Beautiful blue skies, magnificent scenery, friendly people, pure air, pristine water and amazing produce. I have just returned from the most magnificent island holiday. When I was preparing to leave cold and wet Melbourne in the middle of winter, people were saying to me, “You are going where? At this time of year? You have to be joking! Are you mad?”
I must admit to having a few second thoughts after so many people were making the same sort of statements to me. But it was booked, and as the trip was to be pure relaxation it didn’t matter to me what people were saying, as long as I could curl up somewhere with a good book and a glass of wine I was going to be happy.
My alarm was set for very early in the morning and it was cold, dark and wet outside. My usual level of holiday excitement wasn’t with me as I could hear those questions and statements from people ringing in my head – what was I doing? I had planned a holiday to where?
The horn beeped out the front, signalling it was time for me to carry my bags out to the waiting car. As I did so, I passed the other cars parked in my driveway – covered in thick ice. It was freezing cold and even my multiple layers of clothing weren’t keeping me warm on the short trek to the waiting car.
I loaded my bag in the back of the lovely car that had been loaned to us by Mazda. There was plenty of room for my bag along with the others that were already packed in the back of the CX-5. I climbed into the front passenger seat and settled down into comfort for our drive to Port Melbourne, where we were boarding the Spirit of Tasmania.
Advertising for the Spirit of Tasmania says that cruising on the boat with your car is as simple as drive on and drive off – no driving to airports, no long term parking, no shuttle buses, no juggling luggage, etc. In actuality, you do drive on and drive off, but it’s not as quick as it sounds.
You will receive advice approximately two days before your departure that boarding commences approximately two and a half hours before you are set to depart, with boarding closing 45 minutes beforehand. IF you get there nice and early – like the two and a half hours before due departure, you will be sitting in a queue going nowhere for about an hour. Boarding closing 45 minutes before departure is not quite true, as I was watching cars driving up the approach and then boarding about 15 minutes before scheduled departure.
Once you do get on board, you simply follow the car in front of you and park where you are told. The people directing traffic are excellent and no-fuss, and if you do as you are told you will find yourself upstairs in the passenger areas of the boat very quickly.
We had booked recliner seats for our day sailing. As this was to be a relaxing holiday I wanted some comfort and somewhere to stretch out – this was a very wise decision. The recliner lounge is at the rear of the boat – the stern. In here you will find floor to ceiling windows that stretch across the breadth of the boat. Our allocated seating was right in front of the window, which gave us heaps of room to move around but the other seating looked equally as spacious. The recliner seats are very similar to airline seats, but much more comfortable offering a slightly larger recline and comfortable footrests. There is also cabin accommodation on the Spirit of Tasmania, which offer beds or bunks, along with regular seating in the various lounges and bars.
With freedom to move about all areas of the boat we made frequent trips downstairs to the café and bar areas to buy food and drink. We all thought the food was a little over priced and chose not to partake of the buffet, which was more than $30.00 per head to fill your plate once. Instead we purchased delicious sandwiches, which were typical café prices. The bar prices were pretty standard and offered a great variety of beers, wines, spirits, soft drinks, tea, coffee and hot chocolate.
We chose to take our food back to the recliner lounge rather than eat in the more public areas, but for some reason that I cannot fathom, we weren’t allowed to take any alcohol back. I didn’t see any restrictions about alcohol anywhere else on board except for the recliner lounge – strange.
The day sailing was very smooth and really relaxing. The sun was streaming in through the windows making Melbourne’s cold and wet weather really seem like a thing from the past. From our wonderful vantage point, we had many sightings of dolphins playfully jumping over waves in the wake of the boat.
We arrived in Devonport in the dark of night and it took another hour before we were finally off the boat. Again, drive on – drive off is verbally correct, but there is a lot of waiting around as other levels of parking are emptied and announcements are made chasing up people who are holding up the departure queues because they had either forgotten where their car was parked, or they simply just didn’t bother to hurry themselves.
We were running late to check into our accommodation in Devonport, but a quick phone call to Graham at the Barclay Motor Inn sorted this out. Graham kindly offered to keep reception open until we arrived. Our accommodation here was spacious and comfortable and Graham turned out to be a wealth of information on some ‘must do’s’ in Tasmania.
Thank heavens for Graham’s wealth of advice, suggestions and maps as we had turned up in Tasmania with little knowledge of the island state. I know, for us Melbournians, Tasmania is just a jump over the water away, but I was a newbie to the state and my fellow travellers had only been there for very quick business trips in past years and our knowledge of places to see and go was very limited.
Graham should be employed by Tourism Tasmania as he did a far better job than they did in promotion his home state. Tourism Tasmania I found to be very rude and dismissive when we contacted them regarding our trip.
We headed down the Midland Highway through the picturesque towns of Campbell Town and Ross to our next destination, Hobart. Campbell Town has more than 100 homes that are over 100 years old and there are some magnificent examples of colonial architecture here. Ross is well known for its famous scallop pie and we couldn’t go to Tasmania without trying this delicacy. Does it live up to its reputation? YES, YES, YES it does! Absolutely delicious, but, don’t for one minute think that the scallop pie is the only one that is delicious. There are so many varieties of pie on the menu board that you have probably never heard of before – like salmon and brie, many different types of beef, and chicken in as many flavours as you could possibly imagine. Aside from a thriving pie market, Ross is a sleepy little village but it is one of Tasmania’s finest heritage villages, with a collection of well-preserved Georgian buildings and architecture.
Our accommodation in Hobart was close to Salamanca Place, which is well known for his historical buildings and Saturday market. Flourish Boutique in South Hobart is a quaint little early 1800s Heritage listed Georgian building. Offering two double bedrooms, a cosy and warm lounge room, a very well appointed kitchen and bathroom, our accommodation for the next few days was perfectly located in a village type precinct with everything we could possibly need just a short walk away.
This is where I thought I would be spending the next few days – curled up in the cosy lounge room, with a good book, but my fellow travellers had other ideas!
Firstly, John Anthony, Prodijee’s resident foodie, wanted to scout produce locations so that he could do some cooking – yes, John doesn’t just eat good food, he cooks it as well.
We found a store just down the road that sold all types of local produce from fresh fruits and vegetables to farm fresh eggs, meats, seafood, poultry and everything else a world class chef could possibly want. We were in for some good eating!
Next, both John and Prodijee editor, Darren, wanted to source some local wines to go with dinner. They found an assortment of nice looking bottles for us to do a bit of a taste test over dinner.
Now – back to the house and that couch and book I had been yearning for – but it was short lived as we all needed to put our heads together to plan our next few days in the southern part of the state, and as locations and day trips kept popping into the conversation – I could see my couch time slowly disappearing.
It only took a bit of research to quickly realize that we were not going to have anywhere near enough time to do the things we were identifying as ‘must-do’s’ but here is what we managed to fit into our few days.
Driving from Hobart down the Arthur Highway through Sorell and Dunally, passing picturesque scenery, oyster and seafood markets, you arrive at Port Arthur – a World Heritage listed former penal colony. This world class tourist destination offers many guided tours and I am told that many people who partake in the night-time ghost tours feel the presence of lost souls. You can also wander the area and explore the historic prison and buildings and discover this slice of history on your own.
Lark Distillery is one of Australia’s leading distilleries, producing high quality, premium spirits using traditional time honoured methods. Situated on the Hobart waterfront, Lark Cellar Door and Whisky Bar offers the opportunity to taste Tasmania’s finest whisky and other distilled spirits in a warm and inviting atmosphere. The bar serves more than 150 premium malt whiskies. You can also choose from a selection of Tasmanian beer, wine and cider, as well as great coffees and cheese platters.
Lark runs a variety of tours so if you have some time free I can highly recommend you go on one. We did the distillery tour, which gave us a look behind the scenes and showed us the process, ingredients and art that goes into creating award winning single malt whisky.
Richmond is about a 30 minute drive from Hobart and is one of the state’s most popular destinations. This historic town is famous for its Georgian architecture, galleries, craft boutiques and tea shops and offers glimpses of life in colonial times. The Richmond Bridge, constructed in 1823, is the oldest bridge in Australia.
Tasmania has long been known as the home of great wine but you will need to keep your eyes well and truly opened to find cellar doors and wineries there. Whilst they are quite hidden away, the wineries are usually open to the public, but they are certainly not as visible as they are in other states such as Victoria.
Puddleduck Vineyard is a short 20 minute drive from the heart of Hobart and the perfect place to while away a few hours. Set in an idyllic location surrounded by a dam and grape vines, this vineyard offers cheese platters and wine tastings, along with a ‘Reverse BYO’, which is where you supply the picnic food to enjoy either on their lawn area or on the deck overlooking the dam, with Puddleduck supplying all the beverages.
Just up the road from Puddleduck is Wicked Cheese – a boutique cheesemaker – that in just a few short years has gained recognition as having one of the most impressive, high quality, hand-made cheese ranges in Australia. Open seven-days-a-week, this is a must do if you are a cheese lover. Watch the cheesemakers at work and then sample from a large variety of cheeses while you browse through their large range of goods on sale.
Mount Wellington looks over the city of Hobart. Pinnacle Road, a fairly easy but windy road, will take you to the summit, where you can expect the weather to be quite different to what you have left behind in Hobart.
On our trip, we left Hobart around 9.00am when it was about 11 degrees, 25 minutes later we were at the summit of Mount Wellington where it was -1 degree, snow on the ground and wind blowing so hard it took two men to hold a car door open to stop it from being blown off. Rugged up in coats, hats, scarves and gloves, we only managed to get out of the car long enough to see that the view of Hobart was magnificent. We were lucky, as I am told that there are a lot of days where the cloud is heavy and the view isn’t so great.
A beautiful day trip is driving from Hobart to Kingston, Grove, Geeveston and then doing a loop back through Huonville and down to the peninsular where you will go through Cygnet, Eggs and Bacon Bay, Gordon, Kettering and Oyster Cove. The round trip will take around three hours, but there are plenty of places to stop and lots of viewing points. Along the east side of this peninsular you will have magnificent views of Bruny Island.
If you are a little more adventurous, once you get to Geeveston, you can head further south through Dover and Lune River until you reach Cockle Creek that sits on the beautiful Recherche Bay at the edge of the Southwest National Park and Tasmania’s World Heritage Wilderness Area. It is the furthest point south that one can drive in Australia.
MONA is the Museum of Old and New Art and is located in Berriedale, another short drive from Hobart, or you can get there by bus or ferry up the Derwent River. This place seems to polarize people – some say it’s rubbish, some say it’s magnificent – but at the very least, some of the artwork can be a bit confronting and should have a XXX rating, so do your research before going there with children.
Salamanca Place is renowned for historic buildings, artist studios, galleries, craft shops, restaurants and cafes, and is a great place to visit and sightsee, but come Saturday it erupts into a bustling mecca for the market and is one of Tasmania’s top tourist attractions. More than 300 stallholders create a massive buzz and sell fresh and gourmet produce, arts, crafts and handiwork – it is very easy to spend a whole day sampling the tempting and sometimes unusual tastes and rummaging through all the stalls.
It was unfortunate that our booking in Hobart was only for five nights, I could have very easily spent a lot longer exploring the area and boutique shops and cafes. But the time had come for us to head north to Launceston.