The Britz-mobile is certainly a lot more compact than our last campervan but it is handy for negotiating the narrow winding roads in Tasmania. We are making more use of camp kitchens for washing dishes and cooking and will definitely appreciate a soft mattress and inside toilet when we finish this tour! That said, we have already had two nights free camping as we can be self sufficient using the leisure battery for fridge and lights. Tasmania has so many free and low cost campsites that we are spoilt for choice.
We are travelling anti-clockwise this time so it means we will go up the East Coast, across the top and then down the West Coast over the next eight weeks. It is not a huge island so we expect to only be driving between 50 and 100 kms between stops but there is plenty to see and do along the way. First stop was Port Arthur, a place of national and international significance, which gained World Heritage status in 2010. Port Arthur was initially a convict labour station before becoming a punishment station in 1833. We spent two days here and still didn’t see everything. Well worth the entrance fee which included a guided walking tour, a cruise past Point Puer Boys’ Prison and round the Isle of the Dead and access to 30 historic buildings and ruins.
I had read Marcus Clarke’s book, ‘For The Term of His Natural Life’ before visiting and it gave me a much fuller appreciation of the hardships the convicts endured not only getting to the island but their treatment whilst incarcerated. Visiting Port Arthur was a moving and humbling experience and should not be missed if you visit Tasmania.
Son-in-law Ben challenged us to do the Ghost Tour and warned me not to volunteer to hold the lamp as it is truly creepy. When our guide asked for lamp volunteers I didn’t give her any eye contact but still got picked! There were quite a few sceptics in our group and so we didn’t see any ghosts but still got our bravery awards! The sights and stories were interesting and we did just double check that “Amelia” did not hitch a ride home with us lol.
Tasmania is known for its fresh produce and we have already sampled the delights of Kate’s Berry Farm (delicious blueberry ice cream), Spring Bay (mussels), Darlington Vineyard (wine) and Sullivan’s Cove (whisky). Sullivan’s Cove Distillery are the only distillery in the world to have twice won the World’s Best Single Malt Whisky Award. Mike was all geared up to buy a bottle after tasting it only to find out they’d sold out!
The next big highlight for us has been a trip over to Maria Island (pronounced Marayah). The weather could not have been better – sunny blue skies, warm and not a breathe of wind. We hired mountain bikes to get around as no cars are allowed on this World Heritage listed site which also has a significant convict history. My poor thighs – they’d only just recovered from the Mount Wellington descent and were being forced to pedal up quite a few hills in first gear. How I missed my e-bike! Still it was all worthwhile as we covered a lot of the island on our day trip including the Fossil Cliffs, Painted Cliffs and Encampment Cove. We also saw our first wombats in the wild that were not roadkill victims. They are just so cute but they don’t stop grazing for photos!