Tasmania is an ancient land, full of interesting, unique animals, plants and scenery. Our mission, on this journey, is to study one of the island's major, but more unknown industries - more soon.......
Ever heard of a quoll, Sarah Island or a thylacine ? What and where are these… I can tell you they all exist (more or less) in Tassie. The Thylacine – well there are those who seriously believe the legendary Tasmanian tiger still roams the west coast rain forests. Reports, however say the last tiger died in captivity in 1936 at the Hobart zoo. For me the jury is still out, as you could wander for months through the thick, impenetrable west coast rain forests, be surrounded by Tassie tigers and never see them! We don’t spot one during our recent 3200km Tassie adventure, but we do see a wild spotted quoll on Bruny Island – a rare event we are told by locals. Unique to Tasmania and about the size of an average cat with a medium length thinnish tail, the quoll with its pointed snout, looks rodent like, but is not related. We are told they are quite shy and retiring but if cornered have a very hard bite. More about Sarah Island later.
Our journey starts from Melbourne boarding our small 50 seater Dash 8 aircraft, operated by Qantas and bound for Devonport on the mid-northern edge of the state of Tasmania. Departure is an hour or so late – can’t quite understand why as the flight originated in Melbourne and there are no explanations, just a half hearted apology for the disruption. A full flight – Linda and I are seated in crew seats facing to the back of the cabin – an unusual flying position if you're not used to it. Trying to extend my longish legs, I end up playing knees with a fellow facing passenger. An uneventful 1hour 20mins sees us into Devonport and a welcome drop in temperature from Melbourne’s mid 30s to mid 20s. Quite a relief for a Kiwi.
Gradually lowering to the Tassie tarmac, affords a magnificent view of the rich farmland surrounding Devonport with many fields of light lilac flowering poppies – spectacular, and the main reason for our December visit.
Devonport is a very small rural airport, a bit like Napier, on the east coast of New Zealand's north Island. Our bags appear quickly in the baggage area. Next stop Europcar to collect our rental car for the next 16 days. The young lady has only one set of keys and is obviously waiting for us. This is our first experience with Europcar and unfortunately probably the last. After a brusque hello, the vehicle contract is thrust under our noses and we are assailed with a tirade of do's and don'ts – mainly don'ts. The most ridiculous one is 'no insurance if we have an accident on a gravel road'. Well, there are a lot of gravel roads in Tassie with some sealed roads turning into gravel without warning. I give this a brief 10 seconds thought – sign the document and we are on our way, but not before checking all the previous damage that our Mitsi Lancer has sustained at the hands of previous drivers. This was considerable, but, all the various dings, dents, scratches and scrapes are noted on the contract and now we are truly on our way.
I had visited Devonport some years before and could remember the general road layout, getting us to our booked Sunrise motel without too many problems. Devonport is where the 'Spirit of Tasmania' 1 and II docks, arriving after a day or night crossing of Bass Strait from Melbourne. This is the only way to bring your car to Tassie. These are large vessels but Bass Strait can be a wild stretch of water.
As we motor through, the daytime arrival was loading for it's 7.30pm departure back to Melbourne. A short but picturesque drive along Formby Road and a sweeping left turn through the tranquil waterside park sees us at the Sunrise. A delightful, no fuss greeting from Barbara, who has our hopefully quiet upstairs, end room all ready. If you travel regularly, as we do, then I am sure you have become quite allergic to noise transferral through walls and ceilings. The plain looking Sunrise is solid concrete and doesn't suffer badly from this noise problem, unlike some shoddily constructed places where we have lain awake most of a night and are then unable to make the best of the next precious day.
Next most important on our agenda is a settling glass of red wine – delicious, then where to for dinner. We had spied a couple of likely spots on our drive through downtown Devonport from the airport, so about 7pm are driving back to Formby Rd to investigate. Looking for a carpark nearby, the beautiful and original Alexander Hotel beckons. The mid 19th Century building, across the road from the Mersey River and with it's excellent, traditional public bar, looks like a relaxing spot to enjoy a pre-dinner glass of Tassie pinot. We are not disappointed with a glass each of Ninth Island '08 pinot noir. We watch 'Spirit of Tasmania' 1 do it's U turn in the Mersey river and pick up speed heading out into Bass Strait bound for Melbourne.
Feeling a bit hungry, we walk the short distance to our chosen dinner venue, Dannebrog Café Bar and Grill. Not so good – we have left it too late and a queue is backed up to the doors. This place looks a little like an up-market McDonalds, so, on appearance, not our usual choice, but choice is what you don't have in Devonport. The Maitre D politely tells us there is at least a half hour wait. Ever practical, Linda asks if she can recommend anywhere. 'No worries' is the immediate answer – just up the road is the Elimatta Hotel which has an excellent bistro. A short walk and we are seated at the 2nd to last table at the bistro. This place is the most amazing value. A roast dinner – beef this night – including veggies, is just $10.70, and good quality. Where else could you get that. Some more 9th Island pinot and we are feeling very satisfied. A short drive back to the Sunrise and to bed about 10pm. We wake to a beautiful clear day and have breakfast in the little restaurant attached to the Sunrise. Nothing startling but an adequate continental. We haven’t booked any accommodation for our last two mid December nights on the northern coast and decide to return to the Sunrise. After settling the bill for last night we speak with Barbara who promises to have our upstairs end room #27 available for our return. With no credit card or deposit required, it’s very nice and friendly.
On the road about 9:30am, we head south to Launceston. The main purpose of our visit to Tasmania at this time of the year is to look into the poppy industry – a very large part of farming in the north. Growing poppies is a strictly controlled business with annual licenses and contracts needing to be in place prior to any production. The fields of poppies (something like 20,000 hectares this year) usually flower sometime from late November through to mid December depending on weather conditions. This year our advice was mid to late December, which is when we intend to return to the area and meet up with Terry from the Ministry of Justice. We start to see this is spot on. At this stage, the fields of soft light lilac poppies, are patchy, but still spectacular. It is worth a visit to Tassie just for this. The main roads are very good with a 110kms speed limit and quite often dual carriageway. Launceston is about 100kms south from Devonport and we want to visit a couple of places on the way. La Trobe is the first call. A lovely small, single main street, early English style village with many original street frontage buildings. Being just the right time for a coffee, Café Zeta is at the end of our main street walk. What a good stop, excellent coffee and interesting gift shop to browse in.
Walking back up the main street to the car we come across Reliquaire – now this is a fascinating 'must see' emporium housed in an original 19th Century building. Inside is a world removed from reality - arranged in many separate rooms are dolls, face masks, books, models, science experiments, microscopes, telescopes and some things which, if you're my age and male, your eye lights on in amazement and delight. I have to mention a brand new Mamod steam engine. I had one of these when I was about ten, they are beautifully built fully working scale model of a stationary steam engine. It is for sale and I am sorely tempted and now sort of wish I had, but $A500, well, I can think of more useful things.
We thought an hour in La Trobe would be plenty of time, but Reliquaire adds another two hours to this. Earlier on in the day Deloraine seemed a good target for lunch but now we are a little late which is fortunate as we come across the Christmas Hills Raspberry farm and café at Elizabethtown. What a find. A simple, unpretentious lunch washed down with a glass of local pinot and enjoyed in charmingly rustic surroundings. With lunch sadly over we are away to Deloraine, a largely Victorian town first settled in the early 1800s, about 50kms from Launceston. Not spending too much time we decide to push on to our destination for the next two nights, the city of Launceston where we arrive around 4:30pm. The city, of 60 odd thousand, gains it's name from the original in Cornwall England and is now the 2nd largest city in Tasmania. The Tamar river is a picturesque scene with the city surrounding it. Many large ornate 19th Century houses have survived and are in the main, lovingly restored. I can feel the shutter finger getting itchy. Having inhabited the horticultural industry for many years I pay close attention to latitude and am always interested to compare weather in different countries to places of similar latitude in New Zealand. Launceston is at lat 41S corresponding to Masterton in New Zealand. Allowing for differing geographical features, rather similar weather although not reaching the summer highs of New Zealand.
Traffic is fairly light and we find our way to our apartment hotel quite easily through the largely one way street system. The Quest serviced apartments are inside a gracious heritage listed building on Paterson Street. Short term parking at the door allows easy luggage handling. Parking is over the road in a council parking building where the Quest has a special night rate arrangement.
The Manager, Rob Matson, checks us in and we are soon in our 4th floor spacious, well appointed apartment 404B. We had purchased a couple of bottles of local pinot noir earlier in the day and pull the cork on one – yes, they do still have corks on some Tasmanian wines. A lot of local pinots are well into the $30s a bottle – too much for us and we had managed to find two 07 vintages at around $22. Our luck was in and the first bottle at least is a good choice. Later that night we discover Launceston has a problem. It is one which can seriously disturb your sleep. Modified cars – loud exhausts etc – doing circuits around city streets, Paterson St being one of these, from the time we are in bed until the early hours of the morning. The first night we are not quite sure what is happening but experiencing similar the second night we soon work out it is the same cars going round and round. The law does not seem to be active with this problem and Quest is not double glazed – though why should they have to be to block out illegal noise?
Anyway to backtrack a little – the day we spend in Launceston is most enjoyable with excellent coolish weather. In the morning we inspect the small CBD area – like most of Tasmania, there is not a lot to tempt shoppers (especially for the fashion conscious). Late morning we start on the medium length walk to Cataract Gorge on the western edge of the city. Lots of Victorian buildings on the way have my shutter finger well exercised. The Gorge is a natural area of stark beauty formed by seismic activity centuries ago. From Launceston we make our way to the Kings bridge over The South Esk river. A passerby walking his dog, stops to talk and advises us to cross the bridge and take the right hand walkway into the Gorge area. This proves to be the right advice. The other lefthand walkway looks steep and not so scenically attractive. A half hour easy walk sees us to the rotunda and restaurant. This is also where the Basin Chairlift operates from. This lift boasts the longest single span of any lift worldwide. We have to try it so Linda gathers up all her courage and off we go. Even for me, as we come out of the bushes surrounding the station and are suddenly launched into space, the stomach butterfly numbers surge. A moderate 'white knuckle' experience means we are well prepared for the very pleasant, good quality café lunch at the basin café on the other side.
Walking back through the Gorge the afternoon heat is increasing, now into the mid 20s. We can see some early 1900s villa houses above and to the right of the Gorge so near the Kings bridge take a steep lefthand path which should link up with the upper roadway. The lengthy climb soon produces some bodily dampness and raises our heart rate so we are relieved to arrive at the upper road which is more or less flat. Worth it though, for the views back over Launceston and the, mostly, superbly restored and maintained early villas which dominate this prime area. A half hour or so meandering through two or three streets and we are on our way back down to the bridge and into central Launceston. Early afternoon now with plenty of time left in the day to take a look at nearby, historic Longford and Evandale. These delightful small towns, a short drive south of Launceston have lots of late 19C and early 20C houses and buildings for the keen architectural photographer. A late coffee at very pretty Ingleside café in Evandale. Sour not welcoming service, because we are late and I think they are wanting to close.
We have already sorted our venue for tonight’s dinner – the Star Bar & Café in Charles Street, just round the corner from the Quest. Well patronized and quite loud, the menu choice and food are outstanding with no pretentions, well cooked and presented. Back to the Quest and another awful night of boyracers. After virtually no sleep and feeling quite low class in the morning we comment strongly at reception about the problem, bringing up our request for a quiet room on our original booking. A very pleasant young lady sympathized with us, saying the problem is well known and representations have been made to both police and council – obviously a nil result ! The Manager has subsequently written to us expressing their regret and offering a discount on a return visit. Things would have to have changed for us to take this up.
Luggage to the car across in the council carpark and nothing to pay as we are out before 10am. Our destination today is the east coast via Scotsdale and we drive off into CBD Launceston looking for some road signage to point us in the right direction. With our brains being quite woolly after the two nights from hell we miss several turns and find ourselves heading north to Devonport again. Actually this is quite lucky because we are in an unexplored part of town and both at the same time say, 'did you see that'? Yes, we discover Cuccina Café in Margaret Street. If you want a breakfast, this is the place. A wonderful atmosphere, strong and lovely espresso and a bacon and egg wholemeal toasted breakfast sandwich that sounds ordinary but was so yummy and beautifully presented, you have to experience it to know. And we must mention the staff – welcoming and charming. After our second coffee, it is regretfully time to move on, so feeling much more able we easily find our way to the Tasman highway towards Scotsdale. Not a great road, quite windy, but scenic so we take our time, carefully avoiding quite a bit of roadkill – small roos and rabbits mainly.
I recall on my earlier visits, driving this same road and remarking on the number of bowled wombats, however, we don’t see a single one today. We stop to snap some wild roadside foxglove and shoot a panorama looking down into Springfield. Fuel at Scotsdale, a town which hasn't changed one jot since I last visited nearly 10 years ago. Nothing really to recommend it except the rich dark red soil of surrounding farmland which is mainly commercial gardens growing onions, carrots, and potatoes. Isolated poppy fields are dotted here and there.
Passing through Derby, the 'tin town' and Weldborough, which was a tin town, now with a population of 80 ! We knew of a tin museum at Derby and are quite keen but on arrival at the surprisingly modern structure are put off by the drab appearance and the high entry fee of $16 a person. Not another vehicle in sight and on what is obviously a less traveled road it’s not a good idea to price yourself off the market. Getting a little desperate for coffee and some lunch by now we decide there is nothing for it but to push on for St Helens on the east coast.
St Helens is a small seaside town, picturesque but nothing to get excited about. We get excited at The Village Store & More, which, belying it's appearance delivers excellent coffees. Not much food to choose from, except for some homemade biscuits and orange cake – very good but not lunch. A lunchless day is a bit hard to take after 100 odd kms of twisty road.
Never mind – we move on, backtracking a wee bit to take a look at the Bay of Fires from Binalong Bay. Only about a ten minute detour. We wonder what the grand title 'Bay of Fires' is all about – turns out to be large granite boulders covered with an orange red lichen. Interesting. It's middle afternoon by now and we are on the hunt for our night’s accommodation. There are a couple of very ordinary motels in St Helens which do not appeal to us at all so we point the car south towards Scamander. Nothing that looks right for our overnight stop until Linda remembers she made a note of a possibility she had spotted on the web, White Sands at Ironhouse Point, the home of the Ironhouse boutique brewery. Something to aim for at last and not too much further on. We drive right past the front gate of White Sands and U turn about ½ km on. Entering through a stone entranceway we look down towards the coast where the resort spreads out along the bay edge. Fifteen or so plain, but solid looking stand alone units look out over the bay with reception, restaurant and utilities occupying a fairly basic looking structure at the bottom of the long driveway. The construction of a large new building near reception, of very modern appearance is well advanced. At this time of the year visitors are few and we have a choice of units. Some are fully renovated and look directly over the bay and Ironhouse Point, while others are set further back and are much more basic, although we are told renovation of these is part of an overall plan.
The greeting is very pleasant and relaxed – we are given three keys with which to go and inspect the units and make our choice for the night. The first unit we look at is a renovated one overlooking the beach. Very, very nice but the most expensive, so we think, oh well better check at least one of the other lesser ones. We open the door and shut it again. It is OK and would have been fine but after seeing the previous option there is no contest. And, hey, it's only 1 night after all. Back we go to reception and I don't think they are surprised by our choice.
After offloading bags and a brief timetable discussion we are back in the car driving inland to St Marys, Fingal and Avoca on the Esk Highway. We don't feel much like doing this but tomorrow holds a longish stint down to Hobart so if we don't see these small towns now we will certainly miss them altogether. Between Fingal and Avoca our decision is justified as we come across our first nearly full flowering poppy field. There are no other poppy fields in the area so obviously they are not a main part of the local farming calendar . These small towns are very sparsely populated but have interesting early churches, houses and farm buildings, even the old railway station at Avoca is a gem. All in all a worthwhile sidetrip.
Looking forward to dinner at White Sands, we arrive back at our suite, enjoy a glass of pinot listening to the waves crashing on Ironhouse Point – the wind has risen considerably and promises a bit of a wild night. The White Sands restaurant proves to be a delight – outside quite utilitarian but inside, very stylish and the food is good quality, fresh and well presented. Very happily, we retire to our suite and bed with the sea loud on the point. From childhood, falling asleep to the sound of waves crashing on the beach is a natural lullaby and it proves no different 50 years later.
Morning arrives and much refreshed we get a small breakfast together from various supplies we have with us, then a walk down to the beach before starting the Hobart drive. The beach is rather rocky, not sharp rocks but rather large smooth grey stones like big river stones, together with massive dark brown leaves and stalks of giant kelp. The wind and waves during the night have uprooted huge clumps and dumped them on the beach. A short stroll then back over the resort grounds to load the car, settle the bill and away.
We are feeling much more on top of life today with the Launceston racers a distant memory. Not wasting any time this morning, our main goal is Freycinet National Park about 40kms south, where we are sure to be spending some hours.
Passing through Bicheno we arrive at Coles Bay – the start of Freycinet, I notice our fuel is on the low side so pull in to the single bowser in front of the local shop. Just about to start pumping, a local briefly pulls up to say "It’s 30 cents cheaper at the other end of town". A discount to take notice of, especially when the tank is near empty. After briefly getting lost, we find the other end of town and our saving of nearly $12 is enough for 2 coffees plus. Richardsons bistro at Freycinet Lodge is where we spend our $12 with two expertly made long blacks and a piece of homemade caramel slice, as we look out over Great Oyster Bay and in the far distance the houses of Swansea on the western side of the bay.
The Hazards are three, 300m high granite outcrops which dominate the area as we drive through to the visitor center. You need a pass for Australia's official national parks and we purchase a $60 version which gives us access to all other national parks in the network until the pass expires on Christmas Day – plenty of time for our needs. The pass must be displayed each time we enter a national park or else we risk a fine. Fair enough too as the parks we have visited are well maintained and this does cost. We don't have too much time to spend as Hobart is our destination tonight – about 170kms away still – so we pick the Wine Glass Bay walk to the top of the hill, about1 ½ hour return. This proves to be a moderate to steep hike on a good well made path. The views on the way up, both back to the west and of the local rock formations are very worthy but can't in any way match the view down into Wine Glass from the top – spectacular. Great photo opp of course – I wonder how many million images of Wine Glass are in various collections worldwide ? But, I am sure the ones I took will be the best ever ! Our journey back down to the carpark is quite relaxed – warming up now with the heat reflecting off the bare granite creating a microclimate in the valley. The resident carpark roo is waiting in the shade of some bushes for any tidbits. He, or she is looking very content and I think the tourist befriending efforts of the morning have paid off quite nicely. There are many longer walks on the Freycinet Peninsula but these will have to wait for another visit. On our way back to the Tasman highway we make a brief detour to Cape Tourville and its lighthouse. Wonderful Tasman views from the cliff-face boardwalk out to the Nuggets which are seabird nesting sites.
We stop briefly at Swansea for a quick lunch and soon after come to Spikey Bridge, a bridge built by convicts in 1843. The sharp standing rocks on the sides give the bridge it's name. From here we run straight to Hobart crossing the Tasman Bridge into the CBD towards the end of the day. With the lanes only controlled by overhead red or green lights and no dividing barrier it could be called suicide bridge. Well, we make it and with Linda's excellent pre trip map preparation are soon at our heritage accommodation, The Lodge on Elizabeth, in northern Hobart. Lots of things in Tasmania were built by convicts and The Lodge is no exception, dating from 1829 it is a listed property and has been the home of many notables including one state premier. Now the Donalds are to stay in room #12! We are charmed by the ambience and friendly welcome, discovering to our delight that our room has French doors opening to an upstairs verandah overlooking a small cottage garden. The car is on the street but in a side road which seems to have plenty of spaces. The Lodge provides a dashboard notice saying you are a Lodge guest so supposedly immune to parking tickets whilst parked in the side street. Effective as we are not ticketed during our stay.
A friend of Linda's who visited Hobart the previous year had made a couple of dinner suggestions so we set off up the road in the twilight. There are many restaurants through this area – we are told later that north Hobart is 'restaurant row' – Italian, Chinese, Thai, Japanese, Turkish and main stream western European. We are looking for Fish 349 and come upon it after about 15 minutes relaxed walking. The place is absolutely humming with take away and eat in customers thronging the main counter. A good sign, but can we get a seat before tomorrow. We edge our way in and are quickly greeted by a bright young man who says – very understated – we're a bit busy right now but give it 10 minutes and I'll find you a table. Good as his word we are seated at the long window counter looking out onto the street. Great for people watching. First thing we see on the menu is grilled fresh flounder which is a 'must have' for Linda and I can't go past the local scallops. You order and pay at the main counter and get your wine at the same time. Still busy busy, but plenty of staff to help so no real wait. Our dinners arrive in about 20 minutes which we think is remarkable with the continuous huge kitchen workload. The large all stainless kitchen is on plain view behind and to the right of the main counter. Our dinners are all we had imagined and we raise our glasses to our Auckland friend for her recommendation.
Later we walk back to The Lodge, admiring local architecture on the way. Lots of traditional Victorian buildings, most carefully restored, create the charm of this section of Hobart. There are 2 keys on our room keyring, one for the Lodge front door which closes softly behind us and the other letting us into our upstairs room #12. Soon in bed we are deeply asleep when awoken by the loud sounds of running water from behind our heads. Checking my watch – 2:30am !! Oh no, the occupants in the room adjoining seem to be showering. The wall is obviously only a thin partition also containing the bathroom piping.
Sometime later, probably more than 1 hour, all is quiet again but sleep more or less evades us. Not a bad thing in the end as a short sleep just before arising seems to fog my brain so we are early to breakfast and away to the Salamanca markets which are on every Saturday in Salamanca Place in Hobart CBD, just off Parliament Square and quite close to the waterfront. . A very lively, colourful place with hundreds of stalls displaying mainly locally grown or manufactured goods, most of a very good quality.
Two or so hours go by very quickly as we browse, enjoy a coffee, sample some local tasty treats and listen to the buskers. Reluctantly moving on from the market place we take a left hand turn towards the water and as we are walking come up to an elderly spaniel with his humans, who are unloading a baby stroller from their car. I remark to them "you've got your hands full". "Oh yes," they say, "but it's ok, there's no baby, the stroller is for the spaniel". Ahh, I think all is right with the world when this can happen.
But all wasn't right with the world when we come to the 'Harbour Lights' café which has a prime position looking across the road, as you might imagine, to the harbour. What a dump, very bad coffee served by very thick people. Our visit is very brief and soon we are out walking again right on the harbour edge, where we spot the 'Ady Gil' formerly Pete Bethune's 'Earthrace'. She is alongside, being provisioned for her long journey south into Antartic waters as part of Sea Shepherd's whale protest group. (since our return to New Zealand however, very sadly, disaster has struck and she is now at the bottom of the Southern ocean, having been rammed by one of the whaling fleet vessels – very fortunately no lives lost, but this unusual and thought provoking vessel is gone forever.
We spend a little time on photography through this area ending up at Jam Packed, the old IXL jam factory and part of The Henry Jones Art Hotel. This is a superb renovation, not too large and opening up to a light filled atrium with shops and restaurants on all sides. We resolve to return for coffee in the morning.
Strolling back to The Lodge and our car, we decide that although Hobart is a traditional and original city there is not so much on offer to keep us in town for the day, so we decide the afternoon is perfect timing to inspect the early 19th century penal institution at Port Arthur. We have read a lot about Port Arthur, however nothing really prepares you for the pure austerity of the place and, of course we remember the more recent 1996 Port Arthur massacre and are better able to understand the enormity of what happened on that day.
The Penitentiary at Mason Cove in the early 1800's must have struck terror into the hearts of new arrivals from the old country. Bleak and freezing cold it is no surprise that quite a few inmates attempted escape by sea or through the impenetrable surrounding forest. Little wonder very few succeeded.
For the visitor to Hobart, Port Arthur is a must see with many original buildings restored to a very high, near perfect standard and open for inspection – fascinating. After entering the main Port Arthur foreshore we walk quickly to the left from where the last harbour cruise of the day is to depart in about 10 minutes. Our entry pass includes the cruise and it is certainly worth doing, as quite different views of the settlement open up from the water. We are told the history of the 'Isle of the Dead', a tiny pimple in the harbour, where around 1600 convicts are reputed to be buried, mostly in unmarked graves. A dreadful place. Returning to the jetty at Masons Cove we have time left before the site closes to walk around the various buildings, and with many still open, we can see how life was. We manage to see about 70% of the various houses, hospitals, churches and prisons in the hour and a half we have, but really we need more like 3 to 4 hours to cover all we would have wanted to see. It’s very late afternoon as we leave Port Arthur, feeling thankful we don't now condemn modern day criminals to places like this.
Mt Wellington is on our route back to town and although it is a very long (22km) drive to the summit, this is our only opportunity to climb it. The road seems to go on forever – very twisty and slow driving so the 22kms feels like 50kms. Linda is totally over it by the time we do reach the summit and the external temperature has plummeted to 6 degrees from 24 degrees at the base. We have climbed about 4000 feet. Mt Wellington is usually covered in snow through the winter months and shrouded with cloud the rest of the year. We are very lucky today as the cloud base is just above our heads and we have a clear view down to Hobart, the Derwent river and Tasman bridge. Linda can not stand this cold and wind so stays in the car but the photographer in me has to seize the opportunity for what I hope will be a spectacular panorama. By the time I finish shooting the 6 or so frames, my hands are completely numb and I am thankful I have the neck strap on the camera. Back in the car and heading down the mountain – the reverse journey, as is often the case, seems to take about half the time and we are soon back on Huon Road, driving through the CBD to North Hobart and the Lodge on Elizabeth. We can't think of anywhere better for dinner than our friend’s recommendation of the previous night – Fish349. Flounder for me, while Linda shares 2 entrée portions of garlic prawns. Can't be faulted. A better sleep tonight as our late showering co-dwellers have moved on. Oh the relief!
After a quick and good breakfast at the Lodge, we drive down Elizabeth Street to the harbour, find a convenient park and are soon comfortably seated in Jam Packed for a real coffee. They do know how to make coffee here – excellent. The building is the original IXL jam factory so it is obvious how the name comes about. Today, and I think most days, it lives up to it's name by being jam packed ! Service is still good – they have a well honed system that works. After our coffee and something sweet we browse through a nearby Aboriginal art shop. The colors in the many different artforms are amazing – we could happily own several, but after a quick review of the budget we wisely settle for some charming handmade wooden Christmas decorations.
If you miss Bruny Island you are missing a special part of Tasmania, but with our schedule we had thought we may not make it, so this afternoon seems an ideal time space to make our Bruny Island dash. Reading the various brochures we had picked up about Bruny, an afternoon is not really long enough but at least we would be catching a glimpse. Driving south from Hobart CBD along Sandy Bay Road we pass some grand residences – obviously a desirable district - and very shortly the Wrest Point Hotel and Casino appears on our right, still a waterfront landmark but now showing it's dated architecture after many years of existence.
A very pretty drive along this inlet coastline soon brings us to Kettering coming to a stop at the head – or so I thought – of the Bruny ferry queue. The 12 noon ferry is just pulling out and the next scheduled is 1:45. This is fine for us and the little wharf restaurant beckons. We sit at the last available table and enjoy a tasty, fresh seafood lunch washed down with a glass of local pinot. The chef comes over about 12:30 and we tell him how much we are enjoying lunch – that’s wonderful he says, “But look, an extra ferry is running and loading now so if you want some extra time on the island I'll put the rest of your lunch in a paper bag and you can rush aboard”. We thank him for this chance but I can't imagine eating my scallop kebabs out of a paper bag so we decline in favour of relaxation. In about 10 minutes Linda points out some other queuing cars on the right hand side of the road – our car is all alone on the left. So much for being in the ferry queue ! It actually doesn't matter too much as the ferry is substantial and the journey short so we end up being about car 20 with the ferry ¼ full. In really busy holiday times it would not do to make this mistake.
A smooth picturesque journey of about 25 minutes brings us to the Bruny ferry terminal. The ramp is quickly down and we are away onto those gravel roads the Europcar people told us to watch out for – remember no insurance if on gravel ! H'mmm. The ferry brings us to the northern section of Bruny so completing the drive to the northern tip, Dennes Point seems a good idea. No sooner have we turned onto the Dennes road but a wild spotted quoll crosses in front of us. We feel so priviledged to glimpse one of these elusive creatures in the wild. A few seconds crossing the road and it was gone. All you can say about Dennes Point is that it is the northern most tip of Bruny and we are quickly on our way south crossing The Neck, a very narrow spit of land which joins the northern section with the southern. This southern end is scenically much more spectacular than the north with the lighthouse at Cape Bruny and it's surrounding coastline well worth a few shots. As we walk up the track towards the lighthouse we become aware of movement at ground level – gigantic solitary ants. As they feel our vibrations, they stop and turn to march aggressively towards our feet. We move on quickly.
The views in this area are quite rugged with waves crashing on the rocks far below and the deep blue Southern Ocean stretching out to the horizon. On our way back towards northern Bruny we detour to Adventure Bay where we had noticed a sign saying 'tesselated paving'. Linda had read something about this but couldn't recall the exact detail. After several false trails we eventually arrive at a rocky foreshore where the rock formations are quite flat and horizontal. Naturally cut into large squares (tessellated) like a huge piece of fudge, it’s geologically interesting.
Almost ferry time so with half an hour up our sleeve we retrace our way back over The Neck making a brief stop at Bish (Bruny Island Smokehouse) only a few minutes from the ferry. We relax on the verandah looking out to sea with a glass of pinot for 20 minutes or so, purchase a very expensive bottle of Bruny Island pinot – more about this later – then meander down to the ferry with plenty of time to spare. We can’t say we have seen all of Bruny Island but we have been to both extremities and a bit in between. Not too bad for an afternoon’s work. We're on the 7pm (last) boat back to Kettering and once there, join the A6 back into CBD Hobart.
We had enjoyed Fish 349 so much on our previous two visits we decide to make it our final Hobart dinner. On arriving at the door about 9:30pm, however, we find they are just closing the kitchen. We will definitely return there next time we visit Hobart, but what about now? There are lots of restaurants in the area with a high percentage being Asian which we don’t favour.
Walking slowly back towards The Lodge we find ourselves drawn to a small Italian establishment – Piccolo. They also are closing their kitchen but say they could just fit us in with a limited menu choice. The options are perfect for us and of a very high quality served with charm.
Very happy, we return to The Lodge and this time an undisturbed sleep. After breakfast, we pay the bill and load up the car which is made more strenuous by having to negotiate narrow stairs and two doors which automatically close and lock behind you.