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Traipsing Around Tasmania: Episode 1


We are approaching the end of our month in Australia. After two weeks in Tasmania, short flight hops back to Sydney via Melbourne, then a train south to Jim’s sister’s place in Wollongong. Although we knew nothing about Tassie prior to our trip and had not planned to go there, the fire and smoke situation on the mainland made it seem like a good option. Here’s what it looked like in Melbourne the day we flew to Tassie.


Tassie was a delight and we are very happy that that’s how our travel time in Australia evolved. We would really recommend it as a destination and one that requires some time due to its size and varied regions. We could have stayed on to see much more.


Here’s a brief outline of our time there, followed by more details below. A reminder - Tassie is huge - 68,331 sq km. The coastline is 3000 km long. We did not see most of the entire west coast, the wetter side of the island and much of the north. We stayed in Hobart, the port capital on the south east coast for a few days Jan. 6-10 at the start of our time on the island. We then picked up a rental car for the rest of our stay on the island and drove to Launceston, 200 km north in the Tamar Valley. Launceston was a good base for several day trips Jan. 10-14. One day we drove north up the Tamar Valley to Lo Head near Georgetown on the Bass Strait , a treacherous and windy body of water between Tasmania and Sydney that the sailboats in the famous Sydney to Hobart race must negotiate. Another day we drove the Tasman highway to St Helens and the Bay of Fires on the north east coast and a last day trip from Launie was to the nearby UNESCO World Heritage Woolmer estate, one of 11 Australian convict sites and the site of the National Rose Garden and the charming town of Evandale. Leaving Launceston Jan. 14, we drove out to the east coast and Freycinet National Park at Coles Bay, stayed one night in the coastal town of Swansea and then continued south along the east coast through Hobart to the very small coastal village of Woodbridge where we stayed for a few days, again to do day trips to Bruny Island and through the Huron Valley. Then back to Hobart Jan.18 for 2 nights so we could go to MONA, the Museum of New Art, a full day’s experience, and then the next day, deposit our rental car at the airport and fly back to Sydney Jan. 20.

Hobart has a small airport that reminded us of Victoria’s. We took the Sky Bus into town and then called an Uber to get us to our Air BnB on Cascade View in South Hobart, uphill from downtown. Uber virgins no more, Joanne initiated us into the convenience of this transport and we used it a number of times in Hobart. Glad to hear it’s now available around Vancouver. She easy and cheap. And we had pleasant drivers. Our Hobart rental for 4 nights was a stone stable with a studio unit we occupied on the ground level and another on the second floor. Many buildings in Tasmania are built of a beautiful golden sandstone. Our rental was quite small but sweet, with a Dutch door and a big deck shaded by a grape arbor.


We really enjoyed Hobart and our residential neighbourhood, South Hobart, one of the oldest. Lots of lovely vintage cottages, plus shops, cafes, restaurants a short walk down the street. There were a couple of very good food markets, several trendy cafes, a pharmacy, gift shops, a great local pub with excellent food and some medical clinics, one of which I accessed for a little problem where I found the staff so welcoming and relaxed. It was a longish walk into town but except for Jim’s sciatica, we would have done it more than once and we could walk via the streets or follow the Hobart Rivelet through a park most of the way. We enjoyed the port area and its’ beautifully restored Georgian buildings and vintage boats. Hobart is the second oldest city in Australia after Sydney, defined by sea, mountains and the Derwent River. It’s actually wedged between steep hills on the river with suburbs on the slopes. We had a great view of Mt. Wellington from our place. Lovely to explore as it was in no way overwhelmed by tourists.


At the end of our Hobart stay, we picked up our rental car in town (they gave us a nice upgrade from a economy sedan to a Hyundai Tucson SUV) and headed north for our next accommodation in Launceston, the second largest town. I ended up doing all the driving and the quiet roads of Tasmania were a good place to get used to being on the left and navigating the many roundabouts that Australia is famous for. (Spoiler alert - I did manage not to have a crash or fender bender. I am wondering how I will manage on the right side now.) It was a beautiful drive through the Tamar valley and some small villages including Ross to Launceston, another town built up steeply up from the river, in this case the confluence of the Tamar and the North and South Esk. It also has lovely houses, more Victorian than Georgian. Our Air BnB, “Maggie’s on York” was a self-contained unit in one of these old mansions, with a private entry off a shaded courtyard and a second story bedroom and bathroom with stunning views over the city. It was one of those places that is even better than hoped for. The owner is a designer and it was really well furnished and decorated with interesting original art on the walls. Weirdly, the black leather and chrome dining chairs were identical to one I picked up in our local Sidney (not Sydney) thrift shop during our building process. Various provisions were left for us - crackers and local cheese, a bottle of wine, lots of pods for the coffee machine - and my Aussie chocolate cookie favorite, TimTams! It was a wonderful place to come home to after long day trips.


Jim really wanted to see the Bass Strait so our first drive was north was a circle trip , along the east side of the Tamar north to Georgetown and the lighthouse on the Bass Strait at Lo Head and then back to Launie on the west side of the river. It was very easy driving with little traffic and gorgeous varied countryside - rolling hills, some vineyards and farms mainly. We took lots of little side roads and saw beautiful rural houses and gardens. We were feeling ready for our mid-morning coffee and I had been musing about the possibility of a Devonshire Cream tea sometime that day, when we came upon the perfect little cafe just opening its doors. We had coffee and the best homemade ginger scones ever with cream and homemade jam, sitting on a sunny warm deck overlooking the river - and a nice chat with the owners. Doesn’t get much better than that.


At Lo head on the Bass Strait, a fierce wind was blowing and you could imagine the ships that had been wrecked on those shallow shoals. It’s a stunning spot with the big red and white lighthouse and bright white restored buildings and cottages set in golden grassy parkland. There is a rookery for penguins there but sunset is the time they return from the sea and we had to make the return trip over the Batman Bridge and down the west side to the Tamar to Launceston.


I was definitely not keen on driving at dusk or dark as there are warning signs about wildlife at those times and we saw so much roadkill. We talked withs local guy about it who said that the populations of some iconic animals like wallabies is at an all time high as they have no predators like the now-extinct Tasmanian tiger. Apparently the English tried on many occasions to introduce foxes but they were no match for the Tasmanian Devils who roam these hills. You might remember the Tasmanian Devil in Warner Bros. Looney Tunes. Terrier-sized, it eats everything & is the world’s largest carnivorous marsupial. The Aborigines knew it as “Taraba”, the nasty one & it apparently makes some pretty strange noises. It is extinct on the mainland due to dingo predation and it is subject to a Facial Tumor Disease that could decimate its’ numbers. We hope it doesn’t go the way of the Tasmanian Tiger that was hunted to extinction by European settlers in the early 20th C.


We had a couple of good meals in Launie. One was in the Seaport area at a restaurant, Mud Bar recommended by our rental owner. Oysters are big on Tassie and we were anxious to try them. Jim had raw ones, I like mine cooked, preferably Panko crumbed and they were absolutely delicious. Our second dinner was at a nearby pub called The Oak Tree. We both had the roast lamb special and it came with lots of perfectly cooked veggies. It was Irish music night and some of the locals were having fun.


Our second big field trip from Launie was to The Bay of Fires on the north east coast. This is a 30 km stretch of the finest white sand, turquoise water and granite boulders painted with a bright orange lichen. It’s thought to be one of the best beaches in the world. It was also not thronged with tourists the way we expected and we had a fabulous swim. Again, it was a lovely traffic-free pastoral drive & I managed to avoid oncoming traffic yet again.


Our last field trip, closer to home in Launie was to the nearby UNESCO World Heritage and convict site, the Woolmer Estate, established in 1817 and owned by 6 generations of the Thomas Archers and built and maintained under the Convict Assignment system that was in place here until 1840. These “ assigned servants” as they were called received their room and board in exchange for their labour & then of course cost the government nothing. Living and working on this large farm estate was hopefully better than other “assignments” they could have had.

Wollmers is also the site of the National Rose Garden, opened in 2001 with 2000 varieties of roses. Some were in bloom but January is a bit late to see this garden at its best. November is apparently the time. Nevertheless, there were some beautiful blooms and a gorgeous long arbor. The estate itself was interesting to wander around on as many of the service buildings have been preserved - the wool shed, the blacksmith’s shed, the apple-packing shed, the stables, etc. We mostly had the place to ourselves. We declined to tour the main house for an additional fee. It was actually quite modest in size, overlooking the river with a walled garden in front.


On our way home, we stopped in nearby Evansdale, a National Trust-classified town. It dates to the 1830’s and many of its Georgian building were constructed by convicts. As it said in our guide book, “being on the road to nowhere, Evansdale is cocooned in a blissful village atmosphere...”. It has Tassie’s largest country market on Sundays (dang!) & in February hosts the National Penny Farthing Championships as part of its Village Fair celebrations. Quite a site apparently - lycra-clad riders racing on antique bikes. it would be a nice place to stay for a few days.

It was a gorgeous little town with lovely buildings and cottages and the most perfect tearoom where we indulged in yet another Devonshire Cream Tea. We sat in a beautiful brick courtyard under trees and surrounded by flowers including the most stunning climbing rose I have ever seen but just growing from pots up against a brick wall of the cafe. I asked the name - Pierre de ronsard - and it apparently blooms several times a season. It’s on my list to plant.


Checking out of our Launie accommodation the next day, we paid an early morning visit to the nearby Cataract Gorge that is featured on the labels of Boag’s beer. Almost right in town, at the end of a residential neighbourhood, vertical cliffs rise from the South Esk River as it churns through a narrow gorge to empty into the Tamar.


At the end of the 1800’s, the Gorge was developed into a Victorian resort with various amenities but also an amazing walkway built into the cliffs. A chairlift also now spans the gorge. I followed the Zig Zag track from the main park area, a rocky path through bush on one side of the gorge, then across the Kings Bridge to the cliffside Cataract Walk that loops back on the other side to the park, about an 1 1/2 hour walk with lots of stops for picture-taking. The views were gorgeous and the morning sun was a perfect temperature. Jim had a stroll around the lawns where there is surprisingly a huge somewhat incongruous swimming pool, built apparently to try and prevent drowning deaths in the Gorge. There is no admission charge however to the pool or the trails and it would be a lovely place to come for a morning swim if you lived in Launie. I swam a couple of mornings with Joanne at her local outdoor pool, also completely free. Nice!


It’s great to be back to longer days unlike Australia now that we are further south. Very similar weather in Tassie to our summer weather. Lovely temp when sunny, often a little sea breeze and cool when its cloudy. But they have been experiencing unusual drought conditions as well. There are a couple of fires burning but under control so far and we have not had any air quality issues.

Posted by Jenniferklm 11:15 Archived in Tanzania

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