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We were finally on our way to our first safari of the year, we had our doubts about whether we would be able to run it after a shaky start to the year but with a few tweaks and changes, border passes in hand we breathed a sigh of relief when the safari members all boarded the Spirit of Tasmania, all set for our trip to the apple isle.
Tasmania was set to impress with warm weather, even if a bit windy but the biggest impression was the scenery, beautiful coastline, cliff side properties looking over the ocean, potato, onion and even opium farms with the Nut in the distance, our destination for our first night.
A fantastic dinner at Hursey Seafood, apparently the lobster was the best choice, and a day of chairlift rides to the top of the nut, walking the trails, happy hours and a great start to the safari.
From Stanley our next destination was Cradle Mountain, this was always going to be a long, slow winding trip down to Hellyer Gorge, beautiful little spot, you can walk along the edge of the creek and through the rainforest, a short walk but worth the stop.
Driving out the other side and a quick stop at Waratah, another small town with surprises, a waterfall in the centre of town and the old stamping press with the old motor working at the press of a button. We would have spent more time here but time was ticking away. Expecting cold weather at Cradle Mountain we were all rugged up but it was surprisingly mild ,still requiring beanies and a fire to sit around though.
Our time in Cradle Mountain was only brief so making the most of the next day everyone planned their day and the walks they wanted to undertake, quite a few walking around the popular Dove Lake. We decided to walk to the Boat Shed and then caught the shuttle bus back to Ronny Creek where we were told the wombats could be seen. Much to my delight they were around and we were able to snap a few shots of the wombats in the grass, the highlight of Cradle Mountain for me. There was low mist on the mountains and a drizzle for most of the day and it made it all the more beautiful and serene.
Bright and early the next morning we were all packed and ready to head off to Strahan, our next destination. It was going to be a busy day with stops at Mackintosh Dam and Lake Plimsoll getting to Strahan in time for our 3:00pm dinner cruise on the Gordon River. But to miss out on these lookouts on the way would be missing out on some beautiful scenery and another part of Tasmanian history.
We arrived in time and were all ready for our cruise with most of us walking to the cruise boat and from the moment we stepped on board the top deck we were served with beautiful Tasmanian cuisine, local wine and beer and felt like royalty. The scenery only added to the amazing experience, cruising through Hells Gates, stopping at Sarah Island, wow the history there is pretty amazing and made all the more so by the way the story was told, you can hear the passion in the guide’s voice as we all learnt about the history of the island as a penal colony. To top it off back in Strahan a few of the safari members went to the play about the “Ship That Never Was” and this hilarious play had them in stitches, all tying in with our trip to Sarah Island.
The adventure in Strahan didn’t finish there, after a relaxing free day to wander around the town and a walk up to Hogarth Falls, the next day we embarked on a trip on the infamous Wilderness Train along the King River ending at Dubbill Barrill and back the same way to Strahan. These majestic old carriages have been so beautifully kept and are a pleasure to ride in, following the river and crossing bridges, amazed at how the rocks were hand cut to make a pass for the train to get through.
Time to leave Strahan and head off to the wild west of Queenstown, a free day there and we decided to do our fundraising sausage sizzle for the RFDS, who doesn’t love a cooked snag on the bbq and for a good cause, you can’t go wrong. Plenty of laughs, fines and stories and money raised. Everyone was getting to know each other pretty well by now and were happy to “dob” each other in for a fine, raising more money. It’s amazing to see how much Queenstown has changed, from the moonstark hills in the past to the trees that have grown up and now cover the hills. On our way out of Queenstown going past the “99 bends” we came to a lookout perched on the side of the hill and some of us walked up the many stairs to a look out and a waterfall. Not much water in the waterfall but the lookout over the hills was worth the walk.
We kept going to the small town of Tarraleah which was placed there purely for the purpose of the hydro power station. A bit of a lookout at the hydro station and then as you drive down the road there are cottages beautifully kept on the side of the road which are now used for holiday accommodation. Our stay was in the caravan park with lovely big drive through sites, some fun and games in the afternoon and we headed into the pub for a dinner.
The next day still travelling south we stopped at Russell Falls for some walks to these incredible falls and on to New Norfolk, into the “big smoke” which it felt like after being on the west coast for a week. A nice caravan park along the Derwent river, we had time to visit the Salmon Ponds, a birthday celebration and some much needed shopping, including the local markets for some fresh fish.
From New Norfolk we were heading further south through Hobart and on to Geeveston. It was a day of free travel as there is quite a bit to see on the way, depending on your interests. There are many apple stalls, cider shops, the wooden boat shop and of course following the river and the little towns along the way. At Geeveston we stayed at the new CMCA park, nice easy walk into town to the cafes and along the river to spot platypus (which we did).
The Tahune Airwalk was about a half hour drive away, we chose to do that on our free day, it was sad to see the damage that the fires had one in that area but was great to see the attraction open again and it was good to support it. The walk itself was very high through the trees, I wasn’t game to walk to the end of the lookout but braved the rest of the walk, just not looking down! The rest of the group went their own way, some doing the Tahune Airwalk, others driving down to Dover and Cockle Creek, the southern most driveable point in Tasmania.
A few days earlier it had been decided amongst the group that they would like to do the Pennicott Bruny Island Tour, so we arranged for this to happen and after much research we managed to find enough parking space for all the rv’s so they could do this tour when we left Geeveston on the way to Hobart. After leading everyone there and making sure all rv’s were safely parked we left everyone to go on the boat cruise around Bruny and we went on our way to Hobart. The reviews coming in that night were great and it seemed everyone had had a great day out on the boat.
We were now in Hobart for 3 days staying at the showground. We rose to another early start as we were being picked up by coach at 8:30 to do a half day tour of Mount Wellington. We really couldn’t have asked for better weather, as we got up there the skies were clear and we had a great view over the city and no snow or ice this year. A stop at the Lost Café on the way doun for essential coffee and cake and we made our way back to the showgrounds. It was basically free time for everyone after this and everyone made the most of it, doing town tours, shopping, bike rides and stocking up on locally caught fish. Unfortunately we weren’t there when the Salamanca markets were on but one couple stayed back another night so they wouldn’t miss out.
The rest of us went on to Port Arthur, stopping at Richmond on the way, another bakery stop and a quick visit to the old Gaol which was kept in great condition, you could really imagine the stories you read when you were there. More free time on the way to Port Arthur to see the sites on the way, so much to see on the Tasman Peninsula, really a very spectacular part of Tasmania with stunning coastal views and cliffs. The caravan park at Port Arthur had beautifully laid out sites with plenty of room and space and very friendly local green cockatoos.
The next day was our guided tour at Port Arthur and free time to look around at your own leisure. We had decided we would do another fundraiser the next morning with a bacon and egg breakfast which went down very well and raised some more funds for the RFDS. The campground pizza oven went to good use that night and as everyone dropped their home made pizzas at the oven we cooked 21 pizzas in one hour, not bad!
Leaving Port Arthur we stopped in at Bangor Vineyard Shed for a delicious, if not massive, slice of cake and coffee and some wine tasting. The history on the property dates back to Abel Tasman first placing his flag on the property and the property takes in a good part of the coastline. Many generations of the family have owned and still own this property.
But it was time to keep going and our overnight stay was in Oatlands which produced windy, rainy, cold weather keeping most of us indoors that afternoon and night. A few braved the cold and walked up the main street to see the many historic little houses and buildings which the town is famous for, but also for the cold windy weather.
The next day with clear skies we headed off for Freycinet where we were staying 2 nights. A quick lunch stop at Devils Corner winery we were soon at the caravan park and were settled in, with most of us walking down to the local pub for a dinner that night. They even gave us our own room, which was great as we tend to be a bit noisy!
The weather was looking good for our Wineglass Bay boat cruise, apparently the only day that week they were going to be able to do the cruise due to the weather so that worked out really well. Most of us walked the 1 km to the harbour and on board we hopped for our cruise. It started of pretty smooth and as we went around the peninsula into the Tasman Sea it got a bit choppier but still pretty good and we were treated to a sea lion in the water and some great sights along the cliffs around the peninsula. We arrived into the calm waters of Wineglass Bay with the beautiful white sand and had time to enjoy the peaceful scenery. As we left we were told the adventure was about to begin and sure enough higher seas as we were heading back to our lunch stop, which was very sensibly made after the high seas, not before, most people enjoyed bumping over the waves, a few not so much. All in all it was a great day out on the water and we felt lucky that the weather was on our side and we were able to do this tour.
The safari was starting to wind up at this stage and we only had 1 more stop before we reached Launceston, our final destination. So we arrived at St Helens, lovely seaside fishing village and hopped on the courtesy bus to have dinner together at the Wharf, that dinner did not disappoint with 2 very generous courses and everyone agreed that the dinner was delicious and a great stop and some not wanting to eat again for a whole day.
Leaving St Helens we knew we were in for a very long and sometimes steep and windy climb over the hills into Launceston and it took us the good part of the day to do it. We made a stop at Ledgerwood to see the carved memorial trees sculpted into World War I soldiers, this would have to be a definite stop on any tour of Tasmania. The trees were planted in honour of fallen soldiers and as the trees became unsafe each of the trees were carved into a likeness of each soldier, to preserve the memorial.
We arrived in Launceston, everyone a bit tired from the big trip that day but we still managed a happy hour later in the afternoon. Free day the next day and then on our final day there we went on a cruise up the Tamar River. Again we had a beautiful day for the cruise as we made our way down the river as far as we could go towards Cataract Gorge and then up the river to the Batman Bridge, being treated to some white breasted eagles on the way. A very relaxing day, wine tasting, plenty of food for lunch and some even had a snooze.
A busy day on this last day, we got back and had our final happy hour with some final fines issued, thanks to our tail end Charlie for the great job he did and plenty of food and pizza to finish the day off.
The next day after everyone leaving at their own pace and making their own way to Devonport we all met up again at the cruise terminal and after safely on board the Spirit had some dinner, played some cards and another smooth sail back to Melbourne.
We felt very lucky to have been able to run this safari, after covid lockdowns and border restrictions, even after we arrived in Tasmania, Melbourne was locked down and we all felt very fortunate to be in Tasmania and enjoy each other’s company and travel around the beautiful state making more friends and many memories.
Posted in: Tagalong Adventures Australia at 02 April 21