We woke early-ish to find it was raining, not heavy but a steady fine rain. Washed the dust off the car!
Packed up, drove to the visitor centre to check the local take on the road closures. The roads we wanted to take through Zeehan and Corrina were closed to all but local traffic, they were carrying out back-burning to contain the bushfires up there, so we had to change our plans. We drove back to Queenstown along the very twisting and winding road, visibility was bad as the clouds were so low. It was still raining. We turned off just before Queenstown onto the A10 heading north and then turning off onto the B28 along the Henty River valley towards Tullah. It was still raining and the clouds were very low, so no sightseeing today.
Suddenly as we approached Lake Plimsoll the rain stopped and the clouds lifted, it was a sunny day now! Warm sunshine as we stood looking over the Lake, a beautiful setting even if the Lake was created by a dam, for HEP. On now in a better mood as the sun was shining and there was hardly anyone on the road. We passed through Mount Murchison Reserve, all forest, before rejoining the A10, now the Murchison Highway, just before Tullah. Called in to see Tullah but nothing remarkable so we drove back out again.
We followed the Highway for ages, through commercial and natural forests, the former had vast swathes of clear-cut, a desolate landscape, with the ‘trash’ looking like bleached bones. Not pretty. We turned off to visit Waratah, a spread out settlement, was once home to the richest tin mine in the southern hemisphere; all gone now, but there are remnants of mills and water wheels scattered around the town. It sits on the edge of Lake Waratah and has a spectacular waterfall from the lake right under the road going through the town. I walked down to the base of the falls for a look, the falls weren’t at their best but pretty enough, the gorge through which the water flows was lovely, lots of tree ferns and flowering shrubs.
Back to the Highway, we drove down into the Hellyer Gorge and stopped at a campsite and picnic spot near the Hellyer River. They had 15 minute return walk down and along the river through the rainforest. Nice walk. Lunch.
Eventually we mad our way out of the forests and into more open countryside, cattle country. We saw some huge herds and just outside Winyard a large dairy. Winyard was a nice little town, one we will return to and explore the area, but we wanted to find our guest house for the night. We followed the coast road until Ruth spotted ‘Tourist Route’, which we duly took without noticing whether it continued to Stanley. It did not, it ground to a halt in a pretty little seaside village called Sisters Beach. Lovely beach, we should return. Back onto the Bass Highway, the A2, we eventually made it to Stanley and our room for the next four nights.
I took a short walk around the central area before dinner, some pretty buildings and two beautiful beaches either side of ‘The Nut’. The Nut is a 13 million year old volcanic plug of basalt, some 152 metres high. It has a chair lift! May make use of it. After dinner, at dusk, we drove around to the penguin lookout. They have a small colony of Little Penguins who come ashore after dark to feed their young. A Ranger turned up and cast doubt that we would see any penguins as it was so late in the season. A specially built boardwalk and view platform had been constructed and only recently finished. It has a series of red lights to illuminate the penguins passage to their nesting sites.
We waited and waited and the warden was just about to suggest it was time to go, he swept the beach with his red torch one last time and there they were. One penguin, then three and finally there were five in total. They made their way up the rocky shore, up an earth bank under the boardwalk and on to their nesting site. Wow, what luck! They are tiny, only about 30 cm tall. They have several nesting sites in southern Australia, the most famous of which is at Phillips Island near Melbourne.
A dull and windy start. Unfortunately I had to go to a dentist to check out what I thought was a cracked filling, it was certainly painful enough! Luckily they could fit me in straight away, the dentist checked the tooth and found that it was cracked and had to come out! So it did. Back to the guest house for a rest.
After lunch we drove up to The Nut and took the cable car to the top, it was still very windy but warm. We could see smoke from some of the bushfires to the southwest, the wind has moved from the southwest to the northeast and the hope was the fires would be blown back over burnt ground a fizzle out. Great views over the two beaches of Stanley. We walked a circuit at the top, some 2km, and surprisingly although it looks flat from a distance, it is anything but. There is a dip or valley in the middle and there are trees growing there. It is also a nesting place for shearwaters, or mutton birds, lots of their burrows can be seen in patches across the grassy areas. Nice walk, despite the very strong winds.
Down the cable car, we drove west and joined a ‘scenic drive’, out past Godfreys Beach and up the hill to the Highfield Historic Site. The house was built in 1832 by convict labour for the chief agent of the Van Diemen’s Land Company, it is now owned by the Tasmanian Government. Sadly we arrived just after it closed for the day. On then to a lookout with views over Stanley and The Nut. It has a ‘photo frame’ viewer which we took advantage of. On again to West Beach. The tide was out and the almost flat beach had many shallow pools.
We walked up the hill to a little eatery, Tasmanian Wine and Food, with the logo: T
They only had platters, which we had and it was very very good. Excellent wines and great decor, very eclectic. A short wander along the Terrace looking at the lovely Victorian era buildings. Stanley is a very pretty town.
Wednesday 6 February
A very dull and very windy morning. Rain was forecast. Undeterred, we continued with our plan to visit the Tarkine (aboriginal name: takayna), a large area in the northwest corner of Tasmania. We checked out the local bakery for something for lunch, but there was nothing we liked. We’ll try Arthur River.
We drove out through Smithton and on to West Montague before heading for Cape Grim, we passed the old entrance gates to The Van Diemen’s Land Company, Woolnoth Estate (the company was founded in 1825 by some London merchants aiming for a source of cheap, fine wool. Unfortunately the native grass was too poor and the company didn’t make money for years until they turned to beef and forestry. The company still exists) and we drove on along a gravel road for several kilometres before arriving at a padlocked gate and big no entry signs - access only possible via organised tours! So much for visiting Cape Grim (the most northwesterly point of Tasmanian mainland).
So back to the road south and Marawah, we passed fields with huge herds of cattle then huge tracts of managed forest. Marawah seemed only to consist of a tavern and a few houses. We took Green Point Road out to Marrawah Beach and wow was it windy, the tops of the waves were being blown off in huge sprays, it was just beautiful. The beach went on and on, over 7 kilometres, to the next rocky headland. So, back to the road south, stopped briefly to allow a blue-tongued lizard run across the road in front of us, and we turned off again to see West Point (nungu), the rocks and beaches here were amazing, what a wonderful coastline, all the more impressive in the strong winds.
On now to Arthur River, lots of smoke in the air from the bushfires inland. We called in at the National Park Info Office where Ruth discovered there was aboriginal rock art nearby and got directions from the very friendly Ranger. We also asked about somewhere we could eat and were told the only place was just opposite. A little store that offered ‘fast food’, cooked to order. A very tasty egg and bacon muffin and we were sorted + an ice cream! Arthur River is a small settlement either side of the river, lots of holiday homes and caravans. At the mouth of the river many, many logs and trees are scattered all over the beach and foreshore, relics of past forestry. On the shoreline at Gardiner Point is ‘The Edge of The World’ reserve!
We now tried to find the aboriginal rock art. Drove down to Nelson Bay and headed north to Sundown Point (iaraturunawn) State Reserve; parked up and walked out to the beach. The wind was very strong and when we got to the Point we got sand blasted! It was too much for Ruth who returned to the car. I carried on and walked on for twenty minutes or so, over rocks, across tiny beaches until I reached the edge of Sundown Creek and there they were. These were engravings on the rocks above high tide, mostly of circles, chipped into the rock, regrettably a little underwhelming, not the most exciting indigenous art we had seen, but of great significance to the local aboriginal peoples. So back to the car, and right beside the car park was a huge midden - a pile of discarded shells and bones and built up over thousands of years. It must have been over 10 metres high and 40 metres long and where it was exposed it was possible to see thousands of shells, glinting in the sun.
Back out from Nelson Bay we drove on to Couta Rocks, a very pretty little bay, with lots of rocks! Now the road turned east, that was the last of the coast on the Tarkine Drive. Inland and away from the coastal scrub we entered forests, some managed and some natural (and protected (?)). Not very interesting driving, we missed the coastal scenery, anyway, we reached the loop road, turning right into the loop. The road climbed and we found ourselves at the Sumac Lookout which offered great views over the Arthur River and the cool temperate rain forest. Beautiful. Our next stop was the turnoff to Lake Chisholm and a 15 minute walk to the Lake through the lovely rainforest. The Lake, a sinkhole in the limestone rock now filled with water was much bigger than expected. It has resident platypus, but being mid-afternoon it was too early to see them, and we didn’t! Still, a lovely walk.
On along the road, more forest, closed into the road, the road wound up and down before finally exiting the forest into open farmland and a few kilometres along the open road we came to the Trowautta Arch turnoff. The road passed through an actively worked forest, the machinery was there, the men had gone home and there were large areas of clearcut, not attractive, but the scent if the newly cut wood was amazing. On along the road and back into the National Park we arrived at the car park and the track for the Arch. Walked down the track for about ten minutes though beautiful atmospheric forest, slightly gloomy with odd sunbeams. Lots of tree ferns and moss and huge fallen trees and then the Arch appeared. It was huge and covered with foliage, too difficult to photograph, but amazing to see. It was another limestone karst feature and there was a sinkhole filled with water just beyond. All quite amazing.
By now it was getting late so we headed for home, Ruth called ahead to reserve a takeaway fish and chips at Stanley. They had our favourite blue-eyed trevalla, and it was good.
Thursday 7 February
It had rained heavily during the night judging by the noise the rain made on the tin-roofed verandah. But it looked as if it was clearing so we headed east along the coast on the Bass Highway. We passed through Port Latta, an ugly place dominated by a huge plant producing hematite pellets. We called in at Crayfish Creek, sounded attractive and the shoreline was but the settlement was all shacks and static caravans, most in pretty poor condition. On again, the Highway ran close to the coast, joined by a single track railway. We had seen these single track railways quite a bit, but no trains and today was no exception. Just down the road was the access road to Rocky Cape National Park (Tangdimmaa).
We swung off the Highway and headed into the Park. Low clouds and mist obscured the view of the peaks, but the sun seemed to be breaking through so we went on. The road wound its way up and up and ended at the lighthouse with great views up and down the coast, quite spectacular rocky bays on the Cape (pinmatik). By now the clouds had melted away and we were in full sunshine: a bit misty to the east but it was clearing all the time. A little way down the return track is a walking track to a lookout for a cave ( North Cave) was used by aboriginal people for thousands of years (estimated at 8,000 years by research of the 6 metre deep midden). We could only view the cave from the lookout a couple of hundred metres away, but it was impressive - over 20 metres high at the entrance. The local aboriginal people have requested visitors not to enter, but the track to the cave is completely overgrown so it would be difficult to get to the cave anyway! We drove to Burgess Cove where there is another track to another cave, South Cave (!), very narrow and steep. A much smaller cave but it too had its midden, sadly the parks authority had built the viewing platform in the midden!!
Ok, we moved on, back to the Bass Highway which swung south of the Park before returning to the coast near Wynyard. We took the coast road, Tollymore Road out to Table Cape (Toin-Be-Noke), another volcanic remnant. The soil here is a rich chocolate brown the result of weathering the ancient volcanic rock. The soil is very rich, tulips and lilies are grown here, must be spectacular in Spring! We noticed a lot of warning notices hung on the fences around certain fields and on closer inspection found opium poppies growing there and there were lots of these fields. All grown under Government supervision. On to the lighthouse, built in 1888, it had a small settlement until 1968 when all the dilapidated dwellings were demolished. Great views and the start of a track to Table Cape Lookout about 20 minutes uphill. Ruth drove around to the lookout while I walked it!
On along the Table Cape Road to Wynyard. Just before the town we found the Fossil Bluff road and swung off to see the Bluff. Very pretty beach and sandstone cliff we searched the beach for a while trying to find fossils before discovering it was the sandstone rock of the Bluff that contained tiny shell fossils. On into Wynyard where we found a little seafood cafe offering fish and chips, delicious. On to join the Old Bass Highway which hugged the coast offering great views up and down the coast. Just by chance we saw a train! It was a freight train, two diesel locomotives and just 53 trucks carrying short-sea containers, but it was the first train we had seen in Tasmania.
Lots of little settlements along the road, Somerset and then Burnie, the fourth largest town in Tasmania. Not very pretty, though some lovely old building near the docks. So, time to head back, we followed the Bass Highway and called in at Boat Harbour, very pretty little settlement spoiled by all the RVs and caravans, but we did enjoy a very acceptable ice-cold (alcoholic) ginger beer, brewed not far away at Spreyton and watched the kids with their boogie boards in the surf. Looked in again at Sisters Beach, beautiful beach and pretty settlement, before finally heading back to Stanley.
Dinner at Xanders, we just had a starter, scallops and a pudding, strawberry romanoff, as we weren’t too hungry, but we did try the Hellyers 10 year old malt whisky. All very good. Our last night in Stanley. We had enjoyed the little town, it is pretty and had great beaches and The Nut. Good places to eat.
Friday 8 February
We set off fairly early, as we had to drive to Launceston. We hit the Bass Highway and followed it all the way to Devonport, stopping off occasionally to admire the coastline. It took till lunchtime to get there and we found an ultra-modern building on the beach at Mersey Bluff with the Drift, a relatively informal restaurant, but the food was great. An absolutely delicious seafood chowder followed by pinot noir poached pears.
Ok, time to move on. We took the cross-country route before joining the A7, the West Tamar Highway at Exeter, a really nice drive, views of the Western tiers and Cradle Mountain. A mixture of farmland and forest, before arriving in Launceston (called ‘Lonny’ by the locals) and finding our housesit for the week.