The gorge, Launcestown
Since I had 2 weeks off during the Christmas holidays, I wanted to take advantage of this time to travel further in Australia. Summer is not the time to go north as it can be too hot and it is also the season for stingers (jelly fish). So I thought, why not Tasmania? People from Sydney make jokes about Tassies the way Canadians make jokes about Newfies. But anyone who had been there told me it was beautiful.
My trip was to visit just the east coast since I only had a few days. I flew to Launcestown – which amazingly has its own airport – the night of Jan.
2. In the airport shuttle, I met 2 girls who were staying in the same hostel, and going on the same tour trip (one from Wales and one from Denmark). Even the landscape at the tiny airport was beautiful – you could see the mountains around you. The backpackers (aka hostel) was decent although I tend not to like them very much – a bit feral. The next morning the Welsh girl and I got up early to walk around the famous gorge. It was worth it! Such a different landscape than what I had been used to. Tasmania’s landscape and climate is distinct from the rest of Australia. They are increasingly known for their champagne, pinot noir, cheese, water, truffles and other produce. The wine is particularly significant as much of Australia is too hot for pinot noir. Anyhow, the air is super clean and there is an abundance of nature, which I had not yet fully experienced. We were especially impressed by the wallabies and peacocks that we encountered on our walk.
The gorge, Launcestown
We left Launceston that morning and our first stop was Bridestowe Lavender Farm.
As soon as we got out of the bus, we were immersed in the beautiful smell – it could not have been more scenic. They had a nice shop and café too with lavender chocolates.
On our route, we stopped in Scottsdale and then had lunch in the tiny town of Derby where we had a BBQ – there are lots of public BBQ areas everywhere. That afternoon we arrived at the famous Bay of Fires (apparently one of the best beaches anywhere). I went swimming here although most people chose not too. The water was so beautiful, even if it was a bit colder than in NSW. I should have been wiser though. There was a strong tow and I got stuck out there for a while with no one around – sometimes you only have to be 20 feet in to get stuck. I finally managed to come in enough with a big wave. It was definitely refreshing (the weather overall was warmer than I expected).
At certain parts of the beach there were these beautiful orange boulders that we spent some time walking around and taking pictures. The beach was also almost empty except for a small group of camper vans – the opposite of the Bondi experience!
We arrived that evening in Bicheno where our beach house was. I took quite a few photos of the bays around here – another nice quiet town. We learned a bit about the history too. There used to be a lot of Aboriginals in Tasmania but most were killed a long time ago or were bred out. The European settlers had a hard time with them despite being well armed because the Aboriginals were experts at guerrilla warfare and the settlers always estimated that there were more of them than were really there. After a long period of trying to force them to remote areas, negotiation deals were eventually struck that allowed them parts of the land but foreign diseases ended up killing most of them.
Bay of Fires
Anyway, that evening we went to see the native Fairy Penguins! These are tiny penguins. There is a conservation area near the house we were staying in, and when you go at night you can see them make their trip in from the water across the beach to their burrows. The guide said that we had to stay on a certain path where they were used to people being and to not use the flash on our cameras. He shone his torch though so that we could get a good look. It is amazing because they really will walk right up to you and all around – although they do not get fed by humans. The reason for the conservation is that they were becoming quite endangered. Cats are not appreciated around such areas and if you own one, you really ought to not let it outside especially at night. These conservationists will “take care” of such cats.
The next day we went to the much anticipated Wineglass Bay! The sight of this beach from the lookout point is outstanding.
First we hiked up to the lookout, where a wild wallaby came right up to us and let us pat/feed it, then we hiked down to the beach for a swim and picnic lunch. Although the beach is shaped like a wineglass, the other reason for its name is that the Aboriginals used to hunt whales there, and the blood would turn the water to a claret colour. When we there the water was a pristine aqua! It was a good days exercise going back up to the lookout and then back down again to the car park.
We stopped that afternoon in the small town of Swansea and then made our way to Kate’s Berry Farm which has the most beautiful view. We stopped for her famous berry ice cream and I also bought fresh local walnuts. We made our way down to Dunalley and stopped at this beach with tessellated stone. (Erosion has created lines in the stone to make it look perfectly tiled.)
That evening we arrived in Port Arthur – right next to the historical site.
Australia was a colony where the British sent their convicts (or just their underclass that they wanted to be rid of), Tasmania, and Port Arthur specifically, was where re-offenders were sent. Port Arthur is on the southern peninsula and there is a very narrow strip of land or isthmus, that connects it. This strip of land is so narrow that it only took a line of about 20 dogs to guard it (known as the Dog line.) Our house for the night was not far from here and right beside a cemetery which definitely contributed to the atmosphere.
Wineglass Bay lookout - wild wallaby
The next morning we did a tour of Port Arthur. The most remarkable thing about it, was how beautiful it was considering its purpose as a prison and dark history. Some of the old buildings were in decent shape and others in ruins, but it was very well maintained and the landscape and gardens around it was incredible.
Many of the prisoners here actually had a better life and were healthier once they arrived. After the tour we went on a ferry cruise around Port Arthur in the Tasman Sea before heading off.
We stopped at a small chocolate factory (Federation chocolates), I was less than impressed although they claim to be the only place that makes apple chocolate – and this was interesting. Close by it though was an animal park with Tasmanian devils! (I know you’ve all been waiting for this – that’s the only think I knew about Tasmania before thanks to Warner Bros!) They are hyper little buggers I have to say and quite amusing to watch. Their jaws are extremely strong – stronger than any other animal for its size! I really enjoyed hanging out with the ‘roos at the park. They are so docile, you can almost use them as a pillow!
Our next stop was Hobart (capital of Tasmania, population about 200,000).
On the way we stopped in this country town called Doo where every name started with Doo. Each house had a different name like “Doobe” or “We-doo.” The berry/ice cream shack was call Doo-licious. It was the best yogurt and berries I have every had and that is saying a lot. We then stopped at a similarly quaint seafood shack and had fresh oysters.
We finally arrived in Hobart, dropped our stuff off at a hostel, had showers and went out for a drink. We went to this pretty swank place called the Observatory right on the water, considering we were dressed pretty daggy and had some wine and tapas. Afterwards we met up with more people at a pub on the Salamanca strip which is Hobart’s main strip lined with stone buildings and cobblestone courtyards. It definitely had a small town feel and was quite cosy.
I had a 6:30am flight the next day, so I didn’t spent as long in Hobart as I would have liked to.
Or in Tasmania for that matter. Tasmania is one of the most naturally beautiful places I have seen, the rolling countryside is truly awesome (I couldn't help but think how perfect it would be for cross country riding!) You certainly feel like your on the edge of the world sometimes (the southern parts are actually promoted as such, I think only Argentina is closer to Antarctica). I would like to go back and see the west coat – Cradle Mountain and this one part of the coast that has the freshest air and water in the world (when the wind and water reaches this coast it has not been blocked by land since Argentina). The sad thing about Tasmania is the logging industry. The corruption is shocking and we were able to witness the results of all the clear-felling that is happening to century old forests – for nothing better than woodchips. Awareness is important and I would encourage anyone to read this article http://www.
For such a small state, there is so much to see. If I’ve inspired anyone to go visit, let me know and I’ll come with you!