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Having been in Australia for four months living in the western suburbs of Sydney, it was time to venture out to the state island of Tasmania which as kids was always somewhere unreachable and only known for the Tasmanian Devil.
With close to 45% of the island covered in reserves, national parks and world heritage sites, hiring a campervan was undoubtedly the best way to visit some of the main hotspots whilst having a thoroughly enjoyable experience whilst doing so. Apollo was the company of our choice due to its price, campervan quality and overall service and it lived up to and beyond every expectation of ours.
With only six days on the island, an early, 6am flight from Sydney ensured we were able to make the most of our first day having picked up the campervan and stocked up on all our essentials by 10:30am.
Port Arthur, our first port of call, was originally established as a penal station in 1830 as a timber camp which soon grew to becoming a major industrial settlement by 1840 which was occupied by over 2000 convicts, soldiers and civil staff site. Port Arthur had become a punishment station for repeat offenders and were brought here from all Australian colonies. With it now a world famous tourist destination and world heritage site it is understandably visited by many tourists but the history behind it all makes it more than worthwhile. A walk about tour of the site by one of the guides was incredibly interesting as he gave a real insight as to what went on over the years along with a couple of individual accounts from particular convicts.
Billy Hunt - One of over 200 escape attempts which was slightly more inventive when faced with guards. After covering the ground to Eaglehawk Neck, the single narrow road connecting the tasman peninsula to the forestier peninsula, he was faced with his final obstacle before being able to dissapear throughout the depths of Tasmania. Guarded by the dog line and a number of guards patroling the 400m, narrow stretch of land which was his route to freedom, it was going to be difficult to get by unnoticed. With no way of getting passed, his innovative mind found a kangaroo carcass which would provide a disguise to get passed the guards. His improvisation would seem to have worked if it wasn't for the hungry guards and so before being shot for kangaroo meat, he gave himself in.
A short visit across to The Isle of the Dead also meant we were able to visit the burial grounds of around 1100 people which included military and civil officers, their wives and children along with many of the convicts. The island was used as a cemetery between 1833 and 1877 and still to this day there are quite a number of large detailed headstones which were erected in memory of loved ones. The short ferry ride across gave us great views of the entire settlement and at the same time found ourselves in the opening to the harbour which faced open water directly down to Antarctica.
A 250km drive up the east coast meant we were on the edge of the Freycinet National Park which is where the famous wineglass bay is found. However, on the way we couldn't resist making a short stop at Katies Berry Farm, a popular cafe which is part of many tours in this area.
Katie's Berry Farm is home to mouth watering homemade jams, ice-cream, frozen yogurt and chocolate...it's hard to reisist! Whilst enjoying our delicious jam with scones and frozen yogurt, we sat overlooking Katie's beautiful berry garden with the Freycinet National Park backdrop. I highly recommend a visit!
After Port Arthur we came across Port Arthur Lavender, a lovely cafe and shop surrounded in lavender fields. Although not tremendously big it was none-the-less beautiful and a tranquil walk. The shop sold great products from Lavender soaps to Lavender chocolate!
katie's berry farm
Mouth watering homemade jams, ice-cream, frozen yogurt and chocolate...what more could you ask for?
With the national park having very few stretches of road, all vehicle access came to an end only a couple of kilometres beyond Coles Bay which meant both the bay and it's impressive lookout are only accessible on foot up the side of Mount Amos.
A visit to the view point along the inclined path provided some impressive vantage points of the Great Oyster Bay before moving in amongst an endless number of impressively large boulders as the track inclined close to the lookout. Once at the top, it becomes apparent as to why so many people make the trek to this specific point, a beautiful opening looking over the entire Wineglass Bay in the heart of the dense National Park.
Freycinet national park
Back in the car park we came across a few friendly wallabies in search of food. Despite having seen plenty of wallabies we still get excited every time!
However, in order to really venture into the National Park we would have needed a couple of full days where we would have prepared for a number of hikes in the wild.
We count ourselves lucky for coming across a few Echidnas on the way. It was hard to see these camouflaged critters on the side of the road but we managed to spot a few and stop to observe them...and obviously take selfies. Echidnas are native to Australia and extremely adorable, but watch out for those spines!
A further 115km along the east coast took us up to the Bay of Fires, a stretch of coastline lined with beautiful white sand beaches, bright blue waters and the famous orange-hued granite which is formed by the lichen living on the rocks. Having done a little research prior to our journey, both sunrise and sunset were said to be the best times of the day to admire the impressive natural colours which are in stark contrast to the blinding white sand beaches. With Binalong Bay noted as one of the better areas to view and enjoy the 'fires' we ensured we arrived with plenty of time prior to sunset giving ourselves the late afternoon to sit out amongst the rocks admiring these beautiful colours which did happen to enhance as the sun went down.
bay of fires
Having found it on WikiCamps, Jeanneret Beach Camp Ground was all we needed for the night but we soon found out what a good spot we had chosen. The camp lined a beautifully quiet, secluded, white sand beach which didn't have a single soul on it and there was only the sound of the small waves rolling up the shore.
With these beautiful spots hard to come by, we made sure we spent some time enjoying the tranquillity of this picturesque beach before setting off by just sitting on the white sand with our feet in shallow wash of the light blue waves.
With the next destination of our journey being the Tamar Valley it was time to head off the east coast and enjoy a drive inland, experiencing two very contrasting landscapes with acres of wide, open baron fields followed by dense, green forest. Both forms of scenery were beautiful in their own ways and it was most certainly a drive we could not get bored of.
Although reluctant to call it a drought, Tasmania had been hit with the dryest spring in the last 70 years which was evident from the dry, brown, baron fields which lacked any colour remotely close to a shade of green. This lack of rain has also led to a huge number of bushfires throughout the north of the island. Whilst on the island, there was approximately 80 fires blazing and was greatly noticeable as we headed north with the air having a very hazy look to it, with some areas causing issues with visibility.
The Tamar Valley gave us our first taste of the local Tassie wine but it also gave us the first sight of an infamous Aussie Bushfire. The Tamar Ridge Vineyard provided good views of the blazing fire on the east side of the river and a great vantage point of the Tamar Valley. With a young, growing interest in wine having already visited Hunter Valley in New South Wales, we enjoyed a little wine tasting. As it so happened we had also briefly stopped at their sister vineyard, Devil's Corner along the way.
wine, wine & more wine
Moore's was another vineyard we visited where we had a taste of their full range of whites and reds. This delightful cellar overlooked their rich green vineyard.
With Sea-horses not easily sighted in the wild, we paid a little visit to Seahorse World at Beauty Point where we were able to get a little insight into these peculiar creatures. Slightly different from your average aquarium, it was more of a sanctuary where the seahorses were bred and then sold or released. A guided tour throughout enabled visitors to view the fish at every stage of their early life whilst being given the basic interesting facts into their existence. Doing what we always do best; living off a budget and looking for some good deals, a voucher from Kelloggs cereal gave us one free entry with the purchase of another.
With a strong desire to see as many of the native Australian animals in the wild as possible, we could not give up the opportunity to stop off a the Platypus capital of the world, Latrobe. With it not too far a drive from Tamar Valley, as well as it being middle of the afternoon it was the perfect time to hopefully get a couple of sightings. A little research on the internet sent us off the B19 onto Hamilton street which then joined onto Shale road and just beyond the Old Deloraine road junction to a narrow, quiet spot of the Mersey river which had a grass opening perfect to sit and wait. With dusk being the best time to see these small mammals, we had to wait a while until the sunset. As soon as the sun began to fall we got our first glimpse of one as it swam on the waters surface from one river bank to the other. After having briefly seen one, we were then lucky enough to see another five enjoying their late afternoon swim, however getting a good view of the whole platypus was difficult in the dark waters and under low light.
platapuses in latrobe
A visit to the famous world heritage national park was a must, and with not enough time to take on the challenge of a hike across the national park, it meant we did it the easy way by accessing the park at both the north and south end on consecutive days. The first stop was at Cradle Valley where we took the shuttle bus up to Dove Lake. Here we took a walk along the waters edge to a number of the closer lookouts whilst enjoying the impressive backdrop of Cradle Mountain, one of Tasmania's most recognisable landmarks. A visit to Glacier Rock which sat over the water allowed for us to get right on the edge giving an impressive vantage point of the lake.
The boat shed, close to the car park, was another exquisite spot to sit and admire the scenery. Despite not having the height of Glacier Rock, the rustic look of the shed as well as its location with respect to the lake and Cradle Mountain provided for an alternative form of a beautiful setting.
With time unfortunately not in our favour, the famous hikes to Hanson's Peak, Cradle Mountain Summit or even to the crater lake and Mario's lookout were not possible so instead we took the alternative of heading to Ronny Creek. A very short walk along the side of the streams along the board-walks was thoroughly enjoyable as it was a very quiet and peaceful spot as well as the fact that we finally got to see a number of wild Wombats going about their own business.
With the sighting of a Tasmanian Devil looking less likely, we made an afternoon visit to Devils @ Cradle where we were able to join an interactive tour which gave us a daunting insight into the increasing potential of extinction of the devils. With numbers of devils plummeting in recent years, a number of conservation breeding programs are in place in order to increase the numbers whilst also trying to mitigate their biggest threat, Devil Facial Tumour Disease (DFTD).
Having visited the national park from the north, we then entered it from the south, stopping off to visit the vast Lake St Clair which was originally scoured out by glaciers over two million years ago. A short walk around the southern end of the lake with not a single tourist in sight enabled us to enjoy the peace and tranquillity which runs through the national park. On a beautifully sunny day, with only a slight breeze and little movement on the water's surface it was fairly clear as to why the Aboriginals gave it the name Leeawuleena, meaning sleeping water.
Australia's second oldest city, Hobart, is where we spent the last couple of days of our short adventure enjoying some of the famous sites and enjoying some of the fresh local foods with some local beer. Having handed in our campervan we spent the night couch surfing with a local in his house which overlooked the entire city.
Salamanca Place, a beautiful picturesque row of converted sandstone warehouses within Hobart situated right on the waters edge. This example of Australian Colonial Architecture dating back to the 1830s really is worth a visit before you are drawn in by the lively, vibrant restaurants, bars and shops. Arriving late afternoon meant we stopped at Jack Greene Bar for a drink which led to dinner followed by more drinks. Being the day before Australia Day, it was heaving with people and despite the long wait for food, our thick succulent burgers were well worth the wait!
From one meal to the next, an enjoyable early afternoon walk down to Sullivan's Cove along Franklin Wharf was enough to build up an appetite and so headed straight to Fish Frenzy where we devoured a beautiful fresh fish and chips in the sun whilst overlooking the small marina. The name for this acclaimed "Fish and Chippery" originally spread via word of mouth which then followed with accolades in publications and magazines worldwide. Known for its quality seafood and quick service, it is a top choice for both locals and visitors and is also situated in the perfect location for a bite to eat before a trip to the ever increasingly famous MONA Museum.
Mona Museum, a museum of old and new art is suggested by everyone when in Hobart, not especially for its art but rather for its unique, peculiar and obscure choice of art, along with its impressive building design underground. One of the oddest art we saw being a human tattoo model! His skin had already been sold off for when he passes on! Despite the bus option to the museum, a trip on the MR-I Fast Ferry is well worth the extra few dollars as we were able to enjoy beautiful views of the city as it dapples the foothills of Mt Wellington, as well as a number of landmarks along the edge of the Derwent river.
The craziest thing was a Human Tattoo Model!
Seeing Tasmania by campervan was without doubt the best way. Having the freedom of stopping and camping overnight whenever we wished, whether it be by a lake or next to the beach, and taking everything at our prefered pace was ideal. Australia offers some very good free camp sites with toilet facilities and the occasional cold shower. Apollo campers are easy and comfortable to drive and fully equipped which meant we did not have to worry about buying any additional items. All in all, even though we would have preferably stayed a lot longer on this beautiful island we had a brilliant time!