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Published: March 9th 2015
Leaving Launceston we take the Tazman Highway and head for St Helens, this journey passes through some breathtaking countryside with rolling hills and pastures reminiscent of the Lake district and Derbyshire in the UK.We have by now become accustom to seeing small towns and villages named after towns in the UK with names like Fingal,Cambletown,Scotsdale and Derby. Although the roads are narrow this is a pleasant journey with ever changing scenery and attractive small villages.
We have heard so much about the amount of free camps available on this coast so on arrival we decide to head for one just outside St Hellens when disaster struck.A metal strap holding one of my water tanks broke leaving the water tank dragging on the floor and we are only 200mt away from the camp site.For the next two hours we struggle with the task of lifting this tank off the road and back slung under the caravan.Resorting to drilling two holes in the tank to release the water before we can lift the tank up and secure it safely.Having achieved this we no longer have any water and now need a caravan park with mains and a water connection,no free camping for
us this time.Booking into a caravan park we need to make a more secure fix for the water tank.A fellow traveller parked next to us gave me a hand to make a more secure fix we are whole again .We decide to stay at the caravan park and explore the area from there.St Helens is a coastal town surrounded by national parks and reserves and it is here that the famous bay of fires can be found.
St Columba Falls State Reserve is a pleasant drive from St Helens through some very pretty countryside passing vineyards and even a pub in a paddock.A short walk from the car park leads to one of the highest waterfalls in Tasmania through a cool shady rainforest.You can hear the waterfall before you can see it,finally bursting out of the undergrowth the falls are in front of you and they are magnificent, well worth the uphill stroll. We spent some time here to embrace the sheer beauty of our surroundings before returning the way we had come.On our return to St Helens we stop at the heritage listed Pub in the Paddock circa 1880.This pub is literally in a paddock and has a
pig in an enclosure that likes to drink beer a very very quirky place.We completed our day by taking a gravel road that at times required me to engage four wheel drive on the car.We reached Ansons Bay on the edge of Mount William National Park and gazed at the sheer beauty of the coastline, returning via the Bay of Fires to St Helens.This coastline is strewn with free camps nestled along the shore or behind sandunes.Although the weather was not always kind to us we found this area to be of outstanding beauty.
Making our way along the coast our next stop is Bicheno a small coastal town on the edge of Freycinet National Park.This small town prides itself of the supply of fresh fish and shell fish which can be bought almost straight from the fishing boats.Of course we bought some fish.Our camp site is a short walk to the town and shops and also leads on to a coastal walk ending up at spectacular blowhole, this coastline is rugged and colourful with red algae giving the impression that the rocks are red.We were at the blowhole on a gusty day adding to the splendor of the
blowhole which was spouting several metres into the air and giving off a lot of spray.
Freycinet National Park is fringed by coastal beaches and towering granite mountains offering all manner of opportunities for people who like playing out doors.The information centre at the entrance to the park is the place to start any walking routes and they supply very good information packs and upto date weather conditions. There are many walks to chose from including walks requiring overnight camping. We elect to walk to Wineglass Bay lookout a steep uphill rugged path with some steps.On our way we overlook Coles Bay before reaching the lookout.which gives us panoramic views over Wineglass Bay and beyond. The views are both spectacular and stunning, the water that is Wineglass Bay so far below us is a beautiful coral blue fringed by a golden beach.On returning to the information centre we head off to Coles Bay a small town sitting next to a wonderful beach and coral blue sea which is Wineglass Bay.Although we still have plenty of time here in Tasmania there is so much to see so we decide to move on ,this time to Seven Mile Beach a small
village about 30kms from Hobart.
A drive into Hobart confirms what we already know, it is a city like all other city's only smaller than most.We will return another day mainly to view the waterfront and visit the famous market held there. 80klms away is the Port Arthur Historic Site a former prison with a formidable history receiving prisoners who had been transported from the UK to serve out their jail sentences . Now mainly in ruins there are still many buildings intact and some restoration work has been carried out on others.Established in 1830 as a timber camp using convicts as labour to produce logs for government projects.1833 saw Port Arthur upgraded to a prison for repeat offenders from all the Australian colonies. This was a harsh place with no chance of escape. Hard labour was the order of the day with physical punishment for any discretion's. Closing in 1877 with some buildings sold off others dismantled with some being burnt down during bush fires. The prison remained of interest to many and soon became a tourist attraction leading to what it is today ,one of Australia's leading tourist destinations.Our day began with a boat tour of the
bay which has a deep water entrance used long ago to moor boats from England while loading the timber.Today cruise ships use the deep water to visit and off load its passengers for the day,we were lucky none had arrived the day we were there.A 45 minute introductory talk given by a tour guide gave us a good insight into the plight of the convicts housed here, before heading off to explore the site with over 30 historic buildings, extensive ruins and gardens.Walking around the historic site we soon get a picture of how hard a place this prison was, with one building designed to hold prisoners in solitary confinement, where no a word was spoken by the warders other than sharp commands and prisoners were only allowed out of their cells for one hour a day with no social interaction with other prisoners. Interpretative signage and displays abound and the names and plight of some of the prisoners gave a real feel for the place. For those prisoners willing to reform there was the opportunity to gain a trade and when their sentence was served to return to the general population with a means of earning an honest living.Many
families followed the prisoners to be near them and many stayed on after the release of the loved ones.
A tragic event took place here in 1996 adding to the notoriety of this historic site.A lone gunman shot and killed 35 people and wounded 19 others in and around the site.He was eventually found and tried, his sentence is to remain behind bars for the rest of his life.A memorial garden has been developed to remember those killed and injured that day with the names of those killed etched into stone.The dead and injured were both visitors and staff.
Leaving the site we took the opportunity to visit a local blow hole and a cliff formation known as the devils kitchen why it is so called I do not know.On our way back to the caravan park we call in to a pub with an definite English name The Fox And Hounds , it was even built to look like an English pub with a striking resemblance to many a pub in England.
New Norfolk was to be our next destination a small town nestled alongside the river Derwent and gateway to the Mt Field national park.Waterfalls
and stunning scenery was what we got when we walked some of the trails around the park.Part of the National Park is home to one of the worlds tallest flowering plants The Swamp Gums trees that can grow to be 30mt in height and are only found in Southern Australia and Tasmania.This is a park rich in it's plant diversity and stunning formations and is a favorite with tourists given that some of the walks are very accessible and graded as easy, the not so easy trails are less frequented and the sounds of the forest more audible.
A circular drive from our camp site takes us through some beautiful countryside and villages with familiar names from the UK. One such village is Gretna with the local pub called the Gretna Green Hotel which is twinned with the pub of the same name in Scotland.
Salamanca market is a must see in Hobart held every Saturday since 1973 and what a market it is with what seems like an endless array of merchandise on offer. It is here we meet up with friends we have made along our journey and enjoy catching up as well as a fish
and chips lunch on the famous constitutional docks.A drive up Mt Wellington in poor visibility and rain is not what we wanted but the weather in Tasmania is very unpredictable. The mountain stands at 1270 metres and towers above Hobart.The mist and rain clears enough for us to see some of the city and surrounding countryside below but the cold and wind soon drove us back into the car.
A caravan park some 15min out of Hobart is our destination where our friends are also parked.On our way there we stop at Richmond a small town with a rich history and boasting two notable icons. The oldest Catholic Church in Australia built in 1836 and the Richmond bridge which spans the Coal River, built with convict labour it is the oldest bridge in Australia still used daily for vehicular traffic. We intend to use Hobart as a base to explore the Huon valley following the Huon trail, a valley full of winery's,orchards and produce from the sea.Our drive along this trail leads us through some stunning landscape and picture perfect coastal scenery.We reach as far as Geevston a town built on timber harvesting,it's here we see wood carvings of
people famous to the town standing lifelike along the streets.A local bakery is selling scallop pies, so lunch is served, delicious.A morning spent wandering around Constitution Dock checking out this historical wharf and boats some of which are replicas of famous boats lost at sea brings an end to our visit to Hobart.There is much to see and do in Hobart including several museums,art gallery's and of course the architecture that is the city, maybe next time
Our next drive out is to Derwent Bridge and to view The Wall in the Wilderness. Again our drive takes us through some stunning countryside only this time the weather is not so kind to us with lashing rain and cold temperatures down to 4deg at times. As we approach Derwent Bridge we can see snow on the mountains that surround the valley and mist hangs low over parts the valley, getting out of the car we can suddenly feel just how cold it is.The Wall is the inspiration of one man local artist Greg Duncan, he is creating a 100 metres wall with three metre carvings depicting the history of this region and the people that made it happen from the
early pioneers who harvested the local timber to workers on the modern hydro station.This work started in 2005 and will hopefully finish in 2016. This three metre high wooden sculpture is work in progress and forms an amazing piece of art which will grow into a major tourist attraction. The wall is housed in a purpose built timber building where log fires burn brightly fending off the cold and local whiskey can be sampled and bottles bought. Photograph's are forbidden but postcards of the wall can be bought as can a book full of photographs and the story of the wall.A short distance from the wall is a local pub where a welcome bowl of soup is soon devoured before we head off back to Hobart.
A rare treat for us, we are eating out with our friends at a popular sea food restaurant. Served with scrumptious local sea food while over looking the beautiful Derwent river where we can watch small sailing dinghies dancing around buoys.What a way to spend an evening.
Bicheno on the East coast is where we head for next in the hope of some kinder weather.Having been here before we plan to visit
a National Park that we missed last time.We meet up with our friends again here and spend one evening enjoying local Mussels cooked at our caravan.Douglas-Apsley National Park is the park we missed last time,situated only 3km out of town this park is very accessible and offers all the attractions to enjoy a day out.Walks vary from 20 minute return easy walks to 3-4 hour return walks with waterfalls and swimming holes together with lush varying and vegetation.The weather is kind to us and we enjoy our time in the park before returning to our caravan.Some of our time here is spent with Jackie painting ,me just chilling out and writing this blog.
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