Our retirement adventures

Tasmania, February 2014

on April 2, 2014

18 February 

Off to Tasmania after breakfast in Starbucks. Travelodge absolutely mobbed pre check out with a group in and a group out.  Hotel happy to offer a refund of phone call and transport to airport in view of complaint about smelly and damp room on arrival but pre-booked (by hotel) transport never materialises so hotel persuade a taxi to get us to airport free of charge (to us). Not a place I would wish to go back to.

Virgin Australia efficient at airport and we arrive in a cloudy and cooler Tasmania on time, collect luggage and off to hotel in taxi.  Tasmania only has a population of .5m with probably half of these in Hobart, or as one local shopkeeper told us, “Slowbart”! 

Our somewhat dark room appears to be one of the smaller of the rooms in the Old Woolhouse and certainly is not a self catering room as envisaged by Audley as there is no cooking facilities other than a kettle. Nevertheless, it is dry and doesn’t smell of damp, unlike the Sydney one.

Hobart waterfront

Hobart waterfront

Wander down to Harbour, not a lot to see but have dinner in a fish restaurant which was probably on the site of an old warehouse and find Woolworths for some fresh milk and a few other goodies.

Woolworths in the UK ceased trading about 5 or so years ago and never was a supermarket, concentrating on cheap everyday items – perhaps it would have stayed with us if it had branched out?

19 February 

Late up so do washing after breakfast then down to the Salamanca area with some fascinating boutique shops and up to Battery Point.

Salamanca, Hobart

Salamanca, Hobart

The Salamanca buildings are made of local sandstone and used to form the seafront years ago before land reclamation pushed the sea back so that it is now on one side of a broad tree lined avenue which is used on Saturdays for a market. 

Take a Trike ride as our introduction to the rest of Hobart as we don’t have a car.

Trike Tour in Hobart

Trike Tour in Hobart

Dave Glazebrook’s trike mania adventure tours takes us into parts of old Hobart we would never have seen, up into the hills where some houses change hands for figures in excess of A$3 and all have a view across the bay.

Dave’s late father competed in the TT some many years ago and Dave still has his father’s silver model trophy for completing the course which he is very proud of.

Dave takes us down a few hairy steep hills and around a few steep bends but we do eventually arrive safely back at the quayside. 

20 February 

Kettering harbour

Kettering harbour

Day trip to Bruny Island involves an early start, a coach ride to Kettering, a sleepy little port with some nice boats moored, and a somewhat antiquated slow ferry that doesn’t necessarily stick to the timetable.

Coach takes us on to Adventure Bay, a chance for a coffee and on to the jet boat for our journey around Bruny Island’s spectacular coast.  First there is the Dolerite rocks and then the sandstone rocks, all of them magnificent in their own way.  Loads of caves and coves with one in particular, a blow hole, throwing up water like a geyser as the air gets replaced by water and then blows the water out when the water level drops (a brief video is on Facebook).

Quite a calm day to start with but winds pick up and as we get to the point of land that marks the boundary of the Tasman Sea and the Great South Ocean, the waves are by now somewhat nearer 15ft so it is a bit choppy!  

Many Australian fur seals basking on various outcrops of rock and even more spectacular scenery including a small passageway between two stacks that we navigate three times (just for effect you understand!) at high speed.

Australian Fur Seals

Australian Fur Seals

Bruny Island Blow hole

Bruny Island blow hole

Bruny Island rock stack

Bruny Island rock stack

Dead trees are evident on the cliffs, a legacy from the 1967 bush fire that crossed the sound from Tasmania to Bruny Island.

The whole bush fire killed 62 people and the dead trees still stand as there are no termites on the island to eat the bark.

Bruny Island trees

Bruny Island trees

Returning to Adventure Bay is exhilarating as the wind is now in front of us and we are going at speed looking for dolphins. Sadly none spotted so return to cafe at Adventure Bay for a lunch that included hot soup which was very welcome. 

Back to hotel via chocolate factory shop, Oyster shop and the ferry at Kettering. The whole area used to be an Oyster centre but many of the beds were exhausted a few years ago and only now coming back to life.

Dinner in hotel although they seem to have under catered as a couple of items were sold out. 

21 February 

A breezy but dry and sunny day so ensure we have some headgear as previous day’s wind has caused considerable peeling of face on both of us. Audley suggests a visit to MONA! A museum of art which is a fast ferry ride away and we get chatting to a couple of Australians from the cruise ship in today – the Carnival Pearl which had stayed an extra night because of inclement weather overnight. Wasn’t it a bit early for beer though, Vanessa. 

MONA museum entrance

MONA museum entrance

Contrary to our literature provided, it is not free entrance but nevertheless we still go in. The museum is basically all underground so the 99 steps to the top from the ferry jetty are matched by three floors of exhibits back down into the land from the top.

As I said about the Tate Modern in London last June, modern Art is not my thing so our stay there was not as long as others suggested it might be although the buggy ride from the vessel to the museum to avoid the steps was a thoughtful touch.

Fat Porche at Museum of modern Art, Hobart

Fat Porsche at Museum of modern Art, Hobart


There are many items that to me are not really art but what I did like was the red Porsche car, the quirky table tennis table, the water fountain which “drops” words from jets to the floor – ingenious and “insects” positioned away from the wall as if flying.

Water display

Water display

Descriptions are provided by hand held devices, similar to Woburn Abbey.

Locate Hertz car rental building for tomorrow, guess what, it’s up a hill! 

Back to Mures for more fish and chips and then pack – we have a car from tomorrow! 

22 February 

Check out after breakfast, leave luggage and off to Salamanca Market. Many rows of stalls set out in front of the lovely sandstone shops and absolutely crowded with both locals and visitors. A couple of presents bought along with lunch and whilst Sal walks back to hotel, Richard collects car and drives back to hotel to collect her and luggage.   

Our Hyundai car loaded we find the A1 out of Hobart towards Strahan (300 miles) which is quite crowded although by the time we get to junction with A10, traffic thins out and we soon loose the two lane carriageway so speed slows. Uninspiring countryside looking parched from a lack of rain and very under-utilised from a livestock farming point of view. 

Queenstown TAS, not to be confused with Queenstown NZ - as if you would!

Queenstown TAS, not to be confused with Queenstown NZ – as if you would!

Pass settlements with names such as Tynwald, Linda and Gretna until we reach the hills above Queenstown. Now Queenstown in NZ is delightful but this is a mining town, say no more.

Strahan is reached a further 41km further on and we check-in to Ormiston unpack into a very quaint old fashioned style room (Jessie) which again is very dark.

Ormiston House, Strahan bedroom

Ormiston House, Strahan bedroom

Our room has a side room before you reach our bathroom which is huge but cold underfoot.  Dinner was reserved for us in Risby by the owner of Ormiston, thoughtful, but she probably has a financial interest in it.  Food OK, wrong choice by Richard and an upset Englishman on the table next to us. 

23 February 

Mystical Gordon River

Mystical Gordon River

Up early for a boat trip up the Gordon River where some of the first Western settlers arrived.

Boat probably only half full but an absolutely gorgeous day for a cruise, not a cloud in the sky and virtually no wind. We are told that this part of Tassie has over 300 days of rain a year so we are very lucky. 

Out into the bay and head out to the channel before entering the Great Southern Ocean – next stop Argentina if we go due West!

Lighthouse at entrance to Gordon River

Lighthouse at entrance to Gordon River

The channel is not very wide in places, reducing to 200m at the entrance which is guarded by a lighthouse on a small rock outcrop so you can see why the port of Strahan has lost it’s use as a port for big ships.

Sandbanks galore on the other side so it is no wonder that so many ships came to grief here.  Strahan was a thriving port until the vessels got bigger and thus too big for the port.   

Heading up river we go past Atlantic Salmon fish farms which have some containers holding in excess of 20,000 fish. There must be over 30 of these containers so you do the maths – it is big business here! 

Slow down for the Gordon River entrance and cruise gently down viewing, as someone described it as, “fifty shades of greed” in the trees.

Hermitage island jetty

Heritage point jetty

Very little in the way of water birds here as the river is too deep and most birds like a shallow river. At one point the river is at least 35 meters deep.

Stop off at Heritage point for a walk around a wooden walkway just inland. See many types of trees including the Huon Pine which only grows in Tasmania, is very slow growing but very, very resilient and was used in the past for ship building as it does not rot easily. A tree about 80 years old is shown to us that is not much smaller than my wrist. Back on board and although it is yet midday, lunchtime, and a fantastic one at that,  salmon to die for as well as salads and cold meats.

All packed away by the time we exit from the river as we now head for Sarah Island. Fancy that, sailing down the Gordon River and landing on Sarah Island!

Sarah Island talk near the oven

Sarah Island talk near the oven

Sarah Island is where many of the 2nd offenders landed and we are given a fantastic tour by, what we learn later, is a travelling actor who occasionally picks on people to play the part of some of the characters.

Some parts of some of the buildings are still visible, such as the oven, but many you have to use your imagination.   

Back to Strahan and we head to the saw mill and information centre.  As I thought, the Wilderness Railway only runs once a day, at 9am and from Queenstown which would mean leaving Strahan by road at 7:30 in the morning. We were up early today, another early start would not be appreciated so have to give that one a miss. It is a little strange that they only run from Queenstown, only have one train a day and start so early in the morning.

Richard on a deserted beach

Richard on a deserted beach

Drive on unmade road to Ocean beach a wonderful sandy beach which was virtually deserted and had lovely big breakers crashing into it and an abundance of shells one of which is now back home.

Dinner tonight in Bushman’s bar and cafe. We arrive just before opening time which is just as well as by 6:15 all tables are taken. Good meal (lamb curry and lamb roast followed by a delicious cheesecake) although the Carpenters CD on continuous loop is not something I took to. 

Fellow guests, Anne & Colin from Hove join us on the look out at the top of the hotel. Anne worked as a teacher at Steyning Grammar School, small world.

24 February 

A less sunny day, it rained overnight, so we walk into People’s park after breakfast along a well kept path for 1.2km until we reach Hogarth falls. Then onto Cemetary point (some graves are of youngsters, some locals with the name Abel or Tasman) but mostly well tended despite some being very old.

Tried to find Lettes Bay but instead found lots of very dilapidated tin shacks – do people really still live here?  Lunch in town and book up for a jet boat ride tomorrow up the King River. 

The boat that never was play.

The boat that never was play.

Explore the area around Macquarie Head which is 11km along another gravel road, and back for a rest before venturing out to watch the play, “the boat that never was”. 

This is a play performed by 2 actors that explores the adventures of the last ship ever to be built on Sarah Island. It was supposed to be sailed to Port Arthur but to cut a long and hilarious story short, it ended up in Chile with no papers so actually was only a bundle of wood held together by rope as it was never registered.

Strahan sunset

Strahan sunset

The two actors supplement the story with audience participation, some on stage, some not and the whole show was a scream from beginning to end and well worth the entrance fee. 

Dinner again in Bushman’s, he recognised us from last night, chatted and knew of the Isle of Man, followed by watching the sun set on the beach outside Ormiston House.

25 February

Drive to Cradle Mountain today is scheduled but before that a jet boat ride on Strahan harbour and up the King River. Not as spectacular a jet boat ride as Queenstown NZ but more informative and interesting in history.

Jet boat

Jet boat

Follow Wilderness West Coast Railway line for most of the way but the reason it is not working fully from Strahan is due to some unsafe bridges and other structures at the Strahan end.

More Huon pine trees pointed out and information given about the silting and pollution of the river by the early miners and more recently form the Queenstown mines. 

Back into Strahan, buy lunch and coffee, get Huan off cuts and Huon honey server, fill up with petrol and off to Zeehan which is another mining town.

Zeehan Museum exhibt

Zeehan Museum exhibt

We are told that it has an interesting museum and they are not wrong. A good 90 minutes spent around there and we barely scratched the surface. Old railway engines, lots of old rusting mining equipment but also loads of old photos and a visit to the Gaiety Theatre, old Police station and surprisingly, a Masonic Room.

Judge Sally

Judge Sally

I don’t think this would have meant so much to us had we been here first and not first spent time in Strahan, sailed up the Gordon and King Rivers and had the talk on Sarah Island. 

Purchase a piece of jade from local store and head off for Tulloh. Unfortunately, it is about 20k into the journey that I realise we have taken the long way around and added probably an hour to the journey.

The road we took was virtually deserted although at one point there was a gathering of probably 50 bikers.

Eventually we reach the A10 although at the junction, we had to negotiate a complete re surfacing of the road and had to wait for a digger to move some rocks from our intended path!  Not one house was passed by the side of the road which probably explains the lack of traffic. A dam for a lake is reached and crossed, the drop on one side being staggeringly deep. 

Drinks break at Tulloh although it did not have much going for it. Back past roadworks and onto Cradle Mountain and our stop at the lodge for the night.

Wildlife at Cradle Mountain

Wildlife at Cradle Mountain

Loads of wildlife as we expected but so near to us and not afraid of us humans. After dinner in the restaurant, we opt for the hour long evening minibus tour to see animals and we were lucky to get on as spaces are limited, we took the last two places, so booking early is advised.

This was preceded by a slide show on what to expect in the way of wildlife in Tasmania which was very well worth going to although I am not sure I remembered all the animals shown!

Not expecting much we were inundated with sightings of Bennets Wallabies, Possums and Wombats. Then on the return, a Tassie Devil.

John, our guide told us that he had only seen about five in a year and you could tell by his voice he was really excited about seeing this one as a cancerous disease has wiped out 90% of the wild stock. 

Wow, what a day! 

No Internet access here but a lovely light room with a decent view for a change and a gas wood effect fire although we don’t need it tonight, it is still quite warm. 

26 February 

Isn’t it nice to wake up to a view and be able to lie in bed and watch the clouds roll by. The last three hotels were not as inviting, this one is and we are only here for one night! 

Our morning view from bed at Cradle Mountain

Our morning view from bed at Cradle Mountain

The added bonus is of course the five wallabies grazing outside our window, we don’t even have to get out of bed to see them. 

Checkout by 10am is a bit early and of course many of the breakfast goodies have gone early as well. Nevertheless, the breakfast is good and we also get a window seat and watch a Platypus swim in the lake.   

Check out and walk around the 20 minute short walk but no animals around, probably sheltering from the by now heavy drizzle. Think about going into the park and to Dove lake but as the rain and mist was with us, decided to save our money. Also missed was the Tasmanian Devil sanctuary, having seen a Devil last night. 

Definitely a place where you could spend more than one day at.

Drive northwards then Eastwards towards Sheffield (population probably under 800) and Launceston. On way, as clouds cleared, we came across an Enchidna by the side of the road and three impressive looking birds but not sure of their names.

Enchida looking for food

Enchidna looking for food

Dr Who?

Dr Who?

Stopped for lunch at a lovely cafe en route, Round Hill coffee at Cethana after seeing an old fashioned Police Box – has Dr Who been here?

Difficulty finding Ashton House as road name had disappeared. High Street is not what you would think – it is the highest street in town and up a very formidable hill about 1.2km from the town centre. So much for Audley saying it was a short stroll to the shopping centre.   

A light and airy room with fresh milk provided, bonus. Today is a public holiday in Launceston, ladies day at the races, but finding food was not an issue, eating out at Cateracts where Richard opted for stone cooked steak similar to that encountered in Nelson about a year ago.  Some very colourful ladies dresses worn by race goers. 

News from home: Flic’s injection procedure seems to have gone well albeit she was in pain a bit due to the needle not getting in the right place. Agree to Skype her tomorrow. 

27 February 

A clear and sunny day, shorts weather again after a week or so being not so warm.

Launceston chairlift

Launceston chairlift

A lovely freshly cooked breakfast for a change and we set off for the gorge, “flying” over on the longest span in the world for a chairlift at a very graceful speed no quicker than walking pace high above the ground. A peacock family awaits us at the other side before we walk to the suspension bridge and then back to walk part of the way down the gorge.   

Drive off northwards out of Launceston along the Tamar valley and stop at Grindelwald where houses in a small area are constructed in the Swiss Chalet style after the wife of a wealthy land owner liked what she saw in Switzerland.

Grindelwald, Tassie version

Grindelwald, Tassie version

Other housing in the area was of a modern and opulent style. Onwards to Beauty Point which didn’t really attract although for lovers of Sea horses and Platypus it would have been ideal as there are two “museums” dedicated to the preservation of the species. 

Sal takes over driving and we head back South but this time crossing the Batman bridge and on towards Low Head where the Tamar flows out to the Bass Sea.

Launceston river front

Launceston river front

A nice set of buildings at the head that were a maritime museum but some are now self catering units. It gets very windy here we are told.

Back to Launceston and dinner in Levee watching the world go by. 

28 February 

Leave at our check out time of 10am and head for Freycinet following the Midland Highway (A1) south. Only trouble was we must have missed a signpost and ended up on a side road through little villages such as Nile, being slowed whilst a farmer moves his sheep along the road from one field to another and then the sight of a flock of birds resting on the backs of sheep.

Feeding time on dirty sheep

Feeding time on dirty sheep

Yet another non tarmacademed road for about 5k until we eventually reach the A1 and our intended journey. Stop at Campbell Town which although not much more than a one street town does possess an interestingly inexpensive antiques shop. Stop also for an ice cream just before the Coles Road, good value at $4 then onto the Freycinet national Park where entrance fee is A$48 for two days. 

Lodge room well equipped with a balcony but unfortunately not a sunset or sea view and no Internet connection. Laundry done though and we head off for a stroll along Muirs Beach in and out of the shallow warm water.

Another sandy deserted beach walk

Another sandy deserted beach walk

Fish and chips for dinner at a local take-away and a yogurt from the local supermarket – we do know how to eat well!

Evening drive out underneath The Hazards and then up to Cape Tourville lighthouse and a look South West to Wineglass Bay – our destination tomorrow – and Lemon Rock. 

Room not exactly as clean as it could be, dust behind bedside cabinet, on bedside clock radio on mirror which was not appreciated from a top class establishment, reported the following morning. 

1 March 

Officially, summer is over but the weather takes no notice and we have yet more sunny weather. After a breakfast in the hotel which whilst being OK, is not as good as the freshly cooked one at Launceston, we head off for the jetty for our boat ride to Wineglass Bay, voted by a US magazine as one of the best beaches in the world. Boat only holds 45 or so, we are supposed to arrive at 09:45 and there is a party of probably over 30 when we get there at 09:30 so wonder if we will get seats together. 

Pink Granite on way to Wineglass Bay

Pink Granite on way to Wineglass Bay

We do manage it but soon get up and spend rest of outward journey on deck at the front, viewing the pink granite, the old mine workings, the wildlife, including dolphins, fur seals and the odd Gannet or two but no penguins.

Wineglass Bay

Wineglass Bay

Sumptuous lunch with local cheese, quince spread, apple juice and sparkling wine whilst we viewed the magnificance that is Wineglass Bay.  

You can only reach Wineglass Bay by boat or a 5 hour trek over the hills from the Freycinet lodge area and that was just not going to happen for us. It is indeed a magnificent bay with a couple of small inlets off the main bay that are even more sheltered.

The vessel, soon to be replaced with a larger one, has it’s resident dog that barks and scampers around at the sight of dolphins which in some respects was annoying.  Back to hotel and a rest before venturing out again to Bicheno for a pizza and then a penguin tour.

Room still dirty (reported on leaving the following way). No cameras allowed on the tour and unfortunately not too many penguins and those that we saw were not minded to move too much although the babies were more mobile. Sadly no penguins moving up the beach but we did see one in a garden opposite the drive down to the sanctuary.  

Drive home slowly and manage to avoid at least three animals on the 40k drive back to Freycinet lodge including possibly a Tassie Devil slough it could have been a small ferel cat. 

2 March 

Vintage Rolls Royce at Freycinet

Vintage Rolls Royce at Freycinet

Hotel is hosting a vintage Rolls Royce rally with, what we learnt was about 15 of them in attendance, wonderful machines one from as far away as Florida.

A cloudy day to start and after breakfast and a further look at the Rolls Royce cars, drive off to Port Arthur which is not 110 km as advised, more like 110 miles which delays us along with the vast numbers of road works including one where the road has been completely demolished and we travel for about a km on gravel. Along the way we pass over “Break me Neck” hill and “Bust me gall” hill.  Where do they think up these names? 

Clouds now gone and temperatures have risen, so the new sunglasses come in very useful.

Buy food from a supermarket for lunch and stop for a late lunch in Lewisham, most unlike the inner city one in the UK that we went to regularly some 28 years ago as this one overlooks the sea! 

Check-in at the Port Arthur accommodation at about 4pm and go off to explore area. Start by looking at entrance to Port Arthur but as it is now half four decide it is not worthwhile just for half an hour as they close at 5pm (although our ticket would have allowed us to visit tomorrow, we have to get back to the airport at least an hour before Audley advised us) so head south towards Remarkable Cave and Moingon Bay – some wonderful sights with waves crashing down into the caves.

Remarkables cave area

Cape Raoul

It would of course have been better at high tide but another day here would have allowed this. Stop at sandy beach for a walk on the squeaky sand then on to Maingon Bay and Remarkable Cave. Some stunning views out to Cape Raoul over the breakers from the top and a view under the cave from below where some girls were obviously enjoying themselves jumping down from the walkway to the sand below. 

Dinner in Stewart’s Bay Lodge restaurant after buying Internet access for A$5 for an hour and then find out that we did have a ticket for Port Arthur, a historical site although this was not really made clear to us in the literature so we didn’t have an opportunity to take advantage of it, there being not enough time left in the day when we arrived. 

Cabin comfortable and warmed up quickly with the electric heaters but settee is a bed settee so not overly comfortable at all. Watch TV for the first time in a week and find Rake which is better than we had first experienced when in Sydney.

3 March 

A cloudy day to start with again and we head out before 10 to go to see the natural sights around Eaglehawk Neck but first the Blowhole and lookout. Not as good as the blowhole at Bruny Island but you do have to be tide dependent to see it in it’s majesty.

Doo what?

Doo what?

It is likely that storms will cut a hole all the way though the lookout in years to come making part of it an island. 

Port Arthur area arch

Tasman Arch

Now on to the Tasman Arch and Devil’s kitchen, both fashioned out of the rock by the weather.

The Arch is a fantastic sight, possibly some 100 ft high and 80 feet wide. Not so impressed by the views of the Devil’s kitchen but maybe it would have been better had we walked up to the higher observation point.

We pass through the settlement of DOO. Many of the houses have house names reflecting the name, it is just Aussie humour.

More rolls for lunch, eat on an old road adjacent to the new road bridge to the airport, quick view of Cambridge, not worth it, drop car off and back for flight to Melbourne.

Audley had advised 20 minutes between dropping off the car and taking off for Melbourne – totally unrealistic so drop car off about an hour earlier thus not being able to go to Richmond or the Port Arthur complex.

You can take water through security here which is annoying as Sally just threw her water away.

Flight not full but there are 6 more flights today to Melbourne and a JetStar flight left at the same time. 

George meets us at the airport, unusually airside and we collect luggage and catch bus to Frankston which takes us through the southern suburbs of Melbourne, along the long coast of Melbourne harbour, passing a few local trams and mingling with the city’s exiting rush hour traffic before we get off an hour and a half later, locate George’s car in the underground shopping car park and back to Seaford where we meet Barbara who has made a lovely Roast Beef dinner, very English. 

Retire late just before midnight.

Tasmania was a wonderful experience and there are several parts that we need to return to at some stage, a bit like parts of New Zealand, a bit like parts of the Isle of Man but definitely Australian.

2 responses to “Tasmania, February 2014

  1. Leanne Cole says:

    Thanks for letting me know you had posted the photos. Some great shots. I haven’t been on Puffing Billy for years, must do it again some time. I saw you said something about knocking Flinders Street Station down, they aren’t planning on doing that, there would be outrage from so many people, they are planning on redeveloping it, and they had a competition, and a winner was announced, but now they don’t think they have the money to actually do it. I think the building just needs to be restored, and I think many others feel exactly the same way. I would love to see the ballroom that is inside it.

  2. Thanks for the local knowledge on the station building. Hopefully I can get back to Melbourne some time.

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