A Travellerspoint blog

Queenstown, Tasmania - the Wild West

NOT to be confused with Queenstown, EnZed!

As Katie and Rob had left to explore Cradle Mountain we made the relatively short trip back to Queenstown to see more of this wild west town. Like many of the places we visited on this trip we had seen it on ABC TV's ‘Backroads' program and wanted to see it for ourselves. We booked into the local caravan park for a couple of nights and our first excursion was on the West Coast Wilderness Railway. The old train departs from the impressive station with its engine turntable. It currently doesn’t make the trip along the tracks to Strahan but just does a short trip up to a historic stop where you can play at panning for gold.

There was a mosquito inside the window on the train and it looked almost big enough to make vampire-like incisions into the jugular but we later found out it was an 'elephant mosquito' which is a nectar feeder not a bloodsucker!

Queenstown is an attractive place architecturally speaking with some quaint homes and lovely old hotels and public buildings. The Queen River shown here is a strange colour. It currently has no life due to the high levels of pollution from past mining activity which ceased in 1995. Despite the beautiful location its is the most polluted river in Australia! It's expected to take about 150 years to become clean enough to support life again.

There's a sculpture depicting a mining family from around the mid-1800s and some nice street art.

Even our caravan park with spectacular views all round had an art feature.

This was the camp kitchen - with its ‘interesting' games offerings!

This Queenstown museum photo shows miners at Rosebery zinc and copper mine about 1897 - it looks so grim.

There was a typhoid outbreak here in the 1890s and one unfortunate victim was a young nurse, Margaret Madden who died from typhoid in 1899 aged just 23. See the ghostly image - I don’t recall seeing that when I took a photo of the photo! And it's not my reflection - who takes a nurse costume camping!

Nearby Mount Lyell was the scene of a tragic mining disaster on 12 October 1912 when a fire broke out killing 42 of the 170 men who'd entered the mine that day. The Queenstown museum holds many accounts and photos of the tragedy and its aftermath.

The strangest exhibit in the museum was the maternity hospital setup. This recreated ward shows a very young girl who seems to have had twins perhaps - see the two bassinets. She also has a full range of bedpans to choose from! Then there's the 'stirrups' just nearby - reminiscent of the way births were handled not all that long ago!

Perhaps she was reaching out for some of this clothing so she could get dressed and hightail it out of there?

Being a mining town there are plenty of rocks in the museum too.

And for some strange reason there's some coprolites - also known as dinosaur poo! It's not just any old local Jurassic Park poo either - it's from New South Wales!

The final interesting part of the Queenstown museum was fishy, or should I say crabby - showing what can be caught off the nearby coast at Strahan.

We left Queenstown via the famous 99 bends road again, this time stopping at Horsetail Falls - which wasn't flowing much but was still worth the walk up the boardwalk to view.

As we passed through the remote area of Gormanston and into Linda we saw this creepy old building and I imagined breaking down in a place like this - the gloomy weather didn’t help either. it's a great spot for a horror movie!

Equally desolate and eerie was the Linda cemetery.

We crossed Lake Burbury and made our way to Derwent Bridge to see The Wall - and yes we saw this on 'Backroads' too 😉 On the way through the 99 bends there are several beehives set up in groups. Most of the honey here is from the Leatherwood trees and has a unique and delicious flavour. Of course we bought some and were able to take what we hadn’t used into Victoria when we took the ferry back from Tasmania. We were also allowed to take it into South Australia at the quarantine station from Victoria BUT we had to surrender the little bit we had left at the WA border - which we fully expected as honey is on the prohibited produce list. After all we all know how important it is to protect the bees and honey industry in WA.

On the drive from the main road into The Wall - which is at Derwent Bridge - there are large sculptures on poles.


Once inside the huge building that houses The Wall you’re not allowed to take photos.

The official website shows what it's about and it's an incredible artistic work - still in progress - so check out this link to learn about it.

The Wall website

After The Wall we made our way to the central town of Hamilton where we camped by the river and had a pub meal at the supposedly haunted Hamilton Inn!

Next time - Convicts, Crime and The Isle of the Dead!

Posted by GraveNomads 08:54 Archived in Australia Comments (0)

Caves, Coast and Cemeteries

Water pipes and waterfalls and a prison island

Heading south from near Hobart we visited the stunning Hastings Cave on our way to Cockle Creek - which is just about as far south as you can drive in Tasmania! We stopped briefly in Geeveston after passing through the Huon estuary. Geeveston has a couple of great camping spots, a fab bakery/cafe and some creative street art. We would return to Geeveston for a longer stay later in our Tassie trip.

The cave at Hastings was spectacular! There were also some 'thermal springs' included in the ticket price but disappointingly that wasn’t the forest setting we were expecting but a large swimming pool that was pretty chilly and not at all inviting on an overcast day - so we headed straight for the cave.

Onto our camping spot at the World Heritage Listed Wilderness site of Cockle Creek - what a beautiful place!

The whale sculpture is amazing. It's a Southern Right Whale - in acknowledgment of the thousands killed here as they passed through Recherche Bay. Unbelievably there were FOUR whaling stations just in the Cockle Creek area from the 1830s! It’s a shameful part of history in this beautiful place. As we set up camp we encountered our first pademelon - not something you can chuck in a fruit salad despite the name! Nor quite as cute as the quokkas we have on Rottnest Island in WA (made famous by Roger Federer in his quokka selfie).

The next morning was still on the chilly side yet John had a quick ‘refreshing' swim right opposite our camp site.

We packed up and headed out but not before I thought Billy Connolly had arrived and set up camp next to us - but sadly it wasn’t him! I'd recently finished reading his memoir 'Rambling Man' in which he stated he'd swap his wife, Pamela Stephenson for a Winnebago so for a minute I thought he'd gone ahead and done that - even though it wasn’t a Winnebago it did look like him.

On the way out we visited Cockle Creek cemetery which is the southernmost in Australia. It has graves from the late 1880s to 1936, 12 of which are marked and at least 10 unmarked.

At its peak Cockle Creek had about 300 residents who mostly worked in the timber industry, coal mining, fishing and boat building. Many of the descendants of people buried here still live locally. The grave of Thomas Doherty has a more recent plaque on it and the most information on the cemetery signage. He was an Irish convict who arrived in Tasmania in 1843, gained his freedom in 1849, and became the first licenced Huon Piner. He fathered 12 children with wife Agnes and the family came to Cockle Creek in 1880. Thomas's time there was short as on St Patrick's Day in 1882 he called into the nearby Southport Hotel on his way back from Hobart after selling a consignment of Huon pine for £7,000. On returning to his boat Thomas 'drowned while intoxicated'. He had severe facial injuries and the large amount of cash was gone. Considered a suspicious death the subsequent investigation never solved it.


Before heading out on the main road we passed through the settlement of Catamaran - with its holiday homes ranging from old caravans to more modern beach houses - then took a track to find Mystery Creek Cave.

But - no guided tour this time!

It was a forest path but long stretches were extremely muddy and we had no choice but to squelch through it to reach the cave as the sides of the path were impenetrable forest.

There were some old boots along the way that looked like they should be in a museum exhibit.
The cave entrance was a steep, narrow, rocky incline.

Our daughter Katie even found a cave dwelling critter!

After trudging back to our vehicles we cleaned up and set off over the hills and far away to Mount Field National Park which meant going back through Hobart and north then west through more winding, forested hills.

We reached 'Left of Field' camp late afternoon and enjoyed the fresh mountain air, herb garden, fire pit and what would have to be the most comprehensive drinks bar in any camp spot in Australia!

Next morning the we went to the main attraction near Mount Field - Russell Falls - which is another gorgeous walk. A relatively tame pademelon just watched us go by.

You can see the falls from the top too and the tree ferns give the place a Jurassic Park feel.

The forest seems to have its own microclimate almost like the caves we had visited the previous couple of days.

We made our way to Strahan on Tasmania's ruggedly beautiful west coast - via the aptly named '99 Bends Road' (a.k.a the Lyell Highway). This cemetery at Ellendale was in a pretty location but being on a mission we didn’t stop to look more closely. The road crosses Meadowbank lake before the bends and hills really kick in.

The hydroelectric power of this mountainous area was evident as we passed the Tungatinah power station with its massive pipes.

Following the camper van we wound our way through to Strahan to camp for the night before the next day's booked excursion.

How's this for an epic MTB (mountain bike) track on the outskirts of Queenstown!
We were booked on the Gordon River cruise the next morning - a beautiful, calm day as we sailed out through Hells Gate into Macquarie Heads. There’s also fish farms (salmon) out in Macquarie Harbour.

First stop was Sarah Island - a former prison. The fabulous tour guides are also members of the Round Earth Theatre Company who perform nightly in a play called 'The Ship that Never Was' - this gets great reviews (based on a true story and featured in an episode of ABC TV's ‘Backroads' program) but the play was fully booked during our visit so we didn’t get to see it - there's always next time!

Sarah Island is a grim reminder of Tasmania's convict past. It operated as a penal settlement from 1822 to 1833 and housed 1,200 prisoners with a reputation of being the most dreaded place of punishment in Tassie. It also became Australia’s most productive ship building yard during that short time with over 100 ships built! The death rate was high and there are wooden engraved panels that display the grisly details, such as '27th April 1822 John Ollery - 50 lashes - 30th lash unconscious - 35th lash found to be dead'. Another one, 'CANNIBALISED October 1830 Patrick Feagan, William Coventry - Murdered and eaten by Broughton and McAlboy.'

After departing Sarah Island the cruise continued up the iconic Gordon River where we disembarked at the Heritage Landing Rainforest Walk. It's easily accessible and has great signage explaining the local flora such as Swamp gum, Tasmanian Laurel and the native plum which has medicinal properties.This tiger snake was curled up just off the boardwalk out of harm’s way.

Returning to Strahan we went through the sawmill where Huon pine is processed. It's a very expensive, sought after timber and logging and processing is very tightly controlled with huge fines for any transgressions!

After the cruise we temporarily parted company with Katie and Rob as they hightailed it to Cradle Mountain - we had been there before so left it out of this trip. We left Strahan back through the hills (Mount Lyell and Mount Owen in the backdrop) to camp in the old gold mining town of Queenstown for two nights and enjoy more of Tasmania’s wild west .

Next time Queenstown's wild side, Hamilton (not Alexander) and back to the east coast.

Posted by GraveNomads 00:37 Archived in Australia Comments (0)

Tasmania at last!

Bass Strait & beyond

The Spirit of Tasmania ferry runs usually twice daily from Geelong to Devonport and the reverse of course - it’s a lot of people and vehicles - mostly RVs.

We had a beautiful sunny day and a calm crossing of Bass Strait. Leaving Geelong and going out through the heads was just gorgeous. The boat is comfortable with several lounge and eating areas and a comprehensive tourist information centre. There's even a cinema and great kids play area complete with TV screen and a cute wall of animal collective nouns. Who knew that a group of lemurs is a 'conspiracy'? It's an 'aurora' of polar bears and a group of platypuses is a 'paddle'!

Arriving in Devonport we were surprised to see the Edgewater Hotel - but we doubt it's named named after our home suburb! After a quick grocery shop to replenish the fruit and veg (none of which you can take across to Tassie) we set up camp at the Devonport Golf Club.

A visit to the nearby arboretum was first up the next day. Wildlife warning signs are everywhere in Tassie but luckily our first encounter was was with this echidna rather than the slithering kind.

I was surprised to see a bench named in honour of Stephen King - not after one of my favourite authors but after a founding member of the Arboretum Society. It's a beautiful place maintained by volunteers but we saw several people walk in without paying the $5 entry fee which is a great shame.

This vegetation map of the island state shows the darkest areas - rainforest and the vertical stripes which is eucalypts. This means that 49% of Tasmania is forested! Of that 91% is native and 9% is plantation timber. Within the forest category are further forest subtypes such as blackwood, tea-tree, Oyster Bay, silver wattle and she-oak.
There are information signs around the arboretum which indicate the origins of the scientific names of many of the native plants - always after European explorers and botanists of course!

So there's the familiar plants such as Grevillea, Hakea, Boronia and Billardiera - all named respectively after Charles Francis Greville, Baron Christian Ludwig von Hake, Franceso Borone and Jacques-Julien Houtou de Labillardière.
We finished off the day with a visit to the Spreyton Cider Company and for the following seven weeks in Tasmania we did not find a better cider!


It was time to head down through the middle of Tassie to meet up with our daughter and son-in-law who were flying in to hire a camper van for 12 days. It's a pretty drive even on the main highways. I couldn’t resist including a photo of the sign on the roundabout for Perth, Tasmania! Our camp for the next three nights was The Lea (old Scouts camp) high on a hill in Kingston - 15 minutes from the centre of Hobart.

Before meeting up with our family we visited the Cascade Female Factory the brutal women’s prison from the 1800s. Not much is left in terms of buildings but the layout is still evident and the museum section contains artefacts and audio accounts of what life was like. It's a heart breaking journey that highlights the cruelty of the people in authority at the time.

Around the grounds are little plaques showing the profiles of the prisoners. Crimes ranged from 'murder and incest' to 'stealing bacon' with sentences ranging from life to seven years - seven years for stealing bacon!

Their physician characteristics were described too - such as 'large eyelashes', 'broad chin and a broken nose', 'long nose, hazel eyes and a dozen tattoos'.

If a woman fell pregnant while under sentence she was guilty of a punishable offence - even if she claimed her condition was a result of sexual assault. Most distressing was the Wall of Names - listing 2,000 babies and children who were born there and lived and frequently died there - mostly from disease and malnutrition.

Women who gave birth could keep their babies with them for nine months - but after three months they had to take care of another child and at six months yet another child. Then at nine months of age the baby was weaned and the mother was separated from her baby and sent back to do the factory work. She may have never seen her child again. At three years of age the children were sent to the orphanage schools where they were also kept in awful conditions and brought up to be servants or farm workers - often by the age of eight. From 1828 to 1856, a total of 1,675 women were imprisoned there - 220 of them died there. It was an upsetting and confronting day for the most part but absolutely worth visiting to learn about this dark time and place in Australia's history.
The next day we met our daughter and son-in-law at Hobart airport. Right outside their hotel was a small critter that the receptionist told us was a 'rat' that she'd seen yesterday and had asked the maintenance man to remove it. We reassured her that it was a Southern brown bandicoot not a rat and that she should be proudly telling tourists that if they saw it!

Onto the lovely old town of Richmond - famous for having Australia's oldest stone bridge - built by convicts and completed in 1825.

Less famous but more unusual was the 'Pooseum'! Intriguing as it was we didn’t go in as our daughter is a zookeeper and looking at animal poo is part of her daily tasks!


Next stop was MONA - Tasmania's world famous Museum of New and Old Art. It’s an interesting collection in an amazing building in an iconic setting. Art is very subjective and we liked much of it and disliked other exhibits. The library full of blank, white books was perplexing for this former librarian!


Saturday is market day at Salamanca Markets in the centre of Hobart. It's in a beautiful location near the harbour but is very touristy - especially compared to when we visited it about 15 years ago. Then there was much more local produce - as in food - now there's only a small fresh food section and the rest is somewhat disappointing - likely aiming for the lucrative cruise ship passengers and other tourists. We loved the Gillie and Marc sculpture 'Happy Birthday Mr President' at the edge of the market.


We'd seen another of their sculptures in Onslow in northwest WA - about as far away from Tassie as you can get in Australia! These are the Paparazzi dogs on the beachfront in Onslow.

Back to Tassie - after the markets we drove up (and up and up) Kunanyi - also known as Mount Wellington. It's an incredible place to visit and enjoy the views over Hobart.

Kunanyi is also an extremely windy place! Back in the day meteorologist Clement Wragge began recording the weather on Mt Wellington - and he's the person to blame for naming cyclones - apparently after politicians he disliked!
Next - caves, coast and Australia's southernmost cemetery.

Posted by GraveNomads 00:12 Archived in Australia Comments (1)

Viaducts, misty mountains and a Tour de France winner

Yarra Valley, Alps foothills, Bonnie Doon and Geelong

Around Daylesford are several quaintly named villages with lovely old architecture, gardens, arboretums and generally spectacular views. You can imagine an Aussie version of Midsomer Murders being set in any one of them. Starting with Glenlyon with its restored 1890 Shire Hall - seemingly very small for its grand title.

The General Store is still operational and alongside it is a fairy tree complete with staircase and tiny window.

There's more to the oval shaped cut outs in the bark of many native trees than just fairy doors. These oval 'scars' were carved out by Aboriginal people and used to make bowls, or are totems indicating initiation or burial sites. The larger, longer such scars were carved out to make shields, traps or canoes. So the fairy stairs and window are a much more recent whimsy not linked to the original carving.

Glenlyon also has a mineral water spring which went out of favour (& flavour perhaps) in the 1980s when there were fears of it being radioactive! The current signage indicates 'Recent testing of the spring water shows it to be perfectly safe to drink.' One family had driven 100 kms to fill up their car with several dozen bottles of it - bloke said his old Greek mother attributed her good health to drinking two glasses of it every day! We filled up two water bottles with it but didn’t drink all of it as it looked like ginger beer (bloke said it was usually clear) and was quite fizzy.

Malmsbury was next with its famous bakery, botanic gardens, book exchange and viaduct - the latter completed in 1862. Here they are in no particular order of preference. Note Victoria's rivers and lakes are almost always a murky brown colour.

Onto nearby Taradale which also has a viaduct that was completed in the same year - 1862! Clearly viaduct building was very much a thing with the spread of rail travel. This one is a very different style and the steel columns were added for additional support in 1933-34. John admiring the stonework here too.

Just near the Taradale viaduct was this gorgeous old property that made me want to just move right in and go all Seven Little Australians (even though it's set nowhere near there)! Look it up if you’ve never read it.

Onto Fryerstown with its beautiful old Burke and Wills Mechanics Institute building - again still in fine condition - the 1860s were certainly a time of much public building. Incidentally these old Mechanics Institute buildings were the original free public libraries in Australia.

Vaughan was next with a slide going from the little campground down to the park and public amenities - and yes a certain Grave Nomad couldn’t resist trying the slide - twice actually as he didn’t go fast enough the first time! Two young kids waited their turn.

The Chinese cemetery in Vaughan holds both graves with Chinese and English engravings - the Chinese being those who came to the area in the early gold mining days.

A couple of days later we ventured out through the Yarra Valley through Healesville first - with its Grand Hotel that wouldn’t look out of place in a gothic horror film. Healesville is also home to the famous (and fabulous - so I've heard) Four Pillars Gin Distillery.

The drive is stunning going through the towns of Fernshaw, Saint Fillans, Narbethong, Buxton, Taggerty, Acheron, Alexandra, Yarck, Kanumbra, Merton, Woodfield, Bonnie Doon and Maindample - the most famous of these being Bonnie Doon right? If it doesn’t ring any bells then you've probably never seen that classic Aussie film 'The Castle' - if not, check it out, if you have then it’s time to watch it again!

Mansfield itself is at the base of the Australian Alps - with a very wide main road featuring shops selling equestrian equipment and ski gear alongside trendy shops, hotels (some nice Art Deco) and cafes. It is close to the Mount Buller ski resort. In the centre of the road is a memorial to the police officers who were killed by Ned Kelly and his gang at nearby Stringybark Creek.

The Mansfield Visitors Centre holds artefacts from 'The Man from Snowy River' film featuring Sigrid Thornton (last mentioned in Echuca in 'All the Rivers Run') and Kirk Douglas.

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Heading out from Mansfield we took a winding mountain track called Maintongoon Road where I swear we saw a black kangaroo! It was a spectacular drive high on the ridge with views both sides despite the mist and intermittent rain.

A couple of days later we walked along the Yarra River in gorgeous Warburton - where picnickers played games and others floated downstream - it’s a tranquil and pretty place in a section called Scotchman's Creek.

Then it was time to head to the port city of Geelong to board the ferry to Tassie. We arrived in Geelong on the final day of the annual Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race - of which Cadel Evans - Australia's only Tour de France winner - is the main attraction and namesake. The Eritreans were out in force supporting their man Natnael Tesfazion but he was pipped by a Kiwi. Lucky for us not only did we get to see the final stage of the race - won by up and coming young New Zealander Laurence Pithie - we also managed to wander around the back of the podium after the presentations and meet Cadel Evans and what a humble and gracious man he is for someone with such a great achievement under his belt! It certainly made our day before heading across Bass Strait the next morning.

Next post: Tassie - finally!

Posted by GraveNomads 12:16 Archived in Australia Comments (0)

Finally not in Bendigo!

Extinct volcanoes, lost and found sculptures, railway stations and cricket, bloody cricket!

Heading away from Bendigo again we went through Katamatite - which sounds like a superhero mineral - oh no that's Kryptonite! We stopped in a park for lunch after checking out a couple of painted ablution buildings. Our Wedgetail camper was parked next to a large Wedgetail eagle sculpture.

There’s very lifelike wooden carvings too.

The local cemetery held many interesting graves as usual including this one for a jockey who died in 1909 at the 'Muckatah' racetrack.

And more silo art from Katamatite too.

In Shepparton was this action packed bronze statue of Brigadier Bourchier who was in command of the 4th Light Horse Regiment in WWI.

The little town of Stanhope has a huge, beautiful mural of the Montevideo Maru Tragedy which happened in July 1942 - it was a Japanese ship being used as a troop carrier and which was torpedoed by a US submarine. Unfortunately there were also POWs on board. It's estimated that 845 military personnel and 208 civilians died in the tragedy.

We tried to visit a sculpture garden but could only find the one remaining sculpture!

Our next camp was Mount Franklin - a spectacular tree covered hill which hides the flat camp area. It's an extinct volcanic crater with very steep sides making for a great walk with a rewarding view.

One of our fellow campers even had a pet goat - apparently she had rescued it from the roadside in northwest WA and it was happily travelling in the camper van along with two doggos!

Nearby Daylesford was a return visit for us. There’s so much to see and do around here including the 'Amazing Mill Market' which holds the most most weird and wonderful stuff for sale - definitely something for everyone!

Sunday market at the old Daylesford train station also features train rides along some pretty scenery - a gentle pace of travel.

Another sculpture garden in neighbouring Franklinford which we thought had probably become the home of the ones we couldn’t find earlier.

Newstead also has an old train station which has been beautifully restored. Opposite is the unsurprisingly named Railway Hotel.

We took a bush walk near Hepburn Springs to see a waterfall created from the diversion of a creek and tunnels dug by Chinese gold miners in the 1860s. At certain times and with enough rainfall it becomes a blowhole too. Fortunately for John it was not a blowhole kind of day!

This area is also home to many families who migrated from northern Italy and Switzerland several decades ago.

This old building looks like it’s been transported here from Italy.

One of those pioneering families was the Tinetti family. Today they’re better known for 'Cricket Willow'. Ian Tinetti runs Cricket Willow in Shepherds Flat just near Hepburn Springs. There’s nothing that could entice me to take any interest in cricket (yawn) but I could see why this place would excite those who do have such a passion.

The most interesting point for me was that only female willow trees (Salix Alba var. Caerulea) are used to make cricket bats!
Here’s John getting some pertinent cricket bat knowledge from Mr Tinetti.
Then I saw this collection of ANZAC biscuit tins - finally something worthwhile looking at!

We finished off that day with a refreshing beverage from the Hepburn Springs Brewing Co.


Posted by GraveNomads 01:39 Archived in Australia Comments (0)

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