A Travellerspoint blog

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.

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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'!

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.
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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!

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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'.

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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.

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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!

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

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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!

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!
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Next - caves, coast and Australia's southernmost cemetery.

Posted by GraveNomads 00:12 Archived in Australia

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