Travel diary: Tasmania

We travelled to Tasmania this month. I was worried about what I’d be able to eat in the land of dairy and oysters, but I’m pleased to report I didn’t have a bad meal. I was even looked after when we visited an island off Tasmania with a population of 650! Sadly, my travel diary doesn’t contain any food pics, but I did take note of a couple of spots that are worth checking out next time you’re there.

Day 1
We arrive in Launceston late afternoon and go for a walk. It’s a Friday night and the city is a bit of a ghost town. I’m struggling to adjust to the slower pace. We have dinner at an Indian restaurant called Pickled Evenings, and ate dal as well as the mixed vegetables. I can report that it was good. Then, we stop at Red Brick Road Cider House and Bar to sample a couple of drops before stopping at Saint John, a craft beer bar. Saint John was the only place in the whole of Launceston that was overflowing with people.

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Bridestowe Lavender Estate

Day 2
We pick up the rental car and head straight for Bridestowe Lavender Estate. At $10 (each person) to gain access, you have free reign to do whatever you want once inside. January is a great time of year to visit because the lavender is in full bloom. The violet hue contrasted against the red soil. We took some photos then hopped in the car for the Little Blue Lake, which is where our smooth sailing ended. We both lost phone reception and I hadn’t even factored a map into my planning, so it meant we did a lot of guesswork. We were due in Hobart at 5pm and I had planned a lot of stops along the east coast.

Eventually, we were in range of a cell tower and I punched the address of the lake into maps. It navigated us to someone’s driveway. If the map took us here then it must be accessed through a sandy road off one of these streets, I thought to myself. So… we did it. We found a sandy road and drove down it but unfortunately, it led to a gate marked private property. A short walk down the path next to it leads us to… a big blue lake. Not quite what we were looking for but pretty nonetheless. We got back in the car because we were off schedule and after 20 minutes, we saw a sign for Little Blue Lake, which was easily accessible and a stunning turquoise blue. We don’t stay long, as you can’t get too close to the water, due to the high mineral(read: heavy metal) content from when it was once a mine.

Little Blue Lake took us around 2-3 hours out of our way and without a map or reception, we keep on driving in the hope we’ll get to the Bay of Fires soon. Some highlights on this part of the drive include: turning the car around in the same spot three times because I’m not sure where to go because there is no signage, driving through national park on what I still don’t even know was a real road, needing to go to the toilet but there not being any sign of life let alone a toilet, pulling over to let the car on the opposite side of the road through, driving over a little rock which ended up being quite a large rock (Jess went ballistic, but the car was fine despite the sound the car made when I drove over it), my sunglasses laying on the side of the road for half an hour (they were fine… can you believe it?!).

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‘The Gardens’ in the Bay of Fires Conservation Area

We arrive at the Bay of Fires. It’s hands down the most beautiful coastline I’ve ever seen, and I don’t go gaga for beaches. The water is clear and blue, the sand is white, and there’s virtually no one else around. Sadly, we can’t stay, we are way off schedule.

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Bay of Fires Conservation Area

Now that we’re on the correct route, I have to come to terms with the fact we don’t have time to go to Freycinet, get out of the car at Bicheno, or stop to snap this amazing abandoned shack on a low cliff. We’ll come back, I say. We don’t. But, when I need a quick break from driving, we stop briefly at Spiky Beach, which was a surprising beauty.

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Spiky Beach

We drive on and reach Hobart two hours after I had planned. After meeting Lesley and Alan (we stayed in their studio), we enjoy a pizza (yep! gluten-free and vegan) at a restaurant called Solo.

Day 3
It’s ‘MONA Day’. The permanent collection is incredible, and it challenges you mentally, but the architecture itself is by far the best part.

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Accommodation at MONA (shot on film)

We have a rest in the afternoon and then go to North Hobart for dinner. There’s a strip of about three blocks lined with restaurants, and we choose Burger Haus. Surprisingly, this was both of our best meals. The place wasn’t vegan, but their vegan burger was better than anything I’d ever had at a vegetarian or vegan burger joint.

Day 4
We discuss whether we should do a day-trip to Freycinet or Bruny Island, and end up choosing Bruny because of its closer proximity.

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The view from our studio while we decided how to spend our day (shot on film)

After a very short ferry ride, our first stop is The Neck lookout. The 360 degree view up here is easily one of the most recognisable ‘Tasmania’ photos. Then we walked down to the beach. It was 11.30am and I was hungry (when am I not?). With limited dining options on the island made even more limited by our dietary restrictions, we decide to eat lunch now so we aren’t caught in the tourist lunch hour. Hotel Bruny is like a diner out of a 70s movie. Surely this isn’t the place I looked up online, I thought. Turns out they focus on the food, rather than the interiors, and I’m OK with that. They do a gluten-free vegan pasta for me, and Jess gets the root vegetable pie. I’m jealous, but glad he ordered the best-sounding thing on the menu. Meals come out and we tuck in. Presentation was restaurant quality and food is the same. I regret not taking a photo of the meals, especially that pie.

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The Neck lookout

Next stop is the lighthouse on South Bruny. Getting to it is via another non-road, but directions are clearly signed and the ‘road’ has been maintained. Unfortunately, we arrive at the same time as a few other tourists, which means we’re stuck in a row of cars. After some strange manoeuvring I manage to exit the traffic jam and park outside the gates. I’m thankful we are paying to have no insurance excess on the car – we really needed it.

On our way up to the lighthouse, we see a little path to the beach, and decide to walk down. We walk through the lush garden and arrive at a secluded beach where we stay and admire before returning to the top fully out of breath. The lighthouse is a no go.

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Walking down to the beach at the South Bruny Lighthouse

Next stop is tasting some famous (and limited) Tasmania whiskeys. Jess does a tasting of four and, of course, the most expensive one is his favourite. We call it a day and head back on the ferry. Everyone is really friendly in Tasmania, so I say “have a good day” to one of the ferry workers. Only problem is he thinks I said “I had a good day” because he responds with “oh, well that’s good”. It’s a bit awkward.

Day 5
My friend Kym tells me that getting a donut at small fry is the thing to do. Unfortunately, they’re not gluten-free or vegan, so I watch Jess eat one as he has neither of those restrictions. Next stop is Mount Wellington, where we hope to see views of Hobart. We reach the top and the thickest cloud blankets us. We attempt to wait it out in the comfort (and warmth) of the Pinnacle. After waiting for 15 minutes, we realise the cloud isn’t going anywhere, so we head back down the mountain to get some lunch. Veg Bar in North Hobart was on the list after walking past a few nights ago. The food is good but not amazing, and we agree the cauliflower buffalo wings were the best thing (and, they were gluten-free!).

Next is a visit to Glenorchy Art & Sculpture Park (GASP!). It’s a nice walk along the river, and the pavilion framing the Derwent Basin is unusual architecture for a public space.

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Reflecting at GASP!

After GASP! we go to Salamanca Place and wander through the shops. There’s a lot of stuff I want, but I manage to leave without parting with a cent. Dinner is at a local Thai restaurant.

Day 6
We have a slow start to the day before starting our drive to Pumphouse Point in Lake St Clair. The drive wasn’t too bad but I was eager to get out of the car after a couple of hours. We arrive, and, spoiler: it’s amazing. We put our stuff in our room and explore the grounds. We look out for the resident platypus, but he’s hiding today. Dinner is a group dining ‘experience’ with the other guests, and I debate whether waking up for sunrise is a good idea.

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In heaven (nature + mid century interiors)

Day 7
I wake up early but not early enough, catching only the last of the pink sky and clouds. Breakfast is ok, but I overeat and feel sick for the rest of the day. We check out and start driving to Cradle Mountain. Jess ends up driving the whole way despite barely sleeping during the night. We get there and stop for a light lunch before driving down to Dove Lake. It was much more beautiful than I thought it would be. I drive for three mins but miss some great photo ops so Jess drives to let me snap away.

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Sunrise at Lake St Clare

Guess who doesn’t have mobile reception or a map again? You’d think I’d learnt my lesson. Eventually, we are back in Launceston.

We check in at our accommodation for the next few nights. Turns out I made a mistake with the booking and we had two single beds. We are tired after a long day of driving (lol… my three minutes of it), so we take it easy for the rest of the day.

Day 8
Launceston’s City Park has a monkey enclosure, so we check it out as a bit of a joke, before having a look at Design Tasmania where there was a lot of nice furniture.

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The monkey enclosure at City Park (shot on film)

Lunch is at Samuel Pepy’s Cafe, which is 100% gluten-free. It’s great. Dinner is at Buddha Thai. It’s great, too. Then we see Monumental: The Holy Body Tattoo with live music by Godspeed You! Black Emperor at the Princess Theatre. It’s incredible, definitely worth seeing.

Day 9
We have another slow start, before we go to the art gallery and then the beer festival. There are several food stalls and none of them offer anything that is gluten-free and vegan, so I’m in trouble. I try a good cider and Jess tries a few good beers. There’s some live music, but it’s not amazing. In the evening, we see Goyte Presents a Tribute to Jean-Jacques Perrey, which is another incredible experience, and really intimate. A few people walk out during the show. They were obviously expecting Goyte’s hits.

Day 10
Today is the MONA FOMA (MOFO) Block Party, and the last day for us in Tasmania. We watch a few bands and stick around to see Violent Femmes before grabbing some Vietnamese for dinner and heading back to our accommodation. We have an early start the next day as we have a plane to catch.

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The entry to the MOFO Block Party (shot on film)

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