Exploring the East Coast

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February 26th 2021
Published: March 3rd 2021
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On Wednesday we left Launceston about 9 am and headed to Swansea. I had checked on Google Maps and directed Fletcher to drive south as that was what I was shown was the quickest way. However, we had our first and last "disagreement" when he saw we were on an expressway heading south when we should have been on a scenic route going east. Much silence and grumpiness on both sides ensued until we reached St Mary's where we stopped for a coffee and "breakfäst". This consisted of sharing a quiche which must have been left over from yesterday!

From here we headed east and after a quick stop at Fingal for fuel we reached the coast after a very windy road. Here we headed north to St Helen's which had been our original destination. The coast road afforded good views of white beaches, rocky coast lines and we pulled into St Helen's pier and went for a walk. The wind was cold but there were still blue skies.Having checked out the Marina we retraced our steps, (which would not have been necessary had we gone the scenic route, I was reminded) and drove south along the coast. We passed through many seaside small towns, all geared for tourists and summer holidays. Brian had recommended we stop at Bicheno. We followed his advice and drove down to an interesting area where there was a small harbour formed by a granite rock island with a channel through it called The Gulch. Here we saw a sign for The Lobster Shack and, as it was nearing lunchtime. we decided to try its wares. And weren't we glad we did!! We had intended to try some Tasmanian lobster somewhere and here seemed the perfect spot. We ordered seafood chowder for two and then shared half a lobster done in a beautiful buttery sauce. What a feast and very filling. However, so far the best meal we have had.

From there we continued south passing the turn off for the Freycinet peninsula, and encountered several vineyards and wineries. Noting these for further exploration in the next two days, we continued to Swansea, a charming coastal village with a lot of history. We found our accommodation at Amos Guesthouse and Ocean Villas, which was in the centre of town. After we checked in we were directed to Room 10, named Honeymoon Bay, up a flight of steps but having a magnificent view over the beach and harbour. We even had our own balcony. I realised that I had left my phone charger in Launceston, so our host suggested the post office for a replacement. We were able to purchase said article there thanks to a charming lady who allowed me to open several to find the right fit! Technologically equipped once more we returned to our lodgings to plug in. We then explored a little more, checking out the jetty (and the compulsory jetty walk) and then a short drive to the Bark Mill Tavern and Museum. We had a beer there then returned to the guesthouse. A short walk to the IGA store enabled us to stock up on goodies for breakfast for the next three days and then we relaxed in our room for a little while.

Still feeling the effects of lunch we ventured out about 7pm to find dinner. A short stroll along the main street took us to Saltshaker, which had a great outlook across the bay and a menu including pizza which we thought would be just the thing. Fletcher was most intrigued by a large replica of a racing car made from bits of scrap metal which had pride of place on the counter. We ordered their special which came very quickly as the hostess put up the closed sign at 7-30pm!! It was delicious but we only manged to eat half. As we had a microwave and fridge in our room we took the rest back. We were glad to watch some TV then go to sleep after a long day.

The next morning dawned with brilliant blue skies and a rosy glow. After breakfast we decided to drive to the Freycinet Peninsula where there is a National Park. A pleasant drive back past the wineries and then along a tree lined road to Coles Bay. We stopped on our way to check out Nine Mile Beach which certainly lived up to its name, a great place for a swim. There were many side roads leading to various B&Bs etc so obviously a popular tourist spot. We drove into Coles Bay and along the Esplanade, admiring the attractive harbour dotted with boats of all shapes and sizes. We had seen a sign advertising cruises to Wineglass Bay and thought this would be a great trip for the next day. We found the office and booked a lunch cruise, leaving at 10am and returning about 3. Sounded great. Then we drove to the National Park Headquarters and inspected the Information Office. There were displays of the flora and fauna of the area and of course, a shop. Outside was a short walk down to the beach for a view of the Hazzards, the mountain range on the peninsula. This was very scenic and the beach here was small but sandy.

Feeling happy about our plans for tomorrow, we retraced our steps and headed for the wineries. Our first stop was at Freycinet Vineyard. This had the usual Tasmanian range but also a Botrytis riesling. The attendant zapped us through the tasting in record time, hardly saying anything other than a description of each wine. We did love the "botrot" and bought a couple of bottles to take home.The next stop was at Milton wines. Housed in a lovely old cottage we were again greeted by a lady whose only conversation was to describe the wine briefly which was not very welcoming. The offerings here were OK but nothing outstanding. Then it was up to a rather large winery, Devils Crossing, which sat high on the hill with magnificent views out to sea. We had a flight of wine to taste and then bought some fish and chips from The Fishery which was on site. Food and wine were good. This is a much more commercial place than we have encountered and we were told that it is owned by Brown Brothers. The wind was cold and grey clouds started to gather. When the first few drops of rain started we headed for the car and back into Swansea. After reaching the shelter of our room, it bucketed down for couple of hours. We hunkered in with stats, blog and TV to keep us occupied.

For dinner we returned to the Bark Mill. This has a pleasant Bistro and we each had a serve of Tasmanian scallops, swimming in a delicious buttery sauce. We accompanied that with a cob of garlic bread. More than satisfying.We returned to the guesthouse knowing we would need to be up early next day to drive to Coles Bay for our cruise. The rain had stopped and the sky was clear which augured well for the morrow.

A beautiful day greeted us the next morning and , though it was windy, we thought it would be a great day. We set out about 8-30, determined to be there with plenty of time to spare. As we took the turn off to Coles Bay it was only 9 oçlock so we managed a side trip to Friendly Beach. As we stopped, my phone rang and we were informed our boat trip had to be cancelled due to the rough seas. The call cut out, so after we had walked along the beach I rang back. Yes, unfortunately, the captain had made the call to cancel. As we were nearly there we drove down to the harbour where we witnessed the waves crashing over the pier and realised why they had cancelled. The girl in the office gave us our refund and said we had been unlucky, as, in the twelve months she had been working there there had only been two cancellations!. Disappointed but resigned we drove back to the main road and headed for the wineries we had yet to explore.

Our first stop was at Gala Wines, advertised as being a place where 200 years of occupation were acknowledged. The tasting room was in a very old cottage which had been a shop and a house. A lovely hostess there took us through the various wines. She was very chatty and welcoming, what a difference from yesterday. They had some lovely offerings here and we especially liked their Pinot Gris. From there it was a short drive down a side road to Craigie Knowe Vineyard. Again, a heritage tasting room with an excellent host who not only talked about the wine but chatted pleasantly as well. Their range was also excellent and when the first host had to leave, his son took over and he was also charming.

Our third stop was at Spring Vale Winery. This had a sparkling as well as a Gewurtztraminer which was very tasty. On site was also a restaurant called Mel's Kitchen. We decided to have lunch here. We were shown into a marquee which had many tables with reserved signs which we thought was evidence of good food. We were shown to one of the barrel tables and Fletcher went to the winery to buy a bottle to accompany the meal. The menu looked interesting with several more innovative dishes. When we are away we do get sick of fish and chips, parmis, schnitzels and steak. Fletcher opted for the Thai chicken while I liked the sound of the pulled pork tacos. We joked with the waitress that I was put off from the tacos as the menu listed them as "taco's". There was also a misspelling of currant as "current" . In the end I was glad I ignored the misplaced apostrophe as the tacos were delicious. Fletcher said his half a chicken with Thai spices was fabulous. We scoffed the lot and thoroughly enjoyed the experience. Mel, herself, served us the main course and we joked about proofreading. She took it all in good spirits. We then opted for dessert and the blueberry and apple crumble which we both ordered was very tasty.

Replete, we returned to Swansea, having tasted the best that the area could offer. That night we couldn't face going out so heated the left-over pizza, washed down by one of the whites we had bought. We had really enjoyed this area even though we were disappointed by our cancelled cruise.

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