Tag Archives: caravanning with kids

Cruising The Murray

We had decided that our next goal was to take a ride along the Murray River in a paddle steamer. To do this we headed north to the border crossing towns of Echuca – Moama where you will find the largest riverboat fleet in the world. We all got a kick out of driving on the bridge crossing from VIC to NSW and back….and then back again. It doesn’t take much to amuse us!!

Our home for the next few days was  Christie’s Beach Campground within Echuca Regional Park. This is a huge area of land with plenty of camping available along the banks of The Murray. It was a terrific spot. There were only a few other campers  and we all had our own secluded camps.

We managed to set up right next to a rope swing  over the river. It was far too cold for swimming  but the kids still had a ball swinging backwards and forwards over the water (and mud). This is something they did for hours on end.  We were all content to spend time just chilling around the camp, enjoying each others company and watching beautiful sunsets. We kept a campfire burning and enjoyed cooking potatoes and corn on the cob in the coals.

The water level in the river seemed quite low although it was easy to see just how much water has flowed through the area. It certainly wasn’t as majestic as I expected the ‘Mighty’ Murray to be but this whole area is yet another nice part of Australia nonetheless.

Our camping spot on the banks of The Murray

Our camping spot on the banks of The Murray

Looking towards The Murray River

Looking towards The Murray River

The kids spent hours on the rope swing

The kids spent hours on the rope swing

Beautiful spot!

Beautiful spot!

The view from the loung in the caravan

The view from the lounge in the caravan

Reardon on the swing

Reardon on the swing

Ben swinging sideways

Ben swinging sideways

It was while we were here that we discovered a problem with the hot water unit which  resulted in no hot water at all. Very handy when the kids were spending hours playing in knee-deep mud!

Since we were content to spend time around the camp site Paul got to tinkering and carrying out  general maintenance on both Stan and Pat. As well as fixing the water unit he played with the tow hitch, which needed a couple of new bolts and also fitted a new battery in the van – which we were lucky enough to purchase from the local caravan yard at $200 cheaper than we had seen elsewhere.

Whilst in town picking up said battery and replacement bolts Paul and I decided to indulge in a cask of port. We had visions of spending the chilly evenings snuggled up next to the camp fire, reliving  our adventures to date along with dreaming up  more to be had.

Needless to say we may have enjoyed the whole fireside experience a little too much. It would seem that we underestimated the warming powers of the port. Apparently there was nothing  snuggly or ‘quiet’ about our fire side session. The next morning we were met with very disapproving looks from all three children – along with an empty cask!

I maintain to this day that it was obviously left too close to the fire and the port had in fact evaporated. Needless to say I have been cured from ever drinking again (again) and the mere thought of port makes my stomach churn.

It was just as well that the kids were happy to be tree climbing and rope swinging as Paul and I had both seemed to come down with a migraine and didn’t feel like roaming too far. At one stage I was ‘resting’ in the van listening to the kids playing outside, as they  climbed trees and swung on the rope. I could hear lots of laughing and then suddenly heard a large splash followed by silence.

Rope swing – 1.               Emma – 0.

To take our cruise on a paddle steamer we headed off to The Port (gag) of Echuca. There is a huge revitalisation project currently underway and the plans look very impressive. In the meantime it is possible (as we did) to wander down the historic Murray Esplanade and visit the sawmill, foundry, old cinema and a number of novelty shops.   There is also the alternative of taking a guided tour around the precinct which can be coupled with meals and cruises if so desired.

The area is very quaint and some people may recognise it from the  TV mini series All The Rivers Run. One of the stars of the show was Sigrid Thornton. As Paul has admired Ms Thornton from afar for as long as I have known him, it was really a no brainer that we chose The PS Pevensey for our cruise. This was the boat “The Philadelphia” in the show, upon which Sigrid had spent quite some time.

Wharf precinct, Echuca

The Murray Esplanade

The PS Pevensey was built in 1911 and was used to cart wool from station properties to the wharf. $59.90 was the family price for a one hour cruise along the river. Paul really enjoyed chatting to the staff on board about the original steam engine, which was still being used and the kids each had a turn at the wheel of the boat, for which they were awarded a honorary First Mate’s Certificate.

Waiting for our cruise

Waiting for our cruise

Passing another paddle steamer

Passing another paddle steamer

Reardon checking out the thong tree

Reardon checking out the thong tree

Steering the PS Pevensey

Steering the PS Pevensey

Original steam engine

Original steam engine

First Mate Ben

First Mate Ben

oh so shy Emma on the paddle steamer

oh so shy Emma on the paddle steamer

Our time at Christie’s Beach Campground was very peaceful and relaxing. We took a few walks within the Regional Park but apart from that really didn’t do any touristy stuff apart from the paddle steamer cruise. Of course we did take a decent look around the town of Echuca itself and met some lovely staff at the Information Centre but our time here was all about the steamer experience.

Now we needed to head up the road where a major de-mudification operation was required. Next stop – Swan Hill, home of a really big ugly fish!

Our Tassie time comes to an end

Our Tassie days were quickly running out so we were determined to squeeze in as much as humanly possible. During our visit to the north coast a small amount of  time was spent at the very pretty coastal town of Penguin and then further west at the larger city of Burnie.

Once upon a time Burnie was home to a large pulp mill, which not only produced huge masses of paper that was shipped internationally but also employed a huge proportion of the local residents. A lot of this history is showcased at The Maker’s Workshop, a relatively new attraction in Burnie. It is an art museum as well as a visitors and art centre all rolled into one. We called in here a couple of times and found it very interesting.  There is quite a bit to look at in the workshop and if you get your timing right you can actually watch one of the resident artists at work. The kids enjoyed decorating a massive roll of paper lying on the floor and were invited to help themselves to as much of the paper as they liked  We were all amazed at some of the fashion pieces on display, as part of a competition, that had been made using only paper. Some people really are clever.

A dress made from paper, shaped as horses and shells

A dress made from paper, shaped as horses and shells

More paper fashion

More paper fashion

It was only fitting that we take our Stanley to the town of Stanley while in north-west Tassie. This town is  nestled at the base of a volcanic formation known as ‘The Nut’, which can be spotted from miles away. There is a walking trail and also a chairlift that you can take to the top and soak in the surrounding views.

Stanley was  the birthplace of Joe Lyons, the only Tasmanian born Prime Minister of Australia with the cottage he was born in  preserved as a historic site. There are other historic sites to visit, as well as a heritage centre and  a genealogy centre.

The town of Stanley at the base of The Nut

The town of Stanley at the base of The Nut

Stanley in.........Stanley!

Stanley in………Stanley!

Convict ruins at Highfield, adjacent to Stanley

Convict ruins at Highfield, adjacent to Stanley

Stanley cemetary, dating back to 1869

Stanley cemetery, dating back to 1869

Our last night in Tassie was spent at the very beautiful Green Point and it was from here that we visited the Edge of The World Viewing Platform near Arthur River.

The ocean to the west of Tasmania is  the longest uninterrupted expanse of ocean in the world and a boardwalk has been built here, overlooking said ocean. Apparently many people find this to be a mystical and spiritual place, there is even a poem about it on a plaque at the platform. According to a website dedicated to the place, some people get it and some people don’t.

We didn’t!

It was a nice area with some great views but we certainly didn’t feel moved, spiritual or mystical! The thing about the place that we did find amazing, however,  was the huge volume of driftwood that had been washed ashore. We have never seen anything like it anywhere else. The kids loved clambering over it and finding their favourite bits of wood, some were ‘knobbly’ and others  were really smooth, having been weathered by the wind and ocean.

Boardwalk at The End of the World

Boardwalk at The Edge of the World

Climbing the rocks, then realising the tide was coming in!

Climbing the rocks, then realising the tide was coming in!

Paul walking amongst the washed up timber

Paul walking amongst the washed up timber

Ben and just some of the dead wood

Ben and just some of the dead wood

Edge of the World debris

Edge of the World debris

Green point - our last night in Tasmania

Green point – our last night in Tasmania

There was a tinge of sadness when we awoke on our final day in Tasmania. We loved our time here, having seen so much but also knowing there was so much more to see. We started making our way back to Devonport, as it  was here that we needed  to board the Spirit of Tasmania for our journey back to the mainland.

In Devonport we  had lunch at the lighthouse, visited the tourist centre and also managed a play on the fantastic playground not far from the lighthouse.

Devonport Lighthouse

Devonport Lighthouse

Needing to be at the dock a couple of hours before the ship sailed we whiled away the time having a handball tournament in the carpark and chatting to other waiting passengers. The facilities on the boat were really good including a number of eateries, movie theatre, kids play area etc. Everything was really modern and very clean, I am just a little annoyed that I didn’t think to take photos as we checked the ship out.

We were sailing overnight and having heard that the food was a little expensive we had organised some food for our backpacks and this worked really well. In another cost cutting exercise we had decided to travel on the ocean ‘recliners’ rather than in the more expensive cabins. The ride was very smooth and the only time we felt a little swaying was after watching a movie and heading back to our ‘recliners’. It was pretty funny watching the kids trying to walk straight!

Driving onto the boat - full of vans, cars, trucks and there's even a horse!

Driving onto the boat – full of vans, cars, trucks and there’s even a horse!

The kids seemed to manage to sleep fairly well whereas Paul and I did not fare quite as well. We think that the term ‘recliners’ was used a little loosely. The seats didn’t so much as recline  but shift slightly backwards so that they were no longer technically upright. A small pillow and blanket is provided for each passenger and after a few hours of not being able to get comfortable I ended up sleeping on the floor  in front of an empty row of ‘recliners’!

Emma 'sleeping' and Reardon reading before bedtime

Emma ‘sleeping’ and Reardon reading before bedtime

Ben getting comfy

Ben getting comfy

The time passed fairly quickly and before we knew it the time was 5.30am and we were docking in Melbourne. Feeling a bit stiff, we had a bit of a stretch and then waited to be called to the lower deck to collect Patricia and Stanley and then hit the city of Melbourne for an early morning breakfast.

Good morning Melbourne!

Good morning Melbourne!

Cradle Mountain

We had spent a little time in Launceston when we first arrived in Tassie, finding it to be a pretty city, with some great old buildings. We called in again on our way up to the north-west coast and made a point to go to Cataract Gorge, having  missed visiting here the first time round.

Cataract Gorge is just outside of the city and a great place to spend a day. There are a number of walking trails, a suspension bridge, the world’s longest single span chairlift, swimming pool (empty during our visit), eateries, Interpretation Centre and lets not forget to mention beautiful gardens, along with other  great views.

Although the kids were keen to go on the chairlift (I wasn’t)  we couldn’t really justify the $48 price for a one way trip. Instead we were happy to soak up the same views on foot. We spotted a few peacocks, the kids pretended to swim in the empty pool and we all walked over the bridge. The grounds were immaculate with some of the cleanest barbecues we have ever seen! This would be a great place to bring a picnic, especially when the pool is operating.

If you visit here, go and have a look at the photos of when the gorge has been flooded – amazing!

Cataract Gorge

Cataract Gorge

Suspension Bridge at Cataract Gorge

Suspension Bridge at Cataract Gorge

Emma's shot of the rest of us at Cataract Gorge

Emma’s shot of the rest of us at Cataract Gorge

For the next few nights we based ourselves at the small, friendly town of Chudleigh. We were charged $10 a night to park in the showgrounds and that included power! There were public toilets about 30 metres away which were open 24 hours and very well maintained. There a small number of places to visit in town including Chudleigh Roses, Silk (all about silk manufacture and products) and The Honey Farm. Camping fees are paid at the local shop, which also serves take away food and hot coffee.

Once again we were very pleased to have the powered site as it was a little chilly in Chudleigh!

Morning frost at Chudleigh Showgrounds

Frosty Bits!

From Chudleigh our main goals were to visit Cradle Mountain and also the town of Sheffield, known for its murals. Additionally,  we  had to visit the ‘Big Tassie Devil’ at nearby Mole Creek. It was on one of our drives around this area that we stumbled across a sign for Tulampanga or Alum Cliffs. As it was only a 30 minute walk to the cliff lookout we decided to go and have a squiz. We weren’t really sure what to expect. There were a few interpretive signs along the way and the forest alongside the path was fairly dense. We were totally stunned to reach the lookout and see these huge, stunning cliffs perched above the Mersey River. It would be so easy to drive through this area and not even know the cliffs exist.

Alum Cliffs

Alum Cliffs (Tulampanga)

We rose early one morning and ventured off to Cradle Mountain Lake St Clair National Park. We made our way to the Visitor Centre and climbed into a shuttle bus that runs to Dove Lake. As we had a National Parks Pass there was no charge for the bus. There were a number of  stops along the way but we decided to head straight to Dove Lake, which is the closest one to Cradle Mountain itself. It is possible to drive your own car out there but the number of private vehicles that can enter each day are restricted.

A first glimpse of Cradle Mountain

A first glimpse of Cradle Mountain

The park is very well-managed with plenty of walks/hikes available. All walkers are required to register  their names, the time that they leave, what walk they are undertaking and also the time of their return. Paul headed off to the shelter to check the walks available and to sign us in. He selected the Lake Dove Circuit, a walk of 1000m – which seemed quite reasonable to the rest of us.

Off we set. It was quite chilly and our first stop was to check out  Glacier Rock. We read how the striations  were formed during the last Ice Age, when debris inside a glacier had gouged the quartzite as it passed over it.

Glacier Rock

Glacier Rock

Science lesson for the day.

Winning!!

We continued along the walk,  stopping at many vantage points to take photos of the mountain. Unfortunately there was some low-lying cloud during our visit and one half of the mountain remained obscured. It was still majestic nonetheless and yet another destination that I can’t believe we have actually been to.

Go away cloud!

Go away cloud!

Cradle Mountain baby!

Cradle Mountain baby!

The boardwalk is very well maintained and the views indescribable but the walk started to feel like it was taking a very long time. We had been walking for an hour and we weren’t even half way round the lake yet! Not to worry. We trudged on taking in the views, with only a few “are we there yets?”

The boardwalk winding around the hillside

The boardwalk winding around the hillside

Dove Lake

Dove Lake

Boat Shed

Boat Shed

I may or may not have had  a giggle (ok, really loud snorting kind of laugh) when, after about two and a half hours  we eventually completed the walk and signed the book to say we had arrived, only to then notice that the 1000m Paul had read about  was in fact the highest altitude reached on the walk!

The circuit is actually 5.7 km long!!

Blog fodder – he makes it so easy!

At the end of the walk - notice the sign in the background!

At the end of the walk – notice the sign in the background!

We waited for the next shuttle bus to take us back to the car (we had decided that one walk was enough for today) and I managed to embarrass the whole family when a great  big  fat wombat ambled across the road in front of the bus. I love wombats and had resigned myself to the fact that I was probably not going to see one in the wild. I jumped up and down on my seat and there may have been some clapping and squealing.

The kids still refuse to talk about it!

From here we headed towards Sheffield. This town boasts over 60 murals which have been on  painted walls in various locations around the town. The murals depict the history and showcase some of the beautiful scenery of the area. They really are remarkable.  Each year there is a Mural Fest competition where artists are invited to produce a mural based on a poem (also produced through a competition). These murals are displayed in an outdoor gallery and the most recent poem was based on the theme of ‘food bowl’. The murals themselves were obviously produced by some talented artists but we found that a large number of them were a bit ‘dark’, making statements about the negative impacts of man on the environment etc. Obviously art invites debate and I am an expert in neither, it just felt that after marvelling at some of the murals throughout town we ended up standing in a sad little corner and some of the gloss was rubbed off.

One of the bigger murals

One of the bigger murals

Reardon & Emma being part of the mural

Reardon & Emma being part of the mural

Before getting to Sheffield we had heard about the murals but didn’t know that this lovely town also sits in the foothills of Mount Roland. This mountain reaches a dizzying height of  1233 metres above sea level (nose bleed anyone?) and provides a really stunning backdrop to the town. If you are up to the challenge there are apparently a couple of tracks that you can take to reach the summit.

Mt Roland - not a bad backdrop

Mt Roland – not a bad backdrop

In a number of shop windows throughout the town there were a few articles about the possible installation of a cable car up to Mt Roland.

Pass!!

Beaconsfield

Instead of overnighting in Georgetown we ended up just down the road, camping underneath Batman Bridge. This is one of the world’s first cable-stayed tress bridges. It spans the Tamar River and consists of a 100m high steel A-frame Tower. The river was flowing pretty quickly and in the morning the tide must have gone out because the kids were able to walk across and sit on one of the huge pylons.

The sun looked beautiful as it set downstream but it wasn’t very long after it had gone down that the temperature plummeted.

It was freezing!!

Batman Bridge

Batman Bridge

Sitting under Batman Bridge

Sitting under Batman Bridge

Another stunnng sunset *sigh*

Another stunnng sunset

In the morning once we had thawed out we headed to Beaconsfield. After a good look around this small sleepy town, we turned our attention to the Beaconsfield Mine & Heritage Centre. A family pass cost us $30 and we spent a number of hours here. The mine was still working while we were there but was to be closed a few weeks after we left. Apparently it is no longer economically viable. The Heritage Centre will remain open though and is definitely worth a visit.

There were a large number of artefacts associated, not just with the local mining history, but also the general history of the area. The kids were given a list of animals that were hidden throughout the centre and upon completion of this treasure hunt they received a prize consisting of a sticker, some ‘gold’ and a small bag of rocks that had come from the mine. They were very happy with this.

Lots of interactive displays were throughout the centre and it was great to be able to actually touch and play with things. Out the back of the centre were some remnants of the original mine buildings and a leafy garden in the middle of an otherwise bleak outlook.

The Mine Rescue Centre, however, was the exhibition that had the greatest impact on me.

Many Australians would be familiar with the amazing events that happened in Beaconsfield in 2006. On Anzac Day in this year there was a rock collapse within the mine. A number of miners were able to make their way to the surface but tragically one man was killed and two others remained trapped underground for a period of two weeks.

I can remember bring glued to the TV as the frantic rescue was underway and cried like a baby watching the two men walking from the lift cage, after finally being freed. The platform from which these scenes were filmed by the media is still in place and I must admit to getting goosebumps standing on the said platform and looking down upon the cage. Definitely not something I am likely to forget in a very long time.

I love how our travels provide such moments.

It was also very moving visiting the park where the huge media (national and international) contingent massed and where Richard Carleton, a journalist whom I admired very much, suffered a fatal heart attack.

A comprehensive account of what took place in Beaconsfield during this time is on display. Items such as the overalls the miners were wearing, equipment that was used during the rescue and even a recreation of the cage in which the men were trapped are just some of the exhibits. Once you read exactly what the rescuers were up against and stick your head inside the cage for a look you realise just what a miracle took place here.

Ben at the museum

Ben at the museum

Mine Museum

Mine Museum

Emma making part of a scrap rug

Emma making part of a rag rug

Old mine water wheel

Old mine water wheel

Looking out to the mine gardens

Looking out to the mine gardens

The infamous lift gate

The infamous lift gate

A few km north of Beaconsfield and adjacent to Narawntapu National Park is Green’s Beach. This is where we headed after leaving Beaconsfield, with our night at the caravan park here costing us $20 for a powered site. It is at a great location just across the road from the beach and I should imagine a very busy place in summer. It is also not far from the aptly name Beauty Point.

Having power meant we could put the heater on and try to dry the bed ends out. Unfortunately they had been getting wet most nights. Even if it doesn’t rain the low overnight temperatures have meant lots of moisture and this can be a bit of a pain if pillows or blankets end up against the canvas.It means that these get damp too.

The added bonus of being able to plug the heater in is that we don’t have to go to bed dressed like this;

Trackie pants, tee shirt, jumper, thick socks, beanie, hood and two blankets should do it!

Trackie pants, tee-shirt, jumper, thick socks, beanie, hood and two blankets should do it!

It’s a small price to pay really, especially when after spending time exploring and playing on Green’s Beach, just before heading back to the van, you turn around for one last look at the beach and are greeted with this

A couple of sunset pictures in one post.

Too much?

The one that was supposed to be an update but turned into a rant!

Without doubt Tasmania is a state which boasts some of the best free or budget camping available within the entire country – and the bonus is that most of these places come with incredible views.

The agricultural  town of Scottsdale provided one of our favourite ‘free’ camps so far. It was a great base to explore the surrounding area, including a Forest EcoCentre or even a half day walk to the top of Mount Stronach, should you so desire. The camp itself is located at the town’s ‘people park’ and includes a duck pond, frog pond, playground, board walks, free barbecues and gold coin showers.

Stanley nestled away behind the duck pond at Scottsdale

Stanley nestled away behind the duck pond at Scottsdale

We are becoming big fans of towns, like  Scottsdale, who provide RV friendly facilities. We also believe that it is such a savvy  move for these towns to provide these facilities – for use by both locals and visitors. Being able to save on camp fees (we made sure to leave some money in the donation box) allowed us to support some of the local businesses with our custom.  Share the love (or money in this case) is a motto of ours. Of course, travellers are likely to spend more time (money) in places they feel welcome.

This is a stark contrast to the experience we had further along the coast at George Town, via Bridport and Anderson Bay.

After checking out the town, including driving out to Low Head, we called into the Information Centre to enquire about their camping facilities, as were listed in our Camps Australia Wide Book. The ladies in the centre didn’t even look up as we entered and one of them only got out of her chair after we stood at the help desk for a while. Upon enquiring about the possibility of camping outside  we were  told that they no longer allowed campers to stay.

Fair enough.

The lady that couldn’t even be bothered to get out of her chair then proceeded to lecture us that it wasn’t fair on the owners of the nearest caravan park for us (or anyone) to want to camp at the information centre, even for a small fee. She continued, pointing out that  the caravan park owners had to pay land rates and insurance fees and maintain the park and these costs needed to be recouped from travellers.

I could feel my cheeks burning  as she was talking to me and I felt like a naughty little child. We were then offered the opportunity to park in the car park after all, at a cost of $12 a night but for no facilities –  they locked the toilets when they closed the centre for the day.

It was a bit of a no brainer that we didn’t opt for this very kind offer!

Walking back to the car I was a little stunned (but unfortunately for Paul had not been rendered totally  speechless). In fact, I found the way we had been spoken to totally offensive. Had we simply been told that camping at the centre was no longer available it is likely that we would have gone to the caravan park in question overnight anyway.

Instead we couldn’t get out of there fast enough.

A family of five travelling Australia is not without their own overheads.  Ours, for example, have included car and caravan registrations – as well as insurances, roadside assistance costs, diesel (oh, the diesel), car and caravan maintenance (Paul is pedantic about our servicing schedule), new tyres for both vehicles, National Park Fees, road tolls, tourist destination fees, food bills (our kids all have hollow legs), medical/dental costs and the list goes on.

In addition to these we also have our house in Perth generating its own expenses. This includes not only the mortgage but also land rates, water rates, property management fees, maintenance costs, building insurance, landlords insurance etc.

Of course when we decided to travel Australia we were fully aware of all of these costs, thus we worked bloody hard to save as much as we could before hitting the road. In fact, some weeks we barely saw Paul as he was not only working long hours, he was also doing work for people in return for goods or services to help get us on the road.

Where possible we tried to pay 12 months up front for insurances and registrations. We also ensured we had put aside enough money to cover the shortfall between mortgage payments, property management/maintenance and rental income costs  for 12 months.

We made the choice to travel and undertook this adventure with our eyes fully open. Our travels are self-funded. Most people on the road can say the same BUT there are also some who travel our great land, blatantly, on the back of other tax payers (that’s a whole other rant). With the effort it has taken to get on (and stay on) the road we reserve the right to seek cost saving alternatives if available.

Additionally, since being on the road we consider ourselves to have been responsible campers. We have never parked in areas where camping is not allowed, have never left rubbish behind, always put something in donation boxes and help other travellers when we can.

We consider travelling Australia a privilege not a right.

For it to be implied that wanting to save some money on camping fees was somehow inappropriate is totally out-of-order. We have stayed in excess of 50 caravan parks during our travels and have spent thousands of dollars supporting local businesses throughout the country. The reality is we cannot financially support EVERY business , be it a caravan park or other.

It is incredibly ironic that in this instance the very people responsible for welcoming and helping visitors instead managed to completely alienate us. Businesses that may have benefited (even slightly) from us passing through, ultimately missed out on our custom.

George  Town and Low Head are both places worthy of visiting (we would have liked to stay longer) with plenty on offer for tourists including a penguin rookery, maritime museum, light house and York Cove. Plenty of information about this area is available online and even at nearby Information Centres but seriously folks, give the George Town one a miss.

Lowhead Light House

Lowhead Light House

Water tank mural at George Town

Water tank mural at George Town

Penguin Rookery at Low Head

Penguin Rookery at Low Head

*dismounts high-horse*

I realise that having the above rant has now put me even further behind in getting up to date with the posts but feel the need to document the good with the bad. In years to come when we look back through our story it can’t just be about the places we have visited and Paul’s shortcomings can it now?!

East coast cruising

A fellow traveller visiting Tasmania had commented to us that, “there’s no such thing as a bad view in Tassie”.  We would have to agree with  the east coast certainly delivering some amazing views to feast our eyes upon.

Just south of Swansea we came across The Spiky Bridge. This is a bridge that was  built in 1843 using convict labour.  There is some conjecture as to why the spikes are there, with one theory suggesting they were  to stop cows falling over the edge!

Spiky Bridge

Spiky Bridge

We were heading for Freycinet National Park but first, as a by-product of some dodgy map reading  and navigating (me) we actually ended up in a fabulous overnight camp spot.

Of course I take FULL credit for this run of  events. Turning the map everytime you turn a corner IS a recognised navigational skill!

Point Bagot provided us with a great first view of ‘The Hazards’, a mountain chain running between Coles Bay and Wine Glass Bay, within the National Park. The Hazards are stunning mountains of pink granite and it was hard for your eyes not to be drawn to them. I am kicking myself that I didn’t take photos of them when we first arrived, as they looked really pink. Unfortunately, rain and cloudy skies followed us along the east coast and by the time I did whip the camera out the overcast skies affected just how pink the mountains looked.

The Hazards

The Hazards

We camped right on the water at Point Bagot and during breaks in the weather we managed to  explore the beach, collect shells and the kids tried their hardest to get lost in the sand dunes.

Point Bagot

Point Bagot camp spot from a different view

Point Bagot camp spot from a different view

Within Freycinet National Park we stayed at Richardson Beach Campground. This included a $22 (a night) family fee and also the use of our National Parks Pass.

As it turns out, ordinarily we would not have been able to stay here due to size restrictions within each site. Because the campground was empty and we were confident that we would fit ok, we were given permission to stay. We fit easily within the largest site we could find even though our rig was  a metre or so above the maximum length. It would be useful for future travellers to be aware of such restrictions (it was the second NP we had experienced this in) and also that during periods such as Easter and over Summer it can be very difficult to secure a campsite at all (should you fit).

Wineglass Bay is consistently listed in the top ten of the world’s beaches and we were keen to have a look, both  up close and from a look out above. This involved a walk of about 20 minutes to the look out  (passing by  another look out over Coles Bay)  and  then a three-hour return walk down to the bay.

Reardon overlooking Coles Bay

Reardon overlooking Coles Bay

Wineglass bay Lookout

Wineglass bay Lookout

Getting to the bay was all downhill (obviously) and it was really quite steep. Because the weather was so cold and wet we had all rugged up but the further we trudged, the more  layers we peeled off. This just meant that we weren’t so hot but now had to lug all of our clothes, not to mention the water bottles we were already carrying.

At the back of our minds was the horrible realisation that the return walk was going to be tough!  Our ‘feel the burn’ mantra didn’t take long to kick in once we started the return climb.

The views, however, totally compensated for this and we are all happy we undertook the challenge. The kids even managed to take their shoes off, roll up their pants and play in the water for short while, until the clouds once again rolled in and the light started to fade.

Getting wet at Wineglass Bay

Getting wet at Wineglass Bay

The following day (with our calves still burning) we took another walk, this time to Cape Tourville, to see the lighthouse and a group of offshore granite islets called The Nuggets. Once again the coastal views were amazing and we indeed had our breath taken away but this time from the wind – it was howling!!

The Nuggets

The Nuggets

Cape Tourville

Cape Tourville

Emma - going for the wind swept look!

Emma – going for the wind-swept look!

Just north of Freycinet National Park is the seaside town of Bicheno where we stopped for a quick look around. This town is just one of many lovely looking towns between Freycinet and St Helens further to the  north. As we drove through these towns it was extremely easy to see why this region is such a popular summer holiday destination – for both Tasmanians and interstate or overseas visitors.

Bicheno Blowhole

Bicheno Blowhole

Bicheno Blowhole - living up to its name!

Bicheno Blowhole – living up to its name!

Unfortunately the weather wasnt really ideal whilst we were there (it was winter after all) with one particular night at Diana’s Basin being so windy that we were sure that poor Stanley was going to take off!

From St Helens we chose to head inland. Had the weather been more favourable we may have spent more time on the coast – particularly the much talked about Bay of Fires.

Although there was a definite change in the scenery it shouldnt be said that the views were any less spectacular.We were now in farming country with some of the most amazing green, rolling hills we have ever seen.

We had heard about The Pub in the Paddock, one of Tasmania’s oldest pubs, from a number of people. The pub (in Pyengana) was originally the St Columba Falls Hotel and we had envisioned this quaint, isolated pub in the middle of nowhere.

This wasn’t really  the case but it was still a pleasant place to visit. Of particular interest to the kids was Priscilla the Pig who is quite partial to a beer! We purchased one stubby – Priscilla is a responsible drinker after all – for $1 and the kids all took turns in feeding it to the pig.

Beautiful countryside

Beautiful countryside

Priscilla's sty

Priscilla’s sty

Meeting Priscilla

Meeting Priscilla

Ben giving Priscilla a beer

Ben giving Priscilla a beer

From here with travelled inland a little more before visiting some of the north coast. I’ll write about this next time, including our visit to Beaconsfield – the small, sleepy town which in 2006 captured the attention of the world.

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.