|After sailing the Tasman Sea for 2 days, we arrive early in the evening to Hobart, Tasmania. We are very curious to learn about this island, a state of Australia. It was founded in 1804 as a penal colony and named after Robert Hobart, the British colonial secretary. Tasmania is similar in size to Ireland; boasts the largest lavender farm in the world and the oldest brewery of Australia, Cascade, founded in 1824. Ron samples the beer and crowns it spectacular! One reason may be due to environment. Most of the 200,000 “Tassies” as they are known live here because of the exceptionally clean air and water. It is shipped to the Australian athletes when they compete in the Olympics so you can get a feel for how special the water is. There is a sparkling purity to this island including the very friendly locals. One quarter of the state has been set aside as a National or State Preserve! The forests include many species of woods including myrtle, blackwood, sassafras, leatherwood, and celery top pine. But the most famous is the slow growing Huon pines. There is one specimen of Huon pine which is located on Mt. Read and is estimated to be up to 10,000 years old. The eucalyptus forests provide a source of revenue as large amounts of oil is exported, to be used for massage treatments and medicinal products. Barilla Bay maintains a huge oyster farm with some of the world’s best oysters coming from these cold pristine waters.
And of course, we have all heard of the Tasmanian Devil. The first thing we learn is that the real animal is not the Looney Tunes character that we all grew up with. This poor creature, the world’s largest carnivorous marsupial, is now extinct in the wild and experts feel that they will be gone completely within 20 years. They have a very short lifespan of 5-6 years and are suffering from a form of cancer that appears as lumps and legions on their face and neck. The lumps grow into large tumors which prevent them from feeding properly and having the strength to get an adequate amount of food they often starve to death, within 3-6 months. Sadly, our selected tour does not include a visit to the wildlife sanctuary where they are located, but our friends do see them and marvel at how small and quick they are.
Our tour takes us thru the city of Hobart and we view the historic buildings and cottages before traveling to the eastern side of the island where we stop in the very quaint village of Richmond. All of the buildings were constructed by convict labor under extremely harsh conditions and the well preserved shops, pubs, and restaurants reflect an era of long ago. We cross over the oldest bridge in Australia built in 1825 – so idyllic! Richmond is known as the grainbowl for all of Australia and we travel thru miles of farms providing grains, greens, cherries, apricots, nectarines, and berries. While in town we stop at a grocery store and purchase some fresh local cherries – so inexpensive and so very good!
We then visit the Meadowbank winery and sample a Riesling (very good), a Chardonnay (not so good), and a Pinot Noir (no, very harsh). I love the name of the wine which reflects its location – 42 degrees South! Would love to have a bottle on my shelf as a conversation piece but the wine is not exported to the U.S. A very unique feature at Meadowbank is the floor of the tasting room. The entire floor has been carved in puzzle pieces which depict the history of wine in Tasmania. Just beautiful!
After the tour, we travel back to Hobart and wander thru the lovely town and shops. It is fun to realize that we have toured this unique island on our way to the mainland, Australia.