Melbourne to Mornington to Cowes to Melbourne to Tasmania [Devonport, Launceston, St. Helens, Freycinet National Park]
03.16.2009 - 03.23.2009 70 °F
Note: It appears that some people did not receive our last blog update from Melbourne. If you didn't receive it, you can view it in the table of contents at www.trevorlawton.travellerspoint.com.
We left Melbourne to spend a couple of days in Mornington with an ex-work colleague and friend. The Mornington Peninsula is a favorite summer and weekend destination for Melbournites. There are beautiful sandy beaches, wineries, and national parks. It was a welcome reprieve after the hustle and bustle of Melbourne.
We visited Point Nepean, a former quarantine station and defense post, now a national park. Within the park, we saw the point at Cheviot Beach where Prime Minister Harold Holt disappeared while surfing in 1967 [Bill Bryson, in his book "In a Sunburnt Country", makes mention of Harold Holt numerous times amazed that a country can "misplace" a prime minister!].
We didn't solve the disappearance of Harold Holt but we did spot you know in Melbourne.
We spent a night on Philip Island, which is home to one of Australia's most popular tourist attractions, the Penguin Parade. Every evening at sunset, hundreds of little penguins come ashore at Summerland Beach and waddle across the sand to their burrows in the grass.
The following evening we made our way to Port Melbourne to embark on the Spirit of Tasmania and our 11-hour ferry crossing to Devonport, Tasmania. The crossing was thankfully uneventful - numerous people had related horror stories about how rough the crossing can be but at least on the outward bound journey we had calm seas.
Human habitation of Tasmania dates back 35,000 years when Aborigines first reached the area. At this time Tasmania was linked to continental Australia but waters rose to form the Bass Strait at the end of the Ice Age twelve thousand years ago. Dutch explorer Abel Tasman set foot on the island in 1642 and inspired its modern name. He originally called it Van Diemen's Land, after the governor of the Dutch East Indies.
Did You Know?
Locals affectionately refer to their state as Tassie and to themselves as Taswegians.
Tasmania is about the same size as West Virginia.
One fifth of Tasmania is protected as a World Heritage Area. Australia's largest conservation zone satisfies all four natural criteria for World Heritage listings. Its rocks represent every geological period, the wide array of plants are unique to the area and it is home to some of the oldest trees and the longest caves in the world.
Approximately forty per cent of Tasmanians (total population 482,000) live in the capital city, Hobart
Tasmania is located between 40 and 44 Degrees Latitude.
We spent several hours in Launceston, Tasmania's second largest city [population 67,000]. It is a charming city with old buildings, parks, gardens, riverside walks, galleries and museums.
We walked to Cataract Gorge Reserve, a short walk from the city center, into a gorge with nearly vertical cliffs on the banks of the South Esk River. At the end of the gorge there is a chairlift over the water, a suspension bridge built in 1895 and a municipal swimming pool and park.
We spent our first night in St. Helens, an old whaling port and one of Tasmania's busiest fishing centers.
We are now in Freycinet National Park on the east coast of Tasmania. The park has pristine sandy beaches, azure waters, breathtaking ocean views, distinctive pink granite peaks, historic sites and numerous walking tracks. We hiked to the Wineglass Bay lookout, a tough climb but well worth the effort [easy for Rebecca to say!].
The nearest town, Coles Bay, boasts of being Australia's first plastic bag free town! We have been very impressed, both here and in New Zealand, at the attention to protecting the environment. Most of the National Park areas here are accessible only on foot.
Today we took a 4 wheel drive tour into the park to the Cape Tourville, White Water Wall and Bluestone Bay. We saw several wallaby [small kangaroos], sheer cliffs that drop into the Tasman Sea, a lighthouse and enjoyed a cup of local bush tea called kunzea [we'll stick to Tetley in future!].
More on our Tassie adventure in a few days.
Trevor and Rebecca