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Trip Report Trip Report: N. Queensland and Tasmania

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We are from Colorado and this is our fourth trip to Australia, the third in five years. We feel very blessed to do this, and while we hesitated somewhat in this terrible economic year, I have just celebrated one of those Very Big Birthdays, and this trip is my present to myself. Slow travelers, we don’t try to see it all, and in homage to our hipper, counter-culture days, we go without mobile phones, laptops and GPS. I wasn’t sure I wanted to write a trip report – seemed like we were doing so many of those things which had been done and reported on by others. But Melnq8 has convinced me otherwise, and so this will fall into four parts: Cairns/beaches/reef, Cooktown, Atherton Tablelands, and Tasmania. Our trip was May 18-June 10. Hope it’s useful to other travelers.

CAIRNS

We have always flown Air New Zealand, although I may re-think after this trip. I like stopping in Auckland, but the extra five hours to Cairns this time was a long haul. On a previous trip we stayed in Port Douglas and went to the Daintree and Cape Trib, but had seen nothing of Cairns. We chose Trinity Beach, just north of Cairns and the Sea Change Beachfront Apartments – more luxury than we would pick on a trip this long, but it’s that birthday thing. Apartments, from 1 to 4 bedrooms, all facing the ocean, are spectacular, with splendid baths, full cooking, a huge balcony with a table seating 6 and a lounge, and a drop-dead view. There is also covered, secured parking, a beautiful pool and spa, and terrific staff. Our arrangement was an off-season rate of 6 nights for the price of five. Sea Change also recc’d Cruising Car Rental, cruisingcarrental.com.au. This is a family run company with the best rates in FNQ. Although DH typically would refuse to put foot in anything made in Korea, the Hyundai Getz was the predominant rental vehicle and at AUD$45 day, we didn’t argue. It actually suited us fine, although not great on gas (auto) and anemic on steep hills. We also hired Please Shop For Me (pleaseshopforme.com.au) to bring in basic provisions before we arrived. I chose a breakfast pack, and extra items for all breakfasts, which were delivered and stored in the fridge when we arrived. Easily done online, they can do a full week’s shopping if needed.

In the next six days we made a visit to Kuranda, this time driving up the winding roads. We have done the Skyrail in the past, which was a good thing since it was shut down for maintenance that week. As a result, Kuranda was pretty empty, and even if it’s on the touristy side we like it, had a great lunch at the organic restaurant, and made our trip to Koala Gardens so we can feed the kangaroos and I can hold a koala. Flecker Botanical Gardens is free, with a splendid fern house and an outdoor café for lunch. We revisted Tjabukai and spent part of a day at the Cairns Tropical Zoo. On a prowl around Cairns city we discovered Rusty’s Markets (F/S/S only) and snacked our way through vendor’s samplings of Haas avocados, Pink Lady apples, samosas and pork buns, and bought some wonderful produce. We spent a morning at Ellis Beach, about 20 minutes north from Trinity with only a few other folks around, beautiful sand and water about 27C. (A note on timing, the stinger nets were removed during the week of our stay.) Grabbed a quick fish and chips at the Ellis Grill across the road. Our plan had included two major excursions, one to the reef and one to Lizard Island on Daintree Air. Arranged two weeks before by email, I thought I had given Greg five days of dates on which we could go to Lizard. Unfortunately he was out of town most of the week, and while his staff said we were scheduled to go on Saturday, when I finally reached him Friday night, he had no other passengers to go with us. He offered to try to put together a trip for Sunday, but we had just committed and paid for our reef trip for that day. Because we had thought long and hard about what to us is a huge expense for one excursion (nearly $900 US) we were terribly disappointed not to go. Fortunately we still had our reef trip to experience. We chose Reef Magic based on Pat W.’s rec and it was a terrific day. I don’t know how many people the boat holds, but we were told it was only 1/3 capacity – seemed like maybe 100 people. You do get ‘pitched’ for the helicopter flight, the guided snorkel tours, etc., on the way to the pontoon, but it’s a good facility with easy access to the water from a snorkel platform without steps to climb. We liked meeting Wally, the resident Maori Wrasse, who hangs out at the pontoon to be fed by RM staff, and poses for pictures with everybody. Wally is a little slimy, and he’s a meter long - hard to realize he’s a fish. We were given a nice lunch as part of the package.

Some food notes: Sea Change sent us to the local restaurant called Ci Fennali, which had opened the week before in the former Marmaduke’s space. Beachfront and open air, the chef, Chris Fenn, does beautifully presented food. My warm asparagus soup arrived in a footed crystal bowl I could have photographed followed by encrusted snapper and amazing chocolate gelato in a coconut shell. This is a place to try – I hope they’re successful. (Note that a woman patron needing the loo was sent down the back with a flashlight.) We chose L’Unico for Italian that was marginal, and not made better by understaffing the night we were there. A new place, Chianti’s, makes a good thin crust pizza, and delicious seafood calzones on another night. All these are in Trinity Beach. Up in Palm Cove, the next beach town north, we discovered the newly open Annie’s DeLema, run, obviously, by Annie, who has a “dilemma” about what her cuisine really is (I advised calling it eclectic) and serving Italian, Thai, steaks, and local barra. This was a great choice, too.

We loved Trinity Beach and the quiet ambiance, but were aware how any of these northern beach towns could be completely different in high season. Next up: Cooktown.

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    COOKTOWN

    At the outset, let me credit both RalphR and Sally in Seattle, whose trips in the last two years and their posted reports inspired us to go to Cooktown. DH has some interest in James Cook and his explorations, and likely we will not have an opportunity to be this far north again. Our deal with Cruising Car Rentals will keep us on the inland road both directions, but it will be four hours anyway we do it. We set off in pouring rain and it will rain for most of the drive. There are few actual sites between Cairns and Cooktown, but there is wide open landscape and we are amazed by the mountains alternating with the flat spaces - some filled with beautiful dry grasses. One, something we would call winter wheat in our part of the world, is a brilliant red, others more rusty, and its quite a contrast to the brush brown look of other foliage. In one section there are termite mounds - huge ones more than a foot tall - we stop and photograph several of the mud-like structures. This is also cattle country - many cows of different types but lots of Brahmins, are grazing here. Because it feels like the middle of nowhere we wonder how the get rounded up - later we are told, by helicopter. By the time we get to the Palmer River Roadhouse we are ready for lunch, and the traditional steak sandwich, piled high with lettuce, tomato, bacon, onion, a beet slice and a fried egg, all on toast.

    We arrive at the Sovereign Resort in late afternoon with clouds still threatening. I chose a 2 BR suite based on another poster's rec and we are glad for the space - a big LR, kitchen of a sorts with microwave but no real cooking, fridge and a full set of dishes, and we have brought the remaining groceries from Sea Change. Odd bath with a walk-in shower but the lighting is dark - about a 20 watt bulb at best. The resort has one of the most beautiful pool areas I've ever seen, but already it's too cold for me. When we set off to dinner it's pouring again, and I want to find the Kiosk recc'd by Ralph, so we are up and down the two streets, ending up in the Cooks Landing Cafe on the waterfront. We eat delicious grilled barra outside on the covered porch, and it is only the next day when we return for breakfast that I realize this IS the Kiosk afterall. We eat all our breakfasts here, enjoying the local conversation. One elderly man comes every day with his equally elderly German Shepherd, and the dog is offered a sausage, which he eats slowly and daintily.

    In our two days we see the major sites and spend a long time in the James Cook museum, which features the Endeavor and Cook's interaction with the native peoples, but there is also a section on Aboriginal life, white settlers, a whole section on the Chinese population and their Cooktown experience. Quite a gem. We take Cooktown Cruises from the waterfront dock on a 2 hour cruise around the harbor and then up the river. Pam and Lyle and their boat dog Zena are entertaining and informative, particularly about the native plants, fish and crocodiles which live in the mangrove swamps that line the banks. They point out numerous birds we would have missed, and we have an upclose look at some crocs - most of which were sleeping in the afternoon sun.

    We've been warned the hotel food is expensive and not great so we go to the other end of the spectrum at the Bowls Club. We love lawn bowling even though we don't understand the process or the scoring, and there is always a good meal to be had cheaply. Tonight we stay to watch the action and it is clearly family night - no white attire in sight - and no one is even wearing shoes!

    On Sally's strong rec, we book the Aboriginal rock art tour with Willie Gordon of Guurrbi Tours. This is a not to be missed experience and we are picked up by Willie himself, giving us a longer opportunity to talk to this amazing man about his Aborginal culture, life in Hope Vale, his travels, and his work to preserve the rock art we will visit. We could not have possibly driven this road ourselves - rough beyond belief, and at the site, we meet up with another group who have been touring and camping for a week already. I am concerned about the terrain - this has been billed in the brochure as 'very limited walking' and I am unprepared to climb the narrow and very uneven paths. We are given walking sticks which help a little, but I am wearing the wrong shoes for this and find it strenuous with a bad back and a tricky knee. In fact I took a fall over a hidden root near the end - wish I'd known more info in advance. That said, the rock art in the caves we visit is indescribable-like something out of time that we have never seen, and Willie makes it so real with his stories of the spiritual side of this life and the teachings of his people. Others have described this tour as magical - it is.

    Our last night in Cooktown we chose the new The Italian Restaurant, a combination of Italian and Thai (what IS it with this combination??)which offers pizza and various specialities. It's fine and plentiful, and we enjoy being part of a birthday celebration for the owner's grandson who has received a giant dumptruck as a present. Many times we have remarked on the absence of tourists which let us interact more fully with the local people. This is one of those times - very fun.

    Next: Moving on to the Atherton Tablelands.

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    Hello OliverandHarry!

    Oh, I am so enjoying your trip report, I can't even tell you how much!

    1. I'd never hear of "pleaseshopforme", that's a great tip and one I will pass onto clients! I feel kind of embarassed not to know about this actually! I guess it's because when I travel, a 3 week stretch, I actually get tired of eating out, and I like to cook, so there will always be those days when I just want to have dinner in my PJ's (hopefully on a deck with a nice view) and kick back at "home".

    2. ACK! I felt your pain about your Lizard Island excursion. That was just SO bad. Of course, since it seems like you're already "invested" in Australia as a top destination for you, it's likely that you'll be back...but still, that was a blow.

    3. There's no two ways about it - "Wally" is a superstar!

    4. Restaurants in Cairns - man, I am out of touch! They come and go so fast!

    5. James Cook - as you say your partner has an interest - have either of you read "Blue Latitudes" by Tony Horowitz? If not, run do not walk, do not pass "GO", and get to a bookstore and buy it, or order it online - whatever. You'll LOVE it!

    6. I LOVE the James Cook museum - for a funky little town with a small museum, it's got so much packed in there doesn't it?!

    7. Lawn bowling! hahahhaa. I feel much the same way about cricket and/or rugby! I'm "sports impaired" - I don't understand American football and don't watch it, and yet I'll listen to the sportcasters there - they're just SO funny!
    (or maybe I'm just easily amused!). One of my favorite quotes: "cricket - it's like baseball on Valium".

    8. Willie Gordon - I'm especially proud to have a book sent to me and autographed by Willie. I've met his partner, but still haven't met Willie or been on his tour; although I've sent clients to him who have been blown away by the experience.

    I am so happy to hear you say that you saw things you'd never seen on your own.

    There are certain parts of the world, and this is one of them, where I stress having a guide. Without one, self touring, you miss so much. I know that sometimes people's budgets are a factor, and while I respect that, there's also the fact that with many people, it's a "once in a lifetime" opportunity - unlike you, they'll never be back again. To go all that way and think you can see everything on your own and figure it out, just isn't realistic.

    I've been to Australia over a dozen times, and each time I go I learn something new. That's with travel for business and personal travel.

    I don't know if Willie told you this (he strikes me as someone who wouldn't "toot his own horn") but he's been written up in Conde Nast Travel (and other publications) as one of the "Top 100 Australian Experiences". Did you know that?

    Thanks again for the trip report! Looking forward to future installments!

    Best,

    Melodie
    Certified Aussie Specialist

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    It sounds like a wonderful visit. Thank you for writing the report, even if people see the same thing, their personal experiences are so different. And I always feel like I've been along when I can read a report. Looking forward to more.

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    ATHERTON TABLELANDS aka Cairns Highlands

    Four hours from Cooktown, we meet the road, which if taken back to the east would return us to Kuranda. Instead we head south to Mareeba, the first of the towns on the Tablelands. This is a major dairy center and the road now runs through green rolling hills and farmland. At the TI, we get maps and directions and head off for Mt. Uncle Distillery, which makes a delicious banana liqueur and has an excellent tearoom. For some reason, there are donkeys and goats on the property – intended, we think for a petting zoo, and we get to see the huge banana plants where the bunches of fruit are individually bagged to keep the insects away. We reach Yungaburra and our lodging, the Kookaburra Lodge, where we are welcomed by owners Mike and Nita Williams and their Cairn terrier, Bob. The property is surrounded by amazingly lush gardens, trees and ferns, and a number of flowering plants are still in bloom. Only twelve units here, and we are on the end, which is quiet. The room is very small, and our two big suitcases don’t help, but there is a table and chairs on a pretty patio outside where we will be served breakfast. Mike sends us down the road about 200m to dinner at Liam Flynn’s, an owner-chef who cooks and bakes everything served. The tomato and pumpkin soup, followed by mahi-mahi and a spectacular lemon tart makes the best meal of the trip so far. The service is impeccable, but not overly formal. This is a not-to-miss restaurant.

    Breakfast at Kookaburra is ordered the night before, and is not included in the room rate, but the variety is huge and so are the portions. DH’s Big Brekkie is just that – the full cholesterol-on-a- plate option that he actually photographs, because the eggs are perfectly cooked and round. My choice of the homemade muesli is delicious. We begin to do what we do best, wander with no particular destination. An obligatory stop at the Curtain Fig, we’re impressed. We backtrack to Tolga and spend time in the woodworks and have a nice lunch at their café. We drive through Atherton, which is too busy for us – but clearly we are back to an area where real people are working and living without depending on tourists. We make a stop at Gallo Dairyland, where the Friesen cows and a noisy bull are crossing the road for milking. You will be offered six different cheeses, and several different chocolates for tasting, and then get to walk back to watch the cheesemaking – today it’s feta in an enormous vat. After a few wrong turns we finally find the turnoff to Lake Barrine, where we will be able to catch the last boat tour of the day. With a half hour to spare we have time for a fresh scone with cream and hot chocolate. When we finally board the boat, we are the only two passengers, and our pilot/guide gives us a great tour of this crater lake, pointing out all the different plants and trees, various birds, the ducks that accompany the whole journey and the amethyst python sunning on the bank. A family who has dedicated itself to preserving this area owns the teahouse and because it’s only the three of us we get to have a great conversation with the guide. Later in the evening we chose the highly recommended Nick’s Swiss Italian. It’s built chalet-style, and the interior is authentically decorated in Swiss styling. The food is very good, but not over the top, and just doesn’t compare to Liam Flynn’s.

    Our last day it’s time to face down the laundry, and then have a walking tour of Yungaburra, which is just a beautiful heritage village. We enjoy seeing the architecture of the little restaurants, the information bureau, a bookshop, the wonderfully Victorian Lake Eachem Hotel, now closed and looking a little spooky. There are several charming churches, and a big open, grassy square. And on the side street, the bowls club, this time where everyone is wearing whites – in the rain! We make our way to the second large crater lake, Lake Tinaroo, which is actually dammed for irrigation. It’s a gray, misty day, and a little cool for lunch on the terrace at It’s DAM Good!, nearby. We end up skipping dinner tonight – we’re on food overload.

    Today we’ll make our way back to Cairns and stop there one last night before our flight to Hobart. We’re taking a long leisurely route through Malanda with its waterfall that becomes a swimming pool, an older hotel that looks like it was in the film “Australia” and possibly the best signage of the trip, on a restaurant that reads, “Tired of Cooking Nightly? Just Say BITE ME, Great Food With Attitude.” We get to the turnoff for the Millaa Millaa falls, which begins the stunning waterfall circuit, and then down a narrow road that seems to lead nowhere, to the Mungalli Creek Organic Dairy, where we order the Greek-style yogurt with mango in their tearoom. DH pronounces it the best he’s ever had. Turning at Innisfail, we head back north to Cairns and have a roadside picnic with the last of our groceries. The road through Gordonvale isn’t very picturesque although we admire the straight rows of the crops, and apple trees along the way. Tonight we’re at the Cairns Hilton, and it’s immediately apparent that the waterfront area and the high-rise hotels are where the money gets put in Cairns. The rest of the city is uninspired at best. I confess to loving the big room, the king bed, the big balcony overlooking the harbor and lots of towels. Unfortunately I also see the neon “M” of McDonalds. We have a decent meal on the outdoor patio, although the breakfast buffet at AUD $35 is a terrible value and we order off the menu. Time to turn in our Hyundai right underneath the tall and quirky Captain Cook statue (it actually advertises a bar) and Cruising Car Rental’s owner, Michael Birt, drops us at the airport himself. We’re off to Tasmania!

    Last chapter to follow!

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    Nice report Oliver & Harry, especially as am familiar with everything you've described. Yes, to the Mungalli Falls yoghurt and cheeses, have been buying them for years.

    Capt Cook "statue" just north of Cairns city was originally erected to herald a now demolished motel/backpackers until it was razed to the ground a couple of years ago. Although various suggestions have been made to his re-location (not all of them kind), no-one wanted Captain Cook, so there he still stands bereft and alone, and occasionally is given a new paint job. The story goes that he should never have been there in his present form in the first place, the council giving approval misread the intended height, and the Captain ended up being about 5 times the size he was thought to be by council. Then he became a landmark, so he got to stay.

    BTW, when you were in Cooktown did you notice any day trips out to reef? I can only seem to find fishing trips or overnighters, but haven't checked for a while.

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    oliverandharry,
    I second your food comments, particularlly mUngalli products, Liam's cooking at Flynn's in Yungaburra and the Gallery Cafe at Tolga Woodworks where one should lock the credit card in the car before entering; there are just so many wonderful things in their gallery. Overseas friends once did all their holiday and Christmas shopping there and had the lot shipped home.

    Hopefully the Yungaburra pub will soon be trading again. It is one of the few old country pubs with an ensuite in each room. The lounge and dinning rooms are magnificent as is the private bar and the grand staircase.

    Just one minor correction: Lake Tinarro is a river dammed (as you said for irrigation) and not a crater lake.

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    Thanks, everyone for your nice comments thus far. Pat W., I found one listing in a Cooktown tourist magazine for Ahoy seaplanes which apparently do a 1/2 day trip to Lizard, Hope Is., or Horlicks, with snorkeling equipment and lunch. The others, as you say are all fishings charters. Given our Daintree disappointment, we thought about trying that out, but it would have meant skipping Willie Gordon. Yes, Melodie, he is now using the Conde Nast rating in his own marketing materials. Also we met Peggy Johnson, a volunteer at the Coook Museum, who is involved in an effort to increase the overall marketing of Cooktown to tourists. We mentioned that but for the Fodors board we knew nothing about Cooktown, and didn't even see the tourist magazine anywhere until we arrived. The group is hoping to make some progress now that the inland road is sealed all the way. Gotta get moving on the Tassie bit!

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    Also really glad to know that part about the Capt. Cook statue in Cairns, Pat. We really liked him, but he's in an odd place. Actually reminded us of our George Washington, who was of the same period. Local folks seem embarrassed by him, yet he's often a point of reference when they give you directions!

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    oliverandharry, funny you should mention that, a tour operator told me recently that his American clients often mistake Capt Cook on Sheridan St for George Washington.

    For next time: he stands almost opposite the road to Victor's Italian Deli, with such a small street frontage you'd miss it if you blinked. For those aiming to stock up for a picnic, or are self catering, a stop here is more than worthwhile.

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    TASMANIA

    Making Tasmania part of a trip after Cairns is a little like going to Miami after two weeks in Maine. Yet it is one of our favorite places on the planet, and going to Oz without being there is unthinkable. The flight from Cairns to Melbourne is 4 hours, then another 1 ¼ hour to Hobart. With the layover in between we don’t arrive until nearly 9 pm, and after we pick up another Hyundai Getz from Europecar, they literally turn off the lights. Because we arrived so late, I made a reservation at the Fountainside Hotel, which is positioned just at the edge of Hobart. It’a highrise, mid-century architecture, and hard to put your finger on who might stay there. Not really walking distance to the CBD, or the waterfront, but the reviews on TA are uniformly amazing, especially people raving about the comfort of the beds and the low prices of the mini-bar. I don’t think I have ever considered anything about a mini-bar in my travels, so this is somewhat intriguing. There is also parking in the attached lot – free.The Fountainside is a great value – at AUD109, but it is off season. This turns out to be a true find. Every room has what feels like a giant king sized bed, with all of the promised comfort, a large bathroom with shower, and an enormous flat screen TV with perfect reception. I did take a chocolate bar and soda from the mini-bar so as not to miss the experience. In the morning, a cold buffet and hot cooked breakfast is served in the dining room off the lobby (not included in rate) and apparently an evening meal is available to residents as well. So who stays there? Everybody: business types, older travelers, students. I would absolutely stay there again.

    We are now headed to the Huon Valley for the next three days. Of the seven days we stay in Tasmania, it will rain for five. This is winter and we are prepared, but have not expected so much wet. Our first stop will be in Lucaston, off the beaten path, to Lucaston Farms Apple Orchard. The prize we seek is apple juice, made at this farm and sold by the 2 liter bottle out of a refrigerator on the side of the road. There is an honor box. I discovered this apple juice in a hotel in 2006 and want to export gallons of it to the US. I actually spend the rest of the week scheming how to put a bottle in my suitcase, although it’s unpasturized and the sniffer Beagles will nail me in an instant. Moving on….we are headed for Franklin to lunch at Petty Sessions. This and other attractions have been written up with great praise by LizF and our meal does not disappoint, including the sticky date pudding at the end which is still steaming when served to me. Next door is the Wooden Boat Center, a working boat builder which gives apprentices an 12-18 month training while they complete a commissioned boat – entirely from wood. This is a great place, with students working from hand drawings with all sorts of tools. But we’re also cold and wet.

    We have to retrace our steps back to Huonville and go back down the valley on the other side of the river to Cygnet. We have booked a self-catering accommodation at Cygnet Bay Waterfront Retreat, which ends up being a 2 BR, 2 bath apartment on the lower floor of the owner’s house, full cooking, with a view for days. Our view is of rain and fog the whole time, but since we come from a place without much rain, we don’t really care. Part of the reason to come to Cygnet is to visit with our friend, Pamela Turnbull, the former owner of Matilda’s of Ranelagh, who has retired here, and we have a fine visit and a pub meal.

    Wanting to see more of the Huon we drive south the next day towards Hastings Caves and its hot pool. Regrettably it is neither hot nor particularly clean, plus it’s outside, and yes, it’s raining. We continue our drive all the way to Southport, the end of the paved road and the most southern point in Australia. There’s a good pub here and the bowl of chowder I order for lunch ends up being taken with us for dinner as well. Back in Cygnet we spend some time looking at the lovely buildings and the School House Café, which is in one, and makes a wonderfully filling breakfast.

    Now bound for Hobart for the last days of our trip, we are experiencing the affects of the weather. Although headed back north on a somewhat wider road, we hit the ‘Road Washed Out” sign almost immediately and are redirected onto the C627, being narrow, muddy and steep. The Getz is unhappy, but moves uphill steadily. We’re rewarded by stunning views of the valley, fog-topped trees in the distance, black and white cows in pasture and water just rushing down the gullies on either side of the road. After what seems like a long time we re-join the main road, turn right, and head for Woodbridge, and the Grandewe Cheesery, where the cheese is made from sheep’s milk, and we get to taste six varieties, along with several wines produced here with grapes from the Tamar. Lots of sheep in the pastures and an actual shepherd wearing one of those rain-proof dusters seen only in a J. Peterman catalog, with a wide brimmed hat and a Border Collie. I want a picture, but it’s pouring and I am embarrassed to look like such a tourist.We go down the road a short distance to Fleurty’s, a restaurant built back in the bush overlooking the valley, which requires a tromp through the mud to reach it. It’s well worth it, with delicious food made right in front of you, and a long view off the patio which must be terrific when the sun is out.

    We reach Hobart in a very short time, to meet the estate agent for our apartment. We have previously stayed in a hotel we loved, but it had been sold and the TA reviews are fairly disappointing along with a price which has increased. I live online until I find what seems perfect – a studio apartment off Davey two blocks from the start of the Salamanca Market. In a building called Sunray Flats, this International-style two story was finished in 1942 and has won awards as the first intentionally built flats in Hobart. The flat itself is the smallest place we have ever stayed other than mini-European hotel rooms, probably less than 300 sq. feet. But it’s a queen bed, sofa, kitchen and bath with bar stools and even a closet, and digital TV. When we’re past the claustrophobia we appreciate it’s efficient space, and actually cook a breakfast the three days we’re there. And the location for our purposes is perfect.

    The Saturday maket at Salamanca is one our favorite activities, and we’re pleased that several of the vendors remember us although it’s been three years since we’ve visited. But of course, it’s raining, so we stop frequently running into a shop for a coffee or sitting at one of the umbrella tables for a snack. Still, the market and the shops beyond hold some of the best craft and artistic wares in Tasmania. Tonight we visit with our Hobart friends at their home, a real treat.

    The last full day we will dedicate to the Bonorong Wildlife Park in Brighton, about 40 minutes drive north. We have been several times before, and due to the long weekend (the Queen’s Birthday is tomorrow) there are less than a dozen other people there.(And it’s stopped raining!) One of the keepers gives a great tour and we get to pat the wombat and koalas and watch as he actually plays with the devils. Bonorong gets no government support, and employs only 8 people, yet it’s clean and clearly well run, and is hugely popular with school groups during the year. They release back to the wild when it’s appropriate. Sitting in a mob of kangaroos with a bag of food will be a favorite memory.

    From here, it’s mostly logistics. A morning in Richmond which is pretty overrun today (see afore-mentioned Queen’s Birthday), lunch and then off to the airport for a flight to Melbourne. We are staying at the Hilton right at the airport where the dinner is fine but the breakfast is identical in price to Cairns. Now Melbourne to Auckland on Air New Zealand in a lovely airbus, and the evening flight to LAX in a decidely not-lovely 777-300, one of the new planes where the economy class will do 11 hours with their noses in their knees. I do not remember being this uncomfortable as an adult, and announce to DH that before we travel this route again we must afford Business Class or have better drugs.

    No negatives at the end! As always, Australians welcomed us. We had more opportunity this time to meet real, non-tourist industry people and learn much about their way of life. In four trips we’ve been privileged to see so much, yet barely scratched the surface of this vast country. Thanks to all of you who post here, and for making this board part of a rich travel experience to Australia, New Zealand and beyond.

    Cheers,
    oliverandharry

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    Don't you know all those 18th century guys look the same in their wigs?

    Actually, there is a bit of a problem on tours given by Congressional interns of the US Capitol. There is a painting of the Revolutionary War battle of Saratoga. I have heard interns point to the painting of GAGE and identify GAGE as George Washington. Another case of "They all look the same in their wigs."

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    Did that chocolate bar and soda meet or exceed your expectations? :)

    The Peterman's comment immediately made me think I needed to find a Seinfeld's episode somewhere....

    Great report, it sounds like you another memorable trip. Can't wait to hear about the next one :)

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    O&H -

    Thank you so much for taking the time to write this lovely report. I've devoured every morsel and I'm suddenly feeling very TAS deprived... I'll keep your report handy for 'next time' when I'll have to make finding that apple juice a priority.

    Sorry you had so much rain - we had similar weather on a trip to TAS in March one year, which made hiking downright unpleasant. But we were in TAS, so it could have been worse.

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    Great JBR, Oliver&Harry ... thanks for taking the time to put it together.
    Reminds me how much I love FNQ and Tas ... and that it's high time I got back to them and explored some more. FNQ is a little more alluring on this cold grey & drizzly July day ;)

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    I am glad I didn't let this gem of a trip report slip by while I am researching a trip to elsewhere )-: . Your activities on the Atherton Tableland made me want to go there again--we missed so much!! I am so glad you liked Cooktown and Willie Gordon's tour, although sorry you had a hard go of it, especially with the fall. It sounds like Australia suits you two as much as it does us. Now quick, go to Melbourne and write an equally charming trip report so I can convince DH that we should go there instead of South America!
    Sally in Seattle

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