Port Arthur

When I was a kid Tasmania was famous for 1 thing - apples. Well, also convicts. Tassie and New South Wales are the 2 states with a significant convict heritage; and Tassie's is without a doubt the more palpable with the ghostly Port Arthur prison ruins and the bleak west coast Macquarie Harbour, setting for what must've been one of the most isolated penal establishments ever, and motivation for Sarah Island's most infamous escapee, Alexander Pearce who managed to get away twice. On both occasions he cannibalized his fellow fugitives.

Tasmania's isolation, an island off an island on the opposite side of the planet, was a perfect place to ship miscreants. That isolation means Tassie is now often overlooked and is in a bit of a time warp - but mostly in a good way and with some positive modern touches. Not a remnant of the past but a vision for the future in my opinion.

Tassie is mostly green, clean and pristine open spaces. Half the state is tree-covered wilderness and national parks, the other half is mostly farming country. Loggers, miners and dam builders have been doing their damndest over the decades but have mostly, but not completely failed to fuck up the Tassie environment.

The only thing standing between a Tasmanian-latitude, coast-to-coast uninterrupted global circumnavigation across 3 oceans is Argentina & Chile far to the west and New Zealand to the east; the Roaring Forties slamming into the west coast after building up speed across 11,000 kms of lonely southern Atlantic and Indian oceans.

And Antarctica is the next stop should you head south.

All of that makes Tassie sound chilly and windy and damp. But Hobart is on a latitude similar to Rome's. It is closer to the equator than it is to the South Pole; it is closer to the equator than most of Europe, and all of Canada and Russia. I don't care what the meteorological records say, it still gets frikkin' cold, particularly in a wind, and the west coast is constantly wet. We experienced glorious sunny times and freezing, wet times - often at the same places on the same days. That's not a whinge, it's just an observation; Mother Nature seems to be more routinely in-your-face in Tassie.

The Route

The Lap Of Tassie started and finished in Hobart, running anti-clockwise, with the extremities being Port Arthur, St Helens, Scottsdale, Launceston, Stanley and Strahan.


The best of Hobart is Hobart Town - the heritage parts of Battery Point, Salamanca, Constitution Dock and the CBD. And there are the many large old mansions spreading up towards the base of Mt Wellington, each with big garden and panoramic views. All within a 10 minute drive to the centre of town. You could be posh in Hobart for not a huge amount of dosh.

The more recent suburban parts, on the north bank of the Derwent and along the upstream edges are a bit ordinaire. All a bit soulless - they could be anywheresville.

Hobart Hobart

1. Somerset on the Pier, a transformation of the early 1930s pier building. 2. The CSIRO's Antarctic Investigator at Sullivan's Cove. 3. Constitution Dock.

Cascade Brewery Snow on Mt Wellington

The iconic Cascade brewery facade. Cascade used to use the snow melt from Mt Wellington to make it's beer. Sadly, no more.

Museum of Old and New Art

30 minutes up the Derwent, the privately built and run museum MONA is impressive. Eclectic is a good word for the art works; something for everyone. To like, and to hate.

The plaster casts of ladies' pink bits lined up at eye level were interesting. The most interesting aspect being how to look at them without looking like you were looking at them. I think I got away with it. But when asked innocently by the young lady at the cafeteria counter what my favourite part was I blurted out "The 3rd snatch from the left".

Mount Wellington

Mt Wellington Mt Wellington

Rug up to enjoy the views across Hobart, the Derwent Valley and Tasman Peninsular. It snows up there, sometimes even in summer.

Bruny Island

An island off a bigger island off the biggest island, Bruny hangs off the side of triangular Tasmania like a cluster of pubes on a neglected bikini line. There, the "Map of Tassie" smutty allusion is out of the way.

Tasmania promotes itself as a wine and food destination. Not just apples any more - cool climate wines, seafood, cheeses and organic produce in a pollution-free environment. And Bruny Island could be Tasmania in miniature - half wilderness and half farmland with a reputation for gourmet cheese, oysters, fudge, berries, wine and whisky. But, while the quality of the produce can't be questioned, don't expect a cornucopia - there's one oyster outlet, one cheese maker, one fudge maker, one berry farm and one vineyard. And all the whisky sold on Bruny is imported - the island is not big enough to capture sufficient rain water to support a distillery.

Ferry to Bruny Island

The car ferry to Bruny Island - about a half an hour trip from Kettering.

Bruny Island Bruny Island

Bruny is pleasant enough. Lots of trees, fields and sea. But nothing we saw was of sufficient spectacle to justify whipping out the camera and snapping away. Green, clean but unremarkable. And the pace of life is best described by our drop into a general store/cafe for burgers and steak sangers; the pressure of taking 6 orders at once sent cookie into a panicked spin. She could only deal with 2 at a time.


Richmond, hosting Australia's oldest bridge built in the 1820s and, 30 years or so ago upon my first visit, also hosting the world's longest snotcicle. I swear I have never been as cold since and that's including the Canadian Rockies in the middle of winter.

Richmond Bridge

Port Arthur

If there were such things as ghosts, wraiths or phantoms then surely this place would have its fair share. The site's administrators play up the spookiness as a theme for tourists with the guides on the nightly ghost tours having a practised banter about hauntings, there's a "paranormal investigation experience" and there's the Isle Of The Dead tour. The guides themselves could be misplaced relatives of the Addams Family - and it's not fake, it's their real selves. Despite the convict era ruins and the harsh penal settlement history Port Arthur is not depressing or ghoulish. Although, on the at-night ghost tour did I see the back-lit silhoutte of a figure watching us from the abandoned tower of the old church?

The Broad Arrow Café, scene of the 1996 massacre of 35 people has been kept as a memorial - stripped back to bare brick walls in conformity with the convict era ruins. Martin Bryant committed Australia's worst crime at a place where 150 years beforehand the inhabitants were classed as criminals and shipped halfway round the world typically for misdemeanors as inconsequential as stealing shoes or a loaf of bread. Bryant was shipped a short distance up the Derwent to spend the rest of his days in a prison setting far grimmer than that at Port Arthur.

Port Arthur Port Arthur Port Arthur Port Arthur Port Arthur Port Arthur Port Arthur Port Arthur Port Arthur Port Arthur

The Tasman Peninsular

Tasman Arch

The Tasman Arch, Tasman Blowhole and Devil's Kitchen are grouped together near Doo Town and right by the road. Easy gawking at the wild coast for the lazy. Other spectacles such as the Tessellated Pavement, sea stacks north of Fortescue Bay, the Candlestick and Totem Pole need you to get off your arse and walk for an hour or so.

Tasman Arch

Doo Town

A ramshackle disassembly of shacks and holiday houses nearby to Eaglehawk Neck, Doo Town's claim to fame is the convention of including "Doo" in the name of each house: Doo Drop In, Doo Fuck All, Doo Little, Gunnadoo, This Will Doo, Thistle Doo Me, Wattle-I-Doo and so on. Of course there's always a curmudgeonly exception - the one non-conforming house is named Medhurst.


East Coast

Freycinet Bay of Fires

Coles Bay on the Freycinet Peninsular, and Binalong Bay at the southern end of the Bay of Fires.

Cape Tourville

Geezer1: "Act cool; I think those young chicky-babes over there are checking us out." Geezer2: "I think they're seals." Geezer3: "I hope they are seals because I can't hold my belly in much longer."

Cape Tourville, Freycinet Peninsular.

The North

Tulips Longford

Table Cape tulip farm near Wynyard and main street Longford.

Evandale Evandale Evandale Deloraine

Evandale and an ex-flour mill now B&B outside Deloraine.

Stanley and The Nut

Stanley Stanley Stanley Stanley Stanley Stanley

Stanley, home to both Joseph Lyons, Australia's 10th prime minister and The Nut, a big volcanic plug - one more enduring than the other.

The Wild West

Cradle Mountain National Park Cradle Mountain Wilderness Village

Looking across the conservation area north of the Cradle Mountain - Lake St Clair National Park from the road into the Lemonthyme Wilderness Retreat, and one of the self-contained cabins once you get there.


Strahan from Regatta Point. A base at MacQuarie Harbour and its fishing and tourism with thriving ocean trout and Atlantic salmon farming, and access to the King, Franklin and Gordon rivers, Hell's Gates and Sarah Island.

The fish farms attract a lot of seals which can get very aggressive with the divers maintaining the floating pens and there is some concern that plans to expand the industry to almost 1000 hectares of the Harbour will compromise the natural environment.

King River Gordon River Gordon River train Tracks West Coast Wilderness Train MacQuarie Harbour

1.2.3. The Gordon River - accessed by cruiser from Strahan. 4.5. The King River Gorge accessed by the vintage and beautifully restored West Coast Wilderness Train, also from Strahan. Three of the original five locomotives have been returned to service. 6. One of the Hell's Gates lighthouses at the entrance to MacQuarie Harbour.

Queenstown Queenstown

Queenstown - at the other end of the Wilderness Railway and once famous for its denuded hillsides. Smelting from the mines stripped all vegetation from the hills which for decades were bare earth and rock. When re-growth started to appear some of the local geniuses wanted it cleared so that the moonscape would continue to attract tourists.

Strahan back to Hobart


Caught red-handed, Bev tries hiding her wombat-poking stick. Derwent Bridge.

Lake St Clair and Pumphouse Point

From the outside the Pumphouse looks just like a pumphouse. Inside is a whole other story. Built and fully pump-enabled in 1940 but never used, there have been some false starts in resurrecting the buildings as tourist attractions. This latest venture has seen the pumphouse and the on-shore sub-station converted into swish accommodation. Each level has shared common space with picture windows offering sweeping views across the lake to often-snow-covered mountains. A nice touch is the honour system for the shared bars. Take whatever you want and simply record it on the clipboard provided. I'd like to think that the vast majority of people are honest and that the system works.

The Lake is in the middle of a substantial amount of wilderness - but access is only a couple of kilometres of dirt road from the highway at Derwent Bridge. Maybe out there in all of that extensive wild space there are some remaining Tasmanian Tigers that one day will increase in numbers sufficient for their presence to become known. Should that ever happen one thing is certain - there'd be dickhead, red-knecked, knuckle-dragging cretins who'd want to shoot them.

LakeStClair LakeStClair Pump House PumpHouse

Views from the Pumphouse and the Pumphouse itself.


The idea of staying at B&Bs has never really appealed to me. How can you really relax when you're in a stanger's home? How do you do a nudey run for a late night snack? What if you drip strawberry jam on the antique carpet? But, the Manager Domestic Affairs took charge of the itinerary, did some research and booked us into 3 B&Bs dispersed around the island:

Each was old-fashioned charming, each was roomy and well appointed, and no Basil Fawlty types running any of them. Can't fault them. But, I still can't say I feel comfortable in a B&B.

Other accommodation that comes highly recommended:

  • Somerset On The Pier, Hobart. Central to everything with Salamanca Place, the CBD, Hunter's Wharf and Hunter Street Historic Precinct and all a casual walk away. Being built on a pier at Constitution Dock, it's long and narrow so each room gets a view. The big plus for this joint is its practicality.
  • Lemonthyme Wilderness Retreat is well in amongst the bush, being a fair diversion into the wilds north of the Lake St Clair Cradle Mountain National Park, although it's not part of the Park. This place markets itself as being a "wilderness experience". Don't get me wrong, I thought the place was terrific - but driving up to reception in your air-conditioned people mover, entering your self-contained cottage, cracking one of the nice wines while pressing a button to get the gas heater going and relieving an hour's worth of bladder pressure in a spa-equipped bathroom while leaning on a heated towel railing is not, in my book, a wilderness experience just because there's lots of trees about. It's great - but this aint a Bear Grylls survivalist camp.
  • Pump House Point on Lake St Clair. Built in the 1940s as a pump house by the Tasmanian Hydro Electic Commission but never used for that purpose as it was never needed. The HEC was responsible for the drowning of Lake Pedder and it was determined to dam the Franklin River before widespread protests stopped the bastards. "The long term vision of those within the HEC and the politicians in support of the process, was for continued utilisation of all of the state's water resources". In other words, these pricks were determined to dam everything they could. Somewhat ironic then that an unnecessary pumping station is now used to accommodate tourists attracted here because of the wilderness.

Interesting facts about Tassie

  • It's Australia's smallest state but the 26th largest island in the world.
  • It's 334 islands, not just the 1.
  • Hobart is Australia's second oldest capital city, after Sydney.
  • 1642: The first reported sighting of Tasmania by a European.
  • Between 1812 and 1853 when transportation ceased more than 74,000 convicts were transported to Tasmania