Wordless Wednesday: Friendly Beaches, Tasmania

A quick stop on our drive out of Freycinet National Park. The beach with the whitest sand, the bluest water and the perfect name.

Postcard from Tasmania: Freycinet National Park

Well, May is over, and it was busy and crazy but in the very best way possible. I have stories to share about adventures with Grandparents, trips to the coast with friends and meeting brand new nephews but those will have to wait until I have time to catch my breath and edit the photos. In the meantime, I’m still working through the posts from our trip to Tasmania almost 6 months ago. Never a dull moment.

Freycinet National Park is located on the east coast of Tasmania and was the primary reason we decided to stop for a couple of days in the neighboring town of Swansea. While I would have loved a few more days to explore the entire National Park, the hike to Wineglass Bay was well worth the day trip and one of the highlights of our holiday. It’s not an easy hike, but the 4 hour round trip provided some amazing views and the opportunity to step onto a gorgeous isolated beach. In fact, the only way to reach Wineglass Bay is by foot – or obnoxious Catamaran if you want to be lazy and shell out some money. OK, I admit that I was a tad bit envious of the Catamaran travelers after our 2 hour hike, half of it uphill, but I bet they didn’t finish the trip with the same sense of achievement… or the same number of mosquito bites.

The first half of the hike was an uphill walk through some unmistakably-Australian bush.

Every now and then we were provided with a glimpse of the Tasman Sea to our east.

And a comfortable place to stop and take in the views.

And, after about 60 uphill minutes, we reached the lookout over Wineglass Bay which took our breath away.

After taking in the view, Mum decided to head back to the car (and her Kindle), while the rest of us walked a couple more miles down to the beach alongside a shockingly large number of young men wearing thongs (flip flops, not the other kind, thank goodness). In fact a lot of people looked like they were woefully unprepared for a hike that the park calls “medium intensity”, including a car full of young female Chinese tourists wearing mini skirts and platform heels that we saw as we exited the parking lot. I felt bad that I’d forgotten the sunscreen.

As expected, the beach was gorgeous, even if the water temperature felt like it came from Antarctica (which it probably did).

The kids wasted no time getting wet and taking advantage of the crystal blue waters to work on their water bending.

We stayed at the beach for about an hour before we decided to brave the steep hike back to the parking lot. Thankfully the warm weather meant that the boys dried off fairly quickly while we walked.

We returned tired, but happy, after about 4 hours which included our hour at the beach. And then our amazing experience continued when we ran into this little guy in the parking lot.

Samuel and Thomas fed him some leaves from the tree that he was already eating from.

After a few minutes, we said a quick farewell to our new friend and started the drive out of the park, which included that obligatory stop at the gift shop, of course.

And, while I don’t have photos, you can take my word for it that the oysters we ate at Freycinet Marine Farm on the way out of the park were to die for. So good! Seafood doesn’t get much fresher than a 1km trip straight from the ocean to the table.

So, go to Freycinet National Park. That’s my travel tip for today. Sure, it’s a trek, but I can guarantee you won’t experience any other place on earth quite like this one.

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: 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.

Postcard from Tasmania: Port Melbourne to Devonport

A few days after Christmas we packed up Mum and Dad’s new SUV and piled in for the 3 hour drive to Port Melbourne before boarding the Spirit of Tasmania. We arrived early to allow enough time to grab some dinner, which was important given we were sharing the journey with two small boys who need to have blood sugar levels maintained at all times – especially when asked to wait quietly in a car for 90 minutes before we were allowed to drive on to the ship. We finally boarded and, after parking our car in the bowels of the vessel, walked the 5 flights of stairs up to our teeny tiny little cabin.

 

I’m surprised I didn’t take any photos of the cabin with my big camera but, luckily (or unfortunately), Kei managed to snap this gem on our way back that shows how we squeezed into the cozy living quarters.

A couple of tips for traveling on The Spirit of Tasmania:

  1. Pack an overnight bag and make it easy to access because they don’t mess around when they’re trying to move you from your car to your cabin. The cars are parked very tightly and there’s not much room to maneuver when everyone is trying to get to their cabin at the same time.
  2. Pack some medication to avoid sea sickness – even if you don’t think you’ll need it. We were blessed with two very smooth crossings but I was still surprised by the movement of the ship as we exited Port Philip Bay at around 11pm. At first I could hear the water sloshing in the toilet and then the movement became enough for me to reach for another pill. Thankfully, the kids slept through the worst of it.
  3. Be prepared to be woken at 5am by a loud speaker announcement. Although we were due to disembark at 6am, the process actually begins much earlier and I felt rushed to gather our stuff together. It didn’t help that Thomas slept through the announcement and all the activity. Poor kid didn’t even have time to brush his teeth.

We were blessed with great weather during most of our trip and the departure from Port Melbourne was no exception as, although it was a little chilly, we were able to witness an incredible sunset over the bay.

(Very) early the next morning, we drove off the ship on a mission to find breakfast in Devonport. Devonport, like most of Tasmania, often gives you the feeling of being transported back in time thanks to the prevalence Victorian architecture and the absence of modern buildings in some parts of the state.

We had breakfast next door to these beautiful terraces.

After breakfast we drove about an hour to Launceston where we enjoyed the first day of our Tasmanian adventure. But that’s for another post… I’ll be back with more stories from Tasmania soon.