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Tasmania in November
A great time to experience that bit
of Australia that didn't fit on the map

November is a great time of year to visit Tasmania . Two weeks circumnavigating Tasmania makes for a great touring holiday.    Being almost the oldest settled part off Australia ensures that much of Australia's early history is able to be seen.

A trip to Tasmania normally starts with a trip on one of the Spirit of Tasmania Ferries.

 

Spirit of Tasmania I and II give you all the fun, excitement and romance of sea travel, so crossing Bass Strait will be one of the highlights of your trip.   Feel your holiday start the moment you step on board as you sit back, relax and watch the waves roll by, or take advantage of all the great facilities on board or you can sit there and feel the heaving in your stomach.

One way or another it is one way to get to Tasmania.

On a recent trip we were able to start at Launceston and travel around Tasmania thus also finishing in Launceston.

Launceston (pop ~96,000) is located on the Tamar River where the North and South Esk Rivers converge. It is Tasmania's second largest population centre, and is an attractive city due to its many parks and gardens, which incorporate European trees such as oaks and elms.

Cataract Gorge Reserve is arguably the best recreational area in the northern city of Launceston, located only 1.6 km (1 mi) from the city centre.   The chairlift crossing the Gorge is the longest single span one in the world at 308m (924 ft).   If chairlifts aren't your style, you can opt for the suspension bridge, pausing in the middle to watch the rapids far below.

Photo right:  Suspension Bridge at Cataract Gorge

 
 

Photo Left:  Cataract Gorge at Launceston.

 

Close to the Gorge is the Penny Royal World.   The Penny Royal Watermill has a working cornmill, and is connected to the Penny Royal Gunpowder Mill by a restored tramline.

From Launceston everything is readily handy.

 

Before leaving Launceston one trip whilst there that most people find a must is the Boag Brewery Tour.     This historic brewery today still produces some of the most prestigious beers in the world.

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The Esk Brewery was established on the banks of the Esk River in Launceston, Tasmania in 1881. When James Boag Ist and his son, James Boag IInd, took over the Esk Brewery it was said to be the most complete in Tasmania.     Prior to this time, James Boag Ist had been the brewer and subsequent manager of the Cornwall Brewery and his son had recently left the Cataract Brewery.

The name Esk Brewery was retained although Boag's Brewery became a frequent reference.    The brewery had frontages on to William Street and The Esplanade, and was close to wharves, the railway station and the Esk River from which the brewery took its name.

The Esk Brewery prospered and expanded and the succeeding years saw many extensions, new equipment and acquisitions.   The brewery itself and the block of buildings formed an ornamental feature of the city.

In 1887 James Boag Ist retired leaving his son to manage the company, with production rising to 27,000 gallons of beer.   On Sunday, 9 November 1890, James Boag Ist passed away, but his legacy of brewing premium quality beer with the best Tasmanian ingredients was firmly established.

Also whilst at Launceston another interesting side trip is to the sea-horse farm just north of Launceston at Beauty Point.

The working farm and aquarium give you insight into the mystical and elegant seahorse (Hippocampus abdominalis).    You have a chance to see seahorses at various stages of development, along with the leafy seadragon and the Pipe Fish. As you pass through the cave of the seahorses you enter the aquarium where young and old can take advantage of the touch pool.   An aquaculture museum and theatrette graphically illustrates the past, present and future in the enjoyable field of aquaculture.     Seahorse World incorporates the Australian Maritime College; the only one in the Southern Hemisphere, supported by Early Maritime Life Tasmania.

Photo right:  "Elegant seahorse (Hippocampus abdominalis)"

 

By continuing past Beauty Point you can travel onto George Town.    The George Town area has many points of interest.   One such point was the Low Head Pilot Station and Maritime Museum - Australia's oldest continuously operating pilot station.   Here the maritime history of the region was well set out.   A little further along the road was the spectacular Low Head lighthouse, with panoramic views of the peninsula, Tamar Valley, estuary, surf and river beaches.

Whilst in the Tamar Valley two other attractions are the convict built Sidmouth Stone Church and the Bateman's Bay Suspension Bridge that crosses the Tamar River

 

Then it was a return to Launceston.

 
It was time to travel north west from Launceston.  Travelling through towns such as Devonport, Burnie, Wynard and onto Stanley.

Stanley is an important and interesting historic town on the north-west coast. It is a classified historic town full of beautifully preserved buildings.

As you approach Stanley you see "The Nut" rising like a strange box above the bay.   There is a plaque at the lookout on the southern side of Sawyer Bay.   It reads:  'The Nut, discovered by Bass and Flinders in 1798, rises abruptly 143 m from the sea to a flattish top'flattish top.'

Stanley is the main fishing port on the north west coast of Tasmania.    It was named after Lord Stanley, the British Secretary of State for the Colonies in the 1840s.   The first European to see 'The Nut' was Matthew Flinders who in 1798 recorded that he had seen a 'cliffy round lump resembling a Christmas cake'.

The history of Stanley is the history of the Van Diemen's Land company.    In 1825 the Van Diemen's Land company formed in England was granted the rights by Royal Charter to a huge tract of unsettled land to raise fine wool sheep on a large scale.   Circular Head, commonly known as 'The Nut', was chosen as the centre of operations.    Stud livestock, implements, craftsmen and indentured labourers from England along with convicts assigned locally were landed nearby in October 1826.

Even in the middle of summer Stanley can be freezing cold.  Being a historic area there are many buildings surviving from the convict era.

Photo above:  Looking past Highview Estate Home towards "The Nut" at Stanley
Photo right:  Convict built stone buildings at Highview Estate at Stanley.

 

Leaving Stanley we are going top push on down the west coast of Tasmania to Queenstown.

 

Photo Left:  Main St of Stanley.  It is as if you stepped back into the 1930's

This area shows a sparkling coastline where Bass Strait waves surge in to a string of beaches, friendly coastal towns and quaint fishing villages.   Just inland are Tasmania's richest farmlands, where fertile chequerboard fields produce magnificent tulips, fruit, milk and cheese.  

Further inland from the coast is Tasmania's World Heritage wilderness.   Much of this area, once dense and tall timbered has been deforested and new trees planted.   This brings you close to glacier-carved mountains, alpine lakes, mighty rivers and Tasmania's astonishing native wildlife.

Photo above:  Tour Boat readying for the day
Photo right:  Lobster fishing boat readying for its day.

 

Westwards to the coast, is the town Strahan, the town on the edge of the wilderness.   This is the base for Gordon River tours and the remarkable Abt Wilderness Railway through rainforested gorges to Queenstown, heritage mining town.

The Wilderness Railway is a historic 35 kilometre railway of tight curves and spectacular bridges clambers through rugged wilderness, dense rainforest and steep gorges, a legacy of the engineering skills, determination and endurance of the early 19th century west coast pioneers who built it.   Their spirit is reflected in the original railway motto "We find a way or make it".

 

Photos of Queenstown Smelter area showing
the degredation of the surrounding area

Starting in 1896, the railway hauled copper concentrates from the Queenstown mines to the port of Strahan, providing the only access and lifeline for the communities along the way.    Closed down in 1963, the railway returned to nature and slumbered for 37 years, to be reawakened by a restoration feat similar in magnitude to that of its original construction.

Once again, trains are running between Queenstown and Strahan, using the extraordinary rack & pinion third rail Abt system to conquer the mountainous terrain.

Photo Right:  Wilderness train about to set out through
the rugged west coast area towards from Strahan toQueenstown

 

The village of Strahan is surrounded by wilderness.   You can walk there or on the beach, or take a cruise on the harbour or up the splendid Gordon River.    The sunsets are dramatic.    

From here the day trip up the Franklin River gives a good impression as to how rugged and isolated those in the original settlements in Australia must have felt.   

Here today there are many salmon fish farms in the Franklin River Outlet.

 
 

Photo above:  One of the many salmon fish farms in the lower Franklin River area.  The rings contain hundreds of thgousands of salmon.   They are fed daily and they grow rapidly.

No fishing allowed here though.

Photo Left: The lighthouse at the heads between the Franklin River and the open sea on the west coast of Tasmania

Photo Right: shows the Gordon River in Tasmanias Wildernesss area.   It was here that the Franklin Dam was to be built but was subsequently prevented by public protest.

In this picture a boat ramp can be seen where some of the heavy gear to be used in construction was to be unloaded from barges.  It is now a home for fishermen and is once again returning to wilderness vegetation.

 

Also a visit to the historic Sarah Island.

 

Sarah Island (or Settlement Island) is found in the far south west corner of Macquarie Harbour, on the west coast of Tasmania, within sight of the world renown Gordon River.   This isolated island was a Penal Settlement between 1822 and 1833, established, before the more well-known Port Arthur, as a place of 'secondary' punishment, an attempt to control the uncontrollable.

Photo left:  landing at Sarah Island

Over time Sarah Island has gained a reputation as a place of unspeakable horrors and a living hell, largely due to the exploits of one of the island's 'colourful' characters, Alexander Pearce, the Cannibal Convict, and a novel For the Term of His Natural Life written about 1860 by Marcus Clark.    The novel, although based on actual events, is a fiction which set out to create Sarah Island as a living hell for its hero, Rufus Dawes.

From Strahaan we can made a deviation to Cradle Mountain.   Cradle Mountain (1545 metres) is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Tasmania, especially amongst those looking to get "away from it all".    The Cradle Mountain-Lake St. Clair National Park, which encompasses Cradle Mountain, is by far the most popular National Park in Tasmania, but at the same time retains its isolated and wild character.

 

Two views of Cradle Mountain lake.

A popular place for wilderness bushwalking

The 161,000 ha. park also contains Lake St. Clair, a 200m deep glacial lake, the deepest in the southern hemisphere.    Cradle Mountain boasts a variety of fine bushwalks, varying in difficulty from simple to rigorous.    A good beginners walk circles Dove Lake.    For the more experienced, the Overland Track to Lake St. Clair is one of Australia's best-known bushwalks, and covers 85 km.

Back through Strahan and onto Queenstown

We all remember seeing those terrible pictures of Queenstown from our Social Studies when at school. Hills and mountains denuded of every bit of vegetation caused through mining.   Regrowth is beginning to reclaim the 'moonscape' hills around Queenstown that resulted from the combination of rain, mining, timber cutting and bushfires.    Mining has been in mainstay for more than a century.

One place not to miss is the Mt Lyle Mine museum in Queenstown and the photographic collection in the Old Imperial Hotel.   This collection and museum gives a very vivid insight into the early history of this region, including the tragic mining deaths that plagued the area over a long period of time.

From the Queenstown area it is onto Hobart but travelling via the Lake Clare National Park.

Hobart is the capitol of Tasmania and is situated at the foot of Mount Wellington and on the banks of the Derwent River.    The area is famous for flavours of wonderful seafood, naturally-grown fresh fruit and vegetables, award-winning ales and beers and wines from the vineyards of Southern Tasmania.

 
From the top of Mt Wellington it is possible to see Hobart from above.

The Salamanca Market is a must for every tourist.   From here you can also explore the journey back to convict days as you explore the nation's most important historic site at Port Arthur, the Women's Factory, Cascades Brewery and Battery Hill and the Cadbury's Chocolate Factory.

Battery Point is Hobart's most historic suburb, and is located a short walk from Salamanca Place and the waterfront via Kelly's Steps.   Battery Point retains the character of a Cornish fishing village of the last century.    It began life as a home for mariners who worked out of Hobart Town, and is still mainly a residential area.

Arthur's Circus is a ring of old cottages surrounding the old village green at the heart of Battery Point.    The Tasmanian Maritime Museum, Secheron, is located in Battery Point, as is the Colonial Museum, Narranya, which exhibits items from everyday 19th century life, from dresses to parasols and china.    St. George's Anglican Church (1836), which sits atop the hill and can be seen from other Hobart suburbs, is located in Battery Point.

A tour of the famous Claremont Chocolate Factory is a rewarding experience.    You'll see your favourite Cadbury's delicious chocolates being made - but NO free samples are available this year.   You will encounter fascinating insights into the history of Cadbury Claremont - and some of the characters and products that have made Cadbury a part of growing up in Australia.   As well as being a modern facility with computerised and robotic production lines, the Cadbury Claremont Factory has 18 heritage-listed buildings.    The historic Conching Machines, featuring solid granite rollers, were installed sixty years ago and still operate daily.

Whilst the Cadbury Factory might be a great place for the women the males on holidays should not miss the Cascade Brewery Tour.

Established in 1824, Tasmania's oldest brewery is nestled in the foothills of Mount Wellington and the pure water used in the process is still taken from the Wellington catchment.    The hops and barley are also locally grown, as they were when this famous brewery poured its first pint.   A behind the scenes tour gives you a chance to watch this fine beer being made, and a visit to the Cascade Museum will indicate how production has changed since the early days.

A walk through the Woodstock Gardens which was originally the Cascade Breweries' Managers Residence gives an insight into the vast difference in standards of living between the workers and the gentry in those early days.

I suppose nothing has changed in this regard.

 

Near to the Cascade brewery is the historic Women's Factory.   No it isn't a place where women were made - more likely they were destroyed.    Britain began transporting convicts to New South Wales in 1788.     After the establishment of Van Diemen's Land in 1803, Britain began transporting convicts to this island colony.     Over 12,000 women came to Tasmania over the 50 year Convict Era.     Women were typically sentenced for periods of 7 or 14 years, usually for petty theft from their employers in England.     In the penal colony, women were either assigned as domestic servants to free settlers, or were incarcerated within the Female Factories.

This name was abbreviated from the British institutional title "Manufactory," and referred to the prisons' role as a Work House.    While incarcerated within a Female Factory, the inmates worked at laundry and sewing brought in on contract from the local community.

For cricket lovers a tour of Bellerieve Oval is a must.

One of Australia's most innovative and exciting new sports museums is situated at Bellerive Oval on Hobart's Eastern Shore. This is the home of David Boon and the Tasmanian Tigers.

 

Not far from Bellerive Oval is situated Kangaroo Bluff Fort.   Kangaroo Bluff Historic Site is situated on Hobart's Eastern Shore, only 10 minutes drive from the city centre.   The Kangaroo Bluff Battery was built to support the Queens Battery (located at the Domain in Hobart) and the Battery Point battery.    It was developed to stop any enemy vessels from shelling Hobart Town from just outside the range of the Domain and Battery Point batteries.     Although the proposal was mentioned in the early days of settlement, procrastination was the order of the day.

It is thought that the appearance in the River Derwent of two Russian warships in 1873 prompted plans for the construction of the Kangaroo Bluff Battery.

(Photo Left:  Kangaroo Bluff Battery)

Just south of Hobart is the Tahune Forest AirWalk.    This is a spectacle not to be missed.    This walk offers a spectacular treetops walkway.    The attraction is one of only a few fixed structure canopy walkways internationally and provides a birds-eye view of the southern forests, the local mountain range and the Tasmanian World Heritage Area.

 

View of the Tahune Forest Airwalk
View from the Tahune Forest Walk over the Huon River

Here you "walk the high wire", suspended up to 45 metres in the air on steel towers barely visible from the ground. The $A3.1m first stage is more than half a kilometre long.   It meanders through the treetops in rainforest at the confluence of two mighty rivers - the Huon and the Picton - and one section extends over the meeting of the rivers to create a sense of being suspended above it.

The AirWalk also overlooks the Hartz Mountains and surrounding old growth forests and takes visitors through the changing forest and its life cycle.    An associated visitor centre demonstrates the use of Tasmanian timber from its historic purposes to modern practices.     A nearby Huon Pine walk is also popular with visitors, providing easy access to trees thousands of years old and renowned for sweet-smelling timber that has traditionally be used in boat-building and these days features in high quality timber crafts.

This area also boasts the towns of Huonville and Cygnet.     This is an important agricultural and fishing area.

 

Photo Left:  Typical river scene with local fishing boats and repair facilities.

Photo above:  A salmon fishing farm in a river cove.
These are a common site in this area.

Hobart is also the home of Constitution Dock, the finishing point for the Sydney to Hobart Yacht race which is held each New Year.


View of Hobart Harbour from Constitution Dock

From Hobart we journey back towards the north.    Travelling east this time we visit historic Port Arthur.   Port Arthur is officially Tasmania's number one tourist attraction, and no visit to the state is complete without seeing it.    Port Arthur was established as a convict settlement and soon became Australia's largest, in operation from the 1830 until 1877.   By exploring the various features of the ruins, helps to give tone a sense of what life was like in 19th century Port Arthur.

 
Inside the main cell block where
rows and rows of cells away from light
and other life saw convicts housed
  The Governors Residence provided
a lifestyle of luxury overlooking the central
lake and the whole settlement
Once again the difference in lifestyle can be seen when one compares the relative luxury of the "Governors House" and moral sapping life in The penitentiary.    Convicts were forbidden to talk or set eyes upon each other.
 
Above: Two views of the main cell complex at Port Arthur
Port Arthur was also the scene of modern day tragedy.

Once the site of one of Australia's most brutal penal settlements, Port Arthur had become the premiere tourist attraction in Tasmania.     By 1.00 pm on Sunday April 28, 1996 over five hundred visitors were at the site, enjoying the many attractions.

 
The remains of The Broadarrow Cafe.
 
The remains of The Broadarrow Cafe
with the historic cells in the background.
About 1.30 pm the peace at the 'Broad Arrow' café had slowed after the busy lunchtime period but at least sixty people still remained, finishing meals or browsing through the gift shop.    Martin Bryant, a young man with long blond hair enter the café and ordered a meal.

Before anyone had realized what was happening, he unzipped his bag and produced an AR15 semi-automatic rifle and shot an Asian man in the neck, killing him instantly.    Swinging the rifle from the hip he pointed it towards other people and Australia's largest modern day massacre took place.

The Broad Arrow Café was later dismantled but the foundations and outer walls remain as part of a memorial to the 35 people that subsequently were killed that day.   Martin Bryant was subsequently convicted and sentenced to life in prison.

Leaving Port Arthur we continue to travel up the east coast towards the towns of Swansea and Bicheno.

Bicheno is a pretty fishing town, with a busy harbour where you can buy fresh fish. For the sea food lover - this is it. There are also some great beaches around the town, and diving is also popular. There are some fantastic lookouts around the town including Freycinet Lookout and Whalers Lookout.   There are also great views from the 3km Foreshore Walk, which starts at Redhill Point and continues to the blowhole.    It is also here that you can take the wonderful fairy penguin tours.
 

Above & Left:  Views of the rugged east coast

It is also worth heading north to the Douglas-Aspley National Park and the beautiful Aspley Gorge. The park hosts wonderful waterfalls, plenty of wildlife and a eucalypt forest.
 

Leaving Bicheno we head towards the Freycinet National Park.   It is here that we find the renowned Coles Bay, Wineglass Bay, and Freycinet National Park.    All of these bring thoughts of fishing and boating, bushwalking, sea kayaking, rock climbing, sun and sand, and spectacular coastal scenery.   Here can you find pink granite mountains rising straight from the sea to form a magnificent sheltered waterway or one of the top ten beaches in the world, Wineglass Bay?

Coles Bay, Tasmania sits at the foot of the granite mountains known as the Hazards and on the edge of the world-renowned Freycinet National Park and Wineglass Bay.   Wineglass Bay is a wonderful surprise when you climb over the saddle in the Hazards - the jagged range of pink and grey granite peaks on the east coast peninsula that is the Freycinet National Park. The bay's perfect curve of white sand, and the blue sea and skies form a stunning picture. This is not a walk for the feint of heart though.

Photo left:  Tasman Arch

Photo Right:  Wineglass Bay

The Freycinet National Park is crowded with forests, wildflowers (including orchids) and native wildlife. The towering walls of pink and grey granite, patched in orange lichen, soar straight out of the water.

After our stay at the Freycinet National Park it is onto St Mary's St Helen's and Scottsdale.

Scottsdale is 72 60Km north east of Launceston.    The town is an important agricultural and forestry centre for Tasmania.     It is the site of one of The World's Largest Lavender Farms, Bridestowe Estate.
 
  The Bridestowe Estate Lavender Farm established in 1921, is one of the world's largest single commercial lavender farms, producing the finest quality lavender flowers and lavender oil, used traditionally in the perfumery industry.    The farm consists of 120 acres (48 hectares) of rolling fields of lavender and is considered one of Tasmania's most spectacular sights during flowering in December and January.    The five week harvest begins in early January with the distillation and processing of the lavender in full swing.
From here it is a short trip back to Launceston through some vast forestry areas of Tasmania. Again this has been extensively forested by Gunns of Tasmania for woodchip for Japan.    Through this area care is needed on the roads as there are many large trucks carrying the timber to the mills.

Before leaving Launceston a trip down the centre of the island to Deloraine and Oatlands is a must.

This picturesque rural community is situated exactly half way between Launceston and Devonport on the Bass Highway and nestles in a fertile valley dominated by Quamby Bluff and the Western Tiers.   In 1823 Governor Sorell sent Captain Rolland to explore the far west of Norfolk Plains (now Longford) and a district west (now Deloraine) to find suitable agricultural land.   This expedition led to the opening up of the area and the naming of Mount Roland in honour of their leader and the renaming of the Western River to the Meander.

The Deloraine township was named by the Surveyor Scott, after Sir William Deloraine in "Lay of the Last Minstrel", a poem by his kinsman Sir Walter Scott.   In 1825 Lieutenant Governor Arthur appointed Land Commissioners to assess the use of the land for future Crown Land leases and land grants but Deloraine district's new settlers were amongst the first required to pay to take up leases.

Photo above - Oldest bridge in Australia still in everyday use.
Ross Post Office - built during convict era.

 

To encourage development the laws were changed in the 1850s allowing land to be purchased for as little as one pound per acre.     Settlement then grew rapidly despite the problems with bushrangers and transport, the latter being overcome when the State's first rail link between Launceston and Deloraine was opened in 1872.

Deloraine's features apart from the attractive landscape and the striking Western Tiers backdrop, include its colonial buildings originating from the 1830s and 1840s.

 

Oatlands is a classified historic town 117 kilometres from Launceston and 84 Kilometres from Hobart.    It is said to have the largest collection of pre-1837 buildings in Australia.   Eighty-seven such buildings are located in the main street while a total of 138 sandstone buildings are found within the town boundary.     Oatlands was established as a military garrison in 1827 and buildings such as the Court House, gaol, watch house and Officer's quarters reflect this heritage.

Three restored churches are also open for inspection.    Callington Mill (1837) is one of only four windmills in Australia that have survived .    It closed in the 1890's but has now been restored.

A feature of Oatlands are the descriptive plaques on many historic features which guide the visitor on an easy walk through history.

(Photo Left - Callington Mill - one of four only surviving windmills in Australia)

Oatlands has many historic buildings
still in everyday use
.

 

Ending the trip to Deloraine and Oatlands it is back to Launceston and the end of a great trip not only around Tasmania but a trip back into the history of Australia and a glimpse into a life long gone.

Mystic Mountain Tours of Maleny are travelling through Tasmania on such a tour departing Maleny on November 21st and returning on December 5th.

Whilst they may not travel to all the places that we have mentioned here they will certainly travel to a large number of them. Who knows they may even travel to other places just as magnificent.

Why not give Lyn and Andrew Fallon a call now or visit their web site.

Both time and tickets are limited so do not leave it too long before booking.

What an easy way to start a 15 day stress free "door to door" tour of Tasmania.
All the best and enjoy Tasmania.
www.mysticmountaintours.com.au

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