Tasmania – The Scenic Route

Oyster Bay Swansea Tasmania

Oyster Bay Swansea Tasmania

A main highway in Tasmania is much the same as a main highway in any country. If you want your trip to get interesting, if you want to see bridges with history, beautiful scenery and gaols that housed convicts in the 1800’s, you’ve got to take the scenic route. So that’s what I did.

After a night in Swansea I was sent off by my Bed and Breakfast hosts with an itinerary of places to see. Swansea is not unlike small town New Zealand (where I’m from) with wide streets, weatherboard homes and friendly locals. The walking tour around gives you an insight into whaling and convict history of the area, and highlights the colonial architecture that I didn’t notice at first.

Church in Swansea Tasmania

Church in Swansea Tasmania

A few k’s south of the town, if you have your eyes peeled, you’ll find the Spiky Bridge, built by convicts in the 1840’s. The ‘spikes’ and the ‘built by convicts’ make you want to stop and see what it’s all about. The fact that it’s well built and quite interesting makes you want to stay a while and think about how difficult it would have been to build way back then. Then you’ll wonder about the spikes… Some say it was to keep cows from falling off the edge, some say the convicts did it to get their boss in trouble. You can choose which story to believe.

Spikes on the Spiky Bridge Tasmania

Spikes on the Spiky Bridge Tasmania

Spiky Bridge Tasmania

Spiky Bridge Tasmania

The next stop on the way to Hobart was Richmond, another town with a detailed convict history. Richmond Gaol pre-dates the more famous Port Arthur penal colony by nearly 10 years. It’s quite easy to romanticise convict history in Australia, without really meaning to. It’s not that you’re being disrespectful, but you tend not to think about specifics when you talk about it. A visit to Richmond Gaol will bring you crashing down to earth with a giant thud. The Flogging Yard is stark, the only other outside area for prisoners is barren but for a single almond tree, I suspect grown by accident over design.

Richmond Gaol Tasmania

Richmond Gaol Tasmania

Most rooms are dank and musty and they spark your imagination into visualising what life must have been like here. And then you see the solitary confinement cells. Stepping into one of these incredibly tiny cells that are pitch black with the doors closed for just a minute, gives you an incredible sense of isolation… and convicts could sometimes be locked in them for a month. Richmond Goal is definitely worth a visit just make sure you know it’s not one of those uplifting tourist attractions before you go.

Close the door and this solitary confinement cell is pitch black

Close the door and this solitary confinement cell is pitch black

Richmond has another piece of convict history that isn’t quite so grim. Richmond Bridge is the oldest bridge that’s still in use in Australia. Built by convicts housed in Richmond Goal in the 1820’s, the arched sandstone bridge spanning the Coal River, was heritage listed in 2005. The grounds around the bridge are a great place for a picnic or to stretch your legs before you hit that scenic country road and head to Hobart.

Richmond Bridge Tasmania

Richmond Bridge Tasmania

Tasmania – Wineglass Bay

I had great expectations for Tasmania. Everyone who’s been to or lived there has great things to say about The Apple Isle. Everyone told me I’d love it… and they were right. Everyone said it was beautiful… and they were right. Everyone said the roads were terrible… and they’re obviously not from my hometown.

As I drove out of the Launceston airport, I had some trepidation about what I might encounter ahead, but I needn’t have worried, the multi lane state highway 1 that leads towards Hobart was anything but scary. The distraction here is not narrow roads and crazy drivers, it’s gorgeous scenery that makes you want to stop often and take photos… and when you’re on holiday why not do that?

Even the cows are scenic here

Even the cows are scenic here

Destination One was Freycinet National Park, a great spot for hiking, bird watching, and camping. I’d heard about the famous Wineglass Bay and as it had ‘wine’ in the title, I thought it was a must see place. I was right. This is a park that offers something for every type of tourist. If you want to get really involved and stay for a week, trekking all over the place, you can. If you’re short on time and you just want to see something wonderful, you can do that too.

Oyster Bay

A view of Oyster Bay as you walk to the Wineglass Bay Lookout

The walk from the information centre to the Wineglass Bay lookout is 30-45 minutes, depending on how often you stop to admire the scenery. It is uphill, but it’s not super strenuous, and you can take your time, you don’t need to race to the top… but when you get there, you’ll be glad you made the effort.

A place to rest

A place to rest on the journey to the Wineglass Bay Lookout

Wineglass Bay is beautiful. You see the calmness of the bay and a white sand beach protected by rugged Tasmanian bush. It’s easy to feel a little like you’ve stumbled across a secret and you can’t help but wonder how this place was found at all, all those years ago.

Wineglass Bay

Wineglass Bay

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From here I had a relatively short drive to Swansea to a B&B for the night. It was just on dusk as I was leaving the national park, which is when you need to be particularly vigilant. It’s not the road that’s scary it’s the traffic. That rugged Tasmanian bush houses rugged Tasmanian wildlife, that comes out at dusk. This is when you need your wits about you.

Tasmania lesson number 1: Think about what time you’re driving.

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The Streets of San Telmo

San Telmo

Everything I had read about San Telmo Market in Buenos Aires was positive, but everything I’d read also said it was a great FLEA market, and I associate flea markets with second-hand clothes and bric-a-brac, which meant I nearly didn’t bother going.

San Telmo

It was fortunate I found myself in the area on market day because San Telmo Market is up there with one of the best markets I’ve ever been to, and it’s not full of white elephant knickknacks and old clothes.  Sure, there is a little of that, but by in large you’re presented with a massive range of options, from mate (tea) mugs, to leather goods, to Fileteado style artwork, as well as the general market expectations of jewellery, clothes, performers and all things artsy and bohemian.

San Telmo

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As you meander along the street Defensa, with what feels like every other person in Buenos Aires, there is something else you notice as well.  This market never seems to end… The street just keeps going and going and going.  It’s about 2k’s long and you can easily spend half the day browsing and shopping and calling in at the local bars and restaurants for refreshment and nourishment to keep you going.   And that sounds like a pretty good way to spend a Sunday to me!

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