We Loved the Historical Anchor Stampers in Lottah, Tasmania

We Loved the Historical Anchor Stampers in Lottah, Tasmania

We found the Anchor Stampers and it was one of the most interesting things we’ve come across on this trip to Tassie! I have lived here for most of my life and had no idea this place even existed. It really is great returning to my home state as a tourist.

The old Anchor Tin Mine was located on the southern footslopes of the Blue Tier and our visit to these rusted tin crushing machines was part of a half day trip to the Pyengana/Lottah region on Tasmania’s East Coast.

Pyengana Dairy

Our afternoon began with lunch at the Pyengana Dairy, a beer at the Pub in The Paddock (where sadly Priscilla 1 and Priscilla 2, the beer-drinking pigs, were hiding away in their little pig-house), a walk to the 90 – metre – high St Columba Falls and a visit to the incredible old Don Mine. It was an action-packed day, that ended with the short walk into the old Anchor Mine to view the old tin stampers.

Pyengana Dairy

Pub in the Paddock

St Columba Falls

Don Mine

We followed the GPS to Lottah where we found – nothing. Chris looked over at me while we were driving along the narrow, windy road surrounded by dense bush and said ‘great, another wild goose chase!’ But we were in the right spot and if you looked around, there was actually plenty to see. If we had more time, we would have included the Halls Falls Walk in the day’s adventures!

Given what we were seeing (which was nothing), you would never have known Lottah was once a bustling mining town and home to 150 miners and their families. The town had everything the residents needed including two hotels, a post office, general store and police station. Although any church goers weren’t catered for as interestingly, there was no church of any denomination. Lottah was once a main thoroughfare for those traveling between St Helens and Scottsdale but now the only way to get there is via a gravel road. This road runs alongside the beautiful Groom River that looks to have some stunning swimming holes – if you can find your way down to them! Lottah no longer has shops, and there remain just a few houses – which is so very different to a time when St Helens was built just to service Lottah and the Anchor Mine.

The Anchor Stampers signs are dotted along the road and not hard to see. Pull into the large, circular car park where you will find the beginning of the short 30 – minute – return walk.

 The track itself is a formed path that takes you gradually downhill with a couple of sections of reinforced dirt steps and past a few remnants of the mining days. You walk past the old dam and along what we think is the dam wall. It’s a bit overgrown in places with prickly plants like thistles and what appeared to be blackberry bushes, so be careful – I nearly tore a hole in my jumpsuit!

As you approach the first viewing platform, the two 10-head heritage stampers from the 1930’s loom up from the forest wall giving you a sense of being transported to another time; a time when there were no trees here, just a clearing with a working tin mine where hundreds of men laboured away, from 1880 until its final closure in 1996.

 Walking further down a little path, you will see that here are two different Stampers – one is the Thompson, brought across from Castlemaine in Victoria, and the other is the Salisbury, manufactured in Launceston (as you can see stamped on the front of each machine).

The stampers are huge and rusty and you can get right up close and even touch them- just mind the spiders!

The informative signs on both viewing platforms give a great explanation of what it used to be like here, and how tin mining has played such a huge part in Tasmania’s history.

As with most of Tasmania’s walks and hikes, be aware of snakes, leeches and ticks. Thankfully we only ended up with one leech on us this time! Our trip to the Don Mine delivered two leeches to Chris and five to me. Eek!

The Anchor Stampers are well worth a visit. I rate this little-known attraction a 5/5 ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

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: https://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

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!’