Photo of the Week – I Dream of “Return to Cradle Mountain”

Tasmania was an enchanting place to visit.  The greenery, the remoteness, and yes, something different about the Australia and Australians I had seen so far.  The natural beauty was impressive.  We stayed at the Cradle Mountain Lodge, which we greatly enjoyed, and hiked up to the lake on a winter day in June of 2009.  I wrote about the trip back then in the entries below, but I thought I’d highlight again Tasmania by sharing some photos from the visit.

Getting to Tasmania and the plan – read more here.

Going to Cradle Mountain and beyond – read more here.

Around Wineglass Bay and ending in Hobart – read more here.

Cradle Mountain and Crater Lake in Tasmania

Cradle Mountain
(Captured with Canon EOS Rebel)

Trail on the way up to Cradle Mountain, Tasmania

Colorful trail
(Captured with Canon EOS Rebel)

The lodge by Cradle Mountain

Around the lodge

Exploring Wineglass Bay in Tasmania

Our exploration of Tasmania in no time continued on Day 3.  After taking breakfast overlooking Coles Bay, we wasted little time in getting going to see Wineglass Bay, which some call the best beach in Australia (I am sure there are many who may not agree; I certainly don’t know much about Australian beaches to opine conclusively!).

Again, Getting There Is Half the Fun

Yes, Wineglass Bay beach is not of the type where you drive up and park next to the beach with your cooler, chairs, bodysurfing board, bags of food, etc.  Nor is it the type where you walk a few blocks to get to, similarly loaded with things.  And what a good thing it is that it is neither!

To get there one embarks on a 1.5 hr or so hike.  Of course, there is a lookout available way up higher than the trail to the beach so we made our way to the lookout for a good view of the beach.  The path to the lookout is really not much higher than the highest point on the trail on the way to the beach so if you are making to the beach might as well climb a few more steps to the lookout!  The view is quite worth the small extra effort.

Gorgeous Wineglass Bay

We were discussing why it may be called Wineglass Bay.  As we had no computer access except the kiosk at the hotel and, as we were not about to get on a computer anyway, we speculated on the why.  Our main theory is that the shape of the bay does look like a wineglass but the cup part of it.  That is, it may be more appropriate to have called it Stemless Wineglass Bay but we realize that does not quite flow out as easily and musically as Wineglass Bay so we accepted the poetic license.

After the lookout, we descended into the beach itself.  As most beaches, just the sound of waves itself is a reward but the setting of this beach is indeed quite spectacular.  It was nice to hang out and soak in the view and sounds, as well as rest from the effort to get there so we could do it in reverse!

At Wineglass Bay

The Other Half of the Fun?

The other half of the fun, if I put aside my attempts at artistic picture-taking, could be the sandsurfing on a tiny sand “dune” of 3 ft in height.  After a few times doing it and getting it on video, we had a good amount of sand in our shoes.  Good for me, I had thick socks so I didn’t really notice or care – until I got my boots off at the hotel that evening!

IMG_9749The hike up clearly was not as exhilarating as the climb down as we had already seen the trail and we were just headed back to the car to hit the road.  However, the beauty of this trail is that a good part of it is set between massive red boulders, especially towards the highest point of the trail.

Waiting for us at the parking was one of the 2 wallabies we had deemed to be “drunk” when we saw them on our way in.  It was used to humans enough to be petted and still stay put.

Tasmanian Wine on Our Path

As with the prior day’s hike, what followed was lunch.  We ate at the bistro at the lodge where I enjoyed fish and chips and a fantastic mixed salad.  Oh, and a glass of Sauvignon Blanc for good measure.  With that, we started our 3 hr drive to Hobart but we quickly found out that the Milton winery, whose wine we had enjoyed the night before, was about 40 minutes away from the lodge and on our way to Hobart to boot!  We stopped at the winery where we got to sample their Pinot Grigio, Rose, Riesling, Iced Riesling, Gewurztraminer, and the Pinot Noir (not in that order!).  They were all decent wines but the Riesling was not quite like the German Rieslings I am used to; does not mean it was not good but not what I was expecting.  However, the Iced Riesling was simply delicious so I bought a bottle – not sure when I would drink it or how far I could carry it with me but I was willing to take the risk!

Wrapping Up the Day and the Trip in Hobart

The drive to Hobart was on the Tasman Highway which gave us a glimpse on the beauty of the east coast of the island.  It was a nice way to wrap up exploring…

On the way back to Hobart on the east coast

We did not have much time left for Hobart but did follow a Lonely Planet recommendation for a restaurant.  The restaurant was called Da Angelo and it was located in the Battery Park area.  I had the carbonara which was close to the best I have ever had (maybe number 2 after a place in Rome near the Vatican).  I could not eat the entire serving though I so badly wanted to eat every bit of it!

With that and our early morning flight on the next day, our long weekend in Tasmania came to a close.  I was wishing my trip had been for even longer so I could spend even more time in Tasmania but I am finding that I am feeling that way pretty much about every place so far in this trip…  I am astounded when I am told that New Zealand scenery will be even more impressive so I am eager to get there to check it out.  In the meantime, I will continue exploring Melbourne and hanging out with my friends whose idea it was to explore Tasmania together – for which I am very thankful!

Tasmania deserves being explored though it may be far for many of us and it does deserve more days than we could give it.  The folks there are super friendly and the scenery will indeed leave you wanting more.

(Pictures taken with Canon EOS Rebel)

Tasmania – The Lakes, the Mountains and the “Tinas”

Planning the Day

We hit the lodge breakfast (which gets high marks!) and planned our course of action for the day.  The lodge offered a guided walk to Crater Lake at 1 PM but we thought that would waste a little bit of time waiting until then to do a 3 hr hike.  We also had to get across the island for our next stop so we opted, after some research at the front desk, to head out on our own.  The front desk offered a map and said the trails were well marked (they were).  They also indicated weather tends to be better earlier in the day so that settled it for us.  We were ready for our walk!

Day 2 – The Hike

After driving into the park and getting the car permit (around $22AU), we made it to the start of the trail.  The trail begins with like a 20-min walk over a boardwalk set up above the grassland.  The grassland was not quite just as grassland as there was plenty of water on the ground but you could not see it due to the bushy grasses.  I supposed that is why they thought it would be good to install the boardwalk.  The bushy grasses, due to my inability to properly describe vegatation or determine what they really are, were baptized the “Tinas” by us as they resemble Tina Turner’s hair.  Later on, on our way back we determined that when the paths were covered in water and deep in mud, stepping on the Tinas at the edge of the path was the only way to make it across the pools of water and mud.  Tinas became our friends!

Walking towards Cradle Mountain

The path then turned to a gradual climb with rock steps and wooden steps which alternated in different sections of the trail.  Eventually we hit the waterfall along the path, nested deep into a very wooded and green area where you could almost not see the sky.  I felt like I was in a tropical forest without being in the tropics.  The sounds of water and nothing else and the smell in the air clearly “screamed” that we were not anywhere near human habitats.

Soon afterwards we saw the edge of Crater Lake.  The lake did not have a blue color as the sky was somewhat overcast but the lake and the hills that surrounded it seemed majestic.  We were in for a nice surprise further along…

Crater Lake

…  As We Reached Marion’s Lookout

Though we had registered at the trailhead as only planning to go to Crater Lake, we had planned to go to the lookout above the lake.  Upon seeing the lake, we knew that was the right plan!  We embarked on the trail that would take us to that lookout –Marion’s Lookout.  Of course, that meant we were climbing even higher, almost to the peak of one of the hills/mountains (which is it??) around the lake.  Eventually, the route became so steep that a chain handrail was required to be able to climb the steps to the lookout.  At the lookout, the effort was rewarded many times over by the view of Cradle Mountain, Crater Lake and neighboring Dove Lake.  It was very cold at the lookout but that did not matter.  We got to soak in the view and snap a few pix, of course, before descending back to the trail.

View from Marion's Lookout (with the author in the way)

View from Marion’s Lookout (with the author in the way)

We decided to return to the trailhead via Dove Lake, not Crater Lake, so we could enjoy another part of the park.  It was pretty easy to alter our route as the trails were very well signed (though the front desk said to not trust the time estimates on the signs; this must be part of Tasmanian psyche as the Hobart tourism brochure carried ads telling visitors “It’ll take longer than you think” and there were similarly-themed billboards along the road!).

Do Not Feed the Animals – They Feed Themselves Quite Alright, Thank You Very Much!

Once we reached the trailhead and the parking area, we went to sign out at the hike registration book (I am glad they ask for this; if someonen gets lost, I suppose someone from the park would know if they see a hike registered in but not registered out).  At the little shelter where the registration book was, we noticed a few pieces of animal excrement and had a good laugh at how wildlife chose to come into the small shelter to take a dump.  Well, we were in for a pleasant surprise when we walked back out and saw a wombat calmly eating grass next to a parking spot just like the one in the picture below (not my pic).   It did not care that humans were around it as it went to town on the grass!  I suppose it first made a stop at the shelter before proceeding to have lunch…


Headed East

After the hike, we were starving so headed back to the lodge for lunch before departing the park and the area to go all the way to Freycinet National Park on the east coast of the island (a 4-hr drive) to check out Wineglass Bay (see map in my prior entry on Tasmania).

The route we took was less scenic and a “faster” route than our way in which was fine with us.  We got to drive through small towns (where I appreciated the fact that all towns seem to have public restrooms in their squares!) and see a little bit of different scenery.  We bypassed Launceston, one of the main cities on the island, and entered the eastern part of the island as nighttime set in (it begins to get dark here around 430PM and before 6PM, you are in total nighttime).  We could not see the beautiful landscape around us, we would see it the next day.

Finding the next lodge (Freycinet Lodge, was not a problem as it was right inside the Freycinet National Park.  This lodge seemed a step more upscale than our prior one (but it was cheaper pricewise).

And Now Time for Us to Feed Ourselves

We were very tired from the hike and looked forward to a nice dinner so after settling in and cleaning up, we headed for dinner.  I had a fantastic pumpkin and rosemary soup and my main dish was a fish called Trevelle.  One of the neat discoveries was this powder called “Bushdust”.  Nothing to do with a U.S. political family, instead it is a mix of nuts and spices that you sprinkle on bread or soup or whatever to spice it up (spice up flavor-wise, that is).

We also made a fantastic discovery:  Milton winery’s Pinot Noir (Tasmanian).  It was quite full-bodied with great flavors and a good finish.  A perfect ending to a great day!


(Pictures taken with Canon EOS Rebel)

Tasmania – Starting Our Visit to a Southern Paradise

Well, I got to Melbourne from Sydney but will delay writing about Melbourne until I have covered more ground here.  Instead, I thought I would share about my very short 3-day visit to Tasmania, a place I only dreamt of ever seeing given how remote it feels to me as a Southeast U.S. resident…  The visit was short but, what a visit!

Getting There

Before telling you about the visit, I first have to comment on how easy one navigates domestic air travel in Australia.  Not sure if that is good (speed, less hassles) or bad (security concerns) but it is certainly different than in the U.S. and parts of Europe.  For domestic travel, you only need to be there 30 mins in advance.  Security lines are short and speedy (TSA, take a field trip to Australia).  Only laptops need be pulled out of bags.  Liquids are OK to carry on.  A breeze!  Of course, feeling sad when saying bye to relatives is just as hard here.  I saw a boy of about 5 with his parents saying goodbye to his grandparents and his uncontrolled sobbing after passing security was truly heart-wrenching…

What to Do in 3 Days in Tasmania?

I posed this question in a forum and on Twitter and I think people thought us insane to attempt to cover much ground in 3 days.  Well, it is true that you can only cover so much in 3 days but we were not expecting to do it all or do any one site to its fullest extent.  No speeding up the laws of physics.  We were told to stick around the southeast corner (or so) near Hobart which was not bad advice at all, but I think we had our heart set on a couple of places.  So what did we aim for?  Covering the island (er, state) like the dew…


Day 1 – Hobart to Cradle Mountain

We took the 7AM flight from Melbourne (one of those sacrifices we had to make…) for the hour-long or so flight over to Hobart.  The flight was smooth as could be (which made me VERY glad we did not take the overnight ferry ride on fairly rough seas…) and getting through the airport and car rental went pretty smoothly and fast.

We decided that we still needed some breakfast and coffee as we expected to have a 4.5 hr drive through the Cradle Mountain National Park to get to the lodge we were going to use as base to see Crater Mountain and the neighboring lakes.  So, before embarking on that long drive, we decided to head into Hobart center to the weekly Saturday market in Salamanca Square.  We had been told it was worth checking out so we got to kill two birds with one stone (does that sound too violent?) and enjoy coffee and a donut while browsing.  The setting was very nice, the produce being sold by the same farmers that grow it, and the arts/crafts section pretty much like any festival in any city I have been to, except some of the arts stuff was more unique to the area.

We began our journey inland following the riverside until eventually we left it and headed to the national park.  The map in this entry may make it seem a straight drive but we went sort of west and then sort of north across a mountain range.  The views were simply amazing; it seemed very lush with eucalyptus and ferns everywhere – and the occasional hydroelectric plant with the huge set of pipes funneling water from up high to the plants for extra push.  The roads got a little windy but not excessively so.  It was definitely a drive we enjoyed.

A Stop in a Queenstown

Around 1:30 PM we stopped at the first town we had seen that seemed to have open businesses (this was on a Saturday afternoon) or, for that matter, that just had businesses!  This town was a mining town called Queenstown.  The neighboring hills/mountains seemed to be iron since the color was a rust color on exposed rock and reddish on rocks that perhaps were more recently exposed.  The town felt like a frontier town though I have never been to a real mining town.  There was no trace of tourists (‘cept us).  We ate at a small eatery (not sure what to call it) – a souvlaki for $6.50AU which was a real bargain compared to any other lunch I have had in Australia!

And Finally to the Lodge!

After another 1.5 hrs of our 4.5 hr trip, we made it to the Cradle Mountain Lodge (not the Chateau) (  This lodge is close to the entrance to the park and had better recommendations than the chateau.  We really enjoyed the feel of the lodge with its “living room” with a humongous fireplace where we sat before and after dinner sipping nice Tasmanian pinot noir.  Our cabin (our type was called Pencil Pine) was very functional and the day bed was really a full bed and quite comfortable.  Our cabin overlooked a pond and had its own local wildlife right there.  At the lodge you could eat at a restaurant or the tavern and we chose the latter.  The food was actually quite good (I had chicken schnitzel) and had the only TV for the guests which helped one disconnect from the world.  We were exhausted after our early start (and after dinner and some wine) so we called it a night so we could have a decent recovery ahead of our hike the following day.  The lodge offers a number of organized activities from hikes and walks, to movies and wine tastings.  Something for everyone and, seemingly, a place to stay for 2-3 days easily while enjoying nature.

Our first day, though tiring, was quite a succesful day and we thoroughly enjoyed the scenic drive we got to do through the heart of Tasmania.  Here is what awaited us the next day…

Planning a Trip to Australia & New Zealand

I find myself with the benefit of extra time where I can make a trip somewhere for 3 or 4 weeks and I have set my sights on Australia and New Zealand.  I have friends in a couple of towns in Australia so it seemed maybe a good time to head down.  Also I have always cringed at trying to visit on 2 week vacation as it is far for me and costly!

The first question is what of all that there is to see should I plan to see and will the amount of time I have be sufficient.

The second question is how that potential list of destinations matches with my friends’ schedules.

Finally, the logistical matters for the solo part of the my trip take center stage for my last question.  For example, I hear NZ is best handled driving but, as I would be there on my own, I don’t feel I want to handle driving.  So I have to figure out what options do I have to get to explore NZ in a different manner.  I am searching through various blogs and websites as well as posting questions on twitter (@ilivetotravel) to see what may be possible.  I am a fan of wines so I have been wondering if tying seeing the country while visiting its wine regions may be a good way to marry both interests.  Are there operators that provide those types of tours and on a short enough itinerary to fit my overall itinerary?

I found a great link that breaks up the two main NZ islands into regions and then provides descriptions of each region with their “must see” attractions.  I am finding it a great way to study where I may want to focus my limited time in NZ.  A week is not enough, I am told, for NZ but my time constraints do not allow much room for more.

In terms of Australia, my visits to Sydney and Melbourne will be the anchor of the trip as I want to see my friends.  However, places like Tasmania and Uluru are high on my list.  I would also love to explore wine country and the Kimberlies and see places like Perth and Darwin.  But there may not be enough time for it all so, in the end, I suspect my final itinerary will depend on what works out best from a scheduling and cost standpoint.

One snag on my plans was that it seems I will not be able to use my Delta/SkyTeam frequent flyer miles to get there.  I had enough accumulated over time for even a first class ticket and I had been saving the miles for this trip.  However, Skyteam does not have many ways to get me down under and the only ways they have (Singapore Airlines and Korean Airlines) do not work for my schedule.  However, I have to say that I found very cheap fares from LA for about $1100 including my travel between NZ and Australia.  By the way, Qantas and Air New Zealand have fantastic features on their websites for planning multi-city itineraries.  Kudos!

I hope my next entry contains more solid details as I am 3 weeks away from my potential departure!

Open to suggestions about what are “must see” destinations or ways to see NZ without driving?

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