AWESOME first trip to Australia and New Zealand

Dec 12th, 2015, 07:35 AM
  #21  
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Yes, it was definitely pricey but worth it for us. It was also a relief to have someone else do the driving!
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Dec 12th, 2015, 08:47 AM
  #22  
 
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I agree that having a good guide / driver can make or break a trip. We had the best guides in Peru and Indonesia, and got more out of those visits than if we went on our own.

FromDC, did you use a guide when you were in Tasmania? Also did you feel that 2 nights was good for you for Cradle Mountain? We're thinking about 3.

Ann, June and July would be perfect for Uluru and Kata Tjuta if that interests you. I haven't been to the GBR yet but it's on my list. We took it out of consideration for this trip #3 given the time of year.
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Dec 12th, 2015, 08:54 AM
  #23  
 
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FromDC,
Enjoying your report. Lucky you on the cassowary with chicks no less! Glad you had 9 nights in Tassie. On our first trip I only planned 5 there and found it far too short. We fell in love with Tassie! Looking forward to more.

annhig,
Both of our Tassie trips were in winter and we didn't find it to be that cold. The advantage was very few other visitors and we were easily able to get our first choice of accommodations everywhere even booking fairly last minute.
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Dec 12th, 2015, 09:15 AM
  #24  
 
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TP - I've been put off Uluru and other similar places [i know there aren't any that are similar but you know what I mean] because of the heat so that time of year would be ideal.

We saw the GBR when we went to Queensland or at least DH did but I got ill on the first night in PD [the only think I could think it was was a rogue pizza!] so DH went by himself. the chance to go again, perhaps in a small group like the OP did, would be very welcome, and I think DH would like it too.

Thanks for the advice about Tassie, Patty. I'd written it off as a possibility for our possible 2017 "winter" trip but I'll put it back on the list.
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Dec 12th, 2015, 09:30 AM
  #25  
 
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TP, thanks for mentioning Kata Tjuta - I'd never heard of it before but I just had a look on the web and it looks like a great place to visit - it's definitely going on my list for 2017.
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Dec 12th, 2015, 10:03 AM
  #26  
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TP - no private guides in Tassie but the next installment of the TR is about our 3 nights at a luxury lodge where many "experiences" were included (very small groups with fabulous guides). And 2 nights in Cradle Mtn were fine for us. I originally hoped to be there for 3 nights but had to cut it back to fit in 3 nights in Freycinet. We are not so much into hiking, so the one big (for us) walk around Dove Lake was the max we could handle. We also went there for the scenery but then we went to New Zealand, which was WOW, WOW. If we had done Cradle Mtn after NZ, we might have been a wee bit disappointed. So 2 nights worked out for us.

I don't want to come off sounding negative about Cradle Mountain because we did enjoy it a lot. But in retrospect, because we followed with a trip to NZ, it might have made sense to skip Cradle Mountain and spend time further north in Tassie instead, for example maybe Devonport to Stanley. So look at the whole itinerary and see what makes the most sense.
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Dec 12th, 2015, 10:12 AM
  #27  
 
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I know exactly what you mean FromDC - as many times as I've been to NZ, I just can't get enough. But then TAS has all that lovely wildlife. It's a trade off I guess.
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Dec 12th, 2015, 10:26 AM
  #28  
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Yes, Mel, don't get me wrong, I wish we'd had 2 weeks in Tassie, we loved it so much! But just maybe our 9 night itinerary wasn't optimal, given that we were also doing NZ. Anyway, for us the best part of Tassie is "coming next".
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Dec 12th, 2015, 10:28 AM
  #29  
 
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FromDC, thank you. The comparison between Cradle and NZ is helpful, although for three weeks, we will limit ourselves to Australia and save NZ for another trip. During our last visit to Australia, we managed 5 nights in the Auckland region, which we enjoyed but probably not as beautiful as some of the places you visited.

Ann, Kata Tjuta and Uluru are part of the same national park. The scenery at Kata Tjuta was much more beautiful IMHO.
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Dec 12th, 2015, 11:01 AM
  #30  
 
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Such an interesting report--love all the details. Regarding the NZ/Tas comparison, we spent 3 weeks in NZ (mostly south island) followed by 2 weeks in Tasmania, and I was a bit worried that the latter would be a letdown after the amazing scenery of NZ. For us, however, it hasn't been at all. Tasmania is really charming, with so much variety--all beautiful. Great seafood, abundant animals (saw wallabies, pademelons, echidnas, and wombats at Cradle), friendly people, historical sites, beautiful scenery, Hobart...so no disappointment even after the high standard set by the South Island.
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Dec 12th, 2015, 12:06 PM
  #31  
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<>,
That sounds HEAVENLY!!!!
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Dec 12th, 2015, 04:01 PM
  #32  
 
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Great report!!

I LOVED Tassie. I was there last December and thought Cradle Mountain was stunning. The wildlife was awesome. I couldn't count how many wombats we saw, and we had wallabies right outside our cabin. Freycinet was incredible, too. Photographer's paradise!

I've been to NZ many times and I truly love it there. But for me ... it's a completely different experience from Tasmania. You can check out my many trip reports.

I'm jealous that the poster saw cassowaries!!! I saw lots of "Cassowary Crossing" signs around the Daintree area -- but sadly, no cassowaries . I guess I'll have to go back!
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Dec 13th, 2015, 03:06 AM
  #33  
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Songdoc, thanks for following along, Your TRs were very helpful to me in planning our trip. We did not see a lot of wildlife in Cradle Mountain, unfortunately, and I think that is part of my reflection combaring it to NZ. Could have been where we were staying, our cabin's backyard was closer to the highway than I would have liked.
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Dec 13th, 2015, 10:29 AM
  #34  
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We left Cradle Mountain for a 4-hour drive to our next destination, the Freycinet Peninsula on the east coast of Tasmania. Along the way we stopped at the "famous" Christmas Hills Raspberry farm and cafe for a look and had a raspberry muffin and coffee. They sell all things raspberry here but we only bought some chocolate covered raspberries. It wasn't yet raspberry season so everything was made from frozen stock. The staff was very friendly and the muffin was very yummy.

Our next stop was our big blowout, luxury experience for this trip. We’ve read and heard from some friends about the fabulous lodges in Australia and New Zealand. So we decided to spend some of the kids’ inheritance for a special experience. As we turned into the driveway to Saffire Freycinet, we knew that it would be worth it. Our "guest manager" was waiting to greet us at the entrance to the lodge at the top of the hill (alerted by camera). As we walked towards the glass doors, we stopped in our tracks at the magnificent view of the Hazards Mountains (named after the pirate, Billy Jack Hazard) and the clear blue water ahead. Since it was close to 2pm when we arrived, we decided to have a quick lunch at the lodge before going to our room. There was a spread of about 6 different salads and light dishes, cheese, desserts and a choice of a few hot dishes, prepared on order.

The lodge is only about 4 years old and is an architectural gem, floor to ceiling glass everywhere, and wood and granite and curves and water features. There are only 20 individual suites, they are all enormous with 15 foot glass walls, two outdoor seating areas, large sectional couch, chairs, desks, tables, all furnished in immaculate taste in earth tones. There is a bathroom hallway with a double shower, toilet area, double vanity and tub (next to a window with a view of the mountains). The minibar is completely complimentary and included some fine wines, spirits, and decision snacks. There were plenty of pods for the Nespresso coffee maker, a jar of cookies, fresh fruit and flowers. There was a big TV but we never used it.

The food and wines were incredible and everything was included in the price, even drinks and wine. Everything is locally sourced and we had nothing but outstanding Tasmanian wines, almost impossible to find outside of Australia (we passed at least half a dozen wineries within just a few miles. We were booked for several activities (included in the price) that made the time pass very quickly. When my massage finished our first afternoon, DH was already at the mixology class where he learned several new techniques. It was fun to see him sampling a Cosmopolitan, he’d never be caught dead drinking one elsewhere. Afterwards, we used the time to catch up on email; this was by far the best Internet we've had during the trip. At dinnertime, the ritual was to first order a cocktail from the best stocked bar we've ever seen and take a seat in the lounge overlooking the mountains and bay. Your drinks and some small snacks (nuts, etc.) are brought over, then some delicious canapés. Whenever you feel ready, you move to the dining room which is floor to ceiling glass, soft lighting on two levels. The outstanding menu has a choice of 3 or 4 appetizers, same for main courses, 2 or 3 desserts and cheeses, wines to match every course (many from the wineries we passed on the road to the lodge). Very leisurely service, lots of good conversations with the wait staff and sometimes other guests, gave us three lovely evenings.

Our first morning, we embarked on the lodge’s boat for a half day cruise to Scheuten Island. We went along the bay side of the peninsula and saw such beautiful scenery of the granite rocks, caves, and the area of some of the early settlements. There were whalers in the area in the mid 1800s, former prisoners who took to fishing for Southern right whales in the area. 4 or 5 would go out in a small boat with one harpooning and then drag their catch back to shore. The industry was wiped out, of course, but later Italians who tried to quarry the beautiful pink and black granite, not too successfully, settled the area. The area has been national parkland for almost 100 years so it is quite pristine and still mostly wilderness. When we reached Scheuten Island, we got close to the shore and saw a couple of seal colonies. I got some good videos of the seals sliding down the rocks into the water. On the way back to the peninsula, we were "caught" in the middle of a migration of shearwater seabirds. There were thousands of them flying very low over the Tasman Sea. Apparently, these birds have the longest migration path of any other birds, going from Alaska to Japan to Tasmania! Our guide Annie and our skipper Steve were both terrific and gave us great insights into the geology and history of the Freycinet peninsula.

Later in the afternoon, we paid a visit to the Tasmanian Devil sanctuary on the property. The largest of the carnivore marsupials, they are an endangered species because of a facial cancer that is spreading among the population. This cancer is transmitted between animals during their mating rituals. There are sanctuaries in various parts of Tasmania, which try to save these keystone animals from extinction. We watched a feeding and saw the very aggressive behavior of the females. They have quite a screech and look quite scary when they open their jaws wide, which they do when they feel threatened. After the tour, we walked down to the beach, just in time to be there for the Lowest of Low Lunar Tides (we were told by the boat captain that it would be occurring at around 5:30pm that day). It is a beautiful, isolated beach and if it had been a bit warner and/or earlier in the day, I might have taken a quick dip.

The next morning we hiked to the Wineglass Bay lookout. This is one of the iconic scenes of Tasmania. It took about 45 minutes to get to the lookout, using 301 steps. I was the laggard among our group, of one other couple and our guide Emma. But I did make it to the top and it is truly a beautiful viewpoint. Later in the afternoon, this same group went on an excursion to the local oyster farm, where we waded into the water in rubber suits. Emma set up a table about 100 feet from shore, spread out a white tablecloth, then picked oysters out of the bay and shucked as many oysters as we could eat. She brought along great local champagne to drink with them. We've never had such fresh and delicious oysters ever! On the way back to the lodge, we saw some wombats on the side of the road and stopped for another great photo op.

Our final dinner at Safire was the best of the many meals we enjoyed there. We had our first taste of the local crayfish and they were as sweet as the best of what we eat in the British West Indies. I had my first taste of spatchcock (as you can probably guess, a small chicken) and DH's lamb was terrific. We both had passion fruit soufflé and a great dessert wine to top it off.

Our stay at Saffire Freycinet was one of the best times we've had in our travels. We loved our activities (even though there were some other things we wanted to do, so I wish we’d had even more time there), the food, the sumptuous room and lodge. In the short tIme we were there, we had many great conversations not only with other guests but also with the staff. We even exchanged email addresses with several. Our main concern about this part of the visit was whether we'd be disappointed by what followed, after an almost perfect three days.
FromDC is offline  
Dec 13th, 2015, 10:50 AM
  #35  
 
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Your visit to Freycinet sounds amazing, in no small part due to where you called home while you were there. Thanks for sharing. Gives me something to think about in our own Tasmania planning.
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Dec 13th, 2015, 11:06 AM
  #36  
 
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That's a wonderfully detailed & interesting description of Saffire & the activities. It's one thing to read a website, quite another to follow someone's stay vicariously, as you've allowed us to do.

I hope you do a review on TA for them.
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Dec 13th, 2015, 11:17 AM
  #37  
 
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such a lovely place, FromDC, I couldn't resist having a look:

http://www.saffire-freycinet.com.au/default-en.html
annhig is offline  
Dec 13th, 2015, 11:34 AM
  #38  
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Yup, it was really amazing, one of the very top travel experiences we've had. Ranks up there with our South African safari lodges, almost as pricey - -the strong US dollar helped. With activities and the high quality food and beverages included, you can rationalize the price a bit. Still, I realize it isn't is everyone's budget, by a long shot. It certainly explains why we loved the Freycinet Peninsula so much but these activities can also be done independently (as therefore less expensively). There is a seafood farm that welcomes visitors, for example. And I saw ads for boat excursions from the main dock in town. Also saw a few cute restaurants. And anyone can climb to the Wineglass Bay viewpoint.
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Dec 13th, 2015, 02:50 PM
  #39  
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We took our leave from the Freycinet peninsula and made our way to Port Arthur, further down the south east part of Tasmania. Along the way we stopped at a little place called the Bark Hut Inn, recommended by one of the staff members at Saffire. We were told they had the best "pies". We had two different types of lamb pies for lunch and they were both delicious. Very flaky crusts, nothing like the Swanson’s chicken potpies we used to eat growing up.

As usual, It took us longer than expected to reach the Port Arthur area, it was close to 3pm when we found our little b&b called Sea Change Safety Cove, just one simple room in a house next to a local beach. Although I was worried about the let down in accommodations after Saffire, the place had such a fabulous view of the water and sea cliffs that we were very happy with it. We overlooked the Tasman Sea and faced the highest sea cliffs in the Southern Hemisphere! Because it was getting late, we dropped off our bags and drove directly to the Port Arthur historical site (5 minutes away) for a visit to yet another World Heritage park, this one is part of 12 sites that reflect on the convict experience in Australia. Port Arthur was an important part of the convict trail. A large complex of prisons, and barracks for the guards and officers were built on this particular site. We spent several hours walking around the grounds and reading about the rise and fall of the prison there as well as the experiments in solitary confinement that took place. Although we missed some of the museums and tours because of the late hour, we felt we got a very good sense of the site and its history. However, I would have preferred that we had been in time for the complimentary tour, but we just couldn’t get there in time. We had thought about doing the evening Ghost Tour and Dinner, but honestly I think it might have been difficult for us to walk around there in the dark. I’m especially insecure in my footing and I would have been worried the whole time about tripping. Instead, we did "take away" from the bistro there and ate in our little room with the bottle of wine we bought from the Josef Chromy vineyard that we'd been carrying around all week.

In the morning, we had a glorious walk along the beach next to the house and to the Remarkable Cave down the road. The views from that walk were simply breathtaking. The cave is a part of a cliff that has been hollowed out by the sea and has a truly remarkable view out to the sea. We never thought we'd see water as beautiful as we have in Anguilla anywhere else in the world but we did all over the eastern part of Tasmania, some of the best of it here and on our last day on Bruny Island.

We drove to Hobart and immediately went to the Salamanca area for their famous Saturday market. It was fun to browse the stalls, there were many similarities to the Mindl Beach market in Darwin except for the one thing I was looking for.... we saw some beautiful aboriginal art at the Mindl market but I didn't buy any because it was our first stop and I had no basis for comparison. Well, two weeks later I did, everywhere else the prices were about 4 times higher and the artwork not as much to my taste. I did buy some chocolate covered Turkish delight...what a find! Later we checked into our hotel, the Old Woolstore Apartment Hotel, which had a kitchenette and a washing machine and dryer. Finally, all clean clothes again. We walked around the harbor area, and then ate dinner in our rooms with things we bought at Salamanca and the local Woolworths, watched a Kevin Costner movie and went to sleep.

The next morning, we drove to Bruny Island and what a great day we had. It took about half an hour on this Sunday morning to drive to where we lined up for the car ferry from Kettering to North Bruny. Bruny Island is off the south east coast of Tasmania, with the d'Entercasteaux channel in between (Bruny Island is named after the explorer Bruny d'Entrecasteaux.) Only about 500 people live year round on Bruny and it is mainly geared toward agriculture and tourism. We drove off the ferry and the road meandered through the island with stunning views, deep green hills and gorgeous aquamarine water everywhere. There were lots of fat sheep grazing on the grass, and many places to pull over and admire the landscape. Our first stop was the Bruny Island Oyster Company, also known as "Get Shucked". We had great oysters at their little shop, just like the ones we had on our first meal on Tasmania. The funny thing about this place is that there is also a drive-in oyster window; you don't even need to get out of your car to get oysters! Our next stop was the Bruny Island Cheese Company. We bought some of their cheese at the Salamanca market the previous day and thought it was terrific, so we stopped and ordered a ploughmans lunch which was just a small plate of some cheese, ham, smoked trout and olives. We passed by the berry farm next but were too stuffed to eat anymore. We continued our drive to the South Island, over a causeway. We picked a walk at our level, to Adventure Bay. This is where Captain Bligh (of mutiny on the bounty fame) landed in 1788. It took us a couple of hours, beginning on a small beach and going through forest right by the shore. There were some markers along the way, apparently there were a couple of whaling piers set up right there during the early 1800s. The walk ended at a beautiful lookout point right on the water. We turned back and just as we were about to step back onto the beach at the end of the trail, a couple who were a bit ahead of us started waving to us. They came upon a rare white kangaroo in the bush. We slowly walked over to the spot and were so lucky to be able to watch it for the next 10 minutes before it hopped away. There are very few of these animals anywhere and we saw one "in the wild". Amazing. We then started back to the north island with a slight detour to Alonnah point for another lovely view. By the time we got back to the ferry area, the line of cars was quite long and we knew we would have a long wait. Luck was with us as we were the next to the last car allowed on the ferry an hour later. If we had missed that one, it would have been another hour wait (after all, it was Sunday night and a day of perfect weather, so lots of people had the same idea of spending a day on Bruny Island). We returned to Hobart and had a delicious dinner at a South American themed restaurant called Frank's, on Franklin Wharf.

We had just completed 10 days in Tasmania, every day was wonderful. We could easily have spent at least two full weeks or more. There were several parts we didn't get to and we would have loved to have stayed longer on the Freycinet Peninsula. But we packed up on Sunday night to get ready for our big city experience, onto Sydney in the morning.
FromDC is offline  
Dec 13th, 2015, 04:43 PM
  #40  
 
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Bruny Island sounds like my kind of perfect place to get away.
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