Eco-friendly, naturally beautiful, low-profile and secluded – Anqi Wang shares a recent trip to Tasmania with readers of Australia China Connections.
Tasmania lays claim to having the cleanest air and water on the planet my mum reminds me as I tell her about our planned trip to Australia’s southern most state. For my mum, coming from the Chinese manufacturing capital of Guangzhou, this is an enticing thought.
Mum has more than 30 years experience in the Chinese tourism industry and has travelled to more than 35 countries but a six-day visit to Australia’s island state was her first independent Australian travel experience, with me booking our flights online with Virgin airlines and arranging our accommodation via Stayz.
50 minutes from Melbourne, over the Bass Straight, and our Tasmania adventure begins. After picking up the rental car at Launceston airport we headed north through Australia’s ‘most family-friendly place’, and into Launceston’s backyard – the Tamar Valley.
Only minutes out of Tassie’s ‘northern capital’ Angus cattle were relaxing along the rolling hills to our right, lazily chewing away, and glimpses of the Tamar River through the bush to our left. Apart from the occasional car, we had the well known wine route to ourselves.
With a couple of hours until sunset we decided to hop on the Batman Highway, cross the river, and turn onto the West Tamar Highway. For dinner, we took up a friend’s recommendation to try Greek restaurant Koukla’s, a quiet spot overlooking the Tamar River. A casual and cozy eatery thankfully meant that we could leave with a belly full of freshly prepared Tasmanian goodness, and without a fancy bill. A sharing platter with a perfect combination of colour, flavor, taste, and a lot of food, made Mum’s first Greek cuisine experience really impressive, as burnt orange clouds lit the skies outside the window.
For the first two nights, we stayed at Blake’s Manor in Deloraine, a historic town 40-minutes drive from Launceston. It is the central gateway to access many tourist destinations in Tasmania’s north west: the renowned Cradle Mountain, the caves around Mole Creek, farms – berry farms, ginseng farms, salmon farms, Mount Roland, and Devonport where the Spirit of Tasmania arrives from Victoria across the Bass Strait.
Founded in the 1820s, Deloraine is still a step back in time, home of many of the oldest colonial buildings in Australia. The Georgian architecture of Blake’s Manor, built in 1838 is no exception, a building that allowed us a peep into the Deloraine of 170 years ago.
After a scrumptious breakfast, we set off for Cradle Mountain. After two hours of driving, several photo stops and incorrect guesses of which mountain was in fact Cradle Mountain, a spotting of an echidna, and a quick coffee break, we finally arrived at the Cradle Mountain Information Centre. Our mission of “must witness the Australian native wildlife” proved easier than expected, as we spotted a second echidna lolling in the grass by the car park. A 20-minute shuttle bus ride took us up the mountain to Dove Lake, a glacial lake sitting in front of Cradle Mountain. It was a warm mid-summer day further below, but a crisp breeze welcomed us at the lake 900 metres above sea level. A layer of fog floated above the lake, like white gauze hanging in the air.
*Pictured: Anqi Wang and Huang Sha at Cradle Mountain, Tasmania. (Courtesy Anqi Wang)
Strolling along the boardwalk, the air was cold and fresh, with a slight scent from the wild flowers we passed. According to Mum, Tasmania boasts cleanest air on the planet – and I was starting to feel she might have been right.
Rabbit holes and the wombat burrows were dotted along the boardwalk, but where were they all? Wombats were definitely at the top of Mum’s wish list of things to see. As we neared the end of the trail, convinced that the little round creatures would probably not come out to feed until later in the afternoon, Mum shouted. We saw one, and then another and another. There it was, grazing in the shrubs. We watched from about 30 metres away under a gentle drizzle, as the wombat chewed at the grass filling the quiet grasslands with a crisp crunching sound.
Mum is an animal lover. Therefore, Trowunna Wildlife Park could not be missed. This wildlife park is far from a zoo putting animals on display. It plays an active role in rescuing, treating and raising injured and orphaned Australian native animals. Once the injured are healed and the orphans matured, the staff will release them back into the wild. The park also participates in a breeding program for Tasmanian devils and koalas. A keeper of Trowunna took us on a short tour educating us on the animals in the park and the role the park plays. It had been a childhood dream of his to become an animal keeper, he told me, and he felt fulfilled to be living it.
As I watched Mum playing with a mischievous baby wombat, I could see that she too was fulfilling one of hers.
*Pictured: Dreams coming true: Ms Huang Sha cuddles Puffin the wombat in Tasmania. (Courtesy Anqi Wang)
On our return trip to Deloraine, we took a short detour to “41° South” a salmon and ginseng farm boasting wetlands, woods, a creek, a waterfall and a number of salmon ponds on it. Water is re-circulated through the natural bio-filter, and solar power generates part of the electricity for the farm. Here they grow organic ginseng and salmon. We decided to stay for lunch, and their home-made salmon and salad burgers were a great choice.
After a few hours of driving, more photo stops, and afternoon tea in Campbell Town, we could finally see the ocean, the east coast of Tasmania. We spent the night at Orford, a little beachside town on Tasmania’s south east coast, where our ‘eco-lodge’ awaited us, nestled in the woods blending well into the bush around it. It was indeed a gorgeous place to rest our body and mind, and walking distance to Spring Beach.
“The sound of waves put me to sleep then the songs of kookaburras and parrots woke me up,” Mum told me the next morning.
An Australian travel article lists Spring Beach at Orford as one of the hidden gems of Tasmania. Sitting on the beach, sand between our own toes, a spectacular skyline ahead, the rhythm of the waves, we couldn’t agree more.
The peace and isolation was absolutely overwhelming. We saw one man flying his kite 150 meters away from us, and a couple walking their beautiful black Kelpie. Otherwise it was just us.
I have been to many Australian beaches, but not many of them are like Spring Beach. Mum had stronger feelings. She thought of the beaches in Guangdong – over crowded, garbage on the sand, the smell of rotting fish, hawkers… we contemplated how lucky Australians are to find moments of peace right here in their backyard. For us, as Chinese travellers, we were reminded that travel is not just about seeing incredible landmarks or developed foreign cities, but taking a moment to enjoy time alone in nature – a real privilege for us.
After Orford we headed south toward the Tasmanian capital, Hobart. Richmond, one of the oldest towns in Australia, is on the way. Many of the houses in town, and the heritage listed Richmond bridge, were built by convicts and early settlers. A carving on the side of the bridge read “1832”. After a quick stroll on the banks of the Coal River, a coffee and bite in Richmond, a quick visit to a local cheese factory, we continued onto Hobart.
Hobart is quite different to Australia’s mainland capitals. We crossed the picturesque Derwent River entering into the city. Just over 200,000 people live in and around Hobart. This is just over 40 percent of Tasmania’s population. It seemed every house had ocean or river views, with most built onto the hillside along the Derwent.
Hobart is far from being a large city, nonetheless we did miss the natural surrounds we’d left behind. After a brief visit to Franklin Wharf, we went to check-in to our townhouse on the hill in South Hobart. Yes – it had ocean views.
Hobart has one thing in common with Melbourne – good food and coffee. On our last morning, we started the day with breakfast at a popular local spot, the Pigeon Hole café and then headed to MONA (the Museum of Old and New Art).
Just over a year old, MONA is well known across the country for housing a controversial private collection of art. It is also one of Tasmania’s biggest attractions, already having drawn hundreds of thousands of Australians.
The building and surrounds on the property of MONA alone is worth a visit. The museum is built underground into the sandstone at the edge of the Derwent. It sits 17 metres underground, with 7,500 square meters of space accommodating more than 400 pieces of artwork.
Next stop was Salamanca Market where Mum sat down in front of a small bistro by the street, sipping iced juice and reflecting on a wonderful trip to Tasmania.
Currently, the most popular Australian travel packages for Mainland Chinese focus on the big Australian cities along the east coast. During our six-day trip to Tasmania, Mum was not the only one to enjoy the pristine beauty of Tasmania. She kept a regular travel diary which she posted on Weixin, and as a result, many of Mum’s friends and family also shared in this remarkable adventure and are keen to one day make the same trip themselves. ■
* Anqi Wang is Australia China Connections new Chinese section editor. Anqi arrived in Australia seven years ago to study Marketing at the University of Queensland and later Translation at Monash University in Melbourne. Originally from Guangzhou, Anqi holds a Bachelor degree of Journalism from the Guangdong University of Foreign Studies. She is a regular traveller and active blogger, sharing her Australian and overseas journeys with friends in China via Weibo and Weixin.