Here comes PART 3: Through Queenstown to Maydena and into Hobart
DAY 7 (Tuesday 18th January)
Today was to be one of our biggest driving days. It started with brekky in our room and we were on the way just after 8.30am, to fill up with petrol, almost next door, in Reid St/Lyell Highway. In Queenstown, Claire directed us up Hunter St and eventually Latrobe St to the parking bay for the Spion Kop Lookout. We weren’t aware that it was such a steep walk! Luckily it was short – and most definitely worth it once you got there for 360 degree views over Queenstown, including the famous gravel footy oval, just below. There is a railing to hang onto coming down and shoe grips in the steepest bit.
Back in the main street we found the scrapbook shop I had researched – but not open until 1pm! Just leaving town we saw a young cyclist we’d met on the Gordon River Cruise – the only person we’d struck up a conversation with, and here he was the next day! We were to pass him twice more on our travels - greeting him with tooting and much arm waving! (Hope he eventually made it safely to Hobart!)
Although Queenstown is still surrounded by a scarred and desolate mining ravaged landscape, we all felt that it looked a little less ‘moonscape’ from that we’d remembered 12-28 years ago! The drive out to the east was still stark and surreal. Just out of town we found a road crew playing cricket on the side of the road! It seems council workers are the same all over! (I’m sure they were waiting for a bitumen truck or something …. my family is involved in local government and not encouraging of bagging out the usually hard working staff!)
We were searching for the Linda Valley Café and nearly collapsed when what we thought was it, and looked like a quaint old building ahead turned out to be the derelict and vandalised remains of the Royal Hotel – one of many once in the Linda Valley. Just next to it, tho, is the café. Here we had probably the best coffee and home made cookie – and a chat to the Kiwi owner/chef in an eclectic rustic setting. This little gem is hard to see and has to be accessed by a road over a little bridge just before the derelict building. We wished we’d timed it for a lunch stop as his food looked interesting – as was our conversation about the politics of tassie tourism/hospitality. He was a passionate small operator/‘refugee’ from Strahan! Enough said! Mobile home travellers can stay in the rough grounds out the back, so long as they eat in the café at least once each day! Do not expect classy surrounds – chairs didn’t match etc…. but the mugs of coffee were great!
From Linda Valley it was a pleasant drive past lakes and rivers to Nelson Falls. This easy 20 min return walk is absolutely worth doing for a close up view of a very pretty and quite impressive water fall (We were there after lots of rain!) We decided to skip the walk to Donaghey’s lookout and next stopped at The Franklin River Nature Trail (sign posted as ‘Picnic Area’) Again, an easy walk, mostly alongside the Franklin River, of about 20 mins. Along the way we were thrilled to see an echidna burrowing in the undergrowth. Next stop was the Hungry Wombat Café in Derwent Bridge, for wedges and cakes and reasonable coffee for lunch. We drove down to Lake St Clair and ate picnic style at the boat ramp. It was hard to find a spot to view the Lake and we were amazed at the number of cars in the car park of the visitors centre – perhaps while their occupants walked the overland track? Just up the road (Lyell Highway) was the Wall in the Wilderness, a unique gallery, testament to the sculpture and wood carving skills of Greg Duncan. His 3D wood sculptures of things like gloves, hat or coat were truly amazing as was the Wall itself, a relief sculpture which told the tale of the history of the timber cutting and settlement of the area. It cost us $8.50 each – and we bought a copy of his book for $22 as no photos are allowed.
We proceeded on, occasionally stuck behind slow traffic on this single lane highway, with no overtaking lanes. It’s a shame that road etiquette lessons are not part of the hire requirements for motor homes! It was well worth taking the brief detour into Tarraleah to see the brightly coloured ex workers cottages for holiday rental and especially the awesome view of the hydro scheme pipes from the lookout, just before the road heads to the right again.
The next section was probably the most tedious, through Ouse until the Ellendale turn off and the road through Fentonbury and Westerway to the Gordon River Rd. We saw the turn off to Mt Field National Park, but decided to save that til the next day, and drove straight to Giants Table & Cottages at Maydena. Our ‘Gidleigh’ cottage turned out to be huge and cosily rustic with 4 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms and a great verandah out the back …overlooking the platypus ponds. It could sleep 8 so we 3 had plenty of room. We booked in for dinner, knowing there weren’t too many other options in Maydena and took the 10 minute drive further down Junee Rd beyond the cottages, which is narrow and all dirt, to where the road comes to an end at the Junee Caves car park. A footpath leads over a wooden bridge and up an access road to the walking track. The 10-15 min walk in, is lovely and the stream erupting from underground at the cave mouth had beautiful, cold, pure water, perfect for drinking – but the reach down to fill your water bottle was quite a stretch!
Back home for drinks and nibbles in the peaceful, relaxing atmosphere of our verandah before getting changed for dinner. What a luxury to have a 1 min walk to dinner in the dining room! We opted for the 2 course fixed price dinner at $40 each, and all started with the leek and mushroom crepe. This was beautiful and nicely served in its own ramekin, and almost a meal in itself! I then had a lamb shank in parsley sauce; K & k had steak and mushroom in pepper sauce. All nicely presented if similarly garnished with lots of parsley and paprika. They came with a separate generous serving of vegies all beautifully (albeit OVER) cooked with various flavourings. They advertised ‘home-cooked’ meals, but do have a chef. The standard was better than we expected and well worth the cost in quality, quantity and convenience. You could add a dessert for $5 more – but no chance we could have eaten any more! Wine also was well priced.
A walk around the ponds after dinner, just on dusk (love these late sunsets!) searching for platypus sadly found no more than water fowl and mosquitoes, but was an extremely pleasant end to the day, before finishing with Baileys, chocolate and diary/photo updates. Didn’t even get around to turning the television on! There was one ‘tho, and a cosy sitting room around a log fire, which we though of lighting. The cottage next door obviously had done so, with smoke coming out their chimney.
DAY 8 (Wednesday 19th January)
Early morning cuppa in bed and then a walk around the ponds where this time, we saw lots of platypus, on top then duck diving. We then enjoyed brekky, with supplies included, on the verandah still watching the platypus. We were packed up and on the road soon after 9am headed for The Styx!
The whole package of the cottage, dinner and topped off by platypus watching, made Giant’s Cottages a highlight of our trip – and for one of us, at least, our favourite accommodation. It is far from a classy hotel – more like staying at your grandmother’s house! …but really captured that part of Tasmania well!
A tricky right hand turn off Gordon River Rd and onto Florentine Rd takes you back under an underpass and along 15km of dirt to Big Tree Reserve, where we enjoyed a walk to the Big Tree and then the Bigger Tree! Cleverly constructed wooden lay back seats allow you to photograph the tops of these 86 or 87m swamp gums, around 400years old. We marvelled that these giants were there before the convicts; even before Captain Cook.
We then walked the 10 min track down to the river where we found a family group had set up tents right across the track!?! The river was lovely and the surrounding bush beautiful. We had a quick chat with a forestry Tas man, refraining from dobbing in the track-campers, before heading further on in search of the Tolkein Walk. Numerous 3 point turns later, we decided to give up! We found the suggested car park area, but as there were no signs, we didn’t fancy setting off on an unmarked path. We reluctantly admitted defeat and returned to the Big Tree Reserve, where the forestry man seemed to know about as much as us about it, and headed for Maydena. A quick look at The Hub, decided us to skip the Railrider and head straight to Mt Field National Park. We queued for the toilet and then food at the visitors centre, but got a bargain morning tea of coffee, ginger beer and scones. The coffee was surprisingly good for a tourist place. Refreshed we set off on an easy walk to the spectacular Russel Falls. From there we took the extremely steep path to the top of the falls and then on to Horseshoe Falls. These were also lovely, but on a much smaller scale. We continued on for 15 mins or so to see more Big Trees and then returned enjoying the relative ease of the downhill track! No wonder Russel Falls is such a popular destination.
Back in the car we drove to Westerway. I’d wanted to stop at the Possum Shed thinking it more of a shop – it looked like a great place for lunch, but the timing was not right for us, so we rejoined the Lyell Highway out of Bushy Park and headed for Hobart, entering on the Brooker Highway.
The Fountainside Hotel was easily found on the big roundabout. We unloaded and settled into our second floor room, pleasantly surprised with the amount of space, albeit in one big room, really comfy beds, and a dinky little caravan style eating nook. True to reports the mini bar was incredibly cheap! We headed up to Woolworths just 3 blocks up Campbell St (5-10 mins on foot) to stock up and returned home for drinks and nibbles and then got dressed for our ‘dinner cruise’. Again, it was only a 10 min walk to the waterfront to find the Fells Ferry office where, would you believe the price had gone DOWN to $46. (We’d confirmed a phone booking the day before) The Emmalisa was old, small and leaked a bit, but very quaint and the meal served – cream of chicken soup with bread, your choice of main course and ice cream and flavouring, then fruit cake, was basic, but most enjoyable. My steak, potato and salad was good, as was K’s fish and k’s chicken schnitzel. The cruise up as far as Bowen Bridge, under the Tasman Bridge includes free (cask) wine the whole way, and a commentary on where we were going and links to Hobart’s history. The 2.5 hrs flew by and we disembarked, still in broad daylight, to wander home via the Elizabeth St Mall, for green tea & tim-tams before bed. Some have scoffed at the Fells Ferry experience – I can only say I loved it and thought it a great orientation to Hobart. The tables are tight fitting – and some are large and have to be shared, so get there early if you want to choose a smaller one, as we did. Don’t wear good shoes or put your bag on the floor as water seems to slosh along under the tables! Not really sure why!
DAY 9 (Thursday 20th January)
Deciding on an early walk, K & I started through the gardens to Queen’s Domain and then to the Cenotaph. There is a tunnel to get under Brooker Highway from just behind Fountainside. We treated ourselves to breakfast in the hotel. At $10.50 this would have to be the best value breakfast around, with fruit, cereal, eggs, bacon, tomatoes etc and a range of toasts, with brewed coffee. We set off through the shopping streets, buying a few souvenirs, to Parliament House. It seemed they weren’t really expecting people for the advertised 10am guided tour, but eventually a guide was found who firstly took us downstairs to the convict-brick, arched dungeons. This area is now used as a museum. Then up to the Green Chamber, home to 25 MP’s. We even got to sit in the Speaker’s Chair; then on to the Red Chamber (15 members). It was beautifully furnished, presided over by a huge painting of Queen Victoria. This was a wonderful building and the history of its previous use as the then water front Customs building and stories of renovations and characters over the years were all interesting. We were impressed at how personal the tour was - with photos, touching etc welcome. The guide even offered to take a photo of all 3 of us around the President’s chair. It certainly doesn’t happen like that in Canberra! If you are interested in history and government (as I am) then this is an excellent, free tour.
Next we wandered through the shops of Salamanca and then up the Kelly stairs to Battery Point. Up at Hampden Court we had a good coffee, and lemon tart at Jackman and McCross, amazed at the lovely looking things to eat for lunch, particularly. We walked back through St David’s park and tried to get into the Real Tennis Centre. Again despite a sign on the door, in the lane around the side, to the contrary, it appeared closed. Next we walked through the Cat & Fiddle Arcade – but the iconic clock is not working at present. We did get a glimpse of the Hobart Rivulet under the street outside, and then ended up at the waterfront and booked our Wild Thing ride for later in the afternoon. Back to the hotel and K & k set off to visit relatives at Newtown. I have to confess to slacking off. Despite good research on the Penitentiary Chapel tour, not to mention Louisa’s Walk & The Female Factory, by the time I had a rest and some lunch, I only had time for a quick look around the museum & gallery which looked good – and was free!
While k went shopping, K & I met up at the Wild Thing office, coated up and took the front seat, amid warnings about it being bumpy. It was!! It was also great fun! The red boat is a sort of rubber ducky that goes very fast, with the front in particular banging down hard after every wave. Please heed the warnings about not riding while pregnant or with a bad back – if you don’t have one to start, you probably will by the time you get off! (bad back – not pregnancy!) We went as far down as Bruny Island and enjoyed seeing the Alum Cliffs and Kingston Beach, slowing for a look and photo shots at points of interest. Numerous 360’s were included, with the people at the back of the boat getting wetter than us. The bumps were spine shaking, but could be evened out by bracing your feet on the floor. The driver & female staff member were always checking everyone was OK – in fact at one time I pointed something out, and they mistook it for the previously arranged ‘wave if you are not feeling comfortable’ signal. We apologised to the man behind us for the sound effects (squeals) along the way. He politely suggested it added to the atmosphere!?! A full hour on the water and fantastic value at an e-book 2 for the price of one. ($39)
Home for a quick snack and off to Snug to visit more of K’s relatives On the way we saw the Margate train which looked interesting – but unfortunately shops closed already. I was honoured to be included in this dinner invitation and loved the little aptly named village, and the chance to enjoy real local hospitality. We could even see Mt Wellington from their lounge room window! Our latest night out – we had to drive home in the dark, affording us spectacular views of Hobart’s lights as we came back into town.
DAY 10 (Friday 21st January)
We had a light breakfast in our room and were on the way just after just after 8am. On and then off the Southern outlet, with first stop Mt Nelson. We found the mountain top and the lovely old cottage now used as a coffee shop. Unfortunately the park gates didn’t open til 9am (although it was easy to park outside the gate and walk in) and the coffee shop til 10am – so plan accordingly. It DID look like a lovely place for coffee – the view was fantastic…but can’t comment on the coffee, unfortunately. Back on the road we turned off at Kingston for Huonville, which surprised us by being a thriving regional centre. Then on through quaint Franklin, to Geeveston, where we turned off for the last 29km to Tahune. The road was narrow and badly deteriorated to start, making the going slower. The Forestry section further on had a 60km speed advisory anyway. The further we drove, the worse the weather became, so we decided not to stop at points of interest along the way, like the big tree. We did stop at West Creek lookout just before Tahune for a practice ‘gang plank’ walk. One of us didn’t like heights – especially when you can see through what you are walking on! We arrived at the Tahune Airwalk, decked out in coats and rain ponchos, which by the time we’d had coffee in the visitor’s centre were hardly needed. We had a 2:1 voucher (e-book) and also a seniors discount, making it a great deal for the 3 of us ($24 + $21.50) We set off across the Huon River and the steady climb up numerous steps to the Airwalk. It IS spectacular to be up in the treetops, but the walk was not nearly as long as we thought. The cantilever section was also much shorter than the angle on photos tends to suggest. We took photos of the Huon and Picton River confluence and even k walked out most of the way (to the pylon) A children’s holiday day care outing was not a great thing to meet on the way around, but we paused to enjoy the view and waited til they were off the cantilever section, which can bounce OK on its own, without the help of twenty odd ‘jumping jacks’!
Next, we set off on the 2 swing bridge circuit – the bridges were almost as much fun as the Airwalk! You should try to do this walk when you are there. There were also short detours to look out points on both sides, which gave good shots of both rivers and the airwalk. The walk back to the carpark was along a road, shared by mountain bikers and not as scenic as the far side. We purchased some Morrisby Gum seeds (for K) and a lump of wood for one husband before setting of in search of lunch. We had planned to stop at Franklin Petty Sessions Café which had been closed on our forward journey (for coffee) but advertised scallop pies. It was disappointing to find that the pies (nicely served, I’m sure) were in fact $22 and even a toasted sandwich was $15. This may have been an excellent place for an intentional special meal outing, or for dinner, but there was not much choice in light lunches on the way home from Tahune. We ended up sharing a bowl of chips and serve of scones and felt the scathing judgement of the single staff member/possible owner?? To be honest, he was the rudest and most unpleasant person we came across all trip. (Although not the strangest – that prize goes to a shop assistant who asked ‘Do you want cash out with that?’ as I handed him a $20 note!) Back to Franklin.. the coffee was OK, but not significantly better than Tahune café. Not surprisingly there were only a couple of tables eating – one family group appeared to be sharing chips, like us! The food in the front counter looked great, but for the icy reception and ridiculous prices, we could not recommend this café, despite it’s cute setting in the old court house, overlooking the river. (through a new children’s playground)
At a place with the unlikely name of Sandfly, we turned off for Mt Wellington, travelling an alternate scenic route to Ferntree and then up, up, up the mountain. Glimpses along the way gave us but a taste of the spectacular view from the top. Like being on a plane, we saw the amazing intricacies of the Derwent and could see Bruny Is, Port Arthur and every other direction. We were so lucky that the previous cloud had lifted giving us perfect views, and the temperature only required light jackets. Loved the enclosed viewing area – with some having memories of an earlier, freezing, windy visit!
Down the hill and directly to Howrah, past Bellerive Oval where the Aussies were in the process of trying to save face against the poms! I spent the time at the shops, while K & k visited their 97 year old Nan, still in her own home! They breed them tough in Tasmania!
Home (and it was feeling like home now!) to Fountainside for a quick regroup and to leave the car, and then a brisk walk down to the Henry Jones/IXL for the 5.30 tour I had read about. Art and History tours at 5.30pm on Fridays sounded good – but like a number of things in Tas … it may NOT actually happen. Not seeing a sign, I checked at the hotel to find it wasn’t happening –‘just this week’. We enjoyed the extra time to wander around the buildings and atrium, before heading back for well earned nibbles and drinks – even getting into the Fountainside minibar!
Dinner tonight was at Mures Upper Deck, which we were looking forward to. The location is perfect, right on the waterfront and a short walk from Fountainside. We shared some Mures Oysters which had smoked salmon and caviar – and the plumpest creamy oysters! Then I had Kingfish, K trout and k an asian flavoured Blue Eye. All were enjoyable and with the 25% e-book discount, certainly good value. Home for the last of the Baileys and tim-tams before bed.
Fountainside is in a great location, just a short walk to the city (even though there was a terrible smell as we ducked through the lane at the back of the theatre) The room was great for 3 of us – though just one big room, with a kitchen/eating area off to one end. No balcony but at least there is an outlook, and nice big windows around the eating nook. Larger people may find the seating difficult, and the décor in this area was not pretty! Staff were always friendly and made a point of greeting guests going in and out. Traffic noise was non-existent, but there were plumbing and footstep noises from above – but not so as to be a problem. The mirrors were fantastic! 2 in the bathroom, 2 in the L shaped room. For 3 females getting ready at the same time this is an important issue – and overlooked by many establishments! I’m not sure if all their family rooms are one big room – this may be a problem for families with small children, wanting sleeps. Our room had a queen and 2 singles – all really comfortable! - huge TV screen, better quality toiletries and good lighting etc.
The exterior is certainly unimposing, but the fact you can park with ease, is a real bonus.
I can see why Fountainside is consistently considered a good value, comfortable place to stay in Hobart. If you are looking for the trimmings and fuss of a classier hotel – perhaps you should go elsewhere. We were really happy, and at $178/night for the 3 of us, in January, felt it excellent value.
Next (& final instalment) takes us to Port Arthur, Bicheno and back down the Midland Highway to Richmond
Another fascinating report, Yambagal. Thanks!
Good to hear you enjoyed Fountainside after all the contrary advice. The breakfasts are good aren't they?
Thanks again Yambal, great stuff. Looking forward to reading your Bicheno report.
Thanks again, Yambagal, for another very interesting instalment. We enjoyed breakfast at the Hungry Wombat Cafe in Derwent Bridge but I remember we had to hang about until 8.30am for them to open. I share your frustration in often finding places either closed or keeping odd hours. Like you, I like to research and plan all aspects of our trips but often find Plan B is necessary. Glad you found the Fountainside to your liking. Wish I knew where they buy their beds! They are the most comfortable hotel beds I've ever experienced. Looking forward to your final report.
Great detail about your trip which certainly has the memories flowing. Have to agree with your comment of the Giant Tables & Cottages, Maydena. Though quite a drive, that area is very different and worth a visit. The restaurant had closed the night before our arrival ( for the winter season-I think). I'm sure you were in the same cottage that we had. The Junee Caves is something worth walking to, and it would be interesting to venture around the other side of the mountain to see where the water goes INTO the mountain before making its trip to exit from these caves. The Styx area is amazing. with such big trees. You were so close to the Tolkein walk ( about 40 metres by the sounds of it). It is hard to find as it is unmarked, only pieces of pink plastic strips mark the way. We had been there before so remembered where the entrance path was. But have to admit that this last visit was precarious at times as the path seems not to be cared for by the volunteers much now, and a lot of the pink strips were missing of trees, but we found our way around. Glad you enjoyed "The Wall in the Wilderness". Such craftmanship. Looking forward to final chapter. Tassie has so much to offer with many nooks an cranny's with very different scene's around every corner. Though we have been there 4 times over a 12 year period I would still like to go back again.
Scallop pies - mmmm - I had mine at Porky's in Bicheno - fantastic, great prize, lovely lady behind the counter. I can feel my middle growing even more now, remembering all that food.
We had the freezing windy visit to Mount Wellington, but exhilirating and what a view. Looking forward to the next instalment.....
Another excellent report Yambagal. Glad you didn't part with your $22 for a scallop pie - that's just ridiculous!
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