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When my parents and I were planning our Australia trip we knew we wanted to spent half the time in Sydney, with friends and family and the other half exploring some new places.
First we had our sights set on renting an apartment by the beach in Northern Queensland but upon conversation with an apartment owner found out that during that time of year there were deadly stingers lurking in the ocean waters deeming swimming in the ocean impossible.
Whew, good thing we found out about that before getting there right? Back to the drawing board it was then. After a bit of research we agreed on a 5 day driving tour through Tasmania, Australia’s smallest state. I naturally laid out a fairly ambitious plan, which we did not entirely cover, but most importantly we were able to eat almost every day, so in our eyes the trip was a success.
We flew into Hobart, the capital of Tasmania and the country’s oldest city after Sydney. We started our visit with a stroll through the Battery Point area, full of interesting architecture and older buildings, before moving on to the port/harbor area.
For lunch we stopped in Mures where our dreams were crushed upon hearing that they did not in fact have any oysters available. We tried to conceal our bitter sadness and put on a happy face while we tried to enjoy the other options – fish and chips.
There are various museums in Hobart, including the famous MONA (Museum of Old and New Art) but we simply didn’t have the time to visit any of them.
Instead we drove up to Mount Wellington to see the view of the city from above. The GPS did attempt to trick us and first led us in the completely opposite direction, forcing us to back track and climb the real Mount Wellington, but we persevered.
On our way back to the city, we even did the Samaritan thing and picked up a trio of hitchhikers (my very first time doing so). Of all the nationalities in the world to have come across, who did we find, but a Russian girl with her Aussie husband and their friend.And we had just started to think that there were no Russian in Tasmania.
With the hitchhikers off our back it was now a race against time to make it to the grocery store before closing. We made it with just five minutes to spare in and flew through the doors with shouts of “Grab the mangos, I’ll get the chicken!” A lively first day indeed.
A very convenient way to reach Hobart is by booking one of the many affordable cruises from Melbourne. Almost every cruise line stops in Hobart, which is perfect if you’re planning your Tasmania trip starting from Hobart. Cruise Agency Australia is a very reputable cruise company that will help you through every single step of the journey. Don’t forget to also check cruise deals from Royal Caribbean or Princess Cruises to find some early birds and awesome discounts.
Hobart, White Beach
With an 11am checkout we were at least guaranteed to get a reasonably early start on the day. First stop Royal Tasmanian Botanic Gardens with great grounds and a diverse variety of plant collections and trees. Entry is by donation, which is a welcome surprise in expensive Australia.
On our way to Port Arthur we couldn’t help but stop by Barilla Bay Oyster Restaurant after seeing the huge billboard advertising their oysters. We really love our oysters, I tell you. We ordered their massive oyster platter with various toppings, ranging from bacon, to beer and soy sauce.
And then we just went wild and ordered a cheese platter too. When on vacation right?
And then we got further side tracked when we saw a sign for a beach, so naturally also had to turn off to have a gander.
And since we had already gotten so sidetracked and were obviously not going to make it to Port Arthur that day, we continued on the excursions and stopped by the Eaglehawk Neck Area to see the stunning Pirates Bay Lookout, as well as the blow hole.
Then we went on a short walk to see the Tessellated Pavement. What’s that you ask? It’s a rare erosion feature that occurs near sea coasts on flat rock where the rock has been broken up into perfectly lined blocks thanks to the saltwater. It really is fascinating and unlike anything I’ve ever seen before.
We finished the day with a sunset on our own private beach outside our rented cabin in White Beach.
Day Three Port Arthur, Orford, Swansea
On day three we finally made it to the Port Arthur Historic Site, the site of a former convict colony. Tickets include a visit to the museum and various buildings, as well as a guided tour or the property and a boat ride around the other islands in the area where other prisons were set up.
The area became a prison for male convict who were repeat offenders in 1833 and gained a reputation as being a ‘hell on earth.’ To prison had closed down by the late 1800s. We fully enjoyed our walk around the grounds and the visit to the museum where you can learn about the daily lives and fates of the inmates themselves.
From there we made our way driving through the beautiful Wielangta forest, with the road lined with enormous gum trees before stopping off for some beach pics at Raspins Beach in Orford.
As deceiving as it might look, with clear blue skies and the sun shining it was still unfortunately too cold to go swimming. The winds get to be pretty intense on the beaches and the water temperature is simply freezing. Though these beaches may look tropical, they in fact are not. This did not stop us from enjoying the view and the walk along the sand though.
For dinner we went to the Bark Mill Tavern in Swansea where we had the best oysters of all time.
These were simply so creamy and delicious, it was hard to believe oysters could even have such a strong creamy taste. Out of this world really. Obviously after having a taste of these, I had to go up and order a second dozen (or perhaps a third?). Who’s keeping count, right? Seriously though, if you’re driving through Swansea swing by the Bark Mill Tavern for a taste of at least their oysters (though the meals themselves were good too).
Freycinet National Park, Bicheno, St Helens
Day four was to be our active day. We were headed for the Freycinet National Park where we would hike to the Wineglass Bay Lookout and beach. This is what I was most excited about for the Tasmania trip and I couldn’t wait to get out there and see this world famous beach.
As always we were off to a slow start, with a bit of dilly dallying at the souvenir shop. Barely had we started the hike, that we stopped off in a shady patch for our picnic lunch – sandwiches and a bottle of Champagne.
My family knows how to start a hike off right. As we tipped our glasses to the climb ahead of us, I was ready and so under clear blue skies with me charging ahead we set off.
When we finally made it up to the lookout, the views were truly spectacular.
Simply magical. A secluded beach with deep blue waters and a soft yellow sand. This was as far as my parents were going to go. They had seen the bay and it was enough for them. Not for me though. With my uncle and Dave in tow, we started the hike down to the beach.
With the water too cold and treacherous to step foot in I stayed on the beach, admiring the beauty and acting as lifeguard in case Dave or my uncle started to drown.
After our time in said paradise we started the grueling trek back up to the lookout and then down to the car park. We were rewarded for our efforts though by the appearance of a wild fury creative just by the car. A local wallaby had come over to say hello.
Since I had not yet had enough of the national park I insisted that on our way out we turn off to the Sleepy Bay lookout. Since I was being hurried along I literally ran down the train to get to the end to be able to see everything. A bit intense I suppose. Definitely worth the run to see these views though.
Our day was no where close to over, and we made a lunch stop at the Freycinet Marine Farm, a casual outdoor cafe with fresh oysters and other seafood. We found the oysters to be a bit too salty (why does this happen – anyone know?) but quite enjoyed the tender and juicy salmon.
Since we had satisfied our hunger, it was time to quench our thirst. The perfect spot for that was the Freycinet Vineyard, which we saw a sign for on the side of the road. As we walked in, we noticed we were the only people there, with an older man behind the counter and a young boy running around as his assitant (cue images of A Good Year with Russell Crowe).
We had a nice chat with the gentleman as he let us sample all the wines and on the back terrace we each enjoyed a glass with a cheese plate and a flat white. A relaxing afternoon with views of the grapevines. There’s just some so charming and tranquil about a vineyard.
We finished the day another beach view, by Bicheno, before heading to our apartment rental in St. Helens.
We unfortunately were left to go hungry that night because the Tassies seem to eat dinner at an absurdly early hour. We called one restaurant right around 8 to see if they were still open for dinner, to which they responded that if we really hurried they would try to stay open for us. At eight pm? What time are these people having dinner?
And so we decided to scrap together the food we had and make dinner at the guest house. It was to be a night in.
Good thing where we were staying had free wifi to keep us entertained. As a traveling tip, it’s always best to use a virtual private network (VPN) on public or shared wifi when traveling to keep sensitive info like banking logins and credit card numbers safe. We weren’t too worried about our connection getting hacked where we were staying this time, but it’s definitely something to keep in mind when traveling to bigger cities. Here’s a guide to VPNs if you’re not familiar with what they do.
Binalong Bay, Launceston
Our last day in Tasmania. We headed for more beautiful beaches in Binalong Bay and the Bay of Fires. A bit of rock scrambling, paired with walks along the way, not a bad day to spend the day.
From there we headed inland towards Launceston as our final destination, but we did make a couple stops along the way. First the Holy Cow Cafe, a cheese farm where we couldn’t help but sample the cheeses before picking one to eat on the back terrace along with a flat white coffee.
The day was nearing to an end so we had to hurry if we wanted to make it to the Bridgestowe Lavender Farm – the largest lavender farm in the Southern hemisphere in time. We got there with just 10 minutes to spare and quickly ran out to the fields to see the gorgeously lined rows of purple fragrant lavender.
Lavender is just the best. It looks beautiful and smells even better. Look at those endless rows?
Our last night we spent in Launceston – Tasmania’s second largest city, with a modest population size of 70,000. Basically a large town. There doesn’t seem to be much to see in town, so we were perfectly satisfied with a quite driving tour down the 3 main streets. For the outdoorsy there is a cataract gorge just outside the city center, but we didn’t have time to see it.
We enjoyed some fresh seafood on our last night and this dramatic sunset.
Overall we had a great time in Tasmania and really enjoyed our driving tour across the Eastern coast of the state. Truly beautiful views and changing landscapes.