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.

National Automobile Museum of Tasmania

National Automobile Museum of Tasmania
National Automobile Museum of Tasmania © emily@traversingtasmania 2017

The National Automobile Museum of Tasmania is an unexpected gem. Filled with an ever-changing display of privately owned special interest vehicles, there is sure to be something to catch your eye. This weekend, entry is free and there is a display of vehicles outside. Yesterday, this included a vintage firetruck. Today, bike rides are on offer! Inside the museum, the delights continued.

1968 Aston Martin DBS Vantage
1968 Aston Martin DBS Vantage © emily@traversingtasmania 2017

Have you ever seen a Bond car in person? I have! Although it may not have been the best Bond movie, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service did feature a stunning car. Until October 2017, you can see this car, complete with guns in the glove-box, at the National Automobile Museum of Tasmania. The display also features other “movie stars”, including Herbie, a yellow Superbug and a Sunbeam Alpine Drophead identical to the one driven by Grace Kelly in To Catch a Thief.

Tasman Bridge Disaster
Tasman Bridge Disaster © emily@traversingtasmania 2017

The museum’s penultimate exhibit is a rather humble 1974 Holden Monaro GTS. As you look into the car, imagine sitting there, the front dangling approximately 60 metres above the River Derwent. Why? Because that’s exactly what happened to the owner, Frank Manley, and his wife on the night of 5 January 1975. After the Lake Illawarra hit the Tasman Bridge, theirs was one of two cars left hanging over the edge of the broken bridge. Being able to see this car in person is a privilege.

British Bikes
British Bikes © emily@traversingtasmania 2017

The mezzanine floor of the National Automobile Museum of Tasmania was a treat for me. On this floor, you’ll find vintage motorbikes. I grew up visiting my Pop’s garage, which contained a Norton, a Douglas, a Triumph and a Scott with a manually operated horn (my favourite!). There are plenty of other bikes on display, including a rather stunning Scout. Downstairs, there’s also a 1915 Douglas and a mini Honda.

1928 A Model Ford "Lizzie"
1928 A Model Ford “Lizzie” © emily@traversingtasmania 2017

Other exhibits include a sky-blue Thunderbird, several Jaguars, a Locomobile and a 1928 A Model Ford “Lizzie”. The Ford belonged to Tasmanian pioneer Fred Smithies O. B. E. Famous for his adventuring and photography, this car has seen some of the best of Tasmania. It is fantastic to have Tasmanian treasures on display alongside other vintage vehicles.

Getting There

Fire Engine
Fire Engine © emily@traversingtasmania 2017

The National Automobile Museum of Tasmania is a ten-minute walk from Launceston’s CBD, directly opposite Launceston’s City Park on Cimitiere Street. Parking is available on the street or in the adjacent car-park (fees apply). The museum is open from 9am – 5pm (10am – 4pm in winter) everyday except Christmas Day.

Cost

Herbie and Superbug
Herbie and Superbug © emily@traversingtasmania 2017

Visit on the annual Community Awareness Weekend (the last weekend in August) for free entry and an additional display of special interest vehicles. Usually, prices are $14 per adult, $11 per senior and $7.50 per child (under 16). For $35, you can purchase an annual pass. This is a good deal for those who would like to return to see the new exhibits every three months. Although small, the National Automobile Museum of Tasmania is well-curated, showcasing important pieces of our motor-vehicle history.

Traverse Tasmania with me! Read about my adventures in Tasmania’s north, northwest and midlands.

Cataract Gorge Cruises

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

After visiting Cataract Gorge last week and seeing the Lady Launceston cruising between the towering rock formations, I knew what I wanted to do this week! Fifty-minute Cataract Gorge Cruises depart Home Point several times each day and I highly recommend doing a cruise if you haven’t already. You’ll visit a small portion of kanamaluka (Tamar River), North Esk River and mangana lienta (South Esk River).

Seaport
Seaport © emily@traversingtasmania 2017

Your first sight is the picturesque Seaport. Did you know that the marina at Seaport was built for the Sydney Olympics in 2000 and was originally located in Rushcutter’s Bay before retiring to Launceston? I didn’t! The yachts make for some great photos; our captain was also full of information about the surrounding buildings.

Silo Hotel under construction
Silo Hotel under construction © emily@traversingtasmania 2017

As a local, I was thrilled to be able to see up close the new hotel being built inside the old grain silos. This imposing structure has been part of Launceston’s cityscape from 1960 and stands at 35 metres high. Hobart refurbished their grain silos some 15 year ago and I have been hanging out for someone in Launceston to do the same. Our captain says that the hotel will be ready for visitors in 18 months. Start saving for a trip to Launceston!

Ponrabbel II, Kings Wharf
Ponrabbel II, Kings Wharf © emily@traversingtasmania 2017

Near the silos, Kings Wharf is an intriguing place. What at first appears to be a depository of utterly unloved ships and vehicles is in fact rich in history. The rusted shell of the Ponrabbel II, which dredged the Tamar River for about 40 years, is berthed here. The shiplift has had some rather famous boats built or repaired on it, including some of Victoria’s ferries.

Royal Park
Royal Park © emily@traversingtasmania 2017

After Kings Wharf, it’s time for the best part of your Cataract Gorge Cruises journey: sailing through The Gorge! On your way, you’ll have stunning views of Trevallyn’s stately Georgian and Victorian homes. You’ll also sail past local vessels as well as local landmarks: Royal Park, Ritchie’s Mill and the Penny Royal Complex with its distinctive blue stone quarry. Finally, you’ll sail underneath the West Tamar Highway and Kings Bridge. From here, you see the two bridges that form Kings Bridge more distinctly, as well as catching glimpses of the gatekeeper’s cottage (now leased to artists and musicians).

Abseiler
Abseiler © emily@traversingtasmania 2017

Sailing up the South Esk River was stunning. Above us, the rock formations towered. An abseiler descended one of the many registered routes. Metal spikes projected from the rock, showing the path of the wooden aqueduct that used to carry Launceston’s water supply. Beside us, lines of foam ringed the rocks, signalling a recent rush of water. The Gorge floods regularly; the 2016 floods in Northern Tasmania were particularly momentous. You’ll also learn about the history of The Gorge, including the one penny fare that visitors paid to the family who gentrified the area (so that they could recoup some of the cost). The area is also very significant for Tasmanian Aborigines as a source of food, culture and spirituality.

Foam
Foam © emily@traversingtasmania 2017

Getting There

Kyeema
Kyeema © emily@traversingtasmania 2017

Cataract Gorge Cruises depart from Home Point, which is at the western end of Launceston’s Seaport. Paid parking is available at the Seaport or at Royal Park. Alternatively, walk approximately 15-minutes from the CBD. In winter, cruises depart at 11:30am, 12:30pm and 1:30pm. In the other three seasons, cruises operate on the hour from 9:30am, with the last cruise departing at 4:30pm.

Cost

Cataract Gorge and Kings Bridge
Cataract Gorge and Kings Bridge © emily@traversingtasmania 2017

At $29 per adult, this cruise was a good deal! You’ll pay $12 per child, $25 per concession and $70 per family. In summer, I recommend booking in advance with Cataract Gorge Cruises if you have a preferred departure time. The rivers are generally very calm (except when in flood, in which case you won’t be out there!) but you are exposed to the elements. Wear warm clothes and make sure that you have sun protection (sunscreen and hats are available for purchase from the booking office). I enjoyed learning a little bit more about Launceston’s history and seeing a different view of Launceston’s riverside sights.

Staying in Launceston for a while? Read about my visit to the Cataract Gorge Reserve (on foot) and my journeys in Tasmania’s nearby north and midlands.

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.

Alexandra Battery

Traversing Alexandra Battery
Entry
Entry © emily@traversingtasmania 2017

Two fortifications that once guarded the Derwent River sit as reminders of times gone by. Both are excellent places to visit for a dose of history, exploration and stunning scenery. On the eastern shore is Kangaroo Bluff Battery. Opposite it is Alexandra Battery. I remember vividly when I first explored its ruins.

Passageway
Passage © emily@traversingtasmania 2017

I’ve always been fascinated by tunnels, hidden passageways and fortresses. Alexandra Battery is small but impressive. As a child, I relished racing around inside its towering rock walls, darkened rooms and long passageway up the hillside. While I was there this week, a father was teaching his children about the ships that used to sail up the river and the need for large cannons to defend Hobart Town. I know why his children were so excited!

Alexandra Battery
Alexandra Battery © emily@traversingtasmania 2017
View of Tasman Bridge
View Upriver © emily@traversingtasmania 2017

In addition to its appeal to adventurers, young and old, the reserve is a fantastic place to take a photograph and relax. The view is sensational. From the top of the reserve, you can see up river to the Tasman Bridge and down river to Opossum Bay. Take a moment to sit and drink it all in. You can even have beautiful wedding photos taken here, like my brother- and sister-in-law did.

Alexandra Battery
Alexandra Battery © emily@traversingtasmania 2017

The fortress is part of a larger network of batteries that was designed to protect Hobart Town. Built in 1871, the battery is a barbette battcry (cannons fire over parapets). These round areas are fascinating. Incredibly, Alexandra Battery was constructed in a hurry due to fears that Russian forces would invade! You can find more details in this 1922 article from The Mercury.

Getting There

Lookout
Lookout © emily@traversingtasmania 2017

Alexandra Battery is approximately 15 minutes’ drive from Hobart CBD along Sandy Bay Road. After you have passed Nutgrove Beach, the road climbs up. Shortly after this, turn right onto Churchill Avenue to use the reserve’s car park. If you prefer, you can park on Sandy Bay Road and access the reserve from below the fortifications.

Cost

View Downriver
View Downriver © emily@traversingtasmania 2017

Access to the reserve is free and it is open night and day, year-round. Take a picnic lunch, a sturdy pair of shoes and a camera and enjoy a slice of old Hobart Town’s history.

While you’re in the area, why not visit The Shot Tower? My grandparents used to be caretakers there. To read more about my adventures in Tasmania’s south, click here.

Harvest Lauceston

Traversing Harvest Launceston
Harvest Launceston
Harvest Launceston © emily@traversingtasmania 2017

Harvest Launceston is a gem. The Ancient Mariner tries to make his forays north coincide with a Saturday morning so that he can visit the market. Why? In the words of Lionel Bart, “food, glorious food!” In addition to eating and purchasing beautiful food, you’ll also meet friendly producers, soak up the atmosphere (and weather!) and be a hop, skip and a jump away from some fantastic shops, City Park and Albert Hall.

Steve's Vegies
Steve’s Vegies © emily@traversingtasmania 2017

My favourite thing about Harvest Launceston is the people. There are many local producers who participate in the market. They are proud of their produce and are on-hand to answer any questions you might have. Best of all, buying groceries becomes a social exchange and not a drudgery performed under neon lights in a giant concrete box! If you’re a local, it’s also highly likely that you’ll run into someone that you know. The market is a great place to catch up with friends.

Harvest Launceston
Harvest Launceston © emily@traversingtasmania 2017

Another thing that I love about Harvest Launceston is its seasonality. The amount and variety of producers at the market changes over the year. For example, in summer, you’ll find lots of people selling lovely Tasmanian berries. Easter, Christmas and Harvest Launceston’s birthday are special events. Foods like asparagus and avocado are available (and snapped up!) at specific times of the year. In winter, the market slows down a bit but it’s still very much worth visiting.

Mount Direction Olives
Mount Direction Olives © emily@traversingtasmania 2017

You’ll find some fantastically unusual goodies at Harvest Launceston. Did you know that olive oil is best served vacuum-packed? Ask the lovely people at Coronea Grove Olives why. Can olives be a dessert? Yes, and a highly moreish one at that! Try the jarred dessert olives from Mount Direction Olives. Finally, ask Wild Spore why some of their oyster mushrooms are pink.

Coronea Grove Olives
Coronea Grove Olives © emily@traversingtasmania 2017

You’ll also find gorgeously fresh staples. Buy seasonal veggies from Steve’s Veggies, Pink Lady apples from Lees Orchard, and a large variety of fish from George Town Seafoods. I also really enjoy beef jerky (trust me, it’s good!) from Kooee! and roasted hazelnuts from Hazelbrae (you can read about my visit to their farm at nearby Hagley here). I have food allergies but there are also lovely bread and butter options too, such as the Tasmanian Butter Co. and Sandy’s Sourdough. There was a queue building at Sandy’s when I arrived at 8:20am!

Tasmanian Butter Co.
Tasmanian Butter Co. © emily@traversingtasmania 2017

Harvest Launceston is a communal enterprise. Take a seat on furniture designed and built by UTAS Architecture students. Should you need to use it, there is even a custom built, community-funded shipping container toilet! If you’re offered an advertising pamphlet on your way in, take it. It’s for a local event, which is probably worth going to. The market also showcases local musical talent.

Getting There

Breakfast
Breakfast © emily@traversingtasmania 2017

Harvest Launceston takes place in a carpark bordered by Cameron, Tamar and Cimitiere Streets. There is ample street parking nearby and a small portion of parking spaces at the Cameron Street entry to the market. For free parking, park beside the North Esk River or City Park and walk in. The market starts at 8:30am (buying starts when the bell rings) and ends at 12:30pm. Make sure that you’re there nice and early if you are after something specific as some producers do sell out.

Cost

Harvest Launceston
Harvest Launceston © emily@traversingtasmania 2017

There is no cost to enter Harvest Launceston. Make sure that you have cash though. Some stalls are cash only and others have EFTPOS facilities. As well as delicious food and drink, you can also purchase Harvest Launceston shopping bags and so on if you wish. If you’re pinching pennies, wander around, say hello to the producers and sample their wares. They know that you, like the Ancient Mariner, will be back to buy next time.

For more of my adventures in Tasmania’s north, click here.