Broken Bay Writers – Stories of NSW Central Coast and beyond

Scribbles on life, the universe and everything… Woy Woy, Ettalong, Umina and teh Central Coast that is!

Tag Archives: Tasmania

No Penguin Tour for You!

After a leisurely (the entire) afternoon drive, Al and I had finally arrived at our destination, Bicheno, Tasmania, population 640 and one penguin tour company. We went straight to the tour company to make sure we could get booked in, but alas, it was booked out! How could this be, this isn’t even tourist season? Apparently, it is bus tour season, because it was a busload of tourists that booked the tours!

Bicheno

The tour operator seemed to genuinely feel bad and told us to just go to the beach at dusk and we would see penguins.
With lots of time on our hands before dusk, we decided to go exploring. There is a wildlife park in Bicheno, being the animals lovers we are, we had to go there. Tasmania has many unique animals such as the tasmanian devil, quolls and bettongs and the wildlife park has them all. The bettong looks like a cross between a rat and a wallaby. It is very small like a rat, but hops like a kangaroo. Very cute!

Bettong

The Eastern quoll is about the size of a cat with a beautiful spotted coat of thick soft fur, but has a head like a rat.

Eastern Quoll

The tasmanian devil reminds me of a little tiny bear, but it has a red mouth. Vicious!

Baby devil at the park

All of these animals are nocturnal so they are not easy to see in the wild. Tasmania is also home to many different kinds of possums, kangaroos, potoroos, wallabys and other animals that roam the night.
After a visit to the zoo we decided to go and see the blowhole. It was quite spectacular when the waves were large.

Blowhole

Being in Tasmania one has to dine on crayfish as it is the local favourite. It was very nice and easily as big as a good size lobster. One thing I didn’t get to try while in Tassie was the abalone. Tasmania has abalone farms. Considering that abalone has been illegal in Canada since the 80’s, I wanted to have my chance to try it again. I was told it was only available in restaurants in Hobart. By the time we got to Hobart, we were tired and did not dine out in a restaurant with abalone. Next time!
Finally dusk had arrived, we went to the beach and waited and waited and waited.

Waiting

It was not a warm day, in fact it was quite cold. Finally there is was…a tiny fairy penguin.

fairy penguin

So cute! We decided to go back to the blowhole because that is where most locals had said we could see the penguins, they were right. There were tons of them coming out of the water to make their way up the beach for the night. It amazes me that they come in to the rocky shores even when the waves are pounding. It doesn’t seem to bother them at all. They mutter and mew amongst themselves and if a person gets too close they hiss and growl, which I found quite amusing because they are extremely harmless and small and very very cute. I guess they figure if they sound big, they will be safe!
After spending far too long with the fairy penguins, we decided we had better hit the road for the one and a half hour drive back, or so we thought that was how long it would take. It took way longer!
Why, because there was as many animals on the road as there was in the wildlife park. I am sure of it. It was a slow process so as not to add to the amazingly large amounts of road kill one sees in Tasmania. We saw two wallabies, kangaroos, many possums (too many to count), and tons of frogs! Because Al was driving so slow, we managed to snake our way through all of them without mishap.
We were driving over a bridge when I glanced to the side and there sitting on the stringer was a devil. I started screaming to Al, it’s a devil, it’s a devil!

Devils

Al being the sweetheart he is, turned the car around to take a second look. Sure enough, there was a tasmanian devil sitting on the side of the bridge. When we pulled up he growled and barred his teeth at us. He was not pleased with being disturbed. Very vicious looking and yet still incredibly cute. Most Australians will go their entire lifetime without seeing a devil in the wild and here we were, sitting on a bridge, in the dark, out in the middle of nowhere, looking at a wild devil. Lucky, lucky lucky! What an extraordinary day!

 

Customer service, alive and well in Tassie.

Tasmanians know customer service. They understand the importance of being authentic and genuine. And, we experienced it over and over again in our short time in Tasmania.
When in Bicheno, we wanted to do the penguin tour. It ended up being booked out, although the guy that worked there had told us we could just go to the beach at dusk. He wasn’t worried about the sale, he was concerned about our experience. And it was genuine concern. It was evident he really wanted us to experience seeing fairy penguins. He was not alone, we felt the same level of service wherever we went in Tassie.
After leaving the penguin tour place we went next door to the coffee shop to drown our sorrows over cappuccinos. The waitress immediately struck up a conversation with us by asking where we were from. She then went on to tell us that we would definitely see fairy penguins if we went to the blowhole later. She also gave us another location where we could see them. In fact she went as far as to show us on a local map. She also told us we would need a torch (flashlight) because the trails have many tripping hazards after dark, so after our very nice coffee we went across the street to the loghouse store to buy a torch.
Immediately the couple that ran the store struck up a conversation with us. Turns out they have been to Canada. They loved it and wanted to share their experience with us. The difference is that they were just as interested in our Tasmanian experience and how they could help to make it better. Once again, people who knew what customer service is all about.
We stayed at two B&B’s when in Tassie. Both were great and both understood the importance of the experience. I would say the same for the hotel we stayed in while in Hobart!
Tasmanian customer service was a refreshing surprise. I can’t wait to return to visit the rest of Tassie. It’s on my list!

The Way to Travel

The most civilised way to start any trip is to check in at the airport and then wait for your flight in the airport lounge. Now I know that not everybody can have lounge access, but if you can, do! We belong to Qantas lounge as Al travels frequently enough and works for such a nice company, they pay for the privilege. This means comfy seats, a glass of wine or two, some nibbleys, showers if required, nice bathrooms and lots of newspaper, magazines, or anything else you would like to read. Oh, did I mention computers?
Okay, those who fly business and first class will laugh at my little extravagance of the lounge, but at least I get to sit with them for a short time!
The trip to Tasmania is uneventful which are the best kind! We arrived late afternoon, picked up a rental car and headed for a little riverside town called Orford.
The beginning of our drive reminded me of home. The landscape is of beautiful rolling hills and farms, not unlike BC’s interior in the spring.

The spectacular views

We stayed at the cutest B&B in Orford, a 1840 Heritage house called Sanda House (www.sandahouse.com.au).

Sanda house

Peter & Linda were lovely hosts and we enjoyed playing with the family dog, a beautiful young black lab called Chester.

Chester

I must mention Linda’s homemade jams. They were delectable as was the gluten free bread!
After a very restful sleep, we decided to try out the local golf course. Peter was kind enough to supply us with clubs.

 

Look at the views behind us!

The 9-hole course was a delightful surprise with it’s views of the coast and ideal playing conditions. Al played well, really well. I….didn’t! Oh well, next time!

Al going nowhere!

First impression of Tasmania…beautiful scenery, lots of logging, dramatic coastline and friendly, authentic people! What a delight.

Opium, are you Kidding?

One can not travel to Tasmania without a trip to see Fairy Penguins. Therefore Al and I set out for a 2-hour drive from Orford to a little town called Bicheno located on the East Coast of Tassie. This little town is where we could join a penguin tour, or so we thought.

Enjoying the view

We had thought the drive would only be one-two hours, but there is just too much to see! We followed the coastline dotted with cute little towns and spectacular white sandy beaches, but the draw for us was the boutique wineries along the way.

What are wine barrels for?

The cauldron holds...

We just had to stop and sample the wine. Or, at least I did, poor Al had to drive!
We also came across this funky bridge called “spiky bridge”.

Here's your sign!

It was built by convicts in 1843.

How cool is that bridge!

Some say it was built spiky so that sheep couldn’t jump off, I like to think that the convicts were being “cheeky” and built it that way just to make a statement about having to build a bridge in the middle of nowhere while in chains! Either way, the bridge is beautiful, more like a piece of art than a bridge.
In the small town of Swansea (what a pretty name for a town) I had to stop and take a picture of the logging equipment.

The yard

Machinery

It seemed so out of place, but it really isn’t when in Tasmania. Logging is common and really much of the traffic we passed were loaded logging trucks. Sniff, sniff, makes one homesick!
We stopped at St John the Baptist, Parish of Buckland.

Let me in!

One cute church

I am telling the truth, Al stopped at a church. Okay, this church isn’t just a regular church, it is made from local sandstone, features the oldest stain glass window in Australia and is believed to date back to the 14th century. The cool thing about this church (other than the graveyard surrounding it) is that it is unlocked. You can just walk in!

We also saw sheep. Not just a few sheep, but field after field of sheep, unless it was a field of poppies.

Grow opium!

Yes, poppies, many poppies! Why poppies? Because Tasmania is the worlds largest producer of opium alkaloids for the pharmaceutical market. Welcome to Tasmania, isn’t it quaint?