Abundant wildlife and stunning untouched wildernesses make Tasmania one of the most gorgeous places we have seen so far. Two weeks was just enough to give us a taste of this amazing Australian state, its cuisine as varied as its wildlife.
We arrived at Melbourne airport in the early hours of Friday morning, had a bite to eat from the leftover food we had brought from Thailand, before going through customs ;-). Did get some strange looks from people, over our little airport picnic.
After a while, we caught the bus into the city (scandalised over the price). We had forgotten how expensive Australia is and organised public transport cards for Melbourne, the “Myki” card. Off to see David’s cousin, Carly! We knew she’d be at work, but caught Rohan (her fiancée and all round nice guy) at home still, which was nice. Also greeted by their ferocious and unyielding guard dogs, barking furiously with the promise of licks and cuddles written across their fearsome faces ;-). As soon as Rohan left for work, we showered and took a 5hr visit to the land of nod. The rest of the day was taken up by dropping Tamar’s camera off for cleaning and buying a leg of lamb for a roast dinner (2kg of moth watering deliciousness). Carly arrived home at 5pm, we started cooking a while later, had some great chats over wine and beers. Perfect welcome to Australia!
After our joyous evening of the night before, a good sleep in was required and we managed about 10-11hrs sleep. After our lazy morning, we got out and about to Carly and Rohan’s wedding location, none other than the National Gallery of Victoria! As David was going to photograph the wedding, it was pretty important to walk around, talk about what was going to happen and take a few test shots. Afterwards, we retired to a lovely pub in Fitzroy (hip and happening suburb) for a beer, wandered some streets and picked up some wine. Back at the house, Carly whipped up some very yummy burgers and Rohan cooked them on the Weber outside. We played a board game during the evening, a relaxed evening had by all.
The next day, Sunday, David’s parents arrived and we had some lunch and then wandered off to St Kilda, walked around, ate some potato chips and gravy, then drove onto the overnight ferry to Tasmania!
Woken early by the announcement system of the ferry (damn you announcement person), we got out of our lovely cabin (the ferry ticket was a present from David’s parents, sheer luxury!), got into the car and drove onto Tasmanian soil. We drove to Sheffield, for a (much needed) breakfast picnic in a lovely mural park.
As it was a spectacularly clear and sunny day, we made straight for the famous Cradle Mountain National Park. On the way, we stopped to buy some duck eggs from a friendly (is there any other kind in Tassie?) person, who was selling them directly from their little farm. He showed us around and described his future plans for the farm, we ended up coming away with a dozen eggs (6 chook eggs 4 duck eggs and 2 turkey eggs) and a few kilos of giant mushrooms that were growing wild in his veggie patch, all for $4 (2.5 euros). From this day on, David’s duck egg addiction was born….
Cradle Mountain is a beautiful place. We walked around the lake with David’s mother (Trish), whilst his father (Richard) wandered around the start of the lake as he can’t walk too far due to a back operation last year. A lovely hike, many flowers and gorgeous views.
Afterwards, we went down to Wynyard to shop for the next few days and walked down to Fossil Bluff, to check out some ancient shells (a hobby loved by the whole Baird family)
We arrived at Sisters Beach in the afternoon, where we would stay for the next 4 nights. A luxurious three bedroom house, with large rooms. Magnificent!
So, sleeping in and then off to explore, a pattern we would closely stick to for most of our stay in Tassie. First up: The Nut. An interesting geological feature on the coast, which affords views far into the distance. A steep walk up, and then a wander around, a steep walk back down. Richard had bought a kilo of scallops in the meantime (Coquilles Sant-Jacques), so our dinner was definitely going to be good!
From here we went to Marawah beach, a lovely white sandy beach, which holds surfing competitions. No surf that day and the water was cold enough to also keep us out (not to mention the lack of a surf board).
Like honey? David and his parents sure do! So, we went to a small town, to the house of someone who sells honey direct to the public (they have a large amount of bee hives, they also run a honey business). You can get 1kg containers of Leatherwood honey for $10 a kilo (which has a totally unique Tasmanian flavour), so we stocked up 😉
Back in time for us to quickly head down the beach for a quick and very unsuccessful fishing trip. But with a beautiful sunset. Tomorrow is another day 😉
On Wednesday another sleep in and explore. This time off to Table Cape, checking out the light house and taking a walk along the cliffs. From there we headed inland, off to visit Dip Falls and the very aptly named Big Tree. The falls did indeed dip and the tree was indeed big. The area also contained very many tree ferns.
After we arrived back at the home, David went fishing with his dad, catching some fish, but all of them too small to eat. Still, a lovely afternoon. That night we had the delicious scallops for dinner!
The next day we had a rest day, relaxing indoors, as the weather was somewhat poor. It was on this day while investigating flight prices that we figured out what we are going to do after Australia. We decided on Australia-Hawaii, Hawaii-Canada, Canada-Mexico! The flights David found were all direct, all very cheap. We ended up booking a few days later, very exciting. David also skyped with a childhood friend, Pippi. Who also lived on Heron Island when David was a child, so they had much to talk about. And of course, she now lives on Vancouver Island and we’ll spend two weeks with her and her partner, Quinn, when we go to Canada. David, Tamar and Richard wandered down to the jetty to do some more fishing, Tamar caught her first fish! Again, many fish caught, but all a bit small for eating. So, a successful rest day, much relaxation had by the whole family.
Time to leave Sisters Beach and make our way to Strahan, on the west coast. On the way, we stopped in Burnie to see the Makers Museum, full of things the local people make and have invented. We drove afterward to a platypus viewing area, but couldn’t see any. Which made Tamar very sad, because she really wanted to see these mysterious platypus. Lake Mackenzie was about halfway on the trip, so we drove up and across the damn wall. Interesting views, but also had something of a desolate air about it.
The rain really set in after our picnic lunch, staying with us until we arrived at Strahan. Weather is very variable in Tasmania! The sun came out, and we checked out the platypus viewing area, just 30m or so from our cabin at the caravan park. Just when we were about to leave, we spotted one! It swam closer and closer, looking for food along the banks of the stream, climbing out and around. It came as close as 2m from us, on its way along the stream bank. Quite an amazing experience. Tamar was happy to finally see a platypus, but also a bit in shock, because for 4 years she had thought that platypus were big water animals (at least 1m), but no, they are only 30-50cm. Luckily Richard (David’s Dad) also had the same image before he saw his first platypus years back.
Just before dinner, we went for a walk down to the beach, David set his rodeo line up and had a good play around, happy to be slacklining in Tasmania.
On Saturday we had to get up early, which wasn’t easy considering we had been getting rather used to sleep ins. We made our way on time to the cruise boat, were assigned excellent seats and away we went. Firstly, we went out through Hell’s Gates, a narrow 80m opening to the open ocean, from the very large Macquarie Harbour.
As we went through and came back, we heard sorrowful tales about the early European settlers. Tough lives. From here, we cruised across the bay, slowing as we entered the Gordon river. Just up the river we entered the World Heritage area, of 1.38 MILLION hectares. Just how big is that? Well, that is 1/4th the size of Holland! It has some of the cleanest air and water to be found anywhere on the planet. As the brochure says: “Breathe deeply while you are here.”
This is a Huon pine, a slow growing and long lived species of tree, prized for its timber.
Sure, it doesn’t look magical, but it is! It simply does not rot, thus is an excellent timber for boat building. However, it does take 500yrs to grow to maturity, so the early timber industry decimated this species. It is now illegal to log, to protect the species. We stopped, for a half hour walk in the rainforest. Back on the boat, lunchtime! Plenty of smoked salmon! Some may or may not have made its way into a secret bag.
Sarah Island was the next stop.
This was one of the most brutal convict settlements in Tasmania and was for those convicts who had already re-offended. Click this link: Convicts in Tasmania, to read and understand more about convicts in Tasmania. If you would like to read more about the history of thousands of convicts (quite often only convicted for stealing bread or something else small) from Great Britain and shipped off to Australia, we advise you to read this page. The tour on the island was the best that any of us had ever done! The woman who led the tour, gave the information as though we were the convicts, which certainly.
After the tour, we managed to see the platypus again!
And also the weather cleared up a little. Making the most of the rain free weather, we went for a walk in the local rainforest patch, to a waterfall.
The next day we left Strahan. Our longest driving day: 250km. Ok, so Tasmania is small, but it is PACKED full of amazing sights, walks, wild life and things to do, so it does take a long time to get anywhere, with all the stopping. We stopped just before lunch for a walk through the rainforest to another waterfall, just gorgeous.
SO MANY ECHIDNAS! We must have seen at least 20 echidnas, just eating and wandering around by the side of the road. We stopped twice, to get out and have a good look at them, take some photos.
A short stop at the Franklin River where David managed to get in a slackline, Richard and Tamar practiced skipping stones and Trish did a bit of exploring. David had heard a lot about this river while he was growing up. The Franklin River was the site of environmental protests, actually the largest environmental protests in Australia’s history.
Lake Saint Clair was our next stopping point, just a quick look around, before hopping back in the car.
At this point we had only driven 100km, so we had some distance to go! We drove all the way to North Norfolk in one go, arriving and making a quick dinner. A short walk along the river after dinner and bed time.
On Monday it was time to get some culture. A short drive to the northern outskirts of Hobart and MONA (Museum of Old and New Art). Wow. A private individual funds the entire project including: The building (which cost well over $100,000,000 AUS), winery, brewery, staff, exhibits, EVERYTHING. And let us tell you, there are no cut corners. Everything is of the highest quality. And for a mere $20AUS (free if you live in Tasmania), you get to enter one of the world’s very best galleries. It truly is a wonderful experience. We are already looking forward to our return.
After the exhibits, we had a lovely picnic lunch outside the museum, then went into the centre of Hobart. We wandered around Constitution Dock (where the yachts finish the Sydney-Hobart race) and the CBD (Central Business District).
Leaving Hobart, we stopped to do food shopping, and somehow fit all the food and ourselves back into the car, and go to the house we had rented. Absolutely lovely. Only bush around, no houses in sight, no sounds other than the wind in the trees and the birds. In the following days we would see many wallabies and possums around the house. We were also lucky to spot some sugar gliders.
David got up very early, enjoyed the peaceful sounds of the bush, for hours before anyone else got up. Working quite productive on the blog and his pictures. When we got out the door, for a day’s exploration we managed to get about 10 minutes down the road before we stopped at a small cheese making place. Sheeps cheese, yummy! Back on the road, we managed 20 minutes before we stopped to collect monster oysters, just lying on the beach. Oysters, yummy!
Then we made our way down to a beach, in a secluded location which David’s parents had discovered on one of their long trips to Tasmania. Fossils! We like to look at them and imagine the conditions millions of years ago. And to look at their pretty shapes. This beach is covered in small shell and fern imprints and fossils. Also oysters!
On the way home we stopped at a winery. We did a tasting and of course couldn’t leave without buying a bottle ;-). We bought a bottle of white wine as we had a sushi dinner planned for that night.
David prepared the sushi dinner with fresh Tasmanian Salmon and wild Tasmanian oysters as a starter. Yummm!
The following day we spiced up the dreary, rainy morning with a visit to the Shot Tower. They built this tall structure so that they could make bullets (the lead melted at the top, dripping and cooling on the way down, falling into a big container of water). The views from the top were lovely!
The next stops were the Female Factory and the Cascade Brewery. The Female Factory is a bleak place, where female convicts were forced to make products and live in very crowded conditions. The Cascade Brewery makes lots of different brews but wouldn’t sell us the ones we thought we might like to try, so they missed a sale there.
We decided that the Botanical Gardens would be a welcome change. Whilst it was extremely windy, we still had a great time wandering the gardens. These gardens have been visited by many distinguished visitors over the years, but the one who really stood out was Charles Darwin.
Thursday was a scheduled rest day and the weather co-operated with: Rain, clear sun with no clouds, Hail, Snow, Hail with Sun, Sleet, cloudy all in the space of a few hours.
We drove to the library to use and abuse their internet for a few hours, as internet is so hard to come by in Tassie. Some shots of the afternoon at our lovely warm and cossy airbnb with a fireplace 😉
On our way home from the library and in one of the 30 minute gaps of sunny weather, we gathered a bunch of huge oysters from the beach and what did we find? Pearls! I don’t think we’ll be able to pay off the rest of the trip with them, but we sure will make some special jewellery.
(David’s mother is very good at making jewellery). We ended the day with a class of bikram yoga. It was great to follow a class again, but the pain that we felt over next few days was terrible…
The next day we took the ferry to Bruny Island, famous for its beaches and gorgeous walks. It didn’t disappoint.
We went walking at Adventure Bay, saw a live snake and dead seal. Had a lovely, but tough hike up to Fluted Cape and then had lunch at a lovely bay.
Of course we couldn’t leave the island without oysters. So the boys went oyster harvesting!
We finished the day with a roaring fire and massive oyster bounty for dinner..
On Saturday we went to the famous Salamanca markets. And what did we find there, but a poffertjeskraam, which also sold olliebollen (Dutch treat that is eaten at New Years Eve, but also already sold and eaten two weeks before.) We ate some yummy Olliebollen and Tamar will make some at Christmas for the rest of the Australian family. The rest of the day we drove up to our next destination Deloraine, with some nice stops on the way.
In Deloraine we went platypus spotting first
and then drove to our home for the next 2 days and Trish and Richard’s first couchsurfing experience. Our hosts were the awesome Andrew and Steve, along with the star of the show, their lovely son Bastian (nearly one year old). Steve had prepared a lovely curry, which was washed down with a great red wine and some Tassie beers. Dear Bastian stole the show at every chance, by being the most adorable baby ever! Till we have our own of course!
On our last full day in Tassie we had a busy schedule planned. We started at the wildlife park to see Tasmanian Devils
getting fed and to cuddle with some wombats.
The park also houses other animals like kangaroos, wallaby, quolls, and echidnas.
After seeing a wallaby carcass being ripped apart by a group of devils,
we went to Alum Cliffs for a nice quiet walk. At a lot of walks in Australia you will find information boards about how Aboriginals used the nature in that specific area for thousands of years. For the non-Australians reading this blog, Aboriginals have lived in Australia for more than 50,000 years.
Cave time. We visited the Marakoopa cave in Mole Creek. This is a wet cave with many stalactites and a large population of glow worms within the caves.
On our way back to Deloraine we stopped at a honey shop (owned by Dutchies) for some Honey Tasting, many many varieties including chocolate and lavender honey, then honey icecreams for all. Turns how if you eat enough honey quickly enough, you can get hot flushes… Cool…? Back at the house we made stampot (a Dutch meal with mashed potatoes, kale and sausages) for dinner and had a lovely last evening with our hosts.
When we arrived in Launceston the next day we got a phone call that we had forgotten David’s phone and had to drive back while Trish and Richard had a nice walk at Cataract Gorge. We also had a quick look at the gorge when we arrived again 1,5 hours later and saw a bold echidna (we love these animals).
Driving through Tamar Valley and along Tamar river, we had some nice stops on our way. At Swan Point we had a picnic lunch (our everyday habit and easily done in Australia with picnic areas everywhere with tables, toilets and often also a free bbq) and a lovely walk.
Our last stop before getting in the ferry again was Latrobe. We heard about an amazing crazy store there. And so it was. The 15 minutes we spent rushing around and checking out this amazing store will be something we will never forget. As we were researching to get the links to place here, so you could get more info, we found out that the store had burnt down completely just before christmas. Devastating! Here are the links to their website and their facebook. Support quirky enterprises wherever you find them, so much love went into this store, we felt just like children again as we wandered through (fed a slice of homemade fudge as we entered, given directions by a true fairy)
We enjoyed Tassie to the fullest with the beautiful landscapes, the big variety of wild life and all the yummy oysters to harvest for free on the beaches. And of course it was great to see David’s parents again and let them show us around on the island were they already had been so many times before.