Our Tour of Tasmania

5.2.2013 to 9.3.2013

We met our friends David and Judy at Gatton, to begin our journey down the Newell Highway to Melbourne. We planned our journey in time to be at the rest stop at Wallan, about 45 minutes north of Melbourne, on Saturday night, ready for an early morning boarding of the Spirit of Tasmania, Sunday. An uneventful trip down, free camped all the way, the drive through Coonabarabran and Parkes offering tantalizing glimpses of Siding Springs and the CSIRO Radio Telescope for this (very) amateur astronomer! Very hot weather and, of course, the flies.

Finally pulled up at Wallan, only to find a BP servo where the rest stop should have been. All well, though, the proprietor happy to have us camp out the back. A couple of other vans turned up as well, also doing the trip to Tassie, Peter and Nettie and Greg and Kate, joining us for happy hour.

So, a 4.30am start to be at the dock for a 6am boarding. Organised chaos here, I’ve never seen so many caravans in one place. Finally on board and a 9am start. It was a good trip over, a bit rocky about lunch time, otherwise smooth sailing all the way, arriving at Devonport about 6pm.

We spent three days at Devonport. Explored the township, a drive to Latrobe, Sheffield and Railton, visiting the famous Anvers Chocolate factory at Latrobe for free tasting and stocking up on some goodies. How could you not? A fantastic “collectables” emporium at Sheffield for some bargain books and Railton with almost every garden displaying a topiary. Max and David found  a seafood shop and bought the first of quite a few dozen oysters they managed to consume during our stay in Tassie. Peter and Nettie turned up at our camp site, happy hour and after dinner supper a rowdy affair, Peter being a bit of a wag. Also, Spike and Lesley, from QLD.  A day trip to Cradle Mountain while still based at Devonport next on the agenda. Packed our morning tea and lunch, put on our hiking boots, and set off. A shuttle bus took us from the car park up to where the walks start. Decided on the Lake Dove circuit, hoping it wouldn’t be too strenuous for us oldies. Turned out not to be too difficult, stopped about half way for lunch, joined by a father and son from Bondi! I love the fact that we always meet so many different and interesting people on our travels, everyone ready for a chat. I’ll say now, too, that Tasmanian folk are extremely friendly and helpful.  Anyway, on with our trek. Mostly boardwalk made the walk fairly easy, although some steep and rocky sections as well. Varied landscape, dry and scrubby in places, then dark, mossy rainforest. We must have walked for nearly three hours and did over six k’s. The sight of the carpark at the end of the day was very welcome.

Next day time to move on, so headed west. Took the coast road, Ulverstone with a Naval Memorial Park, of special interest to Max, Penguin for morning tea, through Burnie, Wynyard for lunch, then a really pretty seaside village, Boat Harbour.  Finally Stanley, and a free camp under “The Nut”. The next day took a drive west to Arthur River, referred to as ‘the edge of the world’, next stop South America! Beautiful rugged coastline. A bit further north to Green Point and a paddle in the Southern Ocean. Very chilly. Back to Smithton and lunch at the lookout. Quite a climb but well worth the effort, with views all around the town and out to sea. Back to Stanley, and with still time left for exploring, took the chairlift to the top of “The Nut”. Bit anxious about this, but gritted my teeth and did it. Must say I’m glad, the views from the top amazing. Saw our first pademelons. Would have been a long climb for them to get to the top.  Stanley is a very pretty town, lots of well-kept historical buildings. Altogether a great stay.

Made our way south to Strahan, stopping for morning tea at Hellyer Gorge Nature Reserve, with an easy walk through rainforest to the river. Lunch at Rosebury, with a zinc mine right in the town. On to Zeehan, a bit dismal, had a deserted look about it, then to Strahan.  Found a camp at Ocean Beach and were treated that night to a magnificent sunset. Up bright and early to make our way to the wharf for the Gordon River Cruise. Glorious day. Out through Hells Gates and into the Roaring Forties, although luckily all was calm. Captain quite excited that he was able to sail so far out, normally not possible. Turned around and back up into the river, a stop at Sarah Island, a convict settlement with quite a few ruins and a terrible story to tell. Back on board and a delicious smorgasbord lunch. Cruised by salmon and trout farms, then ashore again for a leisurely walk through rainforest.

The next day took the road to the east coast. Queenstown and the bare hills left by mining practices that would be unacceptable today, I would think. Not pretty! Found Lake Burbury, a delightful stop for morning tea. Through the Franklin- Gordon Rivers National Park to Derwent Bridge.  A quick look at Lake St. Claire, Dove Lake much more scenic, then The Wall. This is a magnificent timber sculpture created by Greg Duncan. Hard to describe, but by using bas relief he has depicted all aspects of Tasmania, mining, agriculture, life in the pioneering days, flora and fauna. The detail of the work is just amazing.  Also sculptured pieces like gloves or a coat hanging on a wall, you’d swear they were real. Found a camp for the night at Wayatinah, beside a lake. All through this area are power stations, dams and massive pipes feeding the water to the power stations.

On the road again to Hobart, passed Lake Meadowbrook, with the aftermath of some of the terrible bushfires in this area.  Thankfully not much farm damage, mostly forest, but devastating just the same. Some of the trees already have green shoots coming through.  There is evidence of Tassie’s colonial past in the towns and villages we drove through. We came upon the Salmon Ponds Heritage Hatchery and Gardens, dating back to the mid 1800’s. Ponds full of salmon and trout and beautiful old trees. A delicious morning tea here of berry pancakes and coffee!

Soon enough on the freeway, through Hobart, and on to a caravan park at Cambridge, about 15 minutes from the city, to set up camp for the next five days. After tea, took a drive into the city to have a look around. Lots of well- preserved old buildings, all still in use (housing and business), strolled around the Dock area, finished up enjoying a yummy ice cream! I was beginning to think this trip involved a lot of eating!! The next day dawned cool and rainy, a bit of relief from the hot weather we had been experiencing, 35 deg. heat not the norm. Decided on a trip to the Tasman Peninsula and Port Arthur. The fire damage here was shocking to say the least, kilometres of destroyed forest and farmland, not to mention the houses. Literally burned to the ground, but still that phenomenon of a house being completely untouched, with the fire at the doorstep.

So, first stop a wildlife park to see some Tassie Devils. These little animals really have character, very plain, with dull black fur and a bit grubby, but there is something about them. Growling and squabbling with each other and their eating habits leave a lot to be desired. We were in time for a feeding, road kill on the menu, they just ripped into it, tearing and grabbing, it was gone in minutes. We also saw quolls, the cutest little things, but the same table manners! Wallabies, pademelons and bird displays made up the rest of the park. On next to The Blowhole, Devils Kitchen and Tasman Arch, all coastal geology, quite spectacular. Then Port Arthur, a guided walk and talk and a short cruise on Port Arthur Bay. Set in a manicured park with magnificent old oaks and cedars, but a terrible place to be if you were a convict in the early 1800’s. After a very full day, a stop for fresh oysters at Sommers Bay, Max and David very excited, a quick stop at Sorell for supplies, then home. Very cold by now with a biting wind.

Beautiful weather next day after the previous day of drizzle and wind. Took a drive south via Kingston, Huonville and all along the coast, beautiful white beaches and brilliant blue water. Lots of little seaside villages and holiday homes all along this coast. Morning tea at Frankston, Judy supplying the delicious muffins, and then finally as far as the road goes to Cockle Creek – great free camps here, quite a few vans and tents. Lunch beside the water, after that a walk to the Whale Sculpture, highlighting the whale industry all along the coast. I haven’t mentioned the flies, big and loud and they bite, they just buzz constantly. On the way home did the Tahune Airwalk, a walk among the treetops. There is a cantilever section over the river, the boys walked out but Judy and I were having enough trouble without venturing out onto that! It was very high. Still, great views out over the trees. Massive swamp gums and celery top pines and sizable tree ferns. Driving out of the forest nearly collected a couple of lyrebirds(too quick for a photo) and then had to stop for an echidna.

Another great day weatherwise and an early start for our Bruny Island Cruise. Drove to Kettering for the bus pick-up. A short run on the ferry, then on to Adventure Bay. A quick morning tea, then all aboard the “yellow boat”. Full length hooded raincoats were provided, an offer of ginger tablets, and an immediate thought of what have we let ourselves in for! But the cruise was great fun, fantastic scenery all the way, towering cliffs, caves, a speeding boat with the wind in our faces and then the southern most tip of the island and a seal colony.  Back to Adventure Bay and a delicious lunch of a smoked salmon and salad baguette and a cold drink. I have to say the owner and the staff couldn’t do enough for us, so friendly and obliging, even to the Timtam biscuit as we were getting off the boat. After lunch, back on the bus to the ferry.  Pizza for tea and an early night. A great day out.

Next morning took it easy, very cold in the night, woke up about 4.30am looking for a fleecy top and socks. A drive to Richmond to see the old bridge.    Had a look at the gaol and the miniature town depicting Old Hobart. Richmond is set amongst pasture land, quite a contrast between the architecture of Georgian England and the rolling dry hills of Tasmania. Home for lunch, then a drive to the top of Mt. Wellington, a very ‘twisty turny’ drive that went on for ages, but finally made it. Very cold, and, of course who forgot to take a jacket?  Views for miles, very rocky and treeless, but with some low growing alpine plants.

Next day a visit to the Salamanca Markets, very busy with a huge crowd wandering among the stalls. Came across Nettie and Peter, a nice surprise.  A stroll through nearby St. David’s Park, with impressive memorials to past colonial figures of importance. Then back on the road following the Heritage Way, a stop at Ross, a smaller version of Richmond, and on to Campbell Town, and a free camp at the recreation grounds.  Amazing timber sculptures in a park at Campbell Town, depicting past historical events.

Took the road east with a stop at Swansea for a quick morning tea, weather a bit iffy. On to the Freycinet Peninsula, which, due to heavy rain and an unavailability of a suitable campsite, we had to pass by. Through Bicheno, and finally a camp at Lagoon Beach. By now the weather had turned pretty nasty, so set up camp as quickly as we could, then into the vans! Locals pleased though, it’s usually drought ten months of the year. Next day weather had improved, so back to Bicheno for a good look around. Could see why it’s a favourite place to visit. Morning tea in a park by the bay, then some rock hopping, with some pretty spectacular surf pounding onto the rocks. Back to camp, then onto St. Helens. Found a great spot at Humbug Point, right on the beach, at the bottom end of the Bay of Fires. Next morning the drizzle had returned. Took a drive up the coast as far the road went, with great scenery all the way. Reminded me a bit of Squeaky Beach on Wilson’s Promontory, with rocky outcrops and boulders covered in red algae, but on a much smaller scale.

Back to St. Helens, and tasty fish and chips for lunch at a floating restaurant, when who should we meet but Kate and Greg from the servo at Wallen. Max and David found more oysters, still in their shell this time, so spent an enjoyable afternoon shucking and slurping!

Moving on west now to Launceston, with a great drive through forest and bush. Found a magical rainforest walk at Weldborough Pass, ancient myrtle trees and tree ferns. Quite hilly through this region,with the weather foggy and drizzly, up to Bidport for lunch, then finally pulling in at Low Head. A caravan park this time, which proved convenient for a penguin tour that night. This was a treat, I think better than Phillip Island, much less commercialized. The penguins came right up to us, you had to be very careful where you put your feet! Left low Head, made for Launceston via the Batman Bridge. Passed through Launceston, crazy with traffic, and on to Evandale, a small historic village, south of L. A walk into town, old hotels, shops and houses, with pretty cottage gardens. A drive up to Ben Lomond Ski Village, spectacular and scary at the same time. Out of the car, and whoa! How cold is this!

Left Evandale for Deloraine, probably less than an hour on the road, through Perth and Longford, both historic towns with impressive colonial buildings, finding a free camp beside the racecourse, with a couple of friendly horses for company. Deloraine is quite a big place, took a stroll through town and the local park. A picturesque drive to Chudleigh and the honey “shop”, picking up a few treats, including the obligatory ice cream cone. Then on to Mole creek, back towards Deloraine, coming across a salmon farm offering tastings, and buying  a nice whole smoked salmon. (Managed to keep that until we got home, just delicious.)

Back to Devonport via Pt. Sorell, right on the coast, a bit of grocery shopping, then settling down for the night ready to catch the ferry early the next morning. And so that’s our trip to Tasmania, a great place to visit, with spectacular scenery and a significant colonial history. We thoroughly enjoyed ourselves.

On our way home I did get to see the Radio Telescope at Parkes, which was fascinating, and the Australian Telescope Array at Narrabri, an extra treat. We found a great place to stay just out of Narrabri, Yarrie Lake. We spent two nights there, so peaceful, with lots of birds, a spectacular sunrise, and even some water skiing to keep us entertained during happy hour. A drive into Wee Waa and the best roast beef lunch at the Imperial Hotel.  An overnight stay at Yelarbon(QLD) and then home. All in all another great time on the road.