The flight was delayed due to the late arrival of the aircraft but everyone was soon boarded and off we went. A beautiful day, the ground below as we flew over western Tasmania was brown and looked very dry. We landed in bright sunshine and 27 degrees, collected bags and the hire care and to Ruth’s great delight it was bright shiny blue, a Mitsubishi ASX, a small/mid-sized SUV.
An easy drive into Hobart and thence to the apartment we had taken in Sandy Bay. The apartment high up on Mount Nelson, it was brand new and stunning with fabulous views out across the lower Derwent River and to the left (north), Hobart. We dropped our bags and went looking for the shops, but first we had to post the MIKI cards we had borrowed from JandJ. A little drive around to get our bearings. Hobart is built on hills and dales around the Derwent River estuary, some really quite steep hills, the roads wound round and up and down past some lovely properties, many of which were built in an ‘English’ style, victorian and edwardian. Quite a few modern ‘boxes’, some good, many not.
Shopping done, back for dinner and some tv and gazing out at the view. Claps of thunder and lightning in the distance but only a few spots of rain here. Spectacular light show over the hills behind Hobart (we later discovered a small bush fire was started on Mount Wellington from a lightning strike, and later again that several bush fires had been started in the south west due to lightning strikes and groups of hikers had to be evacuated by helicopter)
Beautiful morning and the views are still amazing! We drove into Hobart to have a walk around. Parked by Princes Park, the site of an early gun battery, now a delightful park and on into the Salamanca area. A row of old warehouses and ordnance buildings, built out of stone and beautifully preserved, they are now occupied by shops, galleries and eating places. There are snippets of history posted on the walls in various places, including an info board about Charles Darwin’s first visit. Apparently, at this stage, he considered himself a geologist and mapped much of the terrain, noting the different geological features and rocks though he did collect many specimens of the local flora and fauna.
Interesting shops, we tried a scallop pie, a local speciality, but found the scallops were overpowered by the curry sauce. Ok, done that! We wandered on up the hill into the CBD and the various shopping centres/streets, but there was nothing of interest. Looked into St David’s Cathedral, built from 1836 onwards, an attractive building with lots of stained glass, mostly late1800s/early 1900s, but it does have a stunning modern window in the west wall. We walked through the little park in front of the parliament building, not very imposing, quite a modest building really. Back to Salamanca to buy some hot-smoked salmon and a few groceries.
We were glad we were no longer in Melbourne, given the extreme temperatures they were experiencing, (and far worse not very much further north). There was always a breeze, just the strength of the wind varied, which when the clouds cleared helped to keep it cool.
We booked a table at FISH349, high on Elizabeth Street as we really wanted to try the local seafood. It came highly recommended and we were not disappointed, the seafood was beautifully cooked and presented. We had seared scallops, seared squid and a mixed grill of white fish, squid and scallops between us with a lovely bottle of local white wine.
Up early for a swim. I went to the main Hobart aquatic centre, three pools including a 50 metre lane swimming pool, plus a gym, all indoors. Couldn’t get into the car park at 7 in the morning! So parked out on the road and walked in. The place was busy but I managed to get a lane to myself as people were just leaving (the pool opens at 6). Good swim.
After breakfast we drove out to the Cascades Female Factory, the institution women convicts, transported from the UK, were sent to be ‘reformed’. Built in 1832 and later, there is very little left of the ‘Factory’, just the perimeter stone walls and the Matron’s Cottage. Pretty horrendous conditions which only slowly improved. A sobering visit.
Quick lunch the off to join Hobart Yachts at Kings Pier Marina for a sailing trip on the lower Derwent. The Helsall IV is a 62foot ex Sydney to Hobart racing yacht, about 30 years old. A very comfortable ride in the good breeze up the river, from the south. We tacked out to Battery Bluff at Bellerive (on which stood a gun battery, built to protect the harbour from the Russians - at the time of the Crimean War!) before tacking back across the river and then sailed on a long tack towards Taroona on the opposite shore. I was offered to drive which I readily accepted and thoroughly enjoyed. We turned round off Taroona, with its historic shot tower perched up on the cliffs and headed downwind along the western shore. Tried to spot our house, but couldn’t make it out amongst all the other houses on the slopes. We had afternoon tea and scones on the way back and as we approached the Harbour, Jimmy, the deckhand, produced a plate of Tasmanian-made cheeses, ranging from a fresh white to a tangy blue and a glass of pinot noir; all delicious!
All too soon we docked and bade our farewells, a great sail and chat with Mark, the owner and skipper, and Jimmie. Lots of anecdotes and bits of local history. We headed back to the house, dinner, some tv (‘Harrow’ a drama starring Ioan Gruffudd, one of Ruth’s favourite actors + he is Welsh!). Bed.
A dull morning and a bit of rain and the forecast for the rest of the morning wasn’t looking good so we packed extra clothes and our waterproofs and set off.
We headed south, down along the Sandy Bay Road, through Taroona and to its shot tower; too many people in the tower so we declined to climb it and drove on. Skirted the edge of Kingston and carried on south on the coast road, past Blackmans Bay and on to Tinderbox on the southern end of the peninsula. Not very much at Tinderbox, it has a protected marine park and a snorkel/scuba trail (underwater plaques placed at strategic points), and just a small beach. We drove on. Rounding the end of the Tinderbox Peninsula we travelled north to Howden and then west, across the top of North West Bay, to Margate! A beautiful drive, the mountains were cloaked in forest and the lower slopes cleared for mixed farmland and small settlements and the sun was trying to peek though the clouds. Lots of agapanthus, both the blue and the white varieties. It was almost as if nothing else would grow there we saw so many of them, virtually every garden had them plus there were escapees everywhere too!
Margate was pretty ordinary and uninteresting so we drove on again, south through quaint little towns, Electrona, Snug, Kettering (formerly Peppermint Bay), Flowerpot and Gordon before rounding the point of this peninsula at Verona Sands. Very pretty little coves and beaches along this stretch of coast. Saw a dead seal on the beach at Ninepin Point Beach. A few K up the road we came across ‘Grandvewe Sheep’, a farm making cheese plus a small distillery. We had tried one of their cheeses, the Persian-style feta and the pinot paste with Mark on the sailing trip, so we were keen to try some more.
The cheesery makes eight or nine different cheeses and we were able to try the three they had out for tasting; all good! Then they went on to the distilled products; vodka, gin, vodka finished in oak casks and distilled whey. All excellent, except the distilled whey which was more like a liqueur and too sweet. The alcoholic drinks were all made from the whey leftover from the cheese making process - no waste!
It was lunchtime so we order some food - more cheese! The waitress took our order, brought out our pinot noir and walked off. Twenty minutes later we asked where the food was and were told the waitress had forgotten to pass it to the kitchen. Many apologies and a few minutes later the food arrived. Delicious cheeses which went down very well after all that waiting. We returned to the shop and bought some more to take home plus a bottle of vodka and a tub of pinot paste (pinot noir grapes reduced and made into a paste, absolutely delicious).
We were now in the Huon Valley, originally home to Tasmania’s apple orchards, but now it is possible to find cherries, pears, apricots, blueberries and peaches so there were road-side stalls selling fresh fruits, and cider makers. We called in at Cygnet (originally called Port de Cygne Noir, after the many black swans in the bay, by Bruny d’Entrecasteaux, the French explorer who mapped this region.), and we managed to get some photos of black swans, though there were very few in the bay today. Just up the road near Cradoc we found the Pagan Cider cellar door and dropped in for a tasting. They had about six or seven different ciders, but we weren’t too keen on the ‘other’ fruit ciders. Bought a few bottles of apple cider and of the blueberry and apple.
On now into Huonville at the head of the Huon River inlet, a typical rural town, it is the centre of the apple industry, but unremarkable apart from that. We headed south along the Huon Valley thinking about going as far as Cockle Creek, the southern-most point of Australia, but not sure about time. Anyway we drove on south, finding pretty little bays along the Huon River inlet, we turned off the highway to follow the Police Point road which wound around, up and down along the shoreline through lovely wooded countryside with glimpses of the water and the opposite shore, eventually reaching Dover on Esperance Bay. Not much to Dover, an ex-timber milling town but forestry was now largely discontinued. Lots of fish farms here, mostly for salmon.
By now we decided it was too late to continue, it would take another couple of hours to drive to Cockle Creek and back. We turned around and called in at Geeveston, another ex-timber milling town trying to reinvent itself for tourism. Lots of wood sculptures around the central area, plus we found a really good butcher! Nowhere to eat so we drove on and passing through Franklin we spotted a little shack, ‘Aqua Grill’ by the roadside offering fish and chips and pizzas, etc. The place was heaving, obviously very popular and the fish and chips we had was delicious, best deep fried battered fish we had had in Australia. It was blue-eyed trevally. Happily fed, we headed for home.