

Coffee on the Waterfront

At the far southern end of the Waterfront Precinct we stopped for coffee at a café called Blue Skies. Overlooking the water, it had a relaxed atmosphere and even though it was not quite 10:30, it was very busy.  After coffee we decided on a drive down to Sandy Bay. We caught glimpses of the Derwent River where it meets the Southern Ocean and I managed one photograph but there was nowhere to stop, let alone park along the route. But with the sun shining and very few clouds, it was beautiful. We drove through Sandy Bay and on towards the town of Kingston.

The Shot Tower

John wanted to visit the historic Shot Tower where they used to make lead shot, all sizes including birdshot. Located at Taroona, 11 kilometres (7 miles) from the centre of Hobart, The Shot Tower is a unique historical site. Its construction was completed in 1870 and, standing 48 metres (157 feet) tall, it is

The Shot Tower

the only remaining circular, sandstone shot tower in the world. The lead was melted in cauldrons at the top of the tower and droplets of molten lead became spherical as they dropped into a tub of water at the base of the tower. The top of the tower is accessed by a circular staircase of 259 steps for anyone with the energy to make the climb. We didn’t.

A choc-a-holic’s heaven!

After a brief stop at the Wrest Point Casino where John wanted to have a look inside the gaming rooms, we drove down to Claremont to the Cadbury’s Chocolate Factory. By this time it was close to closing so we’d missed the tour but we did hit the chocolate shop instead. My chocoholic hubby was determined to enjoy himself.  This factory is the largest chocolate factory in the southern hemisphere but John wasn’t interested in the history of the place. You’ve heard the expression “kid in a candy store”? Enough said. All the  chocolates are about half the price you would pay in the shops but factor in the $7.50 entry fee per person and it’s not that cheap. Still, we came away with a bagful for John – it will last him until he’s 70 (at least!), I’m sure! The temperature drops rapidly once the sun goes down and a quick stroll along the riverbank after dinner was very quick indeed before we scurried back to the relative warmth of our cabin.

Fredo Frog and friend at the Cadbury’s Factory

An historical brewery

The next morning we set off for the Cascade Brewery, Australia’s oldest operating brewery. The old building, from the early 1800’s, overlooks the entire complex and even appears to be standing guard in its position at the end of the road. The brewery had a rather inauspicious start, beginning its life in 1824 in the Old Hobart Gaol. Its founder, Peter Degraves, was serving time for not paying his debts when he dreamed up a beverage made from the waters of the Cascade streams. Inside the main visitor area is a modern restaurant area and a souvenir shop and this leads out to some stunning gardens. We were too early for the tour, and way too early for any tasting, so we wandered around the museum for a while. John was fascinated by the 8 different types of Cascade Beer available for sale here, none of which are available outside Tasmania. The gardens are stunning and somewhere to sit in the peace and quiet but a light shower of rain had us scurrying back indoors.

Cascade Brewery

On The Pinnacle

The brewery was more for John than me, I wanted to visit Mt Wellington and so after leaving Cascade we drove up to the Pinnacle more than 1220 metres (4000 feet) above sea level. Mt Wellington is often referred to as a “wilderness within reach of the city” and the 21 kilometre (13 mile) drive to the summit takes you through some amazing countryside, including temperate rainforest and sub-alpine flora. It was overcast so the views from The Pinnacle were somewhat less than spectacular but it was certainly amazing. The panoramic views of Hobart, Bruny Island, and the Tasman Peninsula just took our breath away.

The windiest place in Hobart!

There was some work being carried out and we fell into a conversation with one of the workmen who pointed out a few landmarks for us. The road up is sealed all the way and somewhat narrow and we were

The Tasman Bridge from the summit of Mt Wellington

told that the road had been blasted from rock in 1932 around the same time as the Sydney Harbour Bridge was built. The wind was fairly howling while we were there and it was really cold and it came as no surprise to learn that this is the windiest place in Hobart. There is an interpretation centre at the top but it was closed when we were there. Something to do with the aforementioned workmen. The mountain has been known by several names since it was first sighted by Europeans in the late 18thcentury and didn’t receive its present name until 1832 when it was named in honour of the Duke of Wellington after his defeat of Napoleon at the Battle of Waterloo.

Not one of the better ones!

By now it was lunch time and we left the mountain and made our way to the suburb of Glenorchy. Something simple for lunch was all we wanted and we found a place called The Central Food Court. This was quite possibly the worst lunch we had ever eaten – anywhere! Everything, even the chips, was pre-cooked and simply reheated in the microwave. It was truly revolting. On a scale of 1-10? -4!

Australia’s first legal casino

We returned to camp for a catch-up afternoon – emails home, laundry, that sort of thing, and this evening set off for the Wrest Point Casino. Now, we’re not gamblers and neither one of us had a clue how some of those games were played but John was fascinated with the roulette tables and watched some fellow who seemed to be winning a lot! But, as we both agreed, we didn’t know how much he had lost to get to this point. We wandered off to the cashier’s counter and had a chat to the man there and he explained a few things but, quite frankly, it went over my head.

Wrest Point

Winners!

But we couldn’t come here and not have a go so we took up seats in front of a poker or slot machine and, last of the big spenders, decided to invest $5.00. Well, the machine hungrily ate our $5.00 note like a starving man and we started pushing buttons. Every once in a while lights would flash and bells would sound and when we’d had enough we pushed the “collect” button. On counting our winnings we discovered that we’d not only got our $5.00 back but another $10.00 on top!

A little fish café

We decided not to have dinner at the casino but to head down to the waterfront where we stopped at Constitution Dock at a little fish café called Mako. It’s not much more than a takeaway shop with a few tables and chairs, it’s not 5-star, in fact it probably wouldn’t rate a star at all, but it has the best, the freshest fish and chips we’d had in a long time! The young man who served us, Till, was pleasant, friendly, and helpful and for us it was the perfect end to the day.

The Neck

Our travels the next day took us to Port Arthur on the Tasman Peninsula. The Peninsula is 75   kilometres (47 miles) south-east of Hobart, along the Arthur Highway, which the guide books say is a road into history. Along the way we crossed the Denison Canal at Dunalley before stopping at Eaglehawk Neck, a narrow isthmus that connects the Tasman Peninsula to mainland Tasmania. The Neck, as the locals call it, is

Tasman’s Arch

only 400 metres (1312 feet) long and 30 metres (98 feet) wide at its widest point but it is home to some stunning natural formations including the Tasman Blowhole, Tasman’s Arch, and Devil’s Kitchen. We stopped for here for a while and wandered along the path through the rugged terrain. I especially wanted to see the Arch; many people believe it is man-made but it has, in fact, been caused by erosion.

Port Arthur, Australia’s largest penal station

We left the Neck after about an hour and continued on our way to Port Arthur. The Port Arthur Historic Site remains today a symbol of the convict system. But it was much more than just a prison, it was a community, home to military personnel and free settlers alike. The weather was not promising at all and remained overcast for the whole day which was fitting. Knowing that it was once a feared penal station, somehow bright sunshine and blue skies wouldn’t have seemed right.

The Boys Prison

The history was fascinating. In the early 1800’s English law deemed that at the age of 7 a boy, or girl for that matter, was legally responsible for their own actions and so could be tried as an adult for anything from misdemeanors to serious crime and by the age of 9 could be legally transported. There was actually a separate prison built on Point Puer, an island in the harbour, called the Boy’s Prison. Some 3000 boys, some as young as nine, were sent here between 1834 and 1849.

Port Arthur – The Penitentiary

These structures were built to last

We followed the guide map around several of the ruined structures still standing today. Some I found oppressing and in one or two could actually “feel” a presence. Whether by accident or design, Icouldn’t say; there is a ghost tour after dark so I’d be more inclined to say it was by design to get people in but . . . who knows? We toured through the main penitentiary, the law courts, the guard tower, and the commandant’s house, the only fully furnished, intact building on the site. We also visited the hospital, the asylum (that was fun . . . not!), the separate prison, and the pauper’s depot. Apparently it was a crime to be poor or a beggar, as well. Harsh times, indeed.

A cruise on Port Arthur Harbour

After that we walked over to the other side of the settlement and visited the church (I needed to, after that!), government cottage, and the government gardens. This was where officers and their families were separated from the convict population and lived in housing suited to their status. By now it was raining but

The Church

it was only a short walk to the dockyard and then on to the jetty for the harbour cruise part of the tour. Shipbuilding was one of the main industries on Port Arthur and during its 15 years of operation this dockyard produced 16 large decked vessels and approximately 150 small open boats. At its peak some of the convicts worked here. Our cruise took us past the Isle of the Dead, Port Arthur’s cemetery, where more than 1100 people, convicts, settlers, and military, were buried between 1833 and 1877. Many of the gravestones are still visible today. We also cruised past Point Puer Boys Prison. But now the rain was really coming down and when the boat docked we decided to call it a day.

A chilly and wet end to the day

We had planned on a stop at the Tasmanian Devil Conservation Park on our way back from the Peninsula but the rain was coming down, the wind was rising, and the temperature had fallen dramatically. No, it was definitely time to leave and head back to the cabin where we listened to the heavy rain on the roof for most of the night.

Everything you always wanted to know about trout!

The next afternoon we (John) decided we would like to visit the Salmon Ponds Trout Farm, the southern hemisphere’s oldest trout hatchery, at New Norfolk so off we went to check it out. Began in 1861 it was the birthplace of trout in Australia and is owned by the Inland Fisheries Service. To say I was a little disappointed, though, was an understatement. There were some staff members sitting at a table in the reception area but they were busy with their coffee or glasses of wine and it wasn’t until John reminded them that we’d paid for the “privilege” of taking this tour that they handed us a map of the complex and said “have a nice day”. Unimpressed? You bet!

The Trout Museum

And the trout farm, set in beautiful gardens though it might be, was a bit of a waste of time, as well. But I must point out that that is only my opinion. I can’t see how anyone could find a bunch of fish swimming in ponds to be interesting, let alone fascinating, but John seemed to be enjoying himself.

The Hall of Fame

Close to the southern entrance is the Tasmanian Angling Hall of Fame. This is a wonderful tribute to the pioneers of trout fishing in Tasmania, and others who have made a significant contribution to Tasmania’s world renowned trout fishery. There is also a museum which I did enjoy but most of the hatchery was, to me, uninspiring, at best. Quite frankly if fishing is not your thing then this isn’t the place for you. The Ponds do boast some beautiful gardens that are a rare example of 19th century English parks and public spaces. Quite a lot of the trees there are over one hundred years old. It was late in the day when we returned to the cabin and began packing up. Our brief, too brief, stay in Hobart had come to an end and it was time to move on but I know we’ll be back some time and I hope it’s soon.

2012

The information contained in this journal is derived from our personal recollections of our visit to this town or region and is correct as at the time of publication. austracks accepts no responsibility should any of this information be incorrect or misleading due to changes, improvements, or upgrades that may have occurred to places and/or attractions since our visit.

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Launceston

Launceston, the second largest city in Tasmania, is one of Australia’s oldest. Settled in 1806, it was the first Australian city to be lit by hydroelectricity. We set off up the Tasman Highway on a sunny but cool autumn day to visit this captivating city in Tasmania’s north. We turned onto Lake Leake Road, passing Lake Leake, a town built specifically for recreational anglers who flock regularly to the lake of the same name, and made good time to Campbell Town, a quaint

colonial village, where we stopped for fuel and coffee.

Historical Campbell Town

A major pastoral and tourist centre located in Tasmania’s northern midlands, Campbell Town was established in 1821 by Governor Lachlan Macquarie and named for his wife, Elizabeth Campbell. The town has many fine examples of colonial architecture, including The Red Bridge over the Elizabeth River. Built by convicts in 1838 and constructed of hand-made bricks, it is the oldest surviving brick arch bridge in Australia. In the park beside the bridge are some amazing sculptures that are carved from the remains of massive tree trunks and depict the history of the village and right beside the park and bridge is an historic colonial building dating back to 1836, the Red Bridge Café and Providore. But what an amazing little place Campbell Town is! It’s just like stepping into a time machine and it was a shame that we didn’t have more time to explore here. On our way out of town we passed the St Luke’s Church of England Heritage Church. A stunning example of colonial architecture, it was completed in 1839 and at the front is a memorial to Campbell Town’s only Great War hero, Private James William Victor Bush, killed in action in France in 1918.

The Red Bridge, Campbell Town

Caravan park in Launceston

We continued on our way, passing through the town of Perth. Now I knew we’d travelled a long way on this trip but Perth? Arriving in Launceston at about lunch time, we checked into the Treasure Island Caravan Park in South Launceston ([star][star][star]) and settled into our cabin before heading off into town to visit the information centre. The girls there were a well of information and, with brochures in hand we set off to explore only to find our first parking ticket on the windshield of the car. Put a downer on the whole afternoon. There were a few things we particularly wanted to see here and after familiarising ourselves

First night bubbly with Two Tails

with the location of some attractions we returned to the cabin for our bottle of Two Tails Sparkling Wine to celebrate another first night. There’s a lovely little garden area in the park and we took our bottle and enjoyed a quiet half hour before the sun went down and the temperature started to drop.

A visit to Beaconsfield

Our first excursion in Launceston was to the north to the town of Beaconsfield, some 40 kilometres (25 miles) north of Launceston. The area was first explored in 1804 and a settlement was established in the 1850’s. Gold was discovered in 1869.  Beaconsfield was the scene of a mine collapse in 2006 where one man died and two others were trapped underground for nearly two weeks. The mine disaster received international coverage and the fact that the two trapped miners got out alive speaks volumes for their courage and the tenacity of the rescue team. We wandered around the Heritage Centre but were too late for the early tour and we decided not to wait around for the next tour. I don’t know if the tours actually go into the mine but if they do, it’s not something I care to do.

Beaconsfield Mine Heritage Centre

Beauty Point, just like the name says

Beauty Point was our next stop. Almost at the mouth of the Tamar River, the tiny township was the first deep water port on the river. A major fishing town, the Australian Maritime College has a campus here and two training vessels moored here as well. It was time for coffee and we stopped at Carbone’s Café before going on to Seahorse World, Beauty Point’s newest tourist attraction.

The wonders beneath the sea

This is a unique facility designed to conserve and protect this delicate and mystical creature. The tour was amazing and very informative. We learned about the breeding program, saw baby seahorses barely a centimetre in length, and were privileged to witness an egg transfer between a male and female seahorse. Our guide, Tegan, told us that it is extremely rare for this to happen in light as it usually only occurs in the dark. We also learned that seahorses are the only creatures where the male is the pregnant one and actually gives birth. There is also the Wonders of the Southern Ocean aquarium featuring all manner of sea creatures that have been caught right there in the Tamar River, as well as crabs, jellyfish, and the weedy seadragon seahorses. We were there for almost 1½ hours and thoroughly enjoyed ourselves.

Seahorse World

Australia’s first cable-stayed bridge

We left after the tour and made a brief stop at the Australian Maritime College before we returned to Beaconsfield for lunch at the Exchange Hotel. The hotel first traded in 1881 and very little has changed since then. The current owners are the descendants of the original owners. On our way back to Launceston we crossed the interesting Batman Bridge to the east side of the Tamar River. Completed in 1968, it was the first cable-stayed bridge in Australia and among the first in the world. It was named after John Batman, a grazier and the founder of the settlement that became Melbourne. He was also the man who captured notorious bushranger Matthew Brady in north-eastern Tasmania in 1826.

Batman Bridge

Wine Country

But we couldn’t come to the Tamar Valley, Tasmania’s premier wine country, and not visit a winery. The guide book mentioned several different ones and we chose Native Point Wines at Windermere, a lovely little boutique winery with accommodation and a café on site. Well, we sampled a few of their different wines and I was impressed but John was particularly interested in their “Thank God It’s Friday!” event. Every Friday night the winery hosts a dinner with accompanying wines for a set cost. It apparently is very popular – there is a limit of 50 people and tickets sell out fast. I can understand that. With a couple of bottles of their excellent wine under our arms we

Native Point Wines

reluctantly bid farewell to Native Point Wines and had our time here not been limited I would have happily come back another day.

Launceston’s premier attraction

But tomorrow was another day and this one had been long and so we returned to the cabin for an early night. The morning started out perfectly with blue skies, if a little windy but by the time we set off for Cataract Gorge the clouds had rolled in. After such a warm night I should have been a little suspicious but I wanted to see the Gorge and ride the chairlift. The history of the Gorge dates back to 1804 when a settler named William Collins explored the area aboard the vessel “Lady Nelson”. The chairlift, built in 1972, has a total span of 457 metres (1499 feet), making it the longest single-span chairlift in the world. The First Basin has been, over the years, the subject of much conjecture

The Chairlift

about its depth. There have been many myths and stories told about this including that it is bottomless and another one that a sub-marine sent in during the 1960’s failed to reach the bottom. In fact, in 2011 measure-ments were taken showing that the maxi-mum depth is actually 19 metres (62 feet).

The other side of Cataract Gorge

I found the history interesting but the Gorge beckoned and we waited our turn at the chairlift. Well, the Gorge is beautiful, no, it’s outstandingly beautiful! And absolutely magnificent. From the chairlift we had a wonderful view over the area and the ride itself was very smooth. We alighted on the other side and set off to walk around this stunning piece of our country. We wandered down to the Alexandra Suspension Bridge and I felt a few drops of rain but it was only light and gone quickly so I didn’t give it a second thought. The bridge, completed in 1904, is fantastic although when you reach the centre it sways a little and that was a bit scary.

The South Esk River from the chairlift

See it all from the Alexandra Lookout

The Alexandra Lookout overlooks the bridge and much of the Gorge and it looked like a great place for photographs. We made the trek up to the lookout (after Wineglass Bay I never thought I’d do that again!) and this climb was much shorter than Wineglass Bay but a lot steeper. But what a view! It was amazing. And a few more drops of rain fell.

Cataract Walk to Kings Bridge

We didn’t stay at the lookout for long and later we walked across to the Cataract Walk and wandered down to Kings Bridge. The path was winding and narrow in parts but not bad. Built by volunteers in the 1890’s, it runs along the north bank of the Gorge. But the light sprinkles of rain were becoming more frequent and by the time we’d walked to the end and back it had become a heavy shower. We sheltered in the Rotunda and when the rain eased off made our way up to the chairlift.

Alexandra Suspension Bridge from the Alexandra Lookout

The weather made for an unpleasant ride 

The weather had certainly taken a turn for the worse and the rideback on the chairlift was accomplished in bucketing, freezing rain. The wind was not too strong but any breeze was enough to have us shivering in our wet state. I couldn’t wait for the ride to end this time and it was not a happy end to what had started out as such a lovely day.

Off to the zoo

But there are other things to see and do here and one of them is Tasmania Zoo, known for its Tasmanian Devil breeding program. Located in the foothills of the Tamar Valley about 18 kilometres (11 miles) from Launceston city, it is the largest wildlife park in Tasmania. The Tasmania Zoo bus has a pick up and drop off service from most caravan parks in the area and we were set for a great day at the zoo. The zoo is privately owned and is home to more than 40 Devils. But it’s not only Devils there at the zoo, there are also exhibits of wombats, quolls, emus, koalas, and kangaroos, and over 80 different bird species. But I was only interested in the Devils. We left the zoo at lunch time and took the bus back to our cabin. I had enjoyed our visit there and hope to do it again some time.

Tasmanian Devil

Dining in Launceston

For our last night in Launceston we felt that we had to do something special and later that evening wandered down to the Launceston Seaport for dinner. We found a little restaurant called Levee Food Co. right on the waterfront; it looked very inviting. Well, the meal was superb and very reasonably priced and we would thoroughly recommend it to anyone visiting Launceston. And what better way to end the evening than a walk around the marina. A strong breeze had come up and it soon became quite cold there on the waterfront. It was time to leave but I was definitely dragging my heels because I knew that our time in Launceston had come to an end – at least for now.

2012

The information contained in this journal is derived from our personal recollections of our visit to this town or region and is correct as at the time of publication. austracks accepts no responsibility should any of this information be incorrect or misleading due to changes, improvements, or upgrades that may have occurred to places and/or attractions since our visit.

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Stanley

The town of Stanley is located in the region known as the Tarkine, an area aptly named “The Edge of the World”. In Stanley you can really live life on the edge (pun intended). The Tarkine is a large wilderness area in north-western Tasmania that was once inhabited by an Aboriginal tribe known as the Tarkineer. According to the Australian Heritage Council the Tarkine is one of the world’s great archaeological regions. The area covers approximately 4500 square

kilometres (1738 square miles) and is Australia’s largest remaining single tract of Gondwanan rainforest. Some 500 million years ago Gondwanaland was the southernmost of two super-continents. It included most of the land masses in the southern hemisphere, including Australia.

Stanley, Birthplace of Prime Ministers

We arrived in Stanley on a horrendously windy autumn morning and checked into our cabin at the Stanley Cabin and Tourist Park ([star][star][star][star_half]). We got settled into our cabin and then set off to explore. Established in 1826, the town was named after Lord Stanley who would later serve as Britain’s Prime Minister and this was the birthplace of Joseph Lyons, Australia’s tenth Prime Minister. Today Stanley is a tourist destination and the main fishing port on Tasmania’s north-west coast.

Highfield House

Off to Smithton

Our first stop, of course, was the marina and the wharf for John to see what the fishing was like and for me to have a look at Stanley’s famous Seaquarium before heading off to Smithton about 20 kilometres (12 miles) away for some supplies. Smithton is the nearest commercial centre to Stanley and, in fact, is the largest and oldest established town on Tasmania’s far north-west coast.

Marvelous history in Stanley

On our return from Smithton we drove up to the Highfield Historic Site. Highfield House is often regarded as the birthplace of European settlement inTasmania’s north-west and is one of the most significant farm settlements in Australia; a unique part of Tasmania’s pioneering heritage built between 1832 and 1835. In 1982 the property was in a dilapidated state when it was purchased by the Tasmanian government. Major restoration work was carried out and today the historic property is administered by the Parks and Wildlife Service. We wandered around the grounds for a while, walked through the homestead, the chapel, the barns, the stables, and the cottages that housed the workers. It was all quite fascinating and certainly a different way of life.

The Nut

And geography

After we left Highfield we drove to The Nut, Stanley’s most famous attraction. This intriguing landform can be seen from as far as 20 kilometres (12 miles) away. It rises 152m (500ft) and was formed over 13 million years ago when lava shot through the Earth’s surface, cooled and solidified. Proclaimed a State reserve in 1980, there is a chairlift to the top, walking trails on and around the plateau, and, of course, the obligatory coffee/souvenir shop called, appropriately, The Nut Rock Café. And from the top there are magnificent 360° views of Stanley, the Rocky Cape National Park, and surrounding districts. The wind was blowing hard and this was one of those rare days where the chairlift wasn’t operating for just that reason.

First night bubbly in Stanley

The sun had started its downward journey and the temperature was dropping rapidly and so it was time for us to return to our cabin.  Our bottle of Two Tails Sparkling Wine was chilling nicely for our first night bubbly after what had been a terrific day but unfortunately it was too cold and windy to sit outside that evening. Never mind, the indoors was very inviting. But the next morning all our plans were definitely dumped by the wind.

First night bubbly with Two Tails

No leprechauns and no creek!

It was still blowing too hard to take the chairlift to the top of the Nut and there was no way John could go fishing. But we had a whole day to fill in and so decided to explore a little of the surrounding area. We started with a drive out to Irishtown. This quaint little village is on the edge of the South Arthur Forest and in March, on the 17thto be precise, will host the St Patricks Day celebrations for the northwest but today there wasn’t a leprechaun in sight! Irishtown is one of Tasmania’s northernmost towns and has a population of around 500 people. Other than being surrounded by some beautiful country there’s not a lot happening there although we’ve been told that it is a very enthusiastic sporting community with annual sporting carnivals and events dating back to 1904. Leaving Irishtown we travelled through some more truly beautiful countryside on our way to Edith Creek. It’s slightly larger than Irishtown with some lovely old houses but no creek!

On the road into the South Arthur Forest

Exploring the South Arthur Forest

From here our trek became somewhat more “interesting” (take that as “lost”) and it wasn’t the fault of our navigator but our GPS. We followed the road to Trowutta with the intention of taking the circuit back through Nabageena and so on to Stanley but our GPS (hereafter known as Doris) took us into the South Arthur Forest. No problem, the road was sealed. But the Tayatea Bridge was out and good old Doris directed us onto a dirt road. A rough dirt road (shades of Oodnadatta?). After a few kilometres she told us to do a u-turn and go back the way we’d come! At this point we got out the map book and fired Doris! Making our way back to Trowutta we followed the road back to Edith Creek and took the turn-off to Nabageena there, following the road through Lileah, South Forest, and finally back into Stanley and, in spite of Doris, we enjoyed our travels. The countryside is stunning, the villages quaint, and it’s very quiet, almost sleepy.

The Seaquarium

A visit to the Seaquarium

After a quick lunch we wandered down to Fisherman’s Dock to the Seaquarium. There is a huge array of sea life in Tasmanian waters and the Seaquarium provides a fantastic experience. We wandered around the displays and watched a huge eel having a bad day. It was . . . interesting. Let’s put it this way, I’m glad there was a glass wall between us! Later we explored some more around Stanley itself, chatted to a few of the locals, and learned a little about the cute Tasmanian Devil and the dreadful disease that is in danger of wiping them out. But our visit to Stanley has come to an end. I’m sorry we missed taking the chairlift to the top of the Nut. Maybe we could do it on our next visit because I’d be happy to return for a longer stay some day . . . if the wind ever dies down.

2012

The information contained in this journal is derived from our personal recollections of our visit to this town or region and is correct as at the time of publication. austracks accepts no responsibility should any of this information be incorrect or misleading due to changes, improvements, or upgrades that may have occurred to places and/or attractions since our visit.

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Strahan

Strahan, surrounded by Tasmania’s Western Wilderness, is a town with loads of pioneering heritage and our journey from the north-west of Tasmania to the west coast was one filled with some awe-inspiring sights. Some of the Tasmanian west coast’s most beautiful country can be seen down the Murchison Highway towards Queenstown. There was very little traffic as we set off along this stretch of road and we had a smooth if somewhat slow run.

The roads here tend to be narrow, single-laned, and very winding. Not that that was a problem when there was such beautiful countryside to look at. It was when we were passing through the little town of Yolla that something caught my eye and this definitely needed to be photographed. It was the Krackatinni Tavern!

Coffee break at Hellyer Gorge Rest Area 

After our brief stop there we drove through some fantastic forests where the trees lined the highway on both sides forming an arch or canopy over the road. John was concentrating on the driving and after a couple of hours he needed a break and I could almost smell the coffee so we stopped at Hellyer Gorge Rest Area in what seemed to be a very popular place. The small parking lot was jam-packed with various motorhomes and vehicles, including a bunch of guys on motorbikes, and every available picnic table was occupied so we stood at the back of the car and drank our coffee.

Krackatinni Tavern

Waratah

Later we took a slight detour off the highway to visit the little town of Waratah where we stopped in the park for lunch. What a charming little town! There is a waterfall that is gorgeous and we had a chat with some of the ladies at the Waratah Roadhouse and they showed us a photograph of the waterfall in winter, frozen solid! The town began in 1873 following the discovery two years earlier of tin at Mount Bischoff and this was the birth of Tasmanian mining. The mine closed in 1947 and today the town’s population has dwindled to only a few hundred. Situated on the edge of the Tarkine, Waratah was the site of perhaps the first air-land rescue in Tasmania when in 1937 two Hawker Demon fighters from Laverton Air Force Base went off course and crashed landed. The propeller from one of the planes is mounted in the foyer of Waratah’s Bischoff Hotel.

Cradle Mountain

We left Waratah after lunch and continued on our way to Strahan but Cradle Mountain beckoned and so we made another slight detour. It was raining pretty hard and absolutely freezing when we stopped at the

Waratah Falls

Cradle Mountain View Lookout. We walked up that steep hill against a freezing wind and when we got to the top we couldn’t see anything, low cloud had obscured the whole view except for Lake Lea. So we carried on to the National Park and spent a little time photographing the view but the weather had become even more unpleasant and we didn’t go on to the mountain. Disappointing but we still had 132kms to go to Strahan and it was better that we got going. We passed through more forests and the little town of Tullah before we turned off towards Zeehan, crossed the magnificent Lake Rosebery and passed Mt Murchison.

Cradle Mountain National Park

 

Holiday park in Strahan

We finally arrived in Strahan in the late afternoon and our first order of business was to check in at Strahan (Discovery) Holiday Park ([star][star][star][star]). We were certainly impressed with our little cabin there, not much to look at from the outside but the inside was great. It didn’t take us long to get organised and we took our bottle of Two Tails Sparkling Wine and wandered down to the waterfront. The foreshore of Macquarie Harbour is quite lovely at any time but this night the cloudy skies and very cool breeze did their level best to spoil it for us. I, for one, was not going to be put off and we enjoyed our first night bubbly right there on the water’s edge. But it wasn’t long before the breeze picked up and became a full-blown wind so we collected our bottle and glasses and headed back to the cabin. It was lucky that we

First night bubbly with Two Tails

did; the rain started again and before long it was bucketing down!

Exploring Strahan

Strahan is a quaint little village on Tasmania’s west coast. It was originally developed as a port for the local timber industry around Macquarie Harbour but these days tourism is its primary industry and in that regard Strahan has a lot to offer. For our first morning here we wandered over to Regatta Point where the West Coast Wilderness Railway trip leaves. The train had left some 45 minutes before and as the train runs only once each day we were disappointed that we would miss out this trip. But we went into the railway office anyway and had a chat with the lady there, picking up a lot of information about the train, before stopping at the visitor information centre. John was asking about fishing spots but I was more interested in the cruises. We wandered off to the Heritage Cruisesoffice for a brochure and then over to Gordon River cruises for another brochure and over coffee we decided to go with Gordon River Cruises.

THE place for fishing info!

After booking our tickets for the next day we stopped at The Shack which is apparently THE place for all you need to know about fishing in Strahan. One of the things they told us was not to use bait. Apparently that would only feed the crabs. They told us to use lures, shiny silver lures. And so, that afternoon we set off for Macquarie Heads and a hopefully productive afternoon of fishing.

Fish dinner tonight!

Getting there is half the fun?

Macquarie Heads is where the Macquarie Harbour meets the Southern Ocean and is, according to the experts, the best place for beach fishing. Well, it might have been only 13 kilometres (8 miles) from the centre of town but with the road mostly unsealed, it took us well over 20 minutes to get there and it seemed that quite a few other people thought that this was the best place for fishing as well. The water in Macquarie Harbour is a unique mix of freshwater with a saltwater layer underneath. About the only fish species that thrive in these conditions are trout and salmon. We found a spot on the beach, chatted to a few guys there to see what they were catching, and that wasn’t much, and settled down to see if we could do any better.

The beach was jumping

It wasn’t long before things started jumping, and I’m not talking about the fish. From 4×4 vehicles to quad bikes and families with lots of kids, jet skis and cruise boats, that beach was busier than Sydney’s CBD! With all that noise any self-respecting fish would have taken the day off! We didn’t hold out much hope of catching anything then so I was more than surprised when John said he had a bite! I thought it was probably one of the jet skis and said as much to John but he pulled in a nice little Australian salmon. Well well, it looked like we were going to get that elusive fish dinner. We just needed one or two more. It wasn’t long before another one went after the lure and dinner was assured. But that was definitely the end of things. After that John didn’t get so much as a nibble but he was determined to stay as long as he could, well, at least until I reminded him about the distinct lack of a ladies room out there. By then the wind had come up as well and it became quite cold so we packed it in and headed back to camp.

Lady Jane Franklin II

A cruise on the Gordon River

We were up early the next morning for our cruise with Gordon River Cruises looking forward to a full day on the water. And what a good day it was. Pity about the weather, though. We had to be at the wharf at 8:00 for our cruise and it was not long after that time that we boarded the Lady Jane Franklin II.

A comfortable boat for our cruise

The Lady Jane Franklin II can carry 212 passengers, is 32 metres (105 feet) long, and 9.5 metres (31 feet) wide, is a twin screw vessel with a 1.6 metre (5-foot) draft, and can do 32 knots. John tells me that this all means something but it went right over my head. We were welcomed aboard by our captain, Graham, and the crew, Stacy, Irene, Janet, and Michael and the boat set sail, so to speak, just after 8:30 for Hell’s Gate at the mouth of the Macquarie Harbour. The weather was not being kind at all; it was overcast with occasional heavy showers, and cold and windy as we passed the lighthouse and entered the largest ocean in the world from the second largest harbour in Australia. Macquarie Harbour is second in size only to Port Phillip Bay in Victoria and six times the size of Sydney Harbour. A lonely lighthouse guards the entrance to the harbour which is notoriously shallow and dangerous.

Hell’s Gate Lighthouse from the deck of the boat

The entrance to hell!

The name “Hell’s Gates” comes from the convict era when convicts were sent to the Macquarie Harbour Penal Station on Sarah Island. As they entered the harbour they often referred to it as the “entrance to Hell”. Between 1900 and 1902 a breakwater was built and the channel was dredged. Remnants of the original breakwater can still be seen. Our captain made comment about the number of boats and lives lost here and then said he’d always wondered about the Lady Jane Franklin I! The water was pretty rough and we rocked and rolled with it and were all pretty much relieved when we soon returned to the harbour.

Along the Gordon River

It wasn’t long after that that we entered the Gordon River, one of five major rivers in Tasmania. The lower part of the Gordon River is part of Tasmania’s Wilderness World Heritage area and is formed by two wild

Gordon River

rivers, the Collingwood and the Franklin merging into one. This one, the Gordon River, flows into Macquarie Harbour. One outstanding feature of the water here is that it is brown, caused by the buttongrass that grows along the banks. Buttongrass has tannin in its roots and the tannin leaches into the water, staining it the colour of tea. It is still safe to drink even if the colour is a little off-putting.

Magnificent Huon Pines

We stopped briefly at Heritage Landing where we were able to go for a walk through the rainforest. One of our guides gave a talk about theforest, telling us that this is the largest tract of temperate rainforest still remaining on Earth and, of course, we learned about the Huon pine, a conifer native to the south-western corner of Tasmania. The Huon pine is a long-lived tree and a stand of the trees, estimated to be approximately 10,500 years old, was recently discovered on Mount Read in Western Tasmania. Heritage Landing is as far as the cruise boat can go in order to protect the delicate eco-systems of the river.

Heritage Landing

The oldest convict settlement

By now it was time for our lunch, supplied as part of the cruise, and we enjoyed a fantastic meal from the buffet while the boat left the Gordon River and moved along toward Sarah Island. Sarah Island, Tasmania’s oldest convict settlement, was supposed to be the worst of its kind in colonial Tasmania. This settlement operated between 1822 and 1833 and was established long before Port Arthur with secondary offenders generally finding themselves among those sent here. During this time almost 2000 prisoners, officials, and military passed through. It might have gained a reputation as the worst penal settlement but it also was renowned as the site of Australia’s largest shipbuilding yard with labour supplied, of course, by the convicts.

History made fun!

We were on the island for almost 90 minutes having a guided tour. Our guide, Kiah Davey from the Round Earth Company, was remarkable. On her tour we learned quite a bit of the history of Sarah Island, engaged

Kiah Davey on Sarah Island at the remains of an historic structure

in a little role playing, and had a whole lot of fun! Having people from the tour actually playing the parts brought the characters to life for us and, of course, made it much more fun. Kiah was extremely knowledgeable and she told the story in such a way that we remembered it easily. How I wish I’d had a history teacher like her! The cruise was almost over and it wasn’t long before we docked back in Strahan. The weather was still unfriendly and the best place to be now was definitely indoors so we made our way back to the cabin to start packing up. Two short days in Strahan is certainly not nearly enough and I hope it won’t be too long before we come back – and next time the West Coast Wilderness Railway is definitely on the list!

2009

The information contained in this journal is derived from our personal recollections of our visit to this town or region and is correct as at the time of publication. austracks accepts no responsibility should any of this information be incorrect or misleading due to changes, improvements, or upgrades that may have occurred to places and/or attractions since our visit.

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Swansea

Swansea is the oldest seaside town on Tasmania’s east coast and a must-see in any itinerary. We set off along the Tasman Highway to Swansea heading towards Orford, a coastal village that is approximately 73 kilometres (45 miles) from northeast of Hobart on a beautiful sunny, if cool, day. The scenery was spectacular and I gazed in awe at some of the most beautiful country I had ever seen. Coming into Orford we followed the winding and very narrow road beside a sparkling Prosser River – it was so beautiful it just took my breath away. The river feeds into Prosser Bay and the town of Orford is nestled on the banks of the river at its mouth.

Lunch in Orford

We stopped there for lunch and John, especially, was captivated by the boats moored there; beautiful and expensive notwithstanding, it was the number of them that fascinated him. There had to be at least one and most likely more than one for every member of the town’s population! After lunch we set off to continue our journey to Swansea but the Tasman Highway passes right by Raspins Beach on the northern outskirts of Orford where the Prosser Bay opens out into the sea. Sheltered and calm, it would be the perfect place for a family picnic and we stopped for a few minutes. It was so quite, the water sparkled and the trees moved gently with the breeze; it was like being on another world.

The Prosser River

Swansea on Great Oyster Bay

But the day was moving on and so should we and so we were soon back on the road. It was a fairly uneventful journey and it wasn’t too long before we arrived in Swansea. Our travels along the east coast so far had been one long series of oohs and aahs and, frankly, I didn’t expect that to end anytime soon. Swansea is a picturesque seaside town with a rich colonial history. Nestled on Great Oyster Bay across from the Freycinet Peninsula, the town was established in the 1820’s and is packed with historic homesteads and convict-built architecture. We took a room at the Swansea Motor Inn ([star][star][star]) overlooking Great Oyster Bay; the view from our balcony was stunning and we’d been told that the sunrise is particularly beautiful.

Exploring Swansea

So, settled in our room, we set off to explore and headed to Kate’s Berry Farm. How fascinating is this! We had ice cream in Kate’s Just Desserts Café and wandered around looking at the hand-made chocolates (John, not me), and the fruit wines (me, not John), all made on the premises from locally sourced ingredients and their own berries. And what a great location with amazing views out over the bay!

Spiky Bridge

The bridge has spikes!

We left the Berry Farm and travelled up the road to Spiky Bridge, built in the convict era with convict labour. No one knows why it has spikes but lots of theories abound. The spikes are made of local stone and one of the theories is that it was a fence to keep sheep and cattle safe as they crossed. Another theory is that it was some sort of joke by the architect but somehow I don’t think convicts were much given to jokes. Kelvedon Beach and Spiky Beach beckoned and after brief stops at both we set off for Bagot Point at the end of 9-Mile Beach and within shouting distance of Coles Bay and the Freycinet Peninsula. John thought it might be a good place to throw in a line and there were quite a few people there fishing but no one seemed to be catching anything. But then, when has that ever stopped John? But the day was waning and as the sun dropped so

First night bubbly with Two Tails

did the temperature and so we returned to our room where our bottle of Two Tails Sparkling Wine was chilling nicely. We opted to sit out on the balcony and enjoy the view along with the wine and in spite of the chill it was really a pleasant evening.

Tasmania’s oldest national park

We awoke the next morning to a most brilliant sunrise; it just took my breath away and that was just the start of a brilliant day filled with east coast wonder. We set off for Coles Bay and the Freycinet National Park. Freycinet Peninsula was named after the French explorer Louis de Freycinet who was one of the first to have published a comprehensive map of Australia’s coastline. Freycinet National Park was founded in 1916, making it Tasmania’s oldest park and it consists of granite mountains surrounded by stunning bays with water of the deepest blue and pristine sandy beaches.

Unforgettable landscapes

The path to Wineglass Bay lookout

The dramatic peaks of The Hazards welcome you as you enter this wondrous world where the mountains have a distinctive pink tint due to the presence of pink feldspar in the rock formations. The highlight attraction of the park is Wineglass Bay, recognized across the world as one of Tasmania’smost beautiful features, which is remarkable in this magic place where everything is beautiful.

Water of deepest blue, in a Wineglass

We took the walk to the lookout over Wineglass Bay, a 1.5-kilometre trek that is, supposedly, moderately difficult with a 10% gradient. Well, I found out just how unfit I really am! I had to stop and rest a few times, more than a few actually, but oh, it was worth it! Wineglass Bay is absolutely stunning! With its deep blue water combined with this sparkling day, it just astounded us! No words can adequately describe it! Mt Freycinet and Mt Graham form the backdrop of the bay and the stretch of white sand curving around was almost too bright to look at. Of all the amazing and beautiful places we have seen on this trip, Wineglass Bay has to be the one that will stay with us forever. It was captivating and I didn’t want to leave but John reminded me that we had other places to see that day and so, with a great deal of reluctance, we had to move on.

Bicheno, a town with a colourful past

The walk down was certainly much easier than up and much quicker and before too long we were on our way to Bicheno. This lovely little seaside town has a very colourful history that includes whaling, sealing, and coal mining. There is much to see and do in Bicheno including diving at Governor Island Marine Reserve, and a motorcycle museum but today we were off to the East Coast Natureworld, one of Tasmania’s premier wildlife parks.

Wineglass Bay

Tasmanian Devils, cute but you wouldn’t want one for a pet!

I was determined not to leave Tasmania without once more seeing a Tassie Devil. They are so cute and I wondered what they would be like as pets but we learned that their jaws are a hundred times more powerful than a dog’s jaws, they can eat a third of their bodyweight in one meal (that’s equal to a man eating a 25kg steak in an hour), and their head and neck, when fully grown, comprise a quarter of their size. They eat fresh kills and leave nothing behind; they eat flesh, organs, bones, fur, and even the hooves if the kill has them! Delightful!

Give them lunch, not BE their lunch!

But Natureworld is not just about Devils. Many animals and birds roam free, including kangaroos, and we were able to feed them by hand. We visited and watched the feeding in Nocturnal House and went into Old Macdonald’s Farm where, with bag of food in hand, John was almost assaulted by a pony, a sheep, a goat, several kangaroos, and assorted ducks and geese! The only animal that couldn’t get to him was the pig; it was in a pen!

Tasmanian Devil

We don’t want to lose our Devils

We followed that with a walk through the aviary and into Wallaby Walk, visited an emu, and John wandered through the reptile section. That is definitely not for me; I don’t like snakes! But for me it was all about the Devils. We watched the feeding and listened to a talk about the cute little creatures. The Tasmanian Devil is found nowhere else in the world and is the largest of the marsupials that eat meat. They generally live in forests and can run at a top speed of 13 kilometres (8 miles) an hour. In the late 1990’s Devils began contracting a disease which is now known as the Devil Facial Tumour Disease and has reached epidemic proportions. The disease is fatal and today scientists are working to find a way of stopping it before the Tasmanian Devil is lost forever. That piece of information had a sobering effect on us and I don’t think we’ll ever look at a Tasmanian Devil the same way again.

Fishing at Bagot Point

It was getting close to closing time and we left Natureworld after seeing the Devils. But John wanted to throw a line in so we headed back toward Swansea and stopped once more at Bagot Point. Unfortunately, all he managed to catch this day was weed! It was quite windy and cool and the current wasmoving pretty fast. Still, you would have thought that he’d got, at least, a nibble but it wasn’t to be.

Fishing at Bagot Point with the usual results

He never could resist a dirt track

On our way back along the road to Swansea he noticed a sign to a place called Yellow Sandbanks and never being one to turn away from a dirt track he decided to explore. The track led down to a jetty and John thought he might throw a line in here. Sadly, he didn’t have any luck at all – he didn’t even catch weed there!

There’s more to see and do in Swansea

It was time to pack it in for the day and so we wandered back to the motel. It was time to move on and we started to pack up our gear. Tasmania is Australia’s smallest state but there’s an awful lot to see and do and our time was limited so it was on to our next stop on this journey of wonder.

2012

 

The information contained in this journal is derived from our personal recollections of our visit to this town or region and is correct as at the time of publication. austracks accepts no responsibility should any of this information be incorrect or misleading due to changes, improvements, or upgrades that may have occurred to places and/or attractions since our visit.

 

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