Hobart is Tasmania’s capital city and it’s located well to the south of Australia’s largest island. Yet it always surprises visitors how much there is to see and do in the 100 km or 60 miles to the south of Hobart. All of it is spectacular country, with rugged mountains, interesting farmland, quaint towns and a richly varied coast. Most of the hinterland to the west is World Heritage wilderness and accessible only to the hardiest walkers, but the eastern fringe is very easy to visit despite twisting roads through rugged country.
There is far too much to mention here, and we soon decided not to revisit the highlights of previous holidays: Bruny Island, Geeveston, the Tahune airwalk, Hastings Caves and the nearby hot spring, and Mt Hartz.
Here is something of what we chose to enjoy during our 2013 time south of Hobart …
Cathedral Rock is an 880 m pointy dolerite peak overshadowed by the bulk of 1270 m Mt Wellington to its immediate north. It overlooks the Huon Valley, the d’Entrecasteaux Channel and Bruny Island, the River Derwent estuary, the rock-strewn North West Bay River and the Montagu Thumbs range. One of our church elders, Barry, invited me to be his walking companion, and we tackled the steep 4 km climb from Neika on a perfect autumn morning. Many find this climb too much, but judge the views for yourself and imagine the sense of achievement!
Further south, the small town of Franklin is located on the beautiful and tranquil Huon River. It was named in honour of Sir John Franklin, the State’s lieutenant governor from 1836 until he was removed for his humanity in 1843: he tried to reform the harshness of Tasmania’s convict system. His wife Lady Jane Franklin was also a pioneering spirit whose work and initiatives are not forgotten in the State.
Franklin dates from the mid-19th century, but has recently become widely known for its Wooden Boat Centre which teaches, promotes and displays a craft that is receiving renewed interest and devotion worldwide. Sadly, we found Centre was closed during the winter months, but what we saw encouraged us to come back some day.
Still further south, almost “at the end of the road”, we visited another recently established and popular tourist drawcard, the Ida Bay Railway. Built in 1919-75 to bring limestone from a quarry to the Deep Hole jetty in Ida Bay, the 2 foot gauge line was closed in 1975 but restored and reopened in 2004 as a tourist venture: it is after all Australia’s most southerly railway.
We took the 7 km rock ‘n rolling train trip through coastal bushland down to Deep Hole and rather than take the train back we then walked the 45 minute track to the Southport Lagoon, a wildlife sanctuary. The friendly train driver came back 2 hours later – just for us. This was advertised as an option, but still – that’s Tassie hospitality for you!
Very special for us Clogwogs was our time at the Channel Heritage Centre & Museum, which had only recently moved to a larger, very suitable new building. The Centre has done excellent work in researching and passing on the history of the coastal communities just south of Hobart. It does so with numerous “bays”, each one dealing with an aspect of the district’s story and community life, which include the aboriginal people, European exploration, fishing, timber-getting, coal mining, carbide manufacture, migration and southern Tasmania’s Black Tuesday in February 1967. The museum’s section on the arrival and contribution of Dutch migrants was of course extra special to us – and also so well done!