After a couple of days in Hobart it was time to move on to our next destination – the Tasman peninsula. This involved a drive north from the city of just over an hour, but we decided to break the journey with a stop at Bonorong Wildlife Sanctuary. One thing you notice after spending some time in Tasmania is the huge amount of road kill, even by Australian standards. The park at Bonorong helps rescue animals especially those involved in road accidents, like young animals who’s mothers had been hit by a car, sometimes the baby survives in the pouch. It’s a beautiful setting up on a hill just outside of the city, and a great opportunity to see Wombats, Wallabies, Kangaroos and Tasmanian Devils close up, as well as learn about the conservation efforts. We also got to pet a baby Wombat as well as feed a baby Kangaroo.
We arrived on the Tasman peninsula in the evening, and headed for our campsite for the next few days at White beach. The campsite there had one of the better locations of the ones we stayed on, and our pitch was minutes from the beach. We decided to make the most of this by spending the last of the evening sun enjoying a few glasses of wine and some cheese on the beach before enjoying the sunset.
One of the popular activities in the area is to take a boat trip along the coast taking in the huge sea cliffs the area as known for and hopefully spotting some wildlife on the way. On arriving at the booking office we found the tour to be fully booked, but we were first on the reserve list so fingers crossed for when we returned later that day. For the few hours until then we decided to head to the Port Arthur historic site. During much of the nineteenth century Port Arthur was the location of one of Australia’s largest penal colonies, and much of the site remains intact to this day. After a short but informative tour, we set off to explore on our own. On a sunny day such as the one we visited on it was difficult to imagine the areas darker past.
After lunch we made our way back to the start point for the boat trip, and were pleased to find out there had been a few cancellations meaning there would be room for us. Having been warned of potential stormy weather, we wrapped ourselves up and headed down to the boat. After briefly stopping to view the Port Arthur site from the water, we headed for the open sea. Near the mouth of the natural harbour we stopped near a nesting pair of Sea Eagles, we were lucky enough to sea the young sat on the nest as well as one of the adults. We continued along the coast line towards Tasman Island, stopping to view some of the massive sea caves on the way, and even pull the boat inside a few of them. At Tasman Island we stopped nearby a seal colony, it was great to see these animals in the wild and so close up.
Around this point we began to notice the weather was changing, in a very quick and spectacular way. Massive clouds were on the horizon as a weather front rolled in. We knew that it wouldn’t be long before we’d be wet, especially with the boat having little shelter from the elements. Surely enough the storm hit a few minutes later, with large gusts of wind and torrential rain it was a white knuckle ride for the remainder of the trip back to port. We arrived back a bit wet, but it had been worth it for one of the best days of the trip.
After a packed first day on the Tasman peninsula, we decided to take things a little easier the next day. In the morning we returned to the Port Arthur historic site to finish off the visit that we had cut short the previous day. This began with a short (and thankfully less extreme) boat tour in Carnarvon bay where Port Arthur is situated, and continued with some more exploring of the site on foot. It is a really interesting place to visit, it’s possible to enter many of the buildings where you can learn more about some of the convicts that were transported here.
The next day we had a very early start in order to make the two hour journey north to Triabunna where we were to catch the first ferry of the day to Maria island. We were going to camp for the night on the island, which with it being car free involved a bit of work getting all of our camping gear packed so that we could easily carry it on to the ferry and then for the short walk to the campsite once we arrived on the island. There are no provisions on the island as well as no water suitable for drinking unless treated, so we had to go prepared for the next 24 hours. The campground was a 10 minute walk from where the ferry dropped us, located just behind the beach.
We hired some bikes for our first day, and made use of them to cycle along the length of the Northern part of the island to where an isthmus connects it to the Southern part. We stopped here for a break and some lunch on the beach. It was a great ride, along mainly dusty tracks with the odd bit of sand thrown in for good measure. Unfortunately Maisie became a bit too aquainted with the sand on the way back and had a fall. Although shaken up and sore, she was thankfully able to make it the rest of the way back to the campsite.
After dropping the bikes back we went for a quick dip in the sea, returning to the campsite to find it over-run by Wombats and Wallabies! With little threat on the island the animals were so tame, and seemed completely at ease even with so many campers nearby. To make the most of the last of the daylight we decided to continue our wildlife watching by taking a short walk along the cliffs towards the Northern end of the island. There were a huge number of kangeroos and wallabies, as well as more Wombats too, and at that time of day with the sun setting it was a particularly pleasant time for a stroll. On returning to the campsite just as night fell, we were incredibly lucky to see a Tasmanian Devil, something we had not thought we would see in the wild. Maria island has been targeted for a conservation effort in order to increase the numbers of Devils, but they are noted for being timid, so we were really surprised to see one wandering along the edge of our campsite.
After another short walk the following morning it was time to catch the ferry back to the mainland. We had to start planning ahead for the few days we had coming up over Christmas that we were going to be spending on Bruny island just south of Hobart. We still had one more night on the mainland before then, but we wanted to move back a bit nearer to Hobart so that we would be ready to do our Christmas shopping the next day before going to the ferry terminal. We ended up camping in the town of Dover, around an hour south of Hobart, and after putting the tent up we headed out to make the most of the rest of the day. We decided to spend it exploring the Southern most part of Tasmania (and Australia) that is accessible by road, driving to the end of the road at Cockle Creek. It was a beautiful part of the state, and we enjoyed taking a short walk along the deserted beaches there.
The next day we made for Hobart, hitting town at the peak of the Christmas Eve craziness. Thankfully we had ordered most of our Christmas provisions in advance when we had been in town a few days previously, but we had a few other bits pieces to pick up, so it was with relief when we were all done and on the road toward the ferry terminal. We had rented a small cottage for three days over Christmas, so after the short crossing we set about making our way there. The cottage had a lovely location in a small valley in the Northern part of Bruny island, and after such a hectic morning and especially as it was a nice sunny afternoon we decided to spend some time relaxing the the garden.
Later in the afternoon we drove to Adventure Bay for a bit of a walk at sunset. That evening we planned to go Penguin spotting as the isthmus on the island is a popular place to sight them. Unfortunately this did involve a fair bit of waiting around, but thankfully it was worth it when the first penguins started to appear, emerging both from their burrows and returning from sea an hour or so after sunset. It was a great way to spend Christmas Eve, but it had been a long evening and we were excited to get back to the cottage for a few glasses of wine. Unfortunately the journey back proved to be one of the slowest car journeys we’ve ever had – not because of traffic, the roads were deserted from cars, but instead because of wildlife. Since nightfall the island had come alive, and driving along without hitting something was a real challenge at times, and often involved driving at walking pace! A particular prevelant animal during the drive were Eastern Quolls, which seemed to have a tendency to run along at close proximity to the car! Eventually we made it back with no casualties, and by then we’d definitely earned a glass of wine!
Christmas Day was one of the warmest days we experienced in Tasmania, and it seemed like a great excuse to go for a swim. Nebraska beach was only a short drive from our cottage, so we headed there and cooled off in the sea. It now seemed like time to get started with the eating and drinking, refreshed we returned to the cottage to get started. The weather on Boxing Day couldn’t have been a more stark contrast to that of the day before. In fact, it could easily have been Christmas time in the UK. This made for the perfect lazy Boxing Day, although as the weather improved slightly later in the day we took a drive to the far southern end of the island to Cape Bruny Lighthouse.