Tag Archives: Tasmania

Port Arthur and Hobart, Tasmania – Australia

The Port Arthur Historic Site is one of Australia’s most important heritage sites and tourist destinations. Located on the scenic Tasman Peninsula in the south east of Tasmania, it offers a unique and essential experience for all visitors to the area and an open-air museum. It’s approximately 100 km south east of Hobart and allow about one and half hour’s drive.

Port Arthur is one of Australia’s most visited tourist sites due to the building of a penal colony which had the British Empire send its prisoners to the other end of the planet to pay their dues during the 18th and 19th centuries on fertile Australian coastal strips.

The Penitentiary was constructed in 1843 as a flour mill and granary. In 1857 it was converted into a penitentiary, capable of housing over 480 convicts in dormitory accommodation and separate apartments.

The buildings remain intact but careful consideration has been given to the upkeep and ongoing maintenance. Upon closer inspection, the walls have been preserved for any further decay as the architecture is some of the earliest as you’d expect in Australia from the British Empire.

The Convict Church is surrounded by manicured gardens and open spaces.

The Church was destroyed by fire in 1884 and has undergone repeated conservation work throughout the 20th century. The outer walls are all that remain of the structure, making it a popular choice for weddings and community events.

Grounds are plentiful with beautiful garden beds, shrubs and native trees.

The Government Gardens were reconstructed using an 1858 survey. Extensive research of historical photographs, soil analysis, geophysical and archaeological investigations helped establish the convict-period plant species, the type and location of paths, fences and other landscape features.

Source: http://portarthur.org.au/

Further along is the Separate Prison which was built at Port Arthur in 1850. Cruciform-shaped, each of the four wings comprised a central corridor flanked by rows of solitary confinement cells. Separated by thick sandstone walls, it was hoped that the convicts would benefit from contemplative silence and separation.

Source: http://portarthur.org.au/activities/separate-prison/

Inside the prison From 1833 until 1853, it was the destination for the hardest of convicted British criminals,  those who were secondary offenders having re-offended after their arrival in Australia. Rebellious personalities from other convict stations were also sent here.

If these walls could talk. Additionally, Port Arthur had some of the strictest security measures of the British penal system.

Take a boat ride around the sheltered harbour. Heaps of cruise ships dock just outside of it. Situated on one of the most scenic harbours in Australia,  it’s becoming a popular destination for cruise ships in its own right and tendering passengers across to visit. A courtesy buggy service is available for visitors who have limited mobility.

The facilities were being upgraded whilst I was there and due to the large number of tourists, millions of dollars are being spent to accommodate the growing numbers.


The Isle of the Dead tour takes you across the harbour to the cemetery island and gives you a fascinating insight into the lives and deaths of some of Port Arthur’s past residents. The tiny island cemetery holds the remains of over 1,000 people; convict and free.

Source: http://portarthur.org.au/activities/isle-of-the-dead-cemetery-tour/

A quiet place of reflection has been made for visitors to pay their respects. A shooting took place In 1996, it was the scene of the worst mass murder in post-colonial Australian history. 28–29 April 1996 was a massacre in which 35 people were killed and 23 wounded at this site.

Martin Bryant, a 28-year-old from New Town, a suburb of Hobart was found guilty of the shootings and given 35 life sentences without possibility of parole. Following the incident, it emerged in the media that Bryant had significant intellectual disabilities.

Following the spree, the Prime Minister of Australia, John Howard introduced strict gun control laws within Australia and formulated the National Firearms Programme Implementation Act 1996.

Source: Wikipedia

One of those rare opportunities where there’s car parking within Hobart CBD.  Woolmers self-contained apartments are in Sandy Bay and the suburb is known as one of the city’s more prestigious areas. Once you’ve parked your car as a guest, it’s a breeze to walk to a myriad of restaurants,  antique shops and craft stores in a trendy part of Hobart.

Double Studio with a kitchenette, Woolmers offers studio double, studio twin and two bedroom, self-contained apartment style accommodation in the habourside suburb. Maybe you’d prefer the idea of staying in and cooking for yourself; it’s handy if you’ve had a big day out like Port Arthur to relax and not worry about having to go out again. Turn on the TV, cook up a treat with kitchen facilities making it an easy night in. Just drop and flop, comfortable, clean and accessible to all amenities nearby.

End of the day and my trip – I’d covered 1,518 kms in total in a hire car. I’d only planned to stay in Tasmania for seven nights, but  because the weather in April was so divine, the people so friendly and the ease of ‘getting around’ in such an incredible part of Australia had me stay on for a total of 14 days.  The coastline shown here is only a glimpse of what you will enjoy if you follow the main highways around the perimeter of the state where possible.

My recommendation for anyone planning a trip to our southern-most state of Australia, is to take much longer than a fortnight as there were many more opportunities to visit and experience a plethora of other activities and local attractions – not to mention seeing the natural fauna and native wildlife in its own habitat. Will I be going back to Tassie? Without doubt!

Melaleuca and South East Cape, Tasmania

I’ve flown out with Par Avion Wilderness Tours to the Southwest World Heritage Area at South East Cape, Tasmania’s most southern point and then made our way west onto to Melaleuca.

The aircraft shown here will fly you into this remote area via the south west coast. Departing Cambridge Airport, we flew via the D’Entrecasteaux Channel, past the mouth of the Huon River and on to Recherche Bay.

At the start we’re looking out over the city of Hobart, Tasmania’s capital and as we gain altitude, we can see how spread out and far reaching the residents live in Australia’s smallest state and least populated state capital.

Founded in 1804 as a penal colony, Hobart is Australia’s second oldest capital city after Sydney, New South Wales.

Beautiful clean coastal estuaries in a pristine part of the world can be seen from above, and thankfully it’s part of Tasmania’s Wilderness World Heritage area.The 85km South Coast Track runs between Melaleuca and Cockle Creek. There are no roads to Melaleuca, so walkers must either fly, sail or walk in and out.

Extremely rugged coastline as well – no pathways along this particular region of the state. It’s recommended you gain experience on other Tasmanian walking tracks before attempting the South Coast as you will be a long way from help should you need it.

I’m not even sure if hardy goats could live here… extremely desolate.

We’re now approaching the landing strip at Melalueca in the Southwest Cape of Tasmania. And, as much as I love being in the front seat, sometimes I just have to close my eyes …

Once we’d landed, we could take stock from a ground level the vast, raw beauty of the somewhat dramatic scenery – any film maker would be proud to include this in a set for wild imagery.

This is not the warmest day in April, but then again, I don’t believe even in the Summer months the South East Cape would reach high temperatures. As long as we’re clear for take off later in the day, I’m happy to be here to view the majestic surroundings for the next couple of hours.

Welcome to Melaleuca in the Southwest National Park which is the southern most national parkland in Australia. The southern and western reaches of the region are far removed from any vehicular access and therefore the area is largely unaffected by humans.

Don’t you love these kind of maps which show ‘you are here’? Incredible to see the actual scale of the region.

Giving a bit of a wave to earlier arrivals in the day for a boat outing towards Melaleuca Inlet, then into Bathurst Harbour and Port Davey.

While here on the ground you can witness the wilderness from a viewpoint being at a grass-roots level with the cleanest air you’ll ever have the pleasure of breathing.

Serene yet spectacular all along the waterways towards Bathurst Harbour in our little boat. Glad they know where we are at HQ!

What sometimes appears to be freshwater on a map may turn out to be brackish if close to the sea.

There’s the opportunity to take an informative stroll along the Needwonnee Walk as well which is an award-winning Aboriginal interpretive experience and then visit the Deny King Memorial Bird Hide.

Readying for our departure, we reboard our aircraft and return to Cambridge Airport via the spectacular Eastern Arthurs and Federation Peak, then continue down the Huon Valley and over Hobart city for an overall bird’s eye view.

At South Cape Bay, there is no track down to South East Cape (the southernmost point of the continent). There’s no point leaving the South Coast Track either to try and reach it as it’s an impassable coastline in most parts. Additionally,  if you’re ever walking along narrow or rocky beaches at high tide, beware of large wave swells as they are treacherous.

Heading back into Cambridge Airport (close to Hobart Airport), we’re now navigating over farmland and small communities which are on the outskirts of the city.

For bookings with Par Avion services, visit  http://www.paravion.com.au or telephone (03) 6248 5390  as you won’t be disappointed – especially if you’re short on time – there’s half and full day outings with weather permitting at different times of the year.

At the end of the day, you’d probably want to treat yourself to a cocktail and relax in the warmth of the very regal Lenna of Hobart Heritage Hotel and savour the day’s experience in having seen one of the world’s greatest national parks – both from the air and being on the ground.

And yes, the accommodation is  beautifully appointed in a modern spacious room with spectacular views up to Mount Wellington. Plenty of bench space to work from if need with free wireless internet (WiFi). Individually controlled heating and cooling and a Nespresso coffee machine is just perfect. Complimentary onsite car parking is a big plus if you’ve been travelling around like me.

This landmark hotel is a 1874-built sandstone mansion which puts you right on the historic doorstep of Hobart’s vibrant waterfront. The Lenna Hotel Hobart is within walking distance to Salamanca Markets and the harbour whereby there’s a myriad of restaurants including fresh seafood and many other culinary regional delights.

For bookings check availability  http://www.lenna.com.au/

Next stop Port Arthur.

Cradle Mountain, Tasmania – Australia

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!

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!


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.



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.