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.

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.

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.

State Cinema

Traversing the State Cinema

 

The State Cinema
The State Cinema © emily@traversingtasmania 2017

Rainy day in Hobart? Head to the cinema! I’m not talking about the place where you fight through queues to purchases tickets and prepackaged goodies, all the while wondering why the carpet is so sticky. I’m talking about a REAL cinema: The State Cinema. Today, we saw The Zoo Keeper’s Wife, a film about the Warsaw Zoo during World War II, starring the gutsy heroine of Zero Dark Thirty. I highly recommend the film and I highly recommend the cinema.

The State Cinema in Hobart is indeed very stately. The building itself is a work of art, with a beautiful glass wing joining the original cinema with the sandstone bookshop next door. It houses a large café, a bar, ten cinemas – one a summer roof-top cinema – and a bookshop. Ride the glass elevator to the downstairs cinema or up to the second floor of the café. The café has a lovely view of a deciduous tree and, if you know where to look, Hobart’s eastern shore. If you’re sitting with an inside view instead, this isn’t a problem as the building itself is just gorgeous and contains several pieces of intriguing film memorabilia.

The Building
The Building © emily@traversingtasmania 2017
The Cafe
The Cafe © emily@traversingtasmania 2017

How delightful it is to order a drink and take it with you, in its original glass or cup, into the cinema. You can also take food in, on a proper plate. This reduces waste and increases your sense of dignity! The chairs are comfortable (one cinema contains only couches, for example), the cinemas are small and there are only a few advertisements before the main feature. Bliss! The book shop is well stocked and contains several interesting film-related titles. The café caters for dietary requirements and the food is delicious!

Film Memorabilia
Film Memorabilia © emily@traversingtasmania 2017

The State Cinema has been part of the city’s social scene from 1913. It specialises in high-quality international films and hosts several festivals each year, such as its recent Spanish film festival. It is well-located near the eateries of North Hobart, giving you a lot of choice for a meal before or after.

Getting There

Street View
Street View © emily@traversingtasmania 2017

North Hobart is about 5 minutes’ drive and about 20 minutes’ walk from Hobart’s CBD. Follow Elizabeth Street through North Hobart and you’ll see the cinema on the right. Parking is a bit of a pain as there is primarily street parking. Walking or catching a bus is a good option. If you need to drive, leave yourself plenty of time for parking.

Cost

The Bookshop
The Bookshop © emily@traversingtasmania 2017

Tickets to a session at the State Cinema cost $19.50 for adults, $17.50 for concession and $15.50 for children and seniors. There is a $2.50 surcharge for 3D movies and ticket prices may vary for special events. Discounted prices apply on Tuesdays and multi-passes are available. Included in the cost of your ticket is a very comfortable chair, a guarantee (leave within the first 20 minutes of a film starting and you’ll get your money back), a glimpse into Hobart’s film history and a quietly elegant atmosphere.

For more posts on places I’ve visited in Tasmania’s south, click here.

Shot Tower

Traversing the Tower
Shot Tower
Shot Tower © emily@traversingtasmania 2017

When the Ancient Mariner was a boy, his parents took on the role of caretakers for a landmark Hobart building: the Shot Tower. He used to race his three siblings up and down the tower’s steps. Today, I walked those same steps. Located on a winding, tree-lined stretch of the Channel Highway between the suburbs of Taroona and Kingston, the shot tower is an unexpected sight. Constructed in 1870 by Scotsman Joseph Moir, it has an unusual history.

Inside the Tower
Inside the Tower © emily@traversingtasmania 2017

The Shot Tower was built to make lead shot (ammunition). Molten shot was poured through a colander from varying heights (to create different sizes of shot) into a tub of water below. As you walk up the tower, you can see the tubs for melting the lead and the water tub below.

The largest shot used at the time could be created by pouring molten lead from a height of 150 feet. Joseph Moir, the Shot Tower’s owner-builder, built his tower 149 feet high with landings at various heights. He used stone from a nearby abandoned convict probation station and took on many roles as part of the construction process, with the assistance of two stone masons. The tower took eight months to build. After this, Moir had to experiment with the shot-making process but his unique recipe remains unknown. The Shot Tower operated for 35 years until making shot became unaffordable. A series of caretakers have preserved the history of the tower (including members of my own family). It is now operated by Parks and Wildlife. Why visit the Shot Tower? History, beauty and mathematics.

Inside the Tower
Inside the Tower © emily@traversingtasmania 2017

The Shot Tower was Australia’s first shot tower. It is also the tallest shot tower in the southern hemisphere and is the only sandstone shot tower in the world still standing. It is well worth a photograph! Once inside the building, take the time to look at the small but intriguing display at the base of the tower. You’ll see three sewing machines for making shot bags, a cabinet containing various sizes of shot recovered from the site, an explanation of the shot-making process and Joseph Moir’s desk, among other things. Inside the tower actual, you can climb the stairs down to the base of the tower and/or climb to the top. The bricks are gorgeous; be sure to admire the structure as you walk, including the tower’s tapering walls and the views through slits in the walls.

View, Storm Bay
View Towards Storm Bay © emily@traversingtasmania 2017

At the top of the tower, you’ll find one of the original cauldrons used to melt the lead before you step outside and take in the astonishing view of the Derwent River. A viewing platform allows you to walk around the tower and it’s a view that is well worth the climb! For children and for those who are just plain interested in how many steps high the tower is, count the steps is a must. I missed count on the way up as I stopped to take too many photos and I’m not convinced that I counted correctly on the way down either so you won’t be getting any stair numbers from me!

Counting Down
Counting Down © emily@traversingtasmania 2017

Cost

Shot Tower Entry
Shot Tower Entry © emily@traversingtasmania 2017

Entry to the Shot Tower costs approximately $8 per adult and $4 per child. Children under 4 are free. Everyone who climbs to the top receives a souvenir sticker and you can purchase more souvenirs from the gift shop at the base of the tower. There are tea rooms and toilets on site. The tower is open from 9am – 5pm every day except for Christmas Day.

Getting There

View, Derwent River
View, Derwent River © emily@traversingtasmania 2017

Drive from Hobart through Sandy Bay (on Sandy Bay Road), past the Alexandra Battery. You’ll wind your way into Taroona, a beautiful suburb that has embraced its history, the surrounding bushland and river views. We stopped at The Picnic Basket, a cafe that has the honour of being the best petrol station conversion that I’ve seen! Keep driving on the main road through Taroona and you’ll eventually see the shot tower. Enjoy standing at the top of Australia’s first shot tower!

Yesterday, I visited the Australian Wooden Boat Festival. Read more about my adventures in Tasmania’s south here.

The Australian Wooden Boat Festival 2017

Traversing the Australian Wooden Boat Festival
Constitution Dock, Australian Wooden Boat Festival
Constitution Dock © emily@traversingtasmania 2017

Every two years, Hobart’s waterfront comes alive with tall ships, wooden sail boats, floating musicians, seafood, nautically-themed theatre, boat building displays, model ships and punters wearing hats bearing slogans such as “Ancient Mariner” (my Dad, wearing a hat that I gave him a few years ago!). The Australian Wooden Boat Festival is my favourite event on Tasmania’s festival calendar for several reasons.

The Boats

Young Endeavour, Australian Wooden Boat Festival
Young Endeavour © emily@traversingtasmania 2017

There is something awe-inspiring about stepping aboard a beautifully crafted and lovingly restored boat, especially when she has travelled half-way around the world to be there. Today, I boarded (for free! Thank you!) the Young Endeavour, the Australian Navy’s showpiece sailing boat, and she was magnificent: decks swabbed, ropes coiled, fixtures gleaming, masts soaring into the sky. I highly recommend that you have a look at her tomorrow if you can or, if you are young enough, consider applying to be a volunteer crew member. It really would be an experience of a lifetime!

The Buzz

The Music Shed, Sullivans Cove,
The Music Shed, Sullivans Cove © emily@traversingtasmania 2017

There is something for everyone at The Australian Wooden Boat Festival. Old-salties sit aboard their ships, sharing stories with the neighbours. Boat builders skillfully demonstrate their craft (check out the perfectly finished boat-like folding tables near the Waterside Pavillion). Students hammer boats together, ready for the “Quick ‘n Dirty Boat Challenge” race on Sunday at Kings Pier (watch it: it is very entertaining, particularly if a boat doesn’t quite pass muster…). Children are treated to a variety of performers on Parliament House Lawns. Best of all, you can wander past the boats with a drink in one hand and an icecream in the other, looking out across the water at boats in full sail (or back through the rigging of the tall ships towards the mountain), listening to the music echoing across the water from whatever watercraft they’ve built for the band. This year, it’s a shed. Last time, it was a dingy with an in-built piano!

The Exhibits

Model Boats, Australian Wooden Boat Festival
Model Boats © emily@traversingtasmania 2017

I have always been fascinated by model boats, and not just the pretty ones. While there is, sadly, a much smaller model boat display at this year’s festival, my favourites are still there: the huon pine boat baby cradle, the freighter, the tugboats and the model Enterprize. This year, the model boats are located in the Waterside Pavillion. You can also board many of the tall ships (for a fee) or even sail on them (for a larger fee). Another brilliant exhibition is the Water Ways exhibit in Salamanca’s Long Gallery. You’ll find paintings of the tall ships and Tasmanian waterways, as well as sculptural pieces, all by local artists. You can vote for your favourite piece in the People’s Choice Award and can enter a raffle for an atmospheric Roger Imms painting. On the way to the Long Gallery, pop in to Nutpatch Chocolates, the iconic Kettering store with a brand new (opened three days ago!) waterfront location at the Murray Street Pier.

Cost

Tall Ships, Elizabeth St Pier, Australian Wooden Boat Festival
Tall Ships, Elizabeth St Pier © emily@traversingtasmania 2017

Entry to the Australian Wooden Boat Festival is FREE. Excellent! You’ll need a bit of cash handy for the food stalls and for entry onto the tall ships (this is only available at certain times of the day). For more information and to download the festival program, see the the Australian Wooden Boat Festival’s website.

Getting There

Young Endeavour, Australian Wooden Boat Festival
Young Endeavour © emily@traversingtasmania 2017

The Australian Wooden Boat Festival is located in Hobart. The festival stretches from the Princes Wharf around to Victoria Dock and it is well worth seeing everything (wear comfortable shoes!). Parking is tricky as the Hobart Regatta takes place on the same long weekend but you can park for approximately $8 on the Regatta Grounds, for free on the Queens Domain if you don’t mind a walk or you can pay to park in a multistorey car park (if you can remember to get your car out before the car-park closes!). Once you’ve parked,  wander down to the docks and enjoy my favourite Tasmanian festival!

For more posts about Tasmania’s south, click here.