Tassie Week 8, Camps 78, 79 & 80 – Days 352 – 361 – West Kentish, Strahan & Central Highlands (Little Pine Lagoon)

So camp 78 isn’t really a camp, more of an escape. An escape from van life, for just a few days. I’m not sure how I found out about Eagles Nest but it was a lovely little interlude in the final week of our Tassie adventure. With views to die for, chickens for fresh eggs, a veggie garden and orchard at our disposal and space to spread out, we were set for a few lovely days.

The house was simple, spacious yet cosy but it was the view of Mt Roland that stole the show. So stunning we found it hard to want to go anywhere, so we didn’t. The first night we were making the most of having a decent oven and had roast pork that crackled up beautifully. Accompanied by roasted veg from the garden and apple sauce made from apples out of the orchard. Magic.

We really did just unwind, relax, catch up on a few things, sleep, eat and repeat. That said there was school, blogging, journals to keep up with and being out of the van gave me a chance to give things a good clean and wash.

Just to complete the experience Eagles Nest Retreat provide a few service you can book during your stay. One being spa treatments and the other having a chef prepare your meals. My back had been causing me grief for months so that was a must and having a chef prepare us a 3 course meal well who could pass us that experience.

Chef Cynthia was wonderful and preparing a gluten free, dairy free and low sugar meal was no trouble. Her husband Chris was the gardener and it sounds like their own property has them pretty self-sufficient. So we were treated to the freshest of produce nearly entirely out of her garden. Cynthia came two nights out of our 4 night stay and a total luxury.

The lady made another appearance while we were at Eagles Nest

Our one outing durning our stay took us up to Cradle Mountain for the day. We jagged a totally fabulous day with very cold but clear weather. People tell us most of the time Cradle Mountain is shrouded in cloud or mist and many tourist visit but may not even see it. So we felt very lucky to do two of the shortest walks around the lake.

There are many stunning walks situated here in the Cradle Mountain – Lake St Claire National Park, but unfortunately we didn’t have the time nor do we find walks very easy with Lulu. She is a happy little delight but the pace is so so slow and she will not go in a carrier. Ken and I have to take turns lugging her around and all in all it’s not much fun, so we opt out most of the time.

That said we thoroughly enjoyed our time spent around Lake Dove, in the glorious sunshine, lapping up the stunning views. The shuttle bus in and out to Lake Dove was a great service, managing traffic in the park and giving additional information about the park. Very well run.

We returned to the car for a quick picnic lunch and on to Devils at Cradle for an education and look at the the Tasmanian Devil, Spotted Quoll and Eastern Quoll. Tasmania three largest carnivorous marsupials and all under threat in the wild. A fabulous conservation sanctuary and we loved the tour, knowledge and passion passed on by our guide. And the animals were amazing. All very cute but he Tassie Devils have such character and a sense of mischief, that is when they are not flat out sun bathing.

All up it was just one of those magical days were your filled with gratitude to be doing this trip and doing it together.

Our time at Eagles Nest Retreat was nearly over and the weather had closed in however we had one last thing to do, plant some trees. A fabulous option is to leave your mark, give a little back and reduce our carbon footprint by paying for and planting some tree on the property. Des the owner is as Chris (the gardener) put it ‘an unusual dairy farmer in the sense he actually likes tree’.

This was made abundantly clear to us with the arrival on the fence line of the owner of the neighboring property. She was very keen to know what we were doing with those trees and if the tree where going to block the view. Initially she was quiet abrupt in her manner but mellowed as she realized we were interstate guests visiting and planting a few trees with our children. A little insight gained and a little dirt under our nail and we were off to Strahan, camp number 79.

Another storm was set to lash the west coast that evening so we were keen to arrive and set up camp but now being very limited on time we were not going to be able to postpone the tours we wanted to do and just hoped the weather wasn’t going to reek too much havoc.

First stop was the post office to collect a bit of mail we’d been chasing for weeks now. My mistake forgetting it was to be delivered to Coles Bay, followed by a series of postal mistakes but in the end I spoke to an awesome person at Australia Post who took up the challenge to find and this piece of important mail from a 7 year old girl in Perth to her travelling 7 year old bestie moving around Tassie. The smile says it all, great job Australia Post!

That evening we attending the longest running play in Australia, “The Ship that Never Was”. Fabulous evening! They’ve had 25 years to perfect it, although with it being a two man / woman show and a large proportion of audience participation it keeps it pretty fresh. Telling the story of some personalities we’d learnt about at Port Arthur and the convicts keep here on the notorious Sarah Island it was, funny, informative and ridiculous! A highlight of the trip for sure.

The next day it was an early start through to Queenstown to take the West Coast Wilderness Railway. A half day tour on the old steam train up some very steepest track using the rack and pinion system. The journey takes you deep into beautiful temperate rainforest but it must have been a total nightmare to build.

We were told the story of how and why the rail was built. A tale of the race of two Irish men, for riches and power. A race to exploit the gold, but mostly the largest copper deposits in the world back in the late 1800’s. It was a wonderful and yet again stunningly beautiful scenic journey. Once at the half way point the engine was turned around and we had a chance to walk amounts the Forrest. The trees, the fungi, the mosses, the cool mountain air was energizing and beautiful. Tassie just continues to wow us.

As part of the tour we stop at one of the old station and everyone get the opportunity to pan for gold. It’s a well oiled tourist experience and we while the kids were excited to get a chance to pan for gold I didn’t for one moment expect we or anyone else would get anything. Lady Luck was with Georgia on this day and she jagged a nice bit of gold much to the shock of all including the tour guide who had never seen such a big piece of gold turn up in the panning.

Amazed by the morning Queenstown still had one little treasure to reveal to us. A most unassuming cafe, run by a couple of salt of the earth people, well up on looking after our coeliac needs and baking the best Curried Scollop Pie EVER!!!! A Tasmanian specialty, my mouth is watering just writing of this. With our heads, hearts and bellies full we returned to Strahan for a cosy night in the van.

Having loved the play so much last night Charlotte was really keen to see the “Ship that Never Was” for a second time. She just jumps at any chance to get up on a stage and having missed her drama classes so much I couldn’t say no. And we enjoyed it just as much the second time too. Although the heavens opens with deafening rain, the wind turned wild and the temperature dropped noticeably, but the show did go on. Considering the show is done in an outdoor theater with some heavy duty canvas sails for shelter it was pretty impressive.

Our final day here was on a boat cruise through Port Macquarie and up the Gordon River. A World Heritage listed area it was set to be a spectacular day. We were treated to proper west coast Tassie weather which wan an experience in itself. The sky was grey and moody, the wind wildly whipping up waves in Port Macquarie and patches of rain coming from all direction. Once we entered the Gordon River we were a little more sheltered from the elements and despite the weather it really was another amazing tour, in a deeply beautiful place on earth.

Learning about the ship building era, the convicts and the amazing forest was all very interesting. I knew it was going to be good, everyone had said it was amazing but I was blown away by the feeling of being amongst such, ancient, unique and majestic trees. These are not just any old tree, they are very rare and protected with the Huon Pine holding powerful healing, anti-bacterial and anti-fungal properties which makes it very unique and special, however they are incredibly slow growing.

After being in awe and blown away in the forest we were nearly literally blown away on Sarah Island learning to story of the convicts lives, successes and spirit. It’s a gripping and intriguing tale and it was told so so very well by none other than one of the actors of the the play ‘’The Ship that Never Sank’. The weather was wet and wild but we didn’t really mind because the story was so warm and rich.

Thank you to the Wild West coast of Tasmania 10 our of 10! But that’s not all ………….

Our final camp and night in Tasmania was spent in the Central Highlands. The drive to Davenport and the ferry was too big for one day so our plan was just to pull up wherever we got to by about 4pm. So Little Pine Lagoon was it. I didn’t really have a sense we were up too high and nor were we aware we may be in for snow but it was Baltic for sure and upon checking our altitude was hopeful Tassie might deliver us one more magical moment.

The summer just past Tasmania had experienced some of it worst ever bush fires and we had been traveling through some of that country today. Black and battered in appearance but by morning it would be covered in snow.

It sure was magical, just what you’d dream of and imagine for your first experience of falling snow. You go to bed and when you awake and peer out the window everything it white. And that was exactly how it was but it was also still snowing. So surreal and so beautiful. It was a very exciting morning making snowmen and photographing this very novel scenery.

Much fun was had but the snow was not to thick and it wasn’t long before patches were melting. However we had a boat to catch that evening and still a distance to travel so it was back on the road for us.

We needed a lunch spot and a quick search on google revealed a real gem we’d be driving right past. A perfect way to farewell Tasmania and her delicious produce was at the Tasmanian Food & Wine Conservatory. A beautiful setting complimented with grazing platters that were completely local, lovely and lekker, (lekker is a Dutch word for good / pleasant and completes the alliteration).

Perfectly blissed out. Much gratitude to this little island packed full of fabulousness! Thank you Tasmania. ♥️

Tassie Week 7, Camp # 76 – Longford & 77 – Penguin, Days 346 – 352

Saying farewell to southern Tasmania today we are legging it up the guts of the island on probably the straightest road Tassie has. Once past Hobart it was easy highway driving till we stopped for a latish lunch at Ross. Like Richmond a very historic town with another stunning convict constructed bridge. We checked out the bakery, (because it was the only place open) and had lunch by the river and bridge. Very windy, very cold but still very beautiful.

We chose to stay just outside of Launceston in Longford. This turned out to be a good choice. The caravan park was lovely, the supermarket in town amazing and some Zoners already hunkering down to ride out the storm. We had met this family in Coolum so was funny to run into them again in Longford.

Our first day we really just rode out the weather. It was cold, wet and windy not much fun to out in. However it all blew over in 24 hours and we had a stunning afternoon the following day at Cataract Gorge. A stunning recreational area with walks, hiking tracks, playground, pool, beautiful gardens, cafe, peacocks and wildlife and the worlds longest single span chairlift. The sun was out which was a treat as we haven’t seen a lot of it lately and throughly enjoyed our play, chairlift ride and walk.

The excitement has been building all week and final Lotte’s birthday had arrived! The day started with gifts in bed and breakfast before Ken and Charlotte went off to do a bit of a ropes climbing adventure. Charlotte had done a little of this on a school camp and loved it so has been hoping for the last month we’d be here to do it for her birthday.

Meanwhile with the birthday girl was out the van Georgie, Lulu and I got on with the business of cake making and decorating. Looked fantastic and should have tasted delicious but to be honest I haven’t nailed this gluten free / dairy free baking. At least the toasted marshmallow on top where still delicious and quickly disappeared. The rope climbing had been a lot more challenging and Charlotte was feeling pretty down about how the day was panning out but thankfully her choice of restaurant for dinner was a winner.

We ate at Stillwater Restaurant in Launceston, an iconic waterfront flour mill, turned bar, restaurant and now accommodation. Very classy, like our young 11 year old daughter. Charlotte sure does enjoy the finer things in life and when it come to food she just loves a great dining experience. Couldn’t fault the place, but the most noteworthy moment came when we were presented with the menu’s and they had typed up a specific coeliac and dairy free menu for Georgia and dairy free menu for Lotte.

Total wow! The little things really do matter, being able to walk into a restaurant and order anything off the menu is a rare and wonderful thing. Since October last year (2018) neither girls have been able to do this. So it was really special for them to just be able to choose whatever they wanted, from the menu in front of them, and know they weren’t going to end up being told they can’t have it or suffering the ill effects of poor planning and knowledge from the skilled professionals in the kitchen. Might not seem like much to others but it was just fantastic for us. Food, wine, service and setting all 5 stars! Thank you Stillwater Restaurant, Launceston and Tassie for such fine produce.

Our final day in Launceston / Longford we lunch the at low carb / high fat cafe Broth me before driving to and up Ben Lomond. At 1,572m (5,157ft) it is Tasmania’s second highest peak and its premier Alpine skiing destination. Stunning, dramatic, windy and freezing. The photos really speak for themselves.

Leaving Longford we made our way to Penguin hoping to spend some time with some little fairy Penguins. We stayed at a free camp just outside Penguin. The view was fantastic with the stony beach just 1m away but a couple of meter the other way was a train line. Luckily it was for freight only and not that busy but it did make for dramatic train spotting. No fencing or signage to stay off the line which actually was nice.

We had read that the penguins would come up and shelter under the van during the night. It did seem by the poo left around that they were coming but to be honest it was so freezing we weren’t hanging around to watch and didn’t want to startle of blind the gorgeous little things. We did however spot a few nesting during the day.

We had a wonderful relaxing time here, be it hanging around the van or wondering around Penguin or nearby Sheffield. Penguin town is full of character with Penguins everywhere and view across Bass Striat. The view was so distracting in the library I was having trouble readin the booking the books. The town had developed a wonderful scavenger hunt that took us on a lovely walk and to all the major sights. Very well done Penguin 🐧!

From Penguin we did a day trip to Sheffield. Had a delicious lunch, potter around the town and an explore for all the murals the town is famous for. We happend to be here when the annual Mural Fest was on so there was plenty to admire. This is when we weren’t admiring the magnificence of nearby Mt Roland. What striking and towering natural beauty to have as a backdrop for the town.

We’ll be seeing a lot more of Mt Roland next week as we have book some accommodation for a few days looking directly on to it.

Our final day camped just outside of Penguin was a very relaxed one just soaking up the views, a chance to have a slowish day catching up on bits and bobs around the van. Tassie continues to deliver and we can’t get enough. 💜 ♥️ ❤️ 💜

Spot the bumble bee!

Tassie Week 6, Camp # 74 – Cookle Creek & 75 – Port Huon, Days 339 – 345

Rechercher Bay

Eventually we left Hobart for a few nights camping at the most southerly point of Tasmania – Cookle Creek. To get there we drove through the Huon Valley, scenic apple orchard country. We stopped at Geeverston for lunch, a play and to try our luck at platypus spotting in the wild, sadly we were unsuccessful. The disappointment of no platypus sightings was made up for with an awesome playground and some top nosh.

We continued to drive south until the road literally runs out and you drive off the most southerly bitumen road in the world and on to dirt for a few more kilometers. You cross a bridge and then campsites begin to appear.

Having been to the most easterly point in Byron Bay, NSW and the most northerly point in Cape York, QLD here we are at the most southernly point Cockle Creek, TAS. We love a little remote get away, and this feels pretty remote. From this point we are closer to Antarctica than we are to Cairns and we were incredibly fortunate to not cop any winds coming up from Antarctica.

The weather was gloomy but it felt serene and peaceful. There wasn’t much on offer in terms of a campsites but we perched ourselves on a spot with view of Rechercher Bay. A couple of very low key days were in order and with Georgia becoming unwell she couldn’t muster the energy for anything too adventurous.

There were a couple of long walks near by that were too long for us, but we enjoyed a beautiful morning stroll coastal walk. Much was learned from the signage on the history of the bay. Whaling being the main industry when the bay was full of whale. It’s a gruesome picture painted by the historians and I am left wondering why have they have never returned to what now appears a very safe and tranquil bay. Are their numbers still so depleted or is the knowledge of what occurred here all those years ago somehow passed on from one generation of whale to the next?

The walk took us through some dense coastal woodlands which to me had a magical feel. Lush lichen and mosses, peppermint trees and grasses before delivering you onto a deserted beach of clear waters and white sands. We explored this bay and paddled before stopping for a snack and calling it a day. We didn’t cover much distance but we did absorb and love every minuet of the journey.

The afternoon and following day moved at a slow but blissful pace. Beach play, a walk with a massive ray, and a show put on by the arrival of a tall ship in the bay. Having been learning of the early seafarers and French admiral Bruny D’Entrecasteaux who discovered this bay, it was an amazing sight to see this elegant lady sail into Recherche Bay and stay the night.

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Georgia was still feeling unwell but her tummy was settling down so it was another restful day hanging out in paradise. Ken took the pack raft out for a paddle, explore and oyster scavenger hunt. While he was successful and enjoyed shucking his first oyster, we followed the signage posted around and didn’t consume them but tossed them back to the sea.

Having all had such a hectic few weeks sightseeing and Ken working hard this little three day escape was a much need chance to take a breath and decompress. However now with a sense of our time here in Tasmania coming to an end and still much to see, we mustn’t dilly dally . That and Charlotte birthday in a few days and her request to be in Launceston playing in the back of our minds it was time to move on.

Upon leaving our most southernly camp we couldn’t miss paying a visit to Hasting Caves and Thermal Springs. So with van hitched on we drove through the beautiful Huon Valley to take the tour of the cave and enjoy a dip in the 28-degree thermal swimming pool situated at the visitors centre. Yet another crack’n experience Tassie!

Before we travel up the centre of Tassie to Launceston we decided to overnight at Port Huon and have one last attempt at capturing the Aurora Australis. Conditions where looking favorable so we were hopeful, however a storm was coming in with a horrible forecast for the next day. With everything crossed the storm would hold off for the night we found ourselves a south facing campsite settled in for a long night.

The view was stunning but the elusive “Lady” didn’t delight us and with bad weather arriving imminently there was not much point holding out for another night. It would be remiss to leave this area without stopping at one of the famous Huon Valley orchards and stocking up on apples and pears, juicy, delish and so fresh! With that our last stop we headed north for a long day on the road, nearly travelling the full length of Tassie in a day.

Tassie Week 5, Camp # 72 – Goats Bluff & 73 – Cambridge, Days 332 – 338

We had decided to change locations, staying in the same area but to the caravan park we had originally hoped to stay in but was full over the long weekend. The timing of the move worked in well with solar activity forecasts of the possibility of capturing the Auora Australis. We had missed a few opportunities and had promised we’d be more committed and find a south facing free camp next time.

Sunset at Goats Bluff

Since being in Tassie we have been learning about the Southern lights or Auora Australis and Ken has been learning more and more about astro-photography. So while Ken worked, the girls and I spent the day scouting the coast for a do-able south facing campsite so we might pull up for the night or two and have a chance for all of us to witness it. The girls where very patient as we didn’t have much luck. In the end we decided to chance it and take the van and park up in the car park of a well known lookout spot, Goats Bluff.

What a spot!

This spot has the added bonus of being able to also capture bioluminescence in the water as well as the Auora if she shows. It really is a thing of great beauty but also great luck, many, many elements need to come together. Enough solar activity, favorable solar winds, clear skies, ideally no moon, not to be occurring during daylight hours an uninterrupted south facing view, minimal light pollution and there are probably more. But you’ve gotta be in it to win it.

So we snuck (not that a 22ft van can sneek in anywhere), in to the car park just on sunset and settled in for the night. We planned to keep the girls in the usual bed / sleep routine and only wake them if the skies lite up, and Ken and I would take turns. A few other hard core Auora chasers rolled in and we could have made a tidy packet if we sold coffee out of the van.

Goats Bluff – Top south facing spot for Aurora photography

Ken being the adventurous type jumped the fence and scouted the cliffs for the best location only to surprise one of the main Auora chasers of Tassie. When Chris rolled up Ken was well settled into what he though was his secret location, but it was a great little meeting as Chris was happy to share both is location and knowledge with Ken. However that is where the luck for the evening runs out. ‘The Lady’ (as the Auora is called by the faithful) never turned up. We waited till nearly 2 a.m., it was freezing cold and we knew we’d need to make an early get away. Or did she?????? After processing the shots on the SLR camera it seems we may have got lucky after all. Just nothing visible to the naked eye, which is often the case.

There was some colour in the night sky but no obvious Aurora that night.
Nice shots of the Milky Way with the new lens, not to mention bioluminescence and Aurora

We departed early and picked up breakfast on route to the Barilla Holiday Park in Cambridge, just a 20 min drive to Hobart. We set up, got some schooling done before heading up Kunanyi / Mt Wellington. Hobart is set on the Derwent estuary and towering over the city is Kunanyi. Some 1,271m or 4170 ft. It’s an epic drive and amazing views. Snow had been forecast over 900m and as this may be our only chance of falling snow on this trip, we had to give it a go.