One thing I enjoy about living in Hobart is that I’m surrounded by people who choose to live here. The youngins move interstate for work and a change of pace, but then the tide shifts and you talk to over-30 professionals and they’ll tell you that they’ve come here for the beautiful landscape, the lower cost of living, the lifestyle. This small state is a tough place if you’re just getting started in your career (ask me how I know) but, paradoxically, that drawback can also be a strength. Relationships are built from seeing the same faces again and again, and there’s lots of space for new ideas – you won’t be crowded out from making a go of your pet passions.
Anyway. A couple of months ago, I was lucky to participate in the Tasman Peninsula Instameet, which they might as well have called the Tasmania Is Great Tour. In one day, we took in the region’s astonishing geology, its dark colonial past, the native wildlife (including Tasmanian devils!), a bit of local produce and, of course, the outstanding scenery.
The Tasman Peninsula is about an hour’s drive east of Hobart, and Jamie’s whole family is based there. I knew about all the sites I visited, but I’d never been to most of them – we head out there so often that we don’t give much consideration to going sightseeing. So this was a fun twist on the usual Sunday visit.
Our grand day out was organised by Destination Southern Tasmania (link) and Hobart & Beyond, the same folks behind the Bruny Island tour. Take 60 image-conscious people with Instagram accounts, get a few tourist operators to treat them for a day and ask them to spam a select handful of hashtags – I get what’s happening here, I do. But I’m more than happy to write about this tour because Tassie is awesome and it’s nice to show my friends and family around the place where I live.
I mean: this is what it looks like when I’m leaving Hobart. I’ve lived in a desert for enough years of my life to still be enraptured by The Mountain and its foothills.
THE CLIFFS OF CAPE RAOUL
The first leg of our journey into southernmost Southern Tasmania took place on a snappy Navigators catamaran from Hobart to Port Arthur, which took two-and-a-half hours. Jamie’s sister, Kylie, was with me on this trip and it was delightful to have her company. She’s the type who makes new friends everywhere she goes, which is an invaluable trait when you’re on an excursion with people you barely know. Hi there, strangers/friends!
As we left the mouth of the River Derwent and into the open ocean, we passed the adorable Iron Pot Lighthouse. Built in 1832, it’s the oldest lighthouse in Tasmania and the second-oldest lighthouse in Australia.
We passed the waves crashing against Shipstern Bluff and over to the southern coast of the Tasman Peninsula, where the windy, overcast atmosphere only heightened the drama. (I think this might have even been Storm Bay?) At this point I was camped out on the stern of the boat, steadying myself against the sway, wishing I had a better camera like all the pro/semi-pro dudes on board and reminding myself to see some of this in person and not through the shutter.
(My Canon 7D is all the camera I need at this point, arguably, but I’m realising its limitations. Low light + needing a fast shutter speed = too many unusable photos from the boat ride.)
Soon, we were approaching the towering dolerite shards of Cape Raoul, one of the southernmost points of the Peninsula and a clear shot to Antarctica. These columns reach 200m tall, and just like the cliffs over on Bruny Island, these are some of the tallest sea cliffs in the Southern Hemisphere.
Guess who else likes these cliffs? We said hello to the clusters of fur seals who were resting up on the base and occasionally yelling at each other. You can hardly see them here, unfortunately (they’re the brown lumps on the streaky-white section) but they do help provide a sense of scale in this photo. These formations were awe-inspiring!
HISTORY: PORT ARTHUR
The Port Arthur settlement has two dark chapters in its history: the first in the mid-19th century when it was operational as a British penal colony, and the second in 1996 when the worst mass shooting occurred in Australian history. Jamie’s family and many others they know on the Peninsula were personally affected by the Port Arthur massacre, so the thought of coming here is less than appealing. I came here with Jamie on my first visit to Tasmania, in 2008. I left feeling like once was enough for me.
That said, Port Arthur is so culturally important to the region that it’s worth visiting. It’s a World Heritage Site, so the ruins and the grounds are immaculate. For all of its terrible history, the location is as picturesque as it gets – adding yet another layer of heartbreak.
Kylie and I mostly explored the well-tended gardens and some of the ruins further away from the central complex. You can see what I mean about the site being immaculate; everything that needs to be structurally reinforced has been done so, and the intended pathways are obvious.
LUNCH AT THE LAVENDER FARM
We were treated to lunch at Port Arthur Lavender, a lavender farm. What a spread! Kylie and I helped ourselves to smoked salmon, octopus, cheese, wine and other Tasmanian treats. It was overcast yet calm, so we all ate on the back patio overlooking Long Bay. You can have a wander around the grounds, past the duck ponds and through the many rows of lavender.
(Jamie and I have stopped here more than once on summer trips to Port Arthur, harbouring high hopes for lavender ice cream, but each time it’s been closed for private receptions. Please try the lavender ice cream for me.)
TASMANIAN DEVIL UNZOO
Exactly what it says on the tin. Tassie devils!! These two feisty ladies are sisters, raised on site and inseparable from one another. They were more than happy to stare down a group of humans. I could have watched them for ages.
I really enjoyed our visit to the Tasmanian Devil Unzoo in Taranna and learning about their goals. Tasmanian Devils are interesting critters, and unfortunately, they’re under threat due to a fatal transmissible condition called devil facial tumour disease. These guys work with official Tasmanian devil conservation efforts, and the hard work is paying off: the Tasman Peninsula is officially tumour-free south of the Dunalley canal.
The Unzoo has more native wildlife than just Tassie devils, but here’s the interesting thing: with their recent change from a devil sanctuary to an ‘Unzoo’ model, their goal is to promote interaction with animals in their native environment. Barriers and enclosures are removed or concealed, and the animals can come and go as they please.
We got to meet (and feed) a heap of wallabies, pademelons and Eastern grey kangaroos up close, as well as several bold Cape Barren geese. My favourite animals were the tawny frogmouths, these owl-like birds with amazing facial expressions and mottled feathers like tree bark.
One of the guides introduced us to a permanent resident: a hand-raised tawny frogmouth named Fran. She softly clucked when people stroked her feathers, aww. I got to pat her and was dying of cuteness the whole time.
The Unzoo is also in the process of turning the grounds into a native botanical garden, for the benefit of wildlife and visitors alike. A few autumn bloomers I saw today: Correa ‘Canberra Bells’, Melaleuca gibbosa (the purple version of mine!) and pink mountain berry.
Australian geology is very old, even compared to other ancient rocks. You don’t get the sharp mountain ranges and fertile soils that appear in areas with recent geological activity, like New Zealand. No, some of the formations here been exposed to the elements for such a long period of time that interesting patterns appear.
Our last stop of the day was at the Tessellated Pavement, at Eaglehawk Neck – just over an hour outside of Hobart. The sunlight was quickly fading by this point, so we had to act fast to snap a few photos. This flat section of rock is covered in criss-crossing lines, leaving a mosaic of perfect squares. Some areas have raised blocks, while in other areas the lines themselves sit proud. It’s cool to explore them up close, especially against the backdrop of towering blue gums.
No, this was our last stop of the day: high tea at Lufra Hotel, right there in the township of Eaglehawk Neck. I was still full from lunch, but with a spread like this I can easily make room for hot scones and jam and a glass of bubbly. Such a hardship. Really doing it tough.
A sincere THANK YOU to everyone involved with this trip – I’m so glad that I could be a part of this and get a more in-depth look at Southern Tasmania and the Tasman Peninsula. worship-hands emoji
I’m glad to be back at my blog, as well. I’ve had two things hanging over my head over the past couple of months: work and winter. I’ve been getting some good design work lately, and I’m still writing weekly DIY articles over at Homedit. Check it out if you want to learn how to make a wine rack, style a centerpiece with mason jars, sew a cushion, or just flick through the rest of the archive.
The second thing keeping me at bay is winter. The same thing happened to me last year: I took a two-month break from my blog and felt terrible about it, so I adjusted my antidepressant regimen and took extra Vitamin D. This time I feel fine, just uninspired and sluggish because of the lack of sunlight. I’ve ordered a daylight alarm clock and I’m hopeful! I also have a good 2-3 posts in the hopper right now that I can’t wait to share.
How are you doing, anyway? Any life updates I should know about? I want to thank everyone individually who’s read, followed or commented here – I appreciate it very much. ♥