Mount Nelson Signal Station

Traversing Mt Nelson Signal Station
Signalmans Cottage
Signalmans Cottage © emily@traversingtasmania 2017

What do Tasmanians like to do on the weekend? Find sunshine, good food, stunning views and a little bit of adventure. The great thing is that you don’t have to travel far to do this in Tasmania. Mount Nelson Signal Station is only a short drive (or a few hours’ walk!) from Hobart’s CBD. Last weekend, I visited the historic site.

Views
Views © emily@traversingtasmania 2017

Mount Nelson Signal Station offers similar views to kunanyi/Mount Wellington but is much closer to the city. Yes, you’re not as high up but you do have a lovely view of the river and the temperature is warmer. In summer, sit out in the sun on a beanbag (perhaps with your dog). In winter, sit on the enclosed verandah of the Signal Station Brasserie. This was formerly the Signalmans Cottage and was built in 1897.

Mount Nelson Signal Station
Mount Nelson Signal Station © emily@traversingtasmania 2017

After you’ve soaked in the sun, there’s more to explore. The Mount Nelson Signal Station lookout house (built in 1910 to replace the 1811 original) hosts a very small but lovely display of historic items. You’ll find signal flags, an Ericsson wall telephone and a semaphore mechanism, as well as other historic artefacts. You’ll also learn more about the story of the signal station. Although its 24+ metre mast has been dismantled and its last message was “forgotten”, the site is not. The lookout house is very picturesque. Take time to admire its round roof, pressed metal ceiling and 180-degree view of the River Derwent.

Mount Nelson Signal Station
Mount Nelson Signal Station © emily@traversingtasmania 2017

There are two lookout platforms at the Mount Nelson Signal Station site. Due to the growth of surrounding trees, you’ll get better views from the carpark! Look up at kunanyi/Mount Wellington or down at the Tasman Bridge and Hobart. If you’ve got a spare few hours, you can even walk down to Sandy Bay or Taroona.

Getting There

View from inside
View from inside © emily@traversingtasmania 2017

Mount Nelson Signal Station is at the upper end of Nelson Road. You can reach it by driving up Mount Nelson from Sandy Bay. This road has several hairpin bends but allows you to see a bit of the history of the area via the houses that line the road. Alternatively, drive out of Hobart towards Kingston on the Southern Outlet or Proctor’s Road, turning left for Mount Nelson at the top of the hill. Whichever road you take, the station is approximately ten minutes’ drive from Hobart’s CBD. There is ample parking on site.

Cost

Signal Station Brasserie
Signal Station Brasserie © emily@traversingtasmania 2017

There is no cost to visit Mount Nelson Signal Station. Completing the walks is also free. There are public toilets and barbeques available for use or you can visit the Signal Station Brasserie. The lookout house is open from 9am – 4pm on weekends (or 10am – 4pm on weekdays).

If you’re staying in the area for a while, I’ve got more ideas for adventures in Tasmania’s south.

Convict Farm Walk

Traversing the Convict Farm Walk
Suspension Bridge
Suspension Bridge © emily@traversingtasmania 2017

Last weekend, we did the Convict Farm Walk between Woolmers and Brickendon estates in Longford. At 45 minutes one way, it’s a relatively short walk through fields with some interesting sights along the way. Being able to walk between the two estates was a treat as I really like both of them.

View from Woolmers
View from Woolmers © emily@traversingtasmania 2017

We set out from Woolmers, out the back gate of the Main House, following signs for the Convict Farm Walk. Here, you’ll have sweeping views of the plains below and the mountains in the distance. You can see Brickendon Farm Village below as a small cluster of buildings. Even if you don’t have time to do the walk, stand on the hillside and take in the view!

Pump House
Pump House © emily@traversingtasmania 2017

At the bottom of the hill, you’ll reach and river and the suspension bridge that spans it. This is open from 9am – 5pm daily. You won’t be able to bring prams, wheelchairs, etc. over the bridge as it is very narrow. It was a lot of fun to walk across its two spans, swinging above the water. Look up and down the river as there are some great views to be had of the pump house from the bridge.

Through the fields
Through the fields © emily@traversingtasmania 2017

From here, it’s about two and a half kilometres to Brickendon. You’ll pass a clay pit (now grassed over) and interpretive signs about the lives and work of the convicts. Take in the views of the Great Western Tiers to your left and the mountains (Ben Lomond, Mount Barrow, etc.) to your right. Walking through wheat stalks and watching the farm in operation was also intriguing. We passed a field of sheep bleating a constant chorus of “maaaaaa!!!” It is an amusing experience to be under surveillance by sheep!!

Jetty
Jetty © emily@traversingtasmania 2017

Take the five-minute detour to the jetty. There’s a lot of serenity with the pump going… watch The Castle if you don’t know what I mean! It is a lovely feeling to be by the water though, watching it flowing past on its way to Longford. From here, it’s a short stroll to Brickendon Farm Village.

Lambs!
Lambs! © emily@traversingtasmania 2017

At Brickendon Farm Village, you’ll find photogenic historic buildings and a whole lot of animals! We said hello to a white horse, large cows, turkeys, geese, ducks, chickens, a pig and, best of all, Spring lambs!!! They were just gorgeous! It took us a long time to leave! One of the staff members spent some time with us, introducing us to the lambs, which was lovely. From the Farm, you can walk on to the homestead at Brickendon (which is a private residence) and surrounding gardens. We chose to head back to Woolmers.

What to Bring

Woolmers Estate
Woolmers Estate © emily@traversingtasmania 2017

You’ll need good walking shoes as, between the two estates and the walk, you’ll spend 3+ hours on your feet. The suspension bridge would also be difficult to cross in inappropriate footwear. Depending on the season, you’ll also need sun protection and/or waterproof clothing. Carry basic first aid supplies, a little bit of food and plenty of water with you. There is a café at Woolmers to relax in and plenty of places to sit down at both ends of the walk.

Getting There

Convict Farm Walk from Brickendon
Convict Farm Walk from Brickendon © emily@traversingtasmania 2017

You can begin the Convict Farm Walk at either estate. Both are about a two-minute drive out of Longford or you can turn into Woolmers Lane directly from the Midlands Highway. You’ll find ample free, all-day parking at both sites. Ask staff at reception for directions to the start of the track.

Cost

White Horse
White Horse © emily@traversingtasmania 2017

If you just wanted to do the Convict Farm Walk, and not look at either site, you could probably do the walk for free. I paid for a self-guided tour of the historic sites at both ends as I like to support local enterprises. Both are worth having a good look around, even if you’ve been before, as they are quite different in each season. Make sure that you tell the receptionist at the second site that you have come from the first as you’ll then get a discount. It cost us $24 per adult to visit both sites and do the Convict Farm Walk, which I think is very reasonable!

Enjoy your time at Woolmers and Brickendon! I’ve visited several places in Tasmania’s nearby midlands, north and central highlands if you’re interested in more ideas for your own adventures.

Woolmers Estate

Traversing Woolmers Estate
Verandah
Verandah © emily@traversingtasmania 2017

If I could sit all day on the verandah beneath the wisteria at Woolmers Estate, I would. Winter is an excellent time to visit as the purple of the wisteria contrasts beautifully with the house. I thought that I had missed out this year but I managed to see a tiny patch of wisteria on the last weekend in Spring!

National Rose Garden
National Rose Garden © emily@traversingtasmania 2017

Also in bloom in Spring are the roses. Woolmers Estate is home to the magnificent National Rose Garden. If you don’t yet know your David Austins from your… well… other roses, you’ll find that a rose has many names and not all smell as sweet! The vast collection deserves a good half-hour stroll through. Old and young alike will also enjoy finding the flash of orange in the pond at the bottom of the garden.

The Wool Shed and the Cider Shed
The Wool Shed and the Cider Shed © emily@traversingtasmania 2017

Woolmers Estate is a fabulous place to visit at any time of the year. Even if the flowers aren’t blooming, you could spend many hours exploring the grounds and historic buildings. These include the Blacksmith’s Shop, Stables and Servants’ Kitchen (now a café). You can even stay in some of the historic buildings. My favourite building is the picturesque Wool Shed. Treasures I’ve found around the property are the turret-like smoking room in the garden, a “twin thunder box” in the garden wall, a tiny vintage car and the wine cellar. Soon, Woolmers will also boast a first-rate function centre and restaurant.

Servants' Kitchen
Servants’ Kitchen © emily@traversingtasmania 2017

Now a UNESCO World Heritage Listed Convict Site, Woolmers was once the home of six generations of Thomas Archer. Established in approximately 1817, the buildings show the fullness of the lives of the Archers. You’ll learn about their innovation, successes (one played golf in the Australian Open) and tragedies. Unlike nearby Brickendon, which was founded by Thomas Archer I’s brother, William, Woolmers is no longer a working farm. This is because Thomas Archer VI was a recluse who had no children, leaving the property as a time-capsule for future generations to enjoy. While I’m very thankful for this, it’s quite a poignant realisation that such an inventive line of the Archer family is no more.

The Main House
The Main House © emily@traversingtasmania 2017

You must tour the house. This will cost more, and your guide will most likely take you through very slowly (my husband can’t stand this!), but you won’t fully understand the family until you view their private quarters. You’ll notice many points of difference between this house and others like it. Keep an eye out for the crockery set with the family crest (a bear paw holding an arrow), the shutters to protect from bush-rangers, the camera collection, the servants’ bell and the lack of mid-ceiling electric lighting. The latter was so that the aesthetics of the rooms would not be marred by the newfangled invention of electricity. This was a family who paved their own way.

Getting There

Roses
Roses © emily@traversingtasmania 2017

Woolmers is located just south of Longford. You can reach it from the Midlands Highway, about five minutes’ drive south of Perth (Woolmers Estate is well signposted). Alternatively, drive through Longford down Wellington Street and Woolmers Lane until you reach the estate. You’ll enjoy driving down the hedged country lanes.

Cost

Function Centre
Function Centre © emily@traversingtasmania 2017

Current prices are $14 per adult or $32 for a family for self-guided tours. You’ll pay $20 per adult, $7 per child or $45 for a family. If this is your first visit to Woolmers, do the house tour. It’s well worth it! Opening hours are 9am – 4pm daily. Note that Woolmers Estate is closed on several public holidays (see their website for more details).

Today, we walked between Woomers and Brickendon. Read about our experience here. You can also explore other places in Tasmania’s midlands – it’s a wonderful part of Tasmania!

Port Arthur Historic Site

Traversing Port Arthur Historic Site
The Penitentiary
The Penitentiary © emily@traversingtasmania 2017

Nestled in a bay, between wild capes and raging seas, is a very significant part of Tasmania: Port Arthur Historic Site. The area is home to cultural sites of the Pydairrerme people and is surrounded by the beautiful scenery of the Tasman Peninsula. Originally, it was a penal station that played a vital role in the colony. More recently, it was the site of a heart-breaking event that lead to nationwide gun law reforms. Now World Heritage Listed, Port Arthur Historic Site is remarkable.

Port Arthur Historic Site
Port Arthur Historic Site © emily@traversingtasmania 2017

The site is extremely picturesque. Ruins stand in sparse, grassed areas: a penitentiary, a hospital and a church. There are also more than thirty restored buildings, giving a glimpse of past elegance and ways of life. Each building and ruin contains information about the lives of individual convicts and workers.

Commandant's House
Commandant’s House © emily@traversingtasmania 2017

My favourite building is the Commandant’s House. The wallpaper, the multi-levelled hallway, the wood panelling… It is a very grand place! The restored buildings are opened from 9:30am, with a staff member on hand to answer your questions. Our host gave us an informative and fun insight into the house. Look for the time-travelling Commandant, the trapezium-shaped door and a letter written by a very accomplished five-year-old!

Gardens
Gardens © emily@traversingtasmania 2017

I’ve never visited Port Arthur Historic Site during Spring before. I’m very glad that I did this year! The gardens are beautiful. I particularly enjoyed the Commandant’s House garden – a secluded area that gave a hint at what the original garden may have looked like. The site is vastly different from my childhood visits – significant and tasteful landscaping has taken place, adding to the beauty of the site.

The Separate Prison
The Separate Prison © emily@traversingtasmania 2017

The beauty of exploring Port Arthur Historic Site is that you can walk through the buildings and see what life was like for the convicts, soldiers, Commandants and other staff for yourself. It’s like being a child again, exploring imagined forts and dungeons… except that these buildings are real. There is a poignancy to walking through each building, to pulling closed the door to your church stall and to standing in the darkness of the solitary cell.

Getting There

View of the Penitentiary
View of the Penitentiary © emily@traversingtasmania 2017

Port Arthur is about 1 hour and 45 minutes’ drive east from Hobart. Take your time travelling as there are many beautiful spots to stop at on the way, including Eaglehawk Neck and Tasmans Arch. There is ample parking at the site. Be aware that renovations are taking place; the visitor’s centre will look spectacular when these are completed though. You could easily spend an entire day at Port Arthur. The site is dotted with places to eat, shop and research, including small museums and cafes. The gift shop even sells last-minute supplies for those beginning their Three Capes Track experience. There are short walks to do in the area too.

Cost

Port Arthur Historic Site
Port Arthur Historic Site © emily@traversingtasmania 2017

Tickets to the Port Arthur Historic Site cost $39 per adult, $32 per concession and $17 per child. There are optional extras to purchase too, such as a tour of the nearby Point Puer Boy’s Prison. Family tickets are available. Included in your ticket are a complementary 40-minute guided tour and a 20-minute harbour cruise. If you’re running short of time, or If you’ve visited Port Arthur Historic Site before, skip the tour but do the cruise! If you’re heading off to the Three Capes Track, entry to the site is complimentary for two years.

Staying on the Tasman Peninsula for a while? Read about my recent experience on the Three Capes Track or visiting the sea caves at Eaglehawk Neck. Alternatively, read about my adventures in Tasmania’s south.

Turners Beach

Traversing Turners Beach
Treasure Hunting
Treasure Hunting © emily@traversingtasmania 2017

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.

High Tide
High Tide © emily@traversingtasmania 2017

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.

Low Tide
Low Tide © emily@traversingtasmania 2017

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 Walkway
Public Walkway © emily@traversingtasmania 2017

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.

Getting There

Turners Beach
Turners Beach © emily@traversingtasmania 2017

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.

Cost

Turners Beach
Turners Beach © emily@traversingtasmania 2017

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!

Read more about my adventures in Tasmania’s north west here.

Cataract Gorge Reserve

Traversing Cataract Gorge Reserve
Cataract Gorge Reserve
Cataract Gorge Reserve © emily@traversingtasmania 2017

Launceston’s Cataract Gorge Reserve  (“The Gorge” to locals) is a unique place. Carved out by the mangana lienta (South Esk River), the gorge is a stunning, dolerite landscape. The south side of the river is a dry forest and is accessible via the Zig Zag Track (for hikers only). The north side resembles a rainforest and has a sealed path. The Gorge is a popular area for walking, picnics, swimming (in summer) and spending time with family and friends.

Walkway
Walkway © emily@traversingtasmania 2017

We parked at Kings Bridge and walked on the sealed path to the Cliff Grounds. This walk is very picturesque. You first encounter the bridge, an entryway and then a house that seems to cling to the cliff. Artists in residence live here. Along the pathway, there are many sights to see, including native flora, rapids and a hut made by two local gentlemen in the mid-1900s. It is a peaceful walk. You can also take a short cruise up the river.

Wallabies
Wallabies © emily@traversingtasmania 2017

As we entered the Cliff Grounds, we saw three wallabies. They are beautiful creatures and were very tame. Please do not feed them processed food as doing this can cause lumpy jaw. I highly recommend that you read Parks and Wildlife’s information on interacting with wild animals. It is just as satisfying to take a photograph from a distance. These wallabies were very good posers!

Cliff Grounds
Cliff Grounds © emily@traversingtasmania 2017

The Cliff Grounds were “beautified” by locals in the late 1800s. They built pathways and the gorgeous Victorian structures that are dotted about The Gorge, including the rotunda. This now contains information about the history of the Gorge and Cliff Grounds. Near the rotunda, you’ll find the path to the Gorge Scenic Chairlift. This boasts the longest span in the world! I’ll have to ride it next time I visit but ran out of time today.

Peacock
Peacock © emily@traversingtasmania 2017

There are several species of trees to admire, including approximately seventy native species. There are also seventy species of native birds to admire. Although they are introduced species, there is something wonderful about walking beneath towering maples, oaks and elms. There are also plenty of peacocks to entertain you (I grew up with peacocks so I’m not so fond of them!). I spotted three peacocks on the roof of the restaurant when we left the Cliff Grounds. The Gorge Restaurant is open daily from 9am and a kiosk is also open during the day.

Bridge
Bridge © emily@traversingtasmania 2017

From the Cliff Grounds, head downhill, following signs for The Basin Walk. This will lead you across a small footbridge (with no rails) from which you can admire the rapids, the First Basin and the suspension bridge. It’s a short walk from here to the Basin Cafe, above which is the other end of the chairlift. The Cafe has an excellent view. It is situated above an amenities block, which is designed to cater for summer swimmers.

First Basin
First Basin © emily@traversingtasmania 2017

In summer, you’ll find lovely clean water in the pool and life guards to boot. Locals also swim in the First Basin, but this is not recommended due to the submerged rocks and the depth. It is about 20 metres deep, although I have been told that the bottom hasn’t yet been located… I was brave enough to get in on a hot day some years ago, albeit with a pool noddle for safety!

Alexandra Suspension Bridge
Alexandra Suspension Bridge © emily@traversingtasmania 2017

From the Basin Cafe, walk towards the suspension bridge, along an unsealed path. Built in 1940, the Alexandra Suspension Bridge is very elegant and the views up and down river from it are stunning. Some people (including me!) will swing the bridge from side to side as they walk across it. If you don’t like heights, wait until you’re the only one around before crossing. A short distance from the bridge, climb the set of stairs leading up to a viewing platform. Again, the view is wonderful.

Getting There

Cataract Gorge Reserve
Cataract Gorge Reserve © emily@traversingtasmania 2017

Cataract Gorge Reserve is about a 15 – 30 minute walk from Launceston’s CBD. Paid parking (or free street parking if you are prepared to walk a little further) is available just off Basin Road in West Launceston. Limited free parking is available near the Cliff Grounds (Trevallyn) and limited paid parking is available near Kings Bridge.

Cost

Cataract Gorge Cruises
Cataract Gorge Cruises © emily@traversingtasmania 2017

It does not cost anything to explore Cataract Gorge Reserve or to swim in the pool (when it is open in summer). You can also use the public barbecues, picnic areas, amenities and playground equipment for free. We brought a picnic lunch with us. Alternatively, purchase lunch from the Basin Cafe or book a table in The Gorge Restaurant. Cataract Gorge Reserve is a very special place. Enjoy your visit!

Want more ideas about what else to do nearby? Read about my experience Cataract Gorge Cruises and my adventures in Tassie’s north and midlands.