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December 9, 2003

Devilless Tasmania

The Travel Channel

The western highwayAnd I'm back again!
The last week have been quite refreshing in many ways. First of all it was wonderful to drive a car after spending many carless months in Brissie, secondly our trip to Tasmania gave me a nice change of pace from the slacking here and thirdly it was -cold- there with nighttime lows around 12°C and even the daytime highs rarely above 25°C.
We got to see most of the island during our 7 days there, but it would have been nice with a couple more days so we could have relaxed a bit in the nicer locations. We also missed out on several potentially interesting sights and locations due to limited time, amongst them we didn't get to see a wild Tasmanian Devil, but regardless of this we had a great time! Read on to get the whole story :)

Click for a pop-up map of our travelroute (added 29/04/04)

Day 1 - Ghosts at Port Arthur?
Tasman peninsula coastDeparting on an early morning flight with Virgin Blue we land in Hobart and after some asking around we end up with a Hyundai Getz from Hertz car rentals at Hobart Airport. As I'm not used to left-hand driving we decide to start off by going to Port Arthur on the Tasman-peninsula instead of driving into the city of Hobart. However even this turned out to be easier said than done. On our first pass we didn't even notice the town and had to turn back after driving 20km past it. Its so small I don't even think it deserves the label 'town', but it gave us a chance to check out White Beach before we returned. We then located and checked in at Roseview Hostel before doing some more excursions to the Remarkable Cave, a coastal lookout spot with a big cave carved out by the sea, and to a historic Coal Mine. Then after dinner we went on the Ghost Tour where we were told stories of strange occurances around the remains of the old Port Arthur settlement and penal colony. We were a bit dissapointed by this tour, as it could have been made a lot better than just walking through some buildings hearing medicore stories, and I got a bit cold near the end of the tour. This however was due to me not bringing any warm clothing on the trip, as I never expected it to even be chilly having spent the last months in Brissies soaring heat.

Day 2 - No parties in Hobart
Richmond CitySleeping in the next morning we almost had to pay for another night as we had not been told that checkout for the YHA hostels is at 10a.m. But we got off the hook and set a course for Richmond, a pittoresque Georgian village just outside the state-capital Hobart which were our next stop. We got a couple of beds at Central City Backpackers and went out to explore on foot and find somewhere to have dinner. We ended up at a recently opened bakery-cafè with an excellent selection of good food. Then after a shower we wanted to check out the nightlife, but unfortunatly it was nonexistent on this thursday night so we ended up at the only crowded bar in the city with several others from the hostel. It was nice enough there, but I had expected a city with nearly 200.000 inhabitants to have a bit more to choose from, even during night.

Day 3 - Chocolate & Freicinet National Park
The Spiky BridgeGetting up early and driving north out of Hobart we stop at the Cadbury Chocolate Factory for a guided tour. They really have some tasties there :) We then follow the A3 up along the coast stopping anywhere we think there might be something of interest, getting a couple of really great views of the landscape and the Spiky Bridge, as well as having lunch in the town of Bicheno. On the way we also spent several hours on the walking trails of Freycinet National Park with lookouts over the Wineglass Bay before heading to St.Helens for a place to sleep.

Day 4 - Ghosts and parties in Launceston
Freicinet CoastAnother early morning heading off to Binalong Bay and The Gardens in the Bay of Fires with a Swiss backpacker we met at the hostel, before heading back to St.Helens for breakfast. I had the best rolls ever at a nice cafè that served them with Bacon, Banana and Cheese. Yum.
Then we kept following the A3 eastwards through windy roads over mountain passes and through a couple of towns to Launceston, Tasmanias second largest city. We did some walking around nature-trails at several occasions and visited the flooded Tin-mines in Derby and the Scottsdale Eco-Centre, a particularily nice information center designed and built with ecological principles in mind.
Are is washing gold and tinAs we have moved nortward each hostel seems to be better than the last, but topping the Metro Backpackers in Launceston is no easy feat, it's one of the best I've been to ranking up there with the Inn-Crowd in Singapore. We were almost overrun by the host wanting to tell us that we *had* to take a walk around the Cataract Gorge, which we did. It is a beautiful woodland area with a great river running through it just a 15 minute walk from the city centre. We took the long way around going all the steps of the Winding Trail. Afterwards we quickly showered before going on the Launceston Ghost Tour, a very interesting twist on a guided city tour with ghost stories, famous locations and some acting in between. After the tour we joined an american for a night out, starting with some beers at The Royal Oak Hotel next-door, then moving on to Club Chili and the Saloon Bar. I had a great time out, and it was definatly a lot more lively than in Hobart.

Day 5 - Seahorses and Goldmines
SeaHorseWorld LogoAfter getting breakfast at a morning-place in Launceston we followed the Tamar River out to the coast, stopping to see the Gold Mine Museum at Beaconsfield and the SeaHorseWorld at Beaty Point. Both were really interesting and I really loved those Sea-Horses, gotta get me some of those along with a couple of gold-fish :-D Trying to save time we then took some gravel back-roads straight across to LaTrobe and on to Devonport where the mainland ferry "Spirit of Tasmania" docks. As it was Sunday afternoon most things were closed, and we discovered that time was running out so we needed to start heading back to Hobart. We had to leave out Burnie and Stanley to head straight across to Cradle Valley as the reception at the Cosy Cabins closes early. On the way we drove through Sheffield but failed to locate anything of interest besides a couple of really amazing views as we were really short on time. Also we were getting tired so we crept early to bed for an early start tomorrow.

Day 6 - Cradle Mountain National Park
Cradle MountainGetting up and heading out we walked a few trails in Cradle Valley, at the north part of Cradle Mountain National Park, before heading south towards Queenstown and on to Derwent Bridge. This part of the trip was without doubt the most spectacular part landscapewise, with most of it going through winding mountain roads intersped with magnificent views of lakes and rivers. With nearly all the roads in Tasmania having 100kmh speed-limits we made good time, and as we found there was no backpacker hostels anywhere in the area we changed our plans and headed directly to Hobart. This time we lodged at Montgomery's Private Hotel, which I must say dissapointed me due to the lack of a common room despite the excellent bathroom-facilities. Hobart city was just as dead this monday night as it had been at our last visit, there wasn't even any news-stands open after 5p.m! We ended up walking around for a while, getting some excellent pizza at Sublime for dinner and then catching 'Master and Commander' in the cinema. However it also was a tad dissapointing and rates as medicore at best.

Day 7 - Hobart again
A lake in Cradle Mountain NPTime to head home, but first we had a few hours to kill so we spent them walking through the beautiful Salamanca Market and Battery Point Old Town parts of Hobart. It would have been interesting to do the guided tour, but it was a nice walk even if we didn't. Around noon we got together our stuff and headed out to the airport, returned the car and set a course north through the skies for BrisVegas. The trip home was eventless, but O'Joy! When I got here there was a large box of christmas-presents from home awaiting me, including some of mum's home-made chocolate cake. This is happiness :-D Thank you!

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