Hobart and Southeast Tasmania touring notes
February 19, 2008
A whale sighting was the headline event when we stayed at Somerset on Salamanca in Hobart from February 8 to 14, 2008. This “serviced residence” features one and two bedroom suites with small kitchens and laundry facilities. We found it to be very comfortable, practical and well located.
The weekly Saturday Salamanca Market nearby is the best outdoor crafts market we have seen and its crafts, vegetable, fruit and food components are reported on in separate postings. The Tasmanian woodturning and woolen goods crafts were excellently represented.
A whale sighting in the Southern Ocean was the highlight of an excellent day-trip our Australian sheep and cattle-farming friends, Rose and Noel, and I (Linda) took to and around Bruny Island, southeast of Hobart. On our three-hour eco tour around much of the south part of Bruny Island we had just crossed the divide between the Tasman Sea and the Southern Ocean and were on our way straight out to sea to look for albatross in flight, when our excellent Bruny Island Charters guides/boat captains received a report from another boat that a pilot whale and calf had been sited. Coordinates received, our mighty boat The Albatross took off at high speed and lo, after slowing in the designated area, a co-voyager sighted the whale. We saw it surface and submerge repeated, and what a sight it was! At one point the whale’s white cheek made the whale visible underwater near the boat before it surfaced and identified it as a Minke whale. All aboard, including the staff, were thrilled with this sighting because the staff’s last sighting had been more than five weeks earlier and the whales’ return to the area is not expected until April (April, May and June being their normal season off this coast). Fortunately we had a calm day on the seas for our boat tour of fabulous rock formations and extraordinary rock-hugging kelp, for speeding through the gap in a rock monument, for getting close to a blowhole, for looking at the male Tasmanian fur seals that basked at Friar’s Rocks and played in the ocean, and for enjoying birds as they flew by or perched on rocks. We saw white-bellied sea eagles, white-faced herons, shearwaters skimming over the sea, plenty of black-faced cormorants, gannets, a kelp gull on a rock, arctic terns, pied oyster catchers, spur-winged plovers. While stopping to see if a local fisherman was okay we also saw a huge Australian government Hercules fly over and dip its wings at us on its way 22,000 km further to Antarctica . The guides say they rarely sight these supply planes but Hobart/Kingston has an important and gleaming Australian government Antarctica research station and Antarctica ships winter in Hobart.For this highly-recommended Bruny Island Charters’ trip we were all dressed warmly and covered in orange anoraks against the wind and potential spray, but happily the spray never hit us, and the natural ginger tablets they gave us each with a bit of water before we left the dock made for a totally well and happy group of boaters. Often boaters see albatross or dolphins but our time with the whale made us more than happy.
Another day Rose, Noel, Michael and I drove through the lovely Huon Valley and along the peaceful and broad Huon River to the Tahune “AirWalk,” which is a tree-top walk on a sturdy metal structure high above part of the Tahune Forest Reserve floor, southwest of Hobart. To top off our experience we took a long forest floor walk to and over the “swinging bridges” that ford the Picton and Huon Rivers before circling back to the good visitor center. Many forest trees are well-labeled and after the walk the many wood samples in the visitor center make sense. We had a light lunch in the shade and visited the heritage center in Geeveston before driving back to Hobart through the Huon Valley, which still looked terrific but different in the bright afternoon light. The town of Franklin looks like another good stopping point.
In Hobart, the Royal Tasmanian Botanical Gardens is a lovely oasis in a very nice city. The bright dahlias and zinnias in beds near the entryway signaled high summer and the fabulous tuberous begonias hanging or potted in the Conservatory provided a luxurious, softer display of beauty. I thought the water lily pond looked like an outstanding place to paint a watercolor. The Japanese garden was elegant and well-arranged, too. There is plenty of open land and good shade, making this large garden a very welcoming place.
The Tasmanian Museum, near Hobart’s Elizabeth Street pier, holds excellent local, state and natural history exhibits plus a superb Antarctica sector. I wished she had visited it early in our stay, and often.
Battery Point, the oldest part of Hobart, is a lively residential neighborhood filled with many19th century cottages of stone or brick. On Hampden Road at Waterloo Crescent is the excellent Jackman and McRoss bakery where the breads, pastries and coffee are very much worth a stop. Hampden Road is the major small commercial street of the hilltop sector of Battery Point. Arthur Circus has not-to-miss cottages that I selected for a watercolor before I realized that everyone else thinks they are swell for photos and drawings, too.
Written by Linda.