There hasn’t been much quilting around here of late as we’ve just returned from a 2-week family holiday in Tasmania.
We thought it would be 100% fun to squeeze our family of 6 into a motor home, so we hired one for the trip. In retrospect I’d say it was 90% fun, 5% frustration and 5% …er, smells. Thankfully we all survived the experience and still remain firm friends.
Here’s a run down of some of the things we got up to in our time away.
After a couple of days in the capital city of Hobart we headed around to the Port Arthur area.
Port Arthur is a well preserved convict site. It was once a prison, military base and shipyard – it’s heyday being the 1840s and 1850s. It was a bit of a wet, dreary day when we visited, but it is definitely a spot I’d like to get back to (we only had a morning there, I’d recommend taking 2 days).
The building above was a flour mill for a while (they decided to make their own flour to save some money) before being converted into more prison cells and military barracks (on different levels).
We were told the soldiers’ rooms were actually smaller than the prisoners’! Below, the kids realise that being in a motor home isn’t anywhere near as bad as being a Port Arthur soldier.
On the way back to our caravan park we passed a lavender farm and decided to pull in for a look. The grounds were beautiful, and there was a nice café which we didn’t use because, hello, we were paying good money to drive our own café around!
How I know my children are growing up: no one tried to sit on the sheep. Sniff.
If you’re a lover of lavender, you might also enjoy this post from when we lived in Provence, France. Quite a bit of lavender around those parts.
While we didn’t visit the café at the lavender farm, we did exit though the gift shop 😉 and collect some yummy lavender-infused goodies. The hot chocolate you see above is hands down the best I’ve had. Decadent is definitely the word. I’m deeply disappointed they don’t sell it in their online shop.
Tasman Arch, Devil’s Kitchen and the Blowhole
After a couple of days in the Port Arthur area we headed up north. On the way out we stopped off at a trio of geological sites called the Tasman Arch, the Blowhole and the Devil’s Kitchen. All three are interesting coastal rock formations created by the ocean over many, many years.
The photo below is the best I could get of the Blowhole – looking through the ocean-made tunnel to the other side. My family had a matter-of-fact discussion about the logistics of swimming through these rock formations while I breathed into a bag and tried to think about puppies.
Near the Blowhole we found a good spot to get out of the van and have bit of a climb.
Our next stop was the Freycinet Peninsula, which is almost at the middle of the east coast of Tasmania. We stayed in a caravan park in Coles Bay.
We enjoy hiking as a family (it’s one of the few things that everyone likes to do, so there’s no bribery/coercion/flattery/threats required to gain cooperation.) There are lots of lovely hikes of differing lengths and difficulties in the Freycinet area.
We chose the hike that took us to Wineglass Bay (seen below) and back again. (If you’re wondering, like I did, why it’s called Wineglass Bay when it looks nothing like a wineglass, I have a sad story. Apparently back in the days of whale hunting, they used to slaughter the whales in the Bay and the water would look like red wine.)
Once we made it to Wineglass Bay we found a very lovely beach (several tourists, ahem British, stripped off for a swim, but there was no way we were getting in that cold water). There were also wonderful rock formations that we all really enjoyed scrambling over.
The colours of Freycinet are beautiful – green mountains, white sand, aqua blue waters and fiery rocks.
The beautiful shades on the rocks are actually lichen.
We had a fabulous day out and everyone slept very well that night.
After some time in Launceston we then made our way west to Cradle Mountain. The weather in that area can change very quickly. We’d been watching it in the weeks leading up to our trip and it snowed the week before we arrived. We actually thought we probably wouldn’t be able to hike in the area as we weren’t going to bring any gear suitable for snow.
When we checked the weather forecast on arrival in Tasmania we were delighted to see that there was one day in the week where it was forecast to be 19℃ (66℉). Wahoo! The beauty of shoulder season travel is that you can change your schedule easily as you don’t have to book in advance (or even book anywhere, motor home FTW!)
So we got ourselves over to Cradle Mountain and had an epic hike up to Marion’s Lookout.
This was a quite a hike as it was (given the youngest of our party is 8 years old). But when we got to the top, many of the returning hikers who had been further than us told the kids “there’s still snow up there”. Well, that was it. We had to go on until we reached several very large snow patches further along the track.
The kids had an epic snowball fight in shorts and t-shirts, it was quite surreal! Here Miss 13 has a whole hat-full of snowballs she’s about to chase her older brother with.
It was quite a day! We probably hiked about 15kms (9.3 miles) but that doesn’t really reflect how far it felt as we did a lot of climbing. We were all very proud of the 8 year old, whose little step-counting watch said he did 27,000 steps that day. The beer tasted especially sweet that evening!
(The next day at Cradle Mountain it was raining and only 7℃ [44℉]. The weather really is a bit crazy there.)
Although it’s a bit remote, I would recommend Cradle Mountain whole-heartedly. It’s such a well run and well preserved area of Tasmanian wilderness. There are tons of tracks, trails and treks at varying degrees of difficulty. The easiest one is only 10 mins on a wheel-chair accessible board walk. The hardest is the Overland Track which would take 5-7 days.
Low Head Little Penguins
Our next stop was the small town of Low Head, to see the penguins! There’s a Little Penguin (also known as Fairy Penguin) colony that lives in the waters off the coast of this town. Some months of the year they come ashore, breed and raise their chicks in burrows on the beach.
Each morning at dawn one of the parents from each burrow will head out to fish, returning at nightfall (for safety) to feed the young. They come back to the beach in largish groups (again for safety) and this is the best time to see them.
Little penguins are the smallest penguin in the world, standing only about a foot tall. They are very cute and quite smelly (sorry penguins, but it’s true). Their habitats are also under threat, so it’s important that we preserve their breeding grounds.
We took a tour with Low Head Penguin Tours. They only take small groups through to see the penguins, causing minimal disruption to the colony. (You don’t want to go off on your own trying to find these little guys, inadvertently trampling burrows or chicks.) It was a very well run tour with experienced tour guides – we learnt a great deal about penguins from them. The kids really enjoyed this experience and we’d recommend the tour group to anyone looking to see the penguins.
Tasmanian Devil Unzoo
Another great place to take the kids is the Tasmanian Devil Unzoo, on the Port Arthur peninsula. As the name suggests, the wildlife enclosures at the Unzoo are unzoo-like, better mimicking the animals’ natural habitat.
The Unzoo contributes to the conservation efforts underway to save the Tasmanian Devils. The Tassie Devil population has been severely threatened by a disease that was first observed in the ’90s. The disease causes facial tumours that stop the Devils from hunting and eating, so they slowly starve to death. It’s one of only 3 transmissible cancers in the world and has decimated the population.
The Tasman Peninsula is so far disease-free, and the Unzoo is helping with efforts to keep it that way.
As well as the Tasmanian Devil wildlife displays, you can join in on a bird show (funny and educational) and check out Tassie Devil feeding time.
The kids’ favourite part was the kangaroo enclosure. The kangaroos are very docile as they are regularly fed by Unzoo visitors (provided food only).
These kangaroos are Tasmanian natives, and they have a denser coat than mainland kangaroos, which makes them super soft and snugly. Some of them are fairly old and veterans at hand feeding. They hoover it up with efficiency (you can see by my husband’s face it tickles a bit).
The younger kangaroos are a little more hesitant and eat very delicately. This young mum was a little shy.
As well as eating from your hand, they also love scratches on their necks and backs. The guide told us the kangaroos aren’t keen on head pats, which I can completely understand. No one wants a three year old pulling on their ears.
As well as kangaroos they have these cute little pademelons (a small wallaby) who eat up all the leftover feed.
A Cape Barren goose even got in on the act for a while. Cape Barren geese are the rarest type of goose in the world. They almost went extinct in the ’50s but thankfully a conservation program prevented this. These geese can actually drink salt water – crazy, right?
The kangaroos are tons of fun, although they can get a bit feisty when the feed runs out. Just kidding.
We spent our last night in the central-east coast town of Swansea. We had heard about mutton birds coming home to roost on the coast right near the local caravan park. After our successful Little Penguin excursion we thought we’d give it a try. The scenery on dusk was beautiful.
It was, however, very cold that night. And one of our party had a wee tantrum over something (I can’t remember what it was) and needed a bit of alone time.
It started to get quite dark and there was still no sign of the mutton birds. So, we just enjoyed the view for a bit and then went back to the van.
And the next day we had to return the motor home and head back home. Our 2 week adventure came to an end.
Tasmania is a fantastic holiday destination. It has plenty of history and beautiful coastlines, not to mention all the wineries, craft beer and cheese. (Tassie is excellent dairy country with its cooler temps and higher rainfall.) There are also plenty of outdoor activities to keep you in shape (so you can eat more cheese) and help you get out and enjoy the countryside.
Spending a couple of weeks in a motor home was also a great experience for our family. We had to step away from our busy lives and emerge ourselves in a minimalist lifestyle. Very nice for a change! It was fun to be reactive and spur-of-the-moment with our schedule.
It was also nice to be so close to our kids for the holiday. Our eldest is 15 and we know the days of family (the complete family) holidays are numbered, waaaah. I’ve stockpiled a lot of fond memories to get me through my old age!
Home, sweet home
Since we’ve come home I’ve enjoyed my full sized kitchen, en-suite bathroom and not sleeping in the vicinity of snoring teens. 🙂 I also enjoyed getting back to my sewing machine.
First up I finally finished off my Scrap Magnet cushion. I did some cross-hatch quilting of the panel before I sewed it into a zippered cushion.
Lastly, I sewed the binding on my Zed quilt. I can’t wait to finally see this one finish and gifted to its new owner.
Wow, that was a long post! Well done if you made it this far 🙂
Until next time,