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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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!
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.
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!
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!
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.
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.
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.
Tasmania is an island state of Australia, located at latitude 42° south. It has excellent food and wine, beautiful beaches, spectacular UNESCO listed wilderness, stunning mountains, a rich history and friendly, innovative people. Tasmania has five UNESCO listed convict sites. Getting to Tasmania necessitates the adventure of travelling by boat or plane from Melbourne, or by plane from Sydney or Brisbane.
The Spirit of Tasmania ferries passengers and cars between Melbourne (Victoria) and Devonport (Tasmania). There are day sailings in peak seasons. Night sailings operate year round on every day except Sunday. Read about my journey on the Spirit of Tasmania here.
Launceston is Tasmania’s second largest city and can be reached directly from Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane. Fly via Virgin Australia (Melbourne and Sydney only), Jetstar and Qantas. Sharp Airlines also flies from Launceston Airport to Burnie, King Island and Flinders Island.
Burnie, a coastal town in the north west, has a small airport. It can be reached directly from Melbourne via Rex and Free Spirit Airlines. Sharp Airlines also files from Burnie to Launceston, King Island and Flinders Island.
There are several other small airports and airlines operating in Tasmania.