A green and unspoiled land
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We flew into Hobart midmorning on a surprisingly warm and sunny spring day. We hired a car and rather than heading for Hobart as we had originally planned we drove through the heart of Tasmania and up to the Tamar Valley close to the north coast.
We hired a new Hyundai which was very easy to drive compared to my old coupe, and since most of the main roads in Tasmania are small but well surfaced we made good time winding through the rural centre. The Tamar Valley is comprised of rolling green hills divided by large rivers and has some of Tasmania's best vineyards. After a quick lunch we headed out to a small vineyard recommended by the tourist information person and sampled the range of wines available. This was a trendy little place that has seen increased popularity in recent years and did a small but interesting selection of wines. Since we were a few weeks off the main holiday season we were the only people there so chatted to the manager while he poured a small glass of each wine. Following this we had a further look around the valley and then drove east to the small village of Mole Creak where I had booked us into the local hotel. Mole Creak is a very small village which survives on tourism and farming. It has views of the mountains and the village hotel proved to be comfortable enough with a nice bar and garden. I had a wander into the surrounding area before dinner to stretch my legs then settled in the garden with a beer.
Using Mole creak as a base the following day we headed west to Cradle Mountain. The route passed through mountains following an alpine style road filled with hairpins. Again the weather was warm with blue skies and great views of the scenery below. Cradle Mountain is part of the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area which covers much of the western side of the island and is, as the name suggests, a wild and rugged area. There is an information centre near the mountain and short walks. We took a tour to see some of the sights then I went for a walk around the lake below the mountain which offered more views over the unspoiled scenery. On the return journey we stopped off at the town of Sheffield which is famous because many of the walls around the town are covered with large murals. Some of these are quite impressive but the town itself is comprised of old building and has a feeling of class about it. After a stroll here we returned to Mole Creak to organise the following few days of our vacation.
The following day was a long one. We started early and drove across to the east coast. The roads were again winding and a fog had settled over the hills making progress a little slower. We reached the town of Bicheno by lunchtime and then continued along to Freycinet peninsula for the afternoon. Freycinet is another stunning Tasmanian national park with beautiful cliffs and bays. We first went to Cape Tourville with gave a lookout across the sea. Here we were lucky enough to catch a glimpse of some humpback whales a few hundred meters off sure. They were a fair distance out but from time to time could be seen jumping from the water and crashing back down, the photo is using my camera at maximum zoom and highest resolution but they were a little too far out to get great shots. After some time one of the whales extended a fin from the sea a repeated splashed the surface, the sound reaching us as a series of crashing noises, I'm not sure why the whale was doing this, maybe some sort of communication but it went on for quite a while.
Coming down from the cape we continued down the peninsula and after a short walk reached a look out over wine glass bay. This is a particularly beautiful beach with shallow crystal waters and white sands. The walk down to the bay itself was quite a way and at this time of year the sea was still cold so I opted just to view it from the top of the hills. The final part of the day was a drive back west, through Hobart and across to the small town of Cygnet which was again to act as a base for the following two days.
The Tahune forest is again out on the western side of Tasmania and is home to the world second tallest tree, an Australian mountain-ash with a height of 100m. The whole forest is massive in terms of scale as well as size and the road leading into the visitors centre cuts a narrow strip through the greenery. While walks in the forest are popular Tahune is famed for the airwalk which is about 600m long and at a maximum elevation of 50m, giving a fine view down into the forest and river. The end of the walk way leads out onto a viewing deck projecting out above the forest which is a little exposed but offers great views up and down the river. We spent much of the day in the forest and then had a look around the surrounding area before returning to Cygnet. Cygnet is something of an town that attracts an alternative crowd and the hotel we stayed at was again an old rambling building with the local pub situated on the ground floor and a cafe next door which had a nice atmosphere. I had a wander down to the harbour and looked around the town. Again I was impressed with how clean and tidy everything in Tasmania is. It does still very have the feel of how I imagine the west was back in the 50's, still having local shops and cafes, and people have pride in their towns and keen them clean and well maintained.
The final day in Tasmania we had arranged to do a boat trip off Bruny Island, just to the south of Hobart. This is a very professional outfit with great boats and good staff. I have been on a number of boats trips to look at wildlife, and these are often mostly just staring out at blue sea and little else. However there is much wildlife on Tasmania and we were probably also quick lucky. As soon as the boat cast off in the bay we ran into a large pod of dolphins which were bored and keen to play with the boat, after probably 15 minutes we were informed that we would leave the dolphins as there was a whale also right in the bay. We drifted across the bay and caught a glimpse of a large creature below the water. It is not allowed for boats to approach whales in case it scares them, but it is alright if the whale chooses to come up to boat, which this one did. I am not sure what sort of whale it was, it was black and had white rough patches around the head, but it was very relaxed and spent some time cruising around the boat checking us out. After some time it headed off and we carried on.
We headed out to sea and looked at the towering cliff and rocky out crops. There were some albatrosses out at sea and a number of mutton birds, but not much else in the way of wild life until we reached the seal colony down at the south of the island. This was a large colony, with the seals mostly sitting on the rocks, although many jumped for the water when we approached. We watched them for a while and then were taken out to see the start of the great south ocean, which extends south all the way to Antarctica. This was quite cold, although we were lucky as the sea was as calm as a lake, so this was the last stop before heading back for hot soup and then the trip back across the island and back to the mainland.
From here we headed back to Cygnet and following morning headed back to the airport and home.