This week, we stayed at Turners Beach. The beach faces onto Bass Strait and is strewn with large pebbles, sun-bleached driftwood, seaweed, sponges, cuttlefish and other fascinating offerings from the ocean-floor. At low tide, the sand is revealed, along with more gorgeous pebbles, shells and sponges. Turners beach is a treasure-hunter’s paradise.
At high tide, the only way of moving along the western end of the beach is to walk on the pebbles, which is an adventure. You never know what you’ll find among the driftwood. Unbelievably, there were surfers in the water, taking advantage of the high-tide waves. The sound of the waves dragging back across the rocks is very unusual! It was a fantastic sound to fall asleep to.
At low tide, you can walk the length of the beach on the sand. You can also see why there are so many warnings signposted on the public access points to the beach. Sandbars and previously hidden piles of pebbles create brilliant waves but, combined with strong currents, make for less than ideal swimming conditions. Have a lovely paddle and explore the debris instead.
Public access to Turners Beach is via the esplanade. The most prominent access is via a wooden walkway opposite the popular La Mar Café Providore. This entry has some carparking and two picnic shelters. There is also a viewing platform which is a great spot for taking photos and enjoying the atmosphere of the beach at high tide. When you reach the sand, walk to the right and you’ll find the River Forth. To the left, you’ll find the unusual pebbles and oceanic paraphernalia that make Turners Beach so distinctive.
Turners Beach is approximately 15 minutes’ drive from Devonport along the Bass Highway. Coming from the west, it’s a 5-minute drive from Ulverstone. Drive along the esplanade until you reach the end. Parking is available near the public entry to the beach.
There is no cost to visit public beaches in Tasmania. I encourage you to pay for your visit in kind though, by taking three for the sea. I also highly recommend visiting La Mar Café Providore. They have a great menu, lots of options for those with food allergies, a lovely atmosphere and a wonderful variety of food and home-ware items to browse. It’s winter now and sitting beside their wood fire was an absolute treat!
Today, it snowed at Leven Canyon in Tasmania’s north west. I know this because I was there. By there, I mean at Cruikshanks Lookout, high above the thundering rapids, being blasted with snow. It was awesome!
We arrived to a scene from a fairy-tale. Trees towered above us. Ferns surrounded the picnic area. The ground was covered in snow. If we had wanted to, we could have made a fire in the barbeque hut and cooked lunch but I’m glad that we continued to the lookout instead. It was perfect timing.
Access to the lookouts is via the Fern Walk (from the lower picnic area) or via the path to Cruikshanks Lookout. The walk can be done as a circuit. I recommend visiting Cruikshanks Lookout first as you can then descend the almost-600 steps to the track below instead of ascending them.
When we reached Cruikshanks Lookout, it had just started snowing. The lookout juts out from the hill and is very exposed. Hold on to your hat! The Leven River roared below us and limestone cliffs stood around us at a commanding 300 metres. The wind whipped snow into our faces. It was an incredible sight: Leven Canyon seen through a veil of snow.
Descend the (many!) Forest Steps to the Edge Lookout below for another spectacular view. This time, you’re much closer to the rapids but still at quite a height above them. As always with Tasmania, the weather can change at any moment. When we stepped out onto the Edge Lookout, we were greeted with the warmth of the sun (and a small pocket of phone reception!).
From the Edge Lookout, it’s an easy walk back to the carpark. Well, almost! There might not be any steps but the uphill trudge was hard-going! The track is well-maintained. There are benches at regular intervals along the circuit’s tracks. These are essentially horizontal signposts, showing you how far you are from the nearest location (car park, bridge, lookout) in either direction and are a great motivation to keep going!
The Leven Canyon Lookout is approximately 45 minutes’ drive from Ulverstone via the B15 or the B17 (the latter goes past the turnoff to Wings Wildlife Park). The drive there was very picturesque, with snow beside the road and on the distant mountain tops. As always with Tasmania’s country roads, take care on corners, particularly on icy days like today. When you arrive at Leven Canyon, there is ample car parking. Watch out for our native animals.
There are no entry fees at Leven Canyon. Toilet and wood-fired barbeque facilities are available for public use. Do not light the barbeques during a total fire ban! There are also plenty of picnic tables for public use. It’s a great spot to visit.
You can read more about my adventures in Tasmania’s beautiful north west here.
Last week, I visited the lovely Mersey Bluff Reserve. Dubbed “The Bluff” by locals, it has a rugged beauty, excellent facilities and is a significant location in punnilerpunner country. In summer, Mersey Bluff Reserve is crowded with swimmers, diners, children playing on the playground and people walking or running by. In winter, I arrived to find a man wheeling a car tyre past the playground and saw approximately fifteen people across the entire reserve. Everyone who stayed away because of the rain missed out though.
When you arrive at Mersey Bluff Reserve, you’ll see a giant playground, a beach, and a fascinating building, which houses the amenities and eateries. I recommend having a bite to eat here as the view is superb. Walk north along the beach and you’ll see a cement track. This leads you around The Bluff. It is a short but stunning walk. On a sunny day, at the right time, you’ll even see The Julie Burgess about (this is how I first learnt that she existed!) or The Spirit of Tasmania sail past.
One of my friends recently told me that she loves to go to the beach in winter. Now I understand why! I have never seen the water so wild before. Waves pushed up to the cement barrier on the beach. They pounded the cliffs and surged through the rocks. I stood at one lookout and watched the water pour in and out of a crevice for about five minutes. It was amazing!
I followed a father and his two sons around the track. One of the boys asked his father to read him a plaque. His father read out a poignant statement about a man who died in 1929 trying to save a little girl. Near the lighthouse, there is another plaque about a man who died more recently, again, trying to save someone else. For the sake of others, please swim only at the beach and not near the cliffs.
The lighthouse is testament to the perils of The Bluff and of Bass Strait. It is a rather gorgeous red and white striped lighthouse, perched on the cliffs overlooking Bass Strait. You first see it from a lookout just off the walkway. You cannot climb the lighthouse but admiring it from the outside is good enough.
As you walk back down the hill, you’ll see two things: a caravan park and Tiagarra. This is no accident, as a sign at Tiagarra, an Aboriginal Cultural Centre, points out: “Wherever there is a caravanpark or campsite on the ocean or rivers it is likely to be built on an Aboriginal living site, as they are in the best positions to stay in the seasons”. Tiagarra means “to keep” and is one of the oldest Aboriginal Keeping Places in Australia. Take time to read the poetry printed on the windows and to look for petroglyphs (carvings) on the rocks near the lighthouse. Tiagarra is open by appointment for groups of ten or more.
Devonport is about one hour’s drive north of Launceston on the Bass Highway and about half an hour east of Burnie. When you arrive in Devonport, head to the city centre. From here, follow Victoria Parade. This then turns into Bluff Road. There is plenty of car parking at The Bluff. If you’re keen on exercise, there is a cycling and walking track that runs alongside the river from the city to The Bluff. It is rather picturesque!
There is no cost to visit Mersey Bluff Reserve or to walk around the base of the lighthouse. If you make an appointment to visit Tiagarra (with a group of ten or more), you can purchase craft and artworks. Alternatively, buy some food at one of The Bluff restaurants or have a picnic at one of the picnic tables. I’ve always enjoyed visiting The Bluff and, as my winter visit proved, the loop walk around the coast is worth doing at any time of year.
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!
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!
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.
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.
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.
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 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!
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.
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.
One of my friends describes Cradle Mountain as “a tiny bowl of goodness”. Between Cradle Mountain and the Bass Highway, you’ll find another tiny bowl of goodness: The Redwater Creek Railway. Open on the first full weekend of each month, the railway is well preserved, enthusiastically shared with visitors and has a stunning view. It’s also just plain fun!
Redwater Creek Railway is an experience not to be missed. The carriage is beautiful, as is the Krauss engine that pulls it. It takes you from the station at Sheffield for a short run to Victoria Station East, about five minutes away. What a difference a short train ride makes! Hop off and take a photo of Mount Roland. I’m told that there are plans to extend operations to provide another train station, pending approval of course. On the return journey, you might even be invited to ride in the engine.
Back at the station, watch (or, lucky me, ride in!) the engine as it is turned on the tiniest turntable I’ve ever seen. The engine is then reattached to the carriage and it’s time for the next lot of passengers to leave. The half-hour turnaround means that you can make a short stop while you are on your way to other places in the region, such as Cradle Mountain. If you have time, there’s still plenty more to do.
For the young and young at heart, there is a model railway to view. Stand on the box (even if you’re an adult because the view is far superior!) and watch Thomas whizz past. He’s not the only train and nor is he the fastest. The Redwater Creek Model Railway Club have banded together to display the best of their trains and the best of their craftsmanship. We were thrilled to find it open on a Saturday as it is usually open only on Sundays in winter (there is a volunteer keen to open on Saturdays though). The one thing that you will miss out on if you visit on a Saturday is a ride on a miniature train. It looks like I’ll just have to visit the Redwater Creek Railway again!
I recommend exploring the grounds, outbuildings and station. Take time to have a good look at the murals (Sheffield is known as the town of murals). Have a closer inspection of the tiny turntable. There is a small coffee shop on site. Have a bite to eat while warming up in front of a fire housed in a tiny boiler! You’ll see a few references to Steam Fest around the site. If you visit Redwater Creek Railway on the March long weekend, you’ll get to be part of this experience. I missed out this year but hope to be there next year.
Redwater Creek Railway is open on the first full weekend of each month on both Saturday and Sunday from 11am to 4pm. Located in Sheffield, the railway is 30 minutes’ drive from Devonport (via Spreyton). It is just under an hour away from Cradle Mountain on the C136 and just over an hour away from Launceston. From Launceston, take the Bass Highway to Elizabeth Town and turn left just past Christmas Hills Raspberry Farm. Take care on Tasmania’s roads as they can have unexpected twists and turns.
You can ride the train at Redwater Creek Railway for just $7 per adult, $5 per pensioner or $4 per child. Children under 5 ride for free. This price includes a lovely ticket and admission to the grounds and the model railway shed. Don’t have time for a train ride? You can take photographs of the train from the platform for $2 instead. Next time you drive through Sheffield, stop and experience a tiny part of Tasmania’s goodness.
To read more about my travels in Tasmania’s North West, click here. To read about my adventures in Tasmania’s North, click here.
We have been watching the series Hornblower over the past few weeks. Today, we had the honour of stepping back in time aboard the Julie Burgess. The Julie Burgess is a beautifully and expertly restored fishing ketch who sails a short way out into Bass Strait, departing from East Devonport.
Today was a sunny, calm day with just enough wind for us to sail out into Bass Strait. The Ancient Mariner (in that hat again!) joined us. Once we had motored out of the Mersey River, the crew raised all seven sails and showed us what the Julie Burgess can do without man power. She is a stately and solid lady. I didn’t feel sea-sick at all as she hardly moves in the water!
The crew are all volunteers and are a very friendly bunch. They take you through a snap-shot of the boat’s history at the start of your journey. Later into our journey, we were given the opportunity to look at a book of photographs of the restoration process. Take the time to have a chat with the crew and you’ll find out some of the boat’s secrets, as well as a little bit about why they have chosen to give up their time to take you out into Bass Strait aboard a historic ketch.
The scenery is a highlight. Tasmania is a magnificent island and you’ll get to see a few of her beautiful features. Your journey takes you out into Bass Strait and then back again. You’ll sail past the Bluff with its iconic lighthouse. The foreshore of Devonport as you sail out is very pretty. When you’re out at sea, you can look east towards Port Sorrell, west towards Ulverstone or directly behind you towards Devonport and the distinctive face of Mount Roland. Alternatively, you can kick back and look out at the horizon.
We didn’t see any wildlife on our journey but the crew report seeing whales, dolphins and even a seal every now and then. We saw a gull once we docked back in East Devonport. It didn’t worry me at all that we hadn’t seen any wildlife as I was content to take in the warmth of the sun and the beauty of the scenery and the Julie Burgess. The Ancient Mariner explored the engine room and even had his turn at the helm!
What to Bring
You’ll be on the water for two hours and it’s important that you make yourself comfortable. Remember that its always sunnier (due to glare) and colder out on the water. You’ll need a hat, sunscreen, layers (merino is my favourite!) and waterproof gear if the weather calls for it.
The Julie Burgess sets sail from East Devonport. She is docked near the Reg Hope Park and you can park your car in the small carpark there. Devonport is a one-hour drive from Launceston and just over a three-hour drive from Hobart. When you reach Devonport, follow signs for the Spirit of Tasmania. Reg Hope Park is near the bridge, well before you reach the Spirit of Tasmania terminal.
A two-hour sail on the Julie Burgess is an absolute bargain at $40 per person. Bring some spare cash for on-board souvenirs. I also recommend visiting the Bass Strait Maritime Centre (you can read about my visit here). One of the rooms at the centre is devoted to ship restoration and you can view a short film about the restoration of the Julie Burgess. You can book your sailing through the Bass Strait Maritime Centre (pay by credit card, EFTPOS or cash) or you can pay via cash on the day from the dock in East Devonport. You can even book your own chartered voyage. The Julie Burgess sails on Wednesdays and Sundays at 10am and 1pm, subject to weather conditions, crew availability and passenger numbers. For more booking information, click here.
Step back into the past for a day on the high seas (or the calm seas!) aboard the Julie Burgess.
For more posts about places to visit on Tasmania’s North-West Coast, click here.