First week in Tasmania

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February 17th 2015
Published: February 17th 2015
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Arriving at Port Pier in Melbourne we were 15 minutes to early, the gates to the Spirit of Tasmania were still closed so we turned around and found a parking spot for 15 minutes. Security and quarantine are very tight, they take their quarantine very seriously in Tasmania and both our car and caravan were searched for forbidden fruit and vegetables.Sitting in the queue for over an hour waiting to board and we heard a knock on the window it was the lady driver of the motor home parked behind us and the lady driver had conversed with me on the the net some days previously via the caravan forum, what a surprise that she should be parked behind us waiting to board. We exchanged our thoughts about exploring Tassie although she had the edge on me having a son living here and visiting several times. The overnight crossing went without a hitch, our cabin although small was sufficient for our needs with 4 bunks and a on-suite toilet and shower.There are two ferry's The Spirit of Tasmania 1 and 2 which have regular crossing between Melbourne and Davenport .Licensed to carry up to 1400 passengers and 500 vehicles.There are 222 cabins and 272 seats.Interestingly both these ships originally worked out of Ancona (Italy) and Patras (Greece) and were built in 1998 in Finland.The crossing between Melbourne and Davenport can take between 9-11 hours and the distance is 232 nautical miles or 429 kilometers.

We arrive just after dawn in Davenport and disembark quickly, we head for the caravan park we had booked in Ulverstone only to find they had changed their opening time to 9 O'clock. We had a wait of nearly 2 hours.Once settled we head back to Davenport about a 20 minutes journey and explore the city.Not a lot to Davenport, so we weren't there long.Next day off to Cradle mountain an iconic destination in Tasmania, the distance is only 85 ks but travelling through some of the most beautiful and diverse countryside along a winding and uphill road took us nearly one and a half hours but well worth it.Cradle mountain-Lake St Clair is the most visited national park in Tasmania and is part of the Tasmania wilderness world heritage area.This is like an Alpine landscape with rugged peaks,lakes,tarns and deep gorges with tall forests of age old trees.Arriving at the visitor centre we obtain our bus pass to take us to Dove Lake at the foot of Cradle Mountain ( vehicle entry is strictly limited due to narrow roads and car parking)The bus takes about 20 minutes and we are provided with a commentary from our very knowledgeable driver.Cradle Mountain is 1545mt high rugged and very imposing on the landscape and clearly visible from the car park.From here there are a number of walks to suit all ages and fitness levels and are clearly marked out on the map provided.It is required to register your walk in a book at the car park with your name and time. We opt for the 6km walk around Dove Lake which is at the base of the surrounding mountains, to climb to the summit of Cradle mountain would take about 8 hrs return and require a good degree of fitness.Our walk takes us on a journey around the lake on mainly gravel with some steps and a board walk.We travel past tall rain forest along side sandy beaches and all the time we are aware of the towering cliffs that surround us.As we walk toward the mountains our breath is taken away by the sheer beauty of this place, we find ourselfs alone for part of the walk as fellow walkers either lagged behind or pushed on in front so peaceful.We had picked a good day for our walk, the sun was out but not to warm the sky was clear with good visibility.We are told this is a rare day up here.Returning to the information centre to collect our car we head off back down the mountain road and again enjoy this journey through winding narrow roads.We make a detour to a small town called Sheffield famous for the murals that adorn the outside walls of shops and business premises, 40 of them,these form part of Tasmania's outdoor art gallery An annual mural fest is held in the town where nine artists paint a mural in one week and are judged by visitors and locals for the peoples choice.What an extraordinary sight to see with so many different story's told with paintings on walls including a tribute to those who served in the armed services.

Ulverstone is a thriving seaside town popular with locals and visitors alike, sitting at the mouth of the Leven river which provides opportunity's for fishing and water sports.A memorial clock tower is a feature of the town built to honour all service men and women from all the armed services.Good fish and chips can be had at the waterfront esplanade.From here it is a 40km drive to Leven Canyon lookout which is only a 20 minute return walk from the car park unless you decide to take the 697 steps down to the valley floor returning to the car park via a gravel gradient path.The views from the lookout were magnificent with the river stretching out below us in both directions we were able to see several of the acclaimed rapids below us,parts of this river are used for white water canoeing and rafting.( I used to canoe on the River Leven in England).697 steps are a lot of steps and by the time we reached the bottom our knees were telling us they hurt,the slow walk back uphill didn't help either.Our return route takes us through a town called Penguin which has a 3mt tall statue of a penguin on the main street erected to commemorate the towns centenary in 1975.With sandy beaches and bush walks in the nearby hinterland Penguin is a popular visitor destination.Fairy penguins inhabit this stretch of coastline which is were the towns name originated from.

A drive to Stanley takes us through Penguin again along a coastal road alongside a rail track for most of the way.The coastal scenery is beautiful and serves as a reminder of similar drives we have had in the UK.Reaching Stanley the most prominent feature is The Nut which rises 152m with sheer cliffs on three sides, a chair lift can take you to the top or you can walk up.The village is also renown for it's crayfish and crab fishing and dates back to 1825 although The Nut was first sighted by the explorers Bass and Flinders on their historic circumnavigation of Tasmania in 1798. A pretty village with many of the older houses in good repair and many dating way back to the early 1800's this gives the village an historic reputation and well worth seeing.On our return journey we stop at Bernie an industrial town with a surprise, a whisky distillery ,the largest of it's kind in Australia distilling single malt whisky. Hellyers Road Distillery named after Henry Hellyer one of the first Europeans to explore this region in 1825 now has a reputation for distilling fine malt whiskey. The distillery offers tasting and tours as well as a cafe.A taste of a 10 year old malt whisky went down well.Continuing our journey we visit Rocky Cape National Park and take the opportunity to to undertake several short walks along this beautiful coastline.

We leave Ulverstone and find a camp ground at Legana a small town outside of Launceston and settle in to explore the surrounding area.The city of Launceston is the third largest in Tasmania and is full of history and grand architecture. The city hosts a music and food Festivale in February every year and we are here at the right time.However before then we are here to explore more. Only 40 km away is Beaconsfield the small town made famous by the terrible mine disaster that took place in 2006. With one life lost, two other miners were trapped underground for two weeks before being rescued.The rescue made international news and remains today a fete of engineering that is recognised all over the world. The mine is now closed, what remains is a mining heritage centre which sets out to give a history of mining in the area and in particular the
mining of gold at Beconsfield. The rescue is cleverly documented and displayed in the centre including an opportunity to get a glimpse at a reconstruction of the cage and rescue.Having watched this rescue like so many other people on TV it was mind blowing to be here and see these exhibits.

Sea horses are cute little creatures that we sometimes see on TV or on TV adds but here on this coast there is a sea horse farm which offers guided tours giving an in depth commentary and hands on opportunity. What an amazing place , home to Australia's first sea horse farm exporting live sea horses all over the world and conducting research into the lives of these strange creatures. Although there are 7 different types of sea horses the farm only breeds and sells the Pot Belly sea horse, others are on display in their tanks and take place in the research.A fascinating view into the live of sea horses and like a big kid I held out my hand to hold one.

A 15 minute walk from the city centre or if your outside of the city a car drive takes you to Cataract Gorge Reserve which is an oasis on the edge of the city.The reserve has been the playground for city dwellers and visitors since 1820.Two rivers meet here to form the river Tamar and the area is teeming with wildlife in it's 192 hectares. Walks around the immediate gorge have been developed over the years as have other attractions and facilities but nothing can compete with the magnificent scenery all around you.A chair lift takes you to the top of the gorge or you can walk up one of the many trails.A restaurant and coffee shop have developed over the years along with a swimming pool.We completed several of the walks with Jackie electing to use the chair lift to return to the base. With an overall length of 457 metres and a 308 metres single span makes this the longest single span chair lift in the world .This is a truly a gem so close to a large city.

The festivale is held in a local park within the city's boundary and sets out to showcase all that is good about Tasmania's food and vine with stalls set up from all around Tasmania.Music is also provided on two separate stages featuring local artists and kids are entertained with face painting and street artists.Held over three days the festivale attracts Hugh crowds.The range of food and wine is amazing with local wines and hand crafted beers together with specialty cheeses and much more, a great day.

A drive out to Batman Bridge and George Town brings our stay in this area to a close, we are now going to head to the east coast and a place called St Helens so many English names.

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