Rachel Down Under!


Posted in Australia, Tasmania by rssmith218 on December 23, 2010

Greetings from Tasmania, the “island of inspiration”, and a natural wilderness that is truly A World Apart, Not A World Away.

Aisha and I just returned from a 5-day roadtrip around this magnificent and incredibly beautiful island. Our ambitious itinerary took us from the great mountains of the wild west to the quaint capital of Hobart, then back in time to experience the convict life at Port Arthur, and finally up to the east coast to see some of the world’s most beautiful beaches.

Our track around Tasmania:

Whew- what a busy but amazing trip! I will try to be brief in recounting our adventures, but there was so much to see in Tassie! Credit to Aisha for many of these photos.

Day 1: Launceston to Cradle Mountain

A smooth flight from Sydney and we were ready to start our adventure from the historic town of Launceston. After a (not so) Fresh lunch, we stocked up on peanut butter, bananas, and honey- our staples for the next few days- and began a rainy drive west to Cradle Mountain.

Just picked up our rental car and now we’re ready to go! Wait, which side of the road do we drive on, again?

Upon arrival in Cradle Mountain, we checked into our cozy cabin, and began to see the sights…

1. Enchanted Walk

One of the “60 Great Short Walks” in Tasmania, this walk truly was enchanting!

2. Wombats

We went wombling for wombats!

See any, Aisha?

No? Wait, there’s one!

And another- so cute!

3. Cradle Mountain

Our hike around Dove Lake at the base of Cradle Mountain was one of my favorite parts of the trip. Despite the rain, the cold, and clouds that covered the iconic “cradle” of Cradle Mountain for most of our walk, this hike was stunning!

The cradle is hiding behind these clouds…

Do we look cold and wet or what? And do you think I’m wearing enough layers?

One of the most beautiful parts of the hike- the ballroom forest! Aren’t I a good dancer?

Now where is that elusive cradle? Can you spot it?


Yes! There it is! We saw the baby in the cradle for a few glorious minutes- can you see the “baby” nestled between the two upper peaks of the mountains?

Day 2: Cradle Mountain to Hobart

We were sad to leave our cozy cabin…

…but we soon got on the road to Hobart! A supposedly 5 hour drive quickly turned into a 8 hour affair with Aisha and I behind the wheel…but look at all of the neat places we stopped along the way!

1. Queenstown

Queenstown is a mining town with a booming copper industry. One look at these mountains will show you why!

These rocks look like they are full of minerals…beautiful, huh?

I love these mountains!

2. Lake St. Clair

Another treasure hidden in the western mountains- couldn’t you just stay here all day?

A great place for a walk…

…just don’t fall!

3. Views from the road

How empty are these roads? Definitely a good thing for us drifting American drivers!

The roads may have been empty, but the roadsides were full of SHEEP!

Day 3: Hobart to Port Arthur (and back to Hobart!)

1. Walking Tour around Hobart

We started our morning with a brisk tour around Hobart. It was a lovely morning for a walk and we saw all of the sights, including

Salamanca Place, home of the famous Salamanca Markets (which, unfortunately, we missed!),

the shining Hobart waterfront,

and the historic neighborhood of Battery Point

2. Richmond/Sorell

We moved on from Hobart and quickly passed through the historic town of Richmond- very different from my hometown of Richmond, Virginia!

Here you can see the famous Richmond Bridge…

…and little Richmond tucked into the hills overlooking the bridge!

I was excited for our trip through the tiny town of Sorell, as I had previously read that this town has a reputation for growing delicious berries! We stopped at a Sorell berry farm to pick up some berries (these are tay berries), which I promptly ate for the next stretch of our drive.

Mmmm berries…

…or maybe not?

I quickly regretted the enthusiasm with which I had gobbled down the berries, as I spent the following night sick with food poisoning from these apparently bad berries! Thank goodness Aisha wisely avoided them!

3. Port Arthur

Over the course of our trip, we passed many amusing signs on the road, including this fairly gruesome one,

in addition to signs warning us of the various critters that we may come across:

However, it wasn’t until our drive to Port Arthur, that we actually saw some of the wildlife we had been warned about- look, its an echidna!

So cute!

Port Arthur was also a highlight of the trip. Port Arthur is a historic convict settlement that once operated as Australia’s largest penal station. It was a supposedly “unescapeable” prison, although three people actually did manage to escape in the almost 50 years that the prison was active. Port Arthur is also famous as the site of a 1996 mass murder in which 35 people were killed and 21 people were wounded. As a result of this tragedy, Australia created a national ban on semi-automatic shotguns and rifles that is still in place today.

Despite its dark past, Port Arthur was a lovely place to visit. I just loved these old buildings!

Here is the iconic penitentiary,

a guard tower,

and the convict church

As eerie as it sounds, my favorite part of Port Arthur was the Separate Prison. Here, prisoners were placed in solitary confinement for 23 hours a day, with one hour of mandated exercise per day. In this “Silent System” prisoners wore hooded masks and were not allowed to talk- the guards even spoke in sign language to avoid breaking the silent contemplation of the prisoners. Talk about pyschological abuse!


Day 4: Hobart to Freycinet

1. Mount Wellington

Before leaving Hobart, Aisha and I ventured up to the top Mount Wellington on a careening and supremely scary road. At times, I thought we were going to fly right off the mountain, but it was worth it for this view!

First, view of Mount Wellington from the wharf in Hobart- you can see that it is always in the background of the city-

And now the view from the top-

Don’t we look ice cold?

2. Wineglass Bay

Following our descent down Mount Wellington, we continued north of Hobart to Freycinet National Park on the eastern coast. In the park we hiked to Wineglass Bay, one of the “top ten beaches in the world”. I would say that Wineglass Bay lived up to this reputation- just look at these pictures!

View along the hike-

We began our hike in rain and clouds, but by the end, the sun was shining and the beach felt almost tropical- see how different it looks?

And now down at the beach…

…far away…

…and up close!

Look at that water!

Not just gorgeous sands, but check out these rocks-

And as usual, we had an unexpected visitor!

Get away from my coat, wallaby!

3. Lighthouse

Our day in Freycinet ended with a sunset trip to the Cape Tourville lighthouse. Yet another gorgeous view from this vantage.

Check out Lemon Island on the left hand side of this picture!

Day 5: Freycinet to Launceston

1. Friendly Beaches

Our last day in Tasmania and we left Freycinet early for our drive back to Launceston. However, we did stop to check out the Friendly Beaches on our way out of town.

2. Launceston

We spent a laid-back afternoon in Launceston, catching up on our sleep, and visiting the Cataract Gorge.

Whew, finally a nap!

…even if it is interrupted by peacocks!

Overall, our trip to Tasmania was full of adventure and good times (other than the food poisoning!). I’m so glad I had the opportunity to explore this wild island and to enjoy its incredible beauty.  What a wonderful way to spend the summer holiday- Happy holidays to everyone back at home!