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.

The Tarkine Drive, Tasmania

The Tarkine Drive, Tasmania

The Tarkine is a hidden treasure and a forgotten wilderness here in Tasmania, and as such, has always intrigued me. It is the greatest expanse of cool temperate rainforest in Australia, and the second largest in the world! 477,000 hectares actually.

Like many people, I immediately thought ‘rainforest’ when thinking about the Tarkine, but as we soon discovered there is so much more to explore!

 

‘A relict from the ancient super-continent, Gondwanaland, the Tarkine contains Australia’s largest tract of temperate rainforest, and is home to more than 60 species of rare, threatened and endangered species. These include such unique animals as the Giant Freshwater Lobster – the world’s largest freshwater crustacean, and the Tasmanian Wedge Tailed Eagle – Australia’s largest Eagle, and the famous Tasmanian Devil. The Tarkine is also one of Australia’s most important Aboriginal regions, and contains a diverse array of landscapes, from giant forests to huge sand-dunes, sweeping beaches, rugged mountains and pristine river systems.’ www.tarkine.org

We set off about 9am and asked for directions in the coffee shop as Chris grabbed his morning brew. They pointed us up the road and around, so we pulled out of Stanley and kept driving until we found a little shop where we pulled over again and asked which way to the ‘Tarkine Drive’. The lady said, ‘just keep going and you’ll see it’. So, we did.

 

We drove until we came across a big sign saying ‘Allendale Gardens’. I had read about and seen pictures of these gardens; 6 Acres of magical landscaped gardens and 65 acres of rainforest that was open to the public and I was really looking forward to have a look through! Sadly, there was a large red sign that seemed to have been at the end of the drive for a while. It read ‘Due to unforeseen circumstances, Gardens will be closed until further notice.’ I know they are owned and run by an elderly couple, Loraine and Max, and I really hope they are OK! But please, if you are planning on doing the Tarkine Drive – check to see if the Gardens are open, visit them and then tell me how they were!

 

We continued driving through the drizzling rain, following the brown and white signs saying ‘Tarkine Drive’ that took us down narrow, windy roads; past heavy machinery bouncing all over the place that were moving and stripping huge trees that had been felled; fields of tall, straight trees and fields of nothing where trees had once stood.

 

 

Trowutta Arch

 

We continued down a dirt road until we ended up in the Trowutta Caves State Reserve at our first stop, ‘The Arch’. It took us 45 minutes to get to The Arch from Stanley, and the walk from the carpark was an easy 15 minutes.

Think faeries and goblins, unicorns’ hooves thudding on the moss covered paths and all things fairytale and you’ve summed up the magical, extraordinary and rare geological feature known as The Trowutta Arch and its accompanying sink holes.

 

We were not expecting what we walked into … and could hardly believe our eyes. The rainforest walk itself was magical, but when you make your way down that final slope and see the almost fluorescent green water appear with next to no warning, it takes your breath away! I’d seen pictures, but not one of them showed what we were seeing.

Think caves with walls that shimmer and sparkle when lit by torch, huge overhanging rocks and a pool of water covered in bright green moss.

Chris climbed up and around and said he saw another sink hole over and beyond … wow. The kids were impressed and so were we.

We read that the arch was created by the collapse of a cave and the creation of two sinkholes either side of it – one dry and one water-filled. This is regarded as one of the best examples of a ‘cenote’ (water-filled sinkhole) in all of Tasmania and is over 2 metres deep.

What a fantastic way to start the day! Excitedly, we all headed back to the car ready for whatever magical destination the Tarkine Drive had in store for us next.

Milkshake Hills

Down some more windy roads, over the Arthur River and up some winding hills we went until we arrived at ‘Milkshake Hills’. Needless to say, the kids were excited about this one!

We drove in past a huge log with what looked like ‘MILKSHAKES FOREST RESERVE’ engraved on it and into a small carpark. It was still drizzling and a bit chilly, so we all put jackets on before embarking on the one hour return walk to the top of the Milkshake Hills.

It is a lovely stroll along boardwalk and through rainforest before opening up into a gravel path that winds its way up the side of the hill to the top where you are greeted by stunning views over buttongrass plains to the forested interior of the Tarkine.

 

We made it to the summit in just under 20 minutes and needless to say, the kids were tired and very disappointed there wasn’t a milkshake stand at the top!

Chris had the Nikon pointed at us and was fiddling with the focus when we all pointed behind him to where a huge Tasmanian Wedgetail Eagle was circling! Magnificent is an understatement. Australia’s largest bird of prey was soaring high on the thermal breeze, barely even flapping his wings. After some  time he landed in a tall tree in the distance. These birds stand over a metre tall, weigh up to 5 kilograms and have a wingspan of up to 2.3 metres! These are an endangered species, so we feel extremely lucky to have seen not one, but two of these majestic creatures in the wild.

 

We walked back down the hill, Chris stopping to pick his jacket up that he’d taken off and left beside the path on the way up.
40 minutes after we’d parked the car, we were back in it and heading on to the next stop.

 

Sinkhole

 

We continued our travels through ‘sinkhole country’ – the Trowutta/Sumac/Black River region. This particular area consists of hundreds of caves, sinkholes and underground drainage systems, and the sinkhole that we pulled up at 35 minutes later forms part of the larger dolomite karst systems of the area.

It was a brief stop – simply pulling over at the side of the road – but it was just lovely. I was the only one who got out of the car and I’m so glad I did! The rain was falling ever so gently onto the water, causing the reflection of the trees to shimmer and dance as the frogs croaked and the water filled sinkhole became the subject of some beautiful memories.

 

Dempster Lookout

 

I jumped back in the car for a very short 12 minutes until we arrived at Dempster Lookout.

It was smiles all round and a few buttongrass fights between the kids while we explored. 🤪 This scenic spot is a short stroll up a boardwalk lined with long stalks of buttongrass, bright yellow flowers and lush green grass.

The viewing platform is perched upon a hill looking over buttongrass plains. These plains were created by Tasmanian Aborigines when they burned back large tracts of forest, making it easier for them to hunt and move through the landscape. There are so many Native Tasmanian animals living in these plains … and so many long stalks of buttongrass. Well, minus a few now that Aylah has antennas!

 

Aylah’s antennas!

Lake Chisolm

 

We left Dempster Lookout at 12:45 and by 1:00 we were parked up and walking to Lake Chisolm; another gorgeous water-filled sinkhole.

This too was an easy walk that took us less than half an hour and led us through a mixed forest of giant eucalypts and rainforest species until we reached the lake; one of the finest examples of a flooded sinkhole in Australia. Serene and enchanting and surrounded by majestic rainforest, the pure, cool waters of Lake Chisolm are home to many creatures including the platypus. Sadly, we didn’t see any Platypus, but Aylah did manage to find a tiny frog!

 

Sumac Lookout

 

In less than 15 minutes we were at our final stop for the day – Sumac Lookout. By now the kids had had enough of walking and were pleasantly surprised to find the lookout was less than a one minute walk from the car.

This brilliant platform is surrounded by rainforest and tall eucalypts and delivers sweeping views of the river and beyond.

I simply stood and soaked up the magnificence of what lay before me before we climbed back into the car to make our way back to Stanley.

 

You see, we actually did the Tarkine Drive a little differently. The next day we left Stanley and set up camp in a gorgeous free camp in Marrawah, which was where we based ourselves to explore another 3 stops on the Tarkine Drive. Arthur River, The Edge of the World and Couta Rocks (and a few smaller places dotted in between).

Arthur River

 

It took about half an hour to get to Arthur River from Marrawah, and what a cute little town this is! The 2 cruise boats were moored on the banks of the river making for that ‘wow moment’ as you wind down the road to the bridge. We explored various campgrounds as it was in our itinerary to spend the following night at a free camp here. There were so many places to camp it was incredible! We ended up changing our minds and spent 2 nights at our epic campsite in Marrawah instead.

Edge of the World

 

Just after the bridge, we took the turnoff to the ‘Edge of the World’. Not many people can say they’ve been to the edge of the world, but we can! And it’s very windy. It’s also wild and beautiful and a must see when visiting Gardiners Point, Arthur River.

This rugged coastline, where the wild roaring forties (strong westerly winds) batter the coast from across the Great Southern Ocean really does make you feel like you are at the edge of the world.

Wind gusts of up to 200km per hour have been recorded here!

Here you can view a plaque where the words of Brian Inder explain it very well:

“I cast my pebble onto the shore of Eternity.
To be washed by the Ocean of time.
It has shape, form, and substance.
It is me.
One day I will be no more.
But my pebble will remain here.
On the shore of eternity.
Mute witness from the aeons.
That today I came and stood
At the edge of the world.”

 

Couta Rocks

 

We all raced back to the car to take to shelter from the wind, and after attempting to settle our hair down, we went on to explore the coastline until we came to the fishing settlement, Couta Rocks.

It is all breathtaking, but Couta Rocks is the place that really stood out to us as ‘wow’ … I’m pretty sure that word slipped from our lips more than once!

Turquoise waters, rocks jutting up out of both the ocean and the sand, smooth shiny shells, secluded and sheltered beaches, baby birds running around (it’s a bird breeding area) and next to no one else around by the waters edge.

There are little shacks dotted around everywhere – some are new, and some seem to have been there since settlement days! Motorbikes, tractors, old cars and 4WD’s fill the yards and driveways which are mostly made of sand.

Everywhere you turn there is something incredible to see. Oh Tassie … if only you had warmer weather! The water looks so inviting, but don’t be fooled! It’s still icy cold.

This was our final stop on the Tarkine Drive, and it was as magical as it was different to the very first stop, ‘The Trowunna Arch’.

We love heading off the beaten track and into places relatively unknown just like this.

The Tasmanian wilderness on the North West Coast is a perfect example of how diverse, beautiful, rugged and virtually untouched Tasmania truly is.

 

 

 

Random snaps from our Tarkine Drive

Highfield House Stanley, Tasmania

Highfield House Stanley, Tasmania

Today is our first full day in the cosy coastal village of Stanley here on the North West Coast of Tasmania. The weather has been typical for a Tassie Summer with rain, strong, gusty winds and cold temperatures broken up with moments of brilliant blue sky and hot sun.

Today has been mostly the cold, windy and rainy type, but that suited us just fine as we spent the majority of the day indoors. We had a late breaky after a sleep in (we didn’t wake until 6am!) and then we jumped in the car to go adventuring.

We wound our way along the streets beneath The Nut and found ourselves climbing towards a spectacular view of the Nut jutting straight up from the water’s edge.

For some miraculous reason the clouds had parted, and we were presented with a view so breathtaking that Chris risked life and limb to capture it – quite literally! He was lining the Nikon up ready to hit the trigger when he let out an almighty groan and spun away from the fence towards me. It was one of the funniest things I’ve ever seen! Of course, I was concerned, but never the less … I couldn’t help but laugh. The look on his face was priceless, and what made things even better was the fact that I was in the middle of taking a panorama shot and Chris was right in it. He’d been shocked by the electric fence and I’d captured the very moment he spun around in agony!

Being the resilient man that Chris is (one who cares nothing about pain), he got over it pretty quickly with a few deep breaths and got some epic shots not just from there, but also from the ruins we stumbled upon just around the corner. The ruins of this 1836 convict barracks provided the exact shot that he was after. And I got the shot I was after – Chris taking the shot!

It turns out that the 73 convicts assigned to help establish Highfield had occupied this building for about 2 years. ‘What was Highfield’ I wondered as I climbed back into the car and we kept driving.

We only had to drive around the bend to discover that Highfield was right there in front of us; a historic manor that sprawled across green pastures with incredible gardens and views across to Stanley, The Nut and Bass Strait and beyond.

We couldn’t drive past as we had promised the kids, we’d find some ‘old buildings’ and they were begging us to look inside. Chris and I really wanted to go through as well, so we pulled into the almost empty gravel car park and started wandering down one of the many paths through the impeccably kept gardens and around to the back of the house.

Aylah turned the brass door knob and pushed the big green and glass door open ever so carefully. This house demands your respect from the moment you enter the grounds.

What we walked into was a long corridor with walls lined with artwork, rooms filled with antique furniture and … and … Charli and I got carried away and turned right and found ourselves in a dining room complete with a table, chairs, china cabinet, piano, marble fireplace and the sounds of a dinner party in progress.

Chris’s voice calling my name dragged me back to the present and we followed it until we found him in the office with a lady from Parks and Wildlife Service. She explained where we were, a little of the history and how to make the most out of our visit. We were given a map with the layout of the property that had all rooms numbered and a little bit of information about them. There is a very reasonable admission price of just $12 adults, $10 concession and $6 for kids, Or if you’re a family like us with 2 adults and 3 kids, just $30.

Highfield House is regarded as the ‘birthplace’ of European settlement in Tasmania’s north-west. From here, the London based Van Dieman’s Land Compan (VDLC) explored and settled the area. Edward Curr, the chief agent of the VDLC, started construction in 1832 and it took about 3 years to complete.

Originally the settlement covered about 350,00 acres but has now reduced down to around five acres.

The Van Diemen’s Land Company had the intention of making a fortune from fine merino wool like others were in Tasmania at the time, but they misjudged the terrain and lost most of their sheep within the first 3 years.

Stud livestock, implements, craftsmen and indentured labourers from England (along with convicts assigned form Hobart) arrived in October 1826.

Over a period of 25 years, their original investment of £600,000 gave them a return of just £34,054.

We were told a little about those who lived there including the Curr family who had no less than 15 children, all who were sent back to England about aged 4 to do their schooling. All except little Juliana who died tragically at just 2 years of age when the family dog who was pulling her along in a little cart raced off to fight another dog and dragged her under a fence causing her to knock her head. Her grave is out in the yard marked with a tomb that is surrounded by honeysuckle and sweet briar in a beautiful alcove.

 

We heard much about Edward Curr and thought he was a grumpy old man, so imagine our surprise when we found out he was just 27 years old!

The house represents an important part of Tasmanian historic heritage, and you are able to walk through and experience what life would have been like back in the early 1800’s.

We agreed that we would all stick together and we headed down to room 2. Room 1 was the Butler’s Pantry that is now reception.

Room 2 is The Gallery where you ‘went to meet the characters who envisioned the enterprise and those who lived, loved and worked in the house and around the estate’.

 

Here we saw the faces of many familiar people including Matthew Flinders and George Bass. They were of course the first Europeans to charter the Bass Strait in 1798 and responsible for mapping and naming many of the geographical landmarks including Circular Head and Cape Grim.

This room also had a marble fireplace, 3 large bay windows overlooking the gardens and various pieces of furniture scattered around.

 

We walked through and into room 3 – The Drawing Room, or ‘The Room of First Impressions’.

‘From the windows the wonderful view belies the wild and almost impossible task that the first settlers faced tackling the impenetrable bush accessed only by sea or hazardous trekking over unchartered mountains and marshy plains.’

The girls immediately claimed this room as it was a room reserved for entertaining guests and where the ladies came after dinner when the men retired to the gallery to enjoy their port and cigars.

 

Here we found more incredible artwork, yet another marble fireplace, another piano, an old black singer sewing machine, a few other bits and pieces including some chairs and a couch that said ‘no bottoms please’ but had obviously had more than a few park themselves on it! It was a little ‘saggy’ in places.

We consulted the map to find that room 4 is The Study, or ‘The Room of Despatches’. Things started getting interesting in this old green room that was filled with books, desks, writings, an intricate hand drawn map of the area and even markings of the children’s heights scribbled onto the wall next to the wooden fireplace.

Room 5, The Dining Room or ‘Room of Conversations’ is where Charli and I were in at the very beginning. The dining table is covered with snippets of conversations that may have been discussed.

Room 6 is The Cellar or ‘Room of Provisions’ and was described by the kids as ‘this could be Minecraft!’ It smelled musty and had low ceilings, wooden beams and a cobblestone floor. There is a huge list of all the provision needed to start a settlement that you can read through.

Room 7 is the Master Bedroom or ‘The Room of Reflection’ and is where all three kids nearly jumped out of their skin when a recording of someone crying started to play from behind some clothing! There is an incredible view across the gardens from the window which can be seen from the wooden 4 poster bed that the kids described as ‘too small for even us to sleep in!’ The ensuite sure made us appreciate the one we have back home!

Room 8 is the Children’s Bedroom or ‘Room of Games and Laughter’ and has a giant game of snakes and ladders that entertained the kids for quite a while. The names of all 15 children are on the wall along with their birth dates.

Room 9 is the Guest Bedroom or ‘The Room with a View’ and boy does it have a view – the window overlooks The Nut!

Room 10 is The Nursery or ‘Room of Changes’ and is my favourite room in the house. The stroller parked in front of the window overlooking the garden is the picture that has been etched into my mind forever.

Room 11 is The China Closet or ‘The Room of Remnants’ and is filled with broken and discarded china.

Room 12 is The Kitchen or ‘The Room of Abundance’ and is set up like a working kitchen; there is even a recipe book sitting on the island bench and butter making equipment along the walls.

Room 13 is The Chapel or ‘The Room of Preaching and Piety’

Numbers 14-19 were buildings like the stable, threshing barn, cart shed, straw barn. Some of these buildings have been set up to host weddings and functions. I’ve seen some wedding images online and they are truly beautiful – dripping with old-time romance.

http://www.michelledupont.com.au/blog/laura-will-highfield-house/

We thoroughly enjoyed our time at Highfield House and are so glad we decided to stop by.

‘Highfield may be made from bricks and mortar, but it means much more than that. Highfoeld represents both the capacity of human endeavour towards both enterprise and disaster.

Curiously the house was built at a time when the Company was on the verge of ruin.

On this most spectacular site at the edge of the world, this is the story of either enterprise or folly. Success or tragedy. You decide!’