Tuesday 4 April
At Launceston we collected our hire car (white Toyota Yashi 4 door hatchback) & set off at 9.45am via Evendale & Campbell Town & then took the scenic route to the east coast (as recommended by Diana). Diana is Keef’s 2nd cousin & we had visited her & John twice before in 2008 & 2013 when they lived in Huonville, Tasmania. This time they had had a house built on some land near Swansea which we had not seen before.
We drove to Campbell Town, an old town with a history of convicts & settlers. It had an 1836 red brick bridge built by convicts over the Elizabeth River. We visited the Tourist Info centre & had a pie & coffee in the local bakery as we’d been up for hours. At Evandale a lot of English trees had autumn tints & the air was cooler & fresher than Sydney. It felt a bit like England but the fields were bone dry & the grass was yellow due to drought. Some local Aussies said it was just coming into winter now.
We saw a few Tasmanian Devils dead at the side of the road (killed at night by traffic). The roads were empty & scenery was lovely – lots of mountain ridges but few rivers & streams. We stopped at Bicheno on the coast to buy flowers & chocs for John & Diana. They are both 79 & had bought a 5 acre plot of grassland & had a house built from scratch, with the same floor plan as their previous house in the Huon valley except this time the kitchen was open-plan. Their house was very nice with white & pink roses round the verandah. Diana had given us directions to their house which was a few minutes inland from Swansea, their nearest town on the coast. We arrived at John & Diana’s at 4.30pm – a long journey travelling from 4.30am (although we had stopped for about 1+ ¾ hrs for breaks, including breakfast in Campbell Town). It was nice to see them again & we all had some tea, cake & a catch-up (we had last done a Skype with them before we left England.
We stored our big bags in their garage which had recently been built. They had been busy planting trees & John had done all the internal & external painting of the house himself. Diana cooked Flathead fish fillets (Aussie fish) in breadcrumbs with salad & homemade plum pie for dessert. We went to bed at 10pm as very tired – been awake for 18¼ hours since early this morning.
Wednesday 5 April Tasmania
Diana cooked us a full English breakfast. We all went in the hire car to 9 Mile Beach, Spikey Bridge (built by convicts), Spikey Beach & Rocky Hill Lookout over the bay towards Freycinet National Park. Warm weather today 24c with a gentle breeze.
The beaches we visited were empty, with pristine sand & no parking fees (unlike Sydney). This eastern coast of Tasmania has so many quiet, sandy beaches & small sleepy settlements with hardly any shops, cafes or restaurants. John told us that there were 8 areas on the island where the water was unsafe to drink so people had to boil water or buy bottled water – not very 21st century.
Tasmania does not seem to cater much for tourists compared to mainland Australia & we think it’s behind the times (40 years behind!). I expect a lot of Tasmanians like it this way – sleepy with not much going on. Certainly compared to having just left Sydney where people rushing around the massive city & suburbs must raise stress levels We noticed no wind farms at all on our car journeys & no solar panels on people’s roofs. Even petrol stations are few & far between & public transport was not visible. Wi-fi is not available in some small settlements & our sat-nav kept saying ‘GPS signal lost’ when we were in the country. There is only one road down the east coast by the Tasman Sea– the Tasman Highway- and there’s not much work available with mainly retired people living here. Keef & I like Tassie as it’s so different from the mainland & this is our 3rd visit. Most Aussies we’ve talked to in various States have never been to Tassie.
It takes John & Diana 2 hours by car to reach Hobart or Launceston where they do their main shopping. Swansea does have a school, small library, 2 small IGA supermarkets, petrol station, fish & chip shop, a small museum & tourist info in the old schoolhouse, plus a motel & backpackers hostel. The seafood restaurant & hairdressers had closed down. There were a lot of houses & land for sale. John & Diana live about ½ mile from the main coastal road & near them there some new homes being built on large plots of land. Lots of fields nearby with long tinder dry grass & bush further away.
Keef & I took lots of photos & we all returned back to John & Diana’s for tea & homemade walnut cake (Mary Berry had better watch out!) For dinner John cooked two delicious curries – chicken korma & beef rojan josh, with lentil dahl, poppadoms & naan bread. Watched TV for the rest of the evening.
Thursday 6 April Tasmania
Warm weather again. Diana cooked pancakes & maple syrup for breakfast. I seem to have picked up germs from the plane – have a cold, runny nose & stye on my inner eyelid. This is the second cold I’ve had on this big trip. We went out for the day to Freycinet National park, north of Swansea. We parked at the Visitors Centre & as J & D had an annual parks pass, we checked with the park staff that we could use it on the hire car – normal cost would be $24 per vehicle. This was twice the price of a day pass in other National Parks on the mainland.
Took a photo of a stuffed wombat in the visitors centre – will email it to Charlie & Edie. We did a walk through the trees down to the bay and beach. Beautiful views – boats moored in crystal clear waters & the very large rocky isthmus called The Hazards. The walk to the famous Wineglass Bay takes 2 hours each way & is very arduous as it cuts across the isthmus, so we decided against this.
We drove along a winding mountain road with ravines & bush on one side to Tourville Lighthouse where there was a circular boardwalk from the car park. There were spectacular views of the other side of The Hazards, a bit of Wineglass Bay & looking across the Tasman Sea. Didn’t see any whales or dolphins. We drove to Coles bay, a small settlement with few shops. From Coles Bay it’s 1,000kms to South Island, New Zealand. Had coffee & cake in a café. Lots of wasps around here. There were several holiday homes & a boat launch.
Keef drove back to Swansea pier & jetty where we took some photos. John cooked prawn lasse, a Singapore dish, with soup, noodles, beans & prawns which we’d not had before – will have to do this recipe when we get home. Diana produced a homemade apricot pie with icecream. Waistbands were straining – slumped in front of the TV. Such nice food and how kind they are to us!
Friday 7 April Tasmania
Drove along the coast in a southerly direction towards Orford. We stopped at Triabunna Marina to look at the boats – fishing & leisure. Crayfish & prawns are fished from here. There’s a ferry to Maria island $50 per person which was a bit expensive. The Parks department are trying to introduce & breed Tasmanian Devils & wombats on the island. There used to be a penal colony there. A 4 hr boat trip with lunch cost $195 per person (or £121 pp)- all far too expensive. Before we left the UK Keef & I had seen a TV series on Australian islands with Martin Clunes as the presenter & Maria Island was one of the episodes.
Whilst walking round the marina we noticed the smell of burning in the air & a smoke haze. Apparently the grass in the Hobart area was being burnt off to prevent bushfires but the wind was spreading the smoke halfway up the island. Apparently the fire brigade do the burning off. Unfortunately the smoke haze ruined the views of Freycinet & the inland mountains today. Just as well we saw Freycinet yesterday.
We drove to Orford along the Tasman Highway & went into a café for coffee & cake. Apart from the café there’s a restaurant, a bridge over a river, a petrol station & some houses. We returned back along the highway a short distance & parked at Raspins Spit beach. This was named after a settler family called Raspins. We walked along the beautiful beach (hardly anyone around) which was full of shells & empty crab shells.
We returned to Swansea & went into the small museum there which was housed in the old school & schoolhouse attached. Interesting history of settlers & convicts in the area. Went back to J & D’s for tea & cake. Diana cooked chicken breasts with mushroom sauce, vegs & potatoes dauphinoise & we ate the last of the apricot pie with homemade vanilla icecream. Went to bed at 10pm as getting up early tomorrow.
Saturday 8 April Tasmania to Sydney
Got up at 4.45am & still dark. Had showers & muesli for breakfast. John & Diana got up too. We said our farewells & thanked them for looking after us so well (the seat belts on the plane might be a little tight going back to Sydney). Yesterday John had kindly given us a painting of Wineglass Bay which he had done & it was carefully wrapped up at the bottom of one of the big bags. It was just beginning to get light outside & a lovely sunrise.
We set off through Swansea north & took the Lake Leake road through the countryside which goes through Campbell Town. The direct journey took 2 hours to the airport. Saw lots of grey wallabies eating grass at the side of the road + a few dead ones too. Stopped on route very briefly at Campbell Town bakery again & bought 2 bacon & egg flans to eat at the airport. Once we hit the Midland Highway at Campbell Town the road was easier to drive as it was straighter.
Keef got stopped by the Police doing 80kms in a 40kms temporary speed limit area where people were just setting up traffic cones in preparation for the Tasmanian speed car race today at Symonds Flat. Two policemen stopped us & one of them had a radar gun. K gave them his driving licence & they saw we were British tourists. Luckily Keef got a warning letter & a telling off (the policeman said he needed a “kick up the bum” & he had “avoided a hefty fine”. They probably let him off because the reduced speed limit signs were not much in evidence apart from one by the main entrance to the racetrack & there was no warning further back the state highway of changed speed restrictions for the day. Relieved we did not get a massive fine.
After that bit of excitement we checked in the hire car at Launceston airport (we had driven 680kms total in Tasmania). We ate our bacon & egg flans & got our flight to Sydney at 9.30am which took 1½ hrs.