Another predawn start in search of that elusive sunrise found us on a deserted, granite cliff, facing the western Pacific. Our overnight accommodations at the White Sands Estates, being the only sign of civilization for miles in any direction, gave us a rather unique perspective of our little section of the world. Once on the cliff ledge, with the resort out of sight, it looked as though we were on a deserted island or at least a private beach. The ever-present squall line made for yet another transcendent, albeit obstructed, sunrise.
Today’s goal was the Freycinet National Park, and though we’d planned on a hearty meal at the resort, one of the staff sold us on the idea of breakfast among the trees at the Freycinet Lodge near the town of Coles Bay, some 45 minutes away. So despite the smell of freshly cooked bacon filling our nostrils (and awakening our stomachs), we grabbed a couple of granola bars and headed out. The morning drive was deliciously quiet; the road was completely our own as was the million dollar scenery. The granola bars kept our hunger at bay, and before long we’d arrived on the shore of the Great Oyster Bay. Dominating the peninsula is the Hazard Mountain range, named after a whaling captain, it consists of five peaks, aligned like the spikes of a stegosaurus; Mt. Mayson, Mt. Amos, Mt. Dove, Mt. Baudin (French Explorer), and Mt. Parsons. The park encompasses the entire peninsula and the Lodge we sought is on park grounds, so after taking in the sights for a few minutes, we headed for breakfast. The smells here were just as tempting as the ones we’d left behind, and each of us had our own culinary creation in mind. Unfortunately, we arrived 6 minutes after they stopped serving. The only thing that remained on the breakfast buffet was the smells that now tortured us. Someone needed to die!
Ok, no one died. We left the park and returned to Coles Bay and found a place still serving. When we first arrived, there were very few people, but that soon changed, presumably when all the Lodge residents woke up and realized they could no longer get breakfast at the late hour of 10 o’clock on a Sunday morning! But I digress.
Returning to the park, we set off on our hike. The park has many trails and far more than we could hope to see in a single day, but the highlight was up on Mt. Amos.
A well-maintained trail led us on a challenging 45-minute climb to a lookout about two-thirds of the way up the Hazard. From there, we had a postcard-like view of the Pacific Ocean, Mt. Mason and Wine Glass Bay.
Repeatedly voted one of the most pristine beaches on the planet, the sugar-white sand stood out sharply against the blue of the bay and the green of the forest. Rising in the background is the granite face of Mt. Mason, an imposing sight and a challenge for those crazy enough to climb it.
We decided to enjoy the view from our perch and catch our breath before beginning our decent.
Back in the car and on our way to Richmond, we visited a small berry farm just off the main road called Kate’s.
A little spot of heaven just uphill from the coast, nestled in a small valley, Kate uses the “fruits” of her labor to create all manner of treats including ice cream, jam and syrup. She also had other goodies such as chocolates covered caramels topped with a few crystals of sea salt. The adjacent sign announced that they were the latest craze in the U.S. and Europe. I don’t doubt it. Of course, the best part for me was the Australian shepherd that just happened to be visiting, so it was a bit of doggie therapy for me.
Distances here are deceiving. Our serpentine route took us through the mountains and livestock county that is the Tassie interior. The 100 or so miles from Cole’s Bay to Richmond took us around 2½ hours.
Richmond’s history dates back to the early 1800’s with the Catholic Church being one of the first structures to be built along with the Richmond Bridge. From the southern bank, the view back across the bridge to the church looks like a real life Thomas Kinkade painting. A stone bridge with a stone church, all we needed was some snow and the street lights.
In town, we found ourselves a navigational hazard. That is to say WE were the hazard. Each turn through this iconic town had us rubber-necking as we crawled along in our little gerbil-cage of a car, so we decided to park when we spotted woodworking store. I was half expecting chisels and saws, but instead found works from all over Tasmania representing over 70 local artists. Though all the pieces were good, some were true works of art. All were created from local woods that my woodworking buddies back in the States would drool over: Sassafras, Eucalyptus, Blackwood, Huon Pine, Myrtle, and several others that were just common woods to them, but exotics to us. The best pieces came from burls – a growth on the side of the tree caused by an insect. When worked, or turned, the result is some really amazing pieces. (Check it out at http://www.thewoodcraftshop.com.au )
Leaving the store, I mentioned that I was in the mood for a beer and asked if there was a good pub near-by. The store clerk laughed and pointed out that as were in the heart of Wine County, that we may do better to partake in a tasting at the Pooley Vineyard down the street. She went on to say that if a beer was a must, the pub across the street would make for a culturally unique experience. We opted for the wine. With buttery stone walls and white shuttered windows, the Belmont Vineyard (Pooley’s) would have been at home in Tuscany. The wine wasn’t bad, but not our favorite.
We considered staying in Richmond then driving the 10 or so miles to the airport in the morning. But given the unknown nature of the area we opted to head into Hobart, the state’s capitol city. We’d actually planned on staying a bit closer to the terminal, but try as me might, we could not find any lodging outside the city. I’d rather enjoyed the “traffic free” nature of our driving so the prospect of city driving, regardless of how light, was a bit nerve-wracking. All went well, and between the two of us we avoided wrong-side driving and actually found a hotel.
Located on Storm Bay, Hobart may be the capital city, but it still has a small fishing village feel. Down on the wharf we found a nice place to eat. A seafood place called Mures Upper Deck where all questions regarding freshness of product are answered by the fleet of fishing trawlers moored alongside. The catch of the day was Blue-eyed Trevella, a meaty white fish I wish was available back in the States. Local fish washed down with a couple of local ales- a pale ale from Moo Brew and a cider from Mercury.
Tasmania is the garden state of Australia. It’s micro-mix of the American West and Napa Valley. Though the people of Tasmania often feel forgotten by the mainlanders, Tasmania is a place you absolutely should not dismiss. It deserves several days, at least seven, to really get a view of everything, and you still won’t see it all. We had an incredible time, and hope to return.