We visited Tasmania in March 2018 as part of a larger trip to Australia.
I’d always thought of Tasmania as the essence of antipodean. Poles apart, strangely foreign, and mysterious. In fact it is quite the opposite. The state capital Hobart and the surrounding area is a wonderful mix of ocean and land wrapping and folding around themselves in a divine way that is like South Devon, England with knobs-on. Everybody is friendly. Everything is clean and fresh. Even the air. What an amazing place. Tassies regard themselves as very environmentally aware, I believe they’ve farmed organically for many years.
The countryside is like North Wales in appearance; old, smooth, rugged. Visiting anywhere other than Hobart means you’ll need to hire a car but this is great fun and you can easily spend 5 or more days exploring. You’ll need to lower your expectations on accommodation as the standard quickly drops as you go rural.
As in all of Australia, the people are friendly, helpful, positive and fun.
Day 05 – 2/3 Melbourne then fly to Tasmania
18:55 MEL to Hobart 20:10
MACq 01 Hotel, Hobart booked 3 nights
Hire car Thrifty via Rentalcars
The flight from Melbourne down to Hobart is short, cheap and popular. It’s an easy 25 minuted drive from the airport to the quayside in Hobart, the state’s capital city. Think relaxed, chilled, free-flowing traffic with wide roads and few cars.
I imagine many yachts-people might travel down for a weekend’s sailing escaping the hustle and bustle of Melbourne and relaxing in the beautiful bays of Australia’s island state.
We had a late meal at our trendy brand-new hotel right on the waterfront of Hobart’s estuary to the River Derwent, followed by a couple of cheeky cocktails and off to bed.
Day 06 – 3/3 Tasmania
Bruny Island – Captain Cook’s landing place
The classic Aussie breakfast of smashed avos and poached eggs on sourdough gave us a good start to the day. The plan was to nip over to the nearby and highly recommended Salamanca street market to buy a few trinkets and then drive down to Bruny Island later in the morning. As we walked out on the quayside by the hotel we saw this massive cruise ship moored next to us and completely dwarfing the small city.
The problem with cruise ships is they have thousands of people on them; all of whom disembarked and clogged up the market. I suppose the market wouldn’t be there were it not for the cruises, but Hobart is a popular destination and they visit on a daily basis.
The first experience of Tasmania’s countryside was a trip down to Bruny Island to see the light house and the bay where Captain Cook first landed at Tasmania. Take the road south out of Hobart and you are very quickly in the countryside for an easy half hour drive to Kettering to catch the tiny ferry over to Bruny Island.
Once on the island we drove down to the narrow ismuth separating Isthmus Bay with Adventure Bay where Captain Cook first landed. Pull over at The Neck Lookout and climb up to the view point. We missed looking at the Penguin Rookery but it was the middle of the day and they were probably out fishing.
It’s an hour drive down to Cape Bruny lighthouse but it wasn’t very impressive.
Driving back we decided to drive over to Adventure Bay to see Cook’s landing place and take the direct route up into the mountains of Mt Mangana Forest reserve which I thoroughly enjoyed because the dirt track road made the driving great fun. I’m not sure the family liked the tail-slipping as much as me though.
Adventure Bay is a very low-end tourist spot with many camping and trailer home parks, much loved by Australians I’m told. The actual landing place for Cook is not very well signed so look for Resolution Creek – named after the ship he voyaged in. but we did spot a fascinating globe sculpture.
A couple of hours or so got us back into Hobart where we had booked the Mures Upper Deck restaurant. It got good ratings in TripAdvisor but we thought it was a bit naff. Serving overcooked deep-fried sea food at a full price and in a run-down restaurant. Avoid.
Day 07 – 4/3 Tasmania
Today the plan was to drive south-east to Port Arthur to see the former prison colony and then back for a late lunch at MONA and experience the museum.
Although the distances might seem long driving the roads of Tasmania (and for that matter Australia) are easy and relaxed the speed limit is low so you just sit back and enjoy the views.
The Port Arthur penal station was established in 1830 as a logging operation using convict labour to produce sawn logs for the government. It was used as a punishment station for repeat offenders from all the Australian colonies.
With the brutal logic of Victorian times the rogue was ground from the man using discipline, punishment, religious and moral instruction and isolation. In the barracks, absolute silence was demanded and the men were prevented from seeing each other even at prayer.
It’s a fascinating and very well-delivered insight into the life those men had, the guards and their families and the local indigenous peoples. Well worth a visit.
MONA or Museum of Old And New Art is probably the most bizarre, diverse and questioning museum we’ve ever visited. Funded and founded by a self-made billionaire – who used his Asperger’s Syndrome to his advantage making his money gambling. It is also an amazing insight into a really special mind. The wall of vaginas – probably 25 plaster moulds of different genitalia is an easy example – driven home by the shop offering them for sale under the banner ‘treat yourself. Or your mum. She’d love that’. But, in fact, there were many far more interesting exhibits. If you like modern art you will find this a mentally exhausting roller coaster of experience.
You must visit. If you don’t fancy the drive, they operate a camouflaged (well why not) super catamaran regularly out of Hobart.
We had probably our best lunch in Australia at their restaurant The Source.
Day 08 – 5/3 Tasmania
We left Hobart early for the long drive to Launceston taking a detour to Freycinet National Park to see Wineglass Bay. This took us along part of the Eastern Coastal Drive to Coles Bay going through a few small and slightly rundown towns like Swansea. No change there then! Coles Bay is a very small town whose biggest boast is a rather smart slipway for sailing dinghies and small motor boats plus a general store and a couple of eateries. Great views through the gum trees out to the ocean. Drive on for 3 miles to the park entrance, buy your entrance tickets, then drive up another mile or so to the furthest car park. There are numerous trails you can take but be careful to have plenty of water! Wineglass Bay is on the other side of the isthmus and to reach it you must climb up over the granite mountain pass. There are no roads to it. We stopped at the top’s Observation Area which takes about an hour and, given the substantial climb, we didn’t fancy walking down to the bay and having to climb back up again. We got a great view, but I’m not sure it was worth the time and effort.
This was the first time we saw a live kangaroo, all the rest were unfortunately roadkill. Tasmania has an enormous amount of roadkill and sadly was how we were introduced to the wallaby and wombat as well.
Review: Country Club Tasmania. The plan was to stay for 2 nights at this golf resort near Launceston. I won’t mince my words, it was shit. I thought it would be nice if we played a game of golf while we were there with our son who had joined us from his Melbourne home for the Tasmania trip. Cleverly, or so I thought, I booked a chalet with two rooms and a living room but on arrival our faces dropped. It was a Butlins style shabby cheap soulless affair that the family immediately rejected. I went back to the reception and asked if we cold stay in the main resort hotel instead which she reluctantly arranged and then as we drove over prayed it would be suitable. It wasn’t. It was like a throwback to the early 80’s with aztec patterns of odd greens and pinks, tired carpets a smell of stale cooking, and a general feel of being well beyond it’s sell by date. We hummed and hawed and decided to bail and try another hotel.
We stayed downtown in the Sebel Hotel which wasn’t much better.
Day 09 – 6/3 Launceston Tasmania
Our overnight stay was a reminder that once you’re out of the major conurbations Australia is not a wealthy country. We decided to forget the golf and, after a rummage around town, drive back to Hobart for another night’s stay at the lovely Macq 01 hotel.
Launceston named presumably after the Cornish original is pronounced ‘Lonston’ in Tasmania or ‘Lonny’ for short. It’s Tasmania’s second town and is very provincial. It seemed to be a market town for the surrounding areas specialising mostly in err… sheep.
We found a gluten-free restaurant called Samuel Pepys where we had a delicious breakfast followed by a walk in Launceston Park about a block in size and laid out as a formal garden. Small but nice. They had a small incongruous sanctuary for Macaque monkeys in the middle and who looked depressed.
Lonny has a lovely gorge formed by the flow of the South Esk river and you can take a walk along its side for a mile or so to ornamental gardens made in Victorian times for the gentry to stroll in. It’s very nice and even has a chairlift that spans the river. Bizarrely we found a Scots piper half way along the walk. Well worth the visit.
Our drive back to Hobart was punctuated by a brief stop off in the small township of Ross. The crossroads area is humorously referred to as the “Four Corners of Ross” with each corner having a label:
- Temptation: the Man O’ Ross Hotel
- Recreation: Town Hall
- Salvation: Roman Catholic Church
- Damnation: Jail (now a private residence)
More importantly the local tea shop specialised in pies (savoury not sweet) and is a favourite snack for Aussies. But the Tasmanians have taken this one step further with their scallop and mushroom pie. Loving packed into a piping hot white sauce wrapped in pastry – my mouth is watering as I write this! Delicious
Day 10 – 7/3 Hobart then Fly to Melbourne
Our last day in Tasmania started with a visit to the Bonorong wildlife sanctuary where we finally saw live versions of Tasmania’s wildlife. The photos speak for themselves.
We then drove up to the peak of Mount Wellington to look down onto Hobart. Because of the steep climb it takes longer than you think. Allow 2 hours minimum.
And so farewell to lovely tranquil Tasmania. Australia’s beautiful island state. Would I recommend it? Definitely yes.