Prior to my Three Capes Track experience, I visited the tiny isthmus joining the Forestier Peninsula and the Tasman Peninsula. This is the piece of land that protected the rest of Tasmania from Port Arthur’s escapee convicts in the 1800s. Eaglehawk Neck also boasts incredible natural beauty, such as the famous Tessellated Pavement.
A strip of land that’s about 30m wide (at its narrowest) by 400m long, blink and you’ll miss Eaglehawk Neck! There’s a lovely loop walk that will take you past the 1832 Officers’ Quarters Museum. This is perhaps Australia’s oldest wooden military building. It was closed when we visited. Next, you’ll see a series of outbuildings and a statue of one of the eighteen guard dogs that were posted along the Neck to alert watchmen of escaped convicts trying to cross. Finally, you’ll reach the beach. Parks and Wildlife Tasmania have created an intriguing map of the historical landmarks in the area. The guard dogs were even posted on platforms to prevent convicts escaping by sea!
Continue walking north along the beach and you’ll reach a flat, patterned rock shelf. The siltstone forms a beautiful, tile-like pattern. It is known as the Tessellated Pavement. You can view it from a platform above. Alternatively, walk along the rock shelf if the tide isn’t too high. The natural patterns make for stunning photographs.
Eaglehawk Neck and the Tessellated Pavement are just over an hour’s drive east of Hobart. Allow extra time for stops on the way and for exploring the Tasman Peninsula. There is ample car-parking at both sites, including additional parking at the Eaglehawk Neck Community Hall.
You’d think that you’d have to pay to visit a place that is so historically significant and such a natural wonder, but you don’t! You can even access the Officers’ Quarters Museum for free when it’s open. Enjoy your visit!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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!
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!
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.
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!
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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?
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).
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).
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.
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).
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 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 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 these 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. Find a woman moving into her new home, a blacksmith hard at work and someone sitting in an outdoor toilet!
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 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!
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 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!
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.
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.