OZ and Tassie travel blog

View of Hobart from Mount Wellington

Hobart 2

18 January

Up bright and early for our day trip to Bruny Island. Very grey and overcast but not cold. We were collected by the bus at the foot of the hill and made our way to Kettering to catch the ferry. The driver and tour guide, Tim, was very entertaining, though his jokes, and there were many if them, were pretty poor, corny, but one or two gems.

The sun broke through the clouds as we waited for the ferry. Kettering is all about the ferry dock, not much else, located in a pretty bay facing Bruny Island across the d’entrecasteaux channel. 15 minute crossing on the ferry, which we learned had been on the Stradbrooke Island service (near Brisbane) until recently and which we travelled on a couple of years ago. Just a cafe on the other side at Cape Robert, and the road inland. We were driven inland on the bus for about ten minutes to our first stop; Get Shucked Oysters, above Great Bay. They offered us a plateful of freshly shucked oysters (they also offered oysters kilpatrick - cooked, for those who could not face raw oysters - Ruth and one other woman). The oysters were delicious and certainly the freshest I’ve ever tasted, could have done with a glass of cold white, but that wasn’t on offer. The Oyster Bar looked out over the oyster farm laid out in Great Bay below.

On to our next treat just along the road, Bruny Island Cheese and Beer Co. There are no dairy cows on the island so the cheesery buy milk from the mainland and have it shipped over; no sheeps cheese even though there are thousands of sheep on the island! We were offered four of their cheeses made here. ‘Tom’ to start, based on the French Tomme, a hard cheese, then ‘George’, similar to Tom but matured for longer, then ‘Saint’ a very soft white cheese based on French cheeses of the Massif Centrale and finally, ‘Oen’, a soft cheese washed in Pinot Noir and wrapped in vine leaves, quite a pungent little number.... A small glass of their wheat beer to follow. A good visit and we did buy some cheese, weren’t too keen on their beer.

On now along a narrow stretch of land that joins the two larger parts of the island, called ‘The Neck’. There is a lookout at ‘Big Hummock’(!) and a boardwalk across The Neck. 264 steps up to the lookout offering great views along the beaches of The Neck, out to the mainland in the west and Adventure Bay in the east. Adventure Bay is where Captain Cook landed in 1777 to replenish water and stores. Lots of shearwater and penguin burrows above the beaches, but no-one was home, they were all out fishing!

Now for morning tea. We were driven to the tour companies cafe (Pennicott Wilderness Journeys) for a cup of tea and a lovely blueberry muffin. Looked around afterwards for the albino wallabies that live on this part of the island, but no joy today. We did see some ‘regular’ Bennett’s Wallabies, quite small and dark.

On now for lunch, so back to the ‘main’ road, dow through Alonnah, the largest settlement and on to Bruny Island Premium Wines, Cider and Grill. Wine tasting before lunch! They claim to have the most southerly vineyards in the World. We tried their sauvignon blanc, their sweeter sauvignon blanc and their pinot noir plus a taste of their cloudy cider. None of these appealed to us, we thought they must be just too far south to make decent wine. Disappointing. Lunch was salmon, which was so-so, and a glass of wine. Luckily we weren’t restricted to the tasting list, so we had a glass of the reserve pinot noir which was actually quite good. The whole visit to the winery was underwhelming, a shame.

Back up the road to the Bruny Island Chocolate Factory. Actually we only visited the shop, but they did offer a selection of their chocolates and fudges; all good! The platter was cleared! Now for Bruny Island Honey, just across The Neck. It too was just a shop, but we were given free rein to taste each of the honeys and their mustards. We were given a small pot of honey to take away.

Finally, Bruny Island House of Whisky. We could choose between a single malt whisky or a handcrafted gin, both made on the Island. We chose the whisky, which was ok, but quite immature and fiery. They boasted that they did not claim an age for their whiskies and that they had won prizes for it. I doubt we were given the prizewinning whisky. The prices were extortionate, even given they were ‘small batch’ distillers. We did not buy any.

Now time to return to the ferry, the roads busier now that people were arriving for their weekend stay, but only a short wait and we were boarded and on our way. Back up the road to Hobart and we were dropped off near home.

We re-grouped and headed out to Hobart Twilight Market at Sandy Bay Point above Long Beach. The market stalls had created a sort of corral, so it wasn’t easy to find a way in! Mostly food stalls, we found nothing to interest us and the music was pretty dire, so we moved on. We had heard of another evening market, in Hobart itself, called ‘Streeteatsfranko’. The venue was Franklin Square and when we drove past the place was heaving; so many people, and there was a band playing, loudly.

We parked beyond and walked back. The music was good, well played and the food stalls were a real mix of styles, circled around the central fountain. We found ‘Wild Thyme Kitchen’ grilling local seafood, perfect. The food, we had scallops subudar, barbecued scallops in a gentle spicy sauce on a fresh salad. Just hit the spot! Next door at Lady Hestor donuts they were selling ice cream filled sourdough donuts. Well we just had to try them, ours had caramelised fig and hazelnut icecream. They too were excellent. A great find, we listened to the music for a little while then headed home. TV, bed.

19 January

Another overcast morning, but the forecast was good. Salamanca Market today! We parked in Battery Point and walked in - wow, so many people again and the market stretched along Salamanca Place in three rows, so lots of stalls. We wandered along, wineries, distilleries, cheese, bakers,wood products, possum and alpaca wool scarves and jumpers, lots of different stalls made it an interesting market. We bought some fresh vegetables and a posy of flowers and made our way out again. Worth a visit for the variety of products, most of which were Tasmanian made.

Back for lunch, there were few stalls offering street food, none that we were interested in. The clouds had largely cleared away now and it was a lovely sunny afternoon. The wind had swung round into the northwest, still a cool breeze.

Later, we headed out to walk around the Royal Tasmanian Botanical Gardens. Due to the closure of the main highway out of Hobart (while they built a bridge across it) the diversion took us out along the Brooker Highway, Domain Highway and across the Tasman Bridge. Having got that far we decided to carry on and have a look at Kangaroo Bluff and its battery and gun emplacements. It is directly opposite our apartment in Sandy Bay, across the River Derwent. The battery was built in the 1880s as a defence for Hobart against the Russians who apparently had designs on expanding their empire. No guns were ever fired in anger! Great views of Hobart, Mount Wellington to the northwest and Mount Nelson to the west.

We retraced our steps and swung into the lower carpark of the Botanical Gardens. A very pleasant walk through the gardens, looking at the various different areas of planting. They have some very mature trees, the gardens were started over two hundred years ago. There is a lot laid to grass, making it open and spacious. Some quite interesting plants and a eucalyptus area, though with very few with name plates. Pretty lily pond, conservatory with interesting orchids. A lovely place to spend a couple of hours.

Back to the apartment for dinner, tv and bed, via the bottleshop!

20 January

A beautiful morning, great day for our excursion to Mount Field National Park just over an hours drive away. We got snarled up a bit on the detour for the Tasman Bridge, but once clear of that we had a easy drive west, initially following the course of the Derwent River on Highway One, turning off at Granton to join the A10 and continue following the Derwent. All the hills were brown, there were some trees and areas of planted forest.

We called in at New Norfolk, so-called after 500 Norfolk Islanders settled here in 1807. Some interesting old buildings, a quaint little town but we were really headed for the National Park so moved on. Maybe we will revisit next time we are passing through - towards the end of our stay in Tasmania. We continued along the A10, climbing all the time turning off at Glenora and the Tyenna River. Here were acres and acres and acres of hop gardens, quite a surprise! And quite a change from the drive so far.

We followed the Tyenna River and the Derwent Valley railway, now disused, up through Westerway and into the Park. More people here than we anticipated. The upper slopes and the road to Lake Dobson were closed due to the proximity of bushfires to the western edge of the Park. So no walking at the Lake! We decided to tackle the Three Falls walk, a 6 kilometre, 2.5 hour walk through the forest, visiting the three waterfalls in the Park. We bought our Park Pass and had a quick bite to eat before setting off. Ruth had asked about the walk and was recommended to go anti-clockwise, due to the very steep staircase along the route.

So we set off through the forest heading for Lady Barron Falls. The forest here had been burnt a while ago, on one side of the track, but the undergrowth was recovering. A lovely scent of eucalyptus forest. The track steadily climbed and then dropped down a 239 step (Ruth counted them!) staircase to the creek which we more or less followed to the Falls. Very pretty falls. Ok, now to decide whether we return to the car or carry on. We carried on. Northeast now, the track meandered through the forest, some huge trees every so often, these were the so-called Mountain Ash. After a while we came to the Tall Trees Walk, a kilometre loop around some of the tallest trees in the park, the tallest at 79 metres and about four metres diameter at the base. An amazing walk, incredible to see these huge trees. The tallest recorded in Tasmania was 98 metres. It is said that because they grow so fast they reach up to 100 metres then cannot draw enough water to the foliage at the top and the tree slowly dies. Unless a bush fire occurs which usually kills theses trees. Nearby there was a tree, was suspected of being killed in the huge bushfire of 1937 but has only recently fallen and it has made a huge clearing in the forest, in which new trees will grow and replace it.

So, back to the trail and we reached the Horseshoe Falls, not a lot of water and the tree ferns made a great job of hiding it! So on to the Russell Falls a little below it. Lots of people here as the track is paved, fairly level and only 1.4km from the car park. We met a Ranger who was collecting litter and had a chat with him about the local platypus. Not usually seen until dusk, so we moved on. Stopped by the creek just to wait and see what was about. Saw some trout and a crayfish and Ruth saw a little bird, but it fitted in and out, very difficult to spot. Huge tree ferns (dicksonia antarctica) here, many over 6 metres high with a base of nearly a metre wide, must be very old.

Finally, back to the car, we headed home. The temperature had reached close to 30 degrees during the day in Hobart, so we were glad to enjoy the coolness and shade of the forest. A lovely drive in the late afternoon sunshine. Dinner. Bed.

21 January

Another beautiful morning, already warm when we left for the city. Ruth wanted to spend some time in the library to carry out more family history research. I dropped her at the State Library of Tasmania and carried on to drive to the top of Mount Wellington. Once clear of the city it was a lovely drive, gradually gaining altitude, I stopped near Fern Gully to take a shot of the ‘organ pipes’, dolerite columns up to 120 metres high near the summit. They are certainly visible from Hobart, but look much more impressive close up.

On through Fern Tree and onto the Pinnacle Road, a road built in the 1930s as an unemployment relief project, it is 11 kilometres long and goes all the way to the summit and the car park. Climbs quite steeply, Fern Tree is at about 400 metres altitude and the summit is 1,270 metres and wide enough for two-way traffic, well for cars anyway. A slow start as there were cyclists on the road, but soon cleared them and made my way to the top. Fantastic views all round. Could see the smoke haze in the distance but no fires ( there are bushfires in the region, the closest are apparently under control but those in the Central Plateau are out of control).

Great views over Hobart and the Derwent Valley and beyond. It being a Sunday there were lots of other people at the top but fortunately the summit area is large. Wandered around and took some photographs, ‘Whatsapped’ Ruth to let her know I was returning, and started the drive down the mountain. The mountain was originally called ‘Table Mountain’ but was changed by the locals to honour the Duke of Wellington after his defeat of Napoleon at Waterloo. It’s official name is now kunanyi/Mount Wellington to recognise the indigenous people’s name for the mountain. It has been climbed by Charles Darwin!

Collected Ruth at the Library and we headed home for lunch. Afterwards we drove back through the city to visit Richmond, across the Derwent on the Tasman Bridge and out across to Richmond in the Coal River Valley. It has a bridge, allegedly the first bridge built in Australia, built in 1823 of local sandstone by convicts (of course!). Very pretty bridge with four main arches and two smaller arches at each end. Lots of ducks being fed below the bridge, plus a couple of black swans.

We wandered around the town looking at the lovely old buildings, walked to the old gaol (built 1825) but as it was getting late didn’t go in - it has been much modified in the intervening years. Ok time to go. Back a different way, through the Meehan Ranges and down to the Derwent Valley once more. Stopped at FISH349 on Elizabeth Street again for some wonderful fish and chips - blue-eye trevalla, our favourite fish here. Now on to home.

A beautiful full moon rose over the Derwent, almost red (maybe due to the light smoke haze) casting a rosy hue to the water and almost a ‘staircase to the moon’. It got yellower and yellower and brighter and brighter as it rose up through the haze over the hills opposite.

22 January

Low cloud hung over the valley, smelled of smoke, the sun is breaking through the clouds and the temperature is expected to reach 30 degrees again today. Reports today of the bushfire at Tahune creating thick smoke blanket over Geeveston in the Huon Valley, where we were a couple of days ago! The firefighters are being joined by others from New Zealand and other Australian States. Friday is expected to be 33 degrees and a real threat for more fires. We will keep listening and watching the news. Our last day in Hobart today, we move further east to the Port Arthur area.

We really liked Hobart and the surrounding area. The city is small enough to get around easily, it has a great setting alongside the wide Derwent River. The people are very friendly, lots of historic buildings and lots going on. We will enjoy our next visit at the end of our time in Tasmania.

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