We had read so much and heard other travellers speak of St Marys and the quirky shops there, that it became one of our last destinations.
While being very pretty, and sustaining brightly-coloured flowers, the opening hours of most of the shops did not include Sunday morning. So we had a quick stroll, took some snaps and made our way to Evandale.
There is a tourist paper that Tasmania makes readily available, Travelways, and this alerted us to an area called Cornwall, an old coal mining district still in operation and a family sauce-making business in Evandale. Cornwall was like so many mining areas in Australia – victims of the change in politics and environmental action. The history of the miners and the monument was very interesting and alluded to plenty of stories and local heroes.
The Tasmanian Gourmet Sauce Company was an absolute treat. Easy to access and find, just off the main road, we were able to try about 13 sauces, I think. We bought home jam, sauce and pickles and were shocked at the low cost. I think the plum and pepperberry relish was the favourite and disappeared very quickly. We will be ordering online, for sure.
So, if you get time, stop by these two towns (but check opening hours) and be delighted.
It is an easy drive from Coles Bay and Freycinet National Park to Bicheno, where there are many accommodation options. We took a cabin in Bicheno Cabin Park, which had very good facilities and was a five minute walk to Waubs Bay. The sound of the surf at night was only just louder than the rain.
Of course, you cannot speak of Bicheno without mentioning the blowhole. We drove the short distance there and headed across sand and lichen-covered rocks to the attraction. You can hear it from the road, but don’t realise it until you have seen it. Shooting pretty high, it is the most accessible blowhole I have visited and fascinating enough to capture your interest for at least 30 minutes. I would be wary of taking young children nearby, as the waves from the ocean crash over the rocks that form the blowhole and it is not hard to imagine anyone getting swept out to sea.
There are a number of bakeries and eateries, a supermarket and a gallery. We tried to find the lookout but were unsuccessful and as the hour was late we couldn’t ask anyone in time to catch the view.
Waub’s Bay was a good spot for exploration and we saw a couple of young surfers in the water. Again, if I had young children I would keep an eye on them, with all the rocks and constant waves, but if you didn’t have a wetsuit I wouldn’t be heading in anyway.
Apparently, Waubs Bay is named after Wauba Debar, an Aboriginal woman of the area with a remarkable story. She and her family endured terrible things at the hands of sealers, yet she married one and saved him and another sailor during a storm, as she was an exceptional swimmer. When she died an early death in the mid-1800s, members of Bicheno raised funds to build a monument to commemorate her heroic deed. We did not have time to find her memorial.
With limited time to complete our dash around Tasmania, we left Hobart and faced a demanding day of driving, touring and hiking. Our main destination was Freycinet National Park.
Orford was prettily situated around the river and we were not deterred by the light showers that set in. En route to Swansea we stopped at Spiky Bridge, the aptly named way for cattle to cross the creek without being tempted to edge over the sides. It is quite unique, I believe, and just one of the many structures built by convicts in the early 19th century. As the two farmers who owned the adjoining paddocks told us – Tasmania (and maybe Australia) owed so much of its early growth to the convicts.
Swansea was, for us, a refreshment stop and short walk through the town. It is picturesque and has historic buildings and great eateries.
The way to Coles Bay is strewn with possible diversions and the one that tempted us was Devil’s Corner Cellar Door. We had heard of it, through another traveller who was doing a wine tour of the region and our brief stop and climb to the view certainly revealed many supporters of a nice drop. The view from the tower is soul-warming and if we visit this way again we will make time to taste the culinary delights teasing us from the compact, welcoming cellar.
Arriving at the Freycinet National Park Visitor centre we were well-informed about what would be suitable for us, given time and goals. We decided on the Wineglass Bay Lookout walk (3km return, 1 – 1.5 hours) and the Cape Toureville lighthouse walk. The first was steep and a little slippery uphill, with more steps than the sign indicates in the last stretch, but the view is worth it and there is always the kudos once you return. Beware the suicide selfie tourist who plants themselves in the middle of all the best shots.
Some of the path is interesting in itself, with rocks and flora to satisfy everyone.
The lighthouse walk was very easy , with good firm paths and gave pretty views in all directions. There was a variety of geography.
Good walking shoes and determination are in order. Take water and read the advice to walkers.
We didn’t stay in the park, as it was Easter and everywhere was booked out, but we saw such a variety of accommodation options – campsites, cabins, tents, resorts.
Our real discovery of Hobart began with a cool sunrise! But we had arrived there the afternoon before.
Mona – the museum of old and new art- was first on the Hobart agenda and despite the fact that I am not very interested in art (I visited as a result of ‘top ten things to do’ and my husband’s interest) we stayed there for about 2 hours. There are some amazing and thought provoking displays, as well as the quirky and the just plain boring.
With about an hour of daylight left, we set our sights on Mt Wellington. It is a long and winding road, narrow and steep. There are painted markers on the road, telling you how far you have to travel to the summit, but at about 5km the cloud set in. By the time we got to the top, brief slits of red sunset managed to appear on occasion, but the swirling mass of sunset-tipped cumulus nimbus obliterated the view of Hobart we hoped to get that day.
The next day we headed out to Mount Nelson, reported to have views that were sometimes better than Wellington, as they were more reliable. The stories of the keepers of the signal station, from 1811 to 1969, where they used Semaphore over great distances, were inspiring and moving. The views were quite lovely but trees had clearly grown to obscure some angles.
We didn’t really give ourselves enough time in Hobart and feel we missed the architecture of the town and the character of the wharf, along with historical and general sites like the Botanical Gardens. OK, the Cadbury chocolate factory, too.
The roads and suburbs are easy to navigate, whether you are walking or driving. We had great weather while there – around 23C each day and there were nearby places that I would visit if I went again, such as Richmond. The townships are enticing in their history and manageable size. Top Ten Tips should add ‘one or two days to explore one of those quaint towns you passed through/by.’
On our exit, we stopped to say farewell to Mt Wellington and the Tasman Bridge.
We made an early start to Port Arthur, via Sorrell, stopping at Tessellation Pavement, the Devil’s Kitchen, Tasman Blowhole and Admiral’s Arch. The rugged coastline made it easy to understand how so many convicts, attempting escape, met their death. It also gave some insight into how bad things must have been in penal settlements.
The Port was easy to get to and had so much to offer, just as all the reviews suggested. The ticket was $39 each for adults with no concession and included a 40 minute tour of the near garden, the penitentiary, asylum, hospital, commissary residence and the church.
After this we had some time to wander at will until our boat trip (also included in the cost) to neighbouring Puer Island (a prison for boys under 15) and Isle of the Dead, as well as giving some information about the bay and the escapes that had been planned, the early ship-building and other industries. The tour guides were very informative and although we could have spent the day there, we both felt that we had received good value, memorable stories and outstanding photographs.
A very Aussie fancy dress – The funniest story we heard was about a convict who had been a tinker and traveller. He decided that to escape he would need a disguise and a guard would be too hard, a civilian was too much like a convict, so he caught and skinned a kangaroo. Draping the skin over him, he made his way to the narrow stretch of land that would lead him to freedom, where guard dogs were kept hungry in order to catch any escapees. The dogs smelt him but the soldiers, rarely seeing fresh meat, also thought the big kangaroo was worth a shot. Realising that he was close to being killed, he called out that it was he and was caught, sent back to the penitentiary and received 100 lashes.
Port Arthur is definitely worth a visit. Publications say you can spend a day there and I can see how that is possible. Many stay or arrive for the ghost tours. We were there for about 4 hours and we didn’t see some things, but I felt it was fine. We had time to buy up at one of the souvenir shops, so I’m happy.
Safe travels. It may be cool but you’ll need suncream, water and hat because the sun bites.
Leaving Strahan with Hobart in the GPS, we made it to Queenstown in good time, stopping for any exceptional views along the way.
Queenstown is like many towns in Australia that began as booming mining ventures and died a slow and unattractive death as the mine failed. There are quaint and ornate buildings in the town and impressive monuments to soldiers and to miners. Large hills form a protective backdrop to the town and the train station and Empire Hotel are beautifully maintained.
Just out of town we stopped at the mine, where the green pool at the base of the deep stratified pit made the copper deposits obvious. Apparently, Abel Tasman noted that his ships’ compass needle shot north while passing this island and knew that Iron would be found in large quantities when someone found a way to approach safely.
En route to the capital we visited Nelson Falls, which was an easy and picturesque 20 minute return walk to the tiered falls. The vegetation along the way was sub-tropical ferns and trees, very green and dotted with moss.
A roadside stop took us to a narrow and sometimes steep track to the Franklin River and one-person suspension bridge. I think that for both of us it was a milestone to see the river that had been at the heart of so much controversy in the ’80s. We were a little surprised to see the number of cars parked there, suggesting that at least 20 people had undertaken the Overland Trail – lasting 5-6 days. Good examples of fungus and bright flowers were caught.
Another stop at Derwent Bridge was special. There is a well-appointed visitor centre there, and we made use of the tables to have lunch with a great view.
Reading that Tarraleah had a distillery, we made our way into that town but only found the Hydroelectric station. It is pretty impressive, with information that it is merely one of a series of such stations along the river. Commanding views.
The little town of Ouse (ooze) was our signpost to turn off to Mount Field National Park and Russell Falls. The tourist literature said it was the most impressive of Tasmania’s waterfalls, with tiers over which it cascades. The drive was beautiful and, once there, the walk was easy and the falls pretty good, considering the locals said they hadn’t had much rain and it was the start of Autumn.
Although our GPS took us to a wall that must have featured on the heritage list, rather than our expected accommodation, a quick phone call to Motel 429 brought us to the desired establishment in Sandy Bay. A good location, opposite Wrest Point Casino and calm water, beneath the brooding shoulder of Mt Wellington. There were supermarkets, restaurants and food vans on the weekend, all within an easy walk. If that wasn’t enough, we got a stunning sunset.
As Jane Austin says in Pride and Prejudice, near and far are relative terms. If you see my blog on the Northern Territory, you can cover a lot of ground in a short time. Fast travel isn’t for everyone, though. And if you start in a big city like Sydney, you will possibly not get so far, but have seen a great deal.
Western Australia is the largest State and has almost every climate type (see below), producing every kind of environment. Before I went, people warned that it was a long way to anywhere, but it really is about a day’s travel to many of the locations (8-10 hours drive at 100km/hr). We did it in 39 days, but that included a long stop in Perth and other extended stops, as well as inland treks.
Every State has a lot to see and do. You would have to look at the time you have and marry it with the things you want or love to do.
The time of the year
As a big island, we have an enormous range in climate. Our climate is temperamental. Check before you leave.
In everyday language, above the Tropic of Capricorn (see map in A good State to be in) you will be guaranteed warm to hot weather all year. Clothing – strictly shorts and light tops.
The vast desert region occupying most of the centre is cold at night in the dry season, loosely corresponding to Winter (June – August) and mild at other times. Do not underestimate how hot it gets in the desert – we have met travellers from Europe about to embark on the Tanami Desert , carrying no water. THAT IS CRAZY! You’ll need a hat, too.
It is hot to extremely hot in the Wet (October – April) and can be tremendously humid.
October to April (roughly) is the cyclone season, so floods and very high winds would deter most travellers from the ‘top end’.
There is no Spring or Autumn in this region, although wildflowers (famous in Western Australia) bloom in what would be called Spring south of the Tropic.
As you would expect, from the Tropic it gets cooler as you head south and warmer as you go north. Winter in the south is from June to August and you’ll get lots of rain and cold winds but our snow regions are sparse. Our minimum temperatures don’t commonly go below zero but in the open it’ll be cold.
Summer in the south is from December to February, but we can have 40C in March (not unexpected in South Australia).
Western Australia is windy.
In geographical terms, the following map could help:
The things you enjoy seeing and doing.
We are a population that hugs the coast and once won most of the Olympic swimming competitions. We are a beach culture. However, in the north there are ‘stingers’ in Summer. These are jelly fish that sting and some can be fatal. While some beaches have vinegar or warm water for removing the tentacles or sting, not all do and it is common in these regions for people to do most of their swimming in chlorinated public or private pools.
Climbing – we have plenty of hills and ranges to climb.
Walking – with so much space and distance there is a walk to suit all abilities and ages. Many have bike access or are wheelchair friendly.
Train rides – I’m not sure if we can compete with the speeds of Europe, but we have some delightful and some dramatic steam train journeys, including the 52 degree incline of the Blue Mountain rail journey. Then there are the epic journeys between states and across the dessert.
Underwater adventure – whether it’s the fast disappearing Barrier Reef, the Whitsundays or the Ningaloo Reef, we have underwater scenery to amaze you. Swim with sharks if that takes your fancy, but make sure you are in the cage!
Cycling – It is mandatory in many States, now, for all new roads to have bike lanes. We have the Tour Downunder for a reason, so there are tracks and roadways for everyone.
Scenery – what can I say? We have it all – the good, the great and the unusual.
Birdlife – a very large variety of birdlife can be found and you are better off checking the location you are thinking of or going to http://www.birdlife.org.au/ before deciding where you’ll bird watch.
Wildlife – Our unique marsupials are world renowned. We have most of the deadliest snakes in the world, so research that and tread heavily where you go.
Fishing – yep! I’d recommend joining one of the Barra (Barramundi) safaris for adventure, but look out for the eyes floating on top of the water.
Food – we are a multicultural country so I defy you not to find your culture’s culinary delight. We offer food trails in most States and several in some. Free samples, too!
Wine – ah! Bacchus couldn’t ask for more. Light wines in rainy areas, heavier in the dry. Don’t look for anything in Queensland or Northern Territory , as the humid climate and the grapes are not friends. Although they do import from the rest of us, so you’ll find something. Beer is the poison of those regions.
Botany – plants and flowers to satisfy Joseph Banks. We have such a wide range you’d need to check local areas.
Camping – of course. But we are a big place with lots of isolated areas. Be careful and sensible.