Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Travelling Tassie and Meandering around Melbourne

Thank God all the school holidays are over and we were once again able to get out and about on a touring course.  It seemed liked the first week of February all the NINKERS and those foot loose and fancy free began their travelling as the plain was full of people our age and everywhere we went it was all 50 plusers.  Why because its cheaper and obviously no kids. To view all of our Photos from Tassie click here

Why did we choose Tasmania?  Well Derek had never been there and me well I went in 1976 as a part of a school excursion so along time ago and we wanted to do travelling in a car, just being able to stop where ever when ever with no real plans no bookings and to explore, experience, taste and see somewhere with out being on any real schedule except we get there on one date and leave on another.  This was also to see what planning we might need to do for our Europe trip as well so a bit of practice.

So how was Tassie?  Lets say Tassie does rustic really well - everywhere you drive you see beautiful rustic old homes, sheds etc, they do views to die for really well - every corner there is a view  that you just have to get a picture of, but for me they really don't do quaint all that well.  I was really expecting to drive through towns and villages and have beautiful little cafes and restaurants that served Devonshire Teas,fresh local Tassie food (you know seafood, lamb etc) fire places, nice old furniture but in the main that wasn't to be.  We did however eat a lot of toasted ham and cheese sandwiches.

Our travelling started in Hobart the only place we had booked accommodation - and just as well as the Wooden Boat Festival was on - this was fantastic and made the Harbour come alive,  full of beautiful wooden boats of all types and a real fun and vibrant feeling - well worth being there at that time.  The weather was fantastic, clear blue skies (if you exclude the smoke from the fires on Mount Wellington that were burning that weekend) and nice and warm to take your time wandering around the water front.  I can only image the buzz that's there when the Sydney to Hobart is on.  The whole precinct was alive and it made for a fantastic start to our holiday.  We stayed in cheap and cheerful accommodation as we didn't want this holiday to break the bank (after all we have bigger and better things coming up in the near future) - Hotel Collins was within a few meters of the water front and I will say the room while just a little tired was very clean and the staff probably some of the best I have ever experienced anywhere - so nice, so friendly, so helpful and they looked like they loved their jobs - well done Hotel Collins it was a great way to spend Friday afternoon and Saturday afternoon and evening.  Can highly recommend the seafood at Flippers a takeaway caravan on the water - the trevella was to die for and all of their various offerings were tasty, well cooked and served up so that taking them to the various tables around the harbour easy.

Next day was Port Arthur day - a nice drive and through some great scenery, unfortunately much of this area had been devastated in the Xmas Fires and it was heart breaking driving past miles of burnt out homes and forests, however the drive was still very pleasant with good look out points along the way (Devils Kitchen and others).  I liked Do Town - just a lot of houses who have names with the word Do in it on their letter boxes or houses - that made it fun when driving through - our favorite was Do F#ck All, it was a unique and fun town to drive through - well done Do Town.

Port Arthur itself was good and the admission prices included a boat trip and a tour - we obviously did the boat trip, but elected to just walk around at our own pace (you could spend a good day here) we ended up getting there around 11 and leaving about 2.  Me I personally loved the historic gardens which were alive with color and fragrance as you walked through.

Next day we decided we would head for the Franklin-Gordon national park area and head for Strahan - WOW a big drive through mountains over 400kms we did and most of it was not at high speed.  The views where however fantastic in a lot of places and we got to Queenstown as the Queenstown train got in (a tourist train) and the only thing really in Queenstown to do.  It did seem we did a lot driving this day and there wasn't a lot to do along the way nor was there anywhere really to stop and have taste Tassie.  We got into Strahan around 5ish and stayed at the Strahan Motel - another lovely cheap and cheerful, large room, bath, nice mini bar (which was full of Tassie delights including full bottles of Tassie wine, Tassie cheeses and other nice things) and again great and cheerful service.  We choose Strahan because when we drove into town there were several restaurants  take aways, cafes etc and lots of activity on the waterfront - unfortunately none of those where open at 6.30 when we went down to explore and dine - well only 1 and of course it was the 5 star $100 a plate type place which wasn't in our budget.  It was a shame especially given it didn't get dark until 9 pm and there where literally 50 other couples on the waterfront disappointed - the IGA did well that night for ham, bread etc.

Cradle Mountain was next on our calling list so after a few hours we arrived, it was quite cool when we got there so had legs and jackets on, but the day warmed up later in the afternoon to be quite hot - so had to get changed into shorts and T's to continue our exploring of this wonderful, picturesque  location a must see while in Tasmania.  The parks do charge a fee to enter but at the top part of Cradle Mountain there are shuttles to take you to all the major walking tracks - some go for days and others only a few hundred meters, but there is a walk for everyone as well as the convenience of a shuttle to take you from one station to the next.  They also have a nice cafe with a good selection of foods.

We had now completed the south and south west regions (all of Tasmania is broken into tourist trails which is good - we completed a few in these few days) but don't be conned, there is a lot of driving to do in Tasmania especially if you take the tourist routes and even with 6 days there were areas we didn't get to.

After leaving Cradle Mountain, we headed North through Sheffield, Railton (the home of the Topiary  Deloraine , Launceston and onto the North coastal town of George Town.  Where possible we did take the tourists drives and stop at look outs or places of interest as pointed out in the various tour brochures.

George Town was another lovely little coastal village and quite a big bigger than Strahan, we decided we had had enough of driving hundreds of kilometers each day so decided to stay here for 2 nights.  Staying at the Piers Motel we had a water front view and they also had a nice restaurant  pub etc so it was nice to be able to just walk and have a drink and feed.  We spent the next day doing the town and local areas museums (there is quite a lot in this area)  and they have quite nice beaches so guess what Derek did - yes metal detecting for half a day and didn't do too badly either.  We also did a Fairy Penguin tour that night which was so fantastic and probably a highlight for me of the trip.  Watching these little penguins waddle up the beach was so beautiful and they came right up to us (not that we were allowed to touch them, but they did walk right over our feet).  It was a great place to relax after such a hectic schedule and rejuvenate, however it too lacked any real charming and quaint restaurants serving local cuisine unfortunately, nice food, great service, everyone so friendly, but we were wanting to taste Tassie as much as see it.

After feeling a bit more relaxed we headed North West to Stanley - for our last night and I am glad it was here we were having our last night as this place really delivered on everything which was probably why it was booked out - although we did secure a fantastic studio room at the Sea View just outside of town, but with great views of the town and sea.  Stanley really has everything, great views, Nut Hill Chair Lift (a fabulous way to get up the top of Nut Hill), quaint streets full of interesting shops, some great eateries and guess what serving local food and other good tours (Seal and other type tours) so all in all a great place.  After securing our nights accommodation we were starving and headed into town for some lunch and scored - I wish I could remember the name of the cafe (but its in the main street and has fabulous views) but here they had perhaps my most favorite of dishes ever - Scallops in Pernod Sauce and served with risotto style rice for $22.50 each - not just 3 or 4 scallops but I must have had a good dozen fresh Tassie scallops in a beautiful sauce with some lovely Tassie wine - I was in heaven.  The service by the owners was impeccable and we stayed much longer than we had originally anticipated, but this was what we had hope to experience along the way.  After lunch we slowly meandered around the town which had some great shops I of course enjoyed the local providore shop that sold great Tassie foods, chocolates, fudges etc, I love these types of shops.  

With the afternoon setting in I went back to Motel while you guessed it Derek went off down the beach for some more detecting - I enjoyed sitting on my veranda with a good wine watching the world go by.  We had booked into the motels restaurant for dinner as the menu was also full of local foods.  Given neither of us had ever tried Abalone we decided to start with this - what do I say, didn't hate it, but probably wouldn't go for it again - but it was beautifully served.  We followed this with their Grim Beef Rib Fillet - superb so tender and just melted in your mouth this was what we had been looking for all holidays and Stanley didn't let us down.   Well done Stanley.

The next day we started to Devonport where we were going to board The Spirit of Tasmania for our trip back to the mainland.  Taking the scenic route from Stanley to Devonport is a fantasic drive don't take the highway as this part of the journey is lovely.  

Getting onto The Spirit of Tasmania in Devonport was sort of a let down - if you ever go ensure you take cash - their ATM only gives out $50 at a time and charges $2.50 for each transaction.   To be honest this was a big let down and quite an expensive way to get to Melbourne.  After leaving Devonport at 7pm, you head for something to eat and there is expensive and a chew and spew type cafeteria - the rooms were small and after dinner we went to bed, waking up at 4.30 so you can disembark at 6.30.  I really would not recommend this at all to anyone.

For me one of the things I love most is taking photos of the flora and Tasmania didn't disappoint with beautiful flowers everywhere The Tassie Flora Collection

We finished up our trip with 3 days in Melbourne, given we were in so early at the Motel by 7am,  our room obviously wasn't ready so we spent the morning walking Melbourne and back to our Motel in St Kilda (apparently about 10kms we walked) so a well earnt afternoon snooze was next on the agenda.  Met up with old work mates for dinner which was fantastic and got back to our motel at 3am so a big day.

Other friends joined us at the motel for Saturday and Sunday and we had a great couple of days touring St Kilda and Port Melbourne, drinking, dining and generally just having a great time.

Would I be going back to Tasmania in the near future, probably not, but generally it was quite a good holiday I would give it 3 smiles overall.

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