Tuesday, January 21, 2014

A Tassie Christmas

It may sound counter-intuitive to our friends and family in the States but in Australia, if you want to escape the heat, you head South. So while Santa was at the North Pole preparing for his journey around the world, we headed as close to the opposite Pole as we could get (and still be in Australia)—Tasmania.

Tasmania, or Tassie as it is known here, has been on our must-visit list since we moved to Australia. It is renowned for its beautiful coastline and ancient forests. Before we went, we sat down with two of our friends who used to live in Tasmania and based on their recommendations, we charted our 10-day course.
Tassie Ahoy!
Our trip around Tasmania

Drew and I decided not to have the typical vacation where you stay in one spot for a week. Instead, we flew into Hobart, the capital city, and hired a car in order to drive up along the coast. Our aim was to find a few beautiful vistas and some rock climbing. And, wow, Tasmania did not disappoint! I think we could have stopped anywhere along the coast to find amazing scenery.

Honeymoon Bay, part of Great Oyster Bay, at Freycinet National Park
We spent our first two days in Freycinet National Park, which is located on the Freycinet Peninsula. On one side, you get beautiful views of tranquil Great Oyster Bay and on the other side is the Tasman Sea, where waves crash against rock-strewn beaches and towering cliffs. In other words, it was a climber's dream.
Drew, on the rocks at Freycinet National Park


In addition to the beautiful vistas, my favorite part about Freycinet was the watering station at the Park office (Drew says this makes me weird), where you could fill up your water bottles with regular water or with sparkling water. It was a very posh hiking experience. =)
Filling up the bottles with sparkling water at Freycinet National Park

After two days of exploring Freycinet, we headed north again towards Bicheno for more climbing.

And penguins! The coastline along Bicheno is home to Little Blue Penguins.We took a nighttime tour and watched as they came out of the ocean and headed to their burrows. We were even able to see some of the young chicks, peeking their fluffy heads out of the nests. I learned that a group of penguins on land is called a parcel, and a group of penguins in the water is called a raft. It's the only animal that I know of to have two different group names.
Photos of penguins from www.bichenopenguintours.com.au

The last stop on our coastal tour was Bay of Fires, which was an unexpected gem. We ended up entering the National Park by way of a small fishing village on the southern edge, rather than the main entrance up north which required a 4-wheel drive vehicle. It was by far the most scenic of our beach days. Around every corner was a stunning coastal vista, alternating between sandy beaches, giant orange lichen covered boulders, and rugged cliff faces. After a half mile hike up the coast, we were the only ones out there. It pays to walk a bit away from the paths.
Drew, holding up a giant piece of kelp seaweed
A beautiful green butterfly that we found washing in with the tide. It was still alive so we put it up higher on the shore, hoping it would dry off and fly away.

It was hard to leave the coast behind, but eventually we headed inland to Mount Field National Park. Talk about a change in scenery—gone were the scrubby trees along the sea and in their place were giants of the forest. Mount Field is home to some of the oldest and tallest Eucalyptus trees in the world, Eucalyptus regnans. They are second only to the California redwoods in height. Some of the trees we saw were over 400 years old.

Along the way we perfected our 'Check out the ginormous tree' poses

Mount Field National Park is also home to several beautiful waterfalls.


Our last few days were spent in Hobart, taking in the culture. We visited the Museum of Old and New Art in Tasmania, known as the MONA. If I have my facts correct, it's the only privately owned museum in Australia. It has an eclectic collection of ancient art and very, very new art. I can't say that all of the artworks were to my taste ("a very adult selection," says the MONA info), but they sure sparked a lively discussion between me and Drew. And after all, isn't that what art is about?

We also took a day trip from Hobart to Port Arthur, site of a convict prison in the 1800s. It was a spooky town, not only because of the stories of desperate men-turned-criminals, but also because many of the buildings are just shells due to a series of bushfires over the years. Adding to the somber atmosphere is that Port Arthur was also the site of Australia's last gun massacre in 1996. After that, the country enacted strict gun control laws and there hasn't been another mass shooting since then.

For New Year's Eve, we headed down to the harbor in Hobart to see the fireworks. Even though there was a huge food festival going on, we managed to get spots right on the water, next to all the sailboats that had arrived from the Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race.
The last stop on our whirlwind tour was the Royal Tasmanian Botanical Gardens in Hobart. It had an amazing collection of trees, orchids, alpine plants, and hundreds of flower varieties, all laid out beautifully. I didn't take my camera so I can't prove it, but it's the second best botanic garden that we've ever seen. (First being, of course, Norfolk Botanical Garden, where we were married.) ;-)

2 comments:

  1. Wow. Sound awesome. I'm glad you were able to see and do so much. Interesting tidbit about the mass shootings....

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  2. Tassie looks absolutely gorgeous, beautiful pictures!! I especially love the fluffy blue penguins, how cute! xoxo

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