Notley Fern Gorge State Reserve is a unique place. You’ll find at least four varieties of fern, towering trees, Tasmanian native animals, and the giant, hollowed-out tree that bush-ranger Matthew Brady and his band of followers sheltered in during the 1820s.
Notley Fern Gorge is accessed via a circuit walk which supposedly takes one hour (I completed it in 35 minutes and stopped to take plenty of photos). The track is well-defined, with steps up and down the hill and bridges across the stream. You head down the hill (whichever way takes your fancy) and loop back up after walking through the gorge. It is amazing how different the flora is at the bottom of the gorge from that at the top of the hill; look out for fungus growing on fallen logs, fairy-tale moss-covered trees and plenty of ferns. Signs help you to identify the various plants, including common filmy ferns, hard water ferns, kangaroo ferns and mother shield ferns. Above the ferns are trees soaring into the sky, including white gums and blackwoods. It’s a very peaceful place.
If you’re not very steady on your feet (the ground is covered in leaf litter year-round which can be quite slippery) and don’t feel up to walking the full loop, Brady’s Tree is only five minutes’ walk from the car park. A hollowed, burnt out tree, this is reputedly where Brady and his men sheltered from the authorities about 200 years ago. It’s a fun place for kids to explore. There is also another hollowed-out tree nearby (just a few metres further down the hill).
Notley Fern Gorge State Reserve is located on Notley Gorge Road. From Launceston, head north on the West Tamar Highway. When you reach Legana, turn left onto Bridgenorth Road and then, after about 10 minutes, turn right onto Notley Gorge Road (C731). Ignore Google Maps and, if you’re using it to estimate travel time, add about five minutes. The turnoff to the reserve is signposted (although overgrowth can make it hard to see the sign from a distance). You can also read Notley Gorge Road from Frankford Road (it’s the right turn shortly after Glengarry as you travel towards Exeter). There is a car park, toilet and information shelter at the reserve.
There is absolutely no cost to visit Notley Fern Gorge State Reserve. Parks and Wildlife Tasmania do an excellent job of keeping the track in good order. Please respect their conservation work by keeping to the tracks and taking your rubbish with you.
Will you see an animal at Notley Fern Gorge State Reserve? Almost certainly. I saw two lizards and a native bird (sorry Mum; I’m still not a very good bird-spotter!). Will you see a mammal? Maybe. A bandicoot dashed across the track in front of me, too fast for me to take a photograph, and I heard a wallaby thumping through the undergrowth. If you visit at dawn or dusk, you’re more likely to see wildlife (including on the roads, so drive slowly and carefully!). We have previously visited the reserve during spring and saw a few pairs of mother and baby wallabies so I highly recommend a spring visit! Even if you don’t see a native mammal, Notley Fern Gorge is a beautiful place. If you’re driving through the Tamar Valley, you should definitely stop and take in a small slice of native Tasmania.
For more posts about places to visit in northern Tasmania, click here.
My Nanna, a former National Trust member, would be proud of me. Today, I visited the place where the National Trust in Tasmania was formed and still has its headquarters today: Franklin House. The National Trust in Tasmania was formed in order to save Franklin House in 1960. Redemption is a common theme in the history of the house.
Franklin House was built by convicts in 1838 for former convict, Britton Jones. He had been sentenced to Tasmania for stealing a large quantity of lead! It is quite incredible that a former convict was able to afford to build such a beautiful house, particularly as it wasn’t his principal residence. Jones planned Franklin House as a “Gentleman’s Residence” (that is, he did not build it for his family). It was rented out for a time and then, in 1842, Franklin House became a renowned school: The Classical and Commercial School, run by Mr. Hawkes.
Set to be destroyed in 1960, the house was redeemed by the National Trust in Tasmania (which had been formed solely to save the property). Franklin House is a double-story house with adjoining school room and kitchens. It has some unique features, such as a folding door (with doors inserted in its panels!) as a partition in the large upstairs room. The National Trust have also furnished Franklin House with a variety of interesting objects. Due to its string of owners, the furniture is not original. However, you will see some stunning pieces such as a curved cupboard for curing bacon, a trunk owned by Charles II and a long case clock made by another former convict, James Oatley (who has a Sydney suburb named after him).
Franklin House is located in Franklin Village (in the suburb of Youngtown), about 10 minutes south of Launceston, on Hobart Road. This was the former highway between Hobart and Launceston. There is ample on-site parking, as well as street parking nearby.
Franklin House is open 9am – 4pm from Monday to Saturday (except some public holidays) and is open until 5pm in the summer. It is also open on Sunday afternoons from 12noon – 4pm. For up-to-date information on pricing and opening hours, see the National Trust’s website.
Entry to the house (for a self-guided tour and a brief introduction by a National Trust volunteer) is $10 for adults, $8 concession and $5 for children. National Trust members are entitled to free entry. A lot of hard work has been put into restoring the house and grounds and nothing comes free; I also recommend bringing some loose change to donate towards having the fabulous wedding gown displayed upstairs restored. The gift shop has some unique Tasmanian items (such as Huon Pine soap and aftershave) and is well worth a look. There are tearooms and toilets on site and the gardens are just beautiful. Bring a picnic lunch and enjoy the atmosphere of yesteryear. I take my hat off to you, Nanna. History is worth preserving.
Read more about my adventures in Tasmania’s north here, and in the nearby midlands here.
How do you cool off on a hot summer’s day? Go to a place where the temperature is a cool 9°C year-round, that’s what. A place where straws, stalactites and glow worms are suspended above your head. Go where calcite crystals have grown in the dark over many, many years. Mole Creek Caves provided a magnificent refuge today, but our visit involved much more than just escaping the heat!
Mole Creek Caves
Both King Solomons Cave and Marakoopa Cave were discovered in 1906. King Solomons was found by two men chasing an unlucky wallaby. Marakoopa was found by two boys. A few years later, both caves were open to the public for tours. You can still see the oil burner used to light King Solomons Cave (which has left its inevitable mark on the crystals).
King Solomons Cave is a compact gem. When our guide turned on the lights, looking up to see stalactites was a breathtaking experience! King Solomons Cave contains a variety of magnificent calcite crystal formations, winding passageways and a stunning larger chamber. Here, you can see the original entrance to the cave and the oil burner. We even saw a Tasmanian Cave Spider, which is a very intriguing creature!
Marakoopa Cave is a much larger cave and has two tours. Both tours include the beautiful glow worms, which are found only in the Eastern states of Australia and in New Zealand. The first Marakoopa Cave tour takes you to its underground rivers and the second takes you up to the “Cathedral” formations. We took the second tour, which requires a higher fitness level due to having to climb a large number of stairs. We passed several magnificent flow stones, a swinging pendulite (perhaps the only one in the world!) and several magnificent shields. All of this was lit up by the brand new lighting system (replaced due to recent flooding). We saw glow worms in almost every chamber of the cave. Five glow worms had even arranged themselves in the shape of the Southern Cross, a very patriotic move on Australia Day!
The drive to Mole Creek Caves is an amazing experience in and of itself. Driving along the Bass Highway from either Devonport or Launceston takes you past several excellent food establishments and gives you a fabulous view of the Great Western Tiers. This view only improves as you drive along the B12 road to Mole Creek, passing boulder-strewn paddocks that are nestled up against the mountains. Both caves are located in the Mole Creek Karst National Park and both have fern glade walks near their entries (these are short but well worth doing). The turn off to Marapooka Cave and the main ticket office appears first and is clearly signposted. If you follow the B12 a little further, King Solomons Cave is the first turn to the right.
Tickets can be purchased from the ticket office near Marakoopa Cave or, via card only, from King Solomons Cave and you do not need a Parks Pass if you purchase a cave tour ticket. The cost for cave tours is currently $19 per adult ($15.50 concession) and $9.50 per child for one cave tour. See Parks and Wildlife for more information about prices. The cost is well worth it. Facilities have recently been updated (note that the toilets at Marakoopa Cave are now located at the ticket office, which is 500m from the cave) and the caves are such a unique experience! Further to this, extensive work has recently been done due to major flooding (Marakoopa Cave was closed for approximately six months). So, escape from the sun in summer and the wind in winter by going underground!
Read more about my adventures in Tasmania’s north here, or in the north west here.
About ten minutes drive from Launceston, accessible via the West Tamar Highway, lies a fascinating place: Tamar Island. A long boardwalk leads out to the island, taking you between phragmites australis reeds and out over mudflats and the river itself. The boardwalk is open from dawn until dusk; we took the opportunity to have a picnic dinner on the island as the sun was beginning to set. It was beautiful!
On the walk out to Tamar Island, which takes 20 – 30 minutes (depending on how many things you stop to look at on the way!), you’ll see a variety of birds, such as pelicans, black swans and great egrets, and perhaps even a copperhead snake (which should be left alone as it is venomous! Be careful where you tread!). If you look carefully, you can see the wrecks that were sunk in the channel in order to improve the flow of water.
On Tamar Island, there are picnic tables, public BBQs (you’ll need to take your rubbish with you though), a toilet block, a jetty (giving access to the island via boat) and a European stand of trees. These were donated by the Hobart Botanical Gardens. Even stranger still is the tree that has grown around an abandoned piece of farming equipment!
The small but informative Tamar Island Wetlands Interpretation Centre, with its distinctive circular roof, is open from 10am to 4pm everyday except Christmas Day (9am to 5pm in summer). You can view birds from a hide 0.5km from the interpretation centre.
Although it is possible to walk to Tamar Island for free, your donation helps Parks and Wildlife. They aim to conserve the native flora and fauna of the island and wetlands.
To read more about my adventures in Tasmania’s north, click here.