Sunday, December 14, 2014

Every-day-is-Friday five: thank you, Tasmania!

So very glad we took our time visiting Tasmania. It's really a magical place that few Australians, and even fewer tourists, get to see. Here are five reasons you should visit this amazing little island, in no particular order...

1. The nature! We spent a lot of time WWOOFing on the island but our hosts definitely ensured that we had plenty of free time to enjoy the beauty of their surroundings, even when it meant going out of their way or being flexible according to the weather.  Our appreciation knows no bounds.

Although we didn't do the full Overland Track, we did summit Cradle Mountain. Although the Three Capes Track is still up-and-coming, we did complete the Cape Raoul portion. Although we couldn't squeeze in all 60 of Tasmania's Great Short Walks, we did manage a few of them (as well as others that should be on that list!). And so on, and so on...

Cataract Gorge, Launceston
(pronounced "lawn-chest-on"... or just "lonny")

(#32 on the 60 Great Short Walks list)

Lake Cethana near Lorinna
(which is near Sheffield and Cradle Mountain)

(#49 on the 60 Great Short Walks list)

view of Wineglass Bay from Mt Amos,

Wineglass Bay and Hazards Beach circuit
(#56 on the 60 Great Short Walks list)

Roaring Beach sunset walk near Port Arthur

Ship Stern Bluff near Port Arthur
(regarded by surfers as one of the wildest
and most dangerous locations in the world)

Cape Raoul hike near Port Arthur
(#6 on the 60 Great Short Walks list)

Clark Cliffs walk near Port Arthur

Photos can't do anything justice so just visit and see for yourself. But if all this nature hasn't sold you on visiting Tasmania, there are other things to do, including...

2. Sheffield's murals. No, seriously, "the only reason to visit Sheffield" (according to Lonely Planet) is a really good reason. Each year there is a competition of murals themed around the town and/or Tasmania and/or Australia as a whole. Entries are publicly displayed in a small square and artists, residents and tourists vote on their favorite mural.

Stonehenge dinosuar turtle!

Jen's favorite

an older mural whose subect was our WWOOF hosts' neighbor

The finalists are displayed until the next annual competition. Voting costs $1 and proceeds support the local artists. (After your mural walk, be sure to stop by Blacksmith Gallery Cafe for a coffee! They're super nice, the coffee is excellent, and the wifi is free.)

3. The Royal Tasmanian Botanical Gardens. This has been the most surprisingly consistent thing about Australia - the beautiful free botanic gardens. Hobart's gardens, Australia's second oldest, feature a really cool subantarctic house, Pine Tree Row (our words) with another Wollemi Pine and a little taste of home, and a really nice New Zealand collection.

first sighting of a Douglas Fir!

As an added bonus, a really nice park volunteer chatted with us as we entered and exited the park, and the rain held off until we left. In hindsight we could've spent our morning here and skipped the MONA. Which brings us to...

4. The Museum of Old and New (MONA). Where to begin... A really rich guy opened this gallery and named his parking spot "God" (his wife's is "God's Mistress").  The gallery is three floors of edgy modern art intermixed with ancient artifacts. We found some of the edgy art interesting but most of it was not really to our taste.

fed daily, poop occurs at 2pm...
not to our taste 

The ancient artifacts collection was pretty extensive, but after so many visits to ancient ruins in Turkey and Morocco, and so many museums in SE Asia, there was only so much that really grabbed our attention.  In summary: glad we went, can't say we would pay $25 each to go again.

5. Port Arthur Historic Site. Um... yeah, about that. Instead of paying $35 each to tour "the best surviving examples of large-scale convict transportation and the colonial expansion of European powers through the presence and labour of convicts," our WWOOF host took us across the river to Point Puer where the boys' prison was built. From there we had great (free!) views of the Island of the Dead and we did see some nice remnants of the stone structures that used to house prisoners.

Island of the Dead

Point Puer trail

We're quite sure that Port Arthur is the #1 tourist destination in Tasmania for a reason, and maybe someday we'll experience that reason for ourselves. But for now we're quite happy with our free day skirting around the historic site.

So of the "Top 5 Must See Destinations in Tasmania", we hit three and purposely skipped two. (Salamanca Market in Hobart was the other one we skipped, because at this point omg another market zzzzzzzzzz no thank you, but had we not heard of it we wouldn't have gotten that question right in Trivial Pursuit!) Taking the Spirit of Tasmania ferry from Melbourne to Devonport, touring the grounds of Dorje Ling Buddhist retreat center and the Tasman Ecovillage, and meeting so many wonderful people from the local communities surely make up for Port Arthur and the market, though.

we're on a boat!

tiny house inspiration at Dorge Ling

Food notes: Tasmania supposedly has amazing food and wine. Since we spent most of our time WWOOFing and our free time trying not to spend money, we didn't really get to experience this. Patrick did have to break down and try fish 'n chips in Nubeena one afternoon...

our only exciting Tasmania food shot

... but that was about it.

Lodging notes: between WWOOF gigs we also took a 3-day road trip down the eastern coast - absolutely incredible scenery, and plenty of coastal town quirky charm and cheap 1970s motels along the way...

We took more photos in Tasmania than anywhere else in Australia; go here if you're interested. The weather, the natural beauty, the flannel shirts and beards, and the liberal views of the local communities reminded us a lot of Oregon.  Of course, it's not all bright-and-shiny. The unemployment rate is very high; on our day trip in Launceston we were approached about five times by people asking for money (the first time this has happened to us in Australia). We also got some insight into why having a community of exactly-like-minded people isn't always a good thing - really good food for thought as we think about where we want to land back in the Pacific Northwest.

Anyway, we definitely hope to return to the island someday to see our new friends, check out the west coast, and finally spot an elusive Tasmanian devil. Now it's time to wrap up our stay down under with a cushy housesit gig in Melbourne... Man, it sucks to be us!


  1. Amazing and thanks for the post. I really needed it today!
    Tasmania looks so beautiful, and a little different than your other photos.

    1. Thank you Beth! Glad we could perk you up a bit. Tasmania really is a special place. :)

  2. i wonder where his mistress parks / =

    1. Right next to him, of course...

      (This is the most photographed thing at the MONA.)

    2. before you said that was his wife's space

  3. nice post..thanks for sharing....

    1. Thanks for stopping by, Rekha! That 2-day tour you linked looks awesome too. Wish everyone could experience Tasmania, it's such a beautiful place.