One area we have not travelled to yet is the far north-east of the state. We had seen part of it on a previous holiday many years ago with the kids in tow and we had fond memories of the lovely beaches in that part of the world. We’d also travelled the Midlands Highway a number of times in the last 12 months but had not deviated.
We thought it best to get a head start with an early departure from work on Friday afternoon, with our first night destination being Campbell Town on the Midlands Highway around one and a half hours from Hobart and only 45 minutes short of Launceston. This was not the first time we had been to Campbell Town as we had passed through on several other trips we’d made heading north from Hobart. However, we had only paused there previously for a quick pit stop.
The night before we left we had jumped on the internet and looked for a B&B to stay at. Without any recommendations we settled on a place called Ivy on Glenelg http://www.ivyonglenelg.com.au/ because it is an historic house. On arrival around 6pm we were warmly welcomed by the owner, David, who offered to make a dinner reservation for us. This was at Zeps, a café we had already read about and David also recommended. The meal there was great. Have a read of our reviews on Trip Advisor http://www.tripadvisor.com.au/Hotel_Review-g504287-d2386687-Reviews-Ivy_on_Glenelg-Campbell_Town_Tasmania.html and http://www.tripadvisor.com.au/Restaurant_Review-g504287-d2238072-Reviews-Zeps_Cafe-Campbell_Town_Tasmania.html
Saturday started with a delicious breakfast at our B&B and a quick tour of the main house which had been lovingly restored by David and Irene. We departed amongst heavy fog but we were optimistic it would clear as we headed east along the Fingal valley towards the coast. After a short drive the fog did start to clear but it was still patchy for another hour or so as we drove through Avoca and then Fingal. Fortunately the fog did clear at opportune times so we could take in the glorious rural views of the Fingal Valley with vistas to Ben Lomond National Park that contains Tasmania’s second highest peak, Legges Tor at 1,572 metres.
We continue to be fascinated by the history that appears at every turn in Tassie and Fingal had a number of historic buildings, some that had been restored and others that were in ruin. We saw many “renovator’s delights”. If only we had the time and money.
Only a further 20 minutes down the road we came to St Marys and it was an opportune time for morning tea in a nice little picnic area by the river. Given it is a quiet time of year there were no other fellow travellers, or locals for that matter, in the park. As we were taking out our vacuum flask to make a cup of tea (is this a sign we are showing our age?) we were immediately swamped by every conceivable type of duck and goose that inhabited the nearby watercourse. However, we stuck to our guns and did our best to ignore them and didn’t toss any samples of our morning tea their way, despite some assertive moves by the waterfowl. They eventually returned to grazing on the grass.
Onward from St Marys we were into new territory as we chose to travel to the north-east towards the coast. The alternate route, which we had taken on our previously mentioned holiday many years ago, takes you to the south-east and to the coast south to Bicheno. We were heading to Scamander and St Helens.
The beaches here are fantastic and reminiscent of those from further south, in fact even more spectacular than most of the other long sandy beaches we’ve seen in Tasmania, and that’s saying something! Given the time of year there were very few people at the beach but we imagined the place really rocks during the summer. The north-east coast of Tasmania has slightly warmer waters than further south as it is reached by the southern extent of the east Australian current that brings warmer water from the tropics. This also has an effect on the weather with this part of Tassie being the sunniest, driest and warmest on average.
The drive north ran parallel with the coast for a while, past the eight kilometre long beach centred on Scamander and the child friendly lagoon where the Scamander River meets the Tasman Sea, and then onto St Helens, a fishing port at the head of a deep inlet. The proverbial fish and chips from the local takeaway were enjoyed under the opportunistic scrutiny of the silver gulls. By this stage we had calculated that we would likely spend Saturday night at Scottsdale and concluded that we had time for a detour to Binalong Bay, a little further to the north along the coast.
We had long heard about the Bay of Fires and it has become world famous in recent times due to the well promoted glamping walk that is provided there http://www.bayoffires.com.au/. While the $2,400 four day, accommodated, guided trip is wonderful I’m sure, you can enjoy the beaches and water for free. Binalong Bay is at the southern end of the Bay of Fires.
This is one of the most gorgeous places we’ve seen in Tasmania. If it was in the tropics it would have probably been over-developed years ago. It’s temperate climate and relatively cool water has been its saving grace we suspect. We have picked out our spot to return to in summer! The water is so clear it’s like glass and so blue it’s hard to tell where the water ends and the sky starts.
We would have loved to stay here forever but knowing we had to be back in Hobart Sunday night, and that we still had plenty to see, we could dally no more than the 30 minutes we spent there.
Back on the Tasman Highway we headed away from the coast through the rolling hills and dales towards dairy country and a stop at the well renowned Pyengana Cheese Factory http://pyenganadairy.com.au/. The retail outlet is based in the Holy Cow Café and upon arrival we were immediately offered a cheese tasting. They make a variety of hard cheddars and we got to sample the range of ages as well as the Devilish cheddar, infused with chilli. We purchased our favourite for consumption later that evening but, before we left, had a tub of their real ice-cream made on site!
As we travelled along the winding, scenic road we climbed higher up on the tablelands and the vivid green of the dairy pastures gives way to the dark green of the rainforest, dominated by myrtle trees, and the Weld River valley (not to be confused with the Weld River in southern Tasmania). It is then you realise that the whole region was dominated by this myrtle forest, of which only a small remnant remains, as it has given way to the dairy country and eucalypt plantations. Apparently the Weld is known for the sapphires it produces as well as being a good trout stream but we didn’t have the opportunity to experience those delights.
Edging towards Scottsdale we realise that there is still plenty to see and we hurry along before it starts to get dark. This was the 21st of June after all, the shortest day of the year. The area between Weldborough and Branxholm was worked over by tin miners in the 1800s and, like most mining opportunities around the world in that century it attracted a lot of Chinese hoping to make their fortune. There are a number of memorials to the Chinese and other miners in the area and an interpretive trail and visitor centre at Derby that goes into quite a bit of detail. The area has many remnants of the mining past with obvious mullock heaps and water diversion works. Derby itself is a quirky little town but has many buildings dating from the mining era including the old National Bank of Tasmania building, the oldest timber bank building in Tasmania, but now a B&B.
A quick detour off the Tasman Highway to Legerwood takes us to a unique war memorial of chainsaw-carved trees, each depicting scenes of servicemen and women undertaking wartime activities. These aren’t the only carved tress in Tassie though as we were soon to discover.
As the sun was starting to set we arrived in Scottsdale and, not having organised anywhere to stay, we scouted around. There didn’t seem to be too much going on in town but we found Anabel’s of Scottsdale http://www.anabelsofscottsdale.com.au/. It is a lovely period house at the main site and was surprisingly busy. They informed us that they also had Bella Villa and Belle Cottage with the cottage being available for that night so we went for that http://bellecottage.com.au/.
Stay tuned for Day 2 in our next instalment.
The Avoca post office
St Thomas’ Anglican Church at Avoca c 1840
Rural splendour near Fingal with Ben Lomond in the background
The sign says it all
Crystal clear waters at Binalong Bay
Interesting geology at Binalong Bay
Pyengana dairy country
The Holy Cow café, Pyengana Dairy Company
At the Holy Cow café Pyengana
The mining interpretive display at Moorina
The memorial to Chinese miners and the Chinese funerary burner (for burning tributes to the dead)
The old National Bank of Tasmania building at Derby
Carved trees at Legerwood
All fashionable sheep in St Marys wear pink gum boots