Hobart, Richmond, Strahan, Cradle Mountain, Stanley, Wynyard, Penguin & Devonport
03.24.2009 - 03.31.2009 60 °F
Tasmania is relatively unknown. Mention it in conversation and no one is quite sure where it is! Australia's only island state lies 125 miles south of Melbourne., an eleven hour ferry journey across the Bass Strait.
But wherever you travel, everyone seems to have heard of it's most famous resident.
The Tasmanian devil has always been emblematic of the island. The shy nocturnal marsupial (extinct on mainland Australia) was recently relatively common throughout the island. During the past ten years however, a deadly cancer has halved the population and the devil is now officially listed as an endangered species.
Unfortunately, we haven't seen a Tasmanian Devil since we've been here and since it's our last day in Tassie chances are it won't happen - at least not on this trip! (We could have paid to go into several sites where devils are reared in captivity but that seemed like cheating!)
We enjoyed Hobart and surrounds during the middle part of our Tassie travels. We stayed in the maritime village of Battery Point, one of the most historic districts in Hobart, at a very quaint B&B which is located 2 blocks from the finish line of the annual Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race.
The village with its views down to the Derwent River, was originally home to a naval gun battery, positioned to ward of potential enemy invaders. It still retains a strong sense of history, with its narrow gas-lit streets and workers' houses, cottage gardens, colonial mansions and pubs.
We had several interesting conversations with the owner of the B&B and in one breakfast discussion she revealed that there is "latent resentment" amongst Australians towards the United States for the economic turmoil now affecting Australia. She said that the overwhelming feeling is that "greedy" Americans have caused the world economic situation. Interesting to receive someone else's perspective.
We drove to the top of Mt. Wellington a 1270 meter (3700 foot) peak that dominates the Hobart landscape. It was blowing a gale at the top - 70 mph winds. We were able to hold the camera still long enough for a few shots (actually through the glass of a viewing platform at the summit - out of the wind).
We also visited the village of Richmond, about 16 miles from Hobart, which lies in the heart of Tasmania's fastest growing wine region, the Coal River Valley. Richmond is a small English-like village, and contains more than fifty buildings from the 19th century This was the first area granted to free settlers from England for farming, and at its center they established a township reminiscent of their homeland. At its heart is the historic Richmond Bridge, built by convicts in 1823 and Austrtralia's oldest bridge still in use. It was very quaint and like stepping back in time.
Off the wild west coast of Tasmania, there is nothing but vast stretches of water until the southern tip of Argentina, on the other side of the globe! The region bears the full brunt of the "Roaring Forties" - the name given to the tremendous winds which whip southwesterly off the Southern Ocean.
Aborigines survived in this inhospitable environment for thousands of years before English convicts, civilians and soldiers were sent here in the 1820's and took over their land.
Their harsh and isolated settlement was a penal station on Sarah Island, situated in the middle of the immense Macquarie Harbor. The name of the harbor entrance "Hells Gates", reflects the conditions endured by seaman and convicts - shipwrecks, drownings, suicides and murders all occurred here.
We left Hobart and drove directly west through Queenstown to the old fishing village of Strahan, which grew up around an early timber industry supported by convict labor who harvested the Huon Pine which was used to build boats and ships for the British Government.
We took a 6 hour boat journey from Strahan into Macquarie Harbor, out to the Southern Ocean and cruised along the Gordon River in the Tasmanian Wilderness, a world-heritage site. We also visited Sarah Island, which was closed in 1833 to be replaced by the "model prison" of Port Arthur.
One thing that struck us is that even though Tasmania has more than its fair share of World Heritage sites, there is a tremendous amount of logging and mining still going on today. The town of Queenstown looks like a moonscape from all the copper mining. Continued logging of the Tasmanian wilderness is an emotional subject amongst Tasmanians.
From Strahan we drove to Cradle Mountain, a National Park and another World Heritage site. It turned cold and gray during our visit and we enjoyed sitting by the fire in the cabin after a couple of long hikes. Apparently the weather is notoriously fickle at Cradle Mountain - it rains 7 out of 10 days and has 54 snowy days annually. Our picture of Lake Dove with Cradle Mountain in the background indicates the weather patterns we experienced during our visit!
The wildlife was interesting though!
From Cradle Mountain National Park we drove to the north western coast of Tassie to the beautiful, picturesque fishing village of Stanley which is nestled at the foot of the extraordinary Circular Head, known as the "Nut" - Aborigines called it Moo-Nut-Re-Ker.
Formed over 13 million years ago when lava shot through the earth's surface, cooled and formed basalt, the Nut rises 500 feet above Stanley from the Bass Strait. It was proclaimed a State Reserve in 1980.
Out last night In Tasmania was spent in Wynyard, an old historic fishing village. The weather remains gray and wet.
On our short drive along the coast to Devonport to board the Spirit of Tasmania, we stopped in several quaint costal towns including Penguin.
Having a little time to kill before our evening sailing , we paid a fleeting visit to the Don River Railway where we took a short train ride along the Don River in a restored locomotive.
Tomorrow we'll be back on the mainland and will start our three-day trek from Melbourne to Sydney.
Trevor and Rebecca