— Acknowledgement of Traditional Custodians —
I would like to acknowledge and pay my respects to the traditional inhabitants and carers of this country, the Palawa peoples – cut off from the mainland, about 10,000 years ago, due to rising waters in the Bass Strait, and largely destroyed as a population during Tamania’s early colonisation. We respectfully travel through the lands of your People – past, present and future.
Let’s hit the road!
At the end of September 2022, my family, consisting of my husband and two teenage daughters, 15 and 17yo, and myself, hired a small motorhome, and went on a 7 night journey, up the centre and down the east coast of Tasmania. Previously, hubby and I had travelled up the west coast and down the centre, and we have been excited to share this State with our girls (before they grow up and move out of home).
Our humble home and transport
Our Direction :
Hobart – Oatlands – Ross – Campbell Town – St Helens – Binalong Bay – Scamander – Swansea – Bicheno – Freycinet – Hobart – Port Arthur – Richmond – Hobart
Here is a snippet of our journey…
Tuesday 27 Sep – Up The Heartlands
Arrived mid afternoon into Hobart. Collected our Tassie Sleepervan, a relic with over 702,000km on the clock – the opposite of a precious vehicle, but one which kept us going comfortably, and reliable the whole trip.
Quick stop at Coal River Farm,
before heading up the centre of Tassie
, the area they refer to as The Heartlands, to Oatlands.
Oatlands has a super pretty Main Street, with manicured gardens, inspiringly sculptured trees and the most incredible old stone work and collection of Georgian buildings, including the most impressively restored Callington Mill (Whisky) Distillery Precinct.
Heading north through the spring wildflowers to Ross, we camped by the river at Ross Caravan Park – overlooking the most beautiful stone bridge, and watched the sun set gloriously evoking a sense of the “old-days”.
Wednesday 28 Sep – From the Heartlands to the North East Bay of Fires
Ross Female Factory was erected in 1833 – one of five female factories in Tasmania – specifically to house and reform female convicts. They were also considered the “birthing centres”. Female convicts who were contracted to government people as slave labour, who fell pregnant, were considered to have committed a crime deserving of punishment, returned to the Female Factory to give birth and face the consequences.
Interestingly, I did learn of a movement among the Irish women of the day, who, desperate to change the dire circumstances of their homeland (Ireland), would burn cloth, get charged with larceny or arson and sentenced to transportation to Van Diemen’s Land (Tasmania). The point being these women were not passive victims at all, but rather pro-active, determined women willing to “do time” for the chance of freedom in a new place in a few short (or long) years.
Ross, also impressed in a big way, with the Ross Bakey 31 – winner of copious awards for their delicious scallop pies. Do yourself a favour, and pop in for a treat! The Post Office across the road is full of interesting historical vibes and artefacts.
North to Campbell Town, we discovered The Book Cellar
– a treasure trove collection of some of the most amazing rare and precious books, marvellously presented in a cellar that used to house convicts, those responsible for building the nearby Red Bridge, with its 1.5 million red bricks, built in 1938! If you’re into books, definitely check it out – so many treasures! Funny thing, it was only the compulsive travel agent in me that lead me to Google search “Campbell Town” just before “passing through” (in my ever-going attempt to educate, inform and enhance the travel experience). It was then I learned of The Book Cellar, and our impromptu stop for a sticky-beak.
Tasmania’s like that…treasures to be found everywhere.
Short stop at St Marys Cranks and Tinkerers Museum, a personal collection of antiques, contained within the old railway building. Here we played a gloriously sounding 130 year-old organ, with foot pedals, keys and folding knee levers. The worn step into the Station Master’s side room was smooth enough to slide down on your bare bum. The smell, aged nostalgia and antique nature of the whole place reminded me of visiting my grandparents old relic of a house in Crib Point on the Mornington Peninsula. Many of the houses in that area were built around the 1850s too.
Through to St Helens for fresh seafood lunch (which we would now find everywhere on the East Coast – yum!!!) before driving to Binalong Bay, in the Bay of Fires in the North East of the State – famed for the warmest yummiest weather in all of Tasmania. Stunning beaches, cool blue waters, powdery white sand, flanked by the burnt orange lichen covered granite boulders. So picturesque and the smooth, flat rocks were perfect for channeling our inner seals, and slothing around to soak up some sun. Incredibly, there were some people brave enough to swim, but not us Northerners!
Down to Scamander to camp for the night at the Scamander Sanctuary Holiday Park, regarded as the highest rated park in the East Coast. With our stores of cheese, apples, locally-made preserves, wine and beer – happy to be doing our bit to support the local Tassie economy.
Thursday 29 Sep – East Coast Explorers – Freycinet National Park
Nothing better than starting the day with a peaceful walk along the beautiful shelly beach at Scamander, touched by the friendly nature of everyone we encountered – people and dogs! As the weather threatened to close in on us, we legged it back to our camp and drove through to Bicheno
– stopping to brave the cold winds and check out the phenomenal Blowhole and impressed by the vibrant red in the rocks here.
Coffee stop at local Little Bay Patisserie, then to the Lobster Shack
, a wonderful location overlooking Bicheno from up high. It was a last minute decision for us, and thankfully we made it at the right time. It opened at 11am, and was full by 11:15! The lobster rolls were nice, but I think I’d go the garlic butter lobster next time – they looked and smelled particularly drool-worthy.
Freycinet National Park
With the weather drizzling (in authentic Tassie-style – but in fact, the only time we encountered “bad” weather on our whole trip), we drove to Wineglass Bay Lookout, only to learn it’s about a 1.5 hour walk – which we were not prepared to do in the rain. It was too early in the trip to risk getting sick and trying to dry our stuff!
Instead, a quick coffee stop at the Freycinet Lodge, to check out one of the most popular high-end
placess to stay in the Freycinet Peninsula. It was here that we were told that on cloudy days, the view from Wineglass Bay Lookout is hampered by clouds, but the Cape Tourville Lighthouse lookout on the East Coast, a short drive away, has great views pretty much all the time – so that was our back up plan. The lookout is serviced by a very pleasant 20 minute easy walk mostly around a wooden boardwalk, with spectacular views of the coastline.
On our way back to stay at Bicheno East Holiday Park (with heated bathrooms-thank you very much
), we stopped in at the Freycinet Marine Farm
to pick up some fresh oysters for dinner. Natural and “Freycinet”, with cucumber, finger lime, and a Bloody Mary dressing – so good – and an easy dinner for after our upcoming Bicheno Penguin Tour.
Bicheno Penguin Tour
We um’d and ah’d about booking this Penguin Tour, thinking we could just go down to the beach ourselves to see penguins. Wrong! Too busy. Good thing I listened to my husband on this one, and secured our place several weeks earlier, because it books out in advance. It’s super popular.
On the site of a private reserve, nearby to Bicheno town, where paths are clearly marked, guides lead the way with red night lights, pointing out inhabited nesting penguin boxes, before stationing us on our perfectly positioned bench seats to watch the raft of penguins travel out of the ocean, hop com
ically up onto the rocks, before nudging each other along to ultimately waddle up the sand, through our feet (firmly planted on the ground so not to scare the penguins) and into their burrows for the night.
When a penguin is reunited with a lost mate, they make a lot of noise and fuss. Bit like “Where’ve you been?!! I’ve been looking everywhere for you!!!”
Fun fact – During courtship, a male penguin will find the smoothest pebble to give to a female as a gift. If she likes the offering, she’ll place it in the nest and the two will continue building up their little pebble mound in preparation for the eggs.
There were hundreds of penguins, in sooo many burrows, who’ve been provided so far with about 40 nesting houses, with about seven new ones per week, being provided by the dedicated team at Bicheno Penguin Tours. A most special experience and highly recommended.
Friday 30 Sep – Tripping to MONA
Calm, tranqui Waubs Bay in Bicheno was the site for out morning walk, before heading to Hobart, to see MONA
– the Museum of Old and New Art.
We stopped along the way at Swansea, where we experienced the ultimate “loo with a view” in the public toilets on the main street, with wide landscape windows overlooking the broad bay views below. We had a great fresh seafood lunch at Triabunna at the Fish Van, served in a paper cone easily held by the custom-bar with holes purpose built. Here I learned the tip I would use for the remainder of the trip… ask, “What’s fresh?”, and order that! You will be impressed.
Museum of Old and New Art (MONA)
Arriving into MONA at around 1pm, it was super busy. If you can, catch the ferry from Hobart, it’s good to avoid the carpark and impresses the iconic architectural feat that is MONA. MONA’s collection is a mixture based on death and sex themes, alongside 5,000+ year old Egyptian artefacts. The building itself is carved into the cliff, and the whole place is a sensory journey, of sound, smell, taste and thought-provoking, mind-bending, comfort-challenging concepts. Not so much for small children. If you’re looking for pretty landscapes and classical art, you will NOT find it here!
TIP – Start at the bottom, in the Void Bar, with a (hallucinogenic) Absinthe.
Delve into the depths of the basement, rock-bottom, a Symbolic place of Death and Decay, and work your way up, with an open mind, through layers of disgust, aversion, greed, lust, desire, release, chaos, pleasure, surrender, peace…. to emerge into the daylight and fresh air – happy to be alive, although a bit shell-shocked by the whole experience. It WILL leave you asking questions, like “WTF did I just see?” and “What do I think about that?!!”
Easy dinner on the Hobart wharves at Mako, inside – humble, warm, like being on a boat, away from the wind, we attempted to process some of the MONA experience, whilst relaxing into the Harbour by Sunset. Camped the night at The Big 4 Hobart Airport Tourist Park.
Taking some time to internalise and process the day at MONA : )
Sat 01 Oct – Bustling Hobart Market & Ghostly Port Arthur
Vibrant, colourful, quite big, with loads of stalls, lots of grassy areas to pause between browsing and tasting! The BEST scallop skewers – grilled to perfection, can be found at the top end of the markets. Tempura mushrooms, Afghani food, Persian, Tassie ice-cream – so much to choose from. And the tastings!!! Cheese, spiced nuts, whiskey, beer, wine, fudge, nougat – Tasmania‘s produce is vast and oh so impressive. A gorgeous sunny day without wind meant it was easy to spend about four hours here. TIP – If you’ve got a vehicle, go for the $12/day parking – as parking meters are about $5/hour and you can’t extend them.
Port Arthur Ghost Tour
Onwards south east to Port Arthur, were we arrive in time to have our introduction to the Historical Site in a pre-booked (essential to pre-book) Ghost tour, by night, which means there were only 20-25 people on the whole site at the time – excluding those who are no longer alive. Our well-timed 90 minute, 6pm tour meant it was light enough to see and get our bearings, but the sun was setting throughout the tour, so by the end, when we are in the “Separate Prison”, it is dark, and rightfully ominous.
The ghost tour is informative, authentic and respectful. No “spooky” pranks, only stories and tales of reported happenings – like the stories of the two men who died in the Church during construction, and the suicidal convict who was found hanging in his cell, in the Separate Prision. Tales of tormented prisoners, officials, their children, past tour participants, and more, over time.
Over 2,000 reported incidents of “paranormal” behaviour in the last few years!
Sun 02 Oct –
Port Arthur by day. The entry ticket includes the Introductory Walking tour and Harbour cruise.
Book your times in advance. The introductory walking tour upon arrival – a must do – is storytelling at its finest. An engaging short stroll packed with loads of information, in the context of a personal account of an inmate convict. Our guide Jet, was a skilled story-teller, in character as the Irishman, Dennis Doherty. The tour was almost like a theatre “performance”, which made it super engaging and personable. We solemnly savoured some free-time soaking up the horror, grand ruins and historically preserved houses/museums before taking the Harbour Cruise.
This 20 minute comfortable Harbour Cruise to Puer Point – the Boy’s Prison Island which housed boys aged 9-15yo, and the Isle of the Dead, the resting place fo about 1,100 souls, with less than 10 headstones (there’s a separate paid tour if you’d like to go on-shore here).
Ended the day on site with a respectful tribute to the fallen lives at the Port Arthur Massacre memorial site – those who died and struggled at the scene of Australia’s worst scene of gun violence – and whose lives contributed to dramatic and drastic gun reform in this country
Back up to camp at the NRMA Port Arthur, to process, and stroll nearby, at Stewart Bay, peaceful and relaxing – beer by the fire, looking out for Auroras, being entertained by the friendly pademelons who cheekily got stuck into hubby’s hot chocolate! This NRMA park also has some awesome cabins by the water.
Monday 03 October – Into the Wild and our Winner of the Best Food in Tassie
Tasman Island Cruise
Ahhhhh mazing!!! I knew these guys come highly regarded and now I know why! Deadset, I would return to Tassie, just to participate in every one of their tours.
9:15am briefing, then a bus to Eaglehawk Neck (a 30m wide stretch of land separating Porth Arthur Peninsula from the north), in its day, with the infamous “dog-chain” 10x savage dogs, 3-metres apart.
The Tasman Island day cruises are tailored on the day, depending on weather, and we were fortunate to do a one-way cruise from Eaglehawk Neck, down the East Coast, passing by rock formations, archways, waterfalls, mega-cliffs, and Tasman Island to Port Arthur. We were fortunate enough to see about 10x humpback whales, only metres from the boat, and even one that passed directly below us, showing off its white under-belly! There were dozens of dolphins playing all around us, and seals lolling around the rocks. Not to mention albatross, pink krill and so many birds.
The good humour, knowledge, enthusiasm, and passion of the guides Tim and Lily, made for a memorable day and indeed the highlight of our journey.
FUN FACT – best whale spotting is in September/October, as the whales are moving south – Mum’s with their calves, and they have to swim a bit slower, and closer to the surface, while their young “learn the ropes”.
COVID POSITIVE – During Covid, when only Tasmanians were travelling in Tassie and there were no boats and associated ocean disturbance, in the aftermath of the 2019 bushfires, the waters became very nutrient rich from the ash, and there were days where the tour encountered over 100+ whales in a single day!
Lunch at the Lavender Farm – the BEST Food in Tassie
Everything!!! I would order everything on the menu if I could, and have no doubt it would all be sensational! We’re talking Lavender-crafted excellence in the form of sweets – like the Lavender and Hazelnut Tart, as well as savoury achievements like the Scallop, bacon and chorizo skewers with grilled polenta and quinoa salad. The lavender fields had recently been tended in the garden, with full blooms expected in December. The gift store is stocked year round with lavender in so many forms, it boggles the mind.
We drove to Richond for the last night, staying at the Richmond Caravan and Cabin Park.
Tuesday 04 October – Old City Tales
Time to explore Richmond. The Old Hobart model of the city gives an impressive visual representation of how convicts and free people lived side-by-side to build the state as we know. it. Richmond has loads of cute shops and galleries, with a Christmas shop, wood-work shop, Tasting Shop, and of course the Church and Bridge – the oldest in Australia. There are 50+ old Georgian buildings, the Gaol, and a Gingerbread store. Very tourist oriented, but picturesque.
The Historic Richmond Bridge – the oldest stone span bridge in Australia
Apart from Freycinet drizzle, we had great weather. September/October are quieter, which is great for us – quieter folk. The busy times are December to April, and you need to book in advance for these times particularly.
First and foremost, you MUST pre-book car hire to avoid disappointment in Tassie.
Tours should also be booked in advance – they sell out and are certainly worth including in your trip.
I booked our flights and vehicle hire first.
Then specific tours – like the Bicheno Penguins and Pennicott Tasman Island cruise…
… then allowed the rest of the trip to unfold around that.
Here’s a few phone APPs you might find useful…
– great filters to find camps, but also parks, toilets, points of interest.
– so much information and really clearly presented by category, within towns or by map – attractions, food/drink, accommodation, walks, lookouts, markets/artisan stores.
– your essential guide when exploring MONA
Tasmania is full of friendly people – welcoming, and happy to have the “Mainlanders” visit and appreciate their beloved State.
- They are excellent at their craft.
- They are polished at their presentation of their convict history.
- They do what they do well – whether that’s making stuff with lavender, carving from wood, story-telling, food, wine, whisky, or even peanut butter – simply but perfected roasted peanuts with just a hint of salt.
- Not pretentious.
- Not showy
We are already planning our next adventure to the Apple Isle.
Contact me to discuss your next adventure : )
I’m so happy to share my tips and tricks to ensure you have the best possible experience on your precious travel time.
Before, during, and after your trip…
– I am here for you.