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…

tasmania_map

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) (http://www.cradlemountainlodge.com.au/).  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…

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