Our Hobart wrap up

In what seemed no time at all the end of the school term loomed and it would soon be time to leave Hobart.

School itself was a positive experience for the kids. They made friends and were involved in a number of activities. Ben was appointed House Captain and Reardon was a School Council Representative as well as a Mediator. They enjoyed being selected by their peers for these roles and wearing their badges to school.

There always seemed to be something happening, such as sporting competitions, incursions and excursions. In fact, I was lucky enough to be able to tag along with the boys one day when they got to go on board the replica of The Endeavour (Captain Cook’s ship). This was great.

We had crossed paths with the ship in a couple of locations and I  had wanted to have a look but hadn’t been able to until then. There were a number of volunteers on board that took the class around the ship explaining various bits and pieces. My favourite part was listening to an old-timer explaining how he had been on a number of ‘expeditions’ and even got to sail on The Endeavour to Greenwich (UK) from where it had originally set sail in 1768. I will never forget the look on his face as he reminised and told the story, continuing even as the kids lost interest and wandered off to look at other things.

The showgrounds always had something going on, from weekly markets to dog and poultry shows, to soccer games on the main arena. Gradually, the number of campers coming in dropped off as the weather got cooler. It was no coincidence then that our caretaking rounds got quicker. It went from a couple of hours when the camping area and overflow were full, to half an hour or less when the numbers dropped to around 20 or so vans. Someone always wanted a chat!

One weekend afternoon was spent exploring Kangaroo Bluff Battery. This is a pentagonal shaped battery which was completed in 1884 with the intention (along with a number of other batteries) to protect Hobart from invasion. The site is open daily and is free. Lots of information is scattered throughout the battery about its history, design and the type of guns used. You can still walk around where the old moat was. Not only does it also provide yet more great views of Mt Wellington but it’s not a bad place to do a Cher impersonation either!

An open passageway of the battery

An open passageway of the battery

The kids at Kangaroo Bluff battery

The kids at Kangaroo Bluff battery

A ditch around the perimeter

A ditch around the perimeter

"If I could turn back time"

“If I could turn back time”

Before even getting to Tasmania we had heard about MONA (Museum of Old and New Art) in Hobart. Mainly we had heard that  people had found some of the art  confronting – particularly the wall of ‘lady bits’. We went along with an open mind had a good look around but Paul and I would mostly stand there scratching our heads saying, “I don’t get it”.

The building itself is amazing, with a large portion actually being underground. Entry is free to Tasmanian residents or $20 per adult, if not. Upon arrival you are given an iTouch which provides information about the art you are near and also gives you the opportunity to rate each piece. Your interaction is recorded and if desired can be emailed to yourself. The map of the museum clearly marked areas that may not be suitable for children, so Paul and I played tag in these sections. Unfortunately the wall of lady bits was not open when we were there but we got to see plenty of other ‘interesting’ stuff such as x-rays of people making love, tattooed pigskin, hand carved car tyres, light bulbs that flash in time with your heart beat and a video of someone squeezing a pimple!

The piece de resistance for the kids though, was the ‘poo machine’. Yep! Something called a cloaca, a machine that imitates the digestive system and produces poo. Unfortunately we didn’t make it to the “excretion” part that day!

If you are an art lover then this place is a must see. There are a number of interactive things to do and the kids seemed to enjoy themselves, we just couldn’t answer their questions when they would ask, “what’s that”.

A place to visit for its novelty factor alone, really.

Hand carved car tyres

Hand carved car tyres

The (smelly) Cloaca!

The (smelly) Cloaca!

The kids 'rubbing' stones from Ujina Station platform

The kids ‘rubbing’ stones from Ujina Railway Station platform, Hiroshima

Unfortunately it was raining when we visited The Hobart Botanical Gardens  so we spent a lot of our here time running for cover. The gardens are spread over 14 hectares and there are lots of sections to explore, including Peter Cundall’s Vegie Garden which has  featured on the ABC’s show Gardening Australia. The gardens are beautiful and a full day could easily be spent here. If our day was clearer it would have been a top spot for a picnic.

Aawwwww!!!

Aawwwww!!!

Paul & I near a water feature

Paul & I near a water feature

Striking a pose in a garden shed

Striking a pose in a garden shed

Fun with Autumn leaves

Fun with Autumn leaves

We knew we were unlikely to get to visit Southwest National Park and so opted for a day trip just north of the park  to Strathgordon. This involved a beautiful drive west from Mt Field National Park along Gordon River Road. The road ends at The Gordon Dam. This is a huge, arched dam constructed at the intersection of The Gordon and Serpentine Rivers, creating Lake Gordon. Near the dam is an underground hydroelectric station. You are able to walk across the dam and if that isn’t dare devilish enough for you then you can even experience, at 140metres, Australia’s longest vertical abseil.

Whatever for?

Gordon Dam

Gordon Dam

Lake Gordon

Lake Gordon

Nutters abseiling the vertical drop!

Nutters abseiling the vertical drop!

Although realising there was so much more to do in the south of Tasmania we were very happy with what we had seen during our time there. Now it was time to pack up (groan) and start our adventure up the east coast. A region  that we had heard many people rave about and were now looking foward to experiencing ourselves.

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Soggy Strahan with a side of Snowballs!!

We took advantage of another extended (and what turned out to be wet weekend) to head off from Hobart to Strahan,  on the west coast of Tassie about 300km away. We had decided to leave Stanley behind and stay in self-contained style accommodation. Partly because we had learned  from other caravanners that their rigs had struggled on some of the roads around this area.

Also we had been stationary for a while now and  all of our stuff had spread and we really didn’t fancy having to play Tetris trying to get everything back into its correct place to travel!

Another important lesson we learned (about Tasmania in general in fact) is that when looking at a map to determine distances  and travel times, it is necessary to be generous when estimating travel time. The winding and hilly nature of Tasmanian roads makes most road trips take longer than expected.

About half way between Hobart and Strahan is a place called Derwent Bridge. We  called in here to visit ‘The Wall in The Wilderness’. This is an ongoing piece of art by a local sculptor who expects it will take up to ten years to complete. The Wall comprises of a number of three metre high wood panels with hand carvings of scenes depicting significant eras from Tasmanian history. Once completed it will be over 100m in length.

We walked away from here with mixed feelings. There is absolutely no doubt that the carving is amazing, with the most incredible and intricate details. The wall is housed in a contemporary style building with  a roaring fire, which was most welcome on such a cold day. However, the $30 entry fee for us was probably a little high, particularly since we spent less than an hour here and the general feeling of unease we experienced.

There were a few signs posted about keeping children under control and ours were frowned at as we entered. We understand why these types of notices can sometimes be necessary and alway do our best to keep the kids quiet and within arms reach but to be honest we didn’t really feel very welcome here.

Additionally, no photos can be taken of the work and the woman who entered before us was almost frisked to make sure she didn’t have a camera or even a phone with a camera!

There is yet another sign at the entrance explaining that the artist has been involved in punch ups with people who have insisted on taken photos! To soften the blow of paying to see the attraction but not being able to take photos, postcards are for sale inside. This is supposedly to assist in generating income, as the whole affair is self funded.

Looking at pictures on the website is ok though?

We saw lots of examples of wood carving throughout Tasmania and this wall would no doubt be some of the best. We are by no means saying don’t go, as it really is special but if you have kids maybe find them something else to do while you visit. Taking it in turns while the other waits outside with the children wouldn’t really make sense as it is nice to share with someone and they may point out things you havent noticed.

Next we called into Lake St Clair which is within Cradle Mountain Lake St Clair National Park. The lake is actually the deepest in Australia and the scenery is stunning. It poured with rain while we were here so we spent some time within the visitors centre.

We saw many cold looking hikers with huge back packs turning up during our time here and learned that this is the end point of The Overland Track. This track starts some 65km away at Ronny Creek, near Cradle Mountain. The walk takes around six days to complete with walkers needing to be completely  self-sufficient. There are huts along the walk  but by the time you get to them they may already be occupied.

Paul was shocked when I told him that I would like to come back in ten years time and the two of us tackle the track. Of course that may be because I hadn’t at that time explained that I had discovered a company operating tours with private huts, heaters, hot showers, three course meals and Tasmanian wine each evening!

Now, that’s how you do The Overland Track!

Lake St Clair

Lake St Clair

Our last stop before reaching Queenstown was at Nelson Falls. These  are a  short but stunning walk from the car park. It was so green with was moss covering almost every surface. It felt like we were walking through an enchanted forest.

Nelson Falls Walk

Nelson Falls Walk

Nelson Falls

Nelson Falls

Boardwalk through the enchanted forest!

Boardwalk through the enchanted forest!

Once we reached Gormanston we knew we weren’t far from the notorious stretch of road down into Queenstown that we had heard about. None of the stories had been exaggerations – it was pretty hairy! The descent was very steep on a narrow, winding road. We were so glad we didn’t have Stan with us (sorry Stan), particularly going down into Queenstown and driving back up would have been excruciatingly slow! Though that would have given us plenty of time to soak in the views. Unfortunately it was pouring with rain on our drive down and I was unable to take any decent photos.

Old burnt out hotel, Gormanston

Old burnt out hotel, Gormanston

 

A couple of days were spent exploring Strahan which is a small village resting on the edge of the Macquarie Harbour. From here there a number of options to cruise along The Gordon River or perhaps ride on The West Coast Wilderness Railway. We decided that we were trained and boated out by this stage.

Strahan

Strahan

Strahan

Strahan

Strahan

Strahan

 

There are some wonderful places in Strahan to watch woodturning and also to purchase pieces crafted from Tasmanian Huon. It was at the Visitor’s Centre that we heard about the nightly presentation of a play called The Ship That Never Was. We were keen to go but it is an outside play and although undercover still a little cold for the kids liking. There is a $17.50 fee for adults and a gold coin donation for children under 13. I would love to hear from anyone that has seen it because it sounded quite funny.

It was also at The visitors Centre that we all had the (mis)fortune of Paul discovering about Montezuma Falls, the highest falls in Tasmania. He declared loudly that we must go and see them but must have whispered the part about it being a 3-4 hour walk!

So, on our last full day we set off to see the falls. Now, the common theme throughout the weekend had been the torrential rain. The sun was doing its best to break through the clouds and so off we set! Needless to say about a third of the way to the falls the heavens opened!

Oh well, we had come this far.

If you could lift your head at just the right angle so that you weren’t blinded by the sideways falling rain and blinked really fast it wasn’t quite so hard to appreciate the beautiful surroundings! The falls themselves were roaring with water (something to do with the sideways rain) and seeing them was great. There was also a swing bridge going over the gorge. Although wet, we still had fun and would compete to see who could find the best way through or round puddles without ending up ankle deep in them.

When did the rain stop you ask?

As we reached the car park!

Before The Montezuma Falls Walk

Before The Montezuma Falls Walk

Near the start of the walk

Near the start of the walk

Montezuma Falls

Montezuma Falls

Emma crossing the swing bridge

Emma crossing the swing bridge

After the Montezuma Falls Walk!

After the Montezuma Falls Walk!

With one set of dry clothes each and no dry shoes we set off back to Hobart. We couldn’t believe it as we drove towards Derwent Bridge and spotted small patches of snow beside the road. This is the first time any of the kids had seen snow and they were quite excited. While we were driving it actually started to snow!

Woo! Hoo!

Not too much further up the road there was a decent coverage of snow on the ground with heaps of people stopping their cars to have a look and a quick snowball fight. We decided to join in the fun with the only problem being that not only was it freezing and we had no dry warm clothes but we also only had one pair of snow boots between us which Ben had packed at the last-minute. Not to worry, Paul being so tough(?) hit the snow in his thongs and the rest of us took turns sharing the boots to have a quick play.

Good times!

Paul about to take aim

Paul about to take aim

For Ben's head!

For Ben’s head!

We call it 'the evil snow cackle'

We call it ‘the evil snow cackle’

Reardon was Snow happy!

Reardon was Snow happy!

This was such a cool (pun intended) way to finish off such a soggy  weekend and I assured the kids that, “of course we’ll see snow again before we leave Tasmania”.

We didn’t!

 

 

Just when Hobart couldnt get any better

One otherwise uneventful day at the showgrounds the phone rang and it was our mates The Masons. Nothing unusual about that, except…….they were coming to Hobart!!

Obviously being subjected to The Cusworths 24 hours a day for a couple of weeks hadn’t caused any permanent damage (or they are just gluttons for punishment) and they would be arriving in a couple of days.

YIPPEE!!

Since we were now the ones playing host we were determined to pack as much into the six days they would be here as possible. Luckily Paul (Moose), Tanya, Georgia and Jesse are always up for a challenge and hit the ground running from the moment they landed at the airport. Since they were coming from sunny Queensland and it was getting decidedly cold in Tassie we warned them they would need to bring their woolies!

The Masons had hired a campervan for the time they were with us. They arrived on a Thursday afternoon so we suggested they head down to Port Arthur on the Friday for a look around. Partly because we found it such an interesting place and knew they would appreciate it too but also because it was a school/work day for us, although we would be taking a few days off to spend with them the following week.

Unfortunately it was raining the day they went to Port Arthur, not that they let that bother them.

The following morning was Saturday so we all headed to the Salamanca Markets for a look around. To get to the markets we walked along the Harbour Front and showed them some of the buildings that Paul had being working in. Seeing that Tanya is also an avid plaque reader Paul and her were blissfully happy to stroll along reading everything they laid their eyes on.

Moose and I blissfully strolled along looking for food!

The kids enjoyed the markets, for a while, but inevitably it wasnt long until they were tired, hungry and thirsty. Moose bought some local Ginger Beer for them to sample and while we were still having a look at the market stalls, the kids wandered off and found a kerb near the park to sit upon and share the drinks.

I had to laugh when I saw them and managed to snap a couple of photos. Somehow I can picture the five of them in a very similar scenario ten years from now, although I’m putting my money on it NOT being Ginger Beer in the bottles!

A look into the future?

A look into the future?

From the markets we headed south-west from Hobart to do The Tahune Airwalk. This cost us $62.50 for the family which we considered a little expensive (based on similar tree top walks, such as Walpole WA). The Airwalk involves a tree top walk  through the forest canopy 20m above the ground, with a cantilever at the end of the walk reaching a height of 48m above the junction of the Huon and Picton Rivers.

Typically I only got so far before I turned around (shouldn’t have looked down) and headed back to solid ground but once the kids were off the walk and being supervised by ‘responsible’ adults  I managed to get myself to the end of the cantilever for a quick photo.

It’s bad enough  having three kids regularly show me up but not five!

The cantilever overlooking the Huon & Picton River's conjunction

The cantilever overlooking the Huon & Picton River’s conjunction

There are also a couple of swing bridges to walk across which were fun and the scenery was very beautiful. No prizes for guessing which ‘kids’ had the most laughs bouncing and swinging the bridges!

Tanya, Georgia and Emma crossing one of the swinging bridges

Tanya, Georgia and Emma crossing one of the swinging bridges

We decided to spend the night at a camp in Franklin ($10 a night).  It was starting to get dark as we set up. Moose, Tanya and the girls were going to sleep in the camper whilst myself and the boys were to sleep in a couple of tents. It didn’t take too long to set up and we were soon munching on some jaffles and cooking marshmallows (cooked on the stove in the camper), with the kids entertaining us with singing and dancing competitions.

Eventually the kids took themselves off to bed and the adults sat up chatting while trying to keep warm. We were all wearing many layers of clothing, including beanies and scarves with the only heat source being a tiny gas stove fueled by an even tinier canister. The more we drank the more we convinced ourselves what a fantastic heater it was.

Tanya, being the sensible non-drinker indulged us in our silly talk for a while before taking refuge in the slightly warmer camper!

A while later when our liquid based source of heating ran out, three very adult, sure-footed and giggling campers took themselves off to bed (fully clothed).  For us tenters it would have to be the coldest night we have experienced yet, reaching an invigorating zero degrees!  Paul says he can’t remember the last time I let him sleep that close to me!

It didn’t help that we were actually in a summer tent (ahem).

The best part though, was waking up the next morning and looking just metres across the road to the local pub with a large sign inviting locals and passers-by to come in and spend some time next to their ‘roaring log fire’.

Whatever!

Franlin, a very pretty town

Franklin, a very pretty town

Our freezing Franklin camp

Our freezing Franklin camp

Early morning looking over The Huon River at Franklin

Early morning looking over The Huon River at Franklin

Our next mission was to drive as far south in Australia as you can, to a place called Cockle Creek. This is a popular holiday destination for the locals and there is lots of camping available. We were content to have a quick look around, take a short walk along the beach, read about the area and visit the whale sculpture there.

The mighty camper at Cockle Creek

The mighty camper at Cockle Creek

Whale Sculpture

Whale Sculpture

While we were down that way we also called into Hastings to have a look at the thermal pools there. Before heading to Tasmania someone had jokingly suggested that as  it is so cold in Tassie, this may be the only place we swam. The entry price was $12 for a family and the water temp was about 26 degrees. With an outside temp of around 12 degrees this was  not quite warm enough for Tanya and I to jump in but the others did, although the kids lasted longer than the big boys.

There is an under cover area with log fires to warm up next to as well as a couple of board walks to take. Not to mention hot showers for after the swim.

Our last stop on the way back to Hobart was at The Taroona Shot Tower. This is about 11km out of Hobart. It was built in 1870 and manufactured lead shots by dropping molten lead through sieves at the top of the tower. The lady working here actually lives in the adjacent building and was really lovely. She happily shared some local history with us and if you have time you can pop downstairs for tea and scones. Having been here on a previous visit we were happy to wait while The Masons scaled all 318 steps to reach the top. The family price was less than $20 and if you have a head for heights it is  well worth a visit.

Taroona Shot Tower

Taroona Shot Tower

One view from part way up the tower

One view from part way up the tower

Looking up the spiral staircase to the top of the tower

Looking up the spiral staircase to the top of the tower

It had been quite a long day by now but an added bonus of this was that we all got to admire the city lights and also The Tasman Bridge lit up at night. Once back at the showgrounds we focused on getting our camping stuff and bedding dry and turned in at a much more civilised time!

The following morning Paul drove our mates up to the top of Mount Wellington for a look at the gorgeous views. They enjoyed this but apparently it was COLD!! After a quick drive to look  through the CBD the gang once again all met up.

The Mighty Masons at the top of Mount Wellington

The Mighty Masons at the top of Mount Wellington

Checking out the amazing views

Checking out the amazing views

Our next stop was The Cadbury Factory. The kids and I had been here before but it didn’t seem right that The Masons were in Hobart and not visit the Australian home of Cadbury. The family ‘tour’ price is $17.50 but it can’t really be called a tour anymore. Visitors are no longer allowed onto the factory floor or even view any of it. The ‘tour’ basically involves being shown a twenty-minute presentation on how chocolate is made. The guide that conducted the ‘tour’ when we were there the first time was quite engaging and explained a lot about how Tasmania became the home of Cadbury as well as answering many questions. The lady that took the tour when we all went was nice enough but pretty much just showed and talked about the video. There seemed such a large difference between the two experiences supposedly being the same thing. So it would seem that how thorough your talk is really pot luck depending on who you get on any given day. Interestingly we were asked not to take photos on our first visit for legal/copyright reasons. However, on our second visit we were asked not to take photos because the staff didn’t wish to appear on people’s Facebook pages!

mmmmm chocolate!

mmmmm chocolate!

Nevertheless the kids were happy as they were each handed a family sized bar of chocolate on entry and then got to go in the wholesale shop and grab a few (relative) bargains.

Oh, did I mention the hot chocolates made from real chocolate? Yummo! The lady making these was a blast and in our opinion should be the one doing the ‘tours’.

Although we enjoyed ourselves the whole thing seemed a little effortless from such a large multi-national company.

Just a few samples!!

Just a few samples!!

Our next stop was somewhere where we had been before but had really enjoyed and wanted to share it again – Mt Field National Park west of Hobart. This is such a beautiful spot with a number of walks and waterfalls to visit. By now the kids had not nearly had enough of walking so we headed up to the beautiful Russell Falls.

The gang at Russell Falls

The gang at Russell Falls

Beautiful Horseshoe Falls a 100m walk from Russell Falls

Beautiful Horseshoe Falls a 100m walk from Russell Falls

The first time we visited Mt Field NP, Paul had read about a group of five Government Huts that you could  stay in near Lake Dobson in the Alpine Area of the park, at an elevation of 1000m. Having The Masons visit was just the  excuse he needed to stay in the huts. These  have no power but do have log fires and an external toilet for use by all people staying within the huts. The cost is $45 a night and each hut  sleeps six people. We managed to get two huts joined by a common room and had so much fun (we were actually the only group staying there).

It was really cold when we got there and I was worried about how dark and cold it was going to get but the ever resourceful menfolk strategically hung some torches from the ceiling and got both the log fires cranking. We had a lot of laughs and in the end we were all roasting! In fact my husband got so hot he ended up sitting around in his underwear!

I would publish a photo but this is a family blog!

What a hadnsome bunch!

What a handsome bunch!

The view from our huts

The view from our huts

Before we knew it our last morning together had dawned. After restocking the woodpile for the next guests we made our way back down to the park entry once again marvelling at the changing landscape. In one section it look just like we were on the moon and I still rue the fact that I didn’t get a picture. Driving down through the clouds was just beautiful.

We once again head off to the town of Richmond to show The Masons around and to take another look at Australia’s oldest bridge. Not to mention ensuring that the curried scallop pies from the local bakery remained at a high standard.

By now we were all exhausted but very happy with what we had achieved over the last six days. But alas although we had all had a blast, it was now time to return the rental camper and for our wonderful guests to catch their flight home.

Parting was such sweet sorrow!

So Mighty Masons, that’s four states down – two states and two mainland territories to go.

Then we go international.

Next stop……..THE WORLD….muwhahaha!!!!!!

The rest of our time on the Tasman Peninsula

In addition to Port Arthur we made sure to visit some of the number of other points of interest while we were on the Tasman Peninsula. A short drive north-west of  Port Arthur is the Coal Mines Historic Site. Entry is free and you can take a self guided tour around what was Tasmania’s first operational mine. There are plenty of signs explaining the history of the area and a good couple of hours can be spent here exploring the whole site. Convict labour was used here and was generally made up of those from Port Arthur that continued to misbehave. It was a bit hard to reconcile the beauty of the surroundings with the harsh living conditions that would have been prevalent during the mine’s operation.

Coal Mines Historic Site

Coal Mines Historic Site

Striking a pose at the Coal Mines

Striking a pose at the Coal Mines

Coal Mine Ruins

Coal Mine Ruins

To the south of Port Arthur we visited Remarkable Cave. There is beach access to the cave but we took ourselves down to the viewing platform via some steps which were accessible from the Safety Cove Road car park. We spent some time watching the water flow through the cave and also took a number of photos. What we didn’t realise, until we later spoke to someone else staying out the back of the Dunalley Pub, that one of the remarkable features  is that the opening at the beach end of the cave, when viewed on a particular angle, is actually shaped like Tasmania.

Duh!

Remarkable Cave - see the map of Tassie at the end?

Remarkable Cave – see the map of Tassie at the end?

A short walk from the car park took us to the Maingon Bay Lookout which provided yet another glimpse of the awesome coastline. If you are into something a bit more extreme than our preferred low-speed amble apparently this is also a popular place for rock climbing.

Maingon Bay

Maingon Bay

During our time at Port Arthur we had learnt about Eaglehawk Neck. This is a small strip of land that use to be referred to as ‘the key to the peninsula’. This is because it connects the Tasman Peninsula to mainland Tasmania. It is basically a small strip of land around 400m long and in some places  only 30m wide.

When Port Arthur was being used as a penal colony the neck was heavily patrolled by soldiers and also comprised the infamous Dog Line. This was made up of nine half-starved dogs chained in a line along the width of the neck. Their job was to detect and bring attention to  any convicts that had managed to escape from Port Arthur and were trying to make it to the mainland. A number of dogs were even placed on pontoons on the water in case escapees tried to make a swim for it!

On the neck there is a statue of one of the dogs as well as some of the original soldiers quarters, which you can have a look through. In one part of the building there is  an audio presentation explaining  how a small group of convicts did actually make it across to the mainland. One of these was Martin Cash who  managed to escape twice and is considered Tasmania’s best known bushranger. He eventually saw the error of his ways and after sometime became a free man.

Guard dog on Eaglehawk Neck

Guard dog on Eaglehawk Neck

Eaglehawk Neck is also the place from which to visit the  Tessellated Pavement,  Tasman Blowhole, Tasman Arch, Devil’s Kitchen and admire an awesome view over Pirate’s Bay.

The Tesselated Pavement can be viewed from above or you can actually go down and have a walk on it. There is some information which explains how the patterns have been formed over time due to a combination of erosion and chemical reactions. We went down and had a look and the kids tried their hand at catching some of the tiny crabs that were darting around.

Looking down towards the tessellations

Looking down towards the tessellations

 

The Tessellated Pavement

The Tessellated Pavement

The Tasman Arch and Devil’s Kitchen are spectacular coastal rock formations that are within walking distance of each other. By now the kids were a little walked out so we didn’t spend a very long time here. One place that we all enjoyed though was the lookout over Pirate’s Bay. It was just beautiful.

Tasman Arch

Tasman Arch

Pirate's Bay

Pirate’s Bay

We managed to cram quite a lot into our time spent in this area but there were a number of other things that we didn’t quite get to before we had to head back to Hobart for school and work.

It seems to be that the more we do see of Australia, the more we realise we haven’t seen!

It was around this time that the kids and I actually flew home to Perth for a week. A number of housekeeping things had cropped up  needing attention and having extended our stay in Tasmania, the 18 month stretch for the grandparents not seeing the grandkiddies just seemed a little too long.

We didn’t tell anyone we were coming and literally jumped on the plane within two days of making the decision. The look on my Mum’s face was priceless and even my no-nonsense Dad’s jaw dropped. As for Paul’s Dad, we caught him with his pants down, literally!

The week was a blur and over before we knew it. I now have more sympathy for people who live interstate or overseas and visit for holidays. Trying to see everyone was manic. Of course we couldn’t get round to everyone  but it was nice to touch base with as many as we could. Realising that everything was the same old same old and that their friends hadn’t changed and did remember them, the kids were more than happy to jump  on the plane back to Paul in Hobart.

I think they also wanted to escape my Dad  as he had taken advantage of the extra hands and keen eyesight and put them to work!

Working for Pop. Barbie & Ken are there but Emma has disappeared!

Working for Pop, being supervised by Barbie & Ken!

I really should mention what champs the kids were and how easy they made it for me to travel with the three of them. We left Perth on the redeye to Melbourne and then hung around Tullamarine Airport in the early hours of the morning for the connecting flight to Hobart. They took everything in their stride and we were both very proud of their behaviour.

Of course after catching up on some sleep and being back to normal with Mum & Dad it was once again game on!

So, you ask. What did Paul do without us and when he wasn’t at work?

This!

Port Arthur

We decided to take advantage of a long weekend and head south east of Hobart to Port Arthur. To be honest we didn’t really know much about Port Arthur and unfortunately, like many people, associated its name with a tragedy that occurred here in 1996, in which 35 people lost their lives.

The events that took place are still very raw to many people and remain an extremely sensitive topic. In fact, in some of the printed literature visitors are requested NOT to ask the guides about it and instead are invited to read the plaque at the on site Memorial Garden. We did this with the kids, answered any questions they had and decided to leave it at that. Here is some information if you wish to read more, otherwise we are going to leave it at that too.

We decided to park Stan at a free camp in Dunalley, about half an hour from Port Arthur. This was great. It is actually a large grassed area behind the pub. Campers are able to use the toilets inside the pub with the idea being that you pop in for a drink or even a meal. More than reasonable we thought, as did the many other people parked here.

We had done a bit of research before leaving Hobart and discovered that Port Arthur is a historic site which over time has actually played a number of roles, including; a timber-getting camp using convict labour, a punishment station for repeat offenders, an institution for physically and mentally ill convicts and for a short while was a small town renamed Carnarvon.

You can’t just turn up and look around the area, it is actually a closed site and entry passes must be purchased. All passes are valid for two consecutive days and we took advantage of this spending one and a half full days here. We opted for the basic bronze pass ($79 family) which included access to around 30 buildings and ruins, a guided walking tour and a cruise around the harbour -which went for around 30 minutes.

The kids were given an activity booklet which they could complete as we walked around and we were all given a card with the name of a convict on it. We then had to navigate our way around the Visitor Centre to learn more about our convict. There were a number of other interactive things to do with HEAPS of factual information displayed.

The guided walking tour was a fantastic introduction to the site and we learnt a great deal about the history of Port Arthur. Our guide’s particular focus was on how it had been a penal settlement used for housing repeat offenders. He did a great job in describing just how horrific life was for the men held here. I wont go into too much detail because I think people need to visit and learn for themselves but I will say that what some of the prisoners were subjected to was extremely brutal, both physically and mentally.

Some of the buildings that can be viewed include The Penitentiary, Church, Hospital , Asylum and The Separate Prison (shudder – nasty stuff happened here). Each of these had heaps of information available on what the buildings were used for with a number of (mostly friendly) guides throughout, ready to answer questions.

The Church

The Church

Behind The Penintentiary

Behind The Penintentiary

The Guard Tower

The Guard Tower

The Asylum

The Asylum

;

There are some beautiful gardens to walk through and we really enjoyed discovering the fruit garden where each variety of apple grown over the years at Port Arthur has been recorded, with some trees preserved. Visitors are invited to sample the wares from these trees.

Beautiful gardens

Beautiful gardens

Sampling some apples

Sampling some apples

The cruise around the harbour took us past the Point Puer Boy’s Prison and also The Isle of The Dead and explained a little about each. For an additional cost tours on each of these are available. The view back towards the ruins of Port Arthur was quite beautiful, it was just hard to shake the eerie feeling we had the whole time we were there.

Looking towards Port Arthur from the boat

Looking towards Port Arthur from the boat

We loved visiting The Dockyard where convicts were once used to build both decked vessels and smaller open boats. The story goes that the dockyards were eventually closed because the quality of the boats built was so high that other boat builders could not compete. As you move around where the dockyards once stood there are speakers on the ground which emit the sounds that may have been heard when the yard was operational, such as a blacksmith’s station and sawpit.

Sculpture and slipway at The Dockyards

Sculpture and slipway at The Dockyards

As well as the day and a half spent walking around the buildings and ruins we decided to come back one evening and do a ghost tour. This is something we have considered doing in a number of locations but have never got round to. After discussing it with the kids they were all for it so we booked online ($65 family) and came back later for what we hoped was a bit of fun.

On the drive back for the ghost tour we spotted our first Tasmanian Devil in the wild, which was very cool. We also talked about what we thought might happen on the tour. I suggested that maybe people would hide behind doors and jump out or make spooky noises as we walked past. We all had a bit of a laugh about this and I was quietly confident that we had prepared the kids for any ‘unexpected’ events.

All smiles.........BEFORE the ghost tour

All smiles………BEFORE the ghost tour

When our guide met us for the tour one of the first things she did was explained that there would be no such shenanigans and that we would be visiting three or four buildings where she would tell of some unexplained events that have happened in these buildings. I was a little disappointed at first but really shouldnt have been. What a story-teller! Using only her voice she had us captivated. Unfortunately though, she was a little too good for a couple of little people on the tour, who shall remain nameless. As will the little people’s parents who experienced three or four nights of broken sleep due to the runaway imaginations of unnamed little people!

Lesson learnt!

I was hoping to write of the rest our extended weekend in this area but have decided this post is already wordy enough. To conclude, though I should say that Paul and I both consider Port Arthur a place to sincerely recommend to other travellers. Some people we met thought that it was too expensive but we believe we got our moneys worth. The grounds are extremely well-kept, the facilities good, staff helpful and the information available very detailed. The whole site had a feeling of peaceful eeriness and we found it incredible just how many stories one place had.

Eating our way around Hobart – Richmond and Bruny

It didn’t take too long before we had settled into a ‘normal’ routine in Hobart throughout the week, then acting more like tourists on the weekend.

We were fortunate enough to be invited for lunch at long time friends of Paul’s parents. Robin & Sue have a beautiful home overlooking the Tasman Bridge. When they pulled out a map to show us the ‘must sees’ of Tasmania we soon came to realise just how much this seemingly small state has to offer.

Not far from Hobart is the quaint village of Richmond. We visited here a couple of times and managed to see something different each time. Historically Richmond is a very significant town. It is home to Australia’s oldest Catholic church as well as gaol and there are a number of striking Georgian-style buildings to admire. Australia’s oldest bridge can also be found in Richmond, it was built by convicts and is said to be haunted by more than one ghost!

Richmond Bridge

Richmond Bridge

There were a couple of mazes in town which we tried to get lost in but were a little disappointed and think that the $25 fee for about 20 minutes of following a well beaten path was a tad overpriced.On good authority from a Perth friend we headed to the bakery and indulged in a very yummy curried scallop pie. You were right Fran, delish!!

mmmmm scallops!

mmmmm scallops!

We had heard about Zoo Doo, also in Richmond, from other travellers. The kids were keen to see a Tasmanian Devil so we headed out to this wildlife park and although we did enjoy ourselves it unfortunately didn’t quite hit the mark. Entry to the wildlife park cost $70 and what we thought would be a full day out turned out to be about a half day instead. Riding the ‘safari bus’ and hand feeding a few animals was fun. We also enjoyed seeing some big cats with the kids being able to push strips of meat through the tiger enclosure. The average age of the staff was around 12 ( ok 15) and they weren’t always engaging but maybe we shouldnt have expected so much from the teenage brigade – like eye contact when giving an animal presentation!. The highlight for the kids didn’t end up being any of the animals. It was the waterballs! These were inflatable balls that the kids jumped into and then rolled around in, on water. They seemed more than happy to part with an additional $7 each of their own money to do this. Other people have loved the place, we thought it was ok but don’t take our word for it. Next time you’re in Richmond, Tasmania check it out for yourselves.

Tasmanian Devil

Tasmanian Devil

Reardon feeding the camel

Reardon feeding the camel

Ben's not too sure about the Emus - too pecky!

Ben’s not too sure about the Emus – too pecky!

Reardon hand feeding a tiger

Reardon hand feeding a tiger

Another weekend’s destination was Bruny Island. To get here was a 45 minute drive from Hobart to Kettering, where we boarded the car ferry The Mirrambeena for the 15 minute ride over to North Bruny. This included a $35 vehicle fee. It is possible to take caravans over to the island but the fee increases with the length of vehicle so would only make sense if staying for a while.

Bruny Island is actually made up of two islands (north & south) and these are joined by what is referred to as ‘the neck’. We didn’t spend a lot of time on the north island but did enjoy stopping on the neck where a game reserve is located. There is a penguin walk here and a great lookout at the top of a large flight of timber steps from here you can get a 360 degree view of the whole island. We were fortunate enough to spot a baby penguin.

Emma making her way up the steps at ' The Neck'

Emma making her way up the steps at ‘ The Neck’

Across the neck is the South Bruny National Park so we ensured we purchased a National Parks Pass before heading over. It was more cost effective to purchase an annual pass due to the number of national parks we were to visit.

One of the first things we did was head into The Berry Farm to handpick some fruit. Tasmania produces beautiful fruit and veggies and we were hoping to pick a selection. Unfortunately only strawberries were available but we still had fun and some of them even made it into the bucket!

Srawberry picking

Strawberry picking

The bounty

The bounty

We decided to head to the beach across the road from the farm to eat the strawberries and do some beachcombing. I am so glad that we did. Paul is a prolific plaque reader (sometimes to the annoyance of the rest of us) and made a bee line to the one pictured below. It told a little of the history of this area and included a picture of two trees painted in 1792 by an artist accompanying Captain Bligh on an expedition. It was very cool to look up from the painting and being able to see the original two trees depicted. I found this very exciting but the kids were more interested in the colourful shells and starfish in the rock pools!

Two Tree Point painting

Two Tree Point painting

The two trees!

The two trees!

Enjoying the strawberries

Enjoying the strawberries

Also on the south island is the Cape Bruny Lighthouse. We always enjoy visiting lighthouses and had a great chat with volunteers carrying out maintenance on some of the out buildings. Apparently this lighthouse is the third oldest in Australia and was also built by convict labour. We were able to take a walk all the way down to the beach at Cloudy Bay and on the way passed the two graves of children of one time lighthouse keepers, who had died here in 1875 & 1898.

Cape Bruny Lighthouse

Cape Bruny Lighthouse

Cape Bruny was also a great place from which to admire the views of the amazing coastline.

Breathtaking views at Cape Bruny

Breathtaking views at Cape Bruny

Bruny Island coastline

Bruny Island coastline

We had packed our camping gear and intended to do an overnight stay in one of the campgrounds, which all looked good. But the weather was a bit wet and we were happy with what we had seen, so a sleep in a dry van won over a wet tent in the end.

Next time I’ll write about our weekend visiting south east Tassie with the focus being on Port Arthur, a beautiful place with a violent history.

Temporary Tasmanians

Unsurprisingly we didn’t have much of a plan upon arriving in Tassie and hadn’t actually booked a return trip, mainly on the off-chance that we’d get work and stick around for a while.

After a brief look around Launceston (which was larger than I expected), Paul got on the phone to test the employment waters. After a number of discouraging phone calls – with people suggesting that now was not a good time to be looking for work – we resigned ourselves to being in Tassie for a whirlwind tour before heading back to the mainland for work. All this changed, however, when after making one final call, Paul was offered a six-week contract with a construction company.

The catch?

It was in Hobart… 200km away…….and he started in a couple of days!!

Not to worry, we packed up the van and enjoyed the drive down to Hobart. We ending up  staying at the Hobart showgrounds for the bargain price of $20 a night. The showgrounds were in a really handy location and although the facilities were very basic it more than met our needs. In fact, a couple of weeks after arriving we were lucky enough to secure the job of temporary caretakers. This involved counting the number of vans/motorhomes staying in the grounds and ensuring they had registered.

Hmmmmm, what an interesting experiment in human kind! Lets just say that we were surprised by the number (and age) of people who were not entirely honest. Some people would sneak in late and leave early  without paying. Others either just hadn’t quite got round to registering yet or even  claimed they weren’t sure how to (the signs explaining this obviously didnt spell it out clearly enough),or better yet – they didnt have any money . Our personal favourite though was when we would knock on someones door and explain we were there to check their paperwork only to watch their  jaws drop in astonishment to hear that, shock horror, they actually had to pay to stay! Meanwhile they have connected to the  water supply and are plugged into the power!

There was even a grey nomad couple in a huge fifth wheeler and two vehicles (parked over a couple of sites) who refused to pay when their adult son and partner were visiting from interstate. The son  had parked his hire camper van in another powered site and didn’t want to pay because, get this,  they were sleeping  in the fifth wheeler not the camper!

*blink*

I digress.

There were a couple of schools within walking distance and the kids were keen to go and mingle with other little people. After visiting a couple of  schools we settled on one and got them enrolled. This school only had 100 students and was involved in a pilot program where each student had their own iPad.  The kids thought this was fantastic, they also liked their teachers a lot and ended up asking if they could stay until the end of term.

Ready for school!

Ready for school!

We had already booked a return trip to Melbourne by this stage, as we had heard that the boat fills very fast and getting a spot for larger vehicles could get quite tricky. In fact, by the time we left Tasmania we had met a number of people that had resorted to placing themselves on a waiting list to try to secure a berth. During peak season there are both day and night cruises across the strait but this drops down to just night sailing in quieter times and spots for vehicles over 2.1m in height are limited.

I digress, again.

After a chat with his work, Paul was able to extend his contract (he ultimately got offered a full-time job) and we changed our exit date – we actually ended up doing this once more a bit  later. Luckily we were able to do this at no cost over the internet. In fact because we were eventually leaving off-peak the fare  became cheaper and we were actually issued a refund!

Ultimately we were very happy with the decision to stick around a while as Hobart (and indeed Tasmania) is such a beautiful spot. Every morning one of the first things we would do was step outside the caravan and look straight up to Mount Wellington, never knowing what to expect. Some days it was completely covered in cloud, others it hosted multiple rainbows or even a sprinkle of snow.

An early morning red Mt Wellington

An early morning red Mt Wellington

A snow capped Mt Wellington

A snow-capped Mt Wellington

One afternoon we drove to the summit for a look. The drive up was a bit hairy but well worth it when you reach the top. It was a beautiful clear day when we went and the view was breathtaking. Paul and Emma went up again for a look at night-time just before we left Hobart and said it was just as beautiful looking down at all the lights.

A view from Mt Wellington

A view from Mt Wellington

Another view

Another view

City lights from Mt Wellington

City lights from Mt Wellington

Another of Hobart’s landmarks that we enjoyed to look at (and use) was the Tasman Bridge, a five lane traffic  bridge spanning the Derwent River. Sadly, in 1975 a ship crashed into the bridge and a number of people, both on the ship and the bridge, were killed. To this day the pylon that was damaged is still missing and in fact the ship remains on the floor of the river. We found it hard to look at the bridge without our eyes being drawn to the gap where the missing pylon once stood. One day I was trying to navigate my way to watch Reardon at a swimming lesson and in doing so manage to cross the bridge four times in half an hour! Needless to say I missed the lesson and am now questioning just how many of my directions Paul actually listens to when we are on the road and just how the heck we managed to get this far!

The Tasman Bridge

The Tasman Bridge

Hobart is a vibrant bustling city with plenty of history. It is actually the second oldest city in Australia. We enjoyed visiting the waterfront to watch the boats on the water and to visit the famous Salamanca Markets. The harbour is a very busy place and plays host to a number of visiting cruise liners, which this year included the massive liner called The World. The port is also utilised by a number of Antarctic based expeditions.

Salamanca Place home to the markets

Salamanca Place home to the markets

Hobart waterfront with Mt Wellington in the background

Hobart waterfront with Mt Wellington in the background

Paul was fortunate enough to work in a several locations around Hobart including Wrest Point Casino, the Hobart Council Chambers and the University of Tasmania’s Fine Arts Building which is now housed in what was once the original IXL factory (as in jams). He also made a number of friends through work and I don’t think it would take much persuasion for him to convert from a temporary to a permanent Tasmanian.

Taken from the roof of Hobart Council - love this shot

Taken from the roof of Hobart Council – love this shot

Outside some of the original IXL buildings

Outside some of the original IXL buildings

From the roof of the Wrest Point Casino

From the roof of the Wrest Point Casino

Now that the weekdays were filled by work and school we decided to devote our weekends to exploring Hobart and its surrounds as well as spending a few extended weekends visiting  further away destinations.

In posts to come I hope to get you up to date with our Tassie travels and adventures, including how it seemed like a good idea to take the kids on a ghost tour of Australia’s largest penal colony ………..at the time!!