Andrew Girle's Blog

Crime and Speculative Fiction Blooking

The Great 2019 Tasmanian Tour

So, some time around September, Rachel said to me, “Let’s go to Tasmania”.

After significant consideration (maybe 3 or 4 seconds worth), I agreed. At which point I was proudly shown a vast number of links to accommodation, things to do, and flight times!

We flew out on the 13th of December, and got home weary and travel-shattered on the 22nd. Without further ado, here are some highlights!

13TH Dec (Friday)

The adventure begins! We flew direct from Brisbane to Hobart with Virgin Airlines. On arrival, we hired a car and got a free upgrade from an i30 to a Mitsubishi ASX – frankly, I’m not sure that this was an upgrade, the ASX rolled around corners like a rowboat in a bad swell, which on some of the twisty roads we found, was quite unsettling.

A short drive later and we were in Richmond, arriving a little too early for check in at our accommodation, so instead we went to the Richmond Arms for lunch.

Our first stay was booked at Mulberry Cottages, and we were in Reid Cottage – a cosy little one bedroom place that had been brought back from a dead shell by the owners, Maureen and her partner. And breakfast the next morning was just amazing – possibly the best pancakes in history. Also – keep an eye out for the echidna – the little rascal dug up the brick pavers at our outdoor setting overnight (because someone had dropped pieces of rocky road)!

After checking in, we had a look at the historic Richmond Bridge, the oldest bridge still in use in Australia, built with convict labour to guarantee all weather transport access for farm produce into the young colony of Hobart.Richmond Bridge

Then off we went, up the main street (which was surprisingly busy with tourists and traffic) and had a look at the historic Richmond Gaol, which had a number of well laid out exhibits and well restored buildings. Legit historic. One thing that was striking was the convict uniform – hated at the time but 200 years later it looks like racing colours for a jockey!

Convict jacket



The lolly shop was next – Sweets and Treats, which was simply amazing. In fact, there was too much to choose from, so we vowed to return at the end of our trip, when we would be basing ourselves in Richmond.

At breakfast the next morning we met a couple of ladies from Colorado, USA, who had come to Tasmania on a cycling tour, and having had dinner in the pub had become keen to try vegemite. Cue horror stories and laughter here – but actually, I wish people would stop telling tourists to put the vegemite onto bread like nutella spread by a three-year-old, it really isn’t fair. Oh, and I finally found out what the hell “grits” are (essentially milky porridge).


14th Dec (Saturday)

Departing Richmond in a constant light rain, we braved Tasmania’s fourth rate road network and set off for Swansea.  (I have just been advised by Rachel that the Cunningham Highway is just as bad, so I am not to rate/judge the quality of roads. I disagree.)

Just before Swansea we stopped and looked at the Swansea Spiky Bridge – located just off the main road, and with more than one architectural quirk – the famous spikes being one, but also a massive drystone revetment on the seaward face that seems to have no purpose.


In keeping with what was to become a tradition, we were WAY early, so we went on to Coles Bay. Several ex-Taswegians had recommended scallops, so Rachel was keen to jump in and try some for lunch. She liked them, but on trying one I need more convincing – it just tasted like fish flavoured rubber to me.

The Coles Bay jetty was rather breezy, but afforded great views (no photo yet, these are on Rachel’s FB posts).

With time still up our sleeve, we drove further along to Bicheno for a look, and stumbled across the Bicheno Blowhole. There was a moderate swell and the spray was going up quite a way in the air!

Bicheno Blowhole

Back to Swansea and checked in at the historic Schouten House – comfortable, the only complaint was the cramped en-suite, but given it was built into an existing room, it was understandable. The proprietors, Cameron and Jodie, made an amazing breakfast and Cameron’s brewed on site IPA (beer) was really good.

We took a walk around Point Wellington, now a golf course but the first settlers had established a military outpost there that got a bit of use during the infamous “Black Wars”.

Dinner was at the Bark Mill – their hot lips chilli chicken pizza lived up to its name – maybe next time the chef could actually fry the chilli flakes off with the chicken, instead of sprinkling them uncooked on the pizza base?


15th Dec (Sunday)

Bright and sparky after our breakfast, we headed to the Friendly Beaches airstrip to take a scenic flight over Wineglass Bay with Freycinet Air. Rachel had been looking forward to this for months!

someone has looked forward to this

The cloud and rain stayed away for the flight, allowing some great photo opportunities. The flight was amazing, the pilot David was a great guide, and the scenery was stunning from the air.

Wineglass Bay is beautiful, belying its bloody history as a whaling station.

Wineglass Bay


Then into Freycinet National Park (pronounced Fray-Shan-Ay), at which point the clouds came in and the drizzle began. We went to the Tourville Lighthouse where a guide for another tour asked Rachel how she had enjoyed her joy flight, making her wonder how he knew – of course, all he had done was look at her souvenir baseball cap!

A little further on we stopped and walked down to the beach at Sleepy Bay.

Sleepy Bay

Don’t be fooled – apparently when the weather is rough, the waves can break over where we were standing to take this photo!

Then further on to Wineglass Bay to walk up to the lookout, but the huge car park was crowded and it began to rain more heavily so we didn’t bother – besides, the images from the joy flight were still fresh in our minds, but the lookout walk is definitely on the list if we come back.

Off to Bicheno for lunch in the form of curried scallop pies. I’m very definitely on the fence about these vaunted things now. The pies were packed with scallops, and apparently award winners, but this time they tasted like curried rubber to me. If you’re a fan, I’m happy for you.

Instead of the direct route from here to Launceston, which would see us retracing our steps through the middle of Tasmania in a couple of days, we decided to take the northern road out of St Mary’s. Google Maps showed it as a major road, but we had forgotten what that means in Tasmania. Shown as a main road, in reality it turned out to be a well maintained forestry track, and was a somewhat scary introduction to driving on gravel for Rachel. In the wet. On tight twisty roads.

Rachel learns to drive on gravel

The views were superb, when you could see over the side in breaks through the forestry, and the sudden braking to avoid an echidna that assumed pedestrian right of way was breathtaking – thank goodness there were no log trucks behind us!

Finally got to Launceston in one piece, but with our nerves shattered and mentally exhausted. Dinner at the historic Quality Hotel Colonial Launcestonexcellent food. They have a house dog called Lincoln, a lovely Labrador who accepts belly rubs as only fit and proper for one of his exalted stature. Owner of the place was onsite and very friendly. Good and central location in town easy parking and walk to everything – great choice to base ourselves for the next two nights.


16th Dec (Mon)

 Breakfast was in the Cafe Bon Appetit.

We walked to the Cataract Gorge and cannot recommend it enough – it  was absolutely awesome, with a number of information signs along the walk about the history.

Cataract Gorge

However, the suspension bridge. Let me just say that I’m glad it was relatively short, because when the horde of tourists (well, three of them) got on at the other end and started to walk towards me, in step, well… I thought that I was going to bounce over the side.  Rachel was way too scared to look down and blamed me for swinging the bridge.  Why do I always get the blame?

That bridge

From here, we drove up to Beauty Point to Seahorse World and Platypus House. Expensive but amazing – being able to see the conservation efforts at Seahorse World and the rescue and rehabilitation at Platypus House which also was home to echidnas was fascinating. Being in a room with these little “bulldozers of the bush” walking around your feet was truly special.

On the way back to Launceston we went onto the Tamar Island bird sanctuary boardwalk. Quite a long walk, we didn’t see quite the variety of species that we expected but the work to rehabilitate the wetlands was spectacular. Make sure you wear a hat – we got burnt.

Tamar wetlands


Last lookout for the day was the historic (there is that word again) Brady’s Lookout. Amazing view, perfect for a bushranger keeping an eye out for pursuit.



17th Dec (Tues)

Off to historic (really?) George Town. One of the oldest settlements in Australia, and boy – don’t they have a chip on their shoulder about other places being better known than they are! For goodness sake, they were only the third settlement.  Duh.

Most interesting was the Low Head Pilot Station then up to Low Head Lighthouse, where enthusiastic locals have restored the historic (!) foghorn – from the descriptions, it was absolutely a labour of love.

On to Richmond!

On the way we called through Campbell Town, then Ross.

We spent some time in Ross – amazing bridge. It was planned to take a year of convict labour to build, but the local free settlers treated the dressed stone as their own and it took five years to build – and most of the old houses in the area are curiously made from the same sized sandstone blocks. The pilfering only stopped when a military guard was placed on the site.

The site of the Ross Female Factory and convict cemetery was quite sobering, with the brutal authoritarian attitudes to single motherhood being tempered by some humanity amongst the guards. On the walk around Rachel patted a lamb through a fence, which made her day!

Ross Female Factory

On arriving back in Richmond we checked into the Two to the Bridge accommodation for the rest of our stay. This little one bedroom cottage was beautifully appointed and excellently located. Even had a house bunny rabbit that put in an appearance from time to time and was promptly nicknamed “Cottontail”. On the wall was a really nice print of a painting of Richmond “as it was” but in bright colours and with significant artistic license involved.

Richmond Bridge print



18th Dec (Wed)

Today was Bruny Island day. As usual, Tasmania’s roads go from four lane highway to goat track and back again on the way to the ferry. We decided to turn the other direction to all the cars leaving the ferry, and went north to Dennes Point. There was a block of land for sale right on the tip of the point with 270 degree views – would be an amazing place to live for a month every year when the southerly winds stay away. The it was off down the middle to the Bruny Island Beer and Cheese Company for a tasting (YUM!) followed by a look at the Truganini Lookout over the penguin and muttonbird colony at The Neck – be warned, there are a LOT of stairs!

The Neck from Truganini lookout

A little further south we lunched at the Bruny Hotel. Stinking hot outside, and a tour group had the inside booked up, nearly all the tables were empty with “reserved” signs on them. Took ages to get our order and only as we left did the tourists bus turn up. Not the hotel’s fault, but it was a nuisance.


Bruny Lighthouse is at the southernmost tip, and really worth a look. It wasn’t just us that thought so – there were visitors everywhere! Note to NPWS – the Lighthouse car park may have been adequate in 1970 but was absolute chaos with people parking everywhere in 2019, and the road in was definitely not up to the visitor numbers – it just about needed a “4wd only” warning sign.

The photo here does not show the three tour mini-buses which had double parked, making turning around an incredibly frustrating experience.

On the way back to the ferry we bought beer and cheeses that we had liked at the tasting, earlier in the day.  Dinner was wine, beer and cheese on the back deck at our lodgings, looking at the Bridge.


19 Dec (Thurs)

Today was the obligatory day at historic (bloody hell) Port Arthur. On the way you have to go through the historic (ARGHHH!) Eaglehawk Neck, where we walked the dog line – big signs showing the location but not much to see, however it reeked history when you realise just 11 dogs protected the path from escaped convicts. Of course, if you were capable, it is an easy swim to either side – if you felt like braving sharks and 5 degree C water.

At the dog line…

The Dog Line

Strangely that hound was better behaved for Rachel!


The penal settlement was amazing and once was a bustling town of several thousand people with a maximum of around 2000 convicts. Quite a number of British political prisoners were sent there, because where better to send a filthy Fenian rabble-rouser than to a prison with hundreds of transported and brutalised Irishmen with nothing to lose but their chains? No wonder the barracks and offices for the 250 or so soldiers was laid out as quite a defensible fortress, even though it was never required as such.

We took a heap of pics at Port Arthur but there is only so much space to fill here….


20th Dec (Fri)

This was the day we had a look at Hobart proper. Before heading off we breakfasted in the Ashmore – highly recommended.

Ashmore breakfast

Parking in a multi-story car park in Hobart just two streets back from the water, we walked around Battery Point, Constitution Dock with its amazing counter-weighted draw bridge, the Salamanca shops and to Rachel’s disgust, art galleries.  By fluke we found the only gallery to stock a copy of the print that we had admired on the wall of our little cottage, which was promptly purchased for framing when we get home. Rach actually smiled that time.

Constitution Dock drawbridge.jpg

Clearly visible was Mt Wellington, where we plan to go tomorrow…

Mt Wellington from sea level


Next was the ferry up to the Museum of Old and New Art (MONA) – quite a lot that was interesting here, but also a lot that was pretentious (insert onanistic term of your choice here)  but hey, that’s what you get in an art gallery. Different things appeal to different people, and the owner, David Walsh, has openly stated it includes items that he likes and doesn’t care if other people don’t – and good for him. After a few minutes of being unimpressed, Rach caught up with an old work colleague.


21st Dec (Sat)

In the morning we drove up Mount Wellington. This was an experience on the scale of Cataract Gorge. What can I say? There was the terror of going up and up and up a one and a half lane road with nothing on the side but DOWN for a kilometre.  At the top – OMFG it was cold. So cold. So windy. And the views! Oh wow. The VIEWS. So worthwhile. The drive DOWN and down and down that vertical kilometre, hoping and praying no tour coaches would come the other way – seriously, full size tour coaches go up that damn road. Beware!

view from the shelter Mt Wellington

Best views are from the shelter that has been erected at the top.

view of the shelter

Then it was on to the Coal River Valley wine region to try some wines. We went to:

We missed out on easily half a dozen more, but since I was the designated driver, Rachel was rapidly getting legless, so we ceased.

The last stop of the day was the Wicked Cheese Factory. Then home about 3.30 and collapsed.



22nd Dec (Sun)

Fly-out day (boo hiss). We finally got a chance to take a leisurely drive around Richmond – plenty of old houses (note I did not use the word “historic”). Had a look at the Old Hobart Town miniature village – sounds tacky but the research and modelling skills were amazing with little touches of humour here and there. Drunks. A tumble in the hay cart. An overseer chasing a runaway dray.

And all the trees were bonsai’d live local trees – the work involved in that alone is mind-blowing.

Old Hobart Town bonsai


We finally did a proper raid on the sweets and treats lolly shop, then it was off to the airport.


Wow. What a holiday!

%d bloggers like this: