Sunday, December 21, 2008

Dave Edison whispered in my ears on a sunny nut at Stanley: I'm desperately trying to figure out why kamikaze pilots wore helmets ...

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The medicinal poppy industry has now been operating in Tasmania for over 30 years, and the State produces approximately 50% of the world’s legal poppy crop. Tasmania seems a little careless of its cash crop; the poppies are defended from smugglers by a waist-high fence and a lame instruction to Keep Out. Tasmania is a major producer of the world's legal poppy crop

Hasta la vista baby & Fairy Penquins There is no denying that Tassie is filled with magic
As we clocked almost 7000km across mainland and the Tassie landscapes I heard someone state: Have you ever noticed Anybody going slower than you is an idiot, and anyone going faster than you is a moron.

Blink in Tasmania and you miss something... If you're a nature lover and you haven't yet made it to Bruny Island, you really need to do something about that. History suggests its pink granite cliffs, outlandish forests and chaste beaches so beguiled European navigators that they lost track of time and purpose. Discover seals, Albatross, quolls, echidnas and other rare creatures ...There are only two species of monotreme known to science: the duckbill platypus and the echidna, which is a small spiny anteater.

As luck would have it, we were fortunate to follow all the suggestions from the Tassie Tourist Guru - Walking Encyclopaedia Trish
We did all the things she suggested and even more as we came across amazing characters in the Apple Island but now fast becoming the Berrie, Lavender and Poppy world ...

Arrive on Spirit of Tasmania to Devonport

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Suggest you drive directly on disembarking in the direction of LaTrobe and go to the Anvers (Belgian) Chocolate Factory for breakfast. It’s on the right hand side of the road, about 15 minutes drive out of Devonport, in an old Federation House…and has hot chocolate to die for!!!! There is also a small museum dedicated to chocolate.

Other interests nearby:

Reliquaire – an incredible shop (huge and packed full of the most extraordinary things) in the Main St of LaTrobe…and if Josef is interested in Woodchopping – then David Foster (Australia’s most decorated and famous wood chopper) has his “Axemans Hall of Fame” there too!

Other food considerations in the area at Elizabeth Town are Christmas Hills Raspberry Farm (very nice for lunch! Ashgrove Cheese Factory

But if they don’t fit into your plans first day, you can always plan to stop there on the way BACK to the Spirit on your last day. And if you find yourself driving through Burnie (not attractive!) – look out for Creative Paper (an eco-paper making concern, but so interesting…next door to a commercial paper mill! And there is a cool Whiskey Distillery up the road (they can give you directions) – which has a very trendy restaurant attached.

Suggest you head across North-West Coast to Stanley…which is one of my favourite towns. Cute cottages, great Tourist Park…or if you want something upmarket you could try @VDL (but pre-book)…So be careful, it is a gorgeous place…and might get under your skin! Trevor and Kathy have a wonderful Touch of Wood

Things to do: The Bistro in the Stanley Pub has just won a “Best Bistro in Australia” award…and everybody eats there! Visit Ye Olde Sweet Shop and say “hello” (who also have cottage accommodation and run 4WD tours, and Platypus tours)

Climb “the Nut” – Tassie’s answer to Ayers Rock! Visit Dismal Swamp Enjoy the magnificent scenery of this particular area!

Then to Cradle Mountain and its Lodge where you will see King Billy Pines - majestic trees:

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Apart from the walks in the National Park Visit the Wilderness Gallery (if you are interested in photography) Devils@Cradle – if you want to get up close and personal with Tassie Devils, and help the good folk here in their effort to save the devil.

Stay in Strahan. Take a Gordon River Cruise (takes most of a day) Go down to the Wharf in the evening and watch the play “The Ship That Never Was” – written, produced and acted by Strahans resident thespian!

Take the West Coast Wilderness Railway to Queenstown (takes most of another day, but includes return to Strahan by coach) Or, check out Piners & Miners – which I have not tried yet (new this year), but sounds great!

Head back towards Hobart. Do stop in Queenstown for a look around – mining town
Fabulous old pubs with wonderful carved staircases (for gentry) alongside plain ones (for servants)…great history! And stop and enjoy the walks (you’ll see the signs as you drive along) in the World Heritage Area on road from Queenstown to Derwent Bridge.

MUST SEE – the Wall just east of Derwent Bridge - amazing sculpting by a local artisan. Head towards Hobart.

If you are there for Saturday – of course there is the famous Salamanca Markets on Sat morning (8.30 – 2.00pm approx) You can also cycle down Mount Wellington (Island Cycle Tours) or kayak with Hobart Paddle.

I like the Botanic Gardens…especially the Sub-Antarctic house – only small, but gives a good idea of life on Macquarie Island!

Cascade Breweries have tours (and they are the oldest Brewery in Tasmania) – but they also have a trendy restaurant and beautiful gardens…and from there you can walk down (quite a scenic way) to the Female Factory (remains of where the women convicts were sent) with Island Fudge (yum!) conveniently placed next door….but would probably have to think about logistics of getting back to your car (maybe take a Hobart taxi number with you?)

Check out the Henry Jones Art Hotel (won lots of awards for top hotel in Australia, etc) – and even if you don’t stay there, you can still have a drink in the Bar, or a coffee in the Atrium! [Lena at Batery Point rocks]

To eat – fish at Fish Frenzy on the Wharf, Italian at Harbour Lights Café (near Salamanca)…very inexpensive with Tassie Dining Card ... For tourist eats (and good food) – the Ball & Chain at Salamanca or the Drunken Admiral next to the Henry Jones Art Hotel. I have heard that the “Laundry”Café is the new “in” place (somewhere in Salamanca) – so if you find it, let me know.

Also have a wander in Battery Point (or even stay there!) – Hobarts equivalent of Paddington…very historic, little cottages (Arthur's circus,the Shippees pub), etc. From Hobart you can also do a day trip to the Huon Valley (or even better – time allowing, stay down there)

If you want something really different and seriously (but trendily) eco – check out Huon Bush Retreats. But you need to have a look on website first – as it is hidden in the bush, so may not suit everybody. (see page 20 & page 40 of Discover Tasmania book) Holm Hill Winery is a popular stop (and lunch stop) in the Huon

Tahune Airwalk – a bit of a drive, but you can wander through the tree-tops (elevated walk) with a cantilever or two, and this year they have also added a couple of swinging bridges. Experience wilderness from a different level! Then on the other side of Hobart, of course there is Port Arthur – but I would suggest that you drive and stay, rather than make it a day trip from Hobart.

[Like the good ancient Franklin River or the Nelson Falls, the Russell Falls (inside the first national park) the purity of the water is just amazing...]

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Stop in Richmond on the way – a beautifully preserved Georgian village (and the nearest to England that you will get in Tassie…except it has a convict history). (Pick your own berries/ cherries to your heart's content at Sorrell.

(Ross was also wonderful ...) I love Stewarts Bay Lodge (has a great Restaurant too…funny that!)

You can walk around the bay to Port Arthur site from there. Do the Ghost Tour – as your first visit to the site. And then the NEXT day go back and enjoy it from a historic perspective.

We do have an excellent value package in the Discover Tasmania book page 15 = $135 per person per night for accommodation, evening meal, ghost tour and b’fast at the Port Arthur Motor Inn (which is a standard no frills Motor Inn, clean, comfortable, but not special – so depends what you want).

From there head up the East Coast to Freycinet. I have a big soft spot for Diamond Island Resort (Bicheno) – because it backs on to a little penguin colony, and you can hear them calling at night, and if you get up early enough, watch them all head out to sea. [How lucky to get so close to fairy penquines at Bisheno no photos as they are very sensitive to the camera flash but this is their home]

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[The pink granite wears russet lichens, the shell sands are a virgin white and the turquoise trim of the Tasman Sea is a lure for exploers like Mal; until they test the temperature ;-)]

They also do a great tour ($20 per person) at dusk, and apart from learning heaps about penguins, you really do get very close, as they waddle past on their way home to there nests.

Or you can take it easier with Freycinet Sea Cruises ... And you can enjoy the wonderful views from the Bistro (or whatever they call their non-fine-dining Restaurant) at Freycinet Lodge…so worth stopping in, even if you are not staying there.

If you chose to stay in Swansea (south of Freycinet Peninsula), instead of Bicheno – it is a really nice little town…so whatever you do in this area, you will enjoy it!

Then keep driving north to St Helens. Do go up Elephant Pass to the Pancake House at the top! (Not even the rustling of the bush, with its society of wombats, wallabies, possums and quolls, kept us from sleep, but the thin walls of Tidal Waters in the Room 23 did ...]

St Helens is the base of the Bay of Fires (just been voted the No 1 destination spot by Lonely Planet) [Bay of Fire: Garden of Eden Indeed!]

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My pick of the accommodation is the Character Cottages (may be Bay of Fires Character Cottages, or St Helens Character Cottages?). The views were unbelievable! I have been desperate to go back and stay there ever since…so if you do stay, I will be extremely jealous.

The drive from St Helens to Launceston is lovely, lush, green rolling foothills.

Make sure you go to St Columba Falls…and you can stop in at Pyngana Cheese Factory on the way, and take a little snack to enjoy there in the wilderness!

The Lavender Farm at Nabowla (Bridestowe) is the largest in the southern hemisphere…you will be able to smell it well before you see it (mmmmm!)…and this is an excellent time to visit, as the lavender will be out in bloom (they cut it January)

And check out Hollybank (approx 20 mins from Launceston) – our latest exciting adventure – swinging through the trees on (seated) flying foxes…to land on cloud-stations up in the trees…the longest span is 370m!!

There is such a wide variety of accommodation in Launceston, I really don’t have a special favourite. But try and stay within walking distance of City Centre/Seaport/Cataract Gorge area, and then you can explore easily.

From there you can also drive along the Tamar Valley Wine Route and visit Seahorse World, and pass the famous Beaconsfield Mine – all this would be a day trip heading north.

But nearby, you also have the lovely little town of Evandale (market on Sunday), and historic Woolmers Estate (which is full of amazing stories and old treasures, and I have been lucky enough to have had a ride around the estate in one of the old vintage cars! Yeah!!) and National Rose Garden is attached to the property.

If there is any time at all left…as you head back to Devonport, the hinterland in Mole Creek is very pretty indeed. They also have fabulous caves – Marakoopa and King Solomon Mines… But by this time you may be heading for a Raspberry Farm lunch on the way back to Devonport

• Highly Recommended: Take a full day tour from Hobart or drive yourself to Adventure Bay, Bruny Island for our three-hour eco-adventure cruise. Bruny Island is accessible by ferry at Kettering, only 35 minutes drive from Hobart and say Hi to the storyteller extraordinaire Colin (Colliwobbles) A turtle travels only when it sticks its neck out ; [See everything, overlook a great deal, correct a little; Tassie Temptations ]

• · Discover Tasmania If You Can't Be Good, Be Lucky ; Great Touch of Wood
• · ; Seals at Bruny Island noted: I never drink water because of the disgusting things that fish do in it