Queen Victoria Museum

Traversing the Traverse Way
Queen Victoria Museum
Queen Victoria Museum © emily@traversingtasmania 2017

After visiting the small but brilliant Launceston Tramway Museum, I walked virtually next door to visit a much larger museum: the Queen Victoria Museum. This is known, along with its art gallery, as the QVMAG but the art gallery is on a separate site and I didn’t visit it today. One of my relatives in Hobart says that this is the best museum in the state. I must confess that this was my first time viewing the main collection. I am impressed!

 

One of the best things about the Queen Victoria Museum is its location. The museum sits on the banks of the North Esk River and incorporates Launceston’s former railway workshop. The Blacksmith’s shop has been left seemingly as it was when it was closed, with a walkway added to preserve the site and sound effects played to transport you back to the workshop’s heyday. It is both interesting and eerie! Nearby sheds were used by painters, carpenters and so on. My favourite part is the Traverse Way, of course!

The Blacksmith Shop
The Blacksmith Shop © emily@traversingtasmania 2017

Nearby the disused industrial sheds is an exhibition space. Currently, you can view Scott Gelston’s Steel Vignettes. These works are stunning! It beggars belief how he and his camera withstood the heat of the forge to produce some of the photographs. Printed on aluminium, the photographs glow like the metal they depict. The exhibitions in this space change regularly so check the QVMAG website to see what’s on when you visit.

Perception Tunnel
Perception Tunnel © emily@traversingtasmania 2017

Locals love one aspect of the QVMAG dearly: The Phenomena Factory. This area contains several indoor and outdoor scientific exhibits that are highly interactive and a great deal of fun! Learn about viscosity by pumping air into tubes of liquid. Walk, in a straight line if you can, through the rotating perception tunnel. Transport tennis balls using Archimedes’ screw. Outside, there are whisper dishes, a bridge to build and a weight to move. It doesn’t matter what your age is, you’ll love it! It’s difficult to walk away from the area!

Dinosaurs!
Dinosaurs! © emily@traversingtasmania 2017

When you do manage to leave the Phenomena Factory, you’ll find a well-curated and beautifully displayed collection of artefacts. When we were there, the displays appeared to follow the design principle of less is more, to great effect. Don’t miss the exhibits in the main foyer too, such as the giant wasp’s nest. The model is not quite life-sized, according to a museum attendant, but it is very impressive none-the-less!

Preservation Ale
Preservation Ale © emily@traversingtasmania 2017

Inside the main exhibition space of the Queen Victoria Museum, you’ll find a lot of treasures. Look out for the giant wombat-like dinosaur that you can touch, an exhibit on the extinct Thylacine (Tasmanian Tiger) with a touchable synthetic pelt and, of course, a very famous beer bottle. If you haven’t heard about Tasmania’s new Preservation Ale, birthed from the wreck of the Sydney Cove, you’d better head over to the museum and see for yourself what all the fuss is about.

Memorial Wall
Memorial Wall © emily@traversingtasmania 2017

Upstairs, the exhibition space showcases Tasmania’s involvement in the Great War. It looks at many facets of the war. The most compelling parts of the exhibition are, of course, the personal stories of local families. The soundscape (not recommended for those who have served) is quite moving and the collection of banners made to welcome the soldiers home is intriguing. I enjoyed reading the list of applications for exemptions from duty, particularly the magistrate’s responses!

Getting There

Launceston Railway Workshop
Launceston Railway Workshop © emily@traversingtasmania 2017

You can find the museum part of the QVMAG about a fifteen-minute walk from Launceston’s CBD at the Inveresk precinct. You can park at the precinct for $3 per day. We spent about an hour and a half at the museum itself but there are other things to do at the Inveresk precinct. The museum is open from 10am – 4pm every day (except for Good Friday and Christmas Day).

Cost

Entry to the museum is free! How fabulous! This means you might have a few dollars spare for a cuppa in the carriage at the Railway Café, some Tasmanian goodies from the well-stocked Museum Gift Shop or a visit the museum’s planetarium. It is such an interesting place that you might not have time for all that though! Enjoy your visit!

To read more about my journeys in northern Tasmania, click here.

Launceston Tramway Museum

Traversing the Tramway
Launceston Tramway Museum © emily@traversingtasmania 2017

What do you do on a day when rain is imminent? Easy! You visit the museum. But which one? There are many museums of varying sizes and specialties in Tasmania. I visited two museums this weekend: one of our smallest and one of our biggest. Happily for me, they are actually almost next door to one another at the Inveresk Precinct: The Launceston Tramway Museum and the Queen Victoria Museum.

Imagine a world gone by. A world where your transport options include walking, riding a horse, driving (if you’re lucky), or catching a bus, train or tram. Like several Australian cities, Launceston had its own tram network and you can learn all about it at the tiny, fantastic Launceston Tramway Museum.

Two Trams
Two Trams © emily@traversingtasmania 2017

Inside the museum, you can explore the interior of two very different trams, both of which tell the story of Launceston’s trams. You can see the glory of the restored Tram 8. It is a fine piece of craftsmanship, carefully built from local timbers such as Huon pine and blackwood. Sit inside it and imagine yourself back to the early- to mid-1900s. Behind it sits the dilapidated Tram 25. Inside this tram, you’ll learn how some of the trams have spent their retirement. They have been converted into summer houses, shacks or sheds, used as dining booths in restaurants or even turned, temporarily, into a clinic. Tram 25 was most famously a chook shed and is displayed to reflect this part of its history.

Launceston Tramway Museum
Launceston Tramway Museum © emily@traversingtasmania 2017

The rest of the museum is dedicated to the stories of the twenty-nine trams. This is a great read for locals; I’ve dined in two of the trams. You can also view displays about the lives of the conductors and about why trams have curved roofs (and how this design was improved over time). Children will be happily entertained in the children’s tram (a purpose-built area). The best is yet to come though!

Your entry to the Launceston Tramway Museum includes a ride on the last of the trams: Tram 29. Beautifully restored, this tram leaves from outside the museum approximately every 45 minutes and takes you on a short journey up the line to the roundhouse (ironically, this can no longer be used as a roundhouse due to the low roof design) and then back down the line to the station (now a State Government building). Note that this grand old tram is a showpiece and it is not the same as riding the tourist tram in Melbourne! This is a whole new experience entirely.

Tram 29
Tram 29 © emily@traversingtasmania 2017

Getting There

Station © emily@traversingtasmania 2017

It is easy to find the Inveresk Precinct as the QVMAG is located here too. It is about a fifteen-minute walk from Launceston’s CBD or you can park at the precinct for $3 per day. We spent about three hours at the precinct visiting the two museums and a café. Once you’re at the precinct, look for the tram tracks and follow them to Blue Café. It’s a lovely place for a cuppa and they cater well for food allergies too. Next door to the café, in two sheds, is the Launceston Tramway Museum. They open from 10am – 4pm every day except Sunday and public holidays and the tram runs from Wednesday to Saturday (by prior arrangement, it can also run on the Monday and Tuesday for groups).

Cost

Tram 29 Interior
Tram 29 Interior © emily@traversingtasmania 2017

Entry to the museum costs $5 per adult, $4.50 per senior, $2 per child and children under 6-years-old are free! The cost includes entry to the museum and a short ride on Tram 29. What a bargain! Next time you’re in Launceston, particularly if rain is forecast, enjoy a visit to the Launceston Tramway Museum and a journey on a finely crafted tram.

To read more about my journeys in northern Tasmania, click here.

Bass Strait Maritime Centre

Bass Strait Maritime Centre

The Bass Strait Maritime Centre, once a private maritime museum, has changed hands and received a major face-lift. The building is lovely, with its boat-like shell and use of timber throughout the interior. It is part museum and part art exhibition space.

SS Woniora
SS Woniora © emily@traversingtasmania 2017

One role of the Bass Strait Maritime Centre is to record and preserve the maritime history of Tasmania’s north. The details of several Bass Strait disasters can be found throughout the museum as well as various artefacts. These include a diving suit, a stretcher for carrying injured sailors through hatches and a winch for the Julie Burgess’s anchor. Visit the ship restoration room to view a video about the restoration of the Julie Burgess. There are also fascinating information panels about the features and fauna of the Bass Strait. Did you know that Bass Strait is a raised shelf which drops dramatically into the ocean at its edges?

Container Exhibition
Container Exhibition © emily@traversingtasmania 2017

Another role of the Bass Strait Maritime Centre is to foster current maritime art and displays. When we visited today, we viewed an ANZAC centenary exhibition about Australia at war on the seas. There was also an intriguing exhibition about the role of shipping containers in creating the current trends in global trade. The building itself contains several artworks such as the compass rose on the floor and the beautiful stained-glass window panes (some stating names of sponsors of the centre).

Simulator
Simulator © emily@traversingtasmania 2017

Children will enjoy visiting the Bass Strait Maritime Centre for two reasons. One is the art and craft table (to the right as you enter the main room) and the other is the simulator. For an extra $2 per turn, you can steer the SS Wonoira safely through her journey into or out of Devonport, or even into Port Phillip Bay! Choose from several scenarios of various difficulty. The simulation may not be the best idea for those who suffer from motion sickness (I was fine).

Julie Burgess's Winch
Julie Burgess’s Winch © emily@traversingtasmania 2017

Once you’ve had a good look through the museum and exhibitions, have a browse through the gift shop and take a seat in the café. I enjoyed my meal. There are even gluten and dairy free dishes on offer for those with dietary requirements. Best of all, the café has a sunny outlook over Devonport’s foreshore walkway.

Getting There

Foreshore
Foreshore © emily@traversingtasmania 2017

Devonport is a one-hour drive from Launceston and just over a three-hour drive from Hobart. When you reach Devonport, follow signs for the City Centre. Turn left off the Bass Highway after you have crossed the bridge over the Mersey River. From here, follow the foreshore towards the Bluff, turning left into Glouster Street (the museum is signposted).

Cost

The Bass Strait Maritime Centre costs $10 per adult, $8 per concession, $5 per child and $25 per family. For current pricing, see the Bass Strait Maritime Centre website. Note that your voyage aboard the simulator will cost $2 per turn (but you do have three attempts to succeed). You can also book your voyage aboard the (real life!) Julie Burgess fishing ketch; read about my experience here. Enjoy a pleasant few hours at the Bass Strait Maritime Centre!

To read about my other adventures in Tasmania’s North-West, click here.

George Town: The Watch House and Bass & Flinders Centre

Traversing the Norfolk

George Town is a small town in Tasmania’s north. It boasts a beautiful waterfront and some of Tasmania’s oldest buildings. Originally designated by Governor Macquarie as the hub of Tasmania’s north, it is now primarily a residential and tourist town, supporting the industry at nearby Bell Bay.

The Watch House

The Watch House
The Watch House © emily@traversingtasmania 2017

The first attraction that you should visit in George Town is The Watch House. The reason that you should visit The Watch House first is because it contains a model village of historical George Town, as it was in the early- to mid-1800s. Created by Debbie Rainbow to commemorate the 200th anniversary of British settlement in George Town, the model shows the five remaining original buildings, one of which is The Watch House. The model of George Town is a real treat as Debbie has taken the time to show the finer details of life in the early 1800s. There is something to delight people of all ages, including a woman moving into her new home, a blacksmith hard at work and someone sitting in an outdoor toilet!

George Town
George Town © emily@traversingtasmania 2017
The Watch House Interior
The Watch House © emily@traversingtasmania 2017

The Watch House has been a police station, council chambers and a shop. Nowadays, it has been restored to reflect its original appearance (which is lovely!) but it is more of an exhibition space than a museum. When I visited yesterday, one room contained silk paintings and scarves by renowned Australian artist Barbara Gabogrecan and another contained a portion of Christina Henri’s “Roses from the Heart” bonnet display (a tribute to convict women and their deceased children). There are two cells: one contained a doll collection and the other cell was set up to show its original use.

Bass & Flinders Centre

Bass & Flinders Centre
Bass & Flinders Centre © emily@traversingtasmania 2017

Bass & Flinders Centre is a relatively new attraction, which opened in 2006. The building was originally a cinema and you can still see an (enormous!) original projector in the upstairs Gun Deck Cafe. It now houses the replica Norfolk, along with various other Bass and Flinders and maritime related memorabilia. Sounds underwhelming, right? Wrong!

The Norfolk
The Norfolk © emily@traversingtasmania 2017

When you enter the Bass & Flinders Centre, you first see a copy of Bass’s book of maps, open to the page showing his Tasmanian explorations. It is a stunning representation of Tasmania’s north coast. Sadly, Bass died shortly after completing the book. A friendly guide will then lead you into the museum. This is where the real surprise is. The replica Norfolk is huge. In fact, they had to take the roof off (it still leaks sometimes) just to get the boat in!

The Elizabeth
The Elizabeth © emily@traversingtasmania 2017

The replica Norfolk was created from Huon pine (not the original Norfolk pine) by Bern Cuthbertson and was used to reenact Bass and Flinders’ journeys in the Norfolk 200 years after the original journeys. Now a museum piece, the boat is used to show both Bass and Flinders’ voyage and the commemorative voyages. You’ll find the boat still set up as if ready to sail, with all the modern conveniences such as a torch and enamel crockery! You can climb down into the three compartments of the boat. Sit at the dining table and smell the Huon pine!

As well as the Norfolk, the Bass & Flinders Centre has several maritime delights on display. You can view Tom Thumb (Bass and Flinders’ row boat), the Elizabeth (a whale boat used to cross Bass Strait) and an old wooden surfboard. There is a small exhibition of maritime paintings, model boats, Bass and Flinders memorabilia and various other water crafts. It is an old salty’s delight! Dad, I think you need to visit!

Getting There

George Town is 45 minutes drive north of Launceston. The Watch House is on the main road (84 Macquarie Street) and Bass & Flinders Centre is just off Macquarie Street on Elizabeth Street. There is plenty of parking in George Town. Make sure that you take note of the signposted parking conditions though as some parks have a time limit or access restriction.

Cost

To visit The Watch House costs approximately $3 for adults and to visit the Bass and Flinders Centre costs $10 for adults ($8 concession, $5 student, $4 children, $24 family). I recommend purchasing a Historical Attractions Pass for $13 ($40 for families). This gives you entry to the two George Town sites as well as the nearby Low Head Pilot Station Museum, which is a bargain!

To read other posts about Tasmania’s north, click here.

Low Head Pilot Station and Lighthouse

Traversing Low Head
Low Head Pilot Station
Low Head Pilot Station © emily@traversingtasmania 2017

Low Head is one of the prettiest places in Tasmania. It’s also one of Tasmania’s oldest settlements. Named by Bass and Flinders because it is, well, a low headland, Low Head has had a pilot station in operation since 1805. It’s still in operation today. All large ships entering the Tamar River (usually commercial vessels heading to Bell Bay) are piloted into the river due to the narrow channel, which is deeper than Bass Strait in places, and the dangerous Hebe reef between Low Head and West Head. The reef was named after the first ship to be wrecked on it and it’s thanks to this reef, and the many ships wrecked on it, that such excellent artifacts can be found in the Low Head Pilot Station Museum.

Low Head Pilot Station Museum

Low Head Pilot Station Museum
Low Head Pilot Station Museum © emily@traversingtasmania 2017

Housed in the 1835 Pilots’ Row, which was designed by colonial architect John Lee Archer, the museum pays homage to the maritime history of the Tamar River, with a particular focus on the Port Dalrymple region. It has 13 rooms, each with a specific focus (lighting, diving, signaling and so on). Each room has an impressive array of well-displayed local artifacts, allowing you to imagine what life aboard a ship would have been like during a variety of eras. The ingenuity of some of the inventions, such as Walker’s “Cherub” log, which measures the ship’s speed via a spinning brass log dragged behind the ship, is staggering.

Diving Suit
Diving Suit © emily@traversingtasmania 2017

My favourite thing about the Low Head Pilot Station Museum is that it’s more hands-on than most museums. No, you can’t touch the diving suit or climb into the canvas trousers of the life buoy (even though you will probably want to!) but you can practise your Morse code… it turns out that I’m terrible at it! Look out for the button to set off the light display (to satisfy the child in us all).

The museum is located in the larger Low Head Pilot Station precinct, which is very beautiful. You can have lunch in the cafe, visit the church or even stay the night in one of the cottages.

Signaling
Signaling © emily@traversingtasmania 2017

Low Head Lighthouse

Low Head Lighthouse
Low Head Lighthouse © emily@traversingtasmania 2017

A very short drive from the pilot station is Low Head Lighthouse, the pinnacle of the signaling system. Built in 1888 (to replace the original 1833 lighthouse), the tower is very photogenic. The light station is the third oldest in Australia (second oldest in Tasmania). From the lighthouse precinct, you have views of East Beach, Bass Strait and Low Head, as well as access to (very) short walks in the Low Head Coastal Reserve. At noon every Sunday you’ll even have the privilege of hearing the restored fog horn sounding loud and clear! Penguin tours take place in the Low Head Coastal Reserve.

Getting There

View from Lighthouse
View from Lighthouse © emily@traversingtasmania 2017

From Launceston, drive north on the East Tamar Highway to George Town. Keep driving north to Low Head. The way to the pilot station and lighthouse is clearly signposted (if in doubt, follow the river north!). The drive from Launceston to Low Head takes approximately 45 minutes and is lovely. We stopped for lunch on the way at Hillwood Berry Farm which was delicious!

Cost

Boat Shed © emily@traversingtasmania 2017

You’ll always receive a warm welcome at the Low Head Pilot Station Museum. The volunteers are friendly and give you more than your money’s worth of information. Entry costs $5 for adults, $4 for concession and $3 for children or $13 for a pass to the museum plus the Bass and Flinders Centre and the Watch House Museum in George Town. Access to the Low Head Lighthouse precinct is currently free (but you can’t, unfortunately, climb the lighthouse). The museum is open from 10am – 4pm everyday except Christmas.

Lagoon Beach
Lagoon Beach © emily@traversingtasmania 2017

While in Low Head, walk at least some of the trail along the river, passing the leading lights, Lagoon Beach, the Pilot Station and, finally, reaching the Lighthouse. It’s a very picturesque area! We stopped to help a driver in distress and, as a passerby said while we were waiting for the tow truck, “enjoy the view!” We did.

To view other posts about Tasmania’s north, click here.