Spirit of Tasmania

Traversing Spirit of Tasmania I
Spirit of Tasmania
Spirit of Tasmania © emily@traversingtasmania 2017

The easiest way to travel to Tasmania is via aeroplane. On a clear day, you’ll see stunning aerial views of the state and of the stretch of water separating it from mainland Australia. This bird’s-eye-view of Bass Strait gives you no idea of its breadth . It is not. To fully experience Bass Strait, take a ride on the Spirit of Tasmania.

Port Melbourne
Port Melbourne © emily@traversingtasmania 2017

The two Spirit of Tasmania vessels sail between Port Melbourne and Devonport. They ferry people, pets, vehicles and freight containers. In winter, there are generally sailings every day except Sunday. In summer, day sailings are also available. Both Spirit of Tasmania I and II have restaurants, bars, a reading room, a tourism hub, a playground, a cinema, and so on.

Spirit of Tasmania
Spirit of Tasmania © emily@traversingtasmania 2017

I like the night sailings and my first priority is to be out on deck while the sun is still up. There are many ways to get to the outside decks and I recommend choosing one that isn’t too crowded and faces the sunset. After this, head to Tasmanian Market Kitchen for a meal (dietary requirements are catered for).  On Deck 9, you’ll find live music from a talented Tasmanian act. I’m not one for a late night when I know that I’ll be woken up very early so I tend to head to bed after half a set.

Melbourne
Melbourne © emily@traversingtasmania 2017

You have a choice about how you will spend your night on the Spirit of Tasmania. You can either sleep in a recliner or a cabin. My husband tells me that the recliners are awful but they are much cheaper and other people swear by them. I like space, my own bathroom and lying flat to sleep so it’s an inside cabin for me. For a slightly higher price, you can book a cabin with a porthole (not worth it on a winter night sailing though!). When you get out into Bass Strait, there are waves, very large waves. If you suffer from motion sickness, make sure that you take your medication! Let yourself be rocked to sleep.

Getting There

Devonport is about an hour’s drive north of Launceston on the Bass Highway. From Hobart, it will take you about three and a half hours (four hours including a stop) to get to the ferry terminal. Once your reach the outskirts of Devonport, follow blue signs for the ferry. The ship begins loading passengers two and a half hours prior to departure (boarding closes 45 minutes before the ship leaves). In Devonport, I recommend enjoying the view from the other side of the Mersey River and taking a bit of time before boarding.

Western Gate Bridge
Western Gate Bridge © emily@traversingtasmania 2017

The easiest way to reach the ferry terminal in Melbourne is via the toll roads. You can pay for the toll in advance here. If you are averse to paying tolls, make sure that you leave plenty of time to find your way. I try to arrive at Port Melbourne at least two hours before boarding commences. Parking nearby is limited but you can generally find a two-hour spot and walk along the shore for a while before boarding.

What to Bring

Tasmanian Market Kitchen
TMK © emily@traversingtasmania 2017

You cannot access the vehicle decks after the ship’s departure. Pack an overnight bag with warm clothes (for out on the deck), toiletries, snacks and medication. Food is available for purchase on board the ship. Due to Tasmania’s strict quarantine regulations, you cannot bring fresh fruit and vegetables, plants or meat/fish with you.

Cost

Lounge Area
Lounge Area © emily@traversingtasmania 2017

Prices vary according to seasons. There are two methods for booking. Method One: book well in advance so that you get the sailings that you want. Method Two: wait for a last-minute special (but risk missing out on a sailing altogether). Either way, I recommend signing up for the Spirit of Tasmania mailing list so that you’re aware of upcoming specials. If you are taking a ute or 4WD, make sure that you account for the height of your load when booking your tickets.

Enjoy your journey to Tasmania! While you’re in Devonport, why not visit Home Hill (a prime-ministerial home) or sail on The Julie Burgess? If you just need a good feed, go to Tasmanian Food and Wine Conservatory or Christmas Hills Raspberry Farm. For more ideas for your Tassie adventures, read my posts about what to do in Tassie’s north, north westsouth, west coast, east coast and midlands.

Alexandra Battery

Traversing Alexandra Battery
Entry
Entry © emily@traversingtasmania 2017

Two fortifications that once guarded the Derwent River sit as reminders of times gone by. Both are excellent places to visit for a dose of history, exploration and stunning scenery. On the eastern shore is Kangaroo Bluff Battery. Opposite it is Alexandra Battery. I remember vividly when I first explored its ruins.

Passageway
Passage © emily@traversingtasmania 2017

I’ve always been fascinated by tunnels, hidden passageways and fortresses. Alexandra Battery is small but impressive. As a child, I relished racing around inside its towering rock walls, darkened rooms and long passageway up the hillside. While I was there this week, a father was teaching his children about the ships that used to sail up the river and the need for large cannons to defend Hobart Town. I know why his children were so excited!

Alexandra Battery
Alexandra Battery © emily@traversingtasmania 2017
View of Tasman Bridge
View Upriver © emily@traversingtasmania 2017

In addition to its appeal to adventurers, young and old, the reserve is a fantastic place to take a photograph and relax. The view is sensational. From the top of the reserve, you can see up river to the Tasman Bridge and down river to Opossum Bay. Take a moment to sit and drink it all in. You can even have beautiful wedding photos taken here, like my brother- and sister-in-law did.

Alexandra Battery
Alexandra Battery © emily@traversingtasmania 2017

The fortress is part of a larger network of batteries that was designed to protect Hobart Town. Built in 1871, the battery is a barbette battcry (cannons fire over parapets). These round areas are fascinating. Incredibly, Alexandra Battery was constructed in a hurry due to fears that Russian forces would invade! You can find more details in this 1922 article from The Mercury.

Getting There

Lookout
Lookout © emily@traversingtasmania 2017

Alexandra Battery is approximately 15 minutes’ drive from Hobart CBD along Sandy Bay Road. After you have passed Nutgrove Beach, the road climbs up. Shortly after this, turn right onto Churchill Avenue to use the reserve’s car park. If you prefer, you can park on Sandy Bay Road and access the reserve from below the fortifications.

Cost

View Downriver
View Downriver © emily@traversingtasmania 2017

Access to the reserve is free and it is open night and day, year-round. Take a picnic lunch, a sturdy pair of shoes and a camera and enjoy a slice of old Hobart Town’s history.

While you’re in the area, why not visit The Shot Tower? My grandparents used to be caretakers there. To read more about my adventures in Tasmania’s south, click here.

Tasmazia and the Village of Lower Crackpot

Traversing Tasmazia and the Village of Lower Crackpot
Tasmazia and the Village of Lower Crackpot
Tasmazia and the Village of Lower Crackpot © emily@traversingtasmania 2017

Tasmazia and the Village of Lower Crackpot is, pardon the pun, amazing. Laugh your way through the maze, with another joke just around the corner. Be propelled at lightning speed back to your childhood as you find what’s around the corner and climb through small spaces. Above it all stands the imposing, gorgeous Mount Roland. If you haven’t been to Tasmazia yet, then you need to plan to visit soon!

The House of Hadd
The House of Hadd © emily@traversingtasmania 2017

Winter in Tasmania means the winter blues combined with a good dose of cabin fever for many Tasmanians. You can beat the winter blues with a good laugh as you make your way through the Great Maze at Tasmazia. Named due to its towering hedges (even the tallest of adults can’t cheat in this maze!), the Great Maze is full of surprises, including the Three Bears House, a garden path and a monumental toilet. It’s a real hoot!

Balance Maze
Balance Maze © emily@traversingtasmania 2017

On the edge of the Great Maze are several other treats. Whizz down a fireman’s pole, make your way through the spooky house (the spookiest thing being how dark the maze through it is!) and wobble your way across the balance maze. If you want, you can even put yourself (or somebody else!) in the stocks. Kids will love this part of the maze but I can tell you that it was great fun as an adult too. I’m proud to say that I made it through the balance maze without falling off!

Once you’re finished with the Great Maze and the other attractions on its edge, there’s more! You’ll now find yourself in the Village of Lower Crackpot. This is a quirky, miniature village surrounded by four smaller mazes. The buildings in the village include tributes to local groups such as the Salvation Army and the State Emergency Services, as well as crazy, humorous buildings like the University of Lateral Thinking. The inventors of Tasmazia and the Village of Lower Crackpot do have a sense of humour! You can overlook the village from The Tower.

Yellow Brick Maze
Yellow Brick Maze © emily@traversingtasmania 2017

This part of Tasmazia has a stunning outlook of Mount Roland. As you make your way through the four smaller mazes, be sure to look up for a great view! There are three quirky hedge mazes and a paved maze filled with humorous buildings (look out for the Boot Camp!). If you’re feeling mazed-out, the best view is from the end of the Yellow Brick Maze and the funniest centre-piece is in the Hexagonal Maze.

Embassy Gardens
Embassy Gardens © emily@traversingtasmania 2017

The final attraction at Tasmazia and the Village of Lower Crackpot is the Embassy Gardens. This houses the miniature and humorous (can you see the theme?!) embassies of several countries. Make sure that you ring Belgium’s bell. Mothers, take refuge in your safe space (complete with another great view of Mount Roland!). Once you’ve finished here, it’s out the gates and to the loo.

The Village of Lower Crackpot
The Village of Lower Crackpot © emily@traversingtasmania 2017

Tasmazia and the Village of Lower Crackpot boasts the best ladies’ toilets on the planet. The cubicles are very roomy, each with its own painting and chair! There is a small gift shop and a café. While you won’t find gourmet food there (aside from the honey for sale), it is tasty, served quickly and dietary requirements can be catered for.

What to Bring

The Crapper Monument
The Crapper Monument © emily@traversingtasmania 2017

The most important thing to bring with you is a sense of adventure! Wear sturdy shoes and comfortable clothes as you’ll be outdoors for a good half day at least. Take a hat and sunscreen in summer and wear a warm coat, hat and gloves in winter. You can exit and then re-enter the maze as often as you wish but it might be wise to take a bottle of water and snacks with you. There is no (usable) toilet in the maze so keep this in mind too!

Getting There

A joke around every corner
A joke around every corner © emily@traversingtasmania 2017

Tasmazia and the Village of Lower Crackpot is about a 15 minute drive west from the town of Sheffield. From Devonport, drive south via Spreyton. From Launceston, drive north on the Bass Highway, taking the left-hand turn at Elizabeth Town for Sheffield. If you’re travelling from Cradle Mountain to Sheffield (or vice versa), Tasmazia is well worth the slight detour.

Cost

Post Office
Post Office © emily@traversingtasmania 2017

At $25 per adult, you may think that Tasmazia is a bit overpriced. Entry costs $20 per senior, $70 per family (2 + 2) and $12.50 for children (with children under four free).  I would pay the entry fee again in a heartbeat. It is worth every cent for a good laugh and a fabulous adventure!

In nearby Sheffield, you’ll find the Redwater Creek Railway, which I enjoyed visiting a few weeks earlier. For more posts about my travels in Tasmania’s north west, click here, and for more in the north, click here.

Harvest Lauceston

Traversing Harvest Launceston
Harvest Launceston
Harvest Launceston © emily@traversingtasmania 2017

Harvest Launceston is a gem. The Ancient Mariner tries to make his forays north coincide with a Saturday morning so that he can visit the market. Why? In the words of Lionel Bart, “food, glorious food!” In addition to eating and purchasing beautiful food, you’ll also meet friendly producers, soak up the atmosphere (and weather!) and be a hop, skip and a jump away from some fantastic shops, City Park and Albert Hall.

Steve's Vegies
Steve’s Vegies © emily@traversingtasmania 2017

My favourite thing about Harvest Launceston is the people. There are many local producers who participate in the market. They are proud of their produce and are on-hand to answer any questions you might have. Best of all, buying groceries becomes a social exchange and not a drudgery performed under neon lights in a giant concrete box! If you’re a local, it’s also highly likely that you’ll run into someone that you know. The market is a great place to catch up with friends.

Harvest Launceston
Harvest Launceston © emily@traversingtasmania 2017

Another thing that I love about Harvest Launceston is its seasonality. The amount and variety of producers at the market changes over the year. For example, in summer, you’ll find lots of people selling lovely Tasmanian berries. Easter, Christmas and Harvest Launceston’s birthday are special events. Foods like asparagus and avocado are available (and snapped up!) at specific times of the year. In winter, the market slows down a bit but it’s still very much worth visiting.

Mount Direction Olives
Mount Direction Olives © emily@traversingtasmania 2017

You’ll find some fantastically unusual goodies at Harvest Launceston. Did you know that olive oil is best served vacuum-packed? Ask the lovely people at Coronea Grove Olives why. Can olives be a dessert? Yes, and a highly moreish one at that! Try the jarred dessert olives from Mount Direction Olives. Finally, ask Wild Spore why some of their oyster mushrooms are pink.

Coronea Grove Olives
Coronea Grove Olives © emily@traversingtasmania 2017

You’ll also find gorgeously fresh staples. Buy seasonal veggies from Steve’s Veggies, Pink Lady apples from Lees Orchard, and a large variety of fish from George Town Seafoods. I also really enjoy beef jerky (trust me, it’s good!) from Kooee! and roasted hazelnuts from Hazelbrae (you can read about my visit to their farm at nearby Hagley here). I have food allergies but there are also lovely bread and butter options too, such as the Tasmanian Butter Co. and Sandy’s Sourdough. There was a queue building at Sandy’s when I arrived at 8:20am!

Tasmanian Butter Co.
Tasmanian Butter Co. © emily@traversingtasmania 2017

Harvest Launceston is a communal enterprise. Take a seat on furniture designed and built by UTAS Architecture students. Should you need to use it, there is even a custom built, community-funded shipping container toilet! If you’re offered an advertising pamphlet on your way in, take it. It’s for a local event, which is probably worth going to. The market also showcases local musical talent.

Getting There

Breakfast
Breakfast © emily@traversingtasmania 2017

Harvest Launceston takes place in a carpark bordered by Cameron, Tamar and Cimitiere Streets. There is ample street parking nearby and a small portion of parking spaces at the Cameron Street entry to the market. For free parking, park beside the North Esk River or City Park and walk in. The market starts at 8:30am (buying starts when the bell rings) and ends at 12:30pm. Make sure that you’re there nice and early if you are after something specific as some producers do sell out.

Cost

Harvest Launceston
Harvest Launceston © emily@traversingtasmania 2017

There is no cost to enter Harvest Launceston. Make sure that you have cash though. Some stalls are cash only and others have EFTPOS facilities. As well as delicious food and drink, you can also purchase Harvest Launceston shopping bags and so on if you wish. If you’re pinching pennies, wander around, say hello to the producers and sample their wares. They know that you, like the Ancient Mariner, will be back to buy next time.

For more of my adventures in Tasmania’s north, click here.

Bicheno Blowhole and Rice Pebble Beach

Traversing Bicheno Blowhole
Bicheno Blowhole
Bicheno Blowhole © emily@traversingtasmania 2017

Bicheno has two unique attractions within easy walk of one another: Bicheno Blowhole and Rice Pebble Beach. There are a few blowholes on Tasmania’s East Coast. The thing that makes Bicheno Blowhole exceptional is its surrounds. The rocks on the coastline near the Blowhole are covered with the distinctive, fiery lichen that is unique to the East Coast. This orange back-drop contrasts beautifully with the water spout. The marine environment around the Blow Hole is also fascinating. Take a look at the kelp off the side of the rocks. It’s enormous!

Bicheno Blowhole
Bicheno Blowhole © emily@traversingtasmania 2017

There’s a lot to do at the Blowhole. You can look for sea life, hop on the rocks around the shoreline or even picnic on the table atop a nearby rock, if it’s available. It is a popular destination! Even in winter, there were plenty of people about. Perhaps the thing that you’ll spend most of your time doing though is listening for the whoomp of water rushing through rock as you try to time the perfect photograph. It sounds tedious, but it’s not! It’s an intriguing sound and a spectacular sight! Just be careful that you don’t wander into the splash zone or off the rock while you’re trying to get the perfect shot! And definitely don’t go out onto the rocks if the seas are stormy.

Rice Pebble Beach
Rice Pebble Beach © emily@traversingtasmania 2017

When you’re finished at the Blowhole, there’s still plenty more to do. Around the corner is Bicheno’s secret beach: Rice Pebble Beach. As the name suggests, it is covered in tiny pebbles instead of sand. I remember visiting the beach several times when I was a child. The feeling of the stones under your feet is heavenly yet torture!! You can paddle and swim at Rice Pebble Beach but you do need to take care as there are a lot of rocks under the surface. If swimming isn’t your thing, read a book, admire the scenery or climb the lichen-covered rocks.

Getting There

Bicheno Blowhole
Bicheno Blowhole © emily@traversingtasmania 2017

To get to Bicheno, see this post. Once you’re in Bicheno, you can reach Bicheno Blowhole and Rice Pebble Beach by car or by foot. You could walk along the foreshore track via The Gulch. If you’re driving, you can take a similar route or, from Burgess Street, turn onto Douglas Street. There is ample car parking space at the end of Douglas Street. To reach Rice Pebble Beach, follow a dirt track south from the car park. Once the track ends, continue walking on the grass until you see a track disappearing into the trees.

Cost

Lichen
Lichen © emily@traversingtasmania 2017

There is no cost to visit Bicheno Blowhole and Rice Pebble Beach. Save your pennies for fish and chips from The Gulch, a cuppa from one of the cafes or a penguin tour.

Read about more of my adventures on Tasmania’s East Coast here.

Bicheno

Traversing Bicheno
Diamond Island
Diamond Island © emily@traversingtasmania 2017

Bicheno is a beautiful little town on Tasmania’s East Coast. I spent many a summer holiday in the town as a child. Within the town boundaries, you can shop for Tasmanian goodies, eat fresh seafood, have a decent coffee, swim, surf, dive, fish, climb to several vantage points, see Little Penguins, stand on the edge of a blowhole, or walk over a sandbar to an island. And that’s not an exhaustive list by any means! Bicheno packs a punch!

Waubs Bay
Waubs Bay © emily@traversingtasmania 2017

My favourite thing to do in Bicheno is to swim. Although I am a true Tasmanian, it is winter and I don’t have a wetsuit, so we did my second favourite thing: walk. There are several tracks around Bicheno, including a lovely, albeit uneven, foreshore track. From the centre of Bicheno, you can walk to many different places.

Waubs Beach
Waubs Beach © emily@traversingtasmania 2017

It is very short walk to Waubs Beach, a small but gorgeous place. In summer, this is where the surf lifesaving club operates. This weekend, we saw people on paddleboards, in kayaks and even going for a swim (in wetsuits, of course!). Bicheno is famous for its annual ocean swim. Australia’s famous Olympic swimmer, Shane Gould, heads up a swimming group and it may have been just this group that we spotted! The day before we arrived, whales were seen swimming nearby too. Whales are regularly seen offshore from July to November.

Wauba Debar's Grave
Wauba Debar’s Grave © emily@traversingtasmania 2017

On the shore, you’ll find a memorial to the Merchant Navy and the grave of the bay’s namesake. This is one of the most important graves in Tasmania as it once held the remains of Wauba Debar, a Tasmanian Aboriginal lady who won the hearts of locals at a time where racism and sexism were at their worst. Shamefully, her remains were removed for scientific study in the late 1800s but she is still remembered here with her original grave site and stone.

The Gulch
The Gulch © emily@traversingtasmania 2017

Further south along the coast, you’ll find The Gulch. This is a small waterway and wharf protected from the elements by two Islands. On the other side of the islands lies the Governor Island Marine Reserve. This is one of the world’s best temperate dive locations, with over fifteen species inhabiting the small area. Seals can sometimes even be seen on nearby Alligator Rock. For a fantastic view of The Gulch, head to Whaler’s Lookout.

Bicheno
Bicheno © emily@traversingtasmania 2017

The track to Whaler’s Lookout starts from Foster Street and is well signposted. We found a track winding up from the end of James Street but it is not for the faint hearted! At the top of the hill, you’ll find two lookouts. Whaler’s Lookout looks over the township and is so named because Bicheno was originally a whaling town. You can read about this awful yet fascinating history on the information board at the lookout. From Whaler’s Lookout, keep walking on the loop track and you’ll find another lookout, this time over The Gulch. It’s a lovely view!

A short walk south, either via the streets or the foreshore track, is the Blow Hole and Rice Pebble Beach, which you can read about here. A longer walk North along the foreshore track is the surf beach, Red Bill, and the town’s most famous attraction: Diamond Island. The island is famous for its penguin colony and its accessibility via a sandbar. You can read about my visit to Diamond Island here.

Getting There

Bicheno
Bicheno © emily@traversingtasmania 2017

Bicheno is on Tasmania’s East Coast. It is about ten minutes’ drive north of Freycinet and one hour’s drive south of St Helens. From Hobart, it will take you approximately two and a half hours via the Tasman Highway. Bicheno is just over two hours’ drive from Launceston via Campbell Town or St Mary’s. You can also take the longer route via St Helens and Bay of Fires. Wherever you’re driving from, add on an extra hour or two for stops. Its the East Coast. You see something you really want to stop for approximately every ten minutes.

Cost

Red Bill Beach © emily@traversingtasmania 2017

Understandably, the cost of accommodation is much less in the off-season (over winter). That said, there truly is something for everyone, ranging from tent sites to caravans to luxury B&Bs. As far as attractions go, you can spend the big bucks on scenic flights and cruises in nearby Freycinet or you can do what we did and just walk around Bicheno. It is such a fascinating and beautiful place!

Diamond Island
Diamond Island © emily@traversingtasmania 2017

There is much more that I could write about Bicheno. We bought veggies from a local market, had a delicious piece of gluten and dairy free slice from The Farm Shed – East Coast Wine Centre and hope to return soon so that we can do the many things that we missed out on this time. Next time you head to the East Coast, don’t forget to visit the small but brilliant town of Bicheno.

You can read more about my adventures on Tasmania’s East Coast here.