Goat Island

Traversing Goat Island
Goat Island
Goat Island © emily@traversingtasmania 2017

Just a hop, skip and a jump from mainland Tasmania lies Goat Island. This two-peaked wonderland can be walked to at low tide across a rocky shelf. It is a geologist’s, photographer’s and inner-child’s paradise! You can see east to Ulverstone or west to the Three Sisters as well as discovering wonderful views beneath your feet. I ran around on the rock shelf like a happy kid (no pun intended!) for quite some time before reaching Goat Island proper.

On the island
On the island © emily@traversingtasmania 2017

While I’m not sure where the island got its name, Mr. Traversing Tasmania is a bit of a mountain goat, so he demonstrated one possibility by scampering up the steep, rocky slopes. I stayed down a little lower on “safer” ground but somehow managed to slip anyway! Small tracks will lead you around Goat Island, to the peaks, a cove and a very special cave.

Bass Strait
Bass Strait © emily@traversingtasmania 2017

I’ll get to the cave. First, you must explore the rocky cove with wonderful views of Bass Strait. I found two fascinating rock pools, perhaps the best I’ve ever seen, on top of a rocky ledge. The patterns and textures of Goat Island are incredible. Jagged edges, fiery lichen, unusual seaweed, muscles… the island has it all. To the rear of the cove is a stand of trees covered in vines. It’s a surreal place.

Cave
Cave © emily@traversingtasmania 2017

Walking east around the rocks from the cove, you’ll find the cave. This cave is very unusual because you can crawl through it, there’s a rock pool inside it and it is heart-shaped. Before you get all swoony, the very non-romantic feature of the cave is its fly population. They are in plague proportions. Yuck! Mr. Traversing Tasmania crawled through the cave anyway. Be aware that you will need to climb down the heart-shaped side – don’t rush away from the flies too fast!

Lichen
Lichen © emily@traversingtasmania 2017

The tide will come in, as it always does. You can find updates about the tides here (note that the page shows information for nearby Picnic Point Beach). You want to visit Goad Island when the tide is at a low point (or shortly before this). Do not lose track of time on the island. This is dangerously easy to do but will see you stranded there. While I have no doubt that this would be an adventure in and of itself (and would make for great photos), you’ll miss out on the many other beautiful sights in nearby Ulverstone and Penguin.

What to Bring

Two Peaks
Peaks © emily@traversingtasmania 2017

You’ll need sturdy shoes. The rocks are sharp and you won’t make it over the rock shelf to the island (or around the island to the cave) without them. I always take a back-pack with first aid necessities and I take weather-appropriate gear too. Leave your bathers in the car because this island is for exploring, not relaxing or swimming! Make sure that you bring your camera every part of the island is ridiculously photogenic.

Getting There

Three Sisters
Three Sisters © emily@traversingtasmania 2017

You’ll find Goat Island on Penguin Road, which is the old highway between Ulverstone and Penguin along the coast. Follow Queen Street out of Ulverstone, driving for about five minutes, or Main Road out of Penguin, driving for about ten minutes. Look for signs to Goat Island. There is a small car park across the railway lines but take care as trains do use the railway. Your visit will be restricted by the tide but, if you time it right, you’ll have a lovely experience.

Cost

Cave
Cave © emily@traversingtasmania 2017

Tasmania really is a fabulous place and much of it can be explored for free. Goat Island is no exception. Perhaps you could respect this privilege by taking any litter you find with you. Have a grand adventure on a very unusual island!

Staying in the area for a while? There’s more to see in Tasmania’s north west, north and west coast.

East Beach

Traversing East Beach
Low Head Lighthouse
Low Head Lighthouse © emily@traversingtasmania 2017

I visited East Beach last week for a quick swim on a hot day. When I arrived, I realised how much I’d forgotten about the location. For one, I’d forgotten that Low Head Lighthouse is visible from the beach. I had also forgotten that there is a giant sand dune at the other end of the beach. As if all of this wasn’t enough, East Beach faces onto Bass Strait. Whichever way you look, it’s a spectacular sight.

Dunes
Dunes © emily@traversingtasmania 2017

East beach is a surf beach. This might make you think twice about going there, particularly with kids, but it is a great beach for swimming. While I was there, kids in floaties swam in the surf with their dad and a toddler played with his father in the shallows. The water was warm and clear, the waves were gentle and the sun shone brightly. I would return there in a heartbeat.

Pebbles
Lichen and Pebbles © emily@traversingtasmania 2017

The beach is also good for exploring. Lichen-covered rocks (like those found at Bay of Fires) can be found at the lighthouse end of East Beach, along with many interesting pebbles and shells. The  dunes are rich with coastal flora and a good walk along the shore will take you to the impressively tall sand dunes.

What to Bring

Dunes
Dunes © emily@traversingtasmania 2017

For an enjoyable day at any beach, always check the weather and wear appropriate clothing. In winter, you’ll need to rug up as the coast can be cold. In summer, bring your bathers so that you can go for a swim (the water is beautiful!) and wear sunscreen and protective clothing. You won’t find a store nearby so bring some food and water. Low Head Pilot Station is three minutes’ drive away and has a café if you’d prefer that.

Getting There

East Beach
East Beach © emily@traversingtasmania 2017

East Beach is about 45 minutes’ drive north of Launceston. Stay on the East Tamar Highway until it turns into Low Head Road. Turn right when you reach Gunn Parade (or East Beach Road – they create a loop). You’ll find ample parking at the beach near the picnic area.

Cost

East Beach Tourist Park
East Beach Tourist Park © emily@traversingtasmania 2017

As with all public beaches in Tasmania, you can access the beach for free. East Beach has a basic toilet and change-room block available for public use. You can also use the adjacent picnic table and barbecue facilities. Nearby East Beach Tourist Park has wood carvings on display that are sure to entertain the kids. Enjoy your day!

On your way to or from East Beach, I recommend visiting Low Head Pilot Station and Lighthouse, the Bass & Flinder’s Centre and Watch House at George Town and Hillwood Berry Farm. I’ve also visited several other places in Tasmania’s north and on the east coast – happy travels!

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.

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.

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.