Surprising Horizons

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Category: Australia

Taste of Tasmania Part 4

Part 1 here.

Part 2 here.

Part 3 here.

This is the final part of our Tasmania trip report. It only took 10 months to complete. Writing about it. Not the trip.

Richmond

26629494296_763f127854_kThe drive down from Tamar Valley region to Richmond takes about three hours and is pretty decent drive on motorways and straight roads. It gets a little windy leading up to Richmond but all in all very doable. We stayed at an AirBnB for the first and only time in the trip at Every Man And His Dog Vineyard (my TripAdvisor review is here).

26050430744_528a2046cb_kThe only thing we wanted to do around Richmond was to head to Bonorong Sanctuary. Travelling around Tasmania it is astounding the amount of roadkill you see. This sanctuary takes in injured animals that can’t make it on the outside. I enjoyed it immensely seeing all the native animals of Tasmania and feeding and petting the chilled out kangaroos. It’s not cheap but it is places like this where you know the entrance fee is helping out with running the place and making sure the animals are well looked after. The guided tours are a bit of a scrummy mess with hordes of people taking them. We decided to ditch that and do our own thing. This was the only time we saw the famous Tasmanian Devil and it was worth the wait.

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Richmond itself is a quaint little town with an old bridge and jail. We stopped off for an afternoon snack and had a little walk around. Nothing much to see apart from the bridge but we made use of the ATM in the store there (which was conveniently placed beside the frozen meats section in case you were looking for it).

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Hobart

26562798352_5bb7755754_kHobart! Our last port of call in Tasmania. The famous Taste of Tasmania was on and the yachts from the Sydney-Hobart race were in town too. Making it a very busy time of year for Hobart. We donated one kidney and one lung to pay for our hotel there. We visited The Taste every day we were there and although busy it really was well run and very manageable with many drink and food options. Also for the first year, you could just wave your credit card (over a cash point tablet) and that was it you paid. Dangerous but convenient!

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Other things we did in Hobart include heading up to the top of Mount Wellington (seeing an echidna along the way) for stunning view of Hobart and the surrounding areas. Must see. We went to Cascade brewery for a quick beer tasting which was awesome too. 26590559751_906aa1f3a5_kWe took a lunch cruise with Peppermint Bay Lunch Cruises. We paid a little extra to be seated on the top deck which really didn’t bring any significant advantages other than we weren’t down below with a massive and loud family party. Result!

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The restaurant they take you to has excellent food and good beer on tap.
We finished off our Tasmania trip with a visit to the famous MONA. You can pay for the cruise up the river to it which was nice and we got some tasty brunch on board. MOMA itself is a bit of a mixed bag. The temporary exhibit which was on while we visited sucked a bit. The rest of the permanent collection is also a mixed bag of shock art with a few real historic pieces interspersed in between. It definitely is a must see while in Hobart but be careful if you are bringing children as a lot of the exhibits are a bit un-child friendly (or child unfriendly).

26629356306_e2a9fec75d_kSo that’s it! Tasmania was great. Very much like Ireland with it’s small towns, friendly locals, stunning rural scenery, excellent food and drink, and a little inclement weather thrown in for good measure. Go there.

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Taste of Tasmania Part 3

Part 1 Here.

Part 2 Here.

Part 4 here.

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Cradle Mountain

Driving from Stanley to Cradle Mountain you have to go nearly all the way back to Burnie and then cut in due south. The drive takes about two and a half hours. Once you get to Cradle Mountain you can park your car, pay your entrance fee and take one of the regular buses down to Dove Lake to start your preferred hike. There are a lot of longer ones but we chose the circuit around the lake; it’s best to do it clockwise.

The people we met walking around counter-clockwise were met with derisive sneers and glares. Not really. We had a perfect day for the walk and it was quite lovely and picturesque. There are a number of uphill sections near the end so be aware of that. All in all I think it’s a must do if you are planning a trip around Tasmania.

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Sheffield

We chose Sheffield due it’s proximity to Cradle Mountain although it’s still roughly an hour’s drive away. We would have stayed nearer Cradle Mountain but all hotels were booked out during the Christmas period. The drive to Sheffield does see some steep twisty roads so be warned (hairpin bends going uphill). We stayed at the Sheffield Motor Inn (see my Trip Advisor review here) which was adequate for the night. Sheffield doesn’t have a lot going for it apart from the many wall murals around; it’s pretty much a one road town.

The only option for dinner the evening we were there was at the Sheffield Hotel across the road from the Motor Inn. Which was fine. Other than that not much to see or do here. There is a curious curios shop beside the Sheffield Hotel run by an equally curious man. We didn’t go in but had fun eavesdropping on the interactions he was having with his customers.

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Tamar Valley River Cruise

Another short one hour(ish) drive from Sheffield we decided to stay in the Grindelwald region in the Tamar Valley at the Aspect Tamar Valley Resort (my TripAdvisor review here). I didn’t really see the appeal of the place for people apart from the inclusive aspects of the resort itself; kid’s fun areas, pool, golf, mini-golf, restaurant, and shops. To get in to Launceston proper takes a lot of money and a taxi ride of around 25 minutes. Which we had to do. Both ways. There is an hourly bus but times didn’t work out. We nipped in to take an afternoon river cruise with Tamar River Cruises. It was a really nice and relaxing cruise with lots of seabirds, scenery, and jellyfish to see!

On board there was free flow coffee and a wine and Boag’s beer tasting and we finished up by heading up Cataract Gorge a little bit. All in all, probably one of the things you must do when in the region.

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The fourth and final part of our Tasmania trip is up next finishing up with Richmond and Hobart!

Taste of Tasmania Part 2

Part 1 in this Tasmania Travel Series is here

Part 3 here. Part 4 here.

So from St. Helen’s you have two choices with driving to Launceston. Google tells you to go back south and cut across through the Fingal area and then up to Launceston. Looking at the map you question Google’s sanity as you see a perfectly fine cut across from St. Helen’s to Launceston. Look closer and it’s a windy and twisty mess. So we went with Google. It takes about 2.5 to 3 hours to drive from St. Helen’s to Launceston and we would be staying there two nights (Christmas Eve and Day), the only town apart from Hobart we would be staying more than one night.

Launceston

We arrived at about 8:30am on Christmas Eve in Launceston as we wanted to make sure we made it in time for a 10am pick-up from our hotel lobby for a premium wine tour from Prestige Leisure Tours (if we missed that we would have just stopped the holiday then and there). We stayed at the Clarion Hotel City Park Grand (my Trip Advisor review here) which was ideally placed right next door to Boag’s Brewery. Our wine tour was excellent and took in such wineries as Goaty Hill, Holm Oaks, James Chromy, Tamar Ridge, and Sharman. We even snuck into Boag’s for a beer sampling along the way.

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The Clarion has an excellent restaurant (Larceny) attached which looked after us on both Christmas Eve and Day, even after coming back from our wine tour a little spirited from our day out. On Christmas Day we took the Zig-Zag trail to the first basin of Cataract Gorge which was a strenuous walk (ie. murderous). There is a much flatter walk to the basin on the other side of the gorge but it was blocked off due to a rock slide. Or radioactive waste or something. To be honest I think the flat walk would be better as you really don’t get any views of the gorge on the Zig-Zag trail. All you get is short of breath.
The first basin is quite nice with a swimming pool beside it so that people won’t swim in the basin. But they do anyway. There is a chair lift which takes you up the hill some ways (we didn’t do it) and a suspension bridge which was a little wobbly for some certain people..

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The other other dog at Holm Oaks Vineyard

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Pinot the pig at Holm Oaks vineyard. He likes apples.

Burnie


It’s just about an hour and half drive to Burnie from Launceston. We stopped off at the Don River Railway to take a quick spin on a steam engine. It was a pleasant surprise to see that Thomas was spending his retirement days giving tourists quick trips around the area. It was a nice little stop off on the way and run by a very helpful and friendly couple. Free cup of coffee too before you hop on board if that seals the deal for you.

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We only really stopped off in Burnie to sneak a peak at their penguin colony. We stayed at the Ikon Hotel (my Trip Advisor review here) which has rooms that are bigger than most apartments I have lived in. Burnie doesn’t really have that much else going for it. We waited for sunset which during the Summer months is around 9pm and waited for the penguins to start coming back from their hard day at the office. We didn’t realise that the baby penguins (chicks; there is no fancier word for them) would be out and about waiting for them. My pissed-off-at-other-people meter went up a few notches with both loud people who were visibly startling the chicks and people who think taking very very tired young children is a good idea. Was nice to see the little penguins (and yes, that’s their scientific name) but it’s wise to wrap up warmly.

Stanley

Another short hop, skip and a jump (an hour and a half drive in scientific terms) along the north coast of Tasmania is the quaint little fishing village of Stanley. We chose this so we could take a gander at their seal colony nearby. We stayed at the Stanley Village Motel (my Trip Advisor review here) which has lovely little rooms situated right on the water’s edge. We had an upstairs room which would be my choice if going back again. Overlooking Stanley is The Nutt; a towering chunk of volcanic rock called a plug. You can hike up or take a chairlift up. We did neither. We were focused on doing our seal cruise with Stanley Seal Cruises. It was a beautiful day for the boat ride out to the seal colony (we were lucky as they said they were rocking all over the place the previous day). It definitely is a must see as the seals either sunbathe, sleep, or frolic in the waters around their rock of a home.

Beware there is a pretty strong smell around the colony and if you have a weak stomach you may have some issues. You might describe the smell as what would happen if a couple of hundred fish eating seals hung out on a rock and went to the toilet together. Every day.
You might say that this little excursion…sealed the deal for a reason to go to Stanley. I’ll get my coat.

Part 3 coming up with Sheffield, Cradle Mountain, and back to the Launceston region for a Tamar River cruise.

Taste of Tasmania Part 1

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Part 2 here
. Part 3 here. Part 4 here.

Tasmania, land of the Devil, and the other other state of Australia.

That’s pretty much what you may come up with when initially thinking of Tasmania. After spending two weeks over December 2015 driving around the state I believe it’s worth a lot more of your attention than you initially may believe. And, yes, you can see the aforementioned Tasmanian Devil too. More often than not as roadkill, but you will see it all the same.

Flights to Tasmania from Singapore (around 6hr 40 min there and 7:40 back) are best planned out through Melbourne as then it’s just a quick 50 minute flight down to Hobart. Flights were not the cheapest but Qantas will usually have a good fare and connections. Jetstar was considered on their 787 Dreamliner bird but economy Qantas will beat economy Jetstar any day. And it did. A word of note on Qantas; they are still upgrading the interiors on their A330s. The plane on the way down had the updated interior with great in-flight entertainment (seriously, the amount of movies was amazing. I binge watched Tarantino movies the whole way down..what the hell was in that suitcase in Pulp Fiction?) On the way back we were not so lucky and got the unrefurbished (not a word I know but this is the only time I will use it) A330 and it makes the in-flight experience that much more depressing. Tiny screens and tiny show/movie selections. Lilliputian if you will.

Our driving route took us along the east coast from Hobart to St. Helen’s then across as far as Stanley (via Burnie) then back down to Hobart (via Cradle Mountain/Sheffield/Tamar Valley) for New Year’s. Let’s break down the areas we saw into a couple of different posts because nobody has the patience or focus to read crazy long blog posts anymore.

Port Arthur

Sadly Port Arthur will always conjure up memories of the mass shooting that took place there in 1996 (government response should be equally remembered) but as a historic site of Australia’s former penal colonies it is worth a visit as it’s an easy hour and a half’s drive east of Hobart.
We stayed in the Port Arthur Motor Inn (my Trip Advisor review here) which is so close to the Historic Site complex that your room key opens the gate to the complex. Which lead to a very interesting ethical dilemma because we walked around the complex for about 20 minutes looking for the main ticket office and we could have walked around for longer without paying the monumental $37 entrance fee. We ended up paying it. You get a guided tour (huge numbers of people with one guide, pretty meh..) and a small boat tour around the Isle Of The Dead included in the price. Meh.
Port Arthur Motor Inn has a locals bar which is a good introduction to the local bar scenes of Tasmania ie. the bar stools have the stains of a million spillages and stories.
Around Port Arthur it’s definitely worth visiting Remarkable Cave (it is actually remarkable!) and the Tessellated Pavement (it’s more grid-like than tessellated) as they are very short drives. I like the concept of naming places in a descriptively opinionated manner. For example, the Louvre Museum would be Crowded Hellhole That Happens To Have Art.

Triabunna – Bicheno – Swansea – Freycinet Bay

Onward up the east coast. We stopped off in Triabunna as we skipped breakfast in Port Arthur. We found the Fish Van beside the ferry pier and had a fish and chips and veggie burger while trying to deter eager and hungry seagulls. There didn’t seem to be much there apart from the ferry crossing to Maria Island and the quaint looking (from the outside) Spring Bay Hotel.

On to Bicheno to meet up with old work friends. We probably wouldn’t have stopped here otherwise. Our friends took us on a walk around the town with the blowhole and orange lichen covered rocks a focal point. This was the second blowhole we saw in a couple of days. Where I’m from it’s called the tide coming in and hitting a rock. Hard.
If you can stay until sundown at Bicheno you can see the little penguins coming home from a day of fishing.

On our drive up to Swansea we stopped off at Ironhouse Brewery for a quick beer tasting and coffee. Not a bad little stop off on the way up the coast. We decided to stay in Swansea at the Swansea Motor Inn (my Trip Advisor review here) which in hindsight I would not do again. Swansea really has nothing going for it and had only one restaurant open in the evening for dinner. The main reason for staying in the region is to check out Freycinet and take one of the walks around that area. The hotel prices around Freycinet were crazy so Swansea it was. We drove the big loop around to Freycinet, which was just a bit too long and tiring, and took the walk up to the lookout over Wineglass Bay. Fitness levels aren’t the best in our household and there are a few pretty steep parts going up; we saw many people struggle and stop along the way. But we made it up and it was worth the view. Again the drive back to Swansea was not what we wanted to endure after that. It was hell, ok? But we did it and had a good night’s sleep after (well, after finding something to eat). Don’t get me wrong there’s nothing wrong with Swansea but it’s kinda like a koala; it sits there, looks cute and does nothing at the end of the day.

St. Helen’s


Our last port of call on the east coast was up in St. Helen’s. Not totally up there on the list of places to see in Tasmania Tourist Guides but it’s a nice little town with a shore teeming with bird life. A short twenty minutes drive away is Binalong Bay which is worth it just for a stroll along the white sandy beach. We stayed at Tidal Water’s Resort (my Trip Advisor review here) which made our stay at St. Helen’s more memorable due to the balcony overlooking the marshy coastland where we bird watched our evening away. Tidal Water’s is one of those places that advertise free wifi but it only works in a one metre square area of the lobby. On a Tuesday. After lunch. Annoying.

Stay tuned for Part 2 where we venture over to Launceston, Burnie, and Stanley.

 

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