Mersey Bluff Reserve

Traversing Mersey Bluff Reserve
Mersey Bluff Reserve
Mersey Bluff Reserve © emily@traversingtasmania 2017

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.

Walkway
Walkway © emily@traversingtasmania 2017

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.

View of Bass Strait
View of Bass Strait © emily@traversingtasmania 2017

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!

Memorial
Memorial © emily@traversingtasmania 2017

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.

Lighthouse
Lighthouse © emily@traversingtasmania 2017

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.

Tiagarra
Tiagarra © emily@traversingtasmania 2017

Getting There

Lighthouse
Lighthouse © emily@traversingtasmania 2017

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!

Cost

Mersey Bluff Reserve
Mersey Bluff Reserve © emily@traversingtasmania 2017

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.

Staying in Devonport? Read about my visits to Home Hill, Bass Strait Maritime Centre or The Julie Burgess. Passing through? Read about my adventures in Tasmania’s nearby north west or north.

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.

Redwater Creek Railway

Traversing Redwater Creek Railway
Turntable
Turntable © emily@traversingtasmania 2017

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!

View of Mount Roland
View of Mount Roland © emily@traversingtasmania 2017

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.

Turning the Engine
Turning the Engine © emily@traversingtasmania 2017

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.

Model Trains
Model Trains © emily@traversingtasmania 2017

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!

Cafe Fireplace
Cafe Fireplace © emily@traversingtasmania 2017

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.

Getting There

Redwater Creek Railway
Redwater Creek Railway © emily@traversingtasmania 2017

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.

Cost

Krauss Engine
Krauss Engine © emily@traversingtasmania 2017

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.

The Julie Burgess

Traversing Julie Burgess
Julie Burgess
Julie Burgess © emily@traversingtasmania 2017

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.

Sails
Sails © emily@traversingtasmania 2017

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!

Lighthouse and Bluff
Lighthouse and Bluff © emily@traversingtasmania 2017

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.

Bass Strait
Bass Strait © emily@traversingtasmania 2017

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.

Devonport Foreshore
Devonport Foreshore © emily@traversingtasmania 2017

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

Devonport
Devonport © emily@traversingtasmania 2017

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.

Getting There

Reg Hope Park
Reg Hope Park © emily@traversingtasmania 2017

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.

Cost

Julie Burgess
Julie Burgess © emily@traversingtasmania 2017

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.

Bass Strait Maritime Centre

Bass Strait Maritime Centre

The Bass Strait Maritime Centre, once a private maritime museum, has changed hands and received a major face-lift. The building is lovely, with its boat-like shell and use of timber throughout the interior. It is part museum and part art exhibition space.

SS Woniora
SS Woniora © emily@traversingtasmania 2017

One role of the Bass Strait Maritime Centre is to record and preserve the maritime history of Tasmania’s north. The details of several Bass Strait disasters can be found throughout the museum as well as various artefacts. These include a diving suit, a stretcher for carrying injured sailors through hatches and a winch for the Julie Burgess’s anchor. Visit the ship restoration room to view a video about the restoration of the Julie Burgess. There are also fascinating information panels about the features and fauna of the Bass Strait. Did you know that Bass Strait is a raised shelf which drops dramatically into the ocean at its edges?

Container Exhibition
Container Exhibition © emily@traversingtasmania 2017

Another role of the Bass Strait Maritime Centre is to foster current maritime art and displays. When we visited today, we viewed an ANZAC centenary exhibition about Australia at war on the seas. There was also an intriguing exhibition about the role of shipping containers in creating the current trends in global trade. The building itself contains several artworks such as the compass rose on the floor and the beautiful stained-glass window panes (some stating names of sponsors of the centre).

Simulator
Simulator © emily@traversingtasmania 2017

Children will enjoy visiting the Bass Strait Maritime Centre for two reasons. One is the art and craft table (to the right as you enter the main room) and the other is the simulator. For an extra $2 per turn, you can steer the SS Wonoira safely through her journey into or out of Devonport, or even into Port Phillip Bay! Choose from several scenarios of various difficulty. The simulation may not be the best idea for those who suffer from motion sickness (I was fine).

Julie Burgess's Winch
Julie Burgess’s Winch © emily@traversingtasmania 2017

Once you’ve had a good look through the museum and exhibitions, have a browse through the gift shop and take a seat in the café. I enjoyed my meal. There are even gluten and dairy free dishes on offer for those with dietary requirements. Best of all, the café has a sunny outlook over Devonport’s foreshore walkway.

Getting There

Foreshore
Foreshore © emily@traversingtasmania 2017

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 City Centre. Turn left off the Bass Highway after you have crossed the bridge over the Mersey River. From here, follow the foreshore towards the Bluff, turning left into Glouster Street (the museum is signposted).

Cost

The Bass Strait Maritime Centre costs $10 per adult, $8 per concession, $5 per child and $25 per family. For current pricing, see the Bass Strait Maritime Centre website. Note that your voyage aboard the simulator will cost $2 per turn (but you do have three attempts to succeed). You can also book your voyage aboard the (real life!) Julie Burgess fishing ketch; read about my experience here. Enjoy a pleasant few hours at the Bass Strait Maritime Centre!

To read about my other adventures in Tasmania’s North-West, click here.

Home Hill

Home Hill Exterior
Home Hill
Home Hill © emily@traversingtasmania 2017

Minister Joseph and Dame Enid Lyons were a unique couple. Joseph, currently the only Tasmanian to become Prime Minister of Australia, wrote a love letter to Enid as his first act as Prime Minister. He also placed all of their property in her name as he believed in equality between men and women. Their love story is told through Home Hill, the homestead built for the couple in 1916 on property that Joseph gifted to Enid.

Reclaimed Doorway, Home Hill
Reclaimed Doorway, Home Hill © emily@traversingtasmania 2017

I highly recommend a visit to Home Hill. It is a unique place, which has been lovingly crafted, adapted and furnished. As the family grew to an eventual eleven children, the Lyons expanded the house. Enid found astonishingly creative ways to block off entries, such as turning doorways into display cabinets.

Bedroom, Home Hill
Bedroom, Home Hill © emily@traversingtasmania 2017

As you walk through the house, make note of Enid’s handiwork. She made lamp-shades, upholstered furniture, and hung and hand-painted wallpaper. One of the bedrooms has been hand-painted with branches to hide cracks in the wall. When we visited, a tendril from an outside plant had, rather appropriately, wound its way into the room, matching the wall paper beautifully.

Joseph Lyons, Home Hill
Joseph Lyons, Home Hill © emily@traversingtasmania 2017

You will also have the opportunity to view the political and social memorabilia of the Lyons. Throughout the house, you will find photographs of members of the royal family, formal invitation plaques, royal crockery, a one-of-a-kind Royal Doulton figurine and the hansard files for both Joseph and Enid. She was the first woman elected to the Australian Parliament. It is a fascinating collection and speaks to the popularity of the couple.

Joseph Lyon's Desk, Home Hill
Joseph Lyon’s Desk, Home Hill © emily@traversingtasmania 2017

Sadly, Joseph Lyons also has the honour of being the first Australian Prime Minister to die in office. He passed away at the age of 59 on Good Friday, 1939. Dame Enid Lyons’s ongoing care of Home Hill, her meticulous preservation of Joseph’s political memorabilia and her subsequent political career all honour him.

Getting There

Home Hill is a two minute drive from the centre of Devonport. You’ll find it just off the Bass Highway (heading towards Burnie) on busy Middle Road. Now a short distance from town, it is no longer the secluded retreat that the Lyons created. However, it still has the airs and graces of a stately home.

Cost

Home Hill Entrance
Home Hill Entrance © emily@traversingtasmania 2017

Visit Home Hill for guided tours at 2pm from Wednesday to Sunday. It is best to book your place, which can be done via the National Trust’s Home Hill webpage. Tours cost $15 for adults, $10 for concession and $40 for families. Upcoming events include Valentine’s Day drinks and nibbles, a High Tea, an Easter Egg hunt and a film night. Keep an eye on Home Hill Devonport’s Facebook page for more details. Enjoy your visit to a truly one-of-a-kind property, crafted by a remarkable couple.

To read more about my adventures in Tasmania’s north-west, click here.