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Published June 3rd 2023
While international travel is now back on the table, it is still quite expensive so there is no better time than now to travel within Australia. Having wanted to travel to Tasmania for some time, hubby and I decided to take an APT tour of Tasmania and we could not have made a better choice.
Given how popular travel within Australia still is, aided by our amazing travel agent, Georgie Walpole from Global Journeys, we booked our Tasmania Complete tour and waited with bated breath for the tour to be rated as 'guaranteed'. As usual, Georgie came through and we were soon on our way.
We always arrive a day or two, sometimes more before the start date of a tour. This time, we arrive 4 days early intending to have a good look around Hobart before the tour starts. As we have booked our pre-tour accommodation through APT, we are met by our friendly driver from Hughes who spirits us through the airport and into his luxury vehicle for a very pleasant trip into the Hobart CBD and our hotel.
With fast and efficient check-in we are soon in our fantastic mountain view room at the Hotel Grand Chancellor. We have a lovely view from snow-capped Mt Wellington (Kunanyi) to the river including the Tasman Bridge.
The best part of this hotel is it has a guest laundry so we are able to do some quick washing before the official start of our tour.
The waterfront surrounding the hotel is a wealth of interesting sights and information. Explore the dedication to Abel Tasman and visit the statue dedicated to the women of the female factory or simply wander the beautiful surrounds, there is much to discover.
If you have watched any of the travel shows highlighting Salamanca Markets, it is everything you see and more. There are a myriad of stalls with everything from second hand books to fudge, wooden toys and kitchen items, food, vegetables, clothes and everything in between.
A wander through the markets when in Hobart is a must and if you are like us, you will leave with a vast array of treasures. We purchased a selection of amazing fudge from The House of Fudge, amongst other treasures. If you are at all interested in fudge, purchase at the markets as you will find it more expensive throughout your travels.
The markets are just a short stroll along the foreshore from the hotel and run every Saturday from 8.30 am to 3 pm.
The market district is also alive with an array of fantastic heritage buildings and gardens.
Opening in 2013, this quirky little museum is housed in a replica of the huts in which Mawson and this team lived. You will wander the enclosed verandas where there is a wealth of artefacts, videos and information to explore. You then enter the centre of the hut which is set up to show the close living conditions experienced by the explorers. Marvel at the very limited diet available and what seems to us now, very primitive equipment.
Entry at time of writing is $15 adults, $12 concession, $5 children and $35 family.
Day 1 Hobart
Day 1 of the tour and we meet our fellow travellers, tour guide Rod and driver Simon.
We take the included historical walking tour of the waterfront with a local guide and hear the stories of many of the locations we have been browsing over the past few days. We learn about the women of the Female Factory and discover the secrets of Constitution Dock (it's not where you think it is) and the Salamanca Market district.
Tonight we join our fellow travellers at a welcome dinner and drinks.
Day 2 Hobart to Strahan
This morning is an early start as we pack up ready to board the bus to Strahan. We breakfast in the hotel at the lovely Tasman Restaurant, before selecting our seats and settling in. APT have a seat rotation program which works really well and ensures that everyone gets an opportunity to sit front, back and both sides of the bus. We are a smallish group so we have the comfort of being able to either sit with our partner or have a seat to ourselves.
Tour guide Rod explains that while our ultimate destination today is Strahan, we will have regular stops and will really only ever be travelling for an hour and a half at a time. We will come to learn that Rod and Simon have a story for every town and place in between and the interaction between the two makes for a fun and laughter filled 14 days.
Our first stop is the magnificent Russell Falls in the Mt Field National Park. This beautiful natural waterfall set within the rainforest is magnificent. Simon it turns out, has an amazing botanical knowledge particularly about trees and he provides information about the various trees we see as we wander along the boardwalk to the falls which is about a 10 minute walk.
Next, we stop at Wall in the Wilderness. This series of hand carved reliefs is the work of sculptor Greg Duncan, who has spent years creating this 3 metre high and over 100 metre long wall depicting the pioneer history of Tasmania. You will see life like depictions sculpted from Huon pine and while some are not quite finished, this adds to the beauty.
A rustic lunch at Derwent Bridge is well received before we continue our journey stopping in Queenstown around mid-afternoon.
Queenstown is a beautiful little town. We have a look around the railway station and spy a steam train in full steam before taking a quick peek at the heritage listed staircase in the Empire Hotel and then back on the bus to continue our journey to Strahan.
Tonight's accommodation is at Strahan Village which is quaint, clean and comfortable.
Day 3 Strahan to Cradle Mountain
This morning we board the VIP Premier Upper Deck of Gordon River Cruises Spirit of the Wild and embark and a fabulous morning cruising the Gordon River including a visit to Sarah Island and Heritage Landing.
The comfort of this boat on the upper deck was amazing with reclining arm chairs all facing diagonally outwards. This, along with the care of the crew who kept us fed and watered in style made for an epic morning out. The cruise in itself is amazing as you quietly glide by some of the most pristine environments on this earth and this is only enhanced with a short walking tour at Heritage Landing and then a longer, guided tour of Sarah Island. Our tour guide here is knowledgeable and entertaining and told the Sarah Island story in an engaging way.
On returning to Strahan we on the coach once again and continuing our journey to Cradle Mountain National Park. We stop on the way to grasp a rare sighting of the actual Cradle Mountain, usually shrouded in mist, in the distance.
Our accommodation here at Peppers Cradle Mountain Lodge in a Balcony Cabin is fabulous. We enter the room to a very welcome gas fire roaring away as even in September, Tasmania is fairly cold.
Day 4 Cradle Mountain
Today we enter the Cradle Mountain National Park and take a very cold but worthwhile walk along the boardwalk before also visiting the Waldheim Chalet built by Gustav Weindorfer in the early 20th century, and hearing the story of his life. Dove Lake is also a joy to visit and is just as you see in the tourist brochures.
In the afternoon we enjoy a guided tour around the Pepper's property where we hear all about the local wildlife which you will no doubt encounter as you traverse from cabin to dining options. It is not unusual to encounter wombats in your path, who will simply look at you and expect you move out of their way.
Day 5 Cradle Mountain to Smithton
Our departure from Cradle Mountain is with some sadness, as we had a very enjoyable stay. It also comes with some excitement as the tour so far has been great and we are keen to move on and experience some more of Tasmania's offerings. Cradle Mountain says goodbye to us with a very light dusting of snow; seen but not hitting the ground.
Today, we journey through the Tarkine on our way to Smithton via Stanley and the Nut. Our journey takes us passed Elephant Head and The Edge of the World, all beautiful in their own way with the weather bringing wild seas to the coastline.
We pass through Sheffield, known for stunning murals dotted around the town. The sun is shining today so we enjoy a quick bite to eat and then take a walk with friends made on the tour.
Our accommodation at Tall Timbers is in a lovely spot and while it doesn't have the glamour of previous offerings we have enjoyed, it is sufficient.
Day 6 Smithton to Launceston
As we leave Smithton on our onward journey towards Launceston, we visit Entally House in Hadspen. Having visited many historic homes around the world, we find Entally House to have a joyous charm with random room additions providing some quirkiness to the design.
Built in 1819 as a single storey cottage by the Reibey family, an additional storey was later added along with outbuildings. We really enjoy exploring Entally House however when I mention that I had felt the presence of children in the upstairs rooms, the guide was surprised. A quick internet search does however reveal that there have been reports of ghosts at Entally.
The gardens of Entally House are just as spectacular as the house itself, and are well worth a wander through the green house and other spaces.
On arrival in Launceston we check into the amazing Peppers Silo Hotel. It is here that we will say farewell to travel friends who have journeyed with us from Hobart doing the 6 day West Coast Highlights tour.
After checking in we venture to Cataract Gorge, where we take a walk along the 900 metre first basin loop. We cross the Alexandra Suspension Bridge which traverses the first gorge and then back around via a small concrete ford. It is an easy walk and lovely on a sunny afternoon. There is plenty of wildlife to enjoy and the peacocks provide much colour and entertainment.
Back at the Silo Hotel, don't forget to meet Archie the Silo Dog who is always happy for some attention. You can book to take Archie for a walk along the Tamar River.
From the hotel, it is just a short walk across the bridge into town where there is a selection of restaurants to choose from for dinner.
Day 7 Launceston
Today, a choice of activities is offered including a visit to Seahorse World, Platypus House, James Boag's historic brewery or the Beaconsfield Mine and Heritage Centre.
We choose to visit Beaconsfield and enjoy a guided tour of the mine site and heritage museum and hear about the collapse in April 2006 and the heroic efforts that saw the rescue of Brant Webb and Todd Russell.
A lot of effort has occurred here to preserve original buildings and integrate them in a sympathetic way to the modern structures.
Today's lunch is a treat with a visit to Josef Chromy Wines and a sumptuous lunch paired with amazing wines.
Day 8 Launceston to Freycinet
After saying farewell to our 6 day tour friends, we begin our journey to Freycinet.
On the way, we visit Bridestowe Lavender Estate and learn about the growing of lavender and the distilling and production of lavender products. Unfortunately, it is the wrong time of year for us to see lavender on the bush however the information provided and the beautiful lavender flavoured morning tea is well worth the visit.
In the afternoon we pass through the Weldborough Pass and enjoy the forested hills and farmland as we journey towards Coles Bay in the Freycinet National Park.
Along the way we pass through the town of Legerwood where, in 2005, Eddy Freeman carved memorials to the town's World War I soldiers out of nine trees which had been planted in their honour many years previously. This is a memorial well worth going out of your way to see.
Our accommodation tonight is at Freycinet Lodge overlooking the stunning waters of Great Oyster Bay.
Day 9 Freycinet
Today we take a drive along Cape Tourville, stopping in at the Freycinet National Park Visitor Centre and Coles Bay for lunch. We welcome a quieter day to take time out and recoup some energy.
Day 10 Freycinet to Hobart
After almost circumnavigating Tasmania it is now time to commence our return journey to Hobart via Oatlands, Richmond and Ross.
As we drive through Oatlands, our intrepid driver Simon, points out the Topiary Trail of carved hedges which line the streets.
We stop in Richmond for lunch and a walk with new friends takes us to the heritage listed convict bridge. The first foundation stone was laid in 1823 and the bridge finally completed in 1825. The bridge is a beautiful example of convict labour and there are many examples of heritage buildings also lining the river.
On arrival in Hobart, we take a tour of the Botanic Gardens, while Simon takes our bags to the Hotel Grand Chancellor and we settle in for the last few days of our tour.
Day 11 Hobart
Today we travel to Port Arthur. This is a highlight of the trip for us. As a genealogist and historian, I have been wanting to visit for many years. We take a guided tour and spend time viewing the many, many buildings on this site, but alas, our visit is shorter than we would have hoped, and we are soon on our way to the next location. While we did get to see some of the buildings, I would suggest arriving into Hobart a few days early or staying at the end of the tour and taking a separate trip to Port Hobart to visit at your own leisure.
On our way back to Hobart, we visit a few very interesting attractions. The Tessellated Pavement Look Out at Eaglehawk Neck is a fascinating natural rock formation, well worth a visit following which we also visit Tasman's Arch, Devil's Kitchen and Remarkable Caves Headland. Each and every one of these sites are worth the effort. Finally, we visit the Tasmanian Devil 'Unzoo', where you will learn about efforts to preserve the unique wildlife of Tasmania.
Day 12 Hobart
This morning we arise and breakfast with our new friends before saying goodbye. As the tour ends on a Saturday, another visit to the Salamanca Market is a must.
We are staying an extra day, but are efficiently collected from the hotel the next morning by the APT transfer service and taken to the airport for our flight home.
The end of another fabulous APT tour leaves us longing for more. Check out the APT website for more APT tours, however always remember that tour itineraries do change and should you book your Tasmania Complete adventure there may be some subtle changes to our experience. All changes however, only serve to enhance the offering.
APT also own Travelmarvel which provides similar tour itineraries as the APT branded tours, generally at lower cost but with less inclusions. These offerings are every bit as good and the choice between APT and Travelmarvel is simply personal choice.
If you are interested in further travel with APT and in particular their flagship European river cruise, see my article on Europe River Cruising.
Fabulous article Annette. Tasmania is our favorite Australian destination having been there about twelve times over the years. Have visited almost every place you mentioned and your descriptions brought many happy memories. The gold is well deserved.
/wat an incredible experience. You have certainly seen the very best of this beautiful part of Australia. I have fond memories of a similiar journey and your story brought back those good times. Well done on the gold