Our tour was not quite over. The Victorian high country is among our favourite areas. So, having bid our hosts goodbye, we set off over the mostly flat country of Northern Victoria, heading to Bright in the western foothills of the Victorian Alps. We arrived at about the same time as singer Katy Perry, who was there to perform at a bush fire fund raiser. She performed for about six thousand locals at a sports ground. The only evidence of this extravaganza was more traffic than usual and barricades blocking some roads.
Our track took us through Redesdale, Heathcote, past the back of the Puckapunyal military area to Nagambie and over to the Hume Highway near Euroa. Heathcote and Nagambie are both wine producing areas. Puckapunyal produces soldiers. We left the highway north of Glenrowan to drive through the wine country at Milawa (Brown Brothers) and on to Bright. Much of this area was tobacco producing back when smoking was not a proscribed social evil. Tobacco drying sheds can still be seen on properties that have been converted to other agricultural purpose.
Before reaching our destination we turned at Porepunkah intending to drive to the summit of Mount Buffalo. But it is a long drive, continually climbing on what is often a narrow road with a precipice on one side. We gave it away at about 900 metres and returned to earth. Its summit is 1,721 metres above sea level, so we still had a long way to climb. It is at times like these that advancing age starts to show.
There was sufficient daylight when we arrived to see Bright, most of which we achieved while looking for our motel. It was hard to find, with Google Maps sending us along many streets that were never going to get us there. That was how we came across the Katy Perry barricades.
Unfortunately we were too early for autumn tints in the foliage. The copious quantities of poplars, maples and other deciduous trees had not yet started to stage their annual show. It is autumn colours that bring the influx of visitors to Bright each year.
Sorry, there are no photos of Katy Perry.
The next day, Thursday, was a perfect day in the high country. We enjoyed endless blue skies with only a light wind all day. We waited for the time to reach 9.00 am in Queensland, made a couple of phone calls and headed out through Harrietville towards Mt. Hotham.
Narrow winding roads with sheer drops to valley floors hundreds of metres down, only a few areas protected by Armco barriers and the possibility of meeting trucks and caravans. What fun! Actually we saw more cyclists than other vehicles, met no trucks and only one caravan.
We stayed for only a short time at the 1,800 metres altitude of Hotham Heights before continuing to Dinner Plains, looking for lunch. We thought we were out of luck, but noticed a “coffee” sign and found a small shop called The Stables run by a very enthusiastic young lady who had only opened the doors of her new business on the previous Saturday.
The road between Hotham and Omeo took us through several areas burned in the recent fires. Some parts were burned on just one side of the road but in other areas, where the fire had come up the mountain, it jumped the road and continued on its way towards the higher ground. The ski fields of Hotham seemed to be untouched so the ski season will not be adversely effected. The area has had much worse fires in the past.
After a refueling stop at Omeo we drove the remaining winding kilometres to our destination.
We first saw the Blue Duck Inn in 1965 when we decided to return to our home in Drouin in Victoria from Sydney, via the Omeo Highway. It was all gravel then but now fully sealed. We saw the building as we drove past and thought it would be great to return and stay. We drove past again a couple of years ago on a day trip from Omeo, but this time we realised our ambition.
We were the only guests when we arrived but another couple came later. The number of diners reached 6 when another couple of about our age, who had their caravan in a camping area over the river, came in to dine. We spent a pleasant evening in their company.
The cabins at Blue Duck are spacious and well fitted but lined with unpainted timber and heated by a wood heater. Mains electricity does not reach Anglers Rest so they generate their own. The generator goes off at about 10.00 pm and batteries take over so our rest was not disturbed.
Omeo was a gold producing area with mostly alluvial mining, so streams in the area were prospected to within an inch of their lives. But no gold was found at Anglers Rest. Failure to find gold in a stream is known as a blue duck. So the hotel that dates back to the 1890s was named the Blue Duck Hotel.
The objective of this part of the trip was to drive the Omeo Highway. Staying at the Blue Duck Inn was part of that. So after breakfast on Friday morning we set forth to complete the task. The distance from Omeo to Tallangatta is 167 km. When we resumed our journey we still had 139 km to go.
From Anglers Rest the road follows first the Cobungra River and then the Big River until it leads into serious mountains that carry the road to over 1,300 metres over the Great Dividing Range, before making its winding way into the Mitta Mitta Valley. The road then follows Snowy Creek all the way to the small town of Mitta Mitta where the creek flows into the Mitta Mitta River.
This neat riverside village is the first town past Omeo. There are several good rest areas with toilets and picnic and camping facilities along the way.
Very shortly after Mitta Mitta we reached the turn to the town of Dartmouth and the Dartmouth Dam. It is a detour of about 40 km return and well worth the effort. The wall, spillway and earth works are quite dramatic and would be awesome with water coming over the spillway. A hydro power station is located at the foot of the wall. A few km further downstream a small retaining wall has been built, with another power station, so the water is used twice before being released to flow down the valley into Hume Weir at Tallangatta.
We continued on to Tallangatta and then followed the Murray Valley Highway, that skirts the southern edges of Lake Hume, until we turned at Bonegilla to finally cross the Murray River into NSW and to our cabin at Lake Hume Village.
The water level in the dam is well down, so the water is often a long way from the road. There are several kilometres of grass lands on the valley floor where the dam used to back up towards Tallangatta, with cattle grazing on well established grass. It is now several, perhaps many, years since the dam has been full. I speculate, but perhaps not since the conclusion of the Snowy Mountains dam construction, much of which is in the headwaters of the Murray River.
9th March was a
Monday. We spent some time driving around central Ballarat, including an
attempt to drive around Lake Wendouree, which was thwarted by barriers sealing
off some streets for a parade for the Begonia Festival. We had visited Ballarat
for the festival in years long gone, when residents of Victoria. It is held on
Victoria’s Labour Day weekend. We didn’t get to see any begonias this time but
Ballarat was looking its normal trim self with its many well tended roadside flower
After coffee, we headed out
to the north east towards Castlemaine where we were staying with friends for
two nights. The road took us through Daylesford and Hepburn Springs, both towns
being of high tourist significance. Here again I must apologise for no photos.
I took quite a few, all on my smart phone, but they seem to have disappeared
along with those of the latter part of the previous day.
Both towns were full of
visitors taking advantage of the holiday long weekend. It was a beautiful
Victorian Autumn day, with the sun shining from a clear sky but with a slight
cool breeze that had us reaching for our jackets. But the locals were in shorts
and tee shirts.
Daylesford has botanical
gardens near the town centre on the top of Wombat Hill, with a road on which
cars can drive and a restaurant that, from the number of parked cars, seemed
popular. We found a parking space so that we could walk around to view the
We then drove out to Hepburn
Springs to check that town out before returning to Daylesford for lunch.
Parking was at a premium but sometimes you luck in and we did that day. As we
drove along the main street looking for our chosen eatery, a car pulled out
almost in front of it, leaving a vacant space.
My last trip to Daylesford
was in the middle of a cold winter’s night, with temperatures about zero. I was
delivering spare parts to a broken down truck. The impression today was rather
different than on that night.
After lunch we drove on to Castlemaine, arriving at our friends’ home mid afternoon. We have known Keith and Lynda almost forever. We have a sort of family connection but we lived near to them during part of our time in Melbourne. I sailed with Keith and one of our children went to the same school as their children. I think our youngest is about the same age as their eldest. Or something like that!
On the following morning we
all went into town for morning coffee and spent some time looking at the
historic buildings, of which there are many. The main point of interest was the old market building that is now their tourist
information centre. Although modernized in a heritage kind of way, the
facilities that allowed the market stall holder to back a cart up to a platform
and transfer the items for sale inside, have been retained.
Castlemaine was a gold
town but also developed other industries including beer and engineering.
The gold rush that
commenced in Ballarat came to Castlemaine in the early 1850s. Many of the old
buildings date from shortly after that time. The Bendigo, Maldon, Castlemaine
triangle was the most significant gold producing area in Victoria.
Castlemaine’s engineering expertise is
commemorated at the Information Centre. In June 1940 the liner “Niagara” left Auckland harbour
carrying over $5 million in gold ingots. The gold was the property of the Bank
of England on its way to America to pay for badly needed war materials.
Four hours into the
voyage, the ship struck a German mine and sank, without loss of life, in 73
fathoms of water, much deeper than the depth limit for conventional diving.
The Navy said salvage
was impossible but a private Melbourne company offered to do the job. They
designed a diving bell that would allow a diver to reach that depth and direct
the salvage cranes. The bell was built by the engineering company Thompson’s of
Castlemaine. In all, 94% of the gold was recovered.
When the diving bell
was retired it was returned to Castlemaine where it is now on display at the
historic Market Building.
Part of an embankment
to a street in Castlemaine has a rock formation called an anticline. Pressure
has forced rock into a natural arch. Anticlines are relatively rare. This one
was probably unearthed when streets were being constructed and left on display.
The rocks in an anticline are of different geological ages with the oldest
rocks at the centre of the formation. Google it if you want to know more.
With our family visit
concluded, we left Drouin in the continuing rain that followed the previous
night’s heavy falls.
Rainfall was evidenced
in flooded fields, overflowing drains and the odd closed road. As the day
progressed the rain eased to persistent drizzle. We travelled to Sorrento on
the Mornington Peninsular and caught the vehicle ferry to Queenscliff. Once
again we experienced smooth waters without a white cap in sight.
Queenscliff became the starting point for a short tour of the Bellarine Peninsular. We drove through St Leonards, stopped at Portarlington for lunch, drove through Clifton Springs and Ocean Grove, to our motel at Torquay.
Torquay seems to have
become the capital of surfing in Victoria. The local area is known as “The Surf
Coast”. Torquay has an externally impressive surfing museum.
We commenced the next morning
with a drive around Torquay. Then, in the true spirit of surfing, we dropped in
to Bells Beach. There we found some real waves pounding onto the beach but not a
surfer in sight. Although the sun was shining from a mostly blue sky the
surfers were absent. We did see some board riders a bit further down the coast.
In Victoria it was the
start the Labour Day long weekend so this area was busy with people away from
Melbourne for a break. In Melbourne it was Moomba weekend and the Formula 1 car
We drove in a generally south westerly direction along the Great Ocean Road and watched the weather deteriorate to a constant drizzle. We were able to see the points of interest and take short walks, but the windscreen wipers had been working for much of the day.
After Torquay the succession of settlements are mostly small towns until you reach Lorne. We took our morning coffee break at Anglesea and detoured from the main road at Aireys Inlet to take in the Split Point Lighthouse. The short walk to the lighthouse provided good views of the coast in both directions and a direct view of the sandstone island that gives the point its name.
We had thought that Lorne would be our lunch stop but we were a bit early and found the town to be crowded with no convenient parking available. So we passed it by, as a lunch stop, and drove on to Wye River, where we found a cafe with a covered alfresco deck with views over the ocean.
Before bypassing Lorne we had turned inland and drove about 10 km to Erskine Falls, a rather pretty spot with a short walk to see the actual falls.
On the way back to the main road we drove into Teddy’s Lookout. That vantage point is located on the top of the hill directly above Lorne and provides great views of the road, snaking along the foot of the coastal mountains and views out to sea. The weather made the sea view rather bleak.
Mariners Lookout, on a hill overlooking Apollo Bay, also provides great views over that town but unfortunately not for us. As we arrived at the car park the rain got serious again. So we drove on to our motel and booked in. The motel has very effective reverse cycle air conditioning so Apollo Bay will wait until tomorrow, when there is the promise of a better day.
When we checked into
our motel our car was almost the only one in the car park. Overnight the car
park filled up and so did the town. Saturday was market day and the long
weekend crowd was out in force. With the town so full it was a good time to
leave. We had more sunshine than forecast but not enough to attract people into
From Apollo Bay the
road turns inland to negotiate the mountain ranges that run down to Cape Otway.
We took the indicated turn and drove to the lighthouse. I think we had been
there a long time ago but I couldn’t see anything familiar at all, so perhaps I
was remembering somewhere else.
You don’t get to see
the lighthouse close up unless you part with the best part of $20 and walk
about 500 metres. Then Parks Victoria will give you a tour. The walk was too
far for Ruth and I was disinclined to do it on my own so we decided against it.
But a 350 metre walk down the Great Otway Walk got me to a point where I could
see the top of the building over the trees, so that had to do.
We returned to the Great Ocean Road, turning left to make for Port Campbell and the sandstone wonders of that part of the coast.
After we emerged from the mountainous inland section of the Great Ocean Road we travelled through an area of valleys and hills until we reached the village of Princetown that overlooks the estuary of the Gellibrand River and a caravan park that is larger than the town.
Just past Princetown the highway ascends a coastal hill that provides a pull off point for a lookout that gives the best ocean views for a while. At about the middle of the beach immediately below the lookout, if the tide is right, the remains of the timbers of a wrecked ship are clearly visible.
A bit further on, and just before you reach the Twelve Apostles you come to Gibson Steps that used to give access to the beach but no longer do due to their poor state of repair. They are locked off with a gate part way down.
When we were last in that area parking was beside the road, for a short walk to the cliff top. Visitor numbers have forced an upgrade. Now there is a huge car park on the inland side of the road and an large visitor centre. Access to The Twelve Apostles is through the visitor centre and on a path under the road to an elaborate arrangement of platforms, boardwalks and lookouts.
There are not as many
apostles as there used to be. Constant weathering has removed some of them and
reduced the size of the others. There will be a time when they will not exist
at all. Even in their reduced numbers they draw an ever increasing volume of visitors.
A couple of kilometres
towards Port Campbell, Loch Ard Gorge is a gap in the coast named in
remembrance of the clipper ship of the same name that beached on adjacent
Mutton Bird Island on 1st June 1878, with only two survivors. The survivors
made their way to safety through the gorge.
The walks around the
gorge give access to some fantastic rock formations and expansive seascapes.
Wooden steps lead down to one of the most protected beaches that you will ever see.
Our motel in Port Campbell overlooked the small protected port, itself a gap in the cliff, into which a stream flows at the western end of the beach. It is almost as sheltered as Loch Ard Gorge but somewhat larger. A substantial concrete wharf is tucked into a sheltered corner and is used by fishing boats and land based anglers.
Port Campbell is a
tourist town. Many of the buildings in its main street have been converted to
restaurants and bars or other eateries or offer accommodation. It has two pubs
and several motels. Many houses are B&Bs or private accommodation of some
It is a most
attractive town. We would like to have stayed longer but were lucky to get a
booking for one night on Saturday of a long weekend.
Sunday dawned another fine day but we again had rain overnight. There was a bit more cloud than the previous day. The temperature may have reached 20C.
There were now only three things to look at to finish the Great Ocean Road. They were The Arch, London Bridge and The Grotto. All are past Port Campbell towards Peterborough. We visited them in that order.
The first was about a
200 metre walk with some steep parts and stairs in the path. The second was an
easy 50 metres to an extensive observation deck. The third was a walk of about
350 metres with steep sections and with about 70 steps to get the best view
from near sea level.
I had just climbed back up the stairs and decided to look at the photos that I had just taken. When I tried, I got a message that told me there was no data card in my camera. Shock horror! I checked, and sure enough, the card was not properly seated. I had not put it back properly after transferring yesterday’s photos to my phone. I do this at the end of each day to make it easier to select photos for my Facebook posts.
So back down 70 steps
again and then a return to the other two locations to retake the photos that
otherwise would be lost. By the time we did all that and had coffee it was
about 11.00 am. We had thought that we would go all the way to Port Fairy,
which is the official end of the Great Ocean Road, but that would take us 60 km
out of our way. We turned for Ballarat on the road out of Port Campbell. But we
did drive on as far as Peterborough before turning back.
We travelled via
Cobden and Camperdown, then through a number of small towns to reach Ballarat.
All of the holiday weekend activity was on the coast, with very little action
in the towns that we passed through.
As we drove away from
the coast the pastures became less green but there were still plenty of cattle
and sheep in the paddocks. I think, apart from the sheep, we travelled through
mainly dairying country today.
Our Ballarat accommodation was out on the Melbourne side just off the Great Western Highway. Once checked in and settled we returned towards Ballarat city in search of our evening meal. Good old Domino’s Pizza came to the rescue.
Unfortunately the photos
that I took as we drove from the coast to Ballarat were taken on my phone. For
some reason they cannot be found. I don’t know why they deleted, but they are
Our location for our last night in Tasmania provided a further benefit as we drove the short distance, through a morning shower, to the ferry. We had to turn at a roundabout that put all the traffic coming out of Devonport to catch the Spirit on our left, giving us right of way. But loading was still a slow progress as the ship arrived late from Melbourne. I felt sorry for the yellow coated attendants as they stood around in the rain waiting for something to happen.
We had another good Bass
Strait crossing. The expected strong winds did not eventuate. There was a
slight swell running through the Strait but not enough wind to produce white
We had travelled south on Spirit of Tasmania One and returned on Spirit of Tasmania Two. They appear to be identical twins and very suited to their task. We had no complaints at all about either of them.
We had booked recliner
seats for the return, as a cabin was not needed for a day crossing. The
recliner seats are at the back of the vessel, facing towards the stern. There
are four rows and the seats have full height backs so unless you are in the
first row your view is of the back of the seat in front. So we spent much of
the day in the top deck lounge where the view of the water was good and we were
near food and coffee.
We reached Port Philip
Heads in daylight and came up the bay as the daylight faded. We docked in
darkness with the City of Melbourne a mass of lights ahead of us. Disembarking
was a slow process as Melbourne’s peak hour traffic made it difficult for
vehicles exiting the terminal to merge into the traffic flow.
But eventually we were moving and making our way through the near city streets to the Monash Freeway. Streets in the near city area have changed since we lived in Victoria and I was working in a near city location. Google maps didn’t have it quite right but we found our way to our hotel in Waverley, without too much drama.
Friends who we had
called on in Ballina on our way south were in Melbourne for a couple of weeks
and staying quite near to where we were. So we arranged to meet them at a
nearby shopping centre for morning coffee before we headed out to West
Gippsland to where we were spending a few days with my sister and her husband.
A visit to a supermarket indicated that the shelf stripping that we had seen in Launceston stores was more prevalent that we thought. We now know the full story, of course, but then we thought that the cause was the many Asian tourists with whom we had shared Tasmania.
On Wednesday, after doing
normal family catch ups, we joined our hosts and other family members in a day
out into the mountains that are part of the southern Victorian Alps and lie to
the north of the rolling hills of the agricultural country of West Gippsland.
Walhalla is a historic gold mining town about 90 km from Drouin. It takes about 90 minutes to drive there. It is a well preserved heritage town with a full sized rebuilt railway that operates on several days of the week. It is popular with all ages and well patronised, particularly at weekends and very popular for school excursions.
The original rail connection arrived in the mid 1920s, just as the gold started to be worked out and the town started its decline. In more recent years enthusiastic volunteers restored the line, rolling stock and infrastructure and volunteers continue to operate and maintain it.
The final few kilometres of the road to Walhalla runs beside the Thomson River before crossing it to then follow its tributary, Springers Creek, to the town. Thomson River Station is located where the road bridge crosses the Thomson. It is to Thomson River Station that the train runs.
The railway runs along Springers Creek opposite to the road and when fully operational turned downstream beside the river after Thompson River Station. The ride is about 20 minutes out to Thomson River Station which is equipped with refreshment rooms just like the old days. The coffee was dispensed by a machine on the press of a button, so was not of coffee shop quality, but it was coffee and it was past coffee time by then. As we refreshed ourselves the train moved up the track so that the engine could be manoeuvred back to the front of the carriages for the return journey.
Train ride over, we drove up into the town and followed the main street as it wended its curving way through the narrow valley. The commercial buildings stand beside the road and on the flat land beside the creek, but the rest of the housing steps up the steep hillsides. The accompanying photos tell more of the the story.
As you enter the town the mining area is on the left with convenient foot tracks and stairs leading to points of interest. We have looked at these before, when we were much younger. We had no difficulty in resisting the temptation to climb the steps that lead to the hillside path.
The best known of the
Walhalla gold mines is the Long Tunnel Extended Mine. Access to this mine has
been preserved making it suitable for public inspection. Tours are conducted on
a regular basis and have just recommenced following Covid-19 shut down. $20
will gain entry for adults or $15 if you rate as a senior.
From the train we had
seen a group of teen age school children camping beside Springers Creek. As we
came out of the pub after lunch we saw them again. They had made it back to
town and had climbed to the hillside track to take a closer look at the mines.
The only place
available for lunch was the Walhalla Lodge Hotel which is a fairly typical
country pub. The meals were generous in size and hit the spot after our train
On our way back to
Drouin we made a detour to look at a house that our niece (sister’s daughter)
and her family had just bought but had not yet moved into. Such are the interests
of family visits.
We were now down to
our last two days in Tasmania. We had allocated Thursday 28th to the
eastern side of the Tamar Valley and Friday 29th (Leap Year Day) to
the west side and to make our way to Devonport to catch the Spirit of Tasmania
back to Melbourne on Saturday 1st March.
So on Thursday morning we set off to visit the area to the north and north east of Launceston, starting by following the East Tamar Highway on the east side of the river, through Georgetown to Low Head, to see the historic maritime facilities at the mouth of the Tamar River.
The Low Head lighthouse looks over Bass Strait and the river mouth. The area near the river is dotted with white painted brick houses with red roofs, with more modern and larger houses on the higher ground. These white houses were the homes of the many people needed to run the labour intensive services required in the early days when ships plied the Tamar River right up to Launceston. The original signal station still operates as does the pilot service. Bass Strait looked calm with the icy wind coming from the south west, but the sun was shining so it was pleasant in shelter.
We returned to George Town, but history there is not recorded in the continuing use of old buildings. Driving through, it looked like most country towns. The town is built on an inlet from the river called Stone Quarry Bay.
When we drove around to the other side and looked across, older houses were visible that we could not see from the main street and we had a better view of the town centre. A substantial and modern resort, the York Cove Holiday Hotel, on the south bank of the inlet, didn’t look very busy but we did see a house maid trundling her trolley between buildings.
Bell Bay is only a short distance south of George Town. It is an
important industrial port with an aluminum refinery, a ferromanganese plant and
a port for handling cargo. It replaced the old docks in Launceston for handling
of freight for this part of Tasmania many years ago.
Upstream from the port a large white ship was at anchor. We took
it to be a cruise ship visiting Launceston at first but a closer look through
binoculars showed it to be passenger vessel named “The World” but
with no cruise line identification. A Google search informed that it is the
largest private yacht in the world. It is a floating block of apartments owned
by permanent residents and wealthy folk who take their holidays aboard and rent
their apartments when absent. It pulls up for several days at a time at various
ports. It cost $13.5 million to buy into the scheme initially, so it is not for
your every day battler.
We moved on towards Bridport via the north Tasmanian wine trail.
We saw hillsides covered in lush green vines but mostly producing cool climate
white wines. The heavier end of the red wine range seems scarce in Tasmania. Pinot
Noir is as serious as wine production gets. The weather is probably too cold.
If you are looking for a Cab Sav or a Shiraz don’t bother with Tasmania.
Pipers Brook is a well known brand of white wines. The winery is near to the road so we called in. The entrance driveway passes through a couple of kilometres of vineyards, making it a pleasant drive, but you do start to wonder when you will arrive. There is a cellar door and restaurant. We went in, but I don’t taste when driving and Ruth seldom does, so we had a look at some historical artefacts and then moved on. Winery restaurants are for more leisurely dining than we had in mind for that day.
Located quite near to Pipers Brook is Clover Hill Wines. They specialise in sparkling wines produced by traditional methods. The cellar door building was quite new, very modern and attractive in the vineyard setting.
A sign near the buildings advised that if you were to dig through the earth from that spot that you would come up near the champagne area of France. I had always heard that you would come up in China. But France does sound a better proposition right now.
Bridport commands views over Bass Strait and is a pleasant town and is the principle beach side town on the eastern part of the north coast. We found a pleasant cafe that commanded those same views over Bass Strait and with seafood chowder on the menu. Well, what else could we do but go in and order? Ruth settled for fish. Our tastes in food often differ.
About 20 km south brought us to Scottsdale, the last major town through which we passed coming over from the east coast a couple of days before. This time we took an alternative road to Launceston that avoided the worst of mountain range. Scottsdale is 62 km from Launceston via the Tasman Highway (over the mountains) and 68 km via Lillydale. It is a substantial town and has a Woolworth’s anchored shopping mall as well as the kind of businesses that support agricultural production.
The road through Lillydale brought us near to what is, I think, Australia’s largest lavender farm. Bridestowe Lavender Farm grows lavender which is converted to a wide range of products sold in the farm’s retail outlet.
Later we drove through Lillydale, a town that has attracted artists to take up residence. As a community project, locals have assisted a number of the now local artists to paint murals on the electric power poles. Consequently Lillydale is known as The Town of the Painted Poles. It is about 28 km from Launceston.
We checked the time and decided that we would try for seats on
the last Tamar River cruise for the day, if seats were available. We would have
made it except for Launceston’s peak hour. I didn’t know it had one but we were
held up for about 20 minutes as traffic made its way from north to south
through the city. We returned to our unit for another quiet night.
The following morning we packed and loaded the car. As I sat in the seat to drive I noticed a slip of paper under the wiper blade. When I retrieved it I found that it was a note from the old neighbours who we had met on Bruny Island. They had spent the previous night under the same roof as we had.
Before we set off to
explore the west side of the Tamar we gave the Cataract cruise another try. We
were successful and got tickets for the first cruise.
The opportunity to see Launceston and the Cataract Gorge from the water was better than the commentary from the expatriate Kiwi skipper, but he did add some interesting information. The day was sunny but with the same persistent cold wind that has apparently been blowing all summer. The see through blinds on the cruise boat were kept down.
There has been a great deal of development of the old Launceston river waterfront with extensive walking and bike ways that run between the river and modern unit developments. Open space has not been forgotten. The development has provided for public access to the river bank. The development includes new hotels like the Pepper’s hotel developed in a set of four grain silos over the North Esk River mouth, directly opposite the tour boat wharf.
It is at the wharf
area that the Tamar splits into its two major tributaries, the North Esk and
South Esk Rivers. The North Esk River
turns to the east before moving off in a south easterly direction. The South
Esk River flows from south of Launceston, through Cataract Gorge and joins the
Tamar opposite the ferry terminal. We had crossed both Esk rivers on our drive
two days earlier to the stately estate homes to the south of Launceston.
We disembarked and set
off on the day’s drive. Our first stop was the shopping village at the Aspect
Tamar Valley Resort at Grindelwald. There we found a neat little Swiss bakery
with good coffee and pastries as well as specialty shops, within a Swiss themed
Having returned to the
West Tamar Highway our next stop was Brady’s lookout, named after Tasmanian
bush ranger Matthew Brady. The lookout provides sweeping views of the Tamar,
particularly to the north towards the river mouth.
We headed then towards
Beaconsfield, of gold mine collapse fame, but first made a detour to see and
cross the Batman Bridge over the Tamar River. It is a single span “A” frame
bridge with the span supported by cables. It looks quite spectacular but is not
new. But new to us!
The mine collapse at Beaconsfield
killed one miner and buried two more for a couple of weeks. The widely
publicized event put the town on the map.
The residents have worked hard to keep it there. The mine was on our
itinerary but our interest was sharpened when we heard a couple of days before
that the mine had been sold to a mining company and there were plans to restart
There is real history in old buildings but the heritage centre built to commemorate the mine disaster is the focal point. There is a mining display in part of the original mine buildings but it costs $16 for an adult so you need time to get value. You can get the idea from outside and you can shop in the attached gift shop for souvenirs and the like.
A new brewery has been
built next door that has used the gold theme for a partial free ride. It is
called the Miners Gold Brewery.
Moving on, we drove directly to Greens Beach, a seaside town immediately opposite Low Head on the west side of the Tamar Mouth. If it has a commercial centre we didn’t find in but it does have many large homes overlooking Bass Strait and the river.
On the way back we
detoured to Beauty Point, a pleasant river side community where, among other
attractions, there is Seahorse World, an aquarium specialising, as you might
guess, in sea horses. On the same wharf structure you will find Platypus House
where you can see platypus and echidnas up close.
We stopped at the Jubilee Bakery for lunch as we passed back through Beaconsfield and discovered more history. The “Jubilee” part of the name was in honour of the 50th anniversary of the coronation of Queen Victoria. Irishman Paddy Manion opened the bakery in 1887. Some modernisation has since occurred but the original wood fired baking ovens remain in use. So my lunch time paste was cooked in the original wood fired oven, installed in 1887. The story goes that Paddy used to claim that his products were made with holy water because it came off the roof of the church next door.
We then drove south
over a collection of country roads to Deloraine before joining the Bass Highway
Deloraine, on the
Meander River, is another town of historic buildings. The town is close to the
mountain range known as The Great Western Tiers, named because of the way the
range steps down, with each successive mountain lower than the last, as it
progresses to the North West.
We spent the last night in Tasmania in a unit at the Postmasters Quarters, a modern development of historic buildings at East Devonport. This was another digital reception establishment with the access code texted to us, before our arrival. The interior decoration was a bit quirky but functional and comfortable. The location is within walking distance of the Spirit of Tasmania terminal. There is a pizza shop even closer.
When we drew back the drapes that
morning the sun was a red orb in a strip of blue on the horizon. But that
didn’t last for long. Grey clouds blew in from the west and wiped it all away.
The day’s journey started as a repeat of the drive two days prior, as we needed to go via St Helens to reach the Tasman Highway to Launceston. We only just made it through morning coffee (made on a picnic table and taken back to the warmth of the car) before drops of rain appeared on the windscreen. A few minutes later, as we made our way out of town, we were in drenching rain.
The first part of the drive was mostly beside the sea, with regular ocean views over calm and unruffled waters. The road turns inland at St Helens and meanders its way over mountain after mountain and through valley after valley, until it reaches Launceston. The mountains are almost all heavily timbered but much of the area in the valleys are cleared for farming. We at last saw the emerald green Tasmania of which we had so often been told.
The plan for the day had
included visiting a couple of waterfalls and doing some short scenic walks, but
the rain put a stop to that. So our first tourist stop was at a farm and cheese
factory. Just off the main road at Pyengana, right on the farm, the factory and
a retail outlet and cafe attracts a large proportion of passing tourists from
this relatively busy highway. We had to line up to sample. We bought two cheese
Immediately after we married, Ruth worked in the cheese producing Drouin Butter Factory in West Gippsland. We used to buy full cloth wrapped cheddar rounds, like those displayed at this cheese factory. On this occasion we satisfied ourselves with two small cheese wedges.
Further down the road, past
the farm, were a couple of waterfalls, but the rain was too persistent for us to
see them and stay dry. So we returned to the highway and drove on steadily,
because that is the only way to handle Tasmanian roads, particularly in the
rain. But the scenery was attractive, even through the rain, so we did not feel
At about midday we reached the old tin mining town of Derby. The tin mines have long been closed but its history and its location on the road to the east coast has kept the town alive.
The housing that remains lines the road that runs through the valley. To our right the hill was a large mullock heap from the mining activities.
The mining long gone, Derby has reinvented its self. It has become a Mecca for mountain biking. Bike tracks have been built in the surrounding hills that are drawing competition from around the World. One cafe has committed itself to mountain biking culture, whatever that is.
With rain abated we found the Two Doors Down Cafe (there has to be a story to that name) and enjoyed a pleasant lunch. An interesting feature of the cafe was a large picture on the wall showing the town in its mining heyday.
A bit further on we stopped at Branxholme to photograph the Chinese bridge over the Ringarooma River. Branxholme has a strong connection to the history of Chinese miners in Tasmania. It is a key point on what is known as The Trail of the Tin Dragon that links tin mining sites from Launceston to St Helens.
A short distance past Branxholme we detoured on what was not much more than a country lane, towards the town of Ringarooma to find the small town of Legerwood its carved trees. In 1918 seven trees were planted beside the road at the location that in 1936 became Legerwood, one for each of the locals who did not return from WWI.
By 2001 the trees has become
a safety risk so they were cut back and the stumps were carved into a memorial
for each of the men. The carving was carried out using a chain saw. A plaque on
a stand at each tree tells the individual serviceman’s story. A rest area has
been built behind the memorial trees with space for a few RVs to park
The only other stop was at Sideling Lookout near the summit of the Sideling Range, the last mountain before the commencement of the decent into Launceston. Even with low clouds the view was great. A sign says that on a clear day you can see features on the Bass Strait Islands to the north east.
Our Launceston accommodation was at Adina Place Apartments on the steep slope above the Launceston central business district. Adina Apartments is a multi storey block with access to the rooms from a balcony that runs the length of the building, overlooking the road. The views from our windows were to the North and North West along the Tamar Valley.
The first day in Launceston was not very holiday friendly. We started out at 14C and (according to the BOM) feeling like 12C, with a strong and cold north-easterly gusting in from somewhere around the freshly fallen snow. It may have got to 16C later in the day. It was hard to tell.
We had intended to start the day with a visit Ben Lomond, one of the highest mountain peaks in Tasmania and host to some of the local ski fields, but that had to be scrapped with forecasts of low temperatures, wind and possible snow. The plan would have taken us south of Launceston so we stuck with that plan to visit the other items that we had identified. These were mainly National Trust managed homes. All are open to the public for a fee, but with only a morning to spare we were only intending to look at them from the outside and to drive through the country side.
First we drove to Evandale, passing Launceston airport on the way. At Evandale we found a bakery so inviting that we went in for coffee. The warmth was very welcome as was the coffee smell and the wide range of cakes from which to choose.
Evandale, on the old Hobart to Launceston road, has almost all historic houses. It is like an English village. If you built a new house I think that you would need to make it look old to fit in.
About a week before we were there Evandale hosted the annual penny farthing bicycle championships. The races are run over a triangular course in the village. A village fair forms part of the event featuring stalls, music, singing, dancing, vintage cars, historical costumes and a grand parade. It must be quite a day.
Of the National Trust homes that we visited, Clarendon is the stateliest. It was built in 1838 and must have been the centre of colonial social life in the area. Like its piers it is available to host special functions.
Brickendon and Woolmers Estate, near Longford, were built by the Archer brothers. Brickendon has been operated by the same family since 1824. Woolmers Estates dates back to 1817. Both properties were added to the National Estate in 1910 because their connection to convict history. Both were built by convict labour. The Archer brothers were regarded as humane masters. Jeffrey Archer became a member of parliament and played a role in the ending of transportation.
We came back to Launceston to
pay a visit to some friends of Briony at their place of business and then made
our way to Cataract Gorge. This geographic feature is quite close to the City
and surrounded by suburbia.
Some of the developments in the gorge have been there for a long time. We remember them from our previous visit. Other features are more recent. A suspension bridge and a chair lift carries people over a small lake and link to various walks. There is a swimming pool, surrounded by lawns, a cafe and a inclined elevator to make it easier for the less mobile to move between the various levels.
We started with late lunch in
the café. Then I went for a walk past the pool, returning via the suspension
bridge, while Ruth tried to hide from the cold. We gave the chair lift a miss,
as did almost everyone else that day.
with a drive through city streets. Launceston is built in a narrow valley with
city and suburbs spreading up the sides of and over the hills. There are
streets that look like the plunge of a roller coaster.
By now there was not
much of the day left so we returned to our apartment. It was pleasant to be
able to turn the heat up on the air conditioner and settle back in warm comfort
for a peaceful evening.
There was no sign of Tom or Jane when we departed Windsong next morning but we now know that Jane exists. We heard her voice through the wall. The only sign of life was a group of small marsupials, one of which was peeping through our bedroom window.
We made our way back along the dirt track, through two closed gates, back to the highway and turned north towards Swansea. We passed the small roadside community hall that appeared to be Little Swanport as we headed for the turn off to Coles Bay and the Freycinet National Park.
On the way Ruth’s sharp eyes spied a tourist spot of which I had read. It was the Spiky Bridge. For some reason the builder finished its parapets with sharp stones on end. It is now bypassed by the main road but we drove across, just for fun. The bridge now leads to a farm gate.
But there is a story. The government official who controlled the purse strings for such expenditure was holding out on providing funds for a bridge to span a troublesome stream. A local land owner took the official for a ride in his horse drawn cart and drove over the road through the creek bed at top speed. He proved his point. Money for the bridge was made available. The Spiky Bridge is the result.
Continuing on, we crossed a
mountain range and came upon Devils Corner. An extensive vineyard has been
established there with vines planted on the lower slopes, reaching down towards
Oyster Bay. A three level viewing tower has been provided as part of a visitor
facility. The vineyard is well known for its Pinot Noir based wines. Views from
the deck are among the best to be had of Oyster Bay and the Freycinet
After coffee at Coles Bay we headed on into the park to the parking area for the walks to Wineglass Bay (a long walk) and the lookout (a much shorter walk). I intended to have a go at getting up to the lookout although I was a bit daunted by the 600 steps involved. But there was not a parking spot to be had in any of the three levels of the car park. Vehicles that could not find a parking space were parked nose to tail well back along the road towards Coles Bay. We decided not to add to the number fighting for a parking space. It would have been a long walk back just to get to the starting point.
Instead we did the short but steep and winding drive to the Cape Tourville Lighthouse and lookout. The lookout is in the form of a board walk in a sort of semicircle around the edge of the cliff top, below the base of the lighthouse. The views south along the east coast are magnificent.
We returned from the
lighthouse to Coles Bay for lunch. At the bakery I finally found a scallop pie.
It met expectations. Not bad at all!
only one road in to Coles Bay so we retraced our steps to the highway and
travelled another 12 km to Bicheno. Our accommodation for the next three nights
is a ground floor studio apartment in an older two story house on the southern
edge of town, overlooking the ocean.
The following day, Monday, the
sun had fled. It was cloudy with that persistent Tasmanian cool breeze. The
order of the day was a drive up the coast to St. Helens. But first some medical
I’d had a sore on the side of my head for all the time we had been in Tasmania.Since I have had skin cancers taken off my head previously, we thought it should be checked. Or what if I was growing a second head? So, I sought medical advice. It was just a persistent boil. The doctor squeezed it out (Ouch!) and prescribed some antibiotic cream to for me to apply.
That got rid of most of the morning. We spent the remainder of the morning looking around Bicheno. The main town is a little way back from the water but the small harbour is worth a visit. It is the base for lobster fishermen who ply this rocky area of coast. The small harbour, known as the Gulch, is a narrow and deep channel between a large rook and the mainland, with another rock island of similar size close in and to the north east.
The buildings at the wharf include a very busy fish shop
with dine in tables and a substantial take away business. Above the harbour, at
the road side, a red building houses the Lobster Shack which features, as its
specialty, the local lobster.
After lunch (not at the Lobster Shack) we embarked on the activity of the day. St Helens is about an hour further up the coast. The town is located at the furthest point inland of the rather long Georges Bay. The bay runs to north east to south west and is contained on its south eastern side by a long and broad peninsula, largely composed of sand. The town of Akaroa and the small wharf at Burns Bay are at its north eastern end.
The first 10 km of the drive
was along a decent road lined with houses, some of which enjoyed sweeping views
of ocean and bay. Beyond the end of the road at the jetty the coast continues
around to St Helens Point. The scenery is very attractive with white sand and
large rocks, many of which are partly covered by red lichen.
We drove through St Helens
and on the extra 10 km to Binalong Bay, mainly because Binalong Bay marks the
southern end of the long series of indentations into the coast known as the Bay
of Fires. The bay was named by Captain
Tobias Furneaux in 1773, because of the many fires that he observed along that
strip of coast.
The Bay of Fires runs all the way from Binalong Bay to Eddystone Point. That is 61 km by road but probably about 35 km in a strait line. The southern headland is formed by huge boulders with many smaller boulders surrounding them. Their unique feature is patches of rusty coloured lichen, like those that we saw at Burns Bay.
St Helens has a substantial
fishing fleet. Oyster beds are located in many of its bays and inlets. It is
the largest town on the east coast of Tasmania.
The only other town that we
drove through, both coming and going, was Scamander. It is located where a
stream, which cuts the town in half, also cuts through the sand to reach the
sea. Like every town along this stretch of coast, where hills overlook the sea,
they are covered by houses built by those seeking that magic ocean view.
first time in Tasmania we were seeing green fields that were not the result of
irrigation. It is mostly sheep country but vineyards regularly appear by the
road side, many with cellar doors and restaurants. Tourism is as important to
this part of Tasmania as to any other. The upper east coast is a very
comfortable drive from Hobart and has a superior climate. Grey nomads and not-yet-grey
backpackers are there in considerable numbers.
We used our second day
at Bicheno to travel inland to see the area that we missed by not travelling
directly between Hobart and Launceston. The route took us south, back past the
road into Coles Bay and past Devils Bend. The road that we were seeking is called
the Leake Highway. At its western end, it joins the Midland Highway just south
of Campbell Town. About the midpoint of the morning drive is Lake Leake, from
which the Highway takes its name.
The lake has tourist facilities, so we followed the 7 km of dirt
road to the picnic area. It is a smallish dam that appears to hold water for
release into a larger dam. The area seems popular with fisher folk and deer
hunters. There is a sort of lodge/hotel adjacent to the retaining wall of the
Another Queensland registered vehicle pulled in. We spoke to the
occupants, as you do. They were a Redcliffe couple caravanning around Tasmania.
We drove on to Campbell Town and turned south to the small historic town of Ross. The convict built bridge over the Macquarie River at Ross vies with the bridge at Richmond in claims of design and age. Richmond wins at 1825 but Ross is not far behind, built just eleven years later. The Ross bridge has a greater amount of intricate stone work.
Ross has been bypassed by the highway. The town does not appear to have been adversely effected by the change. The streets are wide and lined with British Elms. Every building in the main street is old, many historic. Businesses operate from historic structures and people live in houses getting on towards 200 years old.
Ross has a wool centre building that tells the story of wool production in Tasmania and offers a range of woollen clothes for both ladies and men. There are samples of unprocessed wool and information on the development of merino sheep in Tasmania. Wool is still a vital product to this area. We drove past many flocks of sheep grazing on the pastures. The grass was not as lush as we had seen the day before but greener and more plentiful than in the west and highlands.
We found a bakery, one of two in town. Our choice was offering
both scallop pies and “the world’s best vanilla slice”. And coffee! So
the decision about lunch was easy to make. We chose the older establishment. It
was the original bakery and flour mill. The old mill building is now tourist
We then drove back to Campbell Town, about 10 km north. Yet another historic bridge carries highway traffic over Elizabeth River, a tributary of the Macquarie. This one is known as the Red Bridge and was convict built in 1838. Like the Ross Bridge, the Campbell Town Bridge assisted the flow of traffic between Tasmania’s two major centres and was on the same road until Ross was bypassed.
Campbell Town is substantially the larger centre and has a
greater amount of more recent construction as well as renovated and modified
buildings. But a great number of historic buildings remain, mostly still in use.
We could have spent more time as there was more to see.
We returned home via the Heritage Highway that follows the
Fingal Valley and a variety of rivers and creeks through to Conara, where it
meets the Midland Highway. Then through Avoca, Fingal and St Marys. The road
then crosses the coastal range over Elephant Pass on a narrow, steep winding route
until it meets the coast highway about 17 km north of Bicheno.
It was quite a varied and interesting drive. For much of the distance we were running beside and continually crossing a railway line that showed evidence of use. At Fingal we saw a coal washing plant and a bit further on the turn to a colliery. Question answered.
Between Bicheno town and port a rocky hill rises with a lookout on top, which must have great views all around. I am left with this assumption unproved because after a full day, with much walking, I lacked the energy to climb it.
Tasmania got rid of most of their trains many years ago. Only limited goods services remain and I am not certain that they are run by the government. But Tasmanians still seem to have an attachment to trains. You see museum and recreational railways often.
The top passenger train was the Tasman Limited. It operated between Hobart and Launceston but operations were stopped in 1978. Some enterprising people bought a complete train and set it up at the suburb of Margate, south of Hobart, as a boutique shopping centre. Original carriages have been set up as specialty shops, facing onto a covered platform.
But the scheme seems to be running out of steam. Some shops were signed to open at 8.30 am but at almost 9 o’clock no one had turned up to open up anything. There were no signs saying that it was closed but I think perhaps that particular train is experiencing its second obsolescence.
We drove on to the Shot Tower in the southern suburb of Taroona. Built in 1870 to manufacture lead shot for fire arms, it stands beside the main road, to the south. It is 58 metres high and was the tallest structure in Tasmania for 100 years.
Molten lead was carried to the top of the tower and dropped through a copper sieve. Surface tension shaped the lead particles into small balls as they fell, to be caught in a water filled cooling tank on the shot tower floor.
To get to the top 318 wooden steps had to be climbed. The stairway is there to this day. Visitors may climb them for a small fee for the experience and for the fine view of the lower Derwent.
We had a pleasant chat with the lady who runs the shop and with the wife of a man who was climbing it. Upon his decent he showed us his videos. The view is certainly grand. The Shot Tower has a shop that sells souvenirs as well as a coffee shop in its basement.
At the recommendation of the lady in the shop, as we drove on to Richmond, we detoured to the sight of the Alexandra Battery near Wrest Point Casino. It provided excellent views without needing to climb over 300 steps. Alexandra Battery was one of the many built around the Australian coast during the late 1800s when it was feared that the Russians would invade Australia’s east coast.
We then passed through Hobart, crossed the Tasman Bridge and made our way by an indirect route to Richmond, where we spent the night. It was on this drive that we came upon the little town of Campania to the north of Richmond, where we had lunch. The fare was home made pies and coffee, which we dealt with seated at a small table in the grocery/hardware/post office/coffee shop/service station.
Our drive took us through areas of vineyards and fruit orchards, interspersed by broad areas of brown dead grass. The drought is about four years old in this part of Tasmania, but irrigation keeps the fruit and grapes growing. Some growers were busy placing white netting over their crops. I assume that the fruit was starting to ripen and birds needed to be kept at bay.
Had we come directly to Richmond we would have found plenty of places to have lunch. Historic buildings can be readily converted to purveyors of food and beverage.
We took a look at Richmond’s historic bridge and walked, as well as drove, over it. We then looked in at St Johns Catholic Church (1836), just a short drive away, followed by a walk around the Richmond prison precinct.
Ruth was beginning to
be walked out so we checked into our accommodation. I returned to the historic
precinct on foot and walked and looked and read and took photos. St Lukes
Anglican Church is through the town on the other side of the river and a bit of
a walk so it marked my turning point to return to the town area.
Richmond has a prison precinct that has been very well restored, with excellent use made of the old facilities. The prison itself remains largely unchanged and tours are available. As we were headed to Port Arthur the next day we didn’t tour the Richmond Prison. There are eating places within the prison area including a cafe in the original bakery.
By the time that I had covered this area I was walked out too, so returned to the unit to put my feet up for a while. Our accommodation was at The Barracks, small group of holiday units resulting from the renovation of old buildings. Very comfortable and well appointed.
The following morning we left
Richmond for Port Arthur under clear blue skies which remained, with a few clouds
around the edges, for the rest of the day.
As we neared our destination we stopped to look at some touristy things. At Dunalley we checked out the canal that provides a short cut for smaller boats between Hobart and the east coast and it’s lift bridge. It seems to open on request from the passage making boat. This channel is quite short. The land to the south is almost an island. The protruding section of land that links the Tasman Peninsula to the Tasmanian main land is called the Forestier Peninsula.
At Eaglehawk Neck, about 20 km further south, the same geographic phenomenon repeats, with Eaglehawk Bay, a long thin inlet from the west, almost joining the ocean at a short and narrow isthmus that leads to the Tasman Peninsula.
The Tessellated Pavement is reached from a road that turns just before the decent to Eaglehawk Neck, at the end of a drive of about 5 km. It is in the form of a broad shelf of rock that looks like an area of cobble stones.
Tasman Arch and the Devil’s Kitchen are reached by a road that turns to the east after crossing Eaglehawk Neck and follows the ocean coast for another 5 km. The tide was low and the sea flat calm so there was nothing cooking in that kitchen. Because of the calm seas we didn’t worry about the near by blow hole. There would have been nothing to see there.
Tasman Arch is best viewed from the water and that was probably how it was first discovered. The view from the land is courtesy of a sink hole that is large enough to allow a reasonable view.
The road to Port Arthur turns west along the southern shore of Eaglehawk Bay for a while and then turns inland and runs across the eastern part of the peninsula to Port Arthur.
We were last at Port Arthur about 45 years ago. The changes are significant. One of the most important is the huge visitor information centre with it’s displays, cafe, restaurant and the ability to handle large numbers of people. Port Arthur is a very popular attraction and included on most package tours to Tasmania’s south.
Forty five years ago the portion of the convict prison open to the public was much smaller than it is today. The admission ticket ($32.00 each for seniors) allows two days to see it all. An historical enthusiast would easily spend that much time if they stopped to read all the signs and study the exhibits. We had but one day and ageing legs. We covered the main penitentiary building and the area furthest from the water, where the separate prison and the asylum are located. We then joined a cruise on Mason Cove and the port of Port Arthur. The cruise is included in the ticketed cost.
The cruise passes the old
ship construction slipways, the site of the now nonexistent boys’ prison and
the Island of the Dead, the penitentiary cemetery. Visitors may land on the
island and be picked up by the next tour boat. We stayed on board and completed
the tour before going back to the visitor centre for lunch.
Tour guides tend to emphasise the cruelty to which inmates were subjected, but it happened over 150 years ago and was not abnormal for those times. The intention was to rehabilitate as well as punish. During the life of Port Arthur as a convict settlement, methods changed when existing practices were found not to be working. Unfortunately they were often replaced by something else that didn’t work. Rehabilitation of errant humans is not easy. Western society still has not got it right if re offending rates are any indication.
Ruth was done with walking so stayed at the visitor centre while I went back to walk through some other areas. I did the garden and the government cottages, the ruins of the church and had a closer look at the Separate Prison (where prisoners were known by a number and lived in solitary confinement), and the Asylum (needed for all the prisoners who went mad from solitary confinement).
I then climbed through the ruins of the hospital, the guard tower and military accommodation areas, the commandant’s house and finally a detailed walk through the penitentiary. Quite a bit of walking.
Ruins of the guard tower and the military accommodation remain sufficiently intact to give a good idea of what was there originally. The court house is in the same vicinity, straight across the street from the penitentiary, the place from which most prisoners would be brought to appear before a magistrate and the place to which they would be returned, but possibly to a different section, depending on the sentence.
The commandant’s house contains furniture that is either original or represents the period. Many rooms are set up as they would have been when occupied by it’s residents. Other rooms contain displays, rather like a museum. There is a display of information signs providing details of commandants, governors and other figures of authority.
The penitentiary was built in 1845 as a flour mill and granary, with the flour mill powered by water wheels, or prisoner operated tread mills, when water flow was insufficient. To be assigned to the tread mill was one of the most harsh punishments available. You can just about imagine the convicts praying for rain.
Competing demands for resources saw the flour mill closed in 1854. The building was converted to convict accommodation, completed in 1857. It was closed in 1877 and largely destroyed by fire in 1897. The ironwork that secures the outer walls that still stand is obvious and necessary.
When you pay your entrance fee you are each given a card bearing the name and likeness of a person who was at Port Arthur. You then go downstairs to the gallery, find the likeness on a wall and pull out a panel to read the detail.
The character that I received was the accountant at the prison. Ruth got a character who, in England, lost his pension, threw a stone at the King, was charged with treason and transported. At Port Arthur he refused to do the King’s work or eat the King’s food so starved to death. As I walked I took particular notice of the accountant’s house.
We were booked for the night at a place part way up the East Coast called Little Swanport. If I had realised how close we would be to Richmond on the drive we would have booked there for two nights. We wish we had done so.
We had done well with our accommodation arrangements so far but bombed out that night. The place was clean, tidy and comfortable, but inadequate. Windsong described itself as a B & B, but it was 5 km off the highway. The turn is near the community hall that calls itself Little Swanport and 15 km from the nearest source of nourishment. The host, Tom, who checked us in and told us to call if we needed anything had disappeared when I went to look for him to see if we could arrange an evening meal.
The table is set for a three course dinner, including wine glasses, but no stove or microwave to cook with or sink in which to wash our dishes and no tea towel to dry them. We had bread and food to make sandwiches, even a toaster, so we didn’t go hungry. But it did seem a bit odd. A continental breakfast was in the room for next morning.
The objective that day was to travel
to the furthest point south on our trip and the furthest south ever, in a
lifetime of travelling. To better the day’s effort we will need to go to New
Zealand, South America or to the Antarctic.
Go to Google Maps or I maps and
enter Cockle Creek, Tasmania. That’s where we were headed, as far south as we
could drive in Tasmania. There is not much of Tasmania south of Cockle Creek,
We had rain overnight, both while we were out to dinner and while we were sleeping. It was drizzling as we loaded the car and a brisk 13C. It dropped to 11C as we drove south, drove inland and climbed a bit, but the day improved and was sunny by lunch time. The mercury probably struggled to about 16C by mid afternoon, depressed by a cold breeze from the ocean.
We left Sandy Bay and used
the Southern Outlet to Kingston and then went inland on the Huon Highway. Once
we reached Huonville and crossed the bridge, the Huon River was to our left and
remained there until we turned inland again. We returned to the water at Southport.
Southport is a short detour from the main road. It has only a tavern with a caravan park attached by way of commercial facilities. The houses in the area mostly occupy high ground with water views, so are probably mostly holiday homes. We sat in the warmth of the car for coffee, which I made on the top of a post. Picnic facilities are scarce in Tasmania.
Southport to Cockle Creek is about 30 km, 20 km of which is fair quality gravel. The rest is sealed. There are a couple of small hamlets overlooking Recherché Bay and then a succession of free camping areas, each with at least one toilet. At the end of the road is a more substantial area with a volunteer caretaker and individual camping spaces. It is a very attractive location. Had we still been caravaning we probably would have stopped there for a day or so.
We drove as far as we reasonably could without a 4WD vehicle. In turning to find a spot to park so that we could look around, I forgot about the whale lookout and its bronze whale sculpture, produced by the sculpturer mentioned in our post of the Central Highlands. Bother! Now we will have to go back one day. We would be happy to do that, actually.
On the return journey, we paid more attention to the towns that we had passed through on our outward journey. Of these the most significant are Dover, Geeveston, Port Huon, Franklin and Huonville.
Dover is an oyster port. Geeveston calls itself the “Timber Town” and seemed to be a busy centre. We stopped there for lunch. There is a timber themed park not far away but it has been closed since it was damaged by bush fires last year. There are also national parks and caves in the area.
Port Huon has a substantial wharf which is now a service area for the numerous salmon and trout farms in the Huon estuary. A salmon industry support boat that we had seen in Hobart on Monday, was at the wharf as we passed.
Franklin appears to have been the major river port in the days before road, when supplies came from Hobart by boat. The town is host to the Wooden Boat Information Centre. The Centre is just what its name suggests but also conducts a school of wooden boat building. Visitors can look through glass partitions to watch ship wrights in action.
Tasmania conducts a wooden
boat festival every other year, based at Franklin. This was an off year. If the
festival had been on this year we would have tried to fit it into our
Huonville is the major town
in the Huon Valley and is by far the largest. The Huon River is a broad stream
where the road crosses it south of the town and broadens further into a substantial
inlet, as it nears the sea.
The Huon Valley is still a major fruit producing area although it produces nothing like the volumes export fruit of the days before Great Briton joined the European Economic Community. Apple production remains substantial. Pears and stone fruit, berries and of course grapes, are also grown in the area.
We turned off at Huonville to pass through Cygnet, itself a town of reasonable size, before cutting across to the small town of Snug where we planned to snuggling for the next two nights. The heater supplied in the cabin was most welcome.
Snug is near
Kettering, the small town from which the ferry sails to Bruny Island. Its proximity was why we stayed
there. A drive of about 6 km brought us
to Kettering and to a ramp facility designed for its purpose. A similar
facility on North Bruny only has a snack bar in addition to the ramp.
Bruny Island is a piece of
rural southern Tasmania that remained detached from the rest, so needs a 15
minute ferry journey to get there. That costs $38 return unless you catch an
early ferry. That will save you about $6.
North and South Bruny Island are joined by a long narrow isthmus named The Neck. It is mostly composed of sand, with beaches on both sides and a prominent hill (probably a sand dune) at the northern end. Stairs and boardwalks lead to the top of the hill for views and to the beach. Views are 360 degrees and sweeping, particularly to the south . Toilet facilities are located here. Tourist busses stop for the view. A Penguin rookery is located on the ocean beach.
Like most places where mountains meet the sea there is spectacular scenery, particularly at the southern tip around the Cape Bruny Lighthouse and at Adventure Bay to the south east.
You get to the Lighthouse and its scenery under your own steam on a typical national park road with a very rough section inside the lighthouse grounds. Excellent scenery along the road with plenty of places to pull over and look.
I didn’t get to see the interior of the lighthouse or climb to its observation deck. It was fully booked to bus tour groups. But I was able to walk to the original and now unused lighthouse and enjoy the magnificent views of the coast. A new automatic lighthouse has been built on an adjoining headland, to the east.
Adventure Bay is reached by a drive of 40 km, if you choose the best road. You head back to the southern end of The Neck and then turn south for about 10 km.
Pennicott Wilderness Journeys have a base at the end of the road where they will put you into a small boat to show the wonders that are out of sight around Grass Point. On that tour you get to see Fluted Cape and Penguin Island plus wild life, including seals. That costs about $125 and you could get cold and wet. But that is adventure for you. On the day of our visit the seas were smooth and there was no rain, so the experience would have been quite pleasant. Bookings are normally necessary. The tours were fully booked several days in advance of our visit.
We knew that the tour base has a great restaurant, so it was on our list as a lunch spot. The building is on the back of a sand dune. The restaurant overlooks a broad deck and has a view to the north east over Adventure Bay. We were not disappointing with our choices from the extensive menu. See below.
That part of the island has
historical significance in that Captain James Cook landed there during his
third exploration in 1777. A monument has been erected at the landing site.
Also former Captain, but by then Governor William Bligh, visited and planted
some of the first fruit trees to be grown in Tasmania.
Antoine Raymond Joseph de Bruni, chevalier d’Entrecasteaux (1737 – 1793) was a French mariner who explored part of the east coast of Australia in 1792, including this part of Tasmania, during his search for the missing exploration party of La Perouse. The channel between Bruny Island and the Tasmanian main land is named after him and the island clearly took its name from a misspelled portion of his name. The d’Entrecasteaux Channel is pronounced “Doncastro”, or something similar.
The previous day, near Cockle Creek, we had seen a sign marking the place where d’Entrecasteaux came ashore for water in a sheltered cove. A fresh water stream runs nearby.
On the drive down to Cape Bruny we had passed through Aloonah, the “capital” of Bruny Island and drove back through the town again on the way back, as the turn to Adventure Bay is about a further 5 km to the north. So, as our return drive to the ferry took is within 5 km of Aloonah, we decided to drive back to take a closer look at this small town.
over to the shore line to photograph the island’s only hotel. As I looked,
prior to taking the photo, I saw a couple who I thought looked like neighbors
from our days at Murrumba Downs, but then thought probably not! But as I walked
back to the car they were walking right in front of me as they returned to
their tour bus from their lunch stop. Absolutely no doubt now!
They told us
that they had seen us in the street at Geeveston the day before, as we walked
past where they were having lunch. They planned to intercept us on our return
but we stopped for lunch further down the street. It truly is a small world.
The other tourist attractions on Bruny Island are man made and while legitimate activities for Tasmania, lack authenticity because they have so obviously been put there to be tourist attractions. Things like an oyster shop well away from the sea, a honey shop without a bee box in sight and a place selling cheese with only two types available for tasting and a clear emphasis on selling on line.
But the visit made for a
pleasant day. The roads are narrow and winding but mostly sealed. Gravel roads,
of which there are a few, are mostly well maintained and smoother often than
the sealed roads. The worst were within the grounds of the lighthouse.
Most tourist activities are
to the south of the ferry landing. The largest settlement is Dennes Point in
the extreme north. This town is reached by a good gravel road that provides
sweeping views of the ocean and bays on both sides of the island. It is well worth
the effort, if you have time
Visitors with more time would find a lot more to see and do on the island. There are lots of walks to suit all levels of ability in the most scenic parts of the island.
In summary, we are glad that we visited Bruny, but much was not as I expected. And after calling at a whiskey outlet (enquiring for a friend), I will never again complain of cellar door prices for wine.
Saturday morning and we awoke to pools of water on the balcony and driveway. The first real rain since we had arrived in Tasmania had fallen over night. Patchy cloud in the morning cleared to a sunny day with a cold south easterly breeze.
We left New Norfolk, heading for Hobart, but we needed to fill in time to check in. So we drove down river, crossed to the east side and made our way to the Tasman Highway that passes the airport and ultimately leads to Port Arthur and the East Coast. We wanted to see what the suburbs over the river from Hobart were like and to view the city from the eastern shore.
We made a quick call into Seven Mile Beach. Craig and Anne Sheather and the girls spent a few days there as their Hobart base in December. The beach was bleak, as the cloud cover had intensified and the wind was coming in over the bay. We quickly made thermos coffee and returned to the car to drink it.
After retracing our steps back towards Hobart, we turned left and drove down the South Arm Peninsula to the southern end of the bay that is encompassed by the sweep of the peninsula as it turns back to the north. By this time we realised that we were too far south to see Hobart so we turned back north, keeping as close to the western shore of the Derwent as possible.
We drove past what used to be the Tasmania cricket ground, now their major sports stadium, and then turned back to the shore at Bellerieve. Then, quite by chance, because we turned left instead or going ahead, we came upon Rosney Hill Lookout near the eastern end of the Tasman Bridge. This elevated lookout gives splendid views of Hobart and it’s immediate suburbs on the west side of the Derwent, as well as of the Tasman Bridge. Mount Wellington provided a backdrop for the city. It’s summit was covered in cloud. Not the day to drive the road to the summit, we decided.
It was now lunch time, so we returned to the Rosney Park Mall in search of food. When we returned to the car Mount Wellington was clear of cloud, so with an hour to go to check in time we decided to drive to Mount Wellington prior to going to Sandy Bay to check in.
Mountain weather is not to be trusted, particularly as far south as Hobart. As we approached the summit we could see cloud drifting over. By the time that we had parked at the summit only glimpses of the views were to be had through gaps in the cloud. The wind over the summit was strong and cold. Ruth sheltered in the car while I dashed around getting the photos that I could.
There were better photo opportunities down the mountain, but not with the same panorama as that available from the summit, but with less cloud. We stopped while I took a few more shots.
Our Hobart accommodation was the Bay Hotel Apartments at Sandy Bay, just a short drive from the City. The units are old but have been renovated to provide comfortable accommodation. We stayed for four nights, giving us three days in Hobart.
Our first day in Hobart was Sunday. We opted for a restful morning, so stayed in doors. After lunch we set off to check out the city, particularly the waterfront area. We found a parking station in the City. Street parking was near to impossible.
Our first port of call was
the Information Centre where we loaded up with brochures. We then went
dockside, just a short walk away.
The day was cool but sunny in the afternoon. Despite car parking spaces being full there did not seem to be many people about. The dock area has many eating establishment, plus museums, boat cruises and shopping.
The cruise ship Viking Queen was in port but any resulting increase to the pedestrian traffic was not noticeable. We alternatively wandered and sat, snapping photos all the while.
Situated directly behind the Constitution Dock area is a replica of the hut built by Sir Douglas Mawson and his group of polar explorers during the voyage to Antarctica during the period 1911 to 1914. We didn’t tour it, but it is an exact replica and houses a display of artifacks relating to Antarctica and the expedition. Hobart is the port from which services to Australia’s Antarctic bases are provided.
Ruth’s sister Judy had suggested we visit the old signal station on Mount Nelson, so we decided to go home that way. The observation point provides excellent views of the maritime approaches to Hobart. Judy also mentioned Devonshire teas at the cafe at the the car park. We can recommend them as well. There are excellent views from the observation area and the cafe.
We then dropped down to the coast road at Wrest Point (literally, the road was very steep) and drove down the coast to Taroona. We didn’t realise that we were almost down to the historic shot tower, but a visit to the tower was on the list of things to do coming back through Hobart, after we had been south to the Huon Valley and Bruny Island.
We then returned to the unit for a quiet evening.
We returned to the city on Monday morning, found a long term parking space and made our way to the Tasmania Maritime Museum. This interesting place is conveniently located over the street from the Information Centre. There is a huge amount of nautical material to absorb, much of it historical. Some was familiar, some new. But it took up the early part of the morning.
We had a late coffee and a walk before boarding the Spirit of Hobart for a 90 minute luncheon cruise. The route took us over the Derwent estuary area, both upstream and downstream of the harbour, being informed as we dined about a huge range of historical, political and social happenings. Part of the trip crossed the finishing line of the Sydney Hobart Yacht Race, but going the opposite direction to competing yachts. The lunch was excellent. The trip was really good value.
Back on shore, we took the short walk to the Salamanca precinct where old warehouse buildings have been converted to up stairs apartments and to commercial premises down stairs. Many of the businesses are food related. One interesting place is a laundry cafe. Lunch or snacks while the washing machine and the dryer churn seemed to be popular.
With some time still left to the afternoon, we drove out to the convict women’s prison at Cascade. Traffic was thick on near city streets because of an accident, so by the time we arrived there was only 20 minutes till closing time. The place is heritage listed and looked interesting so we decided to return the next day. About 10,000 female convicts were sent to Hobart.
Since we were in Cascade we went another 500 metres or so to take a look at Cascade Brewery. It proved to be a quite substantial establishment. Judging by the size of a tour group that we saw the tours are popular. No doubt a sample of the product is included.
Tuesday was our last day in Hobart, so we started in the city centre, checking shops for a couple of things that we needed. But a city centre is a city centre and they are all similar. From those many years ago when we toured Tasmania I recalled the Cat and Fiddle arcade as a sort of quirky kind of place. We found it again but it is now quite bland. Just a mall with shops.
Next stop was the Botanical Gardens. They are located a short drive from the City and parking was not an issue. We walked through sufficient of the area in a couple of hours to get a good feel for the place. Botanical gardens, particularly those in capital cities, rarely disappoint and Hobart’s effort is no exception.
A drive to the northern suburbs followed. We stopped in Glenorchy for some lunch and then came back for a second try at the female convict penitentiary. Back in the day the female convict establishment was called a factory. Placing female convicts into service with Hobart households was part of the transportation plan. To have worked in a factory did not have the stigma of having been an inmate of a prison.
But jails they were, with sentences to be served behind stone walls. A couple of buildings still stand but in most of the area the lay outs of buildings are marked by wire crated stones. Information plaques are widely used to explain it all. It is well worth a visit. Conducted tours are lead by theatre folk, so for a added cost you can have the story told by an actress who will provide a full costumed performance.
up at Mount Wellington again but its summit was playing tag with cloud. So we
drove about half way up to where we were well below the cloud base but there
are lookout points provided at the end of a short walk. The views were worth
We concluded our stay in Hobart by dining out in the evening at The Drunken Admiral Restaurant. Located in one of the wharf side buildings, this well known eatery has been in continuous operation for over forty years. I had dined there when in Hobart on business early in its life, so decided to take Ruth there. I chose the same dish as on the previous visit, the signature dish of seafood chowder. It was as I remembered. The waitress assured me that the recipe had not changed.