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!

Government House Tasmania

Traversing Government House Tasmania
Government House Tasmania
Government House Tasmania © emily@traversingtasmania 2017

I’ve always wanted to have a peek at Government House Tasmania. Driving past, looking up at the house from below, I was intrigued. What lay behind those fields dotted with trees and those elegant stone walls? In the past, I have read about the open days in the newspaper a day too late, which was always a bit of a letdown! Yesterday, my husband told me that Government House was open. Would I like to go? YES!

Lion's Court
Lion’s Court © emily@traversingtasmania 2017

We arrived 15 minutes early and there was already quite a queue to get in. I was amazed by the preparation some people had gone to, carrying camp chairs, picnic rugs and baskets of food. Weren’t we were just touring the house? When I heard bagpipes playing, I realised that this wasn’t the case!

Rose Garden and Vineyard
Rose Garden and Vineyard © emily@traversingtasmania 2017

There were Tasmanian societies everywhere: RSPCA Tasmania, Country Women’s Association of Tasmania, Girl Guides Tasmania, Scouts Tasmania, Surf Life Saving Tasmania (guarding the two ponds), and so on. I appreciated the free water and sunscreen available, thanks to TasWater and the Cancer Council Tasmania. Music played and the Rotary Club of Howrah had a large BBQ going. Children played in the gardens or on the tennis courts. It was a festival!

Ceiling
Ceiling © emily@traversingtasmania 2017

The first thing to do, of course, is to join another queue – the queue to tour the house. You’ll view a small, roped off portion of the house. Most importantly, you’ll be greeted by the Governor, which was a lovely experience. The house is absolutely gorgeous. Who knew that we had such an historic gem on our own doorstep?

Dining Table
Dining Table © emily@traversingtasmania 2017

Building of Government House Tasmania was finished in 1857 and it is a beautiful building. It also contains many remarkable artefacts. A table set for eighteen guests, a giant portrait of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II and stunning carpets and ceilings are but a portion of the sights you’ll see. A nearby reporter commented on how homely it looked, compared to previous setups. I have nothing to compare it to but I can say that I would not mind being a resident!

Quarry Pond
Quarry Pond © emily@traversingtasmania 2017

The best thing about Government House Tasmania is the secret gardens. You’ll find access to the tennis courts through an archway in a hedge. Sidle past the tennis courts and you’ll find yourself in the rose garden, overlooking the vineyards. Glimpses of two ponds, both with their own waterfalls and one with its own sail boat, can be seen from the driveway. Visiting these is a must! On our way out, we found a garden with plaques beside three of the trees, indicating that these had been planted, some decades ago, by members of the royal family, including none other than Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II.

Tasman Bridge
Tasman Bridge © emily@traversingtasmania 2017

You’ll enjoy the views. From the windows of Government House Tasmania, you can see the wharf at the Regatta Grounds. Ships pass, framed by ornate brickwork. Outside, the views from East Parklands of the Tasman Bridge are magnificent. It’s a special view for me – the reverse of what I’m used to seeing. Instead of whizzing past in a car, staring up at the house, I’m gazing at the bridge and the river from beneath shady trees. What a day!

Getting There

Garden
Garden © emily@traversingtasmania 2017

Government House Tasmania is next door to the Royal Tasmanian Botanical Gardens. You can access this area via the Tasman Highway or via the Domain Highway. Parking is available at the Botanical Gardens or along the Lower Domain Road. If you’re late, there is a overflow car park for the Botanical Gardens or more roadside parking.

Cost

Government House Tasmania
Government House Tasmania © emily@traversingtasmania 2017

The Government House Tasmania open day is a free event. Tours of the state rooms, gardens and even the inner workings of the house are available once a month for a small price. Bring some money for the BBQ and for a jar of marmalade from the CWA and don’t forget to bring your camp chairs, picnic rug and basket of food!

Staying in southern Tasmania? Read more about my adventures in Tasmania’s south.

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.

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.

Tasmanian Food and Wine Conservatory

The Conservatory, Tasmanian Food and Wine Conservatory
Grand Piano, Tasmanian Food and Wine Conservatory
Grand Piano, Tasmanian Food and Wine Conservatory © emily@traversingtasmania 2017

Built to house a local gentleman’s beloved grand piano, the conservatory next to the Parramatta Creek Rest Area has always been enigmatic. I have been meaning to stop there for quite some time, on the advice of a friend, to visit what is now The Tasmanian Food and Wine Conservatory. I’m glad that we did.

The building is spectacular, as is the grand piano inside it. The interior of the conservatory is generously filled with pot plants, rustic wooden tables and Tasmanian produce. When we arrived, it was also full of happy customers.

Mains, Tasmanian Food and Wine Conservatory
Mains, Tasmanian Food and Wine Conservatory © emily@traversingtasmania 2017

Our meals were sensational. It is clear that using local produce is a priority, as is friendly, efficient service. Although we were pressed for time before heading to Home Hill, we enjoyed a meal and a drink. I highly recommend the pork belly with Vietnamese noodles. There are options for those with dietary requirements, including several gluten-free desserts.

Getting There

Tasmanian Food and Wine Conservatory
Tasmanian Food and Wine Conservatory © emily@traversingtasmania 2017

The Tasmanian Food and Wine Conservatory is located 15 minutes from Devonport and 50 minutes from Launceston, just off the Bass Highway at Sassafras. Look for blue road signs for Parramatta Creek Rest Area. If you are travelling from Devonport, you’ll see the conservatory but it’s harder to spot when travelling from Launceston due to the trees. The Parramatta Creek Rest Area consists of a car park, amenities block and BBQ area (including sheltered tables)  surrounded by stately trees. There is also further parking at the Tasmanian Food and Wine Conservatory.

Cost

Parramatta Creek Rest Area
Parramatta Creek Rest Area © emily@traversingtasmania 2017

Main meals at the Tasmanian Food and Wine Conservatory cost approximately $25+ for lunch and the conservatory is open Tuesday – Sunday from 9am to 4pm. I recommend making a booking; we were very lucky to get a table inside (due to a cancellation). For up to date information about the Tasmanian Food and Wine Conservatory, see their Facebook page. If you don’t want to buy lunch, you could have a picnic at the Parramatta Creek Rest Area before stopping for a drink at the conservatory; it’s well worth seeing the interior of the building (and the piano).

On the same day, I visited Home Hill for the very first time! For other posts about Tasmania’s north-west, click here.