In January 2006, we returned to Australia from a holiday visit back home. It was mid-summer and still pretty hot and humid in Mooloolaba. So, we decided to drive south to cooler weather. Our plan was to put the car on the Spirit of Tasmania ferry for a month long visit across Bass Strait to this magical place, fondly called Tassy. We also wanted to squeeze this trip in before hauling FINAL STRAW out for a refit.
Map of Tasmania
Solid blue line is route of Spirit of Tasmania ferry
Yellow line is our route around Tassie
After taking the overnight ferry from Melbourne to Devonport, we headed south to Launceston and the wine country of the nearby Tamar Valley. From here, we made a clockwise circumnavigation of the island over a thirty day period. We found the east coast had miles of beautiful beaches. The south had the capital of Hobart and the impressive Huon Valley. The west was more rugged and faced the prevailing winds and notorious seas of the Southern Ocean. And, the north had some very notable stops with numerous wineries. It's all quite beautiful.
We arrived in beautiful weather and stopped first at the wine country of the Tamar Valley. Tasmania has several good areas for wine and we did our best to visit them all! Most are small boutique vineyards that sell much of their inventory to visitors. It's a relatively new area for wine production, but, its growing quickly in popularity.
Red Rocks on Tasmanian east coast
The trip down the east coast is a beautiful drive. There are many places to visit including park land like Freycinet National Park with its magnificent Wineglass Bay. There are many "batches" or small cottages or holiday homes for those wanting to escape the city for a weekend on the beach or along the coast. We enjoyed stops at Swansea, St. Helens, St. Mary's and Freycinet NP along this route.
Hobart, capital city of Tasmania
After several days on the east coast, we arrived in Hobart, the largest city in Tasmania and one with a very nautical background. We stayed at a home overlooking the city with a magnificent view. While there, we watched a world-class triathalon which was a qualification race for the upcoming Commonwealth Games in Melbourne. It included Olympic and National champions. We also enjoyed visiting the Royal Tasmanian Yacht Club and the nautical museum. Surprisingly, we even had dinner at a pretty good Mexican food restaurant here.
Huon Valley Tasmania
Just below Hobart is the start of the Huon Valley. We spent a few days relaxing along the river and enjoying the Tasmanian cheese, wine and smoked salmon we had purchased at stops along the way. The sunrises and sunsets here were very pretty and its a delightful place to visit.
From the Huon Valley, we headed towards the west coast. We stopped at Strahan and took an interesting tour of Macqaurie Harbour aboard a luxury cruise which included a five course luncheon and guided tour of the area. Macquarie Harbour was the site of one of Tasmania's most infamous prisons. We visited it on one of the little islands in the harbor and marveled at the harsh conditions the prisoners faced. To be productive, they built wooden ships which were sold privately or used by the government. It was an interesting stop. From here, we drove northeast to Cradle Mountain, a great place to hike and see firsthand the inner Tasmanian mountain wilderness.
The Nut at Stanley, Tasmania
We spent the last week of our trip back in the northern part of the island. One of the highlights was a few days at the town of Stanley. The town sits at the foot of a large rock mountain called The Nut. We took the tram to the top and were able to wander around the flat summit. The view was spectacular. From Stanley, we took a trip to the far western coast of Tasmania. This area faces the full fury of the Southern Ocean. The waves that hit this shore come all the way from South America since Tasmania is located below Africa and the sea can't hit any land in between. Our weather was delightful the entire time we were in Tasmania. February-March is certainly one of the best times of the year to visit. Its late summer in the Southern hemisphere and the weather is mild compared to the cold winters. After visiting Stanley, we headed back to Devonport to catch the Spirit of Tasmania ferry back to Melbourne.
The Bears in Sydney
We spent a few days touring around the cosmopolitan city of Melbourne on our return trip. The Yarra river runs through the city and it has numerous beautiful parks, world class restaurants and shopping. From Melbourne we headed back to Queensland with several stops in the States of Victoria and New South Wales, including a visit to Sydney. The Bears, above, were in Sydney and were a part of a UN exhibition where an artist from each participating country paints something reminiscent or descriptive of their homeland. It was similar to the painted cows we saw in Auckland and other places around the world. It drew big crowds and was interesting sight to see.
While in Sydney, we met with our friends Norby and Sharon of the sailing/vessel Swanky. We had met them during our Pacific crossing in 2002 and enjoyed their company at Puddle Jump parties we had in Bora Bora and Moorea. They have a beautiful home on the water near Sydney. Swanky is moored just below their house. You take their outdoor elevator from the house level down to the dock, pretty slick. We took Swanky out to Sydney Harbour and sailed her under the Harbour Bridge and then right up to the Opera House. Later, we anchored at a secluded spot in a park area near their home and had a nice lunch aboard. After a relaxing stop and lively conversation, we headed back to their home for a wonderful dinner prepared by Sharon. They're a very gracious couple and we look forward to spending more time with them when we visit again at Hamilton Island in the Whitsundays later in 2006.
Norby aboard his yacht, Swanky
Swanky is a Swan 57 that Norby and Sharon sailed back to Australia from Europe. In the photo above, Suzy is at the helm as we enter Sydney Harbour. From here, we drove north to the Hunter Valley, yet another wine growing part of Australia. It was a fun trip. But, we were happy to be back aboard Final Straw after six weeks "on the road".
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