Finally, we are able to spare some time to write about our recent trip around Tasmania over the Easter weekend. We decided that the best way to get around would be in a campervan so we were free and easy. It turned out to be a great plan as you will read in the article as it gave us the opportunity to see some unique creatures in the wild.
In preparation for our morning flight, we set our alarms nice and early and caught a cab to the airport in peak hour traffic. It’s amazing how a simple 20-minute journey can turn into 45 mins in crazy traffic.
We boarded our flight to find out we were sitting at the back of the plane and had a French couple with 2 young girls seated in front of us on our Virgin Blue flight. Let the screaming on takeoff and landing begin…. Now I can typically handle screaming kids but this time was really quite annoying as the mother couldn’t give a shit and didn’t comfort the girls at all.
On our descent, a voice came over the intercom telling us that we couldn’t bring fruit into Tasmania. DOH! We had packed 6 mandarins in our carry-on bag so we had to scoff three each in 20 mins.
We arrived to a cold day and while waiting for our bag at the turnstile a police sniffer dog came and sat down next to me (smelling the mandarins that were previously in my bag), the lady officer asked if I had any fruit and I explained the situation… meanwhile every passenger was starring at me (presuming I was some sort of drug mule) while I went through my bag showing the lady that there was nothing there. How embarrassing!
Picking up our campervan we drove off to Hobart city and to our first stop which was the Cadbury Chocolate Factory. En route we stopped in at a pub and had rissoles and lamb roast for lunch and played a game of keno…$1 we will never get back…
At the Cadbury factory, I managed to get in free after I flashed my travel agent license from 2005. Being Easter we also got given 2 chocolate bunnies. Checked out the gift shop while we waited for our tour. During the tour, the lady explained all about the chocolate-making process and we got free samples of Cherry Ripes and Flakes but still made a few purchases for the trip back at the gift shop before heading off to Hobart again for dinner as it started to rain.
Got to Hobart and checked out the harbor where we saw the old P and O research ship that goes to the Antarctic. Then went to check out the Salamanca area (where they have the Salamanca markets on a Saturday). Shopped for some fresh fruits, cheeses, and stocked up on cereal and milk for the trip.
While taking a photo out the front Lisette was accosted by a guy with a white beard who wanted to know absolutely everything (personal) about us. He was friendly enough but after a few minutes, it seemed to be more of an interrogation so we did our best to lose him.
Drove around Battery Point and looked at all the old houses and shops, then we drove to Wrest Point and went for dinner at the casino bistro. The all-you-can-eat buffet was more expensive than we were willing to pay for and we weren’t that hungry so went to one of the other restaurants instead.
I had the Thai chicken salad with hokkien noodles and Lisette had the smoked salmon ceasar salad (mine was the winner on the night).
Got back to a cold car and decided to drive through the night to Port Arthur where we would camp out at a car parking area until the morning.
Woke up to many cars and campervans driving past us – after a freezing night (with Lisette practically suffocating the claustrophobic Michael), it turned out that we had slept till 10 am or so!
We walked down to Port Arthur entrance – they close late as they do ghost tours as well. The cheapest ticket you can buy to get in costs $30 (bronze pass), which gives you access to the area, a guided 30-minute tour, and a 20-minute harbor cruise. You also get playing cards where you can ‘be’ a prisoner and find out about the convict’s life.
Really informative and educational tour about Port Arthur and its convict history – can see how you can easily spend a whole day wandering the 90 acres or so. Over the 47 years that it was in operation it had about 7,000 prisoners walk through and toil on its grounds, with about 1,100 dying and being buried on Death Island across the water. Besides the various penitentiaries and housing for the governors and soldiers, you can find a couple of museums, a shell of a church, and another Anglican one on site.
We went on the harbor cruise first and found out that it was really hard to escape – you could try swimming (someone tried to make a boat out of a beached whale’s carcass), but it was all but impossible to leave.
Unfortunately, when it came to our guided tour it bucketed down with rain and our group was standing under a tree looking fairly miserable as the wind blew more rain in our direction. Our pleasant tour guide tried to make the most of a dismal situation, by cracking jokes (not sure if it was more for his sake though).
Port Arthur was really revolutionary for its time as it was not just a place of punishment – it was aiming to provide reform for the men. In some cases, it did succeed. When the prison shut down it was renamed as Carnarvon for a while with the aim of being a place people could live, but so many tourists (and honeymooners) wanted to visit it for its prisoner history that soon after it reverted to its old name, with many convicts taking tourists around.
We then went straight to the Tasmanian Devil Sanctuary which housed not only 30-odd devils but also a menagerie of birds (tawny frogmouth, rosellas, parrots, peregrine falcon, etc), as well as quolls, wallabies, and kangaroos.
We made it in time to see the devils being fed (scavenging around as they do by nature and attacking each other for the pieces of meat), as well as seeing a bird show, trooping after wallabies and kangaroos (but staying a while away from the geese).
Sadly there are not many devils left in the wild – many are being killed off by a mysterious cancer that is spread from one devil to another when mating or biting each other when playing. The devils that are in the sanctuary are cancer-free. Interestingly their life span is only 5-6 years and while the mum can have up to 15 in a litter, she can only raise 3-4 at a time.
Starving we then went to have lunch at Eaglehawk Neck (named Doo Town) – fisherman’s cone! With battered fish, scallops, calamari rings, and lots of chips. Checked out the blowhole (which was barely blowing) and then up to Fossil Point where lo and behold – there was a pair of orcas swimming around!! Yay – took some awesome shots.
Then came the long drive towards Strahan – the wildlife spotting continued, with a couple of wild Tasmanian Devils, lots of scampering wallabies, mice, and possums – and unfortunately lots of roadkill. Luckily we weren’t the cause of the roadkill (although there were a couple of very close calls). This was all through the night – as they are nocturnal animals we were very fortunate to encounter them, although the road was incredibly windy so you definitely need to be a confident (and not a fatigued) driver to navigate, particularly as the road is not well lit (high beams beaming!)
I decided that I had driven enough for the day and we stopped by the side of the road at Derwent Bridge to sleep for the night. In our next post, we head to Cradle Mountain. Read it here: Around Tasmania in a Campervan – Part 2.