From Hobart we jumped on the bus and headed 198km north to Launceston. Launceston is Tasmania’s second largest city and one of Australia’s oldest. Launceston and the surrounding Tamar Valley is a great area to add to your Tasmanian itinerary. We arrived late afternoon and Kim’s Cousins home and got to meet everyone that night with a New Years barbeque.
A new day of exploring, Kim’s cousins decided to show us around the first day, we all jumped in three cars and took a 40 minute drive up the west side of the Tamar Valley, taking in the river frontage road to Beaconsfield, which is a gold-mining town in the heart of the Tamar Valley Wine Region with a past tinged with stories of gold, wealth and survival. Located on the western banks of the Tamar River, Beaconsfield was once Tasmania's richest gold town with a mining heritage that continues today.
The local Mine and Heritage Centre shares the tools of the trade, the stories of the past and reflects on the 2006 mining disaster when two miners were trapped one kilometre underground for 14 days after a dramatic rock fall. The exhibit includes a breath-shortening multi-sensory simulation of the 2006 disaster.
We jumped back in the cars and passed through George Town, on the banks of the Tamar River. George Town being Australia's third-oldest settlement after Sydney and Hobart and has a rich maritime past and industrial present. Surrounded by vineyards, orchards, berry and lavender farms, George Town has a long maritime history and many stories to tell.
A little more up the road we hit the Low Heads Lighthouse, on the east side of the mouth of the Tamar River, which was the third lighthouse to be constructed in Australia. The small hamlet of Low Head at the head of the Tamar River on Bass Strait was first established as a pilot station in 1805 to guide ships into the mouth of the Tamar River. Today, it's Australia's oldest still operating pilot station. We returned back just after lunch, the girls went into the CBD for a bit of shopping while I chilled out with some afternoon beers.
The next day the sun greeted us, we were given a car to borrow, so we drove to Lanceston’s Cataract Gorge, which is a natural phenomenon just a stone’s throw from the CBD. On arrival you are greeted firstly with the Basin Chairlift, which links the Cliff Grounds of the Cataract Gorge Reserve with the First Basin. The central span is the world’s longest chairlift span of 308 metres. Then you see a swimming pool and finally the Alexander Suspension Bridge over the South Esk River. The central and surely main feature, the Gorge is almost lost by all the sideshow features, especially the swimming pool. We decided to go on the chairlift and it was only when we were on the way and our chair passed over the roof of the cafeteria the ground simply disappeared.
There are numerous walks in the Gorge area and the sun was still shining, so we decided to give a couple of them a test run. We started with a steep walk to “Eagle Eerie Lookout” and from this position we could see across the Gorge and down to the City in the background. From here it was a short walk to the “Alexander Lookout”, and then down to the “Alexander Suspension Bridge”, which is just wide enough for 2 people to pass. Still having a couple of hours on our parking meter, we decided to do “The Basin and Cataract” walk, which is a really worthwhile walk along a boardwalk type structure attached to the cliff face, which starts at The Gorge and finishes at Kings Bridge in Launceston town. Having completed this we decide to return on the opposite side of the Gorge along a walk called “Zigzag Walk. Starting at the base of the mountain, the first 10kms were up, it felt like 1km, but it was a killer.
Once we reached the top, there was lookout over the Gorge which gives you the most amazing view all the way back to the Cataract Gorge. The track then zigzags all the way down to the car park and the end, thankfully. Much more of this and we’ll be growing horns and turning into billy goats. We later worked out that we must have walked around 8kms during the course of the day.
The next day our first stop was James Boag's Brewery, with a 1.5hr brewery tour and beer tasting. Then we took a drive to Waterfront Tavern, which is Australia's oldest Tavern.
On the road again we dropped into Josef Chromy Wines, arguably Tasmania's most spectacular vineyard setting. We were introduced to a great range of Tasmanian wines, including a selection of Sparkling wines, Riesling, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Gris, Pinot Noir, Cabernet Sauvignon, and finished our tasting with a superb fortified Ruby Pinot.
Next we took the opportunity to try some of Tasmania's best Cider. Dickens Cider is a boutique cidery making a good selection of English style ciders. Tasmania is renowned for its fresh apples so the team at Dickens Cider brought the use of Tasmanian apples to another level. Kim tickled her taste buds with tastings of Scrumpy, Old English Cider and Cider Rose.
To finish the day, we were introduced to various ales claiming their origin from pre-historic times. Lindsay Bourke is the Master Brewer at Taverners Boutique Brewery, now established in Australia for over 25 years. The basic beverage is an alcoholic drink derived by the fermentation of honey by yeast. We sampled the Taverners great award winning selection of Honey Pale Ale, Honey Mead Ale, Strong Mead Ale, Honey Porter and Dessert Honey Mead, then head home late afternoon.
Today we navigated to Devonport, the heartbeat of the north-west coast of Tasmania. On our way we stopped at Christmas Hills Raspberry Farms and Anvers Chocolates so Kim could sample sweet delights produced in the area. We enjoyed the drive north-west through the iconic Tasmanian landscape dotted with a variety of flora. Devonport is Tasmania’s third largest city and the home of the Spirit of Tasmania car ferries. If you are bringing your own car over from the mainland, Devonport will be your first port of call. The maritime was full of attractions, from the spectacular ‘Bluff’ headland with its aboriginal carvings and Aboriginal Culture Centre to the Don Railway and Devonport Maritime Museum & Heritage Centre. Devonport is also bursting with unique boutiques and specialty shops making it a shopper’s paradise for Kim. On the way back to Launceston as a novelty we dropped into Bell's Parade, Latrobe which is the site of the Australian Axeman's Hall of Fame and Timberworks.
The Australian Axeman's Hall of Fame and Timberworks is the first national museum dedicated to this aspect of our colonial history. The museum displays the harvesting, milling and building techniques of our early pioneers. It also celebrate the greats of woodchopping and sawing, include photographs, trophies, championship axes, the Foster Experience and other interesting memorabilia. After killing some time we headed back home.
The next day we got up early for some market runs. We headed to the heart of the Tamar Valley, to the Harvest Launceston Community Farmers’ Market in quiet inner city car park and brings the farm gate to you. We then jumped back in the car and headed to the Evandale Sunday Markets. We made it back for lunch and a change of clothes we then took a Cruise aboard the Tamar Cruises into the magical Cataract Gorge and through Launceston's riverfront precinct. We headed north past Tamar Island and experienced the variety of life as we cruised past charming riverfront communities, vineyards and farms to the historical Rosevears and Windermere districts exploring the history of the St Mathias Church and Rosevears Tavern.
Second last day in Launceston we all jumped in three cars again and headed to Bridport, which is north-east of Launceston and is a popular beachside holiday destination overlooking Anderson Bay. Surrounded by bushland reserves, white sand and the sloping vines of Pipers Brook wineries, Bridport is an ideal place to relax. We walked and the beach and chilled for the day and headed back late afternoon and the next day jumped on the plane back to Brissy.