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.

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.