Hobart, Australia’s second oldest city, offers some of the most beautiful colonial and maritime architecture in the southern hemisphere. On the first night of our Tassie travels, our group of happy travellers were treated to a wonderful dinner at the Ball and Chain Steakhouse and Grill located inside one of the wonderful old store houses on the iconic waterfront at Salamanca Place. It was a great opportunity to get a feel for the history of “Australia’s second island” surrounded by sandstone masonry and wooden beams some 200 years old.
We woke early on day two and following a flash-in-the-pan tour of Hobart highlights and lookouts we made tracks to Richmond for a pub lunch and to view more of Australia’s colonial heritage. Built by convict labour, the Richmond Bridge is the oldest bridge in all of Australia!
We settled in that night to our cosy cabins looking over the waters of Port Arthur.
A gloomy overcast morning turned into a wet and windswept day as we headed to see one of the iconic sites of Australia’s convict past. The Tasman Peninsula was an ideal place to build a prison. Deep, cold ocean, thick forest and 300-metre high sea cliffs made Port Arthur a natural prison from which escape must have seemed impossible. The wind, fog and rain on the morning of our visit only served to enhance the sense of desolate isolation the inhabitants would have felt in this far-flung and wild corner of the world.
The following day we packed our bags and headed north along Tasmania’s rugged east coast. On the way to our lodgings at Bicheno, we stopped to admire the stunning vistas of the Freycinet Peninsula, where mountain peaks plunge into white sandy bays of clear, turquoise waters. That night in Bicheno, we had an awesome meal at the Sealife Seafood Café, and took in the view over scallops, oysters, crayfish, steak and pasta.
We could have spent the next morning sucking in the fresh ocean air, but when we found out about the nearby wildlife park and Tassie devil sanctuary, we knew we couldn’t turn down a chance to see the island’s most notorious, cutest and … well devilish … little carnivores. We spent the morning at the East Coast Wildlife sanctuary and were lucky enough to hand feed kangaroos and see more than a dozen active devils be fed by park staff.
After hitting a nearby bakery for lunch and some of us sampling the local delicacy, scallop pies, we were on the road to Tassie’s second biggest city, Launceston. The streets of Launceston are alive with history and the buildings speak of the city’s past as a bustling inland river port. We could have spent days wandering those streets.
Half park, half inner-city wilderness area, the Cataract Gorge Reserve on the South Esk River is a unique natural formation just minutes from central Launceston. The Gorge has walking tracks, a swimming pool, the world’s longest single-span chairlift, a restaurant, cafe, a suspension bridge and panoramic lookouts with spectacular views. Peacocks and native wildlife add to the experience. Due to recent rain, we got to see the usually placid river running as a raging torrent.
That night we ventured north to quaint and sleepy George Town, one of the oldest European settlements in Australia. Garlic bread, pasta, steak and good times flowed at friends of Trusted Travel, Don Mario’s Italian Ristorante. Thanks, Ollie!
Part of the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area, Cradle Mountain is one of the state’s most special places, where ancient pines fringe glacial lakes and icy streams cascade down rugged mountains. Some of our brave adventurers made the long day trip out to take in the epic scenery. As we arrived, the thick fog lifted exposing a dramatic view of this icon of Aussie nature. This was absolutely worth getting wet for!
At our final dinner, in a lovely restaurant down by the recently revitalised dockyards, we shared our favourite stories from the trip and reveled in the company of our new friends. “I could have done with a few more days in Tassie” said one Trusted Traveller. “Maybe we should all just move here” quipped another. Actually, that doesn’t sound like such a bad idea.