We spent this last week on a whirlwind tour of Tasmania (picture the cartoon of the Tasmanian Devil - that was us!). Phil and I flew down to Hobart early last Saturday morning and drove up th East coast to explore the Freycinet National Park area. I really wanted to see Wineglass Bay, but unfortunately the main trail to view it from was closed and the other option was too much of a hike for the time we had. We did explore the rest of the area though and found some absolutely beautiful beaches, not to mention a beach named Richardsons Beach. Naturally we had to get our picture taken next to the sign. I am in love with Australian beaches. People think Hawaii has nice beaches, but they really don't compare to the ones here. The water is much more breathtaking here, more turquoise than blue and very clear. The red sand really contrasts with the turquoise water, and the nearby gum and paper trees complete the picture. I find them really peaceful and so much more intense than anything I've seen in Hawaii.
That night we stayed at a tiny little motel in a tiny little town with an awesome view of the bay right outside our window. We had some fresh fish caught from the bay for dinner and shared a bottle of wine we had picked out earlier that day from a local winery. It was truly blissful.
The next morning we got up early and headed back to Hobart to pick our friends up from the airport. They were visiting from Seattle, and we travelled around Tassie together before showing them Melbourne for a few days. On the way to the airport we passed a really old-looking church on the side of a hill in another little tiny town so decided to explore. While we were in the graveyard I realized that Grandpa Dick's funeral had just started on the other side of the world, so it was a good place to be then.
Once we picked Amy and Michel up, we decided to go explore Port Arthur, which is one of the original convict towns from the early days of Australia. It rained most of the day, but we made the most of what limited sunshine we had and just ignored the wet socks. It was interesting exploring the ruins of the buildings from the early 1800s, there was a penitentiary, an assylum, and an amazing church, all without roofs. There was a definite divide between the prisoner accomodations and those of the free people. It was interesting to see what the convicts had been sent over here for - some crimes were as simple as stealing a purse. It's hard to imagine being put on a boat for 6 months and shipped to the other side of the world for stealing someone's purse. On the way back we took a spontaneous detour to check out the Tesselated Pavement, which turned out to be some incredible rock formations on the beach. Nature was putting on quite a show for us there, complete with a rainbow that stretched across the entire sky.
We then headed to Hobart, where we checked out the botanical gardens before spending the night in town. The next morning we explored the town of Richmond, home to the oldest bridge in Australia (not the birdge in the pic!). Then we headed out on a long drive towards Cradle Mountain, our resting stop the next night. It rained all day that day so we didn't stop to see much, just kept driving on. By the time we got to Cradle Mountain it had started to hail, and the hail was slowly turning to sleet, and then snow. We squeezed in a night time wild life tour there, it was fun to see the wallabies, quolls, and wombats surrounding us in the dark. By the time we woke up in the morning those animals must have been pretty cold as the ground was covered in several inches of snow. We did't let the bad weather stop us though and set out to explore the nearby lake. Unfortunately that was right when the snow started coming down sideways so our hike was rather short-lived. We'll definitely have to go back and explore that area more when the weather is a bit more cooperative.
From there, we drove North to an area called Stanley, known for a rock called The Nut. We climbed up it the following morning and were rewarded with some wonderful views of the town below. Then we headed towards Launceston for a day of tasting - chocolate, cheese, honey, and wine. While we were at a winery we found out our flight was delayed so we carried on with the tasting. Apparently the Australian government subsidizes the shipment of wine from Tassie to the mainland, so we took advantage and filled up a box of wine to ship back home. One of the other audities of OZ is leave loading - I actually got paid more while on vacation! It's left from the days when most people were in unions, the theory being that when you're on vacation you can't work overtime, so the extra money is supposed to offset that. So why not use it on some subsidized wine.
That was pretty much the grand finale of the trip, after that we just had a short 50-minute flight back to reality and then it was back to work the next day. It was strange to us that we didn't need our passports (or any photo id for that matter!) to fly over, it certainly did feel like we were in another country. Definitely a place we'll return to soon. Who wants to join us next time?