Tuesday (17 May), on a beautiful sunny day, we drove to Coles Bay for a catamaran cruise to Wineglass Bay. We went along a coast dotted with sparkling white sandy beaches, explored the inner passage of remote Schouten Island and then headed into the Tasman Sea towards Wineglass Bay. Along the way we spotted sea caves, blowholes and waterfalls amongst the sheer granite cliffs. We then headed into the beautiful Wineglass Bay with a stunning white sand crescent beach and inviting shallow turquoise water. Much of this area can only be reached by boat or a very long hike so we felt very privileged to get to see the area up close and personal especially as we saw a couple of albatrosses and fur seals. As there was a bit of a swell running we didn’t have our lunch onboard at Wineglass Bay, instead we moved to Bryans Beach which was a bit more sheltered. We had a lovely boxed ploughman’s lunch before finally heading back towards Coles Bay. Was a great day although a bit chilly when we went on the bow to take in the view.
After we left the boat we drove further into the Freycinet National Park to visit the Cape Tourville lighthouse. By now we were pretty cold so we just did a quick walk to admire the scenic views towards Wineglass Bay and some interesting cloud formations before heading back to our lovely hotel in Swansea.
Back at the hotel Richard had a hot shower and rested up in bed whilst I had a leisurely bubble bath in the spa tub. Later on, thankfully, completely warmed up we headed over to the Piermont’s Homestead Restaurant where we had reservations at 7.30 pm. The award-winning chef here is noted for his collaboration with neighbouring organic farmers and winemakers to put together a daily changing set menu to celebrate the region’s diverse flavours. The menu is decided by the chef and not published in advance so we were interested to find out what we would get.
First up was Ranoch Farm quail, koji waffle, black sesame and pickled carrots.
Followed by Cape Grim Black Angus Porterhouse, pumpkin, sunflower, spring onion, zucchini accompanied by Ras el Hanout cauliflower, herbed goats curd dressing and pepitas.
Finished with double chocolate torte and vanilla bean ice cream.
Have to say it was all absolutely delicious. If we had any criticism it would be that it could have been a bit hotter (and bigger LOL). We had a lovely evening before we returned to our fancy room for the last time and enjoyed a glass or two from our Tamar Valley wine stocks.
Wednesday morning we checked out early to drive to Port Arthur. Quite a twisty bendy road but we were a bit surprised when Google Maps took us towards a gravel road – so we did a u-turn and drove on – expecting it to find us and correct the route. So obviously this gravel road was a short cut across the mountains but we definitely preferred to take the longer made-up road. This route was stunningly beautiful although a bit greasy at times as there were constant rain showers but it did give us a lovely rainbow…
Arriving at Port Arthur we were a little early for our guided tour so we grabbed something to eat and drink before having a look around the fixed exhibit. Some were interactive and we were decided to find out if any of our distant relatives had been transported to the penal colony. Richard put his surname in first and came up with a few from County Cork….hmmm….interesting! So I tried next – putting in my maiden name – and came up with nothing. Not one – Richard thought that we were probably the jailors LOL.
Anyway, time to meet our guide and did a whistle stop 50 minute walking tour. Have to say he was a bit like a gazelle and, being a bit slow on my pins, I often missed some of the stories by the time I got there. But enjoyed hearing about the history of the Port Arthur penal station, established in 1830 as a timber-getting camp using convict labour to produce sawn logs for government projects. From 1833 it was used as a punishment station for repeat offenders from all the Australian colonies. It was built on a philosophy of discipline and punishment, religious and moral instruction, classification and separation, training and education. Many men were broken by the system whilst others were left rehabilitated, educated and skilled.
In complete contrast to the brutal conditions for the convicts, the community of military and free people lived their lives where parties, regattas and literary evenings were common with beautiful gardens created as places of sanctuary. This must have been psychological torture for the convicts too. Enjoy the stroll back through history….
We then headed to the pier to go on a boat trip – it was pretty miserable, cold and raining – so we just took our seats and listened to the commentary. Really not much to see unless you had booked the Island of the Dead walking tour – the island is the last resting place for convicts and free people alongside each other. The main difference is that the free people had gravestones whereas the convict graves were left unmarked as there was no-one to pay for any lasting memorial. Very sad… We had decided not to do this tour as it was just more walking and I was pretty much at my limit – and was glad we had made that decision when I saw some of the windswept people battling the elements to get back on the boat! We were quite smug sitting there warm and toasty with a cup of hot chocolate LOL ….
Back to the car we drove a short distance to our accommodation at Stewarts Bay Lodge a selection of self-contained cabins amongst the trees. We checked in and found our cabin – we were surprised to find it was fully equipped with a kitchen / diner / lounge plus the bedroom and large bathroom. It was a bit tired but very clean and had everything that we could possibly need for one night. So we turned the heating up, settled in and sat on the sofa and watched TV for a while.
Later on we walked down the hill to On the Bay, the only licensed on-the-water restaurant in Port Arthur. We thought it might be busy – so we had booked a table – but actually the place was pretty big and easily accommodated everyone. We put in our order and enjoyed a very simple dinner.
I struggled a bit on the return uphill walk to our cabin but at least we walked some of the calories off LOL.
Thursday morning we checked out early on a bitterly cold day with driving rain – we drove up to the top of the hill to be collected for our next boat trip along the spectacular coastal wilderness of south east Tasmania. To be honest we didn’t think this trip would go ahead – there were 50 knot gusts being recorded at Tasman Island along with 7m swells – especially as it was in an open-sided boat. The direction of travel was directly into the teeth of the strong winds so the sea state was going to be rough. When we checked in at the visitor centre they confirmed this would be going ahead just that the itinerary might have to be adapted according to weather conditions. He said that the latest gusts were 72 knots. OMG!! We expect to get very wet and very cold…
We piled into the bus down to the dock and realised that they had split the group into two boats – which meant that they were operating at 50% capacity. We quickly realised that this was for safety so that they could support each other in the challenging sea conditions. Not sure many of our fellow tourists realised that. Big foulies donned we took off at significant speed. The skipper – and his first mate – explained that we were going to hug the coast line to get protection from the westerly winds.
So we enjoyed running down this beautiful wilderness coast – seeing caves, blowholes, albatrosses, seals sleeping and fishing, an eagle, waterfalls, and huge towering dolerite sea columns crafted by the wild weather that this remote island is subjected to. Many Tasmanians say that you can see all four seasons in one day and we can certainly attest to that! As we continued the sun tried to come out and, although still dull for most of the trip, at least it stopped raining. We stayed on the leeward side of the island for most of the trip – certainly not able to make it over to Tasman Island – although we did get a glimpse around the corner of the conditions out in the full force of the wind. OMG I have never seen spume whipped off the top of breaking waves that swirl like tornados. The power of nature is absolutely awe inspiring. So enjoy some of the pictures from the day. Fabulous experience!
After the boat trip we collected our car and drove back to the Vibe hotel in Hobart where our Tasmanian adventure had started. We got ourselves warmed and, later on, headed down to the on-site restaurant as we didn’t feel like venturing further. The meal was pretty average but it filled us up before crashing for an early night.
On Friday morning we drove to the airport, returned our hire car, navigated the chaos of check-in, bag drop and security before finding a couple of seats to have some breakfast. The whole airport was chaotic with many flights – ours included – being delayed. We just sat it out until time to board and then we were off. OMG what an adventure we had had – Tasmania is stunningly beautiful and there is so much to see we have barely scratched the surface on our whistle stop tour. We really hope one day to return and explore some more….but perhaps in summer LOL.
Arriving back in Sydney we picked up our new hire car and drove to Jamie’s for another family reunion. Was lovely to be back – albeit a few hours later than planned. So that’s where I’ll leave this blog…. We have been busy organising ourselves for our return home and, tomorrow Monday 30 May, we head down to Sydney airport to get our covid tests before we fly out on Tuesday (fingers crossed!). So I’ll bring you all up to date on our return home. Bye for now and see you all very soon!
Lots of love, Jan