Tasmania Convoy Adventure September 2017
This 8D7N self-drive convoy adventure was organised by Jetabout Holidays and held from the 21-28 September 2017. To ensure a better trip experience, participants and cars were kept to a manageable amount. In total, we had seven attendees with Cindy Loo (trip guide and facilitator) and myself included. Chasing the Aurora Australis (Southern Lights) was one of the trip objectives. However, nature being what it is, we were rewarded with Milky Way rather than the aurora on the last night of our trip. But along the way, we got to experience a fair bit of the Tasmanian magic amid great company.
Trip convoy self-drive route map
Self-drive trips to Tassie (Australians’ nickname for Tasmania) are characterised by long easy drive among gorgeous natural scenery, cool clean air, quality cuisines from fresh local produces, laid-back friendly Tasmanians. In short, it’s the ideal vacation island for us city-folks. Come, join us on the memorable 1200km road trip as I share some of the trip’s highlights.
We flew to Hobart on Singapore Airlines, with a 2-hours transit at Melbourne Airport. After picking up our rental car from Hertz, we headed for Curringa Farm, our first highlight of the trip.
Curringa Farm is the perfect start to any self-drive road trip. A genuine 750 acre (about the size of Sentosa), award-winning, sheep and cropping farm, it’s an easy 1.2-hour drive from Hobart. The farm offers 9 excellent 4 to 4.5-stars secluded accommodation cottages and pre-booked farm tours to see sheep shearing, working sheepdogs, forest walks and lake views. Curringa Farm was awarded GOLD winner of the 2016 Tasmanian Tourism Awards -Hosted Accommodation section. 3 consecutive years places them in the Tasmanian Tourism HALL OF FAME.
Tim and Jane Parsons, 6th-generation owners of the farm, warming us with a friendly chat on arrival in the farm recently completed function centre cafe, sharing some information about the farm, answering our queries as well as planning our activities for the stay. Despite the red-eye flight the night before, we were all excited to start the farm tour.
The oven-hot scones made by Jane, with fresh whipped cream and home-made strawberry jam are truly memorable. I am sure if she starts a scones cafe, it will be a definite success.
Enjoying farm ambience among 3000 sheep in the cool spring air is a certainly one of life’s more memorable moments.
The farm’s sheepdogs Billy (left) and Sandy (right) playing among themselves at the fields. Sandy is Billy’s mom, by the way.
Jock Parsons, Tim’s son, offering some hay to a Highland Cow, which was a recent addition to the farm. Highland Cattle are not native to Australia but imported from Scotland in the mid-19th century. They thrive in Tasmania’s changeable climate but love the cold winters with their thick coat and in the summer they shed a lot of their outer coat to enjoy hot summer days as well. The cows are grown for their meat which is regarded as the highest quality as it is lower in cholesterol than other varieties of beef.
Tim showing us the newly bloomed Acacias flowers. Indigenous Australians have traditionally harvested the seeds of some species, to be grounded into flour and eaten as a paste or baked into a cake. The seeds contain as much as 25% more protein than common cereals and they store well for long periods due to the hard seed coats. Acacia is also the nation’s largest genus of flowering plants with almost 1,000 species found. (Wikipedia)
Tim posing for me during the sheep shearing session. It’s back-breaking work to shear one, let alone thousands. It takes about 11 months before each sheep is ready to be shorn. Wool from a single sheep is called a fleece while a group is called a clip. We also got to carry a baby lamp after the session, which certainly endeared everyone to the fluffy animal.
After an eventful afternoon, we settled down to a lovely dinner of BBQ beef, lamb, salad and home-baked apple pie washed down with red wine and home-made lemonade. Certainly a day well-spent and perfect conclusion to the trip first day.
Mount Field National Park
Our day 2 saw us check out of Curringa Farm for Mount Field National Park, one of Australia earliest nature reserves. The park has a wide variety of scenic features and wildlife and offers a great range of facilities for day visitors. Few other national parks in Australia offer such a diversity in vegetation, ranging from tall swamp gum forests and gigantic tree ferns at the base of the mountain, through rainforest along the Lake Dobson Road, to alpine vegetation at the higher elevations.
The tall tree ferns are definitely an amazing sight to behold. Plant lovers in the know will revel at the sight of this gorgeous plant, which is an ancient species, dating back to the time of the dinosaurs.
The tall swamp gum trees are about 100m tall. They are some of the tallest in trees in the world, second only to giant coast redwood in the Redwood National Park in California that stands at 115m.
At the imposing multi-tiered Russell Falls, just about 15min of easy walking on flat terrain from the park entrance.
Bonorong Wildlife Sanctuary
Bonorong is a sanctuary for wildlife run by a team of passionate like-minded people. It is a social enterprise and operates Tasmania’s only 24-hour wildlife rescue service. This innovative program provides safety and care to thousands of animals annually. They also established the island’s first seabird rehabilitation and currently is working towards the creation of Tassie’s first fully dedicated wildlife veterinary clinic to extend care to the hundreds of animals they rescued each year.
Our guide Paul can be seen cradling Maria, a rescued Wombat orphaned-at-birth off Maria Island. She is being rehabilitated and will be returned to the island when she reaches 2 years old.
An icon of Tassie wildlife, the Tasmanian Devil. A cute but feisty carnivorous marsupial. Once native to mainland Australia, it’s now found in the wild only on Tasmania and the tiny east-coast Maria Island where there is a conservation project with disease-free animals.
An Echidna (pronounced ed kid na), sometimes known as spiny anteaters.Together with the platypus, are the only surviving mammals that lay eggs.The diet of some species consists of ants and termites, but they are not closely related to the true anteaters of the Americas. Echidnas live in Australia and New Guinea. This rescued Echidna at the sanctuary was limping as it was missing a front right foot. It might not survive that well in the wild.
Wild kangaroos will hop away whenever they see human beings. So this is an ideal place if you want to get up close without having to chase them. Entry fee to the park comes with a packet of Kangaroo food and scheduled daily tours.
The Richmond Bridge is a heritage listed arch bridge located on the B31 (“Convict Trail”) in Richmond. It is the oldest stone span bridge in Australia. The foundation stone for the Richmond Bridge was laid on 11 December 1823 and construction continued using convict labour till its completion in 1825.
To most visitors unaware of its history, it’s the beautiful calming beauty of the vicinity that charms. Resident wildlife like ducks and swans “mingle” with the park visitors while cosy boutique cafes offer great confectioneries.
We had an impromptu high-tea by the bridge with the delicious Curringa Farm scones leftover from breakfast. The resident ducks from the river gathered around us anticipating a yummy treat.
The cosy ambience and cool spring air make for a memorable moment on the trip.
Some of the resident ducks that came to the picnic, eager for our scones.
TAS Live Abalone
Our next stop at TAS Live Abalone certainly makes abalone lovers excited. Conveniently located with only a 10-minute drive from Hobart International Airport, it’s the sole Australian abalone sales company comparable to Japan in the manufacture of high-quality dry abalone technology. All abalones sold here all harvested from the wild
Mark Daft, director of TAS Live, showing us a couple of live wild-caught abalones.
Abalones being prepared for our paid-tasting session. The garlic butter aroma certainly whets our appetite.
Tasmania live wild abalones thrive in clean and nutrient-rich Southern Ocean. At present, Tasmania supplies 25% of the world abalone trade. With a very well established fisheries management system for the protection of high-quality seafood production, only Tasmania can provide high quality fresh harvested wild abalones.
Everyone enjoying the pieces of delicious gold from the sea, pan-fried in garlic butter or just sashimi style.
We were greeted by clouds during our sunset viewing at Mount Wellington, the last stop for the day 2. At 1271m, Mt. Wellington temperature at the peak is some 12’C lower than the sea level temp of Hobart, which was 14°C, so our winter jackets came in handy.
Willie Smith’s Apple Shed
A large rustic barn surrounded by green pastures and old wooden outbuildings, Willie Smith’s Apple Shed is the home of Willie Smith’s Cider. It’s a place to learn about the history of the Huon Valley and it’s apple industry while enjoying food prepared from local and regional, seasonal and sustainable produces.
En route to Tahune AirWalk, we had a rest stop here, a popular cosy restaurant serving great meals with apple cider beverages as it’s key offering, being the apple cultivation heartland in Tassie.
Apples, apples everywhere, you are in Huon Valley – the apple heartland of Tassie. 83% of Australian apples are grown here.
The restaurant’s signature organic apple cider shots. Alcohol content is between 4-7%, so do not over drink as there’s still a long drive ahead.
My roast beef on rib was cooked to perfection with superb mashed potatoes and salad. A gorgeous meal indeed.
Tahune Adventures Tasmania is one of southern Tasmania’s must-see attractions. It’s a scenic 90-minute drive south of Hobart. Visitors can walk high above the forest canopy and observe lives of the forest giants from up-close, looking down to the place where the wild waters of the Huon and Picton Rivers mingle. The 600-metre walkway ends at a spectacular cantilevered platform 50 metres above the riverbank, with views extending to the mountains of the World Heritage Area.
The AirWalk averages heights between 20-30metres above the forest floor, with the very last section, the cantilever, sitting at a height of 50 metres above the river and is where you will get the best views. Basic fitness is required to complete the total length of the AirWalk (619metres).
A “Wishing Tree” instead of a wishing well. You do your best to land your coins on the cut tree stem. I got my coin landed on 1st try, the trick was to impart a spin as you throw, to minimise bounce effect which occurs you just throw the coin straight. That way, the spinning inertia absorb the kinetic energy of the landing coin.
The Huon River is a perennial river located in the south-west and south-east regions of Tasmania, Australia. At 174 kilometres long, it is the fifth-longest in the state, with its course flowing east through the fertile Huon Valley and emptying into the D’Entrecasteaux Channel, before flowing into the Tasman Sea.
One by one on the suspension bridge on the home leg, certainly not for those with Gephyrophobia – fear of crossing bridges or tunnels, driving over a bridge or even seeing one from afar.
Kate’s Berry Farm
Kate’s Berry Farm is always one of my favourite stops when in Swansea, Tasmania’s stunning East Coast. Kate’s popular cosy Just Desserts Café, with its mouth-watering menu, overlooks rows of berries to beautiful views across Great Oyster Bay to the world renowned Freycinet National Park. The farm offers a unique range of mouth-watering quality produce and products that highlight what Tasmania is renown for.
The beds of African Daisies in full bloom. Always a macro and landscape photographer’s heaven.
Seated al fresco at the cafe, you can enjoy lovely tranquil view right in front of you.
Besides the many flavours of farm-made jams available for tasting, the wide range of local produces are perfect to buy home or for gifts.
The cafe’s signature lavender flavoured ice cream. A must-try item, not too sweet so it’s great for weight watchers.
Freycinet Marine Farm
Laid-back ambience with sheltered and al fresco seating. It’s a self-service eatery and diners are kindly requested to clear their dishes in assigned recycling marked bins.
Open kitchen concept. The menu is seafood-based with Australian wines to pair with.
Freshly shucked Pacific Oysters, the eatery signature item. Opened fresh, on a plate with lemon – AUD$20 per dozen.
For those not keen in oysters, there’s also great abalone, shrimps, scallops and salmon too. Rock Lobsters are seasonally available from Dec-May.
Freycinet National Park
Freycinet National Park is famed for its dramatic pink granite peaks, secluded bays, white sandy beaches and abundant birdlife. Situated on Tasmania’s beautiful East Coast, the park occupies most of the Freycinet Peninsula and looks out to the Tasman Sea from the eastern side and back towards the Tasmanian coastline from the west. But for most on a self-drive with limited time, it’s the trek up the peak to view the beautiful Wineglass Bay that’s a highlight.
Gorgeous view at the end of trek to the peak. The rock mound at the right of the picture is a popular photo-spot, where visitors stand on top for an edgy “trophy shot”.
Amazing seascape view of Carp Bay, just 5 drive from the park trekking site.
Ashgrove Cheese Farm
Day 5 saw our 1st stop at Ashgrove Cheese Farm, where many will love the cheese samples tasting and a wide range of dairy products to buy.The award-winning farm is famed for its creamy farm ice-cream, fresh bottled milk, cheese, cream and butter. You can also sneak a peek through the viewing window, where you will get a behind the scenes look at how we make our cheese using traditional techniques with modern methods.
Colourfully painted cows at the farm shop compound. Family with kids will love the picture opportunities at the shop facade.
Rolls and rolls of cheese being cured. Superb dairy products available at this nice shop for purchase.
Several flavours for free sampling. There’s even a wasabi version. The shop sells compact-sized cooling bag to store purchased dairy products, ideal when taking a flight home.
Shelves and shelves of in-house produced cheese for purchase, what would you like to buy?
Children are not forgotten at the shop. A play and doodling corner for kids while parents shop.
Table Cape Tulip Farm
Table Cape is an extinct volcanic vent dominating the coastline close to the town of Wynyard. Its 180m cliffs drop away into the Bass Strait and Table Cape Tulip Farm is perched on the top. Come late September through to mid-October, the farm burst with a myriad of colours for just 1 month. It is a magnet for photographers who have the opportunity to take fantastic shots utilising backdrops of the Bass Strait, the lighthouse and the surrounding rich farmlands to showcase the vista of colourful blooming fields.
Early blooming tulips at the farm. I used a long lens to compress the view, giving the impression of plentiful flower buds.
The prolonged cold weather delayed the blooming of the tulips. Just a few rolls of early bloomers (see the right side of picture) greeted us. Being optimists, we make the best use of what was there.
What was available during our visit, we make the best there is as it is still quite a lovely scene.
The tulip farm also has an art gallery visitors can enjoy and purchase while a cafe offers great coffee with confectioneries.
Cradle Mountain-Lake St.Clair National Park.
After the tulip farm, we drove about 120km to our last stop of the day at the beautiful Cradle Mt – Lake St. Clair National Park, itself a part of the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area. The jagged contours of Cradle Mountain epitomise the feel of a wild landscape, while ancient rainforest and alpine heathlands, buttongrass and stands of colourful deciduous beech provide a range of environments to explore. The area is must-visit natural areas in Tasmania.
We arrived at Cradle Mountain National Park in the afternoon with slight frosty drizzle and gusty wind. In fact so cold, one might be tempted to stay in the car. It is still a lovely experience.
The Dove Lake segment of the easy walking trails. This spot is “designated” as one the best angles representing the park. There is even an L-bracket set up where you can simply place your smartphone or camera for the perfect framing.
At the popular Boat Shed, the often-photographed spot was built in 1940 by the first Ranger at Cradle Mountain, Lionell Connell. The shed was built largely of King Billy pine. Although some restoration work was completed in 1983, the shed remains substantially unaltered from its original form. Although the boatshed is now vacant, boating was popular on the lake up until the 1960s.
We woke up to a “Christmas” morning on day 6. The overnight snowfall was lovely..blanketing the lodge where we stayed white with frost.
Some trekkers at the park Valley Boardwalk near Ronny Creek during the early morning. By noon, most of the frost would have melted.
One of my fave angle at Ronny Creek, with a cluster of Pandani plants. Found only in Tasmania, the pandani is the largest heath plant in the world. The long, sharp-edged leaves are retained on the trunk to provide insulation. The water that collects in the axils of pandani leaves provides a special habitat for some distinctive invertebrates.
Spotted a wild wallaby at our lodge just as we were about to check out of our nature lodge. It seemed to be wishing us farewell. Or more like expecting us to feed him?
Sheffield – Town of Murals
Before our lunch stop, we took a short break at Sheffield, a nice quaint town of murals. Sheffield, in the foothills of Mount Roland, is a friendly rural town where history and art merge to create an entire town of murals. Once a centre for industry, the town has reinvented itself as an arts community. The famous Sheffield murals trace the history of the area and feature Cradle Mountain pioneer Gustav Weindorfer, Tasmanian Tigers, and pictorial representations of characters and stories of the past.
The town most recognisable mural. The first town mural was painted in Sheffield in December 1986. Since then over 60 murals depicting the area’s rich history and beautiful natural scenery have been painted on walls throughout the town and buildings along the roadside. The murals attract an estimated 200,000 people to the town annually.
With more than 140 murals, Sheffield is Tasmania’s own outdoor art gallery.
Many interesting quaint old shops and boutique cafes line the street at Sheffield, together with modern amenities. Can also stock up on groceries here too.
A street scene in Sheffield. Beautiful scenic and open vista make this town a photogenic town.
Christmas Hill Raspberry Farm
The Christmas Hill Raspberry Farm Cafe has to be one of the prettiest cafes in Tassie. A constant stream of diners throngs the cafe for its signature scones with raspberry sauce, raspberry smoothies and a good menu. Locals come here for function or pre-wedding pictures too.
My Slow Roast Pork Belly lunch… yummy !!! Served with pearl barley risotto, braised winter veg and Quince (AUD32).
Baked biscuit for the mushroom-bacon soup. In fact, just a bowl of the soup with this is good enough as a meal.
An Alpaca (one of two) at the cafe farm ground. It’s a domesticated species of South American camelid. It resembles a small llama in appearance. They can be seen as we stroll among the cafe huge garden with a lake.
The farm lovely lake vegetation makes for some good photo opportunities.
Wood ducks feeding at the farm lake. The farm ground is like an entire eco-system with loads of wildlife and plants.
Launceston Cataract Gorge
From Christmas Hill Raspberry Farm cafe, it was a 36min drive (56.2km) to Launceston Cataract Gorge. The town’s piece of wilderness jewel just 15 minutes walk from the city centre. A relaxing place for walking and hiking trails, the world’s longest single span chairlift, swimming pool, restaurant, kiosk, cafe, peacocks and wildlife, beautiful gardens, suspension bridge, and panoramic lookouts with spectacular views.
A section the South Esk River shot from the suspension bridge. Its the longest major perennial river in Tasmania at 252km.
The suspension bridge at the reserve First Basin.
The First Basin, the hub of activities at the reserve.
The scenic chairlift, perfect for a vantage view of the park or when just tired of walking.
The locals certainly know how to chill out. With great view included too.
Tasmanian Gourmet Sauce Company
Just as we had a great start with Curringa Farm, this memorable visit to Tasmanian Gourmet Sauce Company marked the end of the trip before we depart the following day. The activities at the venue are something that city dwellers like us from Singapore will not get to experience. We get to ‘work for our own dinner” by collecting fresh eggs laid by free-range chickens in the pen, experience a few farming tasks, picking garden fresh vegetables and flowers for our dinner salad.
A lovely video of the visit made by the trip guide, Cindy Loo. Capturing the flavour of the visit.
We got to experience a food preparation and farming session conducted by the company warm and friendly owner, Tim Barbour. The picture shows him showing us some bacon crisps that he had personally prepared for the salad dishes that we will be having at the end of the session.
Tim with one of his free-range chickens. “It’s ok to get your hands dirty”, he said. Certainly an apt advice for us city-folks.
Melanie getting the priceless experience of collecting fresh eggs laid by the garden free-range chickens in the pen. We even joked that the owner bought the eggs from the supermart and placed in the pen. But we learned that his chickens lay about a dozen eggs daily. We collected 11 eggs during that session.
We got to perform some farming tasks and getting some knowledge of the earth, all in the cool evening air. Certainly a dinner with meaning and memories.
Think we made Tim happy with our performance so far. Here we were learning the basic of seed cultivation. Tim said, “I can never imagine not planting anything”.
Freshly harvested radishes for our salad later. Can’t get any fresher than this.
Our gorgeous salad all ready for dinner. Definitely looks sumptuous!
I believe this to the most memorable and meaningful dinner for the entire trip. Many of us even had 2nd and 3rd helping.
A group shot to celebrate the completion of our joint effort before we tuck in.
Stars Trails and Milky Way @ Tasmania Gourmet Sauce Company
The trip objective of observing the Aurora Australis was not answered by nature. In fact, the skies were inclement for the most part of the trip. It was either cloudy or drizzling. So when we had good clear skies on the last night and just needed a short stroll from our dinner tables to the stargazing spot in Tim’s lovely garden, it was somewhat a relief as we managed to let the trip participants experience photographing the amazing starry skies of the southern hemisphere.
The Milky Way above Tim’s residence. Simply beautiful moment indeed.
Did a star trails picture. The stars were so dense that just 16 frames of the scene were sufficient to produce this effect.
Another star trails picture in the Southern Cross direction. Simply adore the low light-pollution of Tasmania, a astrophotographers’ heaven.
We had a wonderful self-drive adventure in Tasmania. What better way to mark the occasion with a jump shot before making our way to Launceston airport. For other trip reviews, please feel free check out my travelogues to various countries here. I like to conclude this article by sharing a thought-provoking signage I spotted on a campervan during the trip – “Wanderlust before Dementia”. I definitely agree with it. Do you? Many sincere thanks for coming along my pixels journey. Should any readers be keen to participate in similar self-drive convoy trip in the future, please feel free to drop me a message.
Footnote: All pictures used in this travelogue are copyrighted to Jensen Chua Photography and Jetabout Holidays and all rights reserved. The opinion expressed is factual, objective and that of the author.