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Tasmania, February 2010 – Part 1

Photo albums from this trip are here.

In February, we fled the heat and humidity of Townsville to spend two weeks in Tasmania and nearly a week in Melbourne. We departed on the 10th on a flight to Brisbane, connecting with a flight to Hobart, arriving a bit after noon.

We stayed at the Mercure Hobart, chosen mainly because it was just around the corner from the Europcar depot where we were collecting our rental car on Thursday. After a walk around part of the downtown area (mainly to find lunch), I took a nap before we set off to walk to Battery Point to meet Robin and Alicia Johnson and Keith Curtis at the Shipwright Arms for dinner. Good food, good company, taxi back to hotel.

On Thursday, 11 February, we collected the rental car, a Nissan XTrail (similar to our Subaru Forrester), and set off for the Freycinet Peninsula. We skipped some of the usual tourist side trips (such as Port Arthur) because we’d been there before. The weather was overcast with occasional sprinkles. We were struck by how dry the countryside looked. We expect this in outback areas of the mainland, but not in Tasmania.

Our cabin at Freycinet LodgeWe would have a nice view over Great Oyster Bay from our cabin at the Freycinet Lodge, were it not for the cloud and mist. The main room had a work desk, a lounge, and an extra alcove below one window. There was also a porch with a view of the beach. The bathroom not only had a shower, but also a spa bath. The cabin does not have TV (which we don’t use) nor phone. It did however have soothing classical guitar playing from a mini CD player.

Wineglass Bay, Freycinet PeninsulaWe returned to the Lodge through the light rain a little before 6 p.m. Bought a bottle of Freycinet Wines Riesling, at the recommendation of the Hazards bar attendant, and after receiving a small sample glass. It was traditional dry riesling, not the sweet stuff of recent decade that rivals moselle for being insipid. We dined at The Bay restaurant. Eric had a nice chunk of beef; I had the Tasmanian ocean trout with a Niçoise side salad. Excellent food.

Cliffs at Bluestone BayOn Friday, 12 February, after a good buffet breakfast (bacon, eggs, sausage, baked beans, muffins, cereal, fruit, the works) at the Lodge—included in the room cost—we went on a 4WD tour of the northern part of Freycinet Peninsula and Bluestone Bay.

We drove across the peninsula on the Cape Tourville Road past Sleepy Bay to the lighthouse overlooking Cape Tourville, where we took an easy 20 minutes walk on a well formed track. Some wonderful rock formations in the sea. Then we drove a rough bush track to White Water Wall, to wander unmarked paths and clamber on cliffs overlooking the sea. We could then look back at the lighthouse and area we had previously visited, far down the coast.

We bashed along another 4WD only track to the delightful Bluestone Bay, with the amazing two tone waters. The tide was very low. There we wandered up a bracken covered track to another lookout over Bluestone Bay. That also provided amazing views of the cliffs and water. Eric saw what looked like a pelican, but was actually some other seabird. Not the sort of sea gull he expected, with a bulbous beak.

Our guide Steve provided giant macadamia biscuits to accompany some billy tea made from tea tree leaves from local bushes. Very different to traditional tea, but reasonably flavoursome.

Back at the lodge, we enjoyed another delicious dinner. For starters we had a small bread loaf provided with butter, a nice olive oil, and a tasty reddish power to dip with the oil. This was Bush Dust, a local Tasmanian mixture of local and traditional spices, such as paprika, with additions like macadamia powder. For mains, Eric had lightly spiced lamb cutlets on a bed of zucchini, tomatoes, and garnished with pine nuts, and Jean enjoyed something we failed to record. The wine was a Pinot Noir.

East coastBay of FiresOn Saturday, 13 February, we packed up and headed north along the east coast to St Helens. After short stops at some of the towns along the way, we drove to Binalong Bay and to other spots along the Bay of Fires. This area is characterised by patches of bright orange lichens on the rocks along the shore.

We stayed at the Tidal Water Resort in St Helens, where Jean was delighted to discover soft shell crabs with salad on the dinner menu. Eric had plain old fish and chips, with salad. The fish was locally caught, and came golden battered and very tasty. Ninth Island Pinot Grigio was our wine this evening.

On Sunday, 14 February, after a buffet breakfast (good, though not up to the one at Freycinet), we drove west, discovering a fair number of twisty bits of road. Not New Zealand standard, but enough to be tiring. We were driving part of the trip through rain forest, with a lot of interesting ferns and plantations of small, silver leafed trees.

We spent some time wandering around the former tin mining town of Derby, which had an interesting tin museum. A few sunbeams accompanied us around midday, making the continued overcast skies less oppressive. Despite the cloud, we only encountered a few sprinkles of rain on the windscreen, and virtually none while we wandered around at any of our stops.

At Scottsdale we noticed a neat looking wooden statue here, one of several we passed in different towns. This one was Simpson and his donkey, carrying the wounded at Gallipoli.

We continued on to Bridport, near the Brid River, on Anderson Bay. The town was rather pleasant and looked fairly modern. It also had a wooden statue, in front of a modern pub. We noticed a skate board ramp area for the children, although those using it were on miniature scooters rather than skate boards. Other than coastal shipping repair facilities, there was not a lot to see by the sea, so we continued our drive to George Town, where we were staying at the Pier Inn.

After a walk around the town, we enjoyed Atlantic salmon with lemon butter, wilted spinach, and big block chips, accompanied by a bottle of Tamar Ridge Devil’s Corner Pinot Noir 2008, which proved a very light red indeed and went well with the salmon.

Tamar River near Low HeadThe next morning (15 February) featured wonderful blue skies, so we drove a short distance to Low Head. This estuary entrance has several lead lights alongside the road. The major attraction is a fine lighthouse on the headland. Nearby was a restored semaphore tower, one of several covering a good distance in that area. Semaphores basically died when the superior telegraph was invented, and went from big business to a dead loss in remarkably short period.

North coastWe then drove to Smithton, crossing the Tamar River and wandering through twisting hilly roads, with lengthy straight stretches in valley basins, to Devon­port. At various parts of the drive, we passed one of Tasmania’s export crops, opium poppies, for medical use.

The Bass Highway from Devonport to Burnie was a dual carriageway, which made for fast travel but more limited opportunities for stopping to photograph the countryside. The coast scenery looked great. We diverted to the volcanic plug that makes up the cape overlooking Wynyard. The minor road to this had extensive opium farms alongside it, along with the more usual cattle, sheep, and unidentified vegetables being grown. We also diverged at Stanley, to get a better look at the more prominent volcanic plug that dominates the low coastal area. That was an impressive chunk of rock.

In Smithton we stayed at the Tall Timbers hotel, a beautiful place, with wonderful timber ceilings. There are clusters of rooms, perhaps a half dozen per building. These also have very attractive woodwork panelling and built in furniture. There is a tennis court, a gymnasium, a therapeutic heated swimming pool, and four separate bars: a games room bar, a sports bar, a comfortable looking lounge bar, and the bistro bar, where we dined. In addition, there is a bottle shop, with a very nice range of Tasmanian wines, including several Pinot Noirs we had not yet sampled. Jean enjoyed the venison on broccolini and potato mash, with Béarnaise sauce, and a garden salad on the side. Eric had the slow cooked roast scotch fillet.

Continued…

Page last updated 25 July 2010.