Our Tassie Holiday Our Tassie Holiday

This year we spent just over two weeks on holiday in Tasmania, including Christmas. What follows is a journal-of-sorts of what we got up to...

Saturday 17th December 2005
Brisbane - Hobart

On the first day of our holiday, we got up early and Mum took us to the airport. We caught the 9am flight directly to Hobart , where we arrived at about 12:30pm . We were met at the airport by Matt’s parents, who were very pleased to see us, particularly since they hadn’t seen Matt in over a year. We drove back to Matt’s parents place, and along the way Matt commented on all the things that had changed. We had a quiet afternoon and a delicious dinner cooked by Matt’s mum. If it is OK by her, I might even shock you all by updating the recipe of the week with her delicous recipe for pork ribs.

Sunday 18th December 2005

We woke up early on our first full day in Tasmania , and went down to wander the Sunday markets at Sorrell with Matt’s mum and dad. We didn’t buy anything but there was a lot to look at. After that, Matt’s dad dropped us off in the city where we walked around looking in shops (and Matt kept commenting on everything that had changed - again!), and then in the afternoon went to the movies. We saw Peter Jackson’s King Kong, which we both enjoyed even if it was a little long. Another delicious home cooked meal, and an early night ready for the next exciting day!

Monday 19th December 2005
Hobart - Cradle Mountain

This was the first day of our little trip away by ourselves. Matt’s dad dropped us off in the morning at Budget in Hobart where we rented a car. The first place we had planned to visit was Cradle Mountain , so we set off in that direction. We stopped at a little town called Ross where we stretched our legs, looked at the old buildings and I bought some lollies from a little shop. Then on to Campbelltown for lunch in a nice little café. Also along the way, we stopped at Christmas Hills Raspberry Farm, where we bought some chocolate covered raspberries which were to die for, and then at Ashgrove Farm Cheeses where we got to taste and buy some Tasmanian cheeses. We arrived at Cradle Chalet, our accommodation, at about 4:30pm where we received a very friendly greeting and got to settle in to our lovely room. Before dinner we drove up to a little winery where we tasted and bought some delicious wines. Dinner was provided in the dining room at Cradle Chalet where I was delighted to see there was a fireplace (it was a rather chilly evening!). Matt had steak and I had fish, and both were delicious. We had a great night’s sleep in a beautiful location.

The Church at Ross Part of an old women's prison at Ross

The Church at Ross, and part of an old women's prison (the prison is old, not the women who were in it!)

The bridge at Ross, and our beautiful room at Cradle Chalet.

Tuesday 20th December 2005
Cradle Mountain - Launceston

After a comfortable night's sleep in our beautiful accommodation, we didn't really want to get up! But it would be a waste of the day not to, so we woke, ate breakfast and then checked out. We drove to the national park office at Cradle Mountain and parked there. We took a bus the rest of the way there, which was good because we could both take notice of the surroundings without worrying about driving. I aslo bought a scarf which came in handy later!
We chose to do the Dove Lake Circuit walk, which was supposed to take about 2 hours. It took a bit longer for us though because we kept stopping to take photos! I started off with my jacket and scarf on, and had my hat on just to keep my head warm, and by the end had stripped off the scarf and jacket and was still hot. Probably more due to the exercise than the temperature though. That and I am unfit :P The scenery was absolutely beautiful!

See, isn't it pretty?! Dove Lake and Cradle Mountain.

After our long walk, we had a long drive - our next accommodation was in Launceston. But before that, we were definately ready for some lunch. We stopped in a little town called Sheffield, 'town of murals' for lunch. Just about every building in the town had a mural painted on it (hence the slogan) but I didn't get any pictures of them.

We were very glad to get to our next accommodation, Ashton Gate, for a well-earned relax. (For a while anyway!). The B&B is absolutely beautiful (I was particularly taken with the lavender out the front!), and we even had a spa bath in the room. We decided to have a relax in the spa for a while before we went out, to ease our weary feet. It was certainly luxurious sitting in a spa bath drinking a glass of wine!

Ashton Gate Bed & Breakfast, our beautiful accommodation, and the pretty lavender out the front

That night we went on a ghost tour of Launceston, which was really fun and interesting. We didn't see any ghosts though, I'm sorry to say (I think Matt was more disappointed than me though). Matt took lots of photos hoping something would show up but no such luck. There were still a few frights though even if we didn't see any real ghosts!

Some of the better photos of the things we saw: The Royal Oak Hotel, where the tour started and we had dinner that night, a statue of a doctor whose house is supposedly haunted (we saw that too) because he used to do experiments on mental patients there (nice, huh). The third picture is of a church but I can't remember the name of it.

After 2 hours walking at Cradle Mountain, and then over and hour and a half walking around Launceston (me in boots with high heels!), we very much appreciated the good night's rest we had at Ashton Gate.

Wednesday 21st December
Launceston - Stanley

The next day, we woke up early and had a lovely breakfast provided at our accomodation. I wished I could fit more in there was so much lovely food! Alas (or perhaps, thankfully, depending on your point of view!), I could only have a little but really enjoyed what I had, which included toast, juice and an omelette with bacon. Yum!

The reason for rising early (we don't get up early unless we have to!) was that we were booked in for a Tamar River Cruise. Our trip up the Tamar River began at Home Point, Launceston, on the Catamaran Tamar Odyssey. We had morning tea soon after leaving, and enjoyed the scenery and the commentary about the local area and history. I particularly enjoyed visiting Cataract Gorge, even though we were only there for a short while.

After we had been cruising for a while, before lunch, we got to have a little wine tasting. We tasted three different wines, one of which we had gone past during the trip. It was good to taste a few to help us make a decision about what to have with lunch, which was served soon after the tasting. It was another case of wising I could fit more in my stomach because there were so many nice wraps and sandwiches and things! They were fairly small though which was good because it meant I could fit in two - one was a sandwich with smoked salmon and the other was a wrap with roast pork. Then further down the trip, as afternoon tea, they served fruit and cheese! After all that and a glass of wine, it was all I could do not to fall asleep on the way home!

After the river cruise was over (around 2pm) we had to head off straight away for our next destination - Stanley. I tell you, next time I will make sure we are in each place at least two nights! It is too hectic otherwise! But we had a lot we wanted to fit in on a limited budget and in a limited amount of time. So, it was in the car again! We did stop a couple of times along the way, including at Anvers Chocolate Factory. Well, anyone who knows me knows I couldn't just pass that one by! We had a look around, and tasted some chocolates. They were quite expensive so we just bought a few loose ones for ourselves, and a box for friends as a souvineer. After another stop (for petrol), we arrived in Stanley late afternoon/early evening (I can't remember exactly when). We had a wonderfully warm greeting at our accommodation, Hanlon House, which was our favourite of the whole trip. Not only did we get the most beautiful room with a huge bathroom and spa, but also a fabulous view, and a very warm welcome. We were served afternoon tea on arrival in the dining room overlooking that wonderful view (nowhere on their website does it have a photo of how great the view is, not that I could find anyway, so it was a wonderful surprise). Matt had a beer, I had tea and we were served some Tasmanian cheeses with crackers. We walked down to the local pub for dinner and had some really nice, reasonably priced meals.

After dinner we walked back to the hotel and had a little time to relax, and then we were picked up for our Penguin tour. It turned out that we were the only ones on the tour, which was kinda nice. Even though it was 9pm it was still not completely dark yet, so the tour guide drove us around for a little while and told us a bit about the town. Then we went down to the beach, to watch the fairy penguins come in for the night. The area where they nest is fenced off so people don't hurt them so the only way you can see them is to do a tour with a licenced guide. The penguins were so CUTE! Especially the babies which were actually quite huge - they almost looked bigger than their parents but that was because their feathers were the fluffy downy kind and made them look fatter. Unfortunately, none of our photos came out very well because we were not allowed to use flash (it hurts the penguins eyes) but it was a wonderful experience! You can see a picture of one of the penguins on the Hanlon House website though.

Thursday 22nd December 2005
Stanley - Strahan

The next morning, we woke up and had a wonderful breakfast. There was the usual toast, cereal, juice, etc, as well as an extensive list of things to have for a cooked breakfast. I had pancakes and they were delicious! Not only was the food great, but so was the company - we got to chatting with some of the other guests, and found out that they were all from Brisbane (well, some had lived in Brisbane and later moved, but still!). One couple were heading to Strahan next as well.

We (ok, I) decided not to climb the Nut but to take the chairlift up. My excuse was that we didn't really have time (we couldn't spend too long as it was a long trip to Strahan) but I admit it was also because I know how unfit I am and I probably would have been to tired to enjoy the view when we got there! For those of you who have not heard of the Nut (don't worry I hadn't either), it is basically a big rocky outcrop that looks like, well, a nut.

The chairlift ride was fun, and not scary as Matt had led me to believe it would be (I think that was mostly because he wanted to walk!), and the view from the top of the Nut was absolutely amazing! There was a walking track at the top which took about 40 minutes or so, and had heaps of lookouts along the way. It was very windy at the top but I thought it was one of the most beautiful places we visited.

Above Left: Me Standing on top of a direction-thingy (I don't know what they are called!) with my hat tied onto my head with my scarf. Yep, it looks really stupid, but I was getting sick of holding my hat on my head - it was really windy!

Above Right: Matt standing at one of the many lookouts.

Above Left: Me standing at one of the lookouts. See, I am holding my hat on!

Above Right: We took this picture on the chairlift on the way down. See that path? THAT is why I didn't want to walk!

After the Nut, we had a look around at the Stanley Burial Ground, which was interesting, as well as an art gallery. And then it was time to head to our next destination!

We stopped at Wynyard for lunch in a nice little cafe, and then drove pretty much straight on to Strahan. OK, well, maybe straight on is not the best way of putting it. Most of the way there the roads were very bendy. It was quite a long drive, and although the scenery was quite beautiful, we were glad when we arrived at our destination.

When we got to Strahan, we collected our tickets for the river cruise we were taking the next day (which we paid for with flybuys points - yay!) and decided to get an icecream (we were both a bit warm from sitting in a crappy car which won't go up hills if the aircon is on). We ate our icecreams, and walked along the wharf, before heading up to our accommodation.

We stayed at a little hotel/b&b called Franklin Manor, which was quite nice. I think staying at Hanlon House the night before spoiled every other place for us because it was just so beautiful there! After checking in we walked down to check out the resident ducks, relaxed for a while, then had showers and got changed for dinner. And what a dinner it was!

The chef at Franklin Manor is a 2-Michelin Star chef, and we were served a degustation menu - basically 5 small serves of different things. Neither of us had had anything like it before, and though it was a little pricey, it was delicious! (the menu they have on their website is not the one we had, btw).

Friday 23rd December
Strahan - Hobart

The next morning, we woke up early ready for our Gordon River Cruise. We had breakfast at Franklin Manor (a rather small breakfast for me - I think I was still full from the night before!), then packed up and headed to the wharf. After only a little wait, we got onto our Catamaran (much bigger than the one we were on in Launceston) and were underway. Just like on the other cruise, we had lots of interesting commentary about the local area and the river itself along the way. We headed out towards the ocean first, and "hells gates", the narrow pass into the river which the convicts named because they thought being sent to Sarah Island (I will say more about that later) was like being sent to hell. The ride got a little bumpy (it was fun, actually) and I can imagine what the trip must have been like in a little sailing ship instead of a nice sturdy catamaran! Apparently there were many shipwrecks going through that pass.

We turned around at Hells Gates, and headed back down the river. Our next stop was a fish farm (where the trout we had for dinner the night before had probably come from). It was really interesting watching them feed the fish - there was a guy on a boat with what looked like a big fire hose, hosing the fish enclosure. But it wasn't water he was spraying, it was fish food (actually I think it was fish food mixed with water). You could see the fish go crazy whenever the food hit the water, it was really interesting to watch.

We continued along on our journey, and our next stop was Sarah Island, an old convict settlement. When we arrived there, we were given an informative tour. We had the option of just looking around ourselves, but I was really glad we decided to go with the tour group because the guide gave us information and told us stories we wouldn't have heard otherwise. It was a really interesting place to visit. We were there in summer and I had a jacket on, I can't imagine how horrible it must have been for the convicts in the middle of winter there. Ugh.

Above Left: The newer part of the prison. The older part was made of wood, and was made when the wood was green, so it shrank as it aged. The cold wind could come through all the cracks. This building is all falling down because someone decided it wasn't good to have all this evidence of our convict heritage and decided to blow it up.

Above Right: An old lime pit. The guy in the photo is the tour guide.

Above Left: What is left of the kitchen, the oven is still intact.

Above Right: The solitary cells, which delightfully for the prisoners I am sure, was next to the Tannery. Nice :P Incidentally I have no idea who that guy is you can see in the background.

As if Sarah Island wasn't enough to make us feel very lucky for what we have, when we got back to the boat it was lunchtime! We had a delicious buffet lunch including cold meats and salads. It was nice having something light after the dinner we had the night before!

After lunch, our next stop was Heritage Landing, which was a beautiful little walking trail through the wilderness. It was so green and damp and we got to see the famous Huon Pines. I loved how green and mossy it was, and we saw lots of different plants.

At Heritage Landing, we turned around for a quiet trip back to Strahan. I almost fell asleep!

As we were both so sleepy after our long trip, we thought it would be a good idea to have a coffee to help us wake up before getting in the car and heading for Hobart, so we stopped in at a little coffee shop in Strahan. The other couple we had met in Stanley happened to be there as well, so we sat down and had a chat. They had gone on a very similar River Cruise to the one we went on, but with another company.

After coffee, we headed for Hobart, and it took us a lot longer than we thought it would, because the roads were hardly straight for any of the trip. It was about 8:30 when we finally got back to Matt's parents place. After such a long trip it sure was nice to be back and relax! And I wasn't even the one driving!

Saturday 24th December
Christmas Eve

The next day, we had to drop off our hire car, which, unfortunately was a bit of a fiasco. When we took it back they found a scratch on the bumper which wasn't there when we picked up the car. We don't know how it got there, we don't remember hitting anything, and we were extra careful because it was a hire car. When we got the car, we decided not to get the extra insurance to lower the excess (ok, we admit in hindsight that this was not a good move!) so they tried to charge us the full $2800 excess for a little scratch on the bumper. As you can probably imagine, I was pretty upset. We explained that we don't have that amount in our transaction account, it is in our savings account. The guy said that we should have thought of that before getting the car. Well, I did. I assumed that if there had been some kind of accident with the car, I would know about it and could transfer the money. The scratch was so minor we didn't even know it was there! The guy ended up charging the lower excess which was $550, and it was nice of him because he could have made us pay the $2800, but still, $550 is A LOT of money for one little scratch which I BET they won't even bother fixing - it really wasn't worth fixing it was so minor. So anyway. That turned out to be an expensive caper and I doubt I will ever hire a car again.

Anyway, to cheer ourselves up, we went down to have a look at the markets at Salamanca place. We went to the Salamanca markets last time we were in Hobart, but I just love markets and was glad to go again. I didn't buy anything though. We looked in a few shops and Matt picked up a couple more xmas presents for me, and then we headed back home to his Mum & Dad's place. We had a relaxing evening and a lovely dinner cooked by Matt's mum.

Sunday 25th December
Christmas Day

Well, when we woke up the next morning, it was Christmas day! It kinda crept up on us this year because we were away from home and so busy. We opened presents and I got some lovely things. Matt liked the presents I got him, too which is always good :) One of the gifts I got from Matt was a DVD of Tim Burton's Nightmare Before Christmas, so after opening presents we watched it. I so love that movie! Just before lunch Jules and Dan and little Andrew stopped by to say hello and Merry Christmas. It was good to see them again! By then it was about time for lunch, something Matt had been looking forward to pretty much since we decided to have Christmas in Tassie I think! We had hot roast turkey and vegetables (normally in Queensland it is so hot we have cold meats and salads) and pudding and custard for dessert. Apart from that it was a pretty quiet Christmas. I must admit I was a bit homesick - it was my first Christmas away from my family, and it is hard to get used to other people's traditions. I'm really glad Matt got to spend Christmas with his parents though. Hopefully we can talk them into coming up here for Christmas one year! (Maybe when we have our own place with airconditioning!).

Monday 26th December

It has become something of a tradition for us to go to the movies on boxing day (you can thank the Lord of the Rings movies for that!), and this year was no different. OK, well it was in a different place but the point is we still went to the movies. We saw The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe (boy is that a long title!). I read the book when I was a kid but I didn't really remember that much from it. The movie was good - good enough to inspire me to go out and get the whole Chronicles of Narnia to read again. Still, it was no Lord of the Rings or Harry Potter. I could have done without the religious overtones as well, but apart from that I enjoyed it. After the movie, we went to the shops and looked around, had lunch, and then walked back to Matt's Mum and Dad's place. We spent a quiet afternoon and evening there, and played a game or two of Scrabble, which was one of Matt's Christmas presents.

Tuesday 27th December
Hobart - Campania

We had a nice sleep in the next day, for we didn't have anything planned for the morning, and then at around lunch time we drove down to Jules' Mum and Dad's place in Campania for a BBQ. We must have driven by about 10 wineries on the way, which I was eyeing off but alas we didn't have time to stop. Definitely on the plans for our next trip to Tassie! We once again got a chance to catch up with Jules and Dan, and get some cuddles from little baby Andrew. We even got to hear Dan sing with some guys from his old barbershop quartet, Close Shave, which was really cool. After the BBQ, we went back home to Hobart again, and spent a quiet evening watching TV and playing Scrabble (and reading. I got a lot of reading done while I was on holidays!).

Wednesday 28th December

On this day we did something I had been looking forward to ever since Matt mentioned it would be on while we were in Tassie - we went to the Taste of Tasmania. You know what I am like with food!

We caught a bus down to the docks and got to see two of the yachts from the Sydney to Hobart race (they were the only two in so far - the winner and second place getter). Then we bought our taste glasses (which we would be needing) and headed into the shed where they had all the stalls. Basically the Taste of Tasmania is a bunch of food and wine stalls all in one big place. You can wander from stall to stall, tasting different wine and food. If only we could have fit more in! We tasted wine at a couple of places but I started to feel guilty tasting but not buying, so we bought a glass of rose from one of the places to wander around with. As for the food, there was so much to pick from and only a certain amount one can fit in ones stomach, so we were in a bit of a dilemma. We ended up having a plate of berries and icecream for morning tea, and then for lunch I had a quail wrap which was really yummy, but not too filling so I also had a spring roll and a kebab (the kind with meat on a stick not the wrap kind - that would have been way too much!). Matt had bratwurst. Then for dessert we had chocolate covered raspberries. YUM!

After that we felt like going straight to sleep, and went and sat in a park for a while. Then we went for a walk and eventually stopped in a cafe and sipped on mineral water because we were so thirsty but not hungry. We then caught the bus to the shopping centre we were at the day before, where we met Jules and Dan for coffee.

I think it's a miracle my stomach didn't explode that day!

Thursday 29th December
Hobart - East Coast

The next day, we got up fairly early because Matt's parents were kind enough to offer to drive us up the east coast for a day trip. Matt's mum made up some sandwiches for lunch, and packed up some coffee and fruit as well, and we set off on our trip. It was one of the few warm days we had while in Tassie, so I siezed the opportunity to wear a skirt instead of long pants and a jacket!

Our first stop was Swansea, where we had morning tea. Then it was on to Bicheno, where we stopped and did a short walk which went up this rocky outcrop. From the top there was a nice view of the water and it was nice to get out of the car and walk around for a while.

The next place we stopped was at the blowhole at Bicheno, just down the road from our last walk. I don't seem to have luck with these blowhole things - I am never there at the right time for them to be really spectacular (I missed out on the Kiama one last year too), but with a bit of patience we did get a nice picture of it. It was lovely to walk along the rocks and breathe in the sea air!

After that it was time for lunch, so we stopped and had the lovely sandwiches Matt's mum made for us. Our next stop was an aquarium where we got to see lots of different fish, lobsters, crabs and other sea creatures. Our last stop was a little fishing village called St Helens, before heading back home. It was a very long trip and we were all tired at the end of the day!

Friday 30th December

This was a day I bet my dad would have liked to have joined us on! We went to the Cascade Brewery to do a tour. It was really quite interesting to hear about how they made the beer, but I confess I found the history of the place itself more interesting (beer is not really my thing). It is the oldest brewery in Australia and is set in a beautiful mountain spot. The tour took us through the brewery where they explained each step of the process of making the beer (it is more complicated than I thought! Not quite the same as home brew!). Then at the end of the tour, we were given vouchers to taste three different drinks. When they told us that when we bought the tickets I thought they would be little tastes like when you do a wine tasting, but they were fairly reasonably sized glasses! I didn't try any beer (all beer tastes the same to me) so I had some of their alcoholic apple cider (which was REALLY nice) and some of their sparkling juice. Matt tried three of the beers which are only available in Tasmania (they don't export all of their range to the mainland. Unfortunately they don't export the cider to the mainland either, which is a shame because I really liked it). We had some lunch there which was really good value and quite delicious.

After our lunch, we (rather quickly, since we were running late) headed for our next destination for the day, which was just down the road (within walking distance). We had a tour booked at the 'Female Factory', which was a womens prison in the convict days. It turned out that our tour was just the two of us with the tour guide, who was really friendly. It was a really interesting tour and was made that much better by how friendly and easygoing our guide was. Like Sarah Island, and Port Arthur when we went there last time we were in Tassie, it really made me realise what a hard life these people had. Especially since most of them were there for petty crimes which they committed to stay alive - e.g. stealing food. Many of the women were in the prison for prostitution. Problem was that back then, you would be labelled a prostitute if you went out at night without at male escort, or if you got pregnant outside of wedlock.
The Female Factory was a really interesting place, and I think it's important to remember parts of our history like this.

Saturday 31st December

On New Years Eve day, we had the privelage of going to the christening of baby Andrew. We felt very lucky to be able to attend. It was a beautiful ceremony and Andrew was a perfect angel throughout (OK he cried a bit towards the end but I think he was a bit hungry and sick of it all by then!). He looked so cute in his little Christening outfit!! :)

After the Christening, we went back to Dan's parents' place for some drinks and afternoon tea. The time went by really quickly and before we knew it, it was dinner time! We headed out to a Chinese restaurant called Har Wee Yee. The food was fantastic (and so was the company!). We once again went back to Dan's parents' place where we watched some music videos on TV, and then played Lord of the Rings Monopoly, which was very cool. At midnight we watched the fireworks from the window and the Sydney ones on TV, and then we all went off to bed (Dan's parents were nice enough to let us stay the night). Yeah, I know, we must be getting old! But we had a really good time, much better I think than if we had been with the crowds watching the fireworks.

Sunday 1st January, 2006

The first day of the New Year was a quiet one for us. Matt's Mum & Dad picked us up from the Beckitt's place, and we went to visit Matt's Nana in the hospital (that is a long story which I won't tell here). She seemed to be doing OK and was glad to see Matt. The rest of the day was spent with quiet things such as reading and playing Scrabble, and packing our bags for the next day.

Monday 2nd January
Hobart - Brisbane

Our last day in Tasmania! It seemed to go by so fast! This day in particular went by very fast, and before we knew it we were saying goodbye to Matt's Mum and Dad, hopping on a plane, and heading for home! As we stepped off the plane and I felt the humidity coming from outside, I knew I was home :) We had a fantastic time in Tasmania but I must admit it was nice to come home. Dad picked us up from the airport, and took us back to our place which we were delighted to see was all in one piece (I was worried about break-ins and fires while I was away). Now, there is just the scrapbook to do!!