Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Driving Around Southeast Tasmania

As I sit in a sweltering summer in Texas, I can't help but remember my last visit to Tasmania - cool, crisp and refreshing.  I find that a little ironic, since it was the end of Spring/start of Summer when I was there, but oh, what a difference!  For this trip, I let some of my colleagues plan the itinerary for me.  Since that is one of our departments at work, why shouldn't I work with an Australian travel planner?

Using Qantas, I flew into Hobart where I had a hire car reserved.  You can get your car hire in Tasmania from our website.  From Hobart, I headed towards the Tasman Peninsula and Eaglehawk Neck, stopping at Pirates Bay lookout to take a few snapshots.
Pirates Bay and Eaglehawk Neck from the lookout
Eaglehawk Neck is at the northern tip of Tasman National Park (although not a part of it).  Within the park you can find lots of great stuff to see, including Tasman's Arch, the Blowhole, the Devils Kitchen (and no, you won't find Chef Gordon Ramsey there either) and Waterfall Bay.  There are walking tracks through the bush and along the cliffs if you feel so inclined and have the time to do so.

Following an afternoon spent wandering, I headed west, towards the township of Koonya, and my lodgings for the night at Cascades Colonial Accommodation.  What a treat!  The history buffs out there would love this place.  Originally a convict barracks in the 1840s, Cascades has been authentically restored/renovated to provide self-contained cottages for guests.  The location was tranquil, being set on the shores of Norfolk Bay with plenty of wooded areas to explore.  In hindsight, I would have stayed here more than just one night, especially since it was so conveniently located to the Tasman National Park and Port Arthur.

Next stop on my itinerary was the Port Arthur Historical Convict Site.  You can read more about it on the Port Arthur Tasmania page on our website.  I was immediately struck by the sheer size of the 'settlement', for want of a better word, and the number and variety of buildings and ruins.  I would say the most recognisable building would be the Penitentiary, where the convicts were housed.
Port Arthur Penitentiary
The grounds were beautiful, as was the setting.  As I stood at the water's edge, looking out to sea, I couldn't help but wonder what the convicts that had lived there almost 200 years ago had thought at the first sight of their new 'home'.  After spending the better part of 8 months on a ship to get there, they had to know they were miles from anywhere; the water temperature must be bloody cold for most of the year, so escaping that way wouldn't have been an option, not to mention the possibility of sharks.  It's hard to describe, but I could really feel the isolation of the place really penetrate.

As part of the entrance ticket I had pre-purhased was a cemetery tour of the nearby Isle of the Dead, located in the harbour, and accessible via a short cruise.  It was an interesting guided walk with a lot of history about some of the people who had lived and died at Port Arthur.
Isle of the Dead
Again, hindsight being 20/20, I wish I had allocated more time to this area, but I suppose it's impossible to always fit in everything you want to do, right?

On the way back towards Hobart, I stopped to stretch the legs (and the camera) in the small historic town of Richmond, which boasts two of Australia's 'oldest' titles - the oldest bridge still in use, and the oldest Catholic Church (St John's Roman Catholic Church).  I thought the bridge had much more charm and character than today's modern monstrosities.
Richmond Bridge
One of the highlights of this trip was my early morning visit to the Cadbury Chocolate Factory in Claremont, a northern suburb of Hobart.  I was lucky that I got this tour in before they stopped allowing access to the manufacturing area.  Being the confirmed chocoholic that I am, this place was heaven!  There were lots of free samples handed out and I actually learned some interesting bits and pieces along the way.  Plus, they give you a great discount in the gift shop.  OK, so I had to buy another suitcase to fit the 5kg box I purchased, but it was SO worth it!

If chocolate factories aren't your thing, then check out our Hobart - Activities and Tours page to find something that tickles your fancy.

Stay tuned for the second half of my trip where I cross over to the west coast of Tassie and then up to Launceston.

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