Gordon River Cruise

Gordon River Cruise

Here’s a short video of our adventure

Cruising the Gordon River on The Spirit of the Wild

The Gordon River Cruise is something everyone needs to experience at least once in their lifetime. It may be right over on the wild West Coast of Tasmania and require making your way along more than a few narrow, winding roads to get there, but it is definitely worth it! We went with my parents and had a fantastic time.

 

We stayed at the BIG4 Strahan Holiday Retreat http://www.strahanholidaypark.com.au/ Chris and I stayed in our Alucab rooftop tent and mum and dad hired a lovely cabin that backed on to a little creek. They even had a back deck to enjoy the view!

I did the cruise 14 years ago on the older red vessel, but this time we were lucky enough to cruise the Gordon River on the brand new ‘The Spirit of the Wild’ … what a great boat!

65 nautical miles or 120 km was our journey in the 33.8m long catamaran that was launched in 2018 and has super quiet diesel and electric engines.

It’s a floating history lesson delivered by a few wonderful characters that light up the TV screens as you navigate the waters.

We departed Strahan at 8:30am and were on the water for 6 hours (including an hour on historical Sarah Island).

The Spirit of the Wild powered out through MacQuarie Harbour to Hells Gates before cruising to the lower reaches of the Gordon River.

We couldn’t keep the smiles off our faces or the wind out of our hair as we passed by trout and salmon farms and the rugged rainforest landscape of the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area. Side note – it was extremely cold and crazy windy, even in January! So make sure you take your winter woollies and a beanie to keep the hair out of your eyes.

They switched off the diesel engines as we slid into and along the river. The silence and peace as we glided those glass-like waters was highlighted by a dramatic drop in the fierce winds we experienced in the harbour. What a contrast!

The tours of Heritage Landing and Sarah Island gave us a strong sense of going back in time.

Heritage Landing is a 30 minute nature walk where we followed a fairly new boardwalk through the temperate rainforest.

There are interpretative sign all along the way filled with information about the flora and fauna.

Sarah Island was a banishment settlement for the worst criminals sent directly from the transport ships in Hobart, those who’d escaped and been recaptured or had committed further crimes while serving a sentence.

It was also a slave labour camp where good quality ships and boats were built on the slips. For a while it was the largest operation of its kind in Australia with over 130 workboats being built and launched sideways on a slipway.

You can still see the large planks of wood under the water near the shore if you have a good pair of polarized sunnies. I couldn’t see anything until I put Chris’s Oakley’s on!

You can read my blog post on Sarah Island here: http://www.aussiedestinationsunknown.com.au/2019/01/31/sarah-island-tasmani

It’s lovely to take some time to stretch your legs, soak up the history and really breathe in the fresh air after the leisurely cruise down the calm waters of the river.

The buffet lunch was delicious, the boat was very new and quite impressive; the scenery was breathtaking and the staff were lovely. We can’t rate this highly enough.

 

 Gordon River Cruises

 

🗺 https://goo.gl/maps/H1ppQPgor9txagdDA
📍24 Esplanade, Strahan TAS 7468
🌐gordonrivercruises.com.au
📱(03) 6471 4300

Girraween National Park

Girraween National Park

Check out our video here

This year for Australia Day long weekend, we headed away from the crowded beaches to our beautiful granite country keen to explore Girraween National Park.

We decided it was time to tick something off the bucket list … and on day one we did just that; we climbed the Pyramid! And wowsers … what a view from the top!

It was so worth the incredible steep (and scary) climb. Just epic! 🤙🏼 I must point out that I (Miriam) was the one terrified of slipping down the rock face as we made our way up. Chris was running up in his runners, and I was stepping very carefully with my hiking shoes on. Oh to have his confidence!
He even scaled a rock on top of the rock … 😯

We also walked through, around and Chris walked on top of the Granite Arch as well 😆 It’s hard to figure out why it has the name it does … lol. It’s a beautiful spot from all angles and boggles our brains as to how the rock just balances on top like that! Come to think of it, there are lots of rocks in precarious positions that we spent ages trying to figure out not only how they got there but how they’ve managed to stay put!

 

It was a scorching hot weekend with temperatures soaring up into the high 30’s, so we made sure we had plenty of water, wore our wide brimmed LSKD hats and headed up the rock early.

We were back at the caravan by midday relaxing and enjoying being immersed in nature in an almost empty camp ground. Something you don’t often come across is a gorgeous campground with plenty of empty sites on Australia Day long weekend!

It was the perfect opportunity for us to get out our epic Knobby Underwear collection and snap a few true blue Aussie shots in honour of their Australia Day design. And while there may have been quite a few empty spots around us, we still drew a bit of attention and ended up meeting some great people who wandered over to see why on earth we had done so much washing! We honestly love these undies – we have so many pairs/sets and still look forward to ‘Knobby Day’ when they show up in our letterbox each month! If you would like your own Knobby subscription, head over to the Knobby website and enter our code ‘yhs34y‘ and you’ll get a discount off your first subscription. 

 You can of course purchase a single pair if you don’t feel the need to cover the entire front of you van with your intimates like we did here!

Ok, so we may have also done a few sneaky Knobby’s shots on top of The Pyramid too. One bonus of getting up early and starting the climb while it was still cool was that we had the top to ourselves for ages! We passed lots of people on our way down … I wonder how it hot must have been for them at the top!

Girraween National Park has been undergoing a severe drought and the campgrounds have been closed for quite sometime. There was no water to the amenities other than toilets and taps. It was such a shame about the showers as they looked fantastic! We usually shower in the van, but I would have used the amenities because they looked so darned lovely 😊

The camping areas usually open for public holidays, long weekends and school holidays operating at half capacity and without showers.

👉🏻 Check out campground status here: https://parks.des.qld.gov.au/park-alerts/16209.html

 

As it’s a national park, fees are quite low. (taken from the above website)

  • $6.55 per person per night, or $26.20 per family per night;
  • $3.60 per person per night for students and accompanying adults on approved educational excursions.

Family rate

A family is 1 or 2 adults and accompanying children under 18 years.
The family rate applies to a maximum of 8 people in total.

Free of charge for children under 5 years.

On day two we went for a wander to The Junction. We did The Junction Circuit at 7am before it got too hot. It was just under 3km and a nice easy walk, most of it was along the very dry river bed. So. Very. Dry.

It made for some great scenery, but oh – how amazing it would be if there was a swimming hole!

It was so awesome to have Kurt and Carly from Lets Get Outta Here join us 😁

Check them out on Insta and Facebook
https://www.facebook.com/Lets-Get-Outta-Here-494857247657662/

https://www.instagram.com/letsgetouttahere_/

 

Let’s sum up our weekend in three words … HOT … WALKING … NATURE 🔥🌿🚶🏻‍♂️🏃‍♀️

We will be waiting for the water to start flowing again and we’ll be back for sure. We’d also like to head back in winter 🥶 ❄️ 😁

 

Map📍
Girraween National Park
Pyramids Rd, Ballandean QLD 4382
https://goo.gl/maps/6mGRgJgvijy

Bakers Beach, Tasmania

Bakers Beach, Tasmania

We’ve just arrived and set up at Bakers Point Camping Area – a National Parks Campground on the North East Coast of Tasmania. Narawntapu National Park is  located west of mouth of the Tamar River, between Port Sorell/Hawley and Greens Beach.

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It’s so peaceful. The tiny waves are lapping gently against the shore, the birds are singing, and the sounds of nature are reminding me of my childhood holidays spent not far from here.

My grandparents had a holiday house at Squeaking Point or ‘Squeaky’ which is just across the water.

I spent many weekends and holidays helping with the garden, being shown by grandad how to hammer nails, learning how to reverse my trike under the water tank and playing in the waters of a beach just like this one. My uncles would jump off the jetty – aaahhh … so many special memories…

We would identify the birds and local wildlife. Nan and grandad had a ‘pet possum’ that lived in the tree out the front, and we would often see a big blue tongue roaming along the fence near the side track. I still remember the ‘hockey one’ bird and it makes me smile on the inside every time I hear it call out when I’m back in Tasmania. Yep, that’s a photograph of me with my grandad. I miss those days – and him – so very much.

We’ve set up and Chris is in his camp chair at the van and I’ve come down to the water. I can see a yacht not far from here that looks just like the one I remember seeing bobbing on the water year ago, although I’m sure it’s not.

The smells and sounds are the same here at Bakers Beach as I can remember from Squeaking Point, and so are the pebbles lining the water’s edge that I’m sitting in right now. They are so flat and just perfect for skimming across the water like my grandad showed me. Although beautiful, they are quite uncomfortable for sitting and lying on!

The sky is grey today, and the tide is out, but it’s still beautiful, and the warm temps mean that there are kayaks and stand ups out and about and a few kids paddling in the shallow water.

I just love this part of Tasmania.

After soaking it all in for a good hour or so, I head back to the van to see what Chris is up to – he’s still sitting there, so I ask if he’d like to go for a walk. He says yes, and after a short while (and visits from kangaroos!) we wander back down to the water.

The clouds have disappeared, and it looks like a different beach!

This time we turn right and make our way over the rocks, past the swimmers and around the point across from Shearwater and Hawley. The sun starts to set, very slowly, and we bask in the twilight that we sadly don’t get up in Queensland.

Although, Chris and I have quite the opposite opinion of daylight savings! I miss it terribly and he despises it and hopes it never returns to his home state. I just love the gentle light and softly coloured sky that lingers on until late into the night that makes this beach walk just beautiful.

I spot a baby shark that has washed up and Chris finds a tee pee someone has constructed from drift wood and immediately sits inside to ‘work on his zen’ .. um what? Haha! The water is crystal clear and is lapping gently as the tide continues to come in.

 

We turn around and make our way back, seeing the smooth round rocks embedded in the sandy banks and stop for a closer look. Seagulls scatter as Chris splashes through the water, and our feet are sinking so far into the sand, making it very hard to stay upright!

We get back to the camp ground with plenty of daylight hours to spare.

The sites are sandy, quite large and fairly private. Some have pretty low hanging trees (that our van couldn’t get under)

Our site is right across from the beach, next to the (drop) toilets, close to the bins and dump Point. We have a path on one side and a space with trees and a table on the other. It’s great! 

Narawntapu National Park (once known as Asbestos Range National Park) extends from the low coastal ranges to the long Bass Strait beaches, and includes an historic farm, a complex of inlets, small islands, headlands, wetlands, dunes and lagoons, all with an amazing variety of plants and animals. 

This camping area has a total of 36 campsites with 15 of them being suitable for campervans, small camper trailers, caravans and motorhomes. 

Inland from the coast you will find an unspoiled part of Tasmania filled with some great bushwalks. 

Narawntapu National Park is one of the best places to see rare Forester kangaroos, Wombats, pademelons and Bennetts wallabies. Apparently even the Tasmanian devil are is commonly seen, but we weren’t that lucky. Next time perhaps!

 CAMP GROUND DETAILS

💰 For non- serviced sites

 

$13 per site for 2 people

Extra adults $5

Kids $2.50

Families $16 (2 adults and 3 kids)

 

 

Facilites:

 

✔️ Drop toilets

✔️ Showers ($2 tokens needed available from the visitor centre)

✔️ Dump Point

✔️ Limited Fresh Water

✔️ Ranger on Site

 

🚫 No Bookings (Bookings are only taken for large school groups).

🚫 No Dogs

🚫 Maximum Stay

🚫 Powered Sites

Springfield Amish Tea Room, Tasmania

Springfield Amish Tea Room, Tasmania

Check out our short video here

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‘Would you like to stop by the Amish Tea Room?’ Mum asked me. The what? 🤔

We were heading along the Tasman highway on our way to the mountain biking Mecca of Blue Derby when we passed the area where the ‘Springfield Tea Room’ was.

This is a real working Amish farm that has a cute little tea room where they serve homemade goodies.

Mum had read about it online and wanted to go. And now so did I! Dad and Chris both seemed keen and so it was decided. We would stop in for some scones on our way home.

After an action-packed day at Blue Derby we punched the address into the GPS and wound our way though the lush green countryside until we reached the little crooked sign on the side of the road that read ‘Tea Room’ and pointed to the right. 

We turned down the little lane and slowly passed white goats and brown cows, a house with gardens filled with flowers, a couple of stables and we soon pulled into into a tiny car park.

We wandered over to the door with the sign on it and slowly pushed it open.

It was quiet – one other couple was just finishing their cups of tea and a lovely older lady with white hair and the clearest eyes I have ever seen was sitting quietly behind a table that was next to the door.

The table was filled with baked goods and as she peered at us from behind, she smiled and welcomed us in. She was wearing a white bonnet, long purple floral dress and an apron.

We took a seat after choosing what we would like off the menu which was written on a chalk board and paying by bank transfer. There is no eftpos here! No lights or light switches either.

The room was light and airy with large skylights in the roof and windows lined with blue and white check curtains.

Unfortunately we hadn’t read enough online and had no idea that they served meals as well! So we had stopped by a cafe in Scottsdale (Rhubaba which was insanely good!) and only had room for something small here at the Tea Room.

The walls are lined with all sorts of craft and the shelves are filled with fabric and clothing and all sorts of homemade produce for sale. It’s just gorgeous!

We could hear her making everything in the kitchen and we started wondering … how long had they been here? Where were they from? How did they make the ice cream that I’d just ordered? How did they keep it cold? How did they keep in contact with the world? How many lived here? Did they meet with other families? Did they get away much?

So instead of coming up with our own imaginary scenarios, we asked questions and shared our stories and listened to hers. It was fascinating! She was blown away when I explained Apple Music to her … and was very interested when I shared about Aussie Destinations Unknown and the whole concept of social media.

They keep in contact with their son on the mainland by snail mail, printed photos and the occasional phone call made on an old turn dial phone.

They have been self sufficient for over 30 years and – well – you’ll just have to go and see for yourself!

While we were there a stunning young lady came in a collected a bonnet (we all guessed it might be for gardening) and when she mentioned it was for gardening, we all smiled and mum knew she had to have one! She has ordered a fabulous black bonnet that will be ready for her to pick up when she returns. It will keep the sun off her face and neck while she’s gardening – and gosh she looks good in it! 😁

I signed us into the visitors book and Mum enjoyed it so much that she’s going to go back with a friend (and to collect her bonnet).

As the others all piled into the car I chose to walk down the driveway to have a closer look at the garden, and visit the goats. She noticed me down there and came down for a bit more of a chat.

I can’t recommend this place enough. It’s not fancy, it’s not lavish but it’s real, it’s homemade and it’s most definitely something you don’t see everyday.

I’d share their website – but they don’t have one. 🤔😁

 

 

Punch this into your GPS and go for an adventure of an entirely different kind!

👉🏼1139 Ten Mile Track, Springfield TAS 7304 

 

Sarah Island Tasmania

Sarah Island Tasmania

We love old stuff! And boy is Tasmania full of it 😁

An isolated penal settlement established in 1821 known today as Sarah Island was a huge hi light of the Gordon River Cruise for us. In fact, when making up our mind as to the cruise being worth both our time (which we were running out of rapidly!) and our money, this was the decider.

You’ll find this little island in the remote reaches of the Macquarie Harbour and if you choose to cruise (😆)- you’ll be able to hop off the boat and explore the island for about an hour like we did.

The cruise itself seems to be suitable for most people, although we found the younger kids from other families were quite bored, some were seasick and others just didn’t like being restricted for so long. There was also a lady with a walking frame who managed quite well, even with the walks on Sarah Island and through the rain forest.

 

Short Video

Longer video (with tour guide talking – very funny!)

Upon seeing how beautiful Macquarie Harbour is, and Sarah Island in particular, it’s hard to imagine that back in the 1820s, this was the scene of unimaginable torture and despair.

After disembarking from our vessel, we were given the choice of a guided tour or to explore the island ourselves … we chose the tour and it was fascinating! We were led along the walking tracks around the island that link each site by a member of The Round Earth Theatre Company. These guys put on a nightly play in Strahan ‘The Ship That Never Was’ which kind of takes up where this tour ends, and it’s the longest-running play in Australia! Needless to say, our guide was pretty good at keeping our attention.

There were 7 puzzles which he shared enthusiastically and left us pondering as he led us around the tiny island.  When at the last stop and all the puzzle pieces fell into place, there was many a ‘aha’ moment as people were calling out the answers.

 

 

At the beginning of 1822, the Macquarie Harbour Penal Station was established, with Sarah Island as its base. This island was intended to strike fear into the hearts of convicts and was where they worked usually in chains, under terrible conditions in the rainforest, felling huge Huon pines for boat building.

James Kelly named Sarah Island after Sarah Birch, the wife of the merchant who had paid for the voyage. Which voyage? The one in about 1815 where he sailed through Hell’s Gates and became the first European to visit Macquarie Harbour.

The island had a few other names as well such as Devils Island, and … um … a few other names that I can’t remember as there was so much information to take in!

This place was a banishment settlement for the worst criminals sent directly from the transport ships in Hobart, those who’d escaped and been recaptured or had committed further crimes while serving a sentence.

Here there was a constant lack of food, not enough space even for these inmates to sleep lying on their backs and as a result constant illness and despair was felt by these 500 men.

They were funneled from all over the Australian colony to this harsh, windswept and barren island. So harsh that execution was considered a mercy and ‘liberty or death’ was a common cry. This was a place filled with blood, brutality, and even cannibalism.

Sarah Island was also the most secure of the penal settlements as any convict who tried to escape not only had to get across the harbour but also had to slash their way through the dense rainforests of the west coast.

There were many escapes (about 160, although very few were successful) including one by James Goodwin who escaped (in a very clever way) and because he knew so much about the uncharted wilderness was promptly employed in the surveyors department!

Alexander Pearce was a prisoner who escaped not once, but twice. His story is fascinating and gruesome. You may have heard of cannibalism on the island – well… this is your man (one of). He escaped along with 11 others who due to extreme hunger drew lots and killed the loser who then became food for the others. This continued until Pearce was the last man standing. He was found with human flesh in his pocket and was tried for murder in Hobart.

At about this time Matthew Brady (now infamous although many (including me) had no idea he was held at Sarah Island) stole a boat and sailed to the Derwent River. Brady was convicted for stealing a basket and some butter, bacon, sugar and rice. During the time he was held he received over 350 lashes for attempts to escape and other crimes.  He eventually managed to escape with a small group of men, and they spent 2 years roaming Tasmania as a bushrangers.

He was known as a bit of a gentleman as he always had lovely manners while robbing his victims and some people even helped him out. There are many stories verifying the fact that he only resorted to violence only in self-defence.

Eventually in 1826 he, along with others, was charged with stealing a musket and bayonet, stealing horses, setting fire to a property and murder. He was hanged on May 4, 1826.

There is a beautiful lookout ‘Brady’s Lookout’ on the West Tamar Highway, Rosevears, that offers sweeping views over the Tamar River and surrounding areas.

 

Sarah Island was a slave labour camp where good quality ships and boats were built on the slips. For a while it was the largest operation of its kind in Australia

with over 130 workboats being built and launched sideways on a slipway. 250 tonne was the largest of the big boats that was launched stern first down a slipway on rollers.

 You can still see the large planks of wood under the water near the shore if you have a good pair of polarized sunnies. I couldn’t see anything until I put Chris’s Oakley’s on!

 

The island was fairly self-sufficient with all of what you’d expect to see in a small town including an open cut quarry where they ground their own wheat.

Wandering the well-defined paths past what remains of the penitentiary, bakehouse and solitary cells, you can’t help but imagine how bad it truly was. And while not much remains in the way of buildings (don’t expect Port Arthur!) it is still hauntingly beautiful. I actually prefer the crumbled bricks and stories of Sarah Island.

The Sarah Island penal settlement was closed in 1833 after the establishment of the penitentiary at Port Arthur.

If you tour the island as part of the Gordon River Cruise, you will have an hour to explore. We couldn’t believe how quickly the time flew by! And yes, we could easily have spent more time there. 

This is one place you MUST see as it gives a chilling insight into the horrors of convict life and is especially unnerving given how incredibly beautiful the surrounding wilderness is.

 

To book your Sarah Island adventure (which is just part of the amazing Gordon River Cruise), head over to https://www.gordonrivercruises.com.au/

 

Return to Williamsford

Return to Williamsford

This is a very special post written by my mum, Karen.

Karen Mace

 

In a blog post about ghost towns of Tasmania, Andy, the blogger, writes two paragraphs about Williamsford. In the first couple of lines he dubs Williamsford ‘an embarrassment, as if it was a mistake best left forgotten…’. I returned to the now non-existent town recently-the first time I had been there since I left in 1961. On and off over the years I thought about going back but it just never happened. One time I mentioned it to my aunt who grew up, married and had her children there. She shook her head and told me not to even consider it, “there’s nothing there Karen. It’s all gone. There’s nothing to go back to.

But we went. It was a spur of the moment thing. We were sitting around the table chatting about our plans and the words just popped out of my mouth “We could walk to Montezuma Falls. I did it once when I was about four.” And that meant going back to Williamsford because that’s where the track to Montezuma begins. So, we went. My husband, my very family-oriented, warm-hearted and history loving daughter, her fiancé and I bumped and bounced over the roughly paved road, an improvement on the dirt road I remember rattling over in the old school bus as a child.

We came to a stop right where the Co-Op used to be, on the corner of the road where our house, well, my grandparent’s house, once stood with a flourishing rhododendron in the front yard and a huge pussy willow tree out back. That pussy willow tree was my haven when I had done something that merited punishment. I was pretty good at shinnying up to where grandma couldn’t reach me. I searched with my eyes and Miriam and I walked around a bit hoping to find some evidence of my life in the once thriving little township but whatever might have been there is now lost in the lovely native bush that has reclaimed pretty much all of where we lived, loved and played.

It was an odd feeling being in a place that had so much meaning for me and not being able to see, hear or touch anything that made it special. Across the road from where we stood was where my cousin and I often played happily in a clay patch, but the clay patch didn’t seem to be there anymore. At the beginning of each week grandma ordered our bread for the week and every couple of days, after school, I walked to the Co-Op to pick it up. I remembered fossicking through the rocks surrounding the petrol pumps hoping to find dropped change but even the rocks had disappeared.

Further down the hill we came across the remnants of the Send-off where grandpa worked for so many years and I remembered grandma telling me I was never to go down there. I pressed her for a reason and in few words, grandma told me that my uncle and a couple of friends wandered down there one day and sat on the bank watching grandpa work, “and the bank caved in and buried them alive,” she said, her hands not missing a beat as she creamed the sugar and butter.

I guess it’s different for someone who just breezes in and breezes out of somewhere like Williamsford. There are so many towns like it in Tasmania and its possible to look at them as old, uninteresting ghost towns with nothing to offer. For me though, it was a journey back in time, a place where memories came to life. I heard the echoes of laughter and shouts of glee and saw flashes of me and others in our homemade billycarts careening down the hill. Whispers of voices I’ll never hear again floated around me as my mind reached back to childhood days. The Williamsford I knew was no longer, but for those of us who lived there it could never be an embarrassment or a mistake that should never have happened because that would trivialise all that it once meant to us.