Cradle Mountain, Tasmania – Australia

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Heading onto Cradle Mountain from Strahan as a self- drive itinerary, it crosses the Alpine Plateau which also passes through old mining towns that still produce silver, lead and zinc. Stopping at Black Bluff gave a magnificent overview of the forestation in the region.


Scenery all along the way is stunning, even when the weather has turned cooler.


The drive at a leisurely pace was under three hours with some photo opportunities taken like this one.


Practically at the turnoff for Cradle Mountain National Park is the Cradle Mountain Hotel. No doubt easy to find and located in a quiet position. Noticeably the hotel has been designed to fit into the natural surrounds with subdued colours and low-height levels which make it an attractive consideration to stay within the area.


Loved the balcony whereby you had the ability to step out and enjoy the view. The smell of eucalyptus is one of my favourites. For bookings http://www.cradlemountainhotel.com.au


And this is the amazing view from my room – now this is what I call meditation at its best. With a cuppa in hand why would you want to do too much else but relax and enjoy it?


After settling in, it’s time to drive again and see Cradle Mountain for my very first time while the weather is still feasible. You can buy your National Park entrance at the hotel reception desk. At the time of writing this post the fee was A$16.00 per adult per day.


The road is quite narrow in different parts and if you’re driving your own vehicle then take it easy as it’s difficult to see what’s coming from the other direction. You will need to pull over, stop and at times allow the other vehicle to have precedence.

However, at a check point near the tourism office, there are shuttle buses which take visitors back and forth to alleviate the traffic congestion. They run over scheduled times and are quite frequent.


Your first time seeing a glimpse of Cradle Mountain makes you want to hurry around to the viewing platforms. But it’s best to go a bit slower and marvel at the scenery within the Lake St Clair National Park; itself is a part of the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area.


The wild landscape with its ancient rainforest, alpine heathlands, buttongrass and stands of colourful deciduous beech provide some of the best walking tracks.


Speaking of walking tracks, there’s a myriad to choose from and each individual should take into account their level of fitness and the weather conditions. For all snow and road closure or condition advisories, please contact the Cradle Mountain Visitor Centre: Phone (61) 03 6492 1110.


Registration of walkers is a must as it helps in locating those who may have gone off the beaten track.


Cradle is the starting point for the world-famous Overland Track – a magnificent six-day walk that will take you through the heart of some of the finest mountain terrain, mirrored here in the still clear waters.


And yes, it is stunning to see first hand Cradle Mountain which has witnessed incredible changes to the landscape over centuries. Postcards and photos don’t do this area justice. Go and see it for yourself!


Icy streams cascading out of rugged mountains and a wealth of wildlife ensure you remember one of the best National Parks in the world.


Well look who has turned up  in its natural habitat! A wombat going about their daily business taking a stroll and checking out the food scene. As an Australian, I’ve never witnessed so many native animals out and about as what I’ve seen in Tasmania and in particular within the Lake St Clair National Park.


Brrr … Back at the Cradle Mountain Hotel, nice and cosy. It was a great afternoon and glad to see the Mountain and surrounds. But it’s time for a glass of vino!

Travel Gracefully on 2RRR FM 88.5 Thursdays 11:00 am

A little announcement today 15th June at 11:00 am my time Sydney EST Australia, I’m going to chat on air 2RRR 88.5 FM with a friend Maree who is a Flight Attendant and has some funny little stories to tell us. There’s a ‘Listen Online Now’ link on http://www.2rrr.org.au  for the Travel Gracefully program on Thursday mornings over the next few weeks.

Listen in as Maree tells us what are some of the requirements these days for being a Flight Attendant.

I remember waiting to attend an interview in the lobby for a Flight Attendant position many, many years ago and whilst we were all nervous, a fellow returned from the men’s room and sat opposite me. As we smiled at each other, I went over and said quietly to him, “I think you’d better do up your fly”.

Gordon River Cruise, Strahan – Tasmania


For me it’s an early start to the Gordon River Cruise and looking down from Strahan Village’s accommodation tucked up on the hillside, here’s a fabulous view of what’s ahead for the day. Can’t wait to walk down to the pier and set sail to see the UNESCO listedTasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area on the state’s west coast.


One of the Gordon River Cruise’s vessels – the stately Lady Jane Franklin II is a large, fast and stable catamaran which carries up to 200 passengers and has on board cinematic floor-to-ceiling windows giving a maximum vantage in being able to witness some of the  most unique natural wilderness – not just in Australia but the world.

For bookings check the website  http://www.gordonrivercruises.com.au


Sailing out of the sheltered Macquarie Harbour, it’s just a perfect day with mirror-like waters ahead before entering Hells Gates.


It’s a notoriously shallow and dangerous channel entrance from/to the harbour. The actual channel is between Macquarie Heads on the west and Entrance Island on the east (the main length of the harbour runs southeast of Hells Gates).

The name of the channel relates to the original convicts’ claims that it was their point of ‘entrance to Hell’. Their Hell being the Macquarie Harbour Penal Station on Sarah Island and the outlying surrounds of the harbour of which we visit later on.


Passing by Entrance Island whereby the lights were built before the Cape Sorell lighthouse which is also heritage listed.


Leaving the protected harbour, we’re all enjoying morning tea or a glass of bubbly by now – especially if you’ve a ticket to the Captain’s Premier Upper Deck!


Magnificent views of the foreshores with calm waters makes for a very relaxing day with an excellent commentary given by the staff.


On board we’re given the opportunity to understand some of the timbers of the region which are slow-growing and native to the UNESCO Widerness area.


Huon Pine is the prince of Tasmanian timbers with its richness of colour and figure made it one of the world’s most desirable furniture and veneering timbers. It grows at a rate of between 0.3 – 2 mm per year. Because of its scarcity, its price tag is exorbitant compared to other timbers sought for woodwork purposes.


Disembarking at Heritage Landing Nature Walk allows us an insight into what the wooded region is really like when on land. The Tasmanian Parks and Wildlife Service are doing work on the boardwalks to conserve the natural environment.


It’s incredibly dense and you have a sense of the magnificent slow-growing  fauna which has taken place within this ancient forest. It’s definitely a ‘survival of the fittest’ here with plants vying for a patch!


It’s only a short walkway which has been raised to ensure our walking on the ground does not impact on the vegetation.


Feels like a really magical place to be and honored we’re permitted to see it first hand from our day out. Ordinarily tourists only have access by taking one of the chartered cruises such as this one.


Shaded throughout the day the undergrowth never dries out and feels quite cool.


The Franklin Dam or Gordon-below-Franklin Dam project was a proposed dam on the Gordon River – and luckily it had never been constructed. Thankfully, the movement which eventually led to the project’s cancellation became one of the most significant environmental campaigns in Australian history. In December 1982, the dam site was occupied by protesters leading to widespread arrests and world publicity gained momentum. The dispute became a federal issue the following year in March. A legal battle between the Federal Government and the Tasmania Government followed resulting in a landmark High Court ruling in the Federal Government’s favour.

When you see for yourself the beauty and serenity of the area along with the untouched natural wilderness; it’s a relief to know some things in life are sacred and should be kept as such.

We’re now heading off to Sarah Island with lunch on board which is buffet style and we’re all feeling a little hungry after our short sojourn on land.


Having disembarked we’re ready to view Sarah Island and its history which had a reputation of unspeakable horrors…


This isolated island was a Penal Settlement between 1822 and 1833 from the United Kingdom and established before the more well-known Port Arthur as a place of ‘secondary’ punishment. Basically an attempt to control the ‘uncontrollable’. Or perhaps steal a loaf of bread and then you were transported to what was considered ‘the end of the earth’ if caught.


There are some obvious ruins on the Island today. Most of the buildings were of timber construction which has been removed or rotted. Some deliberate damage many years ago by those who wanted the island’s history forgotten and the activity of souvenir collectors in the late 19th Century and early 20th Century have depleted the brick and stone structures.


However, at the end of the day we’re all glad we didn’t live in the early days Australia was discovered and witnessed the hardships of men and women who ultimately settled in a new country; one which is on a latitude in the southern hemisphere being the equivalent to the north – or in other words, a world away!


Overnighting at Strahan Village, it offers 142 rooms with free WiFi throughout and designed to complement the seaside atmosphere. Comfortable rooms with a sunken lounge area to relax and unwind. There’s also a bar and restaurant for those who’d rather stay in and enjoy the amenities.


With an eagle’s-eye view of the harbour, you can choose accommodation whereby a balcony enhances the experience. Then simply, admire the changing light while eating in overlooking the harbour and pondering what was a fabulous day out cruising.

For bookings check the website www.strahanvillage.com.au

Strahan, Tasmania – Australia – Part One


Along the main road from Devonport and onto Strahan, there’ll be the odd opportunity to take a photo from the roadway. Generally, I found if there was a superb view coming up in the distance, the ability to pull over was a little further ahead. Slow right down as most of us from country regions know that loose gravel and speed is treacherous. There shouldn’t be any need to be hasty as the road is really quite winding and concentration while driving is paramount – not to mention it can be tiring.

I was relieved to find Marsden Court Apartments were at the first crossroads into Strahan, so easy for me to find my accommodation after a long drive.


Before settling into my accommodation for the night, owner Pam advised to head down to Ocean Beach for the evening’s magical curtain call. She wasn’t wrong! How terrific is this sunset and it’s not too far from Marsden Court Apartments – just a block or so down the road, then turn right and follow the signs. Obviously you won’t be disappointed! No retouching on this photo …

Loved the story Pam told me later on as to how she was visiting the east coast at Swansea some years ago to see the sun rise, and then drove home to the west coast after about six hours to watch it set at Ocean Beach on the same day.


Take a snack and drink to revel in the changing light show. Over the years I’d heard how beautiful Strahan is, but you should check it out for yourself and truly appreciate how fabulous its beauty and clean, fresh air really is.  I understand if you flew ‘by the crow’  westwards, the first country you’d reach would be the southern tip of Argentina.


Happy to say, Marsden Court’s self-contained, spacious two-bedroom or studio accommodation apartments are fully equipped with all conveniences such as microwaves and hotplates to prepare your meals. Additionally, they have air conditioning and private balconies. Home away from home …


Marsden Court offers spacious, modern studios and two-bedroom apartments with kitchenettes which have all the facilities of home. Large flat-screen TV and DVD players are available along with wifi in each room. They also have provision for those who are less mobile and are green accredited.

For bookings see http://www.marsdencourt.com.au


The two-bedroom apartments of Sharonlee Strahan Villas (just across the road from Marsden Court) are great for families with full sized ovens, microwaves, a large fridge and spacious lounge and dining areas.

My recommendation is to stay in Strahan at least four to five nights as there’s so much to see and enjoy in the region. And, when you feel the comfort of home like this property after a long drive, then you can be assured of feeling relaxed and on holiday. Free parking alongside your accommodation too – so no need to worry about your vehicle and you can unpack your goodies with ease.

For bookings check http://www.sharonleestrahanvillas.com.au 


And just up the hill a couple of blocks away in Strahan there’s the local IGA and bakery for all your supplies. No need to eat out every night as you can just ‘chill out’ in your PJs and cook up a storm.

Both properties can also be booked through the TasVillas group check out: http://tasvillas.com/our-properties/the-west-north-west-and-cradle-valley/


Both properties are either side of Andrew Street and run by Pam and Mark who are incredibly helpful and full of the local area’s information and have a tour desk on site.

However, it was interesting to note the old original railway turntable had been here on the Sharonlee property and they donated it to the West Coast Wilderness Railway at Regatta Point in Strahan. Now it’s a lovely rose garden within their premises for all guests to admire.


So here it is – next morning everyone has the chance to see the old turntable still in use here at Regatta Point in Strahan.


Today’s outing is with the West Coast Wilderness Railway and the feeling in the air is that everyone’s very excited about being a passenger on a full-day excursion to Queenstown and return on a  steam locomotive – and is still being used as an historically important part of Tasmania’s livelihood. Standing proudley is one of the original Dubs & Co Abt steam locomotives; she may be small but has a big heart in what’s about to be tackled up ahead of her today.

So, Good Morning to you majestic little lady – now being steamed up and prepared for all to enjoy. We’re going to be hauled along to some magnificent heights during the day as the steepest gradient on the rack section is 1 in 15 (6.67%).


To start off the morning whilst the locomotive is being readied for its outing, the passengers can enjoy a morning pastry with tea/coffee before boarding. Tickets and seating is given when checking in at the office.

The West Coast Wilderness Railway is a reconstruction of the Mount Lyell Mining and Railway Company in Tasmania between Queenstown and Regatta Point. If you’re visiting Strahan this is a definite to have on your to-do list and a huge favourite with families.


Way to go! With a toot of the locomotive’s driver, we’re on our way.


When you see the terrain of what the railway workers constructed overland and through the forestation back in the late 1800s, it’s incredibly hard to believe that it was ever made possible. The railway utilised the Abt rack and pinion system for steep sections and can be seen in the centre of the track here. Because of the gradients, tonnages used in the past to transport copper was always limited on the railway line as the gauge is 3 ft 6 in (1,067 mm).


Iron bridges over massive gorges are numerous.


The views across the escarpments are second to none and again we can see the rack and pinion system with its ‘teeth’ assisting the locomotive to make our day a reality.


Pete giving the petite loco a drink as it’s thirsty work and we’ve yet to tackle the more steeper areas along the way to Queenstown and then back again.


Ready to go and with another toot we all know it’s time to board and push onwards.


In the township of Queenstown, the discovery of gold and copper deposits at the Iron Blow in the 1880s led to the opening of the vast operations of the Mt Lyell Mining & Railway Co. Lovely area to visit and steeped in history – even for a day trip.


Additionally the station here caters with the Tracks Café offering delicious meals at an affordable price and the staff are really friendly. The new terminus in Queenstown is on the site of the original station yard.

You may wish to book a package which includes lunch within your ticket price.


Mining started in the 1880s with the Queen River being used for waste water disposal from the Mt Lyell copper mine. Between 1922 and 1995 low grade ore was concentrated on site and the tailings (ore-washing residue) dumped in the river also.


Having a hand at gold panning when we stopped for afternoon tea.


Magnificent views homeward bound with the fresh smell of eucalyptus trees while we chug along.


And at the end of the day, I think Pete’s put in a good hard day’s work at the ‘office’, but geez he looks like he’s enjoyed going to work each and every day.

The West Coast Wilderness Rail returns to Strahan around 5:00 pm and scheduled services only operate till the early days of April due to poor light towards the colder months. However, check their website for half-day outings.

For bookings see http://www.wcwr.com.au/bookings/

Launceston, Tasmania – Australia


Now heading off from Coles Bay and back inland towards Campbell Town was my pick on the day for the drive to Launceston. As you travel on the Lake Leake Road, the views are sensational from the ridges above looking back toward the Hazards and the peninsula.


Excellent opportunities to stop and take a few photos of the peaceful scenery.


Typical farming landscape makes it feel very much like my own home town with very friendly people to have a chat with and a well-earned coffee break at Campbell Town.


Now I’m feeling tempted … Some fabulous buys with antiques calling my name to go inside and make my acquaintance – and take them home.


Continuing onto Devonport from Coles Bay may be a bit longer in terms of driving times, but considering it was a better road with some interesting sights to stop and visit, it seemed to be a better choice on the day.


So if you’ve been to Launceston before this water mill is not new to you as it’s one of the most recognised landmarks. My car is parked right under it for free being a guest at the Leisure Inn Penny Royal! For bookings see  http://www.tasvillas.com as this property is also part of the TasVillas Group.


The Leisure Inn Penny Royal Hotel and Apartments offer various categories of accommodation and facilities. It caters well for families and has self-contained apartments too – not everyone wants to eat out every night and it’s a big save when travelling with children.
Additionally for further information and bookings see http://www.leisureinnpennyroyal.com.au/


Queen-size bedroom with kitchenette – spacious and comfortable with fast wifi. Free parking as a guest and is perfect for couples on the go who want to stay in and enjoy feeling like they’re at home.


Rooms at the hotel are comfy and spacious with a rustic framework which feels very much in the era they were built. Warm and cosy with a great restaurant and bar within the complex makes it easy to access with no driving involved if having a couple of bevvies. It’s one of the most popular hotels to catch up with friends with a lively atmosphere and vibe.


Just a short walk up the road is the Penny Royal Adventures Theme Park and Attractions‎. If you’re staying at the hotel and apartments like me, it’s the perfect location to just soak up some sun while people watching and enjoying a cuppa with a friend.


After two years in development the run-down Penny Royal location was transformed to a modern welcoming tourist complex officially opened in 2016. It offers rides, cellar door, dining and boat rides for the young ones. A favourite of many local families who had grown up with the park in their youth – and it seems everyone’s really pleased with the outcome.


Oh, did I say zip lining is here as well?


And again just a little further up and over the bridge is Cataract Gorge and a must see.


Walk along the pathway which overlooks the South Esk River and it’ll take you to the Gorge Restaurant as well as the lake area which is really worth the walk.


There was plenty of seating to relax and enjoy the views. If you wanted to, bring your lunch as well and soak up some warm sunshine – it’s just a perfect day out.


The First Basin on the southern side features a swimming pool, two cafés, a funicular railway and an open area surrounded by bushland. The chairlift was built in 1972 and it’s total span is 457 metres – which is the longest single-span chairlift in the world.


A walk over the Alexandra Suspension Bridge will take you over to the opposite side which is a steeper walk back to the main entrance.


Undoubtedly this fella has seen a few changes over the years …


Afterwards, keep meandering along towards the city and you’ll find the most frequented park. Officially named Royal Park in 1912, it’s originally the site of a military barracks which was developed as parkland in the late 1800s. It’s also where Launceston’s Cenotaph can be located.


And if you’ve walked all that way during the day, might as well keep going and make way to the mall whereby you’ll see some of the best early Australian architecture. Oh yeah shopping too …


Incidentally, I’ve not really needed my car today at all as the location of my hotel has made it an easy day out with everything being within walking distance. So might as well buy some Tassie apples to take with me for my next day’s drive to chomp away on – crisp, sweet and simply delicious.


Local street art near the Tourism office in Devonport – think this is where to have some lunch on my way to Strahan. Parking is metered here and no free spots anywhere central.


The Spirit of Tasmania is docked here also and passengers with cars from Melbourne have opted to drive around the state with their own vehicles. Good idea to compare prices against hiring a car – in particular if you’re an Aussie.

Next stop Strahan, west side of Tasmania.

North-east Coast and Wineglass Bay, Tasmania – Australia


Heading out to the north-east coastline of Tasmania offers some of the most amazing forestation you will witness along the way with the refreshing smell of Eucalyptus trees.

And, if you’d ever read the novel ‘Eucalyptus’ you’d think it had been written here. It tells the story of Ellen Holland, a young woman whose “speckled beauty” and unattainability become legend; the man who could correctly name all the species on her father’s property would win her hand in marriage. Tough job as there are more than 700 species of eucalyptus and most are native to Australia being the main staple for koalas.


There’s no shortage of old sand-stone churches along the way either, with old gravesites within the yard making it just a little eerie.


Raspin’s Beach Conservation Reserve is worthy of a stop and admire the view.


Sand shoes hanging tied to the fence just in case you miss the entrance of the Gumleaves Bush Holidays property.


This one’s a little more obvious and just as much fun to look at.


Clean air and clear views all the way. Road heading north on the Great Eastern Drive is quite good and no issues with driving.


Meandering along and a stop at Devil’s Corner allows you a tasting of some of Tassie’s fine wines. A number of Cellar Doors will attest to great local produce and especially cheeses.


Being a cool climate, Pinot Noir is in great demand with vineyards packed with some of that delicious red liquid we all love on occasion. Some of the best grapes are found along the route between Swansea and Bicheno.


Tassie is a photographer’s dream … You’ll see so many opportunities like this one.


After an overnight stay in Bicheno, I’m ready for my Wineglass Bay Cruise and it’s 8:00 am in the morning and one of the most glorious days anyone could ask for.


And as I’m heading out on an organised cruise, this is good advice to anyone contemplating going out on their own. As always, I prefer to be with a company who provides all the necessities and a bit of luxury to enjoy the day out.


Heading out of Coles Bay with Wineglass Bay Cruises, we can see some of the best views of Freycinet National Park of which you might not if travelling by road.


Not too long before we’re making the most of our four-hour trip to Honeymoon Bay.


We were lucky enough to see a pod of dolphins and they were racing us for at least 15 minutes! Sidling up to the boat they seemed to be having the best time – not to mention the passengers  who were all ecstatic – including me!


Many of the rock faces have been chiselled by howling winds over the centuries.


It may look cold but once we stopped for lunch it was down to t-shirts and sun glasses. A lot of feldspar or red granite can be seen in the centuries old rock formations.


Pure serenity along the pristine beach areas.


Bird life is prevalent along the coastline with plenty of fish for their own needs.


After relaxing for a number of hours, our day out cruising seemed to fly. Love to go back …


Looking back at Coles Bay you can see the rugged coastline and how fantastic a day out with a cruise could be when exploring all these nooks and crannies. Especially given the commentary and history of the region onboard makes it much more rewarding. Considering there was a Dutch and French influence going back historically to the Freycinet region (hence the name), makes a truly interesting day out.

For enquiries see http://www.wineglassbaycruises.com/

Next stop Launceston.

Hobart and Richmond, Tasmania – Australia


Flying into Australia’s Tasmanian main gateway city and capital Hobart after an absence of 27 years wasn’t something I’d planned. However this had been my last driving holiday as well. In fact, Australia is the only country (well maybe NZ) I will drive in.

I’ve been asked in the past why I’ve not written much about my own country, but I assume like others I’ll do more of it as I age … Anyway, I won’t be leaving it so long again to visit as Tasmania has ‘grown up’ substantially since my last time here. In terms of great wine and food trails,  tourist sites and many little hidden and unknown gems, it’s real drawcard is the wilderness and the wildlife which live in it.  Anyway, I’m going to start at the bottom of Australia and work my way up!

To give you an indication of the size, Tasmania is 68,332 square kilometres (26,383 square miles) in area. The distance from north to south is about 364 kilometres (226 miles) and from east to west about 306 kilometres (190 miles). It’s about the same size as Ireland, Switzerland or the state of West Virginia in the USA.


Upon arrival at Hobart Airport, you will have flown in with either Qantas, Jetstar or Virgin airlines from one of the three main gateways off the mainland of eastern Australia being Brisbane, Sydney or Melbourne. The stringent quarantine regulations are not just imposed on international passenger arrivals, but that of mainland Australian residents as well. No fruit, vegetables, fish/meat etc cannot be brought in as the cute-looking dog walking on the conveyor belt will no doubt pick it out. See the website below for further information.

You can easily pick up a car or campervan to travel around Tassie from the airport or city locations if you are considering driving around our smallest state. I cannot stress enough the importance of slowing down as the native wildlife is abundant here and the roads which have been built through their backyard takes its toll on these creatures as evidenced along the way.

If you are not wanting to pick up a car immediately, you can catch the Airporter bus service into Hobart for a cost of A$19.00 per adult one way to your city hotel. On today’s exchange rate A$1.00 = USD0.76 cents.

Bus services between cities and tourist attractions is almost non-existent and I would encourage you to hire a vehicle for ease and convenience. And, like most island nations we drive on the left side of the road … The correct way I say!

http://www.aera.asn.au/tq12/docs/tq12_quarrantine.pdf


Staying at the Fountainside Hotel is  not only close to everything along the foreshore and harbour side, it’s practically the first hotel you’ll drive into from the airport to the city centre. This saves time trying to figure out the one-way streets when you’ve not been here before and making it easier to find a suitable hotel which is handy to all that you need.

Late afternoon view of the park with plenty of lovely natural light streaming in. Parking is available on site which is a treat as it’s free with your stay whilst here. You’ll be given a slip to place on your dashboard or risk being towed away.

http://tasvillas.com/properties/hobart-south-west-properties/fountainside-hotel-2/

 


Large and spacious rooms make it a comfortable place to relax before doing a quick run-around of the close city sights.  TasVillas Group have locally based staff who can assist with all itinerary planning, checking availability at multiple properties and locations and offer a fast reliable booking service for anyone contemplating their Tasmanian trip. See www.tasvillas.com 


Oh really – Mint Icecream on the menu at Fountainside? So good I had it both nights … Staff here are incredibly friendly and will make your stay a memorable one.


Walk along the foreshore –  this is close to where the Sydney to Hobart Yacht race finishes after navigating some of the most unforgiving waters across Bass Strait which separates Tassie from the mainland. This happens towards the end of each year and if you’re a die hard fan, book in early as there’s always a massive influx of revellers, doesn’t matter if you own a yacht or not.


Plenty of vessels to go out on the harbour for you to enjoy – doesn’t matter what time of the year. Summer in Australia is the peak season for Tasmania with everything open, up and running, so from December to end of February it’s quite busy but the shoulder seasons can be as well. My advice is to steer clear of school holidays if you can.

The Mawson’s Huts Replica Museum is  situated in Hobart, ‘The  Gateway to Antarctica’, on the city’s beautiful waterfront and just 50 metres from Constitution Dock and Mawson’s Place.


The building was opened on Monday 2nd December 2013 which was the 102nd anniversary of the departure from Hobart of the Australasian Antarctic expedition 1911-14 which Douglas Mawson led. Just outside the front door is where they departed.


Phonogram anyone, let’s dance? Some wonderful artefacts still exist.


Afterwards you can go out to the ferry terminal for MONA – The Museum of Old and New Art. Book early as it fills up.


Salamanca is the place to visit as it has fantastic retail shops with all kinds of crafts, food and artistic feasts for the eyes.


Arty crafty and bit of fun around Salamanca.

Gillie and Marc have worked side by side for 25 years. The husband and wife team are New York and Sydney-based contemporary artists who collaborate to create art as one.

Gillie and Marc first met on a film shoot in Hong Kong. On paper, their differences should have been incompatibilities, but their hearts said something else. Seven days later, they were married in the foothills of Mount Everest. This intrepid pair are best known for their iconic hybrid characters Dogman and Rabbitgirl who tell the autobiographical tale of two opposites coming together to become best friends and soul mates – proving everything is possible through love.


Wombats, how could you not love this face? Here at Bonorong it’s a sanctuary for disbanded or injured wildlife run by a passionate team of like-minded people. The wombat is the largest burrowing mammal and an accomplished burrower that early settlers called it a ‘badger’. However, its closest relative is in fact the koala. With its short tail and legs, characteristic waddle and ‘cuddly’ appearance the wombat is one of the most endearing of Australia’s native animals.


Tasmanian Devils are a rarity and these ones have been culled due to a cancerous growth on their little faces and won’t be released into the wild again.  The rescue centre offers up-close viewings of endangered native wildlife and guided educational tours.


Koalas are very cuddly and although I’ve lived all my life in Australia, this is the first time I’ve been so ‘up close and personal’ with one.


Surroundings of the bush at Bonorong are beautifully kept and a day trip out with Grayline is definitely worth the visit. See http://www.grayline.com.au  to book as it will include a day trip to Richmond.


Historic town of Richmond after the sanctuary is a step back in time with great little coffee shops, antique stores and early Australiana architecture. The town’s most photographed landmark is the Richmond Bridge. Built by convicts in the 1820s, it’s the oldest bridge in Australia and offers a perfect picnic spot on the grassy banks of the Coal River.


St Lukes The Physician Church. There are only a few older churches in Tasmania and most of those erected earlier have either been rebuilt or altered to such an extent that very little of the original building is left.  In Richmond there are more than 50 Georgian buildings, many beautifully restored and now operating as restaurants, galleries and accommodation.


The Richmond Gaol is also the oldest gaol in Australia. Standing inside the stone cells gives an eerie insight into the hardships and brutality of convict life in early Van Diemen’s Land.


In 1812 the convict ship Indefatigable was the first ship to bring convicts direct from England to the shores of Van Diemen’s Land. This continued until 1853 when transportation ceased. Over a period of some 41 years more than 74,000 convicts were transported to Tasmania.


Up early for Salamanca Markets on a Saturday and street vendors hard at work selling fresh produce. Love the old scales, brings back memories of how to calculate without a device …


If you don’t have breakfast included in your room rate, then this is the place to come and have some well-earned brunch, especially after visiting all the stalls and listening to buskers belting out some great old tunes. Hard to decide which eatery has the best-tasting as it all smells so inviting. Best to stay for lunch as well.

Next stop north-east coast and Wineglass Bay.

Montevideo to Madrid, Spain


Flying from Montevideo to Santiago, Chile over the Andes Mountains which stretch along South America’s western side, is among the world’s longest mountain ranges. Its varied terrain encompasses glaciers, volcanoes, grassland, desert, lakes and forestation. The mountains shelter pre-Columbian archaeological sites and wildlife including chinchillas and condors. From Venezuela in the north, the range passes through Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia, Argentina and Chile. So much more to see of South America and one destination on my ‘return list’. LANTAM have an extensive network right across South America and destinations such as Spain is well serviced.


Australian passport holders do not require a visa to enter Chile. You will receive entry for up to 90 days with multiple entries.

Australian tourists entering Chile through Santiago International Airport are required to pay a ‘reciprocity fee’ and at the time of writing this blog – USD117.00 per adult. The fee can only be paid by cash or credit card upon arrival before clearing immigration. Transit passengers (like myself here) are not required to pay.

Contact the  http://Embassy or Consulate of Chile in Australia for updated information.


The LANTAM Lounge in Santiago offers a place to relax with fast wifi and facilities for a shower before heading off onto a long-haul flight with LANTAM being part of the Oneworld Alliance. Flying on a Boeing 789 from Santiago, Chile to Madrid is approximately 13 hours and being able to unwind beforehand is worth being a member of the group. On a commercial ticket just think of all those points you’ll accumulate!

Delicious canapés and drinks are available for passengers who qualify for entry.


Arrival at Madrid Airport is quite efficient despite its size, with a Visitor’s Desk nearby to the baggage carousel, they are happy to advise your options of ground transport and city attractions.


The Metro in Madrid is one of the best and fastest ways to make your way around a city whereby its population exceeds 3.3 million. For less than 20 Euro you can purchase a three-day Metro Pass or around 26 Euro a five-day Pass.

As a travel agent, I’m off to check out some of the best hotels Spain has to offer – Melia Hotels are superior and quite unique in their own right, not just in its own country, but they’ve been expanding further afield for sometime now. Let’s take a sample of what’s here in Madrid.


For starters, hotel of choice is Melia Princesa which is 50 metres from the Ventura Rodriguez subway – phew no taxis required!   It’s truly an affordable luxury hotel with a polished entrance (which I might say from the street is a little deceiving). The smart interior design shows off some striking ornaments in the foyer with staff gushing to take all your stresses away after a very long flight from South America.


The Level rooms are exclusive – located on the 12th Floor and allow entry to the Member’s Lounge on the ground floor. One interesting aspect of the hotel was the delightful staff member Sandra who asked me to choose a scent for my room. She chose the right person to ask as exquisite fragrances are one of my passions – lovely bouquets and the aroma filled the room after I’d returned from a relaxing time in the Lounge area.


Magnificent panoramic views over the city; felt very comfortable here with a nice desk to catch up on some work.


Breakfast was more than sufficient with an interesting drink cart to choose a wake-up brew and the coffee was one of the best. Trust me, us Aussies are fussy about their caffeine. Alternatively, the Lounge was also available for qualifying guests.


Moving onto Plaza Santa Ana there’s a vibe worthy of a visit and shopping in Madrid has some of the best brands, eateries and bargains. So kick your heels up and make your way over there! Not a place to be missed and loved by locals.

The ME Madrid Reina Victoria Hotel right at the Plaza offers a welcome drink of sparkling wine or water which certainly adds to the feeling of satisfaction you’ve chosen a great hotel. Staff were extremely pleasant and enjoy a bit of a chat too. I’d almost forgotten what it was like to speak English again …


This Hotel radiates chic and an urban culture and, oh so stylish at the same time. Very modern with my ‘Mode’ room which looked straight out over the Plaza along with its ceiling to floor length windows and the abundant natural light into the room made it feel like home. Just how we like it in Australia!


At night a visit to the hotel’s ‘The Roof’ Bar looks right out over the very busy Plaza, allowing you to relax without feeling you need to be a part of the buzz at street level. Just kick back, admire the view of the lights and sip those yummy cocktails. The sound/video equipment is cutting-edge technology and a drawcard for anyone who considers they’re a ‘cool cat’ at night.


The ME is also located perfectly at the pulse of Madrid’s major theatres, nightclubs and museums. It’s a destination of its own – no need to go too far away for anything else really.


If you feel you’re wanting a luxury five-star retreat in the heart of Madrid, the Gran Melia Palacio de los Duques is the one – look no further than this magnificent palatial building which is virtually at the epicentre of the Royal Palace’s location and surrounds.

And indeed,  the hotel was a 19th century palace itself and still maintains an air of royalty with the staff doing their utmost to make you feel warm and welcomed. And staff member Hector deserve a special mention for his willingness in giving me an insight of the hotel’s historic beginnings and in particular the art work which is embedded as part of the interior design, in particular Velázquez’s Meninas.


The roof top view can’t go unnoticed.


A contemporary swimming pool is a relief (with an infinity outlook over the Royal Palace) after a big day out visiting the sights such as the Teatro Real, the Almudena Cathedral and the Sabatini Gardens. Serious shopping is a short walk up the hill, not only top brands, but interesting labels which Madrid is well known for having new and emerging designers. By the way, there’s also a Jacuzzi on the top floor for those aching muscles from all your day’s walking; no need for a vehicle as it’s all here.


What I’ve enjoyed so far with the Melia Hotel group is that they are all unique and not the normal ‘copy cat’ style of say other leading hotel chains. This hotel The Gran Melia, is not just at the top of the echelon, but it exudes a rare style and elegance which is synonymous with its own décor and surrounds.


My room had a spa bath and Clarins amenities (love ’em) to make it even more enriching. The bed was two metres long and fitted me perfectly as I’m 183 cm tall (6′) and the pillows were so, so soft. Fast wifi is a must for me and no problems there. Good size safe and easy to use.


So, if you’re looking for an experience where you know everything will be taken care of, then this hotel is not to be missed. And, I do have to mention, it has one of the finest breakfasts I’ve enjoyed – reading a paper (in English) whilst the staff make you feel like royalty …

For bookings see https://www.melia.com/


And yes, a quick two-minute walk down the road and you’re at the Royal Palace and Sabatini Gardens!

Grounds of the Royal Palace nearby.


Well it’s bye to Madrid for this year – a city which never disappoints – architecturally, its culinary delish and culture cannot be missed.

I know where to direct my clientele in future should they wish to experience intimate details of an amazing city with its centrally located hotels.

Punte Del Este and Montevideo, Uruguay with Norwegian Sun.


Leaving Brazil and onto Uruguay is definitely one of the highlights of a South American cruise and being onboard NCL’s Norwegian Sun. If you enjoy being on the port side of the ship (left-hand side of a vessel when looking forward), then you will see some of the most amazing sunsets.


While at sea there was a myriad of ‘what’s happening today’ – not just ‘sea days’ but the whole cruise. I’m up to day six and still haven’t covered off many of the activities. Trivia was high on my list of must do items and the gym would have to wait.


One of the best presentations onboard was the ‘How to Run a Floating Hotel’, which was hosted by one of the staff members who introduced us to the head of various departments. They spoke about their responsibilities such as ordering, catering and waste management along with budgets and keeping the passenger happy.


Art auctions were on for two days whilst at sea and so many bargains to be had with renown artist’s work going for a fraction of what you’d pay in an art gallery.


One really great aspect of the cruise, early each evening there was a solo traveller’s meet up in The Library which offered the chance for other like-minded travellers to say hi and have dinner together if they so wished. I spoke to Ron who is less mobile than many of us and asked about his cruising history. Without doubt he’s an avid cruiser and he said his first priority was to look for an itinerary which he considered plausible. We are with the lovely Abigail who is from Argentina and looked after us all at dinner time. Meals were ‘freestyle’ which gave everyone the freedom to eat when they chose to do so and not be bound to a set time and table each night.


Our first port of call in Uruguay – Punta Del Este and it’s definitely a tourist hot spot without doubt for the rich and famous. Numerous yachts  and sea vessels moored close to the maze of eateries along the harbour. There’s an abundance of fashionistas to be seen even early in the day for a light salad – I assume.


Lovely to walk around and see the wonderful architecture at Punte Del Este. Glorious weather and a typical summer day.


Homes are simply delightful with a European feel. There were many differing styles of buildings too which made it so much more interesting to walk around and take photos.

No shortage of seafood here and fresh as …


Entering Montevideo Port after an overnight sail was really a highlight being on my list of places to visit and the chance to catch up with a long-time friend. In the distance we can see Palacio Salvo which is central in the city and many were ‘chomping at the bit’ to go ashore and experience Montevideo’s offerings.


Markets are straight across the road from where the Norwegian Sun has docked and no tenders needed here. Countless yummy markets, shops and tempting eateries all along the way into the Ciudad Vieja (Old City).


Thought-provoking street art to keep you amused and it doesn’t matter which street you walk in. This capital city is home to some of the most innovative and daring stencil art and graffiti on the continent.


Think I already said previously I just love taking photos of old doors. Bet they’d like to tell a few secrets if they could …


Spectacular architecture and this is what we could see in part as we docked early in the morning. Fascinating to see the magnificient Palacio Salvo up close. The building was originally intended to be a hotel, but this plan didn’t work out and it has since been occupied by a mixture of offices and private residences.


There’s so much more to see and do in Montevideo, I would recommend at least a three-day stay here on another visit just to soak up the atmosphere and friendliness of the people.


Walk around the harbour foreshore is a pleasure and quite peaceful. Though I might not say that at the end of a working day as I’d imagine many locals would be out and about enjoying it too.


Did someone say ‘meet up’? Well the smoke, which takes hold of the Port Market and its surroundings at midday is clear evidence of what happens inside the venue. Even day workers were here to enjoy a hearty lunch before the weekend’s tourists hit town.

The best samples of Uruguayan cuisine; from chivito al plato (a steak with ham, cheese, tomato, lettuce, and mayonnaise) or a la canadiense (the same steak in a sandwich version) up to the best and most simple meat cuts, achuras (offal), asado (grilled meat), chicken, matambres (stuffed meat rolls), chotos (plaited intestines), pamplonas (grilled stuffed-meat) and other delicacies are popular in this corner of the world.


Landscape is similar to Australia and I felt very much at home in Uruguay due to the weather and scenery being similar to many country locations; especially central NSW in Australia. Uruguay and Argentina are almost the same latitudes as Sydney , so if you’re thinking of travelling to South America around September through to December you’ll be pleasantly surprised. Historically I’ve found flights from Australia are usually cheaper for the month of November.


But best of all, catching up with my long-time friend Dinorah at Bacacay Restaurant in Montevideo for a Christmas drink and canapés was the ultimate treat before heading off again. We’d met on a Moroccan tour many years ago and luckily for us the advent of the internet and email has kept us in touch.

Salute and the malbec was a pleasure too … just wish they’d grow more of it at home.

Cruising with NCL from Rio De Janiero to Ihle Grande, Brazil


On this ten-day South American itinerary from Rio De Janeiro to Buenos Aires, Argentina, one night is spent in the Port of Rio which I really appreciated as it gives a little more time to explore this really groovy area. It’s fast become a hub for cafes, museums and street artists.

As always ports, railway stations and airports are a drawcard for unsavoury mortals, who unfortunately are attracted to unwitting tourists. Always take just the bare essentials when going out, such as enough cash for a taxi to return to your hotel/ship and eateries. Leave all other valuables in your safe. Also take a business card with the address of where you are staying so the driver will know where to drop you off. Additionally, take your room key out of the little pocket folder with your room number on it, just in case you lose it allowing undesirables access to your accommodation.


Heading out of the port was a bit wild with the horn blowing and saying bye to RIO – but hey when you’re inside enjoying a wine and some delectable goodies no one seems too worried …


And this is just the entrée in the A La Carte La Cucina – yum! There are some dining options which do have a cover charge, but you have to treat yourself every now and again.


Our first stop – Buzios is a simple fishing village until the early 1960s when it was ‘discovered’ by Brigitte Bardot and her Brazilian boyfriend.


It’s now one of Brazil’s most upscale and animated seaside resorts littered with boutiques, fine restaurants and posh posaudas.


Having the tenders shuttle back and forth made an easy day because once you’ve had your coffee and shopped around, you could then go back and enjoy the activities onboard.


Next day the same process and a visit to Ihle Grande in Brazil allowed us to visit places along the coastline I might not have done so on a road trip.


Hard decisions need to be made each day!


I can take a hint, but it’s a little too early for me.


Really lovely place to visit with tourists coming from all over the globe. Ihle Grande remains largely undeveloped and for almost a century it was closed by the Brazilian government to free movement or settlement because it first housed a leper colony and then a top-security prison.


And now for our first city port whereby tenders are not needed here in the port of Santos (Sao Paulo). The Brazilian city is also home to the Coffee Museum where coffee prices were once negotiated. There is also a football memorial dedicated to the city’s greatest players which includes Pelé, who played for Santos Futebol Clube.


I’d recommend take a shore excursion from Norwegian Sun’s tour desk for an informative day as there’s quite a few sites to visit here. Otherwise taxis are about $10.00 USD one way into the central city area.


Lots of street art abound, there are buses which run into the main bus and rail Terminal and costs about $1.00 USD for a one-way ticket.


Here we are at the Coffee Museum in Santos, the architectural style and splendour houses the history and importance of coffee in the golden years of the coffee trade in Brazil and locally.


Many of the exhibits are beautifully restored and visitors can appreciate what does goes into making a great coffee – past and present. There’s also an Auction Room where it was the setting of the daily price for bags of coffee until the 1950s.


The Museu Do Café at the entrance of the building is a must if you’re a coffee aficionado and wanting to admire the collection of stained glass along with a number of paintings by Benedicto Calixto.


A walk around the city reveals a lively vibrant atmosphere with small markets in the centre.


Many buildings have been kept in their original state with no evidence of modernising it by developers.


When you’re a little tired of walking, take the historic tram ride around the perimeter of the city and enjoy the local sites.


Next port – Punta Del Este, Uruguay after two days at sea with Norwegian Sun.


I know at the Captain’s Cocktail Party everyone wants a photo with the Captain, but on this occasion Claudia who is in charge of Customer Services is also a very important staff member to my way of thinking. Considering all guest’s needs are taken care of and issues dealt with on an immediate basis, it makes the difference between having a great cruise or a mediocre one.


And at the end of the day, you’ll be greeted by one of these funny little animals which have taken up residence on your bed while you were out!