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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Last weekend, we did the Convict Farm Walk between Woolmers and Brickendon estates in Longford. At 45 minutes one way, it’s a relatively short walk through fields with some interesting sights along the way. Being able to walk between the two estates was a treat as I really like both of them.
We set out from Woolmers, out the back gate of the Main House, following signs for the Convict Farm Walk. Here, you’ll have sweeping views of the plains below and the mountains in the distance. You can see Brickendon Farm Village below as a small cluster of buildings. Even if you don’t have time to do the walk, stand on the hillside and take in the view!
At the bottom of the hill, you’ll reach and river and the suspension bridge that spans it. This is open from 9am – 5pm daily. You won’t be able to bring prams, wheelchairs, etc. over the bridge as it is very narrow. It was a lot of fun to walk across its two spans, swinging above the water. Look up and down the river as there are some great views to be had of the pump house from the bridge.
From here, it’s about two and a half kilometres to Brickendon. You’ll pass a clay pit (now grassed over) and interpretive signs about the lives and work of the convicts. Take in the views of the Great Western Tiers to your left and the mountains (Ben Lomond, Mount Barrow, etc.) to your right. Walking through wheat stalks and watching the farm in operation was also intriguing. We passed a field of sheep bleating a constant chorus of “maaaaaa!!!” It is an amusing experience to be under surveillance by sheep!!
Take the five-minute detour to the jetty. There’s a lot of serenity with the pump going… watch The Castle if you don’t know what I mean! It is a lovely feeling to be by the water though, watching it flowing past on its way to Longford. From here, it’s a short stroll to Brickendon Farm Village.
At Brickendon Farm Village, you’ll find photogenic historic buildings and a whole lot of animals! We said hello to a white horse, large cows, turkeys, geese, ducks, chickens, a pig and, best of all, Spring lambs!!! They were just gorgeous! It took us a long time to leave! One of the staff members spent some time with us, introducing us to the lambs, which was lovely. From the Farm, you can walk on to the homestead at Brickendon (which is a private residence) and surrounding gardens. We chose to head back to Woolmers.
What to Bring
You’ll need good walking shoes as, between the two estates and the walk, you’ll spend 3+ hours on your feet. The suspension bridge would also be difficult to cross in inappropriate footwear. Depending on the season, you’ll also need sun protection and/or waterproof clothing. Carry basic first aid supplies, a little bit of food and plenty of water with you. There is a café at Woolmers to relax in and plenty of places to sit down at both ends of the walk.
You can begin the Convict Farm Walk at either estate. Both are about a two-minute drive out of Longford or you can turn into Woolmers Lane directly from the Midlands Highway. You’ll find ample free, all-day parking at both sites. Ask staff at reception for directions to the start of the track.
If you just wanted to do the Convict Farm Walk, and not look at either site, you could probably do the walk for free. I paid for a self-guided tour of the historic sites at both ends as I like to support local enterprises. Both are worth having a good look around, even if you’ve been before, as they are quite different in each season. Make sure that you tell the receptionist at the second site that you have come from the first as you’ll then get a discount. It cost us $24 per adult to visit both sites and do the Convict Farm Walk, which I think is very reasonable!
If I could sit all day on the verandah beneath the wisteria at Woolmers Estate, I would. Winter is an excellent time to visit as the purple of the wisteria contrasts beautifully with the house. I thought that I had missed out this year but I managed to see a tiny patch of wisteria on the last weekend in Spring!
Also in bloom in Spring are the roses. Woolmers Estate is home to the magnificent National Rose Garden. If you don’t yet know your David Austins from your… well… other roses, you’ll find that a rose has many names and not all smell as sweet! The vast collection deserves a good half-hour stroll through. Old and young alike will also enjoy finding the flash of orange in the pond at the bottom of the garden.
Woolmers Estate is a fabulous place to visit at any time of the year. Even if the flowers aren’t blooming, you could spend many hours exploring the grounds and historic buildings. These include the Blacksmith’s Shop, Stables and Servants’ Kitchen (now a café). You can even stay in some of the historic buildings. My favourite building is the picturesque Wool Shed. Treasures I’ve found around the property are the turret-like smoking room in the garden, a “twin thunder box” in the garden wall, a tiny vintage car and the wine cellar. Soon, Woolmers will also boast a first-rate function centre and restaurant.
Now a UNESCO World Heritage Listed Convict Site, Woolmers was once the home of six generations of Thomas Archer. Established in approximately 1817, the buildings show the fullness of the lives of the Archers. You’ll learn about their innovation, successes (one played golf in the Australian Open) and tragedies. Unlike nearby Brickendon, which was founded by Thomas Archer I’s brother, William, Woolmers is no longer a working farm. This is because Thomas Archer VI was a recluse who had no children, leaving the property as a time-capsule for future generations to enjoy. While I’m very thankful for this, it’s quite a poignant realisation that such an inventive line of the Archer family is no more.
You must tour the house. This will cost more, and your guide will most likely take you through very slowly (my husband can’t stand this!), but you won’t fully understand the family until you view their private quarters. You’ll notice many points of difference between this house and others like it. Keep an eye out for the crockery set with the family crest (a bear paw holding an arrow), the shutters to protect from bush-rangers, the camera collection, the servants’ bell and the lack of mid-ceiling electric lighting. The latter was so that the aesthetics of the rooms would not be marred by the newfangled invention of electricity. This was a family who paved their own way.
Woolmers is located just south of Longford. You can reach it from the Midlands Highway, about five minutes’ drive south of Perth (Woolmers Estate is well signposted). Alternatively, drive through Longford down Wellington Street and Woolmers Lane until you reach the estate. You’ll enjoy driving down the hedged country lanes.
Current prices are $14 per adult or $32 for a family for self-guided tours. You’ll pay $20 per adult, $7 per child or $45 for a family. If this is your first visit to Woolmers, do the house tour. It’s well worth it! Opening hours are 9am – 4pm daily. Note that Woolmers Estate is closed on several public holidays (see their website for more details).
Today, we walked between Woomers and Brickendon. Read about our experience here. You can also explore other places in Tasmania’s midlands – it’s a wonderful part of Tasmania!
Nestled in a bay, between wild capes and raging seas, is a very significant part of Tasmania: Port Arthur Historic Site. The area is home to cultural sites of the Pydairrerme people and is surrounded by the beautiful scenery of the Tasman Peninsula. Originally, it was a penal station that played a vital role in the colony. More recently, it was the site of a heart-breaking event that lead to nationwide gun law reforms. Now World Heritage Listed, Port Arthur Historic Site is remarkable.
The site is extremely picturesque. Ruins stand in sparse, grassed areas: a penitentiary, a hospital and a church. There are also more than thirty restored buildings, giving a glimpse of past elegance and ways of life. Each building and ruin contains information about the lives of individual convicts and workers.
My favourite building is the Commandant’s House. The wallpaper, the multi-levelled hallway, the wood panelling… It is a very grand place! The restored buildings are opened from 9:30am, with a staff member on hand to answer your questions. Our host gave us an informative and fun insight into the house. Look for the time-travelling Commandant, the trapezium-shaped door and a letter written by a very accomplished five-year-old!
I’ve never visited Port Arthur Historic Site during Spring before. I’m very glad that I did this year! The gardens are beautiful. I particularly enjoyed the Commandant’s House garden – a secluded area that gave a hint at what the original garden may have looked like. The site is vastly different from my childhood visits – significant and tasteful landscaping has taken place, adding to the beauty of the site.
The beauty of exploring Port Arthur Historic Site is that you can walk through the buildings and see what life was like for the convicts, soldiers, Commandants and other staff for yourself. It’s like being a child again, exploring imagined forts and dungeons… except that these buildings are real. There is a poignancy to walking through each building, to pulling closed the door to your church stall and to standing in the darkness of the solitary cell.
Port Arthur is about 1 hour and 45 minutes’ drive east from Hobart. Take your time travelling as there are many beautiful spots to stop at on the way, including Eaglehawk Neck and Tasmans Arch. There is ample parking at the site. Be aware that renovations are taking place; the visitor’s centre will look spectacular when these are completed though. You could easily spend an entire day at Port Arthur. The site is dotted with places to eat, shop and research, including small museums and cafes. The gift shop even sells last-minute supplies for those beginning their Three Capes Track experience. There are short walks to do in the area too.
Tickets to the Port Arthur Historic Site cost $39 per adult, $32 per concession and $17 per child. There are optional extras to purchase too, such as a tour of the nearby Point Puer Boy’s Prison. Family tickets are available. Included in your ticket are a complementary 40-minute guided tour and a 20-minute harbour cruise. If you’re running short of time, or If you’ve visited Port Arthur Historic Site before, skip the tour but do the cruise! If you’re heading off to the Three Capes Track, entry to the site is complimentary for two years.
Staying on the Tasman Peninsula for a while? Read about my recent experience on the Three Capes Track or visiting the sea caves at Eaglehawk Neck. Alternatively, read about my adventures in Tasmania’s south.
Walking the Three Capes Track is a remarkable experience. All at once, you have stunning views, aching muscles, artfully crafted accommodation to look forward to and, in the middle of nowhere, a beautifully designed resting place that tells part of the story of the area. You journey from Port Arthur to Denman’s Cove. From here, you walk 46km over four days from Denman’s Cove to Fortescue Bay, via Cape Pillar, Mount Fortescue and Cape Hauy. It’s incredible. The third cape, Cape Raoul, isn’t yet part of the walk – I am told that, in the future, it will be part of the walk too.
When you book your Three Capes Track experience, you have choices. You can choose to take the 11:30am boat or the 2pm (1:30pm from May – August) boat. Your ticket to the Three Capes Track includes a two-year pass to Port Arthur Historic Site. You could spend an entire day wandering through the site if you want to. Being locals, we’ve seen it before and were happy with a few hours then the earlier start to our journey. Rather than doing a very, very long post about the entire walk, I’ve written a full post about each day. Here are the links to the full posts, with highlights:
Enjoy complimentary access to Port Arthur Historic Site. Cruise around the bay to the start of the walk. Have a snack on the beach before walking for 1.5 – 2 hours to Surveyors. Incredible views of Cape Raoul and beautiful accommodation await you. Enjoy!
Up we go… up Arthurs Peak and Crescent Mountain. You’ll be rewarded with views of Cape Pillar and Cape Raoul. It won’t be long until you’ve made it to your destination: Munro – accommodation on the cliffs! What a fantastic view of Cape Hauy and Hippolyte Rocks! Have a hot shower and read about the wreck of the Nord.
Cape Pillar and The Blade. What a highlight! Stunning views of Cape Raoul and Cape Hauy. Directly in front of you stands Tasman Island. The lighthouse, the old tramway, the houses… a bygone era on display in such wild surroundings. Walk back to Munro, pick up your pack and head to Retakunna.
The finish line is near. All that remains between you and it is a mountain, Cape Hauy and an aching body. The views, both up close in the rainforest and further afield of the capes, are worth it. Should you walk out to Cape Hauy and back? Yes, you should! Beautiful 360’ views plus the Totem Pole and Candlestick (famous to rock climbers) beneath you make standing at the end of this this cape particularly spectacular. A short walk later, you’re standing by the clear waters of Fortescue Bay, waiting for a bus back to Port Arthur. What an incredible journey!
What to Bring
Pack (one of) each item on the packing list provided by Parks and Wildlife. Remember that, although it is very luxurious, this is a hike and you need to self-cater. Make sure that your rainwear is good quality and covers you from head to ankle and that your boots are worn in. Blisters, bruises and getting wet are annoyances that you just don’t need on a journey like this. For the first night (or two), pack fresh food to enjoy. After this, dehydrated will do. You’ll need some trail mix to keep you going during the day. As a Tasmanian, I’m always devastated when tourists who go bushwalking end up hurt (or worse). Always, always, always carry water, sun protection, a jacket/jumper, rainwear, sturdy footwear, food, a first aid kit and a phone with you, even on short day walks.
What Not to Bring
My aching back reminds me that this section is of particular importance! I would NOT bring any luxury items with me. My mistake was packing a spare change of clothes (you need one outfit plus one contingency for wet/cold weather), a spare towel and small containers of shampoo, conditioner and moisturiser. Despite having a lovely hot shower on Day 2, I didn’t use these items at all. Things I didn’t bring and would strongly advise others not to bring are luxuries like make-up, extra food (you can only eat so much!) and gadgets. Enjoy going bush, in every sense of the word!
Your cruise leaves from Port Arthur on the Tasman Peninsula. This is 1 hour and 45 minutes’ drive east of Hobart. There are many fantastic spots to explore (or detour to) on the way, including Eaglehawk Neck, Dunalley and Richmond so take your time. Alternatively, arrive early and explore Port Arthur and the Tasman Peninsula like I did. It’s a fantastic area.
At $495 per adult ($396 per concession/child), the Three Capes Track experience may seem expensive, but you’ll soon see where your money goes. Firstly, you’ll have a (short) Pennicott Wilderness Journeys Cruise and two-year access to Port Arthur Historic Site. The limit on walkers (48 per hut) means that you can have “alone in the wilderness” experiences. You are treated very gently, from the track underfoot to the thick mattress awaiting you of an evening. Once you’ve seen the rangers (and even the helicopters!) in action, as well as the story starters and some of the trickier sections of the track, you’ll appreciate that it’s a bargain!
We set off from Port Arthur: my husband, myself, and, of course, the Ancient Marnier. The first part of your Three Capes Track experience is a boat ride from Port Arthur to Denmans Cove. You’ll motor past Crescent Bay (with it’s amazing sand dunes) and Mount Brown, with views of two of the capes. This is a shortened version of the Pennicott Wilderness Journeys’ Tasman Island Cruise. Up close, we saw a seal, sea caves, and an eagle’s nest. Seeing Cape Raoul, Cape Pillar and Tasman Island from the water gave us a sense of their grandeur and a taste of what was to come.
Landing at Denmans Cove is tricky! The boat pulls up to an isolated cove, backs up to the beach, lowers a ramp and then it’s up to you. Time your descent with the receding wave and commit fully to stepping off the ramp and you won’t get your feet wet! Make sure that your bag is strapped to you before you disembark.
Rest on the beach for a while. This is the only beach you’ll stand on until the end of your journey so make the most of it! After a short stop for lunch, my husband was raring to go so off we went! The track start is just up the river a short way and is obvious. Tasmanian artist Alex Miles has designed stunning pieces that introduce you to the start and finish of the track and to each hut. After a snap with the art, move on to the boot-washing station (it’s straightforward and a vital step in stopping the spread of plant diseases). From here, it’s a climb upwards. Not sure why “15 minutes” is engraved on a bench? Read the book that you were given by staff at Port Arthur.
When you reach Surveyors, you won’t believe it. It is superb accommodation. Finely-crafted cabins. A large deck with picture-perfect views of Cape Raoul. Deck chairs (Alex Miles’ designs appear on the fabric). Luxuriously thick mattresses. Drop loos that don’t smell (at least not in Spring-time!). A pellet fire. Bliss! Settle in and enjoy your time in paradise.