22. Tasmania

I’ll admit, in my previous post I did a little Australia bashing over the whole farm work thing. For this entry though, I want to focus on my recent trip to Tasmania and how much I loved the whole experience. There are so many things to see, do, and eat, I could definitely see myself going back for another trip.

Remarkable cave – outline creates the same shape as the state.

Tasmania is the island state off of the southern coast of Australia. It’s a small place, with the capital Hobart home to just around 522 000 people. It reminded me a lot of home with its beautiful scenic landscapes, friendly people, and four season climate. Almost 42% of the state is protected, meaning there’s a lot of untouched forests and tons of animals, with large conservation signs for the Tasmanian devil.

I went to Tassie over Easter and it was an excellent time of year to go. The weather was warm but not too hot, and it only rained in the mornings when we were driving from place to place. I went with Ryan and he was happy to do the driving. The roads we used were paved, and the highway system was relatively easy to navigate with offline google maps. Hobart does have many one way streets, so that part was tricky, but otherwise he did a remarkable job (even with me squeaking in alarm in the passenger seat beside him.) The drives in Tasmania were fairly short distances, max five hours on the day from Hobart to Launceston with the stop in Wineglass Bay. The ride was so pretty, I’d go so far to say it gives Great Ocean Road a run for its money.

We flew from Melbourne into Hobart, were we spent the first three nights. The first evening we checked in and walked where the Salamanca market normally takes place. We walked around Battery Point, a very pretty and historic neighbourhood near the water where I had an excellent cup of tea at a cafe and he had a meat pie. We also walked constitution pier where all the fisherman line up their boats filled with woven baskets.

Constitution pier, wicker baskets.

The next day, we picked up the car and drove to Port Arthur. Port Arthur historic site was an open air penitentiary for convicts who had reoffended in the new colony in the 1880s. Today the buildings that remain on the site are mostly in ruins. We went on a free walking tour to get started to know what we were looking at. There was a library for rehabilitation, a church (first thing to be built), foundations of the officers buildings, and cottages for the big wigs. Port Arthur was built and led by convicts, who stripped lumber, made boats, cooked, and provided for themselves. There was a pecking order of jobs for the best to worst behaved convicts, and even a separate jail for those that reoffended again. Many men returned to Port Arthur several times throughout their lives, but others were able to learn a new trade and live a far more productive life than in the UK. It was a very interesting piece of history in Tasmania and for Australia.

Port Arthur, looking from pier.

Port Arthur also didn’t have any walls. It had a quiet, sheltered bay with a single road traveling in and out with an infamous dog line to alert guards of escapees. The surrounding landscape was uninhabited, and many convicts gave up trying to survive in the bush after several days. One somewhat successful attempt was a rowing crew who managed to escape to New South Wales, north of Sydney, but they were recaptured four months later. Another convict escaped twice by swimming, but again was caught. The most devastating and powerful stories were around the place were the two islands in the bay – the smaller island was a cemetery. Both convicts and free men were buried there, and apart from some small stone headstones sneaking through the trees, it could easily be missed. The second island was a penitentiary for children – young boys who were separated from the adults in Port Arthur, but made to serve out a sentence. Apparently it’s due more to this island that the place was designated a world heritage site.

Port Arthur was the site of the only mass shooting in Australia in 1996. There is a memorial garden paying tribute to the people who lost their lives there. In that sense, Port Arthur is important for its historic and modern presence in Australia’s culture.

After Port Arthur and the Remarkable Cave, Ryan and I began the climb (literal) up the lookout at Mount Wellington. This was a narrow, winding road with a sheer drop off on the side (cue the squeaking). The lookout had an amazing view over the entire city of Hobart. It was also quite windy and cold from the climate below.

The next day, we went to Bruny Island via the ferry. Ryan had never driven onto a ferry before, but the ride and the island reminded me of Prince Edward County. Getting off the ferry, we drove straight to Bruny island cheese Factory for a cheese plate and a cappuccino. We then went past the Neck Lookout and picked up some delicious fudge at the chocolate factory. Tracing our steps back to the lookout, we climbed the perilous stairs and took in the view. Would recommend giving Bruny Island place a night of its own! It’s a beautiful place for a drive or camp in summer I imagine. That evening I wasn’t feeling well, so we picked up some spicy Malasiyan and some small gifts, swam, and got groceries.

The Truganni “neck” lookout.

To note:

The Neck lookout was named after Truganni, a local native woman who lived when the white colonizers arrived. After her sister and mother were kidnapped, her father disappeared, and her fiancé killed in front of her, she was made to work for the colonizers. She was raped repeatedly and eventually escaped to thwart the invaders. She was successful numerous times. As she grew older, she feared her body would be stolen and used for science, which is exactly what happened. Today, her body is on display in a museum in Europe, and has not been returned to her land.

Driving near Dunalley.

Friday was Good Friday, so we anticipated stores being closed. We drove to Freycinet National Park to go to iconic Wineglass Bay. I was underprepared – turns out you can’t drive up it, it’s a full on hike. After racing through 40 minutes of terrain, we made it to the lookout, filled with children and elderly people as we mopped our brows. Afterwards we had a yummy lunch of cheese, olives, sourdough bread, prosciutto and salami, and started on to Launceston.

Wineglass Bay.

I can say I didn’t have the opportunity to give Launceston a fair shot, but I really liked the parts I saw. By this point, aggravated by the sprint-walk, I was definitely feeling sick. I proceeded to sleep through most of the evening and much of the next day. We skipped out on the highly recommended brewery tour and banished thoughts on hiking Craddle mountain, which sounded lovely but simply wasn’t in the cards this time around.

Church on St. John street, Launceston.

Easter Sunday we went to Cataract Gorge for brunch. This unintentional but highly romantic spot was a good way to test I was feeling better and that tea should always be served with hot, not lukewarm water. Also, there were peacocks strutting around, and it was highly enjoyable watching people interact with them.

Cataract Gorge peacock.

Devonport was the smallest place we stayed. That night we ate Indian, and rose early the next day to catch the Spirit of Tasmania.

The spirit of Tasmania.

Now let me just say right off the bat I’m not an all-inclusive resort person. I tried it and it doesn’t work for me. I need to move around and see stuff, not engage in drinking as my primary activity. I’m fine for the first day or two, but then get bored beyond belief. In my mind, resorts and cruises are similar in that the activities are limited, but cruises are worse in that you can’t leave. The ten hour journey on the Spirit was quite enough for me. Other people might have enjoyed it with its movie theatre and slot machines, cafes and bars, but the Indian food wasn’t settling well and I tried my very best to sleep it all away.

Catching a quick cab we quietly rocked back into Melbourne, which felt like quite a large city by the time we got back. If I were me, I’d go back to Tasmania in a heartbeat.

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