Postcard from Tasmania: Swansea

On our way down to Swansea, we stopped for a quick dinner at the Brewhaus Cafe at the White Sands Estate. The food was pretty good and the service was slow, but it was the dinnertime view that really impressed us.

Yes, the restaurant looks empty but, in fairness, we arrived at about 5:30pm.

We stayed at the Swansea Motor Inn for the next couple of nights which was affordable and basic, but clean and comfortable enough for sleeping. It served as our base for a trip to the Freycinet National Park the following day and, located next to the beach, was a nice location for a scenic walk home from the local pub where had dinner on the second night.

But, you don’t really stay in Swansea to see Swansea (although it’s a nice location). The real attraction is the National Park and you’ll see why when I come back to share photos of that adventure in my next post.

Postcard from Tasmania: Fields of Lavender at Bridestowe Estate

The next stop on our road trip from Tasmania’s North Coast to Swansea, was the Bridestowe Estate Lavender Farm. What a beautiful place – and a popular one. We barely made it there ahead of a few tourist buses and managed to grab a quick bite to eat in the understaffed cafe. The food was nothing fancy, but we didn’t stop here for the food…

It was a photographer’s dream.

I think I should start a new photo series titled “Grandparents in Still Life”…

We had just enough time to grab some lavender ice cream before hitting the road once more. Samuel gave it two thumbs up. No artificial colors here.

If you’re ever in the neighborhood, I recommend a stop at the Bridestowe Lavender farm. Go for the views and stay for the purple ice cream.

Postcard from Tasmania: George Town to the Tamar Valley

The morning after our penguin adventure in George Town, we hit the road for our 200km drive to Swansea, located on the East Coast of the Island. A straight shot to Swansea would have taken about 2.5 hours but, of course, we made a few picturesque stops along the way.

Our first stop was just a couple of kilometers up the road from our accommodation in Low Head. An old Pilot Station (boat pilots, not plane pilots) has been restored and turned into a museum. While we decided to skip the museum tour, we did manage to take a quick look around at the beautifully restored buildings that sit right up next to the water’s edge.

The smaller building on the left side of the above picture was the outhouse or “dunny” as they’re commonly referred to in my home country. I don’t know what it is about outhouses, but they really help me imagine what it must have been like to live 150 years ago when these houses were built. Walking outside in the middle of a windy, freezing night would not have been a pleasant experience.

It was still very windy on the day we left George Town so, of course, the boys did some Air Bending.

Our next stop was the Cellar door at a winery in the Tamar valley where Dad, Kei and I managed to sneak in some tasting before the natives got restless. I wish we’d had more time to explore the wineries but we had to focus the agendy on more family-friendly adventures.

The next stop on our driving tour deserves its own post – mainly because I think I’ve reached photo saturation on this one and I took a LOT of photos at the Lavender farm. I also like the idea of a blog post dominated by purple – with two boys in my life, it doesn’t happen very often. I posted a tease on Wednesday but there will be a lot more purple to come next week.

Postcard from Tasmania: George Town Day 1 (aka The Penguins!)

Our first night in Tasmania was spent in Low Head, just outside of George Town, on the northern coast. While our travel across Bass Straight the night before was relatively calm, the windstorm that developed over our first day on the island made me grateful that we weren’t currently on a ship. I feel queasy just thinking about it.

Our cabin at the Low Head Tourist park was great. It was cozy for the six of us but came with a kitchenette which was perfect for our money and time-saving strategy to eat cereal for breakfast before we headed out each day. As a bonus, the “soccer field” provided an ocean view.

Kei and I decided to take a walk along the rocky beach which, thanks to the gale-force winds, was freezing but still pretty.

After finding some Fish and Chips for dinner (my first of the trip which must be a new record), we eagerly drove a short distance to one of the most anticipated parts of our trip – for me, anyway. A couple of weeks earlier I had booked us all in for a penguin tour and I could not have been more excited. I may not have been the only one…

Our enjoyment was hindered a little by the gale force winds that chilled us all to the bone, but what’s a small breeze when we have penguins to see? The big lesson of the day? The small birds that I had called “Fairy Penguins” my entire life are now known as “Little Penguins”. Political correctness is officially out of control.

I wish I’d taken a photo of the tour group huddled behind one of the bushes that we used as an ineffective wind break but, instead, I decided to capture some of our surroundings as the moon came up and we eagerly waited for our tour to begin.

We were split into three or four large groups who each took their turn sitting in the bleachers and then walking (gently) down onto the beach and through the dunes where the penguins would return to their burrows. Our group started on the bleachers and listened to our guide share a bunch of interesting penguin facts like the fact that they abandon their young after just a few months and then the babies work out how to fish and swim on their own. Seems harsh but it works. We also passed around a little stuffed penguin who, I’m sure, died of natural causes.

It was a lot darker than it looks in these photos.

We waited for what felt like a REALLY long time and were able to walk down to the beach before our patience finally paid off.

The penguins can’t see the yellow light which is great for penguin spotting but gave my color photos an amber glow.

These penguins are very accustomed to seeing people on the beach. The guides explained that they think of us like trees or another part of nature. It doesn’t make them more vulnerable because they retain the same defense mechanism again natural predators. It does mean, however, that we were not allowed to touch them (not that I would want to risk losing a finger). Still, I was surprised at how close we could get without scaring them off. We witnessed two boy penguins fighting over a girl, dedicated Mums regurgitating fish for hungry, demanding babies and a little hanky panky in the bushes. And I don’t think I need to mention how incredibly cute they were.

After a couple of hours, Samuel finally couldn’t take the cold and exhaustion anymore so we bid a farewell to our new penguin friends. And, just like that, my dream of taking my children to see a penguin parade in Australia was complete. The best part is that we didn’t have to fight the crowds at Philip Island for the experience.

Postcard from Tasmania: Launceston and the Cataract Gorge

Thanks to a very early start, our first day in Tasmanai was a long one. We departed Devonport after breakfast and drove to Launceston, which only took an hour or so.

Launceston was just a quick stop on our way to the North Coast so we had just enough time to visit the Cataract Gorge and take a quick walk through the city before continuing our journey.

Apart from a couple of very windy days (which I will go into more in a future post), we were blessed with beautiful weather during our Tasmania adventure. The island is usually a few degrees colder than the mainland which isn’t a bad thing in December, but it can mean more cold, grey days. I think we hit the blue sky jackpot.

We decided to explore Cataract Gorge after reading about it online. It’s a little hidden piece of nature on the outskirts of the city and was definitely worth the visit for the walk through some beautiful gardens and that feeling, again, like we were traveling back in time. It’s not difficult to imagine women at the turn of the century walking through the gardens with their parasols or a band playing a tune in the century-old music pavillion.

The gardens are also well known for their wandering peacocks (pictured) and wallabies (too quick for me).

The suspension bridge is another attraction – and a magnet for pushy photo-hungry tourists. For the record, I am a polite photo-hungry tourist.

It was a little chilly for a swim, but this has got to be one of the most picturesque pool locations I’ve ever experience.

After walking to the bottom of the gorge, we caught the chairlift back to the top and, I won’t lie, it was a little unsettling. Although I’m sure the ride is completely safe, the 1960’s design made me keep a tighter grip on my youngest child that I had anticipated. The bar across the seat didn’t seem enough to hold him in securely and, while I put on a brave face to avoid feeding into his new fear of heights, I didn’t quite have the ability to pull out the camera. I was even afraid that I’d lose my cellphone over the side if I attempted a chairlift selfie. So, alas, I wasn’t able to capture the view of the Gorge from above or the elusive wallaby who watched as we sailed overhead.

Our quick walk around the Gorge was followed by a quick walk through the city where we took photos next to a coat of arms that features an extinct Tiger…

… and then found some extinct tigers to sit on…

… and took silly pictures next to giant birds.

Not much to see here – just a still-life portrait that makes me giggle.

We enjoyed looking at both the old and classic parts of Launceston…

…as well as the new and funky.

And, before long, it was time to hop back in the car again and head for our first night’s stay in Georgetown on the Northern Coast. I don’t want to get you too excited but, PENGUINS! Next time.