And now for the Tassie portion of our trip....
We had been warned on this forum not to do Tasmania with less than a week, and though you probably do need a few weeks to do it justice, we decided to go anyway. Who knew when we'd be back?
We arrived in Hobart on New Year's Eve, too late to see the ships finish the Sydney to Hobart race, but in time to see them at the dock and to enjoy the Taste of Tasmania. When I started looking for a hotel (April), most downtown hotels were already booked. We decided to go outside our comfort zone and stay at the Montacute Boutique Bunkhouse. Don't think hostel. Think fresh, bright, and clean, albeit with shared bathrooms. The four of us had a room to ourselves. As at the GOR ecolodge, part of the charm is chatting with fellow guests in the kitchen and parlor. Our dearth of knowledge of Australian culture was laid bare playing Trivial Pursuit, while the Aussies we encountered knew as much about our own presidential hopefuls as we did. Shame on us!
We felt we couldn't not go to MONA, even though provocative contemporary art is not our thing. A rape-inspired piece was unsettling. The digestive tract contraption was an interesting idea if not wholly pleasing. Our favorite was a wall emitting falling words in water. In sum: we didn't care for MONA, but we're glad we saw it.
Walking around the harbor looking at the boats and ducking into the Taste was fun. The food was good but not exceptional. A big problem for our family, which includes a vegetarian, was the very limited vegetarian options. (This was a refrain throughout Oz.)
Our last morning in Hobart was a Saturday, so after a scrumptious breakfast at Machine (part laundromat, part locals' cafe--recommended by Montacute's very nice owners), on Salamanca Sq., we threaded our way through the PACKED Salamanca Mkt. and loaded up on fresh produce. Then we headed for Port Arthur. If you're planning to cook while staying in Port Arthur, bring groceries. The peninsula's store is a bit of a drive and limited.
Just before the peninsula is the Eaglehawk Neck Tessalated Pavement (another recommendation from the Montacute folks), which was really cool, especially for those inclined to geology, which we are! We stayed at Stewarts Bay Lodge in a 2-bedroom spa chalet--tons of room, 2 bathrooms, a full kitchen, a killer view of the bay including from a big deck, and adorable pademelons hopping about outside. Well worth it!
We had a full rich day: a long morning at the Historic Site and an afternoon doing the Tasman Island Cruise. Both were wonderful. At the site, the mix of shortish interpretive tours with time to explore by ourselves was quite satisfying--such a sobering but interesting history lesson. The boat trip had both terrific sea life (including dolphins playing in the wake) and gorgeous cliff scenery. We've got geologists, after all.
Our drive to Cradle Mtn. took much of the next day, but we did manage the aptly named Enchanted Walk at dusk and saw our first wombat. As in Port Arthur, we stayed in a 2-bedroom spa chalet (Cradle Mtn. Wilderness Village) and cooked for ourselves. It, too, was a winner--clean and fresh, with the requisite pademelons outside (also an echidna welcoming us at reception). This one had a kitchenette but it was sufficient.
Lamentably, we only had one day at Cradle Mtn. We took the shuttle to Dove Lake and hiked up to Marions Lookout and down to Ronny Creek, with a picnic lunch en route. We made plenty of other stops, too, both because the landscape is drop-dead gorgeous and because the climb had some of us huffing and puffing. (Bad knees made us do the gentler elevation change on the descent.) We still had time afterwards to do the feeding at Devils @ Cradle. Ordinarily, we wouldn't have gone for animals in captivity, but we knew we weren't going to see devils in the wild and wanted to learn about them. It is very interesting, and the creatures (like all the unusual Australian fauna) are so darn cute, as long as they aren't rending a hunk of meat or each other. The preserve also has quolls, whose cousins we had seen at Cape Otway.
The next morning it was off to Launceston to fly to Cairns by way of Sydney. Stay tuned for the next and last installment--Queensland.
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And now for the Tassie portion of our trip....