Tassie: November 2017

So I am breaking my own self-imposed internal structure and skipping slightly ahead (a week or so) in what is my sort of chronological blog of what is happening while I seek summer. The reason being that I really really really want to talk about my trip to TASMANIA (and rules are meant to be broken, right?)!!! In the blog below there is heaps of detail (points of interest) that would be really helpful (I hope) if you are planning a trip to Tasmania. If you are not planning a trip to Tasmania, you may find the blog more boring than “usual” but in fairness to me, I am warning you in advance.

Where to start? Probably the first thing that I will discuss are my general tips for Tasmania:

  • Tip 1: Cell phone reception can be sketchy outside of the main centres so it is best to have a companion with a different provider (e.g., Optus and Telstra). Even with different providers, you may both may receive the SOS or No Service sign A LOT. So I would highly recommend taking advantage of any of the free maps that are generously provided to tourists. They will help. We used them (it was like going back to the dark ages).
  • Tip 2: Again, once outside the main centres and unless you are on the main highway between Hobart and Lonnie all the roads are really windy. Literally, all of them. While the driving signage says 80 km/hr or 100 km/hr unless you are a local, I highly recommend going slower.  Also, you will notice that there are a number of turns with slower recommended speeds. You should follow those.
  • Tip 3: There is road kill everywhere, and I mean everywhere. Avoid driving at dawn or dusk where possible.
  • Tip 4: The best way to get around Tassie is a hire car but you will have a much more comfortable time driving a slightly larger car like an SUV. There were only 2 of us, but the roads are not always great and we at least felt safer in a larger vehicle.
  • Tip 5: If you are visiting 2 or more national parks (excluding Cradle Mountain) you should buy a park pass for your vehicle ($60). You need a park pass to visit any of the national parks. Individually, each park visit is $28.
  • Tip 6: If you visit the Port Arthur historic site, the pass you purchase allows you access for 2 days so why rush it (if you have the time). Also bring snacks.
  • Tip 7: If you are travelling the east coast of Tasmania (and visiting Cradle Mountain) I would recommend flying into either Hobart/Launceston and flying out of the opposite airport. Saves a lot of driving time.  

My friend C and I, decided to explore Tassie for 8 days and 7 nights. I wish I had slightly more time to spend in some of the locations that we visited so if you have slightly longer to stay that would be better. That said – we managed to see a ton of stuff in the short time we were there.

We landed around noon the first day and after checking into our airbnb we drove up to the top of Mount Wellington. What a spectacular view overlooking the city. It is just incredible. It is about 10 degrees colder on the top of Mount Wellington then elsewhere in the city so be prepared to be cold. On our way to dinner on our first night we stopped to play a rousing game of giant chess in Franklin Square (I felt a bit Harry Potterish I have to admit). We then continued onto the wharf to find somewhere to eat.

Our second day we headed off early with plans to see Fortescue Bay and Port Arthur.  Unfortunately, we had not yet learned the park pass lesson and thought it was a bit steep to pay $28 per park visit given that we were only going to do a short walk in Fortescue Bay. So, we skipped the walk and went straight to the Port Arthur Lavender Farm. Totally worth a visit. The fields are at full bloom in December and January (not the time we were there – early November) but were still worth it. We then spent the afternoon wandering the Port Arthur historic site. We only had a half-day to wander, but the historic site starts with a 20 minute free tour talking about the history of the site as well as a free boat cruise along the harbour. There are heaps of buildings to explore and if you are so historically inclined and want to read all about it before visiting (you might get more out of the experience then I did) but that said – it was great to wander the buildings on the site with no specific plan in mind.

Before heading back to Hobart, located closeby to the Port Arthur historic site is the Remarkable Cave and Crescent Bay. It is about a 10 minute drive. Totally worth it. Apparently, you can see the outline of Tasmania in the unfilled spaces at the Remarkable Cave. It is kind of difficult to see from the viewing platform but as I mentioned, it is so close that it would be criminal not to check it out (insert bad joke here. Port Arthur. Criminals. Get it?)  

We then headed back to Hobart for our second night. We went to the Burger Haus in North Hobart (where there are tons of restos/bars) for dinner and then wrapped up the night walking around the Salamanca Market area (the market itself was not open because – helpful tip, it’s only open on Saturday and you know, during the day).

On our third day we had an early start and drove to Freycinet National Park. On the way, we stopped by Kate’s Berry Farm. At Freycinet we did the Wineglass Bay Lookout walk (about 45 mins to 1 hr return) and then I did the Wineglass Bay Trek which goes down to the beach (about 1 hr return). Spectacular views from the lookout and if you have the time (and energy to walk up about a million steps. Okay. Maybe I exaggerate but at least a couple hundred) then I also recommend the Trek.

For a late lunch on that day we then stopped at Devil’s Corner Cellar Door (which is also an award winning winery) and enjoyed a tiny break. It is about 30 minutes from Freycinet to Devil’s Corner. So after lunch, we decided to head back and finish the day with the Tourville Lighthouse walk (which is a super easy 20 minute boardwalk trek). The lighthouse itself is nothing special but again the views are worth it. This is one of the times – I wish I had more time to spend in Freycinet as there are a ton of hikes in that I would have loved to do.

We spent the night in Bicheno. There is not much happening in Bicheno but you can check out the Bicheno Tasmanian devils if you have the time (we did not) or check out the Bicheno blowhole (which we did).

On our fourth day we drove up the Bay of Fires Conservation Area. To see the outstanding red rocks that the Bay of Fires are known for check out Cosy Corner Beach, Jeanneret Beach and Swimcart Beach. We then stopped by the only winery in the Bay of Fires Conservation Area region which is Priory Ridge Wines. It is a tiny cellar door with a lovely owner and I highly recommend visiting.

After Priory, we went to Pyengana Dairy Company. A short 18 minute drive from Pyengana Dairy is the St. Columba Waterfall. Tip  – the entrance to the Waterfall trail is away from the washrooms, you should go through a little hut, and there is a clear signage. It is not the giant road at the end of the parking area. I don’t know where that road takes you but it definitely doesn’t go to the waterfall.

To wrap up this very long day we finished the drive to Launceston (stopping of course to check out Brook Eden Wines Cellar Door).  For dinner (at like 8 pm) in Launceston we went to Baker’s Lane (the name of a resto/bar not an actual lane). If you are looking for a good night out apparently Baker’s Lane turns into a bar around 11:30 (but I’m too old to stay up that late). Instead, we went to Saint John Craft Beer for a local brew.

On the fifth day (being a Saturday) we checked out the Harvest Market in Launceston. It is amazing. There are so many delicious treats and arts and crafts to browse. I highly recommend it. We then went to the Cataract Gorge Reserve (it is basically within the city and free except for parking so this should definitely be on anybody’s list). The bridge across the gorge is or feels like a death trap (I’m sure it’s perfectly safe) so of course we crossed it.

We then checked out Penny Royal (good for kids, ice cream, zip lining, etc)  and Relbia Estate Cellar Door (also basically within the city). We then went on a wine trail of the Launceston region including Jinglers Creek Cellar Door, Joseph Chromy Wines, and Sharmans Wines. To note about Tasmania wines – if you like a dry wine, this is the place for you. The cool climate results in heaps of Pinot grapes and dry wines. So even a riesling, which is typically a sweeter wine, is on the dry as opposed to sweet side. Tasmania is also known for its sparkling wines (see I listen!). We also stopped by Ashgrove Dairy and the Christmas Raspberry Farm (the raspberry sorbet is so good).

Generally speaking, during this day we were headed in the direction of Cradle Mountain and so the stops were located along that route. We also stopped by Sheffield Town. Sheffield is known for its murals. There are literally murals everywhere. It’s pretty cool.

On our sixth day, we woke up in Wilmont and headed to Cradle Mountain. I love love love Cradle Mountain. What should you know? Basically, everyone has to park outside the park limits. 30 cars are allowed into the park itself at one time, but unless you are the first one there – just park outside the park limits. What does this mean? You will have to take a shuttle bus (free with your ticket into the park) to get around to the different walks. If you want to do the most well known walk – Dove Lake Circuit –  (which is also the farthest from the lot) it is a 20 minute shuttle bus to the starting point. Add this time into your calculations. The last bus back is at 5 pm. We basically had left enough time to do 3.5 hours of walking (the Dove Lake Circuit is 2 hours) – so I would really recommend leaving a full day to do explore Cradle Mountain (if not 2 days) plus if you are staying for a full day bring plenty of water, snacks, sandwiches, etc (we were woefully unprepared for a full day).  I also did the Ronny Creek to Dove Lake (via Lilac Lake) walk. During this walk I saw a wombat (which is not unusual) so I highly recommend doing the walk. I also tried to go up to Marion’s Lookout (made it about halfway) but due to time constraints had to start heading back down (hint hint – leave more time to spend in Cradle Mountain).

We then drove to Devonport for dinner. There’s not much happening in Devonport. However, there is even less happening in Wilmont, which is where we spent the night. If we were to do it again and only leave one day for Cradle Mountain we would probably have driven back to Launceston (but if you are staying multiple days in Cradle then obviously you want to be closer).

On our seventh day, we did the long drive from Cradle Mountain to Hobart. It is about 4.5 hours on the main highway with a stop in Campbelltown. We arrived in Hobart just after noon. We then immediately headed to MONA (The Museum of Old and New Art). The ticket into MONA is $28 AUD and the ferry is an additional $22 AUD.  You can drive and park (so as to avoid the ferry cost) but as another blog pointed out to me, how much did it cost to get to Tassie that you don’t want the full MONA experience. When we visited Mona, the special exhibit was the Museum of Everything! There were some really interesting pieces but like all art it’s probably hard to take in everything in an afternoon. I would give yourself a full day, have lunch, take a break, and then try and absorb more art during the arvo. My favourite piece (or at least the one that stands out in my mind) is the White Library. Everything in the room is white. The whole room is art (so – and this is for you C – you can’t touch anything. ANYTHING). I should mention that if you’re on the ferry you can have a snack and you can also sit on sheep (obviously fake. Of course I knew that before getting on the ferry. Obviously….). MONA lives by the O – meaning there are no labels on any of the artwork and you carry around an iphone that they give you. The iphone gives you basic info like the name of the artist and maybe some background information but I think the point is for you to interpret the  meaning of the art without labels. Meta. I know.

For our last night in Tassie, we went to Urban Greek for dinner! Delicious and great customer service.  

For our eighth day (and last day in Tassie) we spent the day exploring the Richmond area. On the way to Richmond you can stop by the Wicked Cheese Company (which is great and has great customer service). Then you go to the historic town of Richmond which is quaint and cute and lovely. We spotted some baby ducklings going down river and got really excited (yes we are adults). Be sure to check out the oldest bridge in Australia (or so I am told). There are also heaps of vineyards in this area so we stopped by Puddleduck Vineyard, Coal Valley Vineyard and Frogmore Creek Winery for lunch.

After that it was time to get on a plane and head home!! I miss you already Tassie. You are INCREDIBLE! 

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