Tasmania

Tasmania is a  small island only an hour and a half flight from Melbourne. I have always heard of Tasmania but could never point to it on a map.  The only thing I knew about Tasmania was the Tasmanian Devil and that it was far away from America. Turns out it’s a state in Australia full of wildlife and surrounded by the ocean. 45% of Tasmania is reserves, national parks, and World Heritage Sites.

The weather was cold (it’s summer) when we arrived in the city of Hobart.  Having a rental car gave us flexibility to see different areas. Tasmania is almost impossible to see without a car. The city of Hobart is full of older buildings but updated stores. There are many hills in Hobart. Most of the houses are built within the mountain as it gets higher.

Hobart
Hobart

The streets are very narrow and they allow parking on the street. This means that entire lane of traffic is blocked by the parked car. This was strange to see because this is something that would never happen in America.

The Salamanca Market is the big Saturday market and a main attraction in Hobart. The market is held near the port and also attracted people docked from a cruise ship for the day. There were many vendors selling everything from clothing, vegetables, crafts, soaps, jewelry and prepared foods. We went’ straight to the English sausages stand and got one of the best sausage sandwiches in the market.    Shortly after eating heavy rain poured down but subsided after a few minutes. It started raining and by the time we got back to the car it had stopped. Did I mention we had to park blocks away?

Another great market was the weekend street market in Hobart. Soon after arriving,  I qued up in a long line for grilled octopus. The chef is also the fisherman, he catches the octopus early in the morning and then sells them later in the afternoon.  My only complaint was the line was so long and the octopus wasn’t cooked all the way because of the demand. By the time I got to the front most of the legs were raw on the grill.

Grilled octopus
Grilled octopus

We stopped at Mayfield beach on the way to Bicheno at a campsite and looked out at the ocean. The beach was beautiful and it is surrounded by large green bush on one side.  I wasn’t expecting to see the ocean here because we drove through vast farmlands full of sheep and horses.

We lucked out and were staying in Hobart during two big yearly events. Taste of Tasmania & the Sydney to Hobart boat races. I didn’t really appreciate Hobart until we explored Tasmania and returned to Hobart for one night before leaving Tasmania. A boat carrying $60 million dollars worth of cocaine was brought into the port of Hobart after a police sting. This was the biggest drug bust on record and we were there when all the action went down. The boat was unnamed and on it’s way to Sydney before the cops found it.

Hobart Tasmania
Hobart Tasmania

Freycinet National Park was our first hike in Tasmania. This park is touristy but beautiful.  Wineglass Bay is voted as one of the world’s ten best beaches. Even though it was cloudy outside, we hiked to the beach and spent an hour sitting on the sand looking out at the water.

Wineglass Bay
Wineglass Bay

The forest is full of hollow trees. I can’t figure out the name of the tree but they were all over Tasmania. The tree was living but it was hollowed out in the middle.

Hollow tree
Hollow tree

Freycinet Marine Farm – best fresh mussels and oysters in Tasmania. Tasmania is known for their oysters and rasberries. Needless to say, I couldn’t get enough of either.  Oyster farms and rasberry farms lined the way around the entire island.

Speaking of lining the island, the roads were paved with dead wallabies and other furry critters from trying to cross the streets. This was the most unusual roadkill I’ve ever seen in my life. It was so sad to see them but after a while I knew that it was part of nature. A highlight of the road trip was seeing the enchidas (alive and well) along the side of the road looking for food. I stopped to get a picture of one but he buried his head in the grass. I later found out this is what they do when they feel threatend and minutes later I could have had quills shoot out in my direction.

Enchida
Enchida

BICHENO

Seeing the fairy penguins in Bicheno was one of the cutest adventures I’ve ever gone on. They come in from the sea every night around a half hour after the sun goes down. The penguins leave their nest around three thirty in the morning and stay out all day and evening hunting fish to bring back to their babies. It’s astonishing how they find their way back to their nest on dry land from underwater at night. Because it is night-time we had to use a flashlight covered with red cellophane (so you don’t disturb their eyes) or night vision to see them.  They were so small and some of them were grouped together following behind a leader. People were waiting on the beach to see them, some had flashlights but everyone had a smart phone to take pictures. It was very difficult to get them in a picture because it was so dark and holding a flashlight in one hand and a camera phone in the other is a recipe for a crappy photo. We also didn’t want to scare them (even though we did) or prevent them from getting home. Especially after being gone all day and night hunting for food.

Penguins returning home
Penguins returning home

Binalong Beach in the Bay of Fires is where we spent the day. It was about a 45 minute drive from the house we rented through air bnb. The sand is white and the water all over Tasmania is clear blue. This is a hot tourist spot. The water was freezing cold but we laid a sheet down and sat on the beach for hours just looking out at the blue water.

CRADLE MOUNTAIN

Driving away from the ocean and into the great wide open landscape of greenery and sheep. Cradle Mountain is four hours from Bincheno. Cradle Mountain is another example of nature that hasn’t been overrun with human beings. Everything is pristine and the water is clear and clean.  It was sunny everyday we were there, but locals told us this was very unusual and it’s normally cloudy and rainy.  This was great news because sometimes cloudy days and especially rain can ruin an experience in an outdoor town.

This national park has raised wooden platform trails throughout Cradle Mountain. We hiked the Dove Lake trail. The hike is two and a half to three hours all the way around the lake. The path was paved the entire way.

Dove Lake
Dove Lake

We spoke to a local resident who has been hiking this trail since he was fifteen in nineteen sixty. He knew a lot about the history of Tasmania and the area itself. It’s always fun talking to locals or other travelers, each time we walk away learning something we didn’t know before.

Dove Lake
Dove Lake

Because it was Christmas week, we could only book two nights at the Cradle Mountain Wilderness Hotel. The cottages are built around the wilderness and wildlife surrounds the entire area. While sitting on the couch an hour after we checked in, a huge black bird came to our patio and watched us sitting inside. Immediately I grabbed some roasted chicken and fed it to him. He stuck around for a while and left with a beak full of chicken.

My totem blackbird
My totem blackbird

The next day around dusk, a quokka was looking for food in front of our back patio. There were signs in the hotel asking guest not to feed the animals any refined foods like bread, crackers or cookies.  The hotel suggest feeding them (only if you want to) fruits and vegetables instead. As soon as I saw the quokka I cut up and apple and fed it to him slowly for a couple of hours. He stuck around for three hours and he loved raspberries. It was amazing being this close to wildlife and making contact through food. This was one of the highlight of my Tasmanian trip. Even better was the carnivorous black bird who faithfully stayed on my patio both days and evenings we stayed there. I was so sad to leave them. We could have easily stayed a few more days and went on a few more hikes/walks in the national park, but the hotel was sold out for Christmas. We left on Christmas Eve and drove to Strahan.

Quokka begging for fruit
Quokka begging for fruit

STRAHAN

After  driving through small towns in Tasmania from Cradle Mountain, we arrived in Strahan.  The drive is two and a half hours with a few places to stop and see along the way.  The first interesting town was Campbell. Campbell Tasmania is tranquil, remote and gave the image of a small town with one main road through. We stopped for iced coffee to take a break from driving. This is where it was reconfirmed that iced coffee in Australia means a scoop of ice cream in coffee with whipped cream topping. At the end of the day it’s a milkshake with a shot of espresso. There is barely a hint of brown from the coffee. Not to mention they are $6.00 each. So after forgetting to tell them no ice cream, we drank our iced barely any coffees, walked down the main road and left.

The next town was Railton. Railton is known for topiary. I didn’t know what it meant when I read the sign but quickly I started to see bushes shaped as animals and figures.  Most of the shrubbery was neatly cut into life-size human and animal figures. Makes me wonder if one person or family is responsible or does the whole town knows how to do it.  Some of the most outstanding bushes were in the yard of private homes. A huge elephant was outside the local grocery store. Railton reminded me of the movie Edward Scissorhands.  This town is very small but the artistic bushes are big.

Strahan is in a bay.  The big activity in Strahan is taking the river cruise through the bay and stopping along the way. We spent months deciding if we wanted to take this day cruise which would set us back $300.00 (USD). We asked everyone we spoke to what their opinion was and if they had ever been. In the end the answers were mixed. In the end we decided to save the $300.00 and use it to explore another place rather than a two-hour boat ride with appetizers. I’m sure it would have been beautiful but saving on day tours like this helps us continue traveling.

We stayed in a cottage at the Crays Cottages. This is where we spent Christmas Day, hiking to a waterfall and relaxing in the cottage. The lamb here is free range and locally raised, therefore the taste is much better than anything I’ve had in the United States (even at the best restaurants). Our Christmas dinner was a huge plate of grilled lamb. Even though I love to see them and feed them, I also like eating them too. We all have our guilty pleasures.

The natural water coming from the creeks, lakes and mountains is stained red from the natural  lectin in the rocks. At first sight it looks stagnate because it’s so dark, but then you see the bottom clearly.  It’s reddish but clear and clean. A natural waterfall was a 40 minute hike from the cottage. The path leading to the waterfall is the same path from the 1900s.

Strahan waterfall
Strahan waterfall

This is the place I overdid it with the raspberries and ate two pounds in one night covered in fresh raspberry sauce. It was the most fruit I’ve ever eaten in one sitting. I have this horrible problem of never getting enough of something I love. In Portugal it was grilled octopus, here it’s raspberries.

Salad bowl full of rasberries
Salad bowl full of raspberries covered in raspberry sauce

Overall Tasmania was one of my favorite stops on our Australian journey. At first I didn’t think I would enjoy being here but after seeing the natural beauty and easy way of life I found myself not wanting to leave. The gloomy weather at times seemed to make the time go slow but it was a pace I needed at the perfect time.

2 responses to Tasmania

  1. Tina says:

    I learned so much from this blog. First, I thought penguins only lived in colder climates — like Antarctica’s snow and ice fields. The enchida was adorable and looks so much like an American porcupine. Looks like different names for creatures of the same order and class are used in different countries. The quills were a dead giveaway! Your mass ingestions of oysters and raspberries is phenomenal! The Edward Scissorhands town was a sight to experience. Having visited London with its many manicured gardens, I must say that it was lovely. My favorite critter by far is the quokka! What a delightful, adorable creature. It looks like it could be a pet, and doesn’t seem to be the least bit threatening. How fun it must be to experience all these once-in-a-lifetime memories! Thanks goodness for cell phones with camera and internet blogs. Safe travels, my ladybug, until we meet again. Love you, Mom

    Like

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