Tuesday 31 July 2018

Gordon Dam

Gordon Dam, and the drive out to it, is an absolutely stellar cruise. And, despite being situated in Tasmania's southwest, you actually need to drive in from a location closer to Hobart than Queenstown! You'll need to head west from a town called Westerway. This town is situated about halfway between Ouse and New Norfolk—taking the route that runs southwest of Hamilton. To get a better idea, see what Google Maps has to say.

It's a pretty magical spot, with the Franklin-Gordon Wild Rivers National Park to the north, Southwest Conservation Area to the west, and Southwest National Park to the south. During the drive from Westerway, you are buffeted between national parks. Massive mountains, forests, plains, and rivers running free in all directions. I think the fact that I thought I had driven all over Tassie, then saw all this—similar, yet brand new—summoned a feeling of complete awe.

There's a campground, with a boat ramp, at Ted's beach. This is not too far from the dam and has basic amenities. Be warned: you may not see a single soul on your drive out, but if you go on a weekend, the campground may be packed!

The dam itself is amazing. I've said before how cool I think dams are. Well, Gordon Dam takes the cake as the most awesome dam in Tassie! It's massive! To give you an idea just how big, let me quote the Dam Fact File.

Length of crest198m
Thickness at base17.7m
Thickness at crest2.8m
Volume of concrete154,000m3
Volume of water at full capacity12,450,000,000m3

Alright, you're probably not here for specifics, I just wanted to quote the Dam Fact File in this post. It's done. Huzzah! The dam is, as I've said, huge. They built it so it curves with the landscape. This gives it better structural integrity.

Anyone can walk across the dam, but another option is to abseil down. Unfortunately, the abseil tours weren't operating during our visit. Given the way the dam wall curves in and around, this would be an incredible experience for anyone wanting to blend a bit of excitement with the beauty.

Simply strolling around the dam is enough to appreciate the ingenuity of what the Hydro Electric Corporation built back in 1974. It's a pristine location for a morning walk, and well worth a trip out for a day or night. If you'd like to abseil down the dam, be sure and book in advance so you don't miss out!

Pack a lunch, get out there, and have a dam good day!

Friday 27 July 2018

Sampling Huon Valley and Surrounds

Tasmania is well known for its culinary delights. The island is surrounded by delicious seafood, full of leatherwood flowers that bees use to make premium honey, and catches some of the planets purest water. Yeah, you can't visit Tassie without letting your tastebuds take charge for a day or two!

While in Huonville, we decided to sample some of the local ciders and tucker. We actually started in Geeveston. Both our inner-child grew a little excited upon seeing a shop called The Wall of Lollies. How could one start a day of testing better than a good dose of sugar-induced hyperactivity?

The Wall of Lollies is one of the biggest lolly shops I've seen. It had, literally, a wall of lollies! The owner was working on a new batch of sweets as we came in. We saw a whole collection of old favourites that took us back to childhood, plus a mass of tempting sugary hits we've never seen! After stocking up on malt-balls, warheads, and a few blocks of homemade chocolate, we were ready to move on! We were not ready, however, to see an old pirate ship cruising down the river! Alright, it wasn't pirates, but it looked cool!

The Honeypot has a delightful collection of the more natural sweet stuff. Our honey supplies were getting low, so this was a perfect opportunity to top up. We also had to keep the sugar-high running; Leatherwood Honey Ice-cream did just that. I regret not discovering this stuff earlier during our Tassie-time. It's good, even better than chocolate ice-cream!

With hearts racing, we needed to calm ourselves with a little wine. Home Hill Winery is set on a picturesque plot of land, not far from the main road. We popped in for a taste. Their wines, however, weren't the kind of drops we personally enjoy. They have a nice looking restaurant, and would make a good stop for those who enjoy lighter/white wines.

Next up, cider time! While there are plenty of people who enjoy cider on the mainland, the stuff seems much more popular among Tassie-folk. We stopped in at Willie Smith's Cider Shed for our first tasting paddle. The place is surrounded by apple orchids and has that whole hipster vibe. They do food, too, but after our tasting paddle we kept moving.

Pagan Cider was our next stop. This cider is a popular, premium cider in Tassie, which we had both previously enjoyed a handful of times. It is, after all, available at Pumphouse Point. The strawberry cider, which neither of us had previously tasted, was absolutely amazing. Sadly, they were all sold out. Definitely a drop for the cider buffs to look into!

Next was Grandvewe. No, that was not a typo. Grandvewe is a place that milk sheep and make sheep cheeses, milks, yogurts, and alcohol. Yes, alcohol: gin, whey, and vodka. Like Willie Smith's, this place had that hipster vibe. We tried their products, but they were a little bizarre for us. After all the sugar and booze, we needed something to settle our guts. They had cafe food here, but the bread was hard as rocks. Not sure if that's a thing these days, but I'd recommend having lunch elsewhere.

During our culinary cruising, we saw some signs for Woodbridge Smokehouse. They sell some delicious cold and hot-smoked fish, while also sharing how the different styles are prepared. Their product was fantastic, and I'd highly recommend it if you're a fan of smoked fish.

Despite the late light during the Tassie summer, shops generally close around 5pm. Which meant our day of tasting had to come to an end. Our final destination was on the Margate Train. No, this didn't involve an actual ride; the train's decommissioned, and the carriages are used as shops!

Devil's Cider and Brewery operate one of the carriages, so we just had to sample their stuff! The sheila running the bar had a great sense of humour and was happy to have a bit of yarn as closing time approached.

There's heaps more to taste in Tasmania. All I can say is follow your nose and sample whatever takes your fancy! Huonville, and the Huon Valley, is a top place to start!

Monday 23 July 2018

Cockle Creek: Adventure to the South Coast

The greatest thing about Tasmania is how much of it is untouched by civilisation. It's one of the few places where you can drive an hour from the state capital and feel like you are in the middle of nowhere. It's no wonder people spin yarns about Tasmanian tiger sightings. I mean, there are plenty of places for the carnivorous marsupials to hide in this state!

My craving to go places had me wanting to visit the south coast of Tassie. As you'd expect, the roads don't go that far! Southport is the final town—when defining a town as a place with a pub—and Cockle Creek is the end of the road. There's also a nifty sign, labelled: End of the Road, which sees a certain breed of tourist driving out, taking a snap, then turning back around. While there's nothing wrong with that, we're not that kind of traveller. End of the Road? Right, I'll take a snap then keep going forward!

There is a hike from Cockle Creek that takes you to the south coast. For those who want to explore more of the area, there's a multi-day hike around the peninsulas. We opted for the day hike, but she's a bit of a long one, 10kms each way!

The walk itself is quite an easy one; well maintained, and follows a straight, relatively flat track. I was quite amazed to see many other people travelling this path; the craving to see the southern coast runs through many sets of veins! And why not? The rewards for the walk are absolutely worth it!

I was shocked to see the cliffs we hiked to were devoid of colour, grey, like some kind of moonscape. The place would make a magnificent setting for a sci-fi flick! Still, even with the bone-chilling wind, it's one of the nicest places I've just sat and relaxed, drinking in the area's natural beauty.

There's something about antartic waters. I've gazed into it along various sections of the mainland's south coast, but here, it was far more intense. The water's colour holds an epic deepness, sprouting electric-blue streaks with each crash of the waves. Of all the beaches, islands, cliffs, and coastal views I've experienced, nothing compared to this. Maybe it was something about the weather? Perhaps the contrast alongside all the grey? I don't know, but it was ridiculously gorgeous. I really wish photos could convey the slightest justice of what our eyes devoured. You'll just have to come visit yourself!

After soaking in the beauty, and making the return trip to the troopy, we headed north for Southport. It's critically important to stay hydrated while engaging in days of hiking. Hence, the pub was our immediate destination. Southport's pub offers reasonably priced food, camping spots, and of course, beer! They consider themselves the top pub in Australia, sporting the logo of Australia with Southport's location marked, only the country is flipped upside-down! To go with the theme, and despite the XXXX logo on show in the photo below, we hooked into a few Great Northerns!

Thursday 19 July 2018

Tasman: a Remarkable Peninsula


In the last post, Jeni shared her thoughts on the old penal colony of Port Arthur. Now, that place is really cool, but the Tasman Peninsula has much more to take in for those who want to explore a little more.

The Tasman Peninsula has some absolutely stunning shoreline. A part of this shore includes the tallest sea cliffs in the southern hemisphere. These monstrous walls rise up 300m from the ocean ceiling.

Some well-noted sections of this coastline, which everyone should make an attempt to check out, are the Devils Kitchen, Tasman's Arch, and Remarkable Cave. Much of these formations are the results of the wild waves of time pounding away at the dolerite landscape. Dolerite is pretty strong and doesn't break down or collapse all that easy.

Of the peninsula's coastline we explored, Remarkable Cave was easily our favourite. For lack of a better word, it was remarkable. It's a short walk down fabricated stairs to get to the looking platform. This view alone is stunning. Inside, however, is remarkable!

Remarkable Cave is like a beach tunnel that forks out into the ocean. The inside is gorgeous, amplifying the sounds of the roiling ocean. Waves do come through, and can be a little strong and sudden, so keep an eye on the sets.

On the way out of the peninsula is Pirate's Bay. I mean, with a name like that, how could you not check it out! We went for a stroll along the beach, but failed to bump into any pirates or uncover any hidden treasure. Afterwards, on the way out, we cruised up a mountain lookout and witnessed a great view and bumblebees attacking thistle flowers.

The Tasman Peninsula is only 75kms from Hobart, making it an easy day trip for locals or anyone visiting the city. For anyone visiting Port Arthur, you would be crazy not to explore a little more of this remarkable peninsula.

Sunday 15 July 2018

Port Arthur Historic Site

Australia was initially a penal settlement. Prisoners were sent here because the gaols were too full in England. Port Arthur was set up as a secondary punishment; for those prisoners who continued to misbehave. It was isolated, like an island, with only a narrow section joining the Tasman Peninsular to the rest of Tasmania, Eaglehawk Neck. Prisoners wouldn't be able to escape, as most couldn't swim. If they did try to swim, they would be picked up by boats in the port. At the narrow join of Tasman Peninsular to Tasmania a line of vicious dogs kept on chains were there to make noise of any approaching escapees.

Life at Port Arthur couldn't be more different for free settlers, and convicts. Kept completely separate, the views of settlers, was a romantic, waterside village, with a church, beautiful gardens, and lovely places for family picnics. For the convicts it was hell on earth. Essentially slavery. Punishment was corporal, cat-o-nine-tails, irons or sensory deprivation in solitary confinement. We went into sensory deprivation room. Completely dark, and noiseless. Thick concrete walls prevent any light or sound to enter. Complete torture.

Timber, sandstone, and dolerite were harvested, and used for the buildings. Many of the original buildings are just a shell of what they once were. When the colony shut down, many buildings were sold, some have burnt down and others pillaged for parts for new buildings, parts such as bricks, hard wood posts, sandstone. The site is now a historic site and all buildings have been bought back.

I didn't realise how big this place was. I thought we would go in, spend an hour or so, then be on our way. I was wrong! Tickets are valid for two days. It includes an introductory 45 minute tour, and a 20 minute boat ride around the port. There are so many buildings to go in and see, wander the gardens, stroll around. There are golf buggies available for those less mobile to get to and from the buildings, that staff happily drive guests around. We got there at 9 and got a park right out front. There is much parking, but if you want to be closer, get there early. You'll be doing plenty of walking in the day. No need to walk extra distance to the car! I may sound lazy, but we had just spent nearly every second day hiking up mountains over two weeks by the time we came here. I thought it would be a relaxing day.

Happy Travels
- Jeni



Wednesday 11 July 2018

Mount Amos: Freycinet's Postcard Lookout

Freycinet is Tasmania's most popular coastal national park. It's not hard to see why; Wineglass Bay is absolutely stunning, and from atop Mount Amos, you score the perfect postcard view! Freycinet is also quite close to Hobart.

Tassie has some oddly pronounced locations. You may have read Freycinet in your head as frey-ki-net. Hey, I don't blame you; it is how it's spelt. However, it's actually pronounced fray-shay-nay. The park, and peninsula, were named after  Louis de Freycinet, a French navigator.

There are camping opportunities around Freycinet, as well as top-end resorts catering for those who seek quality comfort. We didn't spend too long here; climbing Mount Amos was our goal.

The walk up Mount Amos isn't all that long, taking a bit over an hour each way. That said, it is quite a tricky climb. From the carpark, the walk kicks off as a simple trail. After about a kilometre, you'll start scaling the mountain, much of which involves boulder-climbing and steep scrambles. Definitely not a walk for a rainy day! A decent level of fitness is recommended.

This hike can be quite tiring, but after each steep incline, you'll be rewarded with even more amazing views of this stunning national park. Taking a break, catching your breath, then losing it as you gaze in awe at the surrounding beauty, is half the fun of this climb!

After enjoying the beauty of Mount Amos, we took a quick cruise around to the lighthouse. Here you can take a short stroll around the cliffs that surround the lighthouse, all while scoring a fantastic view back at Mount Amos and the body of water that enters Wineglass Bay.