Hi Everyone, and welcome to the Tasmania edition of the Travel Diaries. This month we saw some of the most beautiful places in the world, and they’re all right here in Australia! Ok, so most of us don’t think of Tasmania as really part of Australia. It’s not even on the necklace I got from Jodi with a little Australia on it, which makes me a little worried about wearing it here! So far it’s reminding me a lot of the Kimberley, which might be why I like it so much!
Let’s look at the similarities:
1. They are both remote.
2. Both are ruggedly beautiful.
3. Both had very distinct tourism seasons (I dare you to come here in July). Seriously, there’s snow!!
4. Since we’ve been here there have been massive bushfires and we drove through smoke for most of our trip down the East coast.
There are other similarities, such as everything is pretty expensive, but there is one thing that I wish was similar, but which unfortunately the Tasmanians are lacking, and that is air conditioners and fans. Now, I’m born and bred a Kimberley girl which means that I can handle the heat, but come on – no fan? To make sure that the room is not a sauna, we have to leave all the doors and windows open, which can be a security risk (although now that I’ve experienced the freezing temperatures of the West Coast, I miss my sauna room). I admit that I am one of the most paranoid people in this world when it comes to theft. I will suspect everyone because it seems that whenever I tell myself I’m being too cynical, something goes missing.
On the ferry across from Melbourne to Devonport I asked Mum to look after my handbag while I went to the bathroom, and she said she would. About 15 seconds later she shows up at the bathroom without my handbag. She said that a lady sitting near us offered to look after the bags. I’m sorry to say I went off at her for a few seconds. While logically I can appreciate that she won’t steal anything out of our bags (she weighed about 250kg so not that hard to find on the ferry, although I wasn’t looking forward to wrestling her to the ground if she had tried anything), I had taken a dislike to her and therefore didn’t want to trust her anything. It wasn’t anything in particular that made me dislike her, just that I was in a bad mood and she kept making stupid sarcastic comments about lots of stuff.
It was on that note that we arrived in Tasmania. All of us were tired, and tired of travelling so we went out for Indian food, and then retired to our beds. The next morning there was a rush for us to get out, and we finally handed back the key at 9:55am, with check-out time being 10am. After that though, it was a relaxing trip from Devonport to St Helens. We stopped a cheese factory to taste some awesome cheese, and then we drove onto a raspberry farm where we had (surprise) some fresh raspberries!
That day, the sun was beating down, and all the sheep we saw were desperately trying to find shade in treeless paddocks. In some cases we saw sheep surrounding a bush about 50cm tall, putting their heads in the shade.
As we neared the coast though, the wind picked up and the temperature dropped slightly, except in the motel room which, as mentioned before, was like a sauna unless we opened both doors (one lead straight to the indoor swimming pool). Since we had arrived in the afternoon, we decided to have a bit of a rest then dad and I explored the town. Mum would have come with us, but she has badly hurt her knee, and as such is not able to walk very far.
On our second night in Tasmania we ate Italian at Trimboli’s (and yes, I was thinking Underbelly while I was there, so unfortunately no photos!). The next day we went to visit the beach, which, of course, meant that it was the one day in summer that was overcast. It turns out that this was a blessing in disguise as it meant that there were less people at the beach, and it wasn’t as hot to walk along the beach. The water felt like it had come directly from Antarctica and I doubt I would have entered the water even if it had been a sunny 40 degrees outside.
The beaches were the whole reason why we were staying in St Helens in the first place, as it was the gateway to the world famous ‘Bay of Fires’. I’ve included some photos here, but just google the bay and you’ll see much better photos. Let me just say that if the water was warmer you wouldn’t be able to walk on the beach for all the people there!
The sand was so white and fine, it was like icing sugar. When you slide your feet across it, it makes a squeaking sound (I made a video of it, it was so awesome!). The beaches were pretty much deserted, and the sand so nice and warm! I’m not even seeing anyone, and I was already planning my wedding on one of the beaches.
Seriously people – if your idea of a trip to the beach includes all these things, you cannot go past the Bay of Fires. There are loads of (official) places to camp for free all along the bay so it can be a pretty cheap holiday too! The Bay of Fires is made up of loads of different beaches, so I GUARANTEE you; you will find a deserted beach for yourself! We didn’t visit most of them, because to tell the truth, we’re true inlanders and were kinda beached out. Again, magnificent beaches if you don’t mind not going for a swim, or don’t mind swimming in ice cold water.
For lunch we went to a great little cafe on the beach (it’s the only one we saw, based in Binalongbay, which is part of the Bay of Fires). Mum and Dad got these massive hamburgers and I got a toasted vegetarian Turkish bread. Don’t worry, I’m not going soft, but would you turn down ‘roasted vegetables, partly melted boccochini and pesto/aioli dressing’? Ha, didn’t think so!
On the drive down to Hobart we encountered the terrible bushfires which ravaged Tasmania. The road leading to the world famous Wineglass Bay was unfortunately closed due to the fire and the smoke was evident all through our journey. On getting to Hobart, we learnt that Port Arthur, a well known tourist destination was closed, and it opened again the day after we left. We spent a week in Hobart, and had a really great time. Our schedule there was jam packed, with a day trip to the Huon Valley and an afternoon at the Museum of Old and New Art (MONA) after a morning at the summit of Mt Wellington.
We also visited the Salamanca markets, and had lunch at the Cascade Brewery, although unfortunately all their tours were booked out for the rest of the week so book early if you intend of visiting!! A highlight of the trip was a picnic lunch at the Hobart Botanical Gardens – worth a visit, and more interesting than the ones in Sydney and Melbourne I think, although the succulents’garden in Sydney is pretty awesome, and Melbourne has the best rose garden.
After Hobart came Strahan, which was freezing, but so ridiculously beautiful that I would recommend you come here anyway.
If there is one place in Tassie that you must visit, it would have to be Strahan on the West Coast. Bring clothing like you’re going to Siberia in the middle of winter, but come anyway.
We stayed at the Strahan Wilderness Lodge, which is this big house with 4 or 5 rooms in it. It’s set in a beautiful location with views over the bay, and kind of feels like a large English cottage.
Also, it’s budget accommodation, but the grounds, the remoteness and the views make it feel a little upper class, with just a little bogan thrown in for good measure, because this is still Australia. Mum was trying to figure out the rules of cricket as a fellow guest was watching it and she mentioned that she should probably just spend a week watching cricket and learn the rules once and for all. I would prefer banging my head against a wall for an entire week personally, but each to their own.
Anyway, we took a cruise up the Franklin-Gordon to go and visit Sarah Island (yes, it is the only reason we came here in the first place, but it is really worth it!), which was the harshest convict prison in Australia, commonly known as Hell on Earth (sounds like me if I don’t have my morning coffee).
Apparently the guy who originally ran it was a real sadist who decided that the Cat o’ Nine Tails was too soft and cuddly for him. So he decided to join three of them together and dip the ends in lead, calling it the ‘Macquarie Cat’.
Incidentally, other convict prisons in Van Diemen’s Land (as Tassie was known back then) prohibited the use of the Macquarie Cat as it was considered unnecessarily cruel and inhumane. One guy even died after getting 100 lashes, which was probably a highlight for the convicts as they got the day off to go to the funeral. In the evening we had a barbie out in the sunshine (the sun only goes down around 8pm), then it was off to Launceston the next day, where mum and dad stayed
in at a winery with magnificent views over the Tamar Valley.
I stayed at the Launceston Backpackers (really good quality actually), before flying off to Malaysia, though not before visiting a reproduction of a Swiss village and playing a round of mini-golf with the parentals. I totally won, as I got at least 25 more points than they did!